Friday, January 29, 2016

The Difference between Young and Older Love

As romance writers, we’re in the business of describing couples in love, be it a new love or the loving relationship of a long time couple.  The goal is to capture it without being forced to spell it out, using details or observations that enable the reader to figure it out for herself.  It’s not an easy job, but it’s fun to try and put that wonderment into words.

In some ways it’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it,” things, but that doesn’t help when you’re trying to put it on paper.  We want the reader to identify that “look” without having to tell them.  I don’t think it’s as difficult to describe with a couple newly in love.  We watch as they take turns stopping in mid-sentence to make sure the other is in agreement and/or they haven’t interrupted.  When one speaks, the other gives the speaker the space and the full attention she or he needs to shine.  There’s lot’s of “we” in their conversation and a kind of giddy behavior as if they have a secret that they can’t reveal.  And even when you’re with only one of the pair, that person is glowing and figures out numerous ways to say the other’s name.

It’s not nearly as easy to describe with a long time couple. This couple knows each other well.  They are used to each other. Needless to say, the excitement has pretty much gone from the relationship so we have to look more carefully. We probably aren’t going to see “giddy.” Intellectually we know that if we find love it will be a deeper and more mature, but in reality it’s not as “pretty” to see and it isn’t always easy to spot. 

There could be signs such as one spouse’s concern about the other’s health, but that could just as easily be because the one concerned doesn’t want to be the survivor and be left alone if the other dies.  On the other hand, what if one spouse isn’t listening to the other, does that mean the non-listener doesn’t care? Or is it just a bad habit and not definitive.

An unhappily married couple is easier to paint.  There’s the inattentiveness, or worse, the scowl or smirk when the other speaks.  It could be the vacant expression in the eyes of one or both when they’re together, as if they’re mentally off somewhere waiting for the ordeal to be over.  Sometimes it’s just an obvious mental absence or focus, as if they honestly forget that the other is supposed to be part of their universe.

But when writing about an older couple who are still in love, how do we do it? Do we have her laugh at his jokes?  Have them hold hands while they watch TV? Or is it that they clearly take pleasure in each other’s company be it on their regular Saturday night date or trip to the grocery store when one unnecessarily goes along to keep the other company?

If we have them fighting or criticizing each other is that a problem? Or is the true test the silent communication that we might see if we’re really looking.  The recognition that one has of the other’s vulnerability and then the quick response so the spouse isn’t out there alone.  A deft save when one has stepped her foot in it with an outsider.  A phone call made to save the other from embarrassment. You can picture all these scenarios.  The question is, are any of them it?  Will seeing him make the call to fix the awkward incident that she created, or her hurrying out to join him for a trip to the grocery store clinch it?  Or is it a matter of piecing these scenes together along with the occasional fight, criticism and concern to paint a convincing picture of  a long time love.
Deborah Nolan is the author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest, both published by Montlake and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong, published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

The Difference Between Young and Older Love

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Three Daunting Ps

At my local RWA chapter’s Christmas party last month (yes, it was only last month), the book exchange was a mixed blessing for me. One of my colleagues received a book he had read and kept a copy of, so he gave me the book and offered to trade with the one I chose. He already had and read that one too.

The first one he rejected is the one that is the subject of this piece.

January is the time of year we pressure ourselves to make changes. So, when I finished reading The War of Art I was in the right frame of mind to take on the premise that Steven Pressfield eloquently presents.

With due diligence, I set my goals and leapt into the new year (which also happens to be a Leap Year but no pun intended there) with renewed determination. Pressfield’s major premise is that we are at war with ourselves in the form of resistance to our creative goals.
I think we can all raise our hands when we’re honest about how easily we slip into some self-defeating behaviors.

Chief among my self-sabotaging activity is Procrastination. I have another name for it: Displacement Activity. I use those two words as a Category on one of my blogs to disguise the truth behind them. There are ways and ways to NOT write. Blogging is just one. Some call it a necessary marketing/promoting/branding effort. As may be, but it is also a substitute for “real writing”. While I’m blogging, I am satisfying that niggling drive to put words together.

Another of my “resistance” efforts is to Prioritize. This always sounds as though I’m truly setting forth on a planned mission but the items on the list of Things To Do aren’t always about what is necessary to do for my work: writing. I prioritize interesting activities that I can excuse as creative or enhancing my creative drive, freeing my creative brain cells, structuring my creative efforts to be more efficient.  

And there is always Planning which brings me to the second book of the Secret Book Elf tome I have read over the past few days, K M Weiland’s outling your NOVEL: Map Your Way to Success. In all my writing life, I have never “planned” a book. I’m one of those: “put some words on the page and see what happens next” writers. But I see Weiland’s point and questioned myself about my “process” (another P but not as daunting). The other P word that is used for those of us who “see what happens” is Pantsers – flying by the seat of your pants – I prefer the O word that Ian McEwan calls his “process”: Organic.

I attended many business seminars in another life. We said it this way: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. We also had a different set of daunting Ps but the messages are the same: Get to Work and Don’t Give Up.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Living Without Luxuries

by Fran McNabb
At this moment I’m sitting in the dark. No it’s not after sunset. It’s 4:35 in the afternoon but a transformer blew somewhere in the neighborhood, and we’re now without electricity. It’s not really dark, but with an overcast sky, it’s not exactly light.

No lights. No TV. No music and the worse part, no internet!

 It’s amazing how dependent we’ve become on those things that make our lives easy—things like electricity, hot and cold running water and a dwelling that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We take those things for granted until there is a day when we don’t have them.

 I remember thinking after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 there were people throughout the world who had to live day-in and day-out without the things that we were having to live without temporarily. After the storm, areas of the coastline from New Orleans to Mobile looked like a third-world country. Thousands of families lost their houses. My husband and I and the cat lived on our boat for seven weeks until the low winter tide prevented me from climbing onto the pier. We then moved into a borrowed RV and then a Fema trailer. We finally purchase an RV that became our home for the next year.

During those first few weeks our entire neighborhood sat in darkness. We carried flashlights and burned candles. Because stores were not open, we couldn’t buy necessities. We depended on out-of-town friends or we simply did without. I’m sure those residents who lived through Hurricane Sandy and other bad hurricanes did the same thing. Miraculously, we surprised ourselves and learned to do without the things we had become so accustomed to having.

Some good things came from those months. We learned that some material things were not
necessary. We got closer to our neighbors who today are like extended families, and we learned to appreciate each thing that was restored to our lives. We worked through the months of rebuilding
homes and furnishing them and we celebrated with each homeowner who put parts of their lives back together.

After several years most things got back to normal, and we went back to living the easy lives that we’re accustomed to. It takes days like today for me to remember those years.

Aaah.  My electricity just came back on. What a relief! I now can see what I’m typing. Moments like these are small reminders we need to appreciate the things we have. There are other people in this world who live without our luxuries every day.

Fran McNabb has lived along the Gulf Coast for almost her entire life and uses this setting in some of her romances. Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home, but she and her husband were not ready to leave their quiet bayou harbor. Today they still enjoy the beautiful displays that nature offers them. Visit her at or at She loves to hear from her readers.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Secret Universe of Names

by Gina Ardito

What's in a name?

More than titles, or what comes next in the plot, what most authors agonize over is choosing the perfect names for their characters. A name is so much more than a rose that smells sweet (my apologies to Shakespeare.) Each name helps us create a personality, a past, flaws and foibles, and even a time period.

We all have our share of baby name books, lists of most popular names for any given year, astrological charts, and assorted psychological profiles we've accumulated to create those characters that will resonate with our readers.

I have another method. I use...(what else?)...a book.

THE SECRET UNIVERSE OF NAMES by Roy Feinson is a treasure trove of information on personalities, based on the syllables on any given name. The descriptions include what each personality would be like as a child, as an adult, in love, in career, and as a parent. There's also a famous person linked to each set of syllables who embodies the aspects described. 

For example, in my current WIP, my hero's name is Wyatt, or as the book calls him "The Laughing WT." He's warm, multi-talented and driven, but also impatient, stubborn, and judgmental. He's a born leader, with unlimited potential, particularly in creative fields. As a mate, he's loyal, with a wicked sense of humor, and a down-to-earth parent dedicated to his children's well-being. The famous WT? Walt Disney! Makes sense, doesn't it?

My heroine is Leah, "The Demonstrative LH," nurturing and understanding, but apprehensive around strangers and a homebody at heart. She's feminine and loves to cuddle. Considering my Leah runs the local animal shelter, I think I've made the right choice.

Whether you're a writer, a parent-to-be, or someone just fascinated with the science behind names and personalities, this is a great book to add to your collection. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Protect the Joy!

I recently listened to the keynote addresses from this past summer’s RWA convention and one phrase that was used struck me so profoundly I had to write it down on a sticky note that sits on my desk.

Author Nalini Singh (who writes absolutely wonderful paranormal romances) urged everyone to “Protect the joy in your writing.” Plenty of negative forces wait for you whether you’re published or not. Rejections, bad reviews, naysayers, poor sales, etc.  All of it can get you down and take away the pleasure from your writing.

She didn’t offer too many concrete ways to accomplish this, and I understand. The means and method will be different for each person.

On the personal level, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what that means for me. It certainly hit home, because I haven’t been as productive the last few years. Part of the reason is the demands of family and job on my time. But another part, and maybe even the bigger part, is that I’ve misplaced some of that joy. It got buried beneath keeping up with the day job and family, meeting deadlines, the need to promote relentlessly, and mounting worries about some of my publishers.

I’m trying to find the joy again.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals to strive for.  So this year my aim is simple: write more, spend less time on everything else (except family). In practice that means, I’m cutting back on my day job work. I run a web business and I’m starting to shut it down. I’ll continue to work with my existing clients, but I’m taking on very few new ones. That way I won’t have the worry of backed-up work hanging over my mind while I’m trying to write.

I plan to worry less about promoting. I’ll continue to blog here and on my own blog, plus occasional guest blogs. I refuse to get hung up in trying to be a huge presence on social media. It’s not my thing and I don’t know how to do it. Instead, I’ll spend that time writing and trying to put out the best stories I can.

I don’t have any current deadlines and I’m going to try to avoid getting into that trap again. I won’t stop submitting to publishers but I want to try to keep it to a book at a time or series that I already have planned out.

I’ll spend less time on the whole business end of the job. I’m designating a time (an hour a week) for handling that.

I’ve already gotten to the point where I can cope with rejections and bad reviews without too much stress and recognize that it’s part of the rough business I’m in. I’m not opposed to self-publishing books that won’t work for my publishers, but I’ll hire out most of the formatting work.

Mostly I just plan to write. Not with any particular publisher or market in mind. I will write what I need to write and hope that I’ll find the joy in it again along the way.

What do you do to protect the joy in your writing?  Or if you've lost it, how have you found it again?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Adventure and danger are fun in fiction. In real life – not. Two weeks ago on the day after Christmas ten to twelve (depending on which weatherman you listen to) tornadoes hit Dallas and its suburbs.

That afternoon had been warm and humid. The Husband and I had indulged in a quick dip in the hot tub, knowing it would probably be the last for a while as cold weather was predicted. We had been in only about a quarter of an hour when it started to rain. Of course we immediately dashed into the house – like we were afraid we’d get wet, huh? – because we knew a big storm was predicted.

We just didn’t know how much of a storm it would be. It rained sporadically but not very hard for a couple of hours, Then, just around dark, chaos began. The Husband turned on the TV because one of our favorite shows was coming on – except it wasn’t. Every local channel was doing a continual broadcast of the weather. Semi-hysterical weathermen were pointing at multi-colored maps and advising us to find safe rooms in our houses. (We don’t have one, except a closet or two – our house is very open and has many many windows.) I must admit that we weren’t alarmed; the local weathermen have a tendency to get hysterical about ‘approaching bad weather’ that turns out to be nothing but a mild thunderstorm. They do have to keep their ratings up.

This time, however, they were spot on. A few minutes later the rain came, and that was really rain, as if someone had pointed a squadron of fire hoses straight down on our house. After less than half a minute the gutters couldn’t handle the volume and simply overflowed, wrapping the house in a dense curtain of water. The tornado siren less than a quarter of a mile away began to wail. It didn’t stop for over half an hour. On the TV the weatherman was pointing to a bright red/pink area of tornadic activity and we were not cheered to see that it was right over our neighborhood. The wind was fierce, blowing the rain almost sideways. I was afraid that it would be as bad as it had been a couple of years ago, when The Husband had been deployed overseas, when a straight line wind blew so hard it stripped the trees, blew the heavy cover right off the hot tub and shaved a bunch of shingles off the roof, but for us at least it wasn’t. This time. We were fortunate enough to suffer no damage other than the loss of a lot of leaves and a few small branches, flooded gutters and a completely drenched property. Thank You, God. There has been an unprecedented aftereffect, though. 2015 was a very wet year for our region. There had been heavy rain both before and several times after the tornadoes stormed through and the ground was saturated. I didn’t realize how wet it was until we opened the scuttlehole to the crawlspace beneath the house – and for the first time in my memory (and I grew up in this house) there was water standing there. Almost an inch of standing water, despite the fact we live on the top of a substantial hill! Amazing – and in its own way frightening.

Some people weren’t so lucky. Less than ten miles away, in the southeastern suburb cities (yes, Dallas is big) tornadoes started striking. A tornado at night is so much more frightening, because it is almost impossible to see. There are some photos of the funnels touching down, at least two taken by the light of things exploding behind it. There were estimates of over 140 homes so completely destroyed they were almost vaporized. One of The Husband’s friends at work had his home so severely damaged they may never be able to go back. I don’t know the final death toll, but it has to be at least a dozen. My heart bleeds for those families whose homes were destroyed and even more for those who lost loved ones. It’s bad enough that anyone should have to suffer such losses, but for it to happen the day after the happiest and most blessed day of the year is adding insult to injury. May God comfort and be with them.

But in every disaster there are spots of unbelievable kindness. Within hours of the disaster volunteer search and rescue teams were out looking for trapped survivors – both human and animal. A vet was offering free boarding for the pets of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed until they could get things together. A storage company offered the storm’s victims a free month of storage for what they could salvage. Ordinary citizens not only pitched in to help search but brought armloads of donations, including gift cards. Texas has always been a can-do, help your neighbor kind of state and this proves it yet again.

Tornadoes are a part of life in this part of the world. I remember a couple of years ago – and The Husband was deployed overseas this time too – I was sitting in my office (also known as the guest bedroom) trying to work. It was a grey, overcast spring day (my favorite kind) and gradually I became aware that the sirens were not only going off, but had been doing so for quite a while. Frankly I was annoyed at the noise, because it made it hard to concentrate. Finally I realized what those sirens meant and, never having been very bright, ran outside to see if I could spot anything. There was nothing visible other than low, thick grey clouds.

That day they say there were nineteen tornadoes dancing through the metroplex area, damaging or destroying all they touched. The best analogy I can offer is that of a heedless two year old stamping merrily around a garden – one foot here, another there, without regard to the helpless flowers underfoot. And don’t feel too safe no matter where you live – meteorologists say tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, even if over eighty percent happen in the southern central part of the United States.

Yes, tornadoes are part of life in this part of the world, but as a seventh generation Texan I wouldn’t live anywhere else. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

3 Incredible Lessons Whales Can Teach Writers

by Victoria M. Johnson

Humpback whales are magnificent creatures. They grow to about 52 feet long and weigh almost 50 tons, the males sing hauntingly beautiful songs, and humpbacks are acrobatic as they can leap high from the water's surface, roll in the air, and then dive to 1,000 feet.

But the incredible thing I learned about humpbacks is this; their entire lives are filled with only three activities: feeding, breeding, and migrating.  That's it.  Three activities for an entire lifetime.

So what can writers learn from this amazing fact?  Here's one way we can adapt the three activities to the writing craft:

Feed your soul.  Take care of yourself.  It's important for writers to feed your creative spirit.  Exploring helps.  You can explore the world or your own hometown.  Try new things, go to new places, eat new foods, and read new books.  Expose yourself to other art forms and cultural experiences.  All this discovering is feeding your creative being.  But you need down time, too.  Take time to meditate.

I view this as your production of work.  Whatever it is you specialize in--be it poetry, short stories, novels, or nonfiction--breed new writing.  Writing begets writing.  I think writers are happiest when they are creating.  I know I am.  For success and longevity as a writer, you need to produce new finished material.  Finished, not sitting in a drawer, but out in the marketplace or getting read by your editor or agent.

Move about.  Don't stand still.  For writers this can represent getting out of a rut, if you feel like you're in one; or trying something different, for example adding your short story to an anthology with other good writers.  These activities aren't meant to take you away from your main novel or poetry writing projects, but are meant to explore other ways of reaching your readers or reaching new readers, or perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself.  We are on a writer's journey, are we not?  That suggests we're meant to keep moving.

Three Activities
All three activities are essential to the humpback whale's existence.  I think they're essential to the well being of us writers, too.

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Friday, January 1, 2016

"A Room of One's Own"

Hello. My name is Sofie, and I am a writer.

There’s a twelve step program for this, but I can come up with countless excuses to avoid doing anything about it. I am a writer. There. I admit it. That’s the first step.

The second step, is living like a writer.

I’ve got this desk here – that doesn’t really hold my computer set-up. It’s in the middle of the living room that everyone and their marching band tends to walk through in the course of a morning, disturbing the Mind Palace. Really, what I need are walls… and a roof… and a door that can be closed.

And that brings me to my new project. This project.
The She-She-Shed

This is what I’ve been referring to as my “She-She-Shed”. It was a tool shed until my sweet mother-in-law moved to a condo and gave us her tool shed, so now, all the tools can be consolidated in one place and I get to use the other for my very own, get-out-tha-house, office! Really? I could do that?

Well, this Christmas, I received the family’s blessing by way of the gift of sunlight. Rather, my husband and children gifted me a solar panel with accompanying hardware to run electricity out to my brand new office!!!! I LOVE these people!!!! See it? Up there on the right side of the roof? It looked a lot bigger under the tree. And now, the orange drop cord can go away - the one that's currently draped across the yard.

So over the next months, I’m going to share the progress of my she-she-shed/office. You’ll see it in all of its hideousness – as it sits right now.
The She-She-Shed in all its hideousness!
You’ll see me freezing my tushy off, because that little tiny solar panel might keep my laptop charged and a light bulb burning, but it sure won’t run a space heater. You’ll see me run out of it in the summer time by our formidable Virginia summers.

But hopefully, the she-she-shed will inspire someone else to carve out a corner in their home, to follow a dream. Virginia Woolf wrote an essay/lecture series called “A Room of One’s Own” which lauds the importance of a space in which to pursue one’s interests, but it is also about creative license and poetic freedom, financial independence and security, and the tendency of women to deny themselves. Check it out.

I would love if you would send me some of your own inspirational pictures of niches you’ve carved out for yourselves! I’d love to see and share them, if I may. You can send them to me at . And follow my progress here and on my Pinterest Board: There, I’ve pinned some inspirational pictures and I’ll keep a record of the progress on the she-she-shed, as well as my writing progress.

This past month, I was able to eek out a short anthology of Christmas stories, In the St. Nick of Time

It's past its prime now - January - but I'm off on the next venture. I'm working on a series of sweet romances set in the fictional small town of Poropotank, Virginia. (That's pronounced poh-rope-oh-tank. It's a native term, meaning, "muddy creek", and the river really does exist.) Can't wait to work on my four book series out to the She-She-Shed! Wish me luck. I've got some work ahead of me!