Blogging and Creativity

I’ve been a lousy blogger lately. My infrequent post have become a source of personal anxiety lately – the kind that keeps me awake during the hours my brain and body should be at rest. Because I don’t like being tired, I dug deeper to figure out why this blog has given me fits lately. Two reasons emerged.

Career-wise, I’m in a bit of a lull. I’ve been writing, but my finished manuscripts are on submission. For the last 18 months, I’ve been honing my pitch and query letter, writing new versions in hopes that one will capture the interest of an editor or agent. Since last July, I’ve spent about ten hours each week researching agents and publishing houses, with the occasional foray into self-publishing options. That is more time than I spent on weekly blog posts back when I posted more regularly. Each new project that arises competes for time with my other responsibilities. Until I have a good reason to blog more, such as more interaction on my posts, I have found blogging less worthy of my time than other aspects of my career.

More than time, the bigger reason for my decreased blogging is the creative suck it generates. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Windy City RWA conference featuring Barbara Samuel. She spoke at length about nurturing creativity and replenishing the “creative well.” Minnesota had a mild winter, so I only had one opportunity to refill the well through snow-shoeing. At the same time, I encountered more drains. Tweaking my query causes a few words to trickle out of the well. Each change costs me at least one drop of creativity. But there is another larger drain.

I’m currently serving as chapter president for Midwest Fiction, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. I am a true believer in giving back to the community through service and I am grateful and honored that my fellow MFW members found me fit to guide the group. But oh that monthly “Letter from the President” for the chapter newsletter. The roughly 500 word column on something both relevant and clever drains considerably more creativity than a drop per word. It’s more like an open fire-hydrant.

I know my creative well will be refilled. Every day, I notice something that adds to the sense of wonder and beauty necessary for my creative world view. (You can see pictures of some of them on my Instagram feed). Until I have a chance to repair the well’s mortar or get a book contract that takes me off the query-go-round for a while, I suspect my blog will suffer a bit.

Or maybe you, dear reader, can help an author out. What are some of the ways you refill the joy in your life?

My Writing Process.

The lovely Lynn Crandell

invited me to discuss my writing process. You can find her at http://thewritewaycafe.blogspot.com/.

1) What am I working on? I’ve been doing some rewrites on a first person New Adult before sending it to the agent who expressed an interest. No names or details yet, but I’m excited for this manuscript to emerge from its chrysalis. I’m plotting a follow-up to my forthcoming release. And Bad Traveler will be available soon from Decadent Publishing. I’ve gone through several rounds of edits, but am pleased with the final product.

Winterfairycover2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? A fellow writer once described my work as “sophisticated.” The word applies to my first release, Winter Fairy, but I also try to blend highbrow and lowbrow culture and humor. Also, I’m inclined to give at least one if not both of my main characters an unusual job or hobby. I have so much fun doing research. Did you know there are professional pet food tasters?

3. Why do I write what I write? People are fascinating, especially when they interact. When I sat down to write my first book, I knew relationships would be at the core. In my first two published works, the romantic relationship takes the lead, but I’m still experimenting with genre. I love an optimistic ending. I hope my readers do too. When life seems overwhelming (the cat’s sick, the toilet flooded and the hubs has to work late again), laughter and hope between the pages of a book can be a lifeline to sanity.

4. How does my writing process work? Slowly. My process evolves with every IMG_0477book. In my first manuscript, I struggled with character consistency. I’ve tried fill-in-the-blank sheets for characterization, but this last time I tried using a bubble-idea chart. I love the organic nature of it. I identify the GMC for major plot points before I begin writing, but I allow fluidity in how I get there. I also tend to hand write my first drafts. The motion of the pen on paper helps me focus. It probably slows me down because of the duplicate writing time, but I find I don’t obsess over the little squiggly lines on the computer screen.

Want to read the results?  Winter Fairy is available now at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble , Google Books and more.

Sign up for my newsletter or follow this blog to find out the release date for Bad Traveler.

I have tagged three wonderful writers, Jenna Jaxon, Karen Y. Bynum and Tamara Hughes to continue the fun. Since Tamara does not have a blog (yet), I’m hosting her answers next Monday. See you then!

Talking with Jane Ainslie

Today I’m welcoming fellow Decadent author Jane Ainslie. In a show of hospitality, I didn’t insist she come visit me in the frozen Tundra.  Sadly, I couldn’t shovel the snow off the car and hop a flight to heat of Australia, so we’re meeting in the always climatically comfortable realm of cyberspace.

Her Sister's Wedding SmallJane Ainslie is a fellow foodie and author.  With a delicious new romance, Her Sister’s Wedding, I had to find out more.

What inspired you to write Her Sister’s Wedding?

My love of food, watching celebrity chefs on television, and wondering what it would be like to date a man who could really cook, when you are a gal who loves food?

Sounds like a dream come true! Tell me about your favorite place to write.  What makes it special?

I have a lovely room in our house where I write. I’m surrounded by all my favorite things, and my husband knows he’s not allowed to set foot in to my space (he has his own messy man cave). It’s really important to carve out a place for yourself to write.

 I agree. But I suffer invaders in my office. How do you make time to write?

Making time to write means putting yourself before the housework, the pets, the shopping, your family, babysitting, the garden, your work schedule and even your husband. It’s a hard balance, but I grab the hours in between all that to do what I can. I often feel guilty. I guess if I were making mega dollars from writing, I would feel like it was my job, but because I am starting out, I’ve realized you need to take that leap of faith in yourself, commit the time to your dream, and go for it.

Our weather may be at opposite ends of the temperature spectrum, but mentally we’re in the same space. What is your favorite part about being an author?

Using my imagination to wander off down the laneways of Paris, dreaming about romantic stories and happy endings, and using everyday situations for inspiration for that next book.

Let’s play “Dump the purse” – what’s in yours?

Probably one of my pet ferrets, trying to find a treasure. I’m missing my favourite change purse at the moment and I know they have hidden it somewhere in the house, because I forget to zip up my bag the other day. If they managed to get into my purse, then they ferret around, and I’m likely to find my keys, lip gloss, tissue packet etc. missing.

What mischief makers! We’re at a bar with your hero and heroine, what are they drinking?

Mandy and Jake are drinking gin martinis, because that’s my favorite drink so I wrote it as their drink in ‘Her Sister’s Wedding’. It’s not too sweet, so you can take your time. It’s a pure drink – there is only one additive to the gin – it’s old school, which I find romantic.

 I can picture them now. Dessert time!  Give me your “either—or” answers

•    Chocolate, fruit or other? Oh God, NEVER fruit. I can’t stand it. My idea of hell is a health retreat where you detox on fruit. Chocolate only.

•    Warm or cold? Warm, sticky date pudding with toffee sauce (yes, I know dates are a fruit but that’s the only exception…)

•    Buttercream or fondant? Being an Aussie, I don’t know what this means! I’m assuming it means creamy icing or hard icing. Creamy icing. Icing you whip up yourself in a bowl with plenty of butter, so you can lick that knife after you’ve iced the cake.

Be happy you don’t know fondant and yes, always real butter.

•    Cookies or brownies? We call cookies biscuits in Australia, and brownies here are squishy chocolate kind of cake things. Yum. Brownies.

•    With nuts or without? Pile those nuts on top of the chocolate cream, on top of the ice cream, on top of the sticky date pudding. You are talking to a foodie romance author!

Oh yum.  I can’t wait to share a meal in person. Until then, I’ll have to settle for your mouthwatering book.  Jane, tell me more about Her Sister’s Wedding.

What happens when you meet the right person at the wrong time?

 Melbourne-based food journalist Mandy Evans has Paris firmly in her sights. She’s got a chance at her life-long dream of studying art in the City of Love, but not before she has to be a ring-in bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding.

 After setting up his latest restaurant in Melbourne, renowned American chef Jake Pearson is leaving for his next project in Miami. He’s the hottest ticket in anyone’s town, with a burning ambition to conquer the world, but not before he’s best man at his friend’s wedding.

 When Mandy and Jake meet, the attraction is instant. He loves her sassy, natural style, and her appetite for great food. She thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, or even martinis. Fate gives them a chance at love when they are partners at the same wedding, but can either of them compromise their ambitions to let love grow?

This is going on my To Be Read shelf right away.

You can get a copy of Her Sister’s Wedding at Amazon or through Decadent.

Author Jane Ainslie adores martinis, is a keen but hopeless gardener, and an avid reader of cookbooks. She currently resides in Adelaide, Australia, with her beloved husband and her four unruly pet ferrets.

Her blog can be found at www.janeainslie.com and she can be found on Facebook at Jane Ainslie Books.

Thanks for visiting.  Her Sister's Wedding Small

Another year

Another year has come and gone. I reached one of my writing goals–to have another book in contract–but missed another–polishing a work in progress.  That’s okay.  I have a new year ahead of me full of opportunity.

I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Not only did they tend to be way too lofty (lose 10 pounds, write a best seller) but also lacked concrete steps.  By February, I failed to make good on the promise of a year.

The arrival of a new wall calendar still offers me opportunities for a fresh start.  A few years ago, I committed to having a smaller environmental footprint. Although that phrase smacks of over ambition, I found ways to make it work by looking for small shifts in my behavior.  I committed to composting coffee grounds and banana peels. Now, composting is routine and throw out less garbage.  When I learned the plastic beads in cosmetics and soaps end up in the ocean, I stopped purchasing polluting products.  This year, my goal is to learn more about my local eco-system since I know little about Minnesota and how my life choices influence the land of 10,000 lakes.

Professionally, I’m challenging myself to write a short story and have it ready for publication by the end of the year.  A slow writer like me is at a disadvantage in the current market which favors frequent publication.  Since it is year-long process, I have broken it down into small steps, but I’m not ready to share those.

Do you make resolutions or is January first just another day?

RWA13

RWA13 in Atlanta was a wonderful experience.  I find I learn so much in the company of other writers, and not just in the formal workshops.  In case you couldn’t attend, here are 13 things  I learned at RWA13.

1.  Romance readers are generous and passionate about good books.  I worked as Cashier at the Literacy Signing.  One woman drove across two states to get to the signing.  She had more books than she could hold and her husband rounded to the closest hundred to benefit literacy programs.  I don’t know her name, but she is why we write.

2.  The publishing industry is in flux.  As more authors take charge of their own career, publishing houses and agents need authors more than authors need the traditional publishing world.  It’s a scary but exciting time.  As the author you are more empowered if you take the time to figure out what you and your rights are worth.  (Discussion with Dorien Kelly and Courney Milan)

3. Independent press does not necessarily mean small press. (Indie press panel)

4. A great hook taps into the reader’s curiosity and gets at a deep emotional response (from Elizabeth Boyle)

5. Publishing a book is not a solitary activity.  It takes a team. (from Simone Elkeles)

6. Don’t be afraid to ask a question of authority. The powers that be may not want to answer the question, but you’ll never get an answer unless you try.

7. Interested in trying a stand up desk?  Before you spend $1,500 on a fancy work station, try the ironing board.  I always wondered what those things were for…..  (from Bruce Kelly, CIH,CSP)

8. A workshop on finances may not sound exciting, but Laura Alford, Diane Kelly and Donna MacMeans made taxes and record keeping a conference highlight.

9. Michael Hauge is an amazing public speaker.   The goal of any story-teller is to solicit an emotional response in the reader.

10. If there is an open chair at your lunch table, you might make a new friend.

11. The best presenters were the most prepared and organized speakers.

12. We need more euphemisms for “lady parts.”  (Stephanie Doyle, Elizabeth Hoyt and Molly O’Keefe)

13. When you get over two thousand writers in one place, the energy is amazing.  I’m fortunate to be part of this terrific writing community and I can’t wait until San Antonio #RWA14

Did you go to the conference?  What stood out for you?

Casting Finnick: The Hunger Games

I’m an unabashed fan of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series.  I hoped like crazy “they” wouldn’t ruin the book when turning it into a film and was pleased the first movie turned out so well.  I loved the casting of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch.  When I read the book, he played the role in the movie in my mind.

Finnick and Katniss I mean Claflin and Lawrence

I am more nervous about the upcoming Catching Fire, and I’m not alone. It comes down to the casting of Finnick.  When I read the book, I could come up with no real life equivalent.  In my mind, he was a cross between Adonis and a much younger Neptune.  Finnick is such a terrific character overall not because of the swagger that comes from being the most desired hunk in Panam, but because of his heart.  I read the recent Entertainment Weekly article featuring Finnick’s portrayer Sam Claflin with skepticism, wondering if there really is anyone out there with “Finnick-ness.”

Then, a few days ago, as I was cleaning up the DVR scheduler and removed Amazing Race 21 from the line-up, I had an epiphany.  Finnick may not be as far removed from humanity as I first thought.

Jaymes and James

Throughout the Amazing Race 21, Chippendale Jaymes Vaughan proved you can have a hot body, a playful sense of humor and a big heart.  I may have a bit of a crush, which you can read in the same tone Jaymes used when said he may have seen a hard hat or two working at Chippendales.  No offense to Sam Claflin, but I’ve found my Finnick.   Who is yours?

Rules for house cleaning

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my life.  I spend far too much time cleaning the house and not enough time daydreaming and writing.  To alleviate this dire situation I’ve developed a new set of guidelines for keeping the house cleaner and lessening the time I must spend doing this dreaded chore.

1. No shoes in the house. Leave the dirt, leaves and pollen outside.

2. Don’t let the children eat crumb producing foods like crackers inside the house.

3. Dont let my husband eat crumb producing foods inside the house.

Is this my future?

4. Prevent litter box tracking.  Train the cats to use the toilet (and flush). I anticipate this will take about eight years.

5. Insist everyone, cats included, wear dust mop socks when inside.  This should keep the floors cleaner, but may result in increased laundry.

6. Remove all toys with small pieces from the home to reduce the likelihood of stepping on a wayward Lego or worse, sucking a child’s “most important piece ever” into the vaccuum.

7. Ban all craft projects involving glitter.

8. Throw out everything prone to shedding.  Oops – cross that out. I refuse to cut my hair even though I am the most shed-prone.

8. Invent “Hover Slippers” so no-one has to walk on the grimy floor.  Sit down at computer and write the next novel.

How to not write

I’ve been busy today. I feel like a twitter fiend and I visited the ShyWritters blogspot for a Q&A. I facebooked and caught up on some board business for the Chesapeake Romance Writers.  I polished and submitted my entry for the Finish the Damn Book contest (Deadline Oct 12.), and followed up on promotional items.

The one thing I didn’t do – Write. The day isn’t over, but I’m not optimistic. Sometimes it seems writers do everything but write.  I don’t think this problem is unique to writers. I know plenty of people with office jobs who find the only time they can accomplish their work is outside of office hours because during the day they are just to busy.

What type of work gets in the way of your work?

Release Day

Today Winter Fairy is available at fine ebook outlets everywhere.  I’m over the moon excited.

Many years ago, I read that over half of the Americans surveyed said they would like to write a book one day.  I personally know many who harbor that dream. For many years, I told myself that I should and for many years, I ignored that impulse. My “one day” came when I found the courage to put ideas to paper, and then to persist and not give up the dream.

It took patience, persistence, a lot of coffee and a dedication to working every day, but I’m here to tell you, dreams can make a wonderful reality.