Thursday, September 30, 2010

Abundant Love Through the Years

ABUNDANT LOVE THROUGH THE YEARS by Catherine Mann

Today, my husband’s grandmother turns 90! Certainly that in and of itself qualifies for our September theme of abundance in years. I would also say Mamaw quantifies a person who treasures up and shares love in abundance.

As a romance writer, I’m always fascinated by the many forms happily ever after can take. Today, I would like to celebrate the abundant romance of my husband’s grandparents - Mamaw and Buster.

The framed photo shows that they obviously dated and married during the WWII era. The photo was taken on their wedding day (they’re the couple in the middle.) Months later, Buster shipped out just after Mamaw learned she was pregnant with their first child, my future father-in-law. She gave birth without Buster there. During the Battle of the Bulge, Buster was shot three times and was reported dead. Later, she learned he was in a prison camp where he stayed for the duration of the war. She told me once how she learned from that experience to treasure the abundance of the moment, of the simple things in life.

Now, family members who know Buster and Mamaw, also know they could and often did grouse at each other. But I still saw the abundance of their love in those unspoken moments. I saw it in the way Mamaw quietly made sure he had warm wool socks because his feet were sensitive to cold since they’d frozen during his train ride to the prison camp. I saw that love in Buster’s face when he gave up living on his family farm in their senior years so she could be nearer to their three sons.

Mamaw and Buster celebrated sixty-five years of marriage before he passed away last year. Those sixty-five years of abundantly lived moments expanded even further, encompassing all of us around them. Including my twenty-three year marriage to my own military hero hubby. (See photo from our wedding day.) Whether we drove down the winding road leading to their farm home or walked up the steps to their tiny apartment, we knew we were entering a circle of unconditional, abundant love that lives on.

In the spirit of living each moment abundantly, what are some unspoken ways you’ve been shown love or seek to show love for others through simple gestures? In the novels I read, I find great reassurance in seeing these played out with the hero and heroine so I can envision their abundant happily ever after lasting a lifetime!

To learn more about my books and my upcoming Casablanca debut, COVER ME, check out my website at: http://catherinemann.com/

Happy Birthday, Mamaw!!!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Abundance of Animals


Still on the subject of abundance. Catherine Mann just blogged about abundant puppy love and it made me think of the abundance of animals I've had in my life. I so admire Catherine and others who do so much for animals. I did once, not in an official, but a very unofficial way. Like chasing a chipmonk who'd revived inside my car after I rescued him on my way to work, or challenging the cat ready to pounce on a baby squirrell who'd fallen from a tree onto a sidewalk, or giving my heart and soul to baby kittens who'd been born in a culvert pipe during a storm.

Before I had kids, all my maternal instincts went toward animals. I've always loved animals and our family usually had dogs, but I've had some strange critters come and go. When I was young, my dad found two orphaned crows. Our property backed up to a National forest and we raised the crows. It was so cool to have them circling the sky and come down and land on our shoulders. Eventually they flew away and didn't come back, although my dad saw them circling in the sky overhead sometimes.

Then those darned kittens in the culvert pipe. Some neighborhood kids on the way to school saw them. It was storming and the kittens were ready to be swept away. It appeared Mama had abandoned them. I had to get a broom and sweep them gently out. Their eyes hadn't even opened. I fed them and did the best I could, but they died in about a day. I was devastated.

I was on my way to work when the baby squirrel fell out of a tree and landed on a sidewalk. The fat cat and I raced for him. I won, but got bitten by the squirrel. I couldn't leave him there. I didn't see the Mama Squirrel and I knew the cat was just waiting. The squirrel was too young to climb the tree. He wasn't hurt badly, so I took him to work and afterwards, to my parents place where there were lots of trees and other squirrels. He lived a long, happy life, and would come right up to the porch. My dad takes all the animals I find now.

The stinkiest rescue was the turtle. He wasn't injured, but he was trying to cross the road in a Washington D.C. suburb and would've gotten hit. Now this turtle was about 50 pounds, maybe 70. I made my boyfriend (now hubby) pull over and he watched for traffic while I tried to get the turtle out of the road. What's wrong with this picture? Why wasn't hubby lifting the turtle? Well, he has a bad back, and he thought I'd lost my mind. Oh...the smell. I've never smelled anything like this turtle. A man with a truck came up and offered to haul him to some woods where there was a stream, if we could get him inside. I think he was questioning my sanity along with my soon-to-be husband. I almost got bitten, but I got that turtle in the bed of the truck almost before the man opened the tailgate. We had to roll the windows down in the car on the way home because I smelled so bad. Death had nothing on this fellow.

The chipmonk that got loose in the car ended up staying with me. He was paralyzed in his back legs. A car had hit him. I kept him in a cage and massaged his spine and back legs every day. He was getting some movement back in his legs when one of my five dogs (the ones I got when the Cocker Spaniel I'd rescued from the dog pound surprised me with four puppies and I couldn't get rid of them so I helped the Cocker Spaniel give birth and put up a three thousand dollar fence so the mean dog next door wouldn't eat them) knocked the cage over and killed him, and then left him lying at the front door as a gift for me. Devastation doesn't even come close to describing what I felt. But I didn't blame my dog. She was just doing what comes naturally.

These are just some of the bizarre stories I could tell. But animals do enrich our lives. Having an animal lying next to you is just such a de-stresser, and I think we all need de-stressing. Now we have Lily, the white boxer who is so affectionate, but rules the house. She thinks we're her people. Before her we had the most wonderful black Lab, Neo. We lost him to kidney failure a couple of years ago. He was the gentleman of dogs. Just an amazing dog. He's pictured here.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Abundance of Chaos

I live in an abundance of chaos. I’m not the most organized person around (okay, those of you who know me can stop laughing hysterically at that understatement now). Still, I managed pretty well before two kids with special needs, six cats, and two ill-behaved dogs. Nowadays I’m lucky if I can walk through all the rooms in my house without having to step over things, I spend half my time hunting for my keys, glasses, the book I want, or anything else, and let’s not even go into finding two matching shoes (see ‘ill-behaved dog’ and ‘teenage daughter’). My desk would be a lovely place to work if it weren’t piled high with papers, books, and everything somebody can’t find a better place for. My house is such a mess that I hate having anyone see it. Did I mention that both kids have ADD and are virtual hurricanes who constantly drop things in their paths?

Some days my inability to manage the chaos drives me nuts, and the state of the house makes me want to tear my hair out. It’s really easy to fall into thinking I’m a failure because I can’t even manage to keep my house clean. But then I look at a magnet on the refrigerator. My husband gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and it says, “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.”

Then I remember the flip side of chaos, and for me, that’s creativity. It’s that same lack of self-discipline that sends me off into imaginary worlds populated with fascinating characters. It lets me not trip over the video games sprawled across the floor when two of my characters are having an argument in my head. It’s also why I’ve been known to make homemade brownies for dinner and serve them with rice cakes and cheese so that everybody gets a little nourishment with their chocolate. And you know something? I like having brownies for dinner!

So, all in all, I think I’ll keep my abundance of chaos. I’m sure that when I’m on my deathbed, my greatest regret in life is NOT going to be that I didn’t keep my house clean enough. Now, if I could only find that other shoe….

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Abundance of. . . .

After almost a month's worth of blogs on abundance, we've had an abundance of everything from books to wolves. We have, however, forgotten something very important; something a romance novel wouldn't be complete without.

I'm here today to remedy that.

So, to borrow a few words from Geri Halliwell,
there's going to be a little change in the weather. . . .


Humidity is rising
Barometer's getting low
According to our sources
The street's the place to go


'Cause tonight for the first time
Just about half past ten
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men

























It's raining men,
Hallejulah!
It's raining men,
Amen


























It's raining men
Hallejulah!
It's raining men
Amen


























I'm gonna go out
I'm gonna let myself get

Absolutely soaking wet





















It's rainin' men
Hallejulah!
It's raining men





















Every special men
Tall blond dark and lean

Rough and tough and strong and mean



























God bless Mother Nature
She's a single woman too
She took over heaven
And she did what she had to do



























She fought every Angel

To rearrange the sky

So that each and every woman

Could find the perfect guy

























It's raining men




























Don't get yourself Weather Girls

I know you want to

I feel stormy weather moving in

About to begin

Hear the thunder

Don't you lose your head

Rip off the roof and stay in bed





















It's raining men
Hallejulah!
It's raining men Amen



























It's raining men
Hallejulah!
It's raining men
Amen


























It's raining men
Hallejulah!
It's raining men
Amen


























It's raining men Hallejulah!
It's raining men Amen


























It's raining men



























It's raining men



























It's raining men


























Now, THAT'S what I call ABUNDANCE!!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An abundance of competition

I wasn't sure if I should post this or not, but hey...someone has to say it.
The competition among authors for readers is rough, and getting rougher!

I'm not a competitive person, except with myself. Give me a challenge and this little Capricorn will rise to meet it or die trying. So, my way of beating out the competion is to write the best book I can and promote the heck out of it. But these days, is that enough?

With the advent of ereaders becomming common and affordable, print authors are competing with e-authors. And with so many places offering free reads, eauthors are competeing with anyone who has a computer.

How are we to survive?

Our fans. Fortunately there are still people out there who will pay for a book by their favorite authors. It's because of them we write. It's because of them our publishers get paid and can pay us.

Now, here's a story I heard that made me so mad I'll have to say my mantra a few times after I type it. I wasn't there, so I can't verify its validity, but the woman who told me about it attended this author's speech and I think she's a trustworthy source.

She said the author she was listening to was a well-known NY Times best seller. What she said was "If you don't cut your competition down with rotten anonymous reviews, you don't care about your career."

Excuse me? Huh? What the...

I do care about my career--very much, but I have never done that and never will. This is one instance in which the word 'never' is appropriate. I believe in Karma and I wouldn't want that woman's Karma for all the publishing money in the world!

Ommm....Ommm...Ommm...

Seriously, are we that desperate? Just the thought of that makes me want to cry. I love what I do and I want to be able to continue. So, what do I do? I reward my fans. It's all I can think of that will help me, them, and the industry without compromising my ideals.

That's what my contests are about. I not only have contests to gather new fans, but I run contests on my yahoo loop to reward old ones. I may not give away books since many of them have zillions, but a pretty scarf, a pair of nice polarized sunglasses to save their precious eyes...anything I can afford is worth it to thank them for their loyalty.

If anyone has an opinion on this, I'd be delighted to hear it.

An Abundance of Books

The best thing about writing is the books -- not just the books I get to write, but the books I get to read. I've worked in bookselling all my life, so I've always had a good excuse to spend my time reading anything and everything. But writing has changed and enriched the way I read.

There's no better way to learn the craft of writing than by reading good books. Through reading, I've had some of the best writers in the world of romance teach me how to put a story together, and each of my favorites taught me how to add the elements that make it stand out.

So here's my syllabus for a course in romance writing, covering a comprehensive assortment of skills through writers with special strengths.


  • Voice: Janet Evanovich. There's a reason why the Stephanie Plum series became a bestseller. The screwball New Jersey bounty hunter is a fantastic character, but what really makes the novels work is the way Evanovich lets Stephanie's unique personality shine through her first-person storytelling. The books are funny and fast-moving, and show how a unique voice can captivate a reader. Start with One for the Money and read them all!
  • Flawed but lovable characters: Kristan Higgins. Kristan's latest release, All I Ever Wanted, is one of my favorite romance novels ever. For one thing, the heroine's issues at the beginning of the book echo my own, and I identified so strongly with people-pleasing Callie that I read the story to find out what would happen to me. I also loved the way the author showed Callie's growth through her relationship with -- a rocking chair. That's right -- it's not always about a man!
  • Emotional depth laced with humor: Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It's not easy to make love, trust, family secrets and heartbreak amusing, but SEP manages to perform the feat over and over. Her characters are unique and lovable, her dialogue sparkles, and her pacing makes her books impossible to put down. Natural Born Charmer is a near-perfect example of what a romance novel should be.
  • Characters that change and grow: Terri Garey. When I first started writing, my heroines started out witty and spunky and fun, and ended up -- witty and spunky and fun. Garey's inimitable Goth girl heroine, Nicki Styx, taught me how to make a character grow in a meaningful way while still holding onto her unique personality traits. Dead Girls Are Easy is one of my favorite paranormals.
  • Compelling secondary characters: Jodi Thomas. In the first volume of her small-town contemporary series, Welcome to Harmony, Jodi Thomas introduces a large cast of characters and proceeds to make each one a unique individual so real they stay with you long after the book is over. She even managed to make me fall in love with a middle-aged, slightly overweight funeral director!

That's just the start of my own personal School of Romance. I had so many other teachers it would be impossible to list them all, but these five helped lay a foundation for my ow writing and showed me what you can do with a cast of characters, an imagined world, and a love story.

Who are your favorite romance writers, and what have they taught you?

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Abundance of Time--not something I have

You know the old adage, "If you want something done, ask a busy person?"

I must have that plastered on my forehead. As many of you know, I recently got a part time job. It sort of fell into my lap and has possibilities for all sorts of good things, not the least of which is the project that I'm becoming involved in... which is where the time thing comes in.

Next week, I'm going to be pretty MIA from everything: my life, my home, my family, probably my writing... everything. I'll be doing some computer training for this project I'm going to implement at the office. And I'm excited about it. But, trust me, I'll be glad when the training is over. I haven't worked full time since before I had kids, though I did have two part time jobs simultaneously that were over 40 hours per week, but one of them was while the kids were asleep, the other while they were at school. I was always there for them. And, of course, I wasn't published with deadlines and contracts and promo and everything else that entails.

So, managing all of this is going to be quite the juggling act, but it is something I'm looking forward to. However, please don't ask me to do anything else, 'cause I think I'm kind of tapped out. Find another busy person.

So, for all of you who work full time and have kids and a writing career, HOW do you do this? All answers greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PLOT SUMMARY AND A HOOK

By Deb Werksman

I noticed in my recent pitch sessions that I'm getting a lot of pitches that are really plot summaries, rather than providing the kind of sales hook that I'm looking for.

Let me start by telling you why I need the sales hook.

When I find a project that I think we should publish (it meets all my criteria), I take it into an Editorial meeting where I present it to our publisher, editorial director, and all the other acquiring editors. I may be first in the lineup, I may be last in the lineup, I may have 1 project to present or I may have 10, and all the other editors may have 1 project to present, or they may have 10. We may have 1/2 hour for the meeting, or an hour for the meeting, or 90 minutes for the meeting. So I may have 3 minutes to present a project, or 5, or 1 minute.

The first thing I have to have, is a 2-3 sentence "hook" that has people totally enrolled in and excited about us publishing this book. What the hook tells them is WHY the reader will find this book a MUST READ. It tells them how I'm positioning the book in the marketplace, who the readership is going to be, and that the book is hugely saleable.

Now, let's say that everyone's excited and I get to make an offer on the book. The next part of the process will involve a series of meetings in which every book coming from every editor has to be approved to "launch" for that season. For launch meetings, I assemble:

*a 50-word Positioning Statement--for which the "hook" is the basis
*3-4 paragraph description of the book (expanding on the hook and giving a rudimentary plot summary)
*3 key sales handles--critical, one sentence each--this is where author's track record, the prominence of the subgenre, etc. come in
*comparative and/or competing books with their sales figures
*cover comps and direction for the design department
*character descriptions from the author, for the design department
*synopsis from the author
*proposed format (for romance fiction, almost always mass market format)
*proposed retail price
*proposed publication schedule (including when the manuscript is due to me, and when I'll be ready to turn it over to the Bookmaking group)

The launch materials later morph into the catalog copy and the catalog copy morphs into the back cover copy.

When our salespeople call on the buyers, they may have a 15 minute meeting in which to present 10 books. Sometimes all they have time for is to share the "hook" with the buyer.

That's why I say I need "a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences."

A plot summary just won't serve the purpose of a "hook".

I look forward to your questions!

All best,

Deb Werksman
Sourcebooks, Inc.
deb.werksman@sourcebooks.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Abundance of Wolves!


A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to talk two of my co-workers into going on an adventure and we drove 2 1/2 hours south to walk with wolves at the St Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas.

It was hard to get a picture of the carved wolf head beyond the gate, but here is the gate to the estate of the St Francis Wolf Sanctuary.



Wolf Dog Grieving:


Part of the reason I write that my werewolves have long lives is I don't want them to lose their mates at an early age. This is a part wolf, part dog, but looks very much like a wolf and acted like one, who lost his mate, Spirit, three weeks earlier. This was the first time he came out of his home to sit on top of it after losing her.

He actually came to the fence and howled a couple of times, but it was hard to get a picture of them howling. They'd howl, then pace and with their long legs, moved very quickly.


One thing that can distinguish a wolf from a wolf dog is the narrow chest, longer legs, and many constantly paced around their pens. Arctic wolves do have shorter legs and ears though. Arctic wolves are gray wolves also.

But he really did come out of his grief somewhat to finally come to the fence and participate a little in the excitement caused by visitors and volunteers who were there to see them and that was good to see. He was very alpha--his ears always perked up. I'll show a very beta wolf also--and how different the posture.





When the wolves howl, it was pretty quick, so capturing a picture of them with their head tilted back and giving off a howl was hard to do. The volunteers said that they normally didn't howl much during the day, and one of the wolves was doing all of the howling at first. Then several began howling. Which for here was also really unusual. I wonder if they knew they had a werewolf writer in their midst. :)



Here is a wolf and a wolf dog--the wolf howling. She howled constantly, then later some of the others howled. But she was the first. She was very alpha, scent marking and scratching the ground with her paws.




Here is the beta wolf.


This was one of the wolves that was walked when we were at the St Francis Wolf Sanctuary. She's a beta, as you can see from the way she stands. She was thrilled to go for a walk, yet she kept her ears back, her tail tucked between her legs, her body slightly bowed.

She has always lived alone, so she stays alone in her pen, while all the other wolves or wolf dogs had companions. But those who managed the sanctuary felt she wouldn't allow anyone in her pen to share it. She's the only one of the full blooded wolves that they walk. She loves the man who walked her here, but some women, she doesn't like he told us!



When you see the wolf like this, it reminded me so much of one of my standard poodles, how she would do this on occasion.




I'm wondering, though, if she found the right male, would she be happy to share her pen with him?

Of course, she would. :)


Whether a beta wolf or alpha, everyone deserves a delectable mate!


This is the beta Arctic Wolf scent rolling. Dogs will do this also, and bring back the "delightful" smells they've picked up--the scent of dead animals, etc, to their pack. Our yellow Labrador Retriever would love to do this after we gave her a sweet smelling bath. Not to her taste. :) She would prance around, telling us how she was dying to go outside right after her bath and once we let her out, she'd scent roll to gather something nicer smelling to bring back inside with us--to share her good fortune.



Here, the she-wolf looks like she's just taking a nice nap in the open field. Her nose is buried in the grass--taking in all the delightful aromas. :) Her pen was just as grassy and comfy, but she wouldn't have the fun of smelling all the little animal fragrances that collect in the surrounding area--rabbits, mice, all those tasty treats.


Yummy. What did they eat? One of the volunteers showed us chicken bones. Haven't you always heard how dangerous bones are for dogs? Particularly splintering kinds of bones? Well, not for wolves. They can exert 1500 pounds per pressure per square inch, twice as much as a German Shepherd can.



And here I am with a wolf dog. She loves people, but also loves to jump. Wolves can jump 35 feet, and she managed to jump on top of the tarp shading her den, then leapt over the double fencing, that's angled in to prevent them from jumping over it, and took off. One of their neighbors called them and said they thought one of their wolves was loose. Yep. And she did it again. So even though she's really very sweet with people, trying to keep her confined in a regular yard would never work.

When I was doing research for To Tempt the Wolf, I had read about an Arctic wolf sanctuary in Oregon and the trouble they'd had with people not wanting their sanctuary situated in the area. So I asked one of the men giving the tour about St Francis. He said they don't mind. Now, I have to say many of the neighbors had extremely fancy homes, and it looked like race horses.

He finally said that one of the neighbors said if he saw a wolf loose, he'd shoot and ask questions later.

In my posting in October, I'll share another couple of stories and one has to do with the Arctic wolf sanctuary I researched for To Tempt the Wolf.

I know Linda has lovingly owned and raised a wolf dog, and that Judi was fortunate enough to see wolves as she drove through a preserve. Anyone else have the fortune to see them up close?

Have a super last day of September, and hope October is filled with abundant joy for everyone!

Terry
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
www.terryspear.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Abundance of Books

When I take in my surroundings, the thing I see in the greatest abundance is books. No, I don't see that pile of laundry or those dirty dishes. Some people have selective hearing. I have selective vision.

I have books overflowing from my bookshelves, stacked in the corner of my bedroom, on my bedside table, on the coffee table, and stored in huge boxes in the basement for when I need to replenish my supply upstairs.

BOOKS, BOOKS, EVERYWHERE BOOKS!! Some of these might look familiar to some of you.

I have a book in my purse, my desk, my car, and the bathroom cupboard. They're tucked away all over the place!

I tend to read four or five novels at a time and I have no plans to decrease my bookly abundance. I just keep adding to it. I DO plan to read every last one of them. I love books. The weight of them, the look of them, the smell of the paper. Their multi-colored covers all lined up on a shelf. I have always loved books and hope I'm never without them in my life. And don't get me started on the abundance of stories and characters just waiting to be discovered between the covers.

My mother instilled a love of books at a very early age. My family didn't have much money when I was small, but I had twelve golden books. Do you remember those? They had a gold foil spine, but were cheap. I'm not sure they make them anymore. Every night, without fail, my mother would put me in bed and sit down to read a book to me. One book would turn into two. Two into three. I would never let her leave until she'd read every book I owned aloud. All twelve of them. When she'd get tired (she'd worked all day, after all), she'd try to pull a fast one and skip a page or two. I'd say, "Mommy, that's not how it goes." I, of course, had every word memorized. This continued each night for several years. When my little sister was born, the reading routine was disrupted, so I made up my own stories in my head. A writer was born!

Last week, I added to my book abundance when my author copies of Backstage Pass arrived. I dragged the box into the house, opened it as if it contained the holy grail, and lifted one of the treasures from inside. I held my book in my hands, tested its weight, felt the texture of the cover, smelled the paper, listened to the sounds of the pages flipping, stared at the cover and the text, and then I clutched it against my chest and hugged it.
Hey! At least, I didn't taste it. Much.
I'm very familiar with the words inside this book, but the physical entity was entirely new to me. For someone who loves books as much as I do, it was an amazing experience to hold that book in my hands for the first time. And the second time. And the third. I can't stop picking it up. Maybe I'll eventually get around to reading it again. The ending still makes me cry happy tears.
Okay, I couldn't resist reading parts of it. And it still makes me laugh.

Now I have one of my own books mixed in with my book hoard and it gives me an abundance of smiles. I know when I see Backstage Pass on a bookstore shelf on October 1st, I'm going to shed abundant tears of joy. Debut authors are so weird. Or maybe it's just me...

Do you own an abundance of books? Is the physical form of a book important to you or are you perfectly happy reading on an e-reader?

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Schedule Overflows with Abundance

by Amanda Forester

The one thing I have in abundance is commitments and scheduled activities. What I lack is time. I work, I write, I volunteer, I raise two kids, and every third Thursday, just for a special treat, I let myself get a few hours sleep. Ok, the part about sleeping isn’t true. But it feels like it’s true.

Here is a casual picture of me checking my schedule in my negligee, like I always do. . . hahahaha. Oh, I crack myself up sometimes. No, that’s definitely not me. Stress kitty over here is far more accurate.

Yesterday I got the kids off to school, went to work (and stayed an hour late to deal with “issues”), and then prepped dinner in advance and began the after school routine. That day we had an eye doctor appointment, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and soccer practice.

Perhaps I had overscheduled just a bitsy bit. But… it’s so hard to say no. Even with the acknowledgment that I already have too many things on our schedule, I am still considering more. I know… I need help. But, how can I say no to cub scouts? I mean cub scouts is important – right? And then there’s this slick advertisement for chess lessons. Look – it’s so shiny. Good moms take their kids to chess lessons – it says so right here on the brochure (or at least it’s implied). I think I can fit it in before ballet/tap/tumbling class. Really – no problem at all.

A special opportunity? You need a chaperone for the field trip to the fair? Oh, definitely sign me up. I’ll make up the work later – really, it’s fine. Classroom volunteers? Oh yes, that one is really important. PTA – yes. Pumpkin party – yes. Science fair – oh, yes, yes, YES!

What’s that? You have a class at church on slowing down and becoming more prayerful? Oh, I really need that. I can fit it in between my administrators meeting at work and my orthopedic guild meeting. You need Sunday school teachers? Supplemental art classes? Cookies for the bake sale? Basketball camp?

Oh help! Is there a twelve step program for busy moms? Hello, I’m Amanda, and I’m over-scheduled. I suppose the first step is to admit I am powerless over my schedule. Sheesh – it sure feels that way at times.

So how’s your schedule shaping up for fall? Are you good with time management? Able to say no to being over-committed? Or are you a “yes” girl like me and end up with an abundance of things on your calendar? Tell me about your busy day so I can feel normal!

For me, I admit I have a problem. I will endeavor not to add anything more. Seriously. I mean it.

Oh look – guitar lessons!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Abundance of Blogs

Just a few years ago I would not have been able to define what a blog was. The ones that I had heard of were personal blogs that friends had and it made no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, who cares about my kids or wants to read my opinion on the TV show I watched last night? And why in the world would I waste my time writing about my job or the book I read? That was all a “blog” meant to me.

I know there are still many of those types of blogs out there and I do scratch my head over it a little. But I also know the power of the internet better than I did several years ago and I realize how essential blogs are as a way to communicate with people far and wide. Now I am very thankful that people start blogs as a way to chat about books since more and more readers are making choices based on what a favorite, trusted blog had to say about it. I am overwhelmingly grateful that blog owners open their sites to authors, allowing this unknown person to come on and spout off about their books. How remarkable! And how awesome to have that venue to meet potential readers and devoted fans.

Yes, blogs are wonderful. And they are abundant! I know because after three virtual book tours and another on the horizon for In the Arms of Mr. Darcy I have flittered all over the internet guesting at several dozen blogs. Big blogs, little blogs, and every blog in between! One would think folks have run out of ideas for a unique blog or at least be repeating the same themes, yet that does not seem to be the case. 

Here at Casablanca we have only one thing in common: We are published by Sourcebooks and have the same editor. Our genres, styles, experiences, and career pathways are widely diverse. So how does it work? Certainly our love of romance, no matter how we approach it, is a main factor. But I think we succeed here at Casa because of our diversity. Visitors can find something they like among us and forever be discovering something new.

At Austen Authors, the new blog created by Abigail Reynolds and me, we went with a different approach. We looked around us at the numerous authors who write within the Austen subgenre of literary fiction and thought, “Why not bring them together so lovers of Austen can discover the wealth of novels all in one place!” It might sound like that would be boring, but it really isn’t. While we are all inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and characters are rich and very different. And we each approach our interpretation of her stories from unique angles. So once again there is something for everyone, no matter what they like to read.

Austen Authors launched two weeks ago and already has spawned a sequel! A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings is our news blog where we can briefly share our events, reviews, blog dates, Jane happenings, etc. on an ongoing basis.

And that is the beauty of an abundance of blogs. There is something for everyone whether they want to find a new book by a new author, hear the latest news, or even if they do want to read about a friend’s summer vacation. Long live blogs!   

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Writer's Abundance

If you’re a fiction writer, you swim in a sea of abundance.

Yes, Grace, you say, abundant deadline pressure, abundant self-doubt, abundant time management challenges, abundant pain in the butt from sitting too long at once, abundant chocolate wrappers on the floor around where you sit for too long too often, abundant whining from other writers…abundance on every hand.

No, silly, not that kind of abundance.

And I’m not talking about material abundance either though we’ve all heard the statistics: If you have a roof over your head, some food on the premises, some money in the bank, a computer, and a little retirement, you’re in the top one percent of the globe for wealth.

That kind of reminder always makes me feel a little scolded, and while it’s good to appreciate one’s blessings, that isn’t the kind of abundance I refer to.

As a fiction writer, you have abundant imagination. You can create whole worlds just sitting in your Thoughtful Spot and pondering. You dream up families and futures, feuds and fairies while other people are dwelling on whether to try sweet corn in the garden this year.

You also have abundant determination. In the middle of day jobs, deadlines, dirty laundry, and dying dogs (I’m having an awful attack of alliteration today), you carve out time to write or revise. You drop by your must-visit blogs, look up that article on Wiki about pipes or Hyde Park or sweet corn, and still get dinner on the table most days of the week.

If you are a fiction writer who has made it as far as publication (and usually if you haven’t), you have abundant self-discipline. You take deadlines in stride, you answer fan mail regularly, you get the galleys turned around promptly without fail, and you still get the laundry done and the Work In Progress lurching forward.

And at every phase of your writing career, you are imbued with abundant optimism. You labor without much (if any) reimbursement in hopes you will a) finish your work; b) sell your work, and c) sell it moreover to somebody who will get it to publication and possibly even promote it. And that’s all before we talk about the hope that the readers will love your book enough to buy it when it hits the shelves some eighteen market-changing months hence.

And finally, if you write fiction that has seen the light of even one critique group, you have abundant courage, because you took something born of your heart and soul and mind and strength, and put it out for the world to see, criticize and/or adore, in hopes that this exposure would make your work better, or, when it’s been made better enough, lead to your dreams coming true.

I’m glad there are neighbors who grow sweet corn, and glad I have all the material comfort I do. I am more grateful still that I have all the abundant blessings that allow me to make progress as a fiction writer. All the material blessings in the world will not make me a successful writer without the intangible abundance I also enjoy within.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cast of a Thousands

In keeping with the theme of Abundance this month, I thought for a while about what my favorite things are to have in abundance. The never ending basket of chocolate at my day job? Wonderful friends? Fan mail? Honestly, I love each and every one of those items and I can never have enough of any of them. But I am an author and so my mind eventually circled back to the art of story-telling. And do you know what I love in abundance?

Secondary characters.

How random is that?

But these are the characters who make movies, television shows and books really sparkle. They add depth and dimension that wouldn’t be there without them. They make you want to know their story and they tell you so much about the protagonist with very little effort. One of my favorite movies of all time is Casablanca. I am a huge Humphrey Bogart fan, but for me, it was the secondary characters who made that movie the classic it is – from the self-serving Captain Renault to the loyal, piano-playing Sam to the idealistic Victor Laszlo and everyone else in between. Each one of these characters and their interaction with Bogart’s Rick Blaine tell you all the important things you need to know about our cynical hero.

These days, I find myself fairly addicted to HBO’s True Blood and a little sad that season three has already ended. True Blood has an ensemble cast to be sure, but Sookie Stackhouse is most definitely the main character, and in my opinion – the least interesting. Of course it’s hard to compete with an enigmatic Viking vampire; an over-the-top flamboyant, good-hearted short-order cook; a ladies’ man older brother who wouldn’t have a prayer on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader; a tough-as-nails best friend who has the worst sort of luck; a good-guy shape-shifting bar owner; and I could go on and on. The secondary characters make this show and then some.

As an author, I use secondary characters on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s to add a bit of color. Sometimes it’s to move the plot forward. Sometimes it’s because I know there’s a story down the road with that character’s name written all over it. In A Certain Wolfish Charm, I knew immediately that secondary characters Lord William Westfield and neighbor Prisca Hawthorne would have to get a story of their own at some point. I didn’t know it then, but the story eventually became The Wolf Next Door. In Tall, Dark and Wolfish, broken wolf Lord Benjamin Westfield traveled north of the border to Scotland in search of a healing witch whose legendary powers could return him to the Lycan he once was. Unfortunately, poor Ben discovers the witch he seeks belongs to a powerful coven. These particular witches may be my most favorite secondary characters ever. The young women were so intriguing – so enchanting (pun intended) – I knew each one would have to be developed more fully and most likely in a book all of her own. I’ve spent the last year working on the other witches in that particular coven. And as I finish writing the final book featuring a Còig witch, the first, The Taming of the Wolf, is just getting ready to hit the shelves. And already I’m wondering which of my most recent secondary characters will get to tell their own story next.

Who is your most favorite secondary or supporting character and why? Would the movie, show or book be the same without them?