#MyWritingProcess Response

My Writing Process is an ongoing blog hop in which writers answer four basic questions about their writing process and then pass the baton to two more authors. I was invited by multitalented author, photographer, and blogger Terri Lyndie. Thanks Terri! Check out Terri’s blog at http://www.terrilyndie.com/.

What am I working on?

openbook-paper-penRight now, I’m working on the second book in my Moondance Trilogy. In this one, my two foul-mouthed and oh so passionate lovers, Maggie and Mason, are faced with a whole new set of challenges. Now that Maggie is aware of Mason’s wealth, she must learn to adjust to a very different lifestyle than what she is used to. You can take the girl out of the cow pasture, but . . . Well, I think I’ve said enough about that. Working on this book is particularly stressful because I certainly don’t want to fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. I’m trying really hard, I pinky swear, to focus all my energy into this book. The few exceptions being a blog post here and there, a couple of reviews, and random photos of Chris Hemsworth (oh, and keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, my website, Goodreads, etc). With all of these demands on my time, I just don’t think it’s wise to split my attention with two major writing projects at once. I’m inclined to lean toward quality over quantity. (Incidentally, the first book in the Moondance Trilogy, MOONDANCE IN RED, goes on sale today for .99 cents—ebook only—sorry about the shameless plug, but this is my first Kindle countdown deal! I’m Excited!  )

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This question is tough for several reasons. Fans of this genre will tell you they expect romance books to meet certain criteria which are unique to the genre. Probably more so than any other group, our readers have some idea of what they are getting when they open a romance novel. I think the artistic challenge for us romance writers is to find ways to delight with our language and surprise the reader while staying within the confines of the genre. It’s sort of like writing a sonnet—it must be fourteen lines and stick to an accepted rhyme scheme or run the risk of not being a sonnet. Further, there are only so many ways one can take the boy-meets-girl plot. Originality in plot line is nigh impossible. Heck, even Shakespeare borrowed plot lines, and that was four hundred years ago. At this point in human existence, plot is pretty much played out. However, Shakespeare knew that how one tells the story and develops characters is wherein genius lieth. So, to answer the question, I’m a huge fan of realistic language, well-developed characters, and believable situations. And I don’t have a problem with dirty words. Words are just words. If they exist in our language and are used on a daily basis, I think I should be allowed to use them. I realize this may put me in a category of being too raw, too graphic for some readers, but I think others may find my work refreshingly real. Not that I’m a no-holds-barred kind of gal. I don’t set out with intentions of offending people. I just don’t get bent out of shape over a curse word or twelve. So, fair warning, if bad language and sexual content are offensive to you, don’t read my books. (And you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post. Just saying!)

Why do I write what I do?

Oh, that’s easy. I write romance novels because I love them. Yeah, I know, that’s not much of an answer. It happens to be true, but there is a little more to it than that. Okay, allow me to explain: love, sex, hate, pain, joy, heartbreak—all of these coexist with emotion, but not just plain emotion. These require an outpouring of passion, often a passion so intense that it can alter the course of our lives. When we experience those things, that’s when we are most human. That’s when our lives transcend the here and now and link us with all who came before and all who will come after. Romance novels take me to the place where real human passion lives. They remind me of how absolutely essential it is for us humans to experience that passion. They remind me that true joy can only come after one experiences pain. And they remind me to be thankful for those moments of passion in my own life. I know I can’t please everyone, but I hope my writing brings joy to someone (after all, I’m one of those troubled artistic types who appears nonchalant, but deep down, I just want to be loved).

How does my writing process work?

drunk chickWell, it is very simple. Some of us are blessed with an orderly muse who bestows her gifts in measured portions. She cultivates genius and looks after her protégé with the greatest care and routine visits—yeah, that muse? She ain’t mine. My muse is a drunk chick who hangs at parties until she makes a complete ass of herself, and when she’s done with that, I’m pretty sure she visits Stephen King’s muse and “sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore” me . This bitch likes to mess with me until I do stupid things like use isle instead of aisle or asses instead of assess. Sometimes she puts the spark of an idea in my head then withholds the word I’m looking for to make me forget it. But sometimes, when she sobers up, she is an utter angel. The problem is, I never know when she is going to behave. Ideas hit me at the oddest times—three o’clock in the morning, four minutes before I’m supposed to leave for a dental appointment, right smack in the middle of . . . ahem . . . relations with my husband. Needless to say, I don’t have a set routine. I feel like I’m most productive in the mornings, but that’s not always the case (sometimes that whore is hungover). But, you know what? She’s not so freaking smart. I’ve figured out a few ways to outsmart her, and, since Stephen King knows how to deal with his muse, I’m following his words of wisdom: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I bought a Windows tablet, so now, I can write anywhere at any time. The tablet and a small Bluetooth keyboard fit in my cavernous tote bag, so I take them everywhere I go. Also, I have earplugs strategically placed around my house. Even if my husband is watching my very favorite episode of South Park (which is the evolution episode, by the way), I can drown out the noise in the room with my handy-dandy ear plugs (at least until Mr./Mrs. Garrison begins the evolution lesson). My husband thinks I’m crazy, but it works.

Thank you for reading my post. All of us writers like to hear ourselves talk, but it’s nice to have others to listen to our self-indulgent musings. And please, feel free to leave a comment. I now pass the baton to these wonderful and talented ladies:

Sarah Winter is a self-published contemporary romance author from Wyoming whose debut novel, Snowbound, was released in January of 2014 and went on to become a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Born in Wisconsin and currently living in Wyoming, she has a husband, two sons, and a pair of lazy salamanders. She’s currently working on another contemporary romance, Third Wheel. Check out her blog at http://www.sarahjwinter.com/.

And to . . .

A graduate of the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California’s film school, Morgan Richter has worked in production on several TV shows, including Talk Soup and America’s Funniest Home Videos, and has contributed pop culture-themed reviews and essays to websites such as TVgasm and Forces of Geek, as well as to her own site, Preppies of the Apocalypse. She is the author of Bias Cut, Lonely Satellite, Charlotte Dent, and Wrong City. Bias Cut won a silver medal in the Mystery category at the 2013 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPYs) and was a 2012 semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). Charlotte Dent was a 2008 ABNA semi-finalist; Lonely Satellite was a 2014 ABNA quarter-finalist. In 2012, Morgan founded Luft Books, an independent publishing company. Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, she currently lives in New York City. Check out her blog at http://preppiesoftheapocalypse.blogspot.com/.

Sarah and Morgan will post their responses to the My Writing Process Blog Hop next Monday, July 21st.

Who’s Afraid of a Big Bad Review Word Requirement?

A friend of a friend came up to me a couple of days ago all giddy and smiling.

“I read your book,” she said.

“Yeah?” I said. “Well, what did you think?”

“I loved it! It was so good.”

“Great! I’m really glad to hear that you liked it. Hey, if you get time, I would so appreciate a review on Amazon.”

A wide-eyed fearful expression washed over her face. “I don’t know how to do that. Don’t you have to write something?”

“Yes,” I said. “But Amazon only requires twenty words. It would mean a lot to me. Reviews really make a difference in sales.”

“Oh, okay. Well, what would I have to say.”

“Most just say things like, ‘I really enjoyed reading this book,’ or ‘This was a fun read.’ You know? That type of stuff. Just be honest about what you thought.”

“Oh, okay. Sure . . . Well, it was nice seeing you again. Tell Lisa I said hello.”

We parted ways, and I knew there was no way in hell she was writing a review of my book. She returned to her world afraid to write twenty kind words about a book in which I bled, sweated, and cried over eighty-six thousand words for her enjoyment. Ironic, isn’t it? Even if I were to discount all the curse words I used and dirty language, I’ve still got her by eighty-five thousand or so. What a mean, cruel world it is that a few of the words which were most likely used in my book must be rearranged by others and fed to Amazon in twenty-word segments in order for me to sell those words in one large eighty-six thousand word (give or take) lump sum. I feel fortunate to have received ten reviews of my debut novel during its first month of sales. Let’s hope month number two does as well. I know one thing. I’m going to make sure I’ve done reviews for all the books I like. For me, twenty words is small homage to pay for authors who have provided me with hours of enjoyment. By the way, this post contains three hundred and sixty words.

July 4th in a Small Coal Town

Our RZRs parked in front of Kilgore’s.

My husband and I just spent 4th of July week in a little town called Evarts in Harlan County, Kentucky. Whenever we visit, and that’s fairly often, I’m struck by the resilience of the people in that little coal town. Evarts, like many dried up coal towns, is just a shell of what it once was. Kilgore’s, the general store right smack dab in the center of town is standing proof of that. Walking into the upstairs room of that store is like walking into the costume department of the Brady Bunch. The inventory seems to have frozen in 1976—nothing sold since, nothing new since. Of course, there are some newer items downstairs, and a lot of trinkets peddled to tourists. The fact that the store still opens daily is a small wonder, but what’s more than that, it’s a statement. A statement which screams, “We may be down, but we’re not giving up!”

The nationwide decrease in coal use and production has left little towns like Evarts in a dire situation. The town is nowhere near any major industry or urban areas. Hell, just getting there is an adventure, so commuting for work is not exactly feasible. Needless to say, without coal mining, they just don’t have a whole lot going for them.

View of Evarts in the valley from the Cliffhanger Trail.
View of Evarts in the valley from the Cliffhanger Trail.

Some residents have moved away, but a surprising number decided to stick it out. Those who stayed have gotten creative with ways to survive. Somehow, the residents of Evarts convinced the county to lease 6,000 acres of old strip mine land and turn it into an off road vehicle trail system. Consequently, people from all over the country come to ride the trails and bring money with them.

It’s the trail system which brought us to Evarts to begin with. My husband and I were some of the first, and we’ve watched things progress in the town. The first night we showed up in Evarts, we found a bunch of men standing around a trashcan fire. My husband yelled out the window of our motorhome, “Excuse me, guys. I hate to bother you, but we’re looking for the camping area for the riding park.” One of the men responded, “Hey, buddy, you’ve found it. Pull on in.” And now, nine years later, sitting around the campfire with the core group responsible for bringing the trails, the Harlan County Ridge Runners, I’m was warmed by not just the fire, but the human spirit of these people. As Dallas started another story with, “Buddy, I’ll tell you what . . .,” Henry laughed and smoked his cigarette like it was the best he’s ever had. The metal plate in his head from the mining accident invariably comes up in conversation, but Henry wears it like a badge of honor, not an impediment. He tells the story with a nonchalance similar to a story of a broken toe or a few stitches on a cut finger. I’m in awe of him. As I scanned the group, Tom winked at me just like he did the day we rode the zip-line with him two years ago (the zip-line is another great idea they put into play). I remember he said, “Hey, lady, I bet I’m the only 70-year-old man you’ll ever see on a zip-line.” And, you know what? He is.

On the 4th, the town put on its usual huge fireworks display after a sweet little parade that wound its way through the half dilapidated, half restored buildings of a once booming town. I overheard a first-timer say, “For a small town, their fireworks were pretty impressive.” Of course they were. In Evarts, people aren’t afraid to dream big. Taking chances is only natural for a town that has nothing to lose. I can’t think of a better place on this earth to be reminded of the American spirit of perseverance during a celebration of our nation’s independence.

“Well…it ain’t Ozzy and Harriet.”

“Say, that reminds me . . .” My husband and I were still in high school when we first saw Raising Arizona, a movie which has infiltrated the very fabric of our lives. (By the way, we weren’t married then. We were just dating. We may be backwoods redneck, but damn, we ain’t that backwoods.) Anyway, “Here, I’m startin’ over.” Between our first viewing in 1987 and now, we have watched the movie more times than I can count. I knew it was something special in 1987, and it has proved worthy of our devotion every year since. So woven into our vernacular it is, hardly a conversation passes at our house without one of us dropping a quote from the film.

For every occasion there is a quote. For example, when we were newly married, my husband got a job changing oil and whatnot at a quick-lube type establishment. He hated the work and the bratty boss’s nephew he was teamed with. When the brat forgot to put oil back in one big ol’ boy’s truck, the big ol’ boy threatened the boss, and my husband was the one who lost his job. Logically, a caring wife would say, “Honey, it will be okay. You’ll find another job.” But did I say that? Hell no. I said, “You’re young and you’ve got your health. What would you want with a job?”

You see, the last twenty-seven years has been an endless string of these quotes, from “…when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand” to “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head” to “Healthy white baby? Five years? What else you got?” to “Riley, you take that diaper off your head. You put it back on to your sister.” And we don’t just keep it in our house, because, you know, we can’t stay in the house forever—“So many social engagements, so little time.” It never fails that we pull our friends into the game when we’re with them. If a friend starts to tell us a story about some unknown Bill, my husband grins at me and says, “Bill Roberts?” To which I reply, “No, not that mother-scratcher.” Our friends already know we are nuts, so, apparently, they no longer view our behavior as weird. At this point, they just continue without missing a beat.

What they don’t realize is our little inside jokes are much more than just playful banter. Spouting off these random quotes from a movie we watched twenty-seven years ago is a reminder of our commitment to one another. It’s a reminder of how very well suited we are together. It’s a reminder of why we fell in love in the first place. So it’s more than just a movie; it’s more than just a source of witty quotes—it’s a symbol of our lasting love. Through everything, all that’s happened in our lives together—like small paychecks (“Gov’ment do take a bite, don’t she?”), ATV accidents, losing loved ones—all we have to do is quote Raising Arizona and we remember we are one in this trek through life “light as the ether—a floating spirit visiting things to come.”

The Balancing Act of Authorship

When I began this great quest of becoming a self-published author, I foolishly ran headlong like a stubborn old goat. Being the queen of my own mind, it took little to convince myself that I could do it all. I had no idea how much time would be required to accomplish all the little things—you know, like designing covers, editing, proofreading, formatting, self-promoting, networking, blogging. It has become glaringly evident that these little things matter immensely and that building a fan base can take months, years, dare I say . . . decades. The problem with all of the other necessary sh—stuff is that the need to attend to it draws one away from the fun part—writing. I’ve come to one undeniable conclusion: one must make time to write every day. No matter how many people I need to follow back on twitter or which author’s work I promised to read as a favor, writing should never be neglected. For us indie authors, that goal is nigh impossible. Most of us balance regular Joe hard hats atop our obstinate heads along with our many writers’ caps. I’ve got a big head, but damn, it’s not that big. So the moral of my story . . . don’t let everything else distract from what’s most important to a writer—writing! (Yes, I’m well aware that this blog post cut into my novel writing time. What can I say? I love irony.)