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A Cup of Tea, A Writing Implement and the Muse

Before I get to the topic of the moment, I have to say, “HAPPY CANADA DAY!” It was one year ago today that I became a Canadian citizen, a fact that still gives me a little thrill. There was a Mountie (a lovely lady I think my step-son wanted to chat up but was too scared to!), the MPP for the area and many excited people in attendance. It was made that much more special for taking place on Canada Day, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Even my dog, Sable, who was just a little pup at the time, had to be brought into the celebration. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_-XaWNZbOg Yes, that dorky voice is mine…LOL!

Now, back to the subject at hand!

I wish I could tell you I have an awesome writing space that is just my own, beautifully decorated and serene, which fires my creativity every time I enter it. More’s the pity, I just can’t! Every writing space I’ve had has been carved out of somewhere else—our bedroom, the basement rec-room, the living room or dining room—depending on where we’ve lived at the time.

The closest I came to an office was after our daughter moved out, when I (briefly) took over her old room, moving my drafting table/desk in there. I had planned to move all my reference books in there too but, before that could happen, our youngest “moved out” and my husband and I decided to downsize again. If you notice the quotation marks above, and you have grown kids of your own, you might realize there is a catch. Yes, the youngest removed his person. He just omitted to move a lot of his stuff! Our second bedroom isn’t the empty palette I’d like as an office, but eventually, once I figure out how to fit everything—my desk, reference books, craft stuff, plus the son’s leftovers—in there, along with keeping it a spare bedroom, I’ll probably be calling in my ‘office’.

Luckily, my writing habits have changed a lot over the years, so it doesn’t really matter whether I have a designated space or not. When I first started I was working on a desktop PC, which I shared with both my husband and the kids. Eventually I got a PC of my own, and then a laptop (“Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” I chortled in my joy!). As part of the evolution I also went from needing music when I was writing (to block out the noise), then to wanting silence (I was sequestered in the basement then), to not really caring what was going on around me. Now, sometimes I want music and sometimes not. Sometimes I can write with the TV on, and at others I prefer it off.

my cornerSo, when you get right down to it, although my desk is set up in a corner of our dining room (that’s it in the picture), you’re more likely to find the cat using it as a sun deck than to find me sitting at it. I’ll lounge on the loveseat, the dog using my feet as a pillow, and have at it. If I want a bit more solitude, I’ll write in bed. Sometimes, on the bus, heading for the EDJ, I’ll write longhand in one of my umpteen notebooks (I have a stationary fetish LOL!). And I’ve found it’s useful, really, to be a low-maintenance author. All I really need to be able to write is my trusty laptop or notebook, a cup of tea if I can get it and some inspiration.

Maybe one day I’ll have a lovely office—which I’ll probably hardly use!

Anya

Journeys Through Seduction

Anya Richards/Anya Delvay books available from Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo.

My non-writing space: I write where I am

I’ve never had a writing space. I probably never will. Here’s my bold statement (not meant to offend those who do) just to explain a perspective.  To me, the idea of arranging that perfect writing space is a luxury I personally cannot afford.

I plan and plot to maintain a regular writing time in my life.  I work full time at a demanding job, am raising a daughter by myself, have social and other professional obligations that require time, should exercise more than I do, have to cart my kid around.  I wake up every morning and write and then sneak it in when I can.  My house is small so I don’t have any personal space to do this so just plop myself on the couch in the living room and go. If I spent time getting the space perfect, I would lose even more writing time.  So I’ve learned to write wherever I can–on the couch, at a desk, on a plane, in the metro, on an iphone, in a dance waiting room.  For me, finding time is more important than getting the “write” space.

If you have a different structure, and you have to keep yourself on track,  I understand that ritual and artifacts hold great value for getting writing done.  And that’s what this is about–what you need to do to get your writing done.   So for me, I just write where I am.  Have computer, can write.


Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. Her new book Next Move releases  on July 5 at Ellora’s Cave.

For What It’s Worth

iStock_000013894490XSmallI have several published book and have been epublishing since 2006. The industry is constantly changing that’s it difficult to come up with hard and steadfast rules for a successful writing career.  For what it’s worth, here’s are some tips that I find helpful.

1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – publish with more than one publishing house. I’ve had houses go under and it’s a bitch to get your rights back, so it’s nice to have income coming in from several sources.

2. Don’t think there’s one way to do something – there are always options, and sometimes rules are meant to be broken. You just need to know when you can break them.

3. Don’t freak out when someone writes a bad review of one of your beloved stories. Writing is subjective. There are best sellers that I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. It doesn’t mean it’s not good but that I just didn’t resonate with the book.

4. The best way to improve your writing is to do it. So keep writing.

5. Limit your critique partners – and be sure they respect your voice.

6.  Above all, enjoy the journey – all of it. Have fun with your creative process, be an individual and give yourself permission to be yourself. Not all of us write with a story outline, or crank out three books a month, or spend eight hours a day writing. It’s OK. You are the director of your own movie.

Happy Writing!

Viki Lyn

http://www.vikilyn.com
FB and Twitter: VikiLynRomance

 

Rhino Hide, Little Darlings and Time

Good Wednesday, my fellow MANhandlers! I’m here to provide you with another delish photo to get you through your day. Take a moment, enjoy and then let’s do this Male model in bedthang!

As a published author, two questions I regularly receive are, “What’s the best writing advice you can give me?” and “What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?” There are three pieces of advice that have stuck with me through thick and thin, and they’re the ones I’m going to share with you today.

1. Rhino Hide: This is like Thick Skin, Safari Style. If you ever want a sincere critique from a crit partner or agent, you’re going to need thick skin. No one wants to hear her manuscript, her beloved baby, isn’t as ridiculously beautiful as she thought. Reading comments about cliches, overused words, trite lines and more can truly rattle self-esteem, but these things are absolutely critical to truly hear if your goal is to improve. But if you sell? You’re going to need rhino hide. Period. See, editors are there to make your manuscript the best it can be. Feelings can be bruised very easily if a writer doesn’t learn to take in critique/editorial comments with objectivity and turn those comments into productive revisions. This was, honestly, a difficult thing to master. Now? Not even professional moisturizers can help. I’m like leather, baby!

2. Little Darlings: Stephen King wrote a book titled On Writing. If you haven’t read it? Do. Now. Abandon this blog post and go. It’s absolutely the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. Did it give me hardline craft notes and methods and fundamental outlines to follow? What it takes to be a guaranteed success? Recipes for lemon poundcake? Nope. None of that. What it taught me was much more valuable: sometimes you have to kill your darlings. This means that sometimes, when you find a line you’re head over heels in love with but your crit partner(s) advice is to ditch it, your agent says the humor is misplaced or your editor says to strike it, you do. Yes, you read that right. You kill it. Hold a memorial service if you must, but let that bastard go. It’s unwise to become so wedded to a word, sentence, phrase or section that you can’t accept feedback regarding changes, or deletions, that make your story better.

3. Time: This is a two-fold tidbit. First, make time to write. If you want it bad enough, the time will be available. I’ve known people who get up two hours early each day in order to get their words in before the day job. I also know people who have given up things that came second to their desire to write (sports, TV time, clubs, etc.). You can carve out time, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, if it’s what you really, truly want.

The second have of this is to advise you to make time to read. Yes, read. So torturous, my suggestions! Seriously, though, reading is critical. Read across any genre in which you want to write. Read outside your preferred genres. Read books your friends recommend. I guarantee you won’t like everything you read, but two things will happen. First, you’re going to find authors whose voices you admire. They will help shape your own sound. Second, your vocabulary is going to improve. Neither of these things are bad things. So make the investment in your local bookstore or favorite online retailer and stock up on reading material. 

4. Best Advice: This came from my agent very recently. She said, “Get out of your own way and write.” It’s hard to do because my internal editor is loud, obnoxious and rather bitchy. But Super Agent was right. Sometimes it’s a matter of setting all the advice and others’ best intentions aside and doing what you do.

So there you have it. My three little tidbits and the best advice I’ve ever received. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? And what questions would you like to ask that I might be able to answer? Feel free to drop me a comment here or shout out on my website or Twitter.

Tips for Writers: Don’t Give Up and Take Yourself On

My baby on the climbing wall.

My baby on the climbing wall.

True confession:  In my day life, where I go to the office and do work that separate from my writing life, I’ve got a doctorate. I share this because that experience more than anything else in life taught me how to be a writer. The experience served as my personal writing boot camp.

A doctorate is a book, technically my first book. It’s written according to a set of specifications and then judged by a committee of experts, often one’s own personal pantheon of gods (talk about intimidation).  Statistically, most people don’t finish their thesis and it has nothing to with either a lack of talent or capability.  From what I’ve seen, the people who make it through are just stubbornly, tenaciously, uncompromisingly persistent.  They stick to it until it’s done—no matter how long it takes and what they have to do to move it forward.

It’s the same with writing. So tip one, don’t give up. It may take longer than you think, you may have to revise more than you realized, but if you stick it out from beginning to end and all the rewrites in between—you will grow as a writer. Grit Rules.

Grit requires tools. When I was struggling through the whole graduate process, another student who just finished, who frankly I didn’t like very much because I found him to be the most arrogant, condescending SOB I’d ever come across, deemed to share his secret with me for success. Why did I listen?  Because in that conversation he revealed to me a profound vulnerability and a deep wisdom that I use to this day. From that momentary human exchange, I also learned how to like him because he changed the way I saw him.  Its that piece of knowledge that got me through my thesis and keeps me coming back to the page as a writer.  Here’s what he told me, that made him if not a friend, then a valued colleague afterwards. Because the advice came from his heart and he was 100% right.

Whatever trips you up in life, whatever blocks you from moving forward, will be the obstacles that prevent you from finishing.  The Ph.D. is not an intellectual challenge, it’s an emotional one.

So is writing.

Tip two, learn to take yourself on, to manage your weaknesses and harness your strengths.

How does one do that?  I created a lot of tools that worked for me and I still use them. Here are a couple:

My challenge: procrastination, including but not limited to, a need to keep doing research.

My solution: rewards.  To get myself moving, I came with several reward structures that got me to push forward.  I used to write for half an hour, then take a reward period such as reading for 15 minutes, taking a walk around the block, having a cup of tea and yes, doing some additional research.  On really hard days, it might be a strange balance—write 10 minutes, reward 20. But whatever happened, I kept moving it forward

My challenge: when I’m alone I can get caught up in my own head and don’t get work done.

My solution: go where there are other people.  That could a library, a study room, a coffee shop, any place where I could look up and see other people. I didn’t have to be able to talk to them, I just needed some simulated social pressure to keep myself on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep yourself on track? How do you plow through the emotional time bombs that threaten to derail you?

Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Following the King

Becoming a writer isn’t easy. SURPRISE!!! I know you’re stunned. I was!

Reading is so simple, so wonderful, so engrossing, that I thought writing should be exactly the same. I should be able to lose myself in the world I created just as easily as I do those of my favorite authors. BUT, it doesn’t work that way. Writing isn’t just fun. It’s honest-to-god, back breaking, agonizing, sweat inducing WORK.

Finding the perfect words are hard. Creating the right characters is tough. Building a story is like building a multi-trillion dollar skyscraper–screw up your inner structure, and it’s going to come tumbling down like Jenga blocks.

When it comes to who my writing idols are, I wish I could make it look as easy as they do.

Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Catherine Coulter, Susan Donovan, all these women create stories that read so easily! They’re my favorite books to read, they’re fun, full of love, life and laughter.

But my all-time idol, the man who has inspired me over and over again since I was just a teenager, is the master of horror himself.

Stephen King got me interested in books other than my usual fare. Someone gave my grandmother a big box of books, and she gave them to me one day when I was staying with her for the weekend. There were lots of different genres in there–thrillers, contemporary novels, love stories. But the book that kept sticking out to me was DOLORES CLAIBORNE.

I read the first page countless times. The whole story was narrated! It was in first person! The story was told so deeply from her point of view, because she was telling the story as she remembered it. It was odd. Frightening at first, a little off-putting. But eventually, I got it. I realized how I was supposed to read it. And since that day, I’ve read that book a billion times. I worked my way through some of his other classics. CARRIE, PET SEMATARY, THE GREEN MILE, and MISERY, to name a few. God, I loved MISERY.

 

His book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT inspired me to write my first mainstream novel (as Gina Lamm). And since then, his advice to write what you love, not what you know, has permeated my books, making them (I hope) much more driven and appealing.

So yeah. Stephen King is my writing idol. He writes 2,000 words a day, every day, no matter what. I need that kind of drive, that kind of persistence. And I know I can do it. He’s my inspiration.

Who’s yours?

Muppet-flailing, Fangirling and Restraining Orders

Alright, my fellow MANhandlers. I searched through many files to bring you this week’s delightful pic. Too delish.

This blog cycle, we’re talking about the author we’ve always wanted to be. This is a hard one for me because there are a so many authors I I seriously admire. Picking one would be like trying to pick my favorite MANhandler pic. Can’t I just love them all? Okay, okay. Let me think…

It’s no secret that I love Diana Gabaldon with a crazy passion that probably alarmed her a little the first time I met her. I’m 6’1″ and a naturally exuberant person. She’s probably 5’3″ and incredibly soft-spoken and even a bit reserved. It’s impossible to be as tall as I am and not feel like I’m looming over such petite people. And then, when the conference coordinators have her seated to meet her fans, I have to either bend over to shake her hand or kneel in front of her. Of course I knelt. What did security think would happen? Yeesh. Anyway, Diana’s literary voice is rich and varied, and I’ve coveted the almost melodic “sound” of her storytelling since I read the first page of Outlander. I’d love to create the passion in readers that she’s cultivated over the last twenty years. I’d also like to find myself still writing after that long. Above all, I’d like to look back over the stories that will create my legacy and know I touched readers, gave them respite from the world’s demands if only for a while and helped them fall in love with my characters the way I have.

Another un-secret is my passion for absolutely anything written by Larissa Ione. When we started chatting on social media and privately, there was some very private Muppet-flailing and a few total fangirl moments. When she first emailed me? I may or may not have screamed, depending on your definition of “scream.” She’s been amazing to me, and I want to do the same for other authors who are finding their way through the difficult world of publishing. But back to the point of this paragraph — I’ve found that, the more I write, the harder it is for me to read. I can’t turn off my internal editor. It seems like I’m always rearranging scenes, catching typos, counting the “to be” verbs — all the things we authors aren’t supposed to do if we want to find success. With Larissa’s books, I get sucked into the vibrant world, the relationships, the (hawt) sex, the storylines. I admire her ability to write such clean, crisp stories. Her creativity is off the charts. The way she crafts her worlds and scenes engage every one of the readers senses. That, that, is what I want to look back and know I’ve done.

Finally? I have to be very frank and admit that I want to be me. What I spend my days doing is a total dream come true. There’s no way to describe the feeling of getting that first contract, landing a superstar agent, having your editor call you (insert your definition of “spastic” here), or finding out your book received an awesome review from Romantic Times magazine. All of these things and more have come to mean more to me than I can explain. I love what I do. I’m passionate about it. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be. It’s also infinitely more difficult, unbelievably frustrating, guaranteed tear-inducing at times and worth every damn minute.

There’s no one author I want to be, but the two listed above are people whose talent, compassion and magic I admire and aspire to. If I could mash their skill together and mix it in a potion, I’d drink it right down. At the very least, I’d end up with a restraining order. At best? I’d be everything I want to be. Instead of scaring these two lovely ladies, I think I’ll just bust my ass and do my best to follow in their footsteps. It might take longer, but it’s the only way I want to get there. Plus I don’t have bail money.  😀

Who are the authors that inspire you? If you could be any author in the world for a day and experience what it’s like to have their skill, who would it be?

What Author Do I Want to Be? I’ve Got To Be Me

The topic of the next two weeks is:  Which author did you or do you secretly want to be and why?
Whether its arrogance, stubbornness or plain stupidity, I don’t have any particular desire to be another author. There are certainly other writers I like and learn from, but that’s a far cry from wanting to be them. For my own sanity, I focus on being the best I can be.  A little envy is good to get the fire ignited under one’s butt, but too much is paralyzing. My life has taken its own unique turns and twists, so at this point I’ll stick with Sammy Davis Jr’s version of life and belt out my answer: “I’ve got to be me, I’ve got to be me, who else can I be but what I am?”

Sammy Davis 1956

I want my own style, my own voice, my own way of doing things. You may have gathered by now I’m not all that much of a joiner. I think that’s our role as writers, to share things in our own perspective of universal truths, packaged up in hopefully emotionally satisfying and well written prose, and some laughter and satisfaction along the way. Sure, I’d like J.K. Rowling’s fan base (and bank account) but really, that’s about as far as that goes.

Rather than selecting another writers,  I’ll list things I  wish I had done:

1) I wish I had started writing earlier, by that I mean actually finishing something. I’ve started and stopped so many times, throughout the years.  As I am by nature a glass-half-full kind a gal, I am just glad that I started.
2) I wish I had believed in myself and my potential more, rather than spent my life trying to please others (and this may explain number one).  But I do now, so I am running with it.
If instead of sitting around, wishing you were (fill in author), why don’t you wonder over to a blank page, write all over it and enjoy being you. We already have (fill in author), we need you.
When all is said and done, in the end, we walk our own paths, so I just embrace that reality, sit down at my computer and keep writing. Some days its sprint, others a jog, and others I go backwards. But its mine and I’ve gotta be me.  And I’ve got a new book coming soon.  Ain’t he beautiful?nextmove_msr
What are things you wished you’d done but didn’t and what are you doing about it now?


Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

The Two Sides of Anya

So, the question is posed: why do I like writing in my particular genre(s)? And, thinking about it, I realized it’s a really good indication of two distinct sides of my character. On one hand, I love to research. I mean, REALLY love it. I could spend hours searching out and absorbing information about just about anything–time periods, occupations, what people wore, ate, thought about different topics. For the most part that type of info goes into my historical novels, hopefully giving them a certain depth and flavor.

Then there is the other side of me… the one that gets up and shouts, “Don’t need no stinking rules. Don’t wanna follow any but my own!”

That side is in charge of the paranormal/fantasy writing, gleefully making shit up as she goes along, often throwing physics, normality and even on occasion sanity out the window.

Damn, I love that chick!

So now you know why I write what I write… It’s authorial schizophrenia! And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Journeys Through Seduction

Anya Richards/Anya Delvay books available from Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo.

It’s Magic!

The theme for the next two weeks is what makes my genre fun.

I’ve been writing on and off since I was fifteen. Some of those stories were contemporary with not a shapeshifter or vampire or witch in sight, but for the most part, if I were to look back on my work, there was magic at work somewhere. When you introduce that illusive “magic” to a story, the possiblities are endless.

It also helps when you’ve written your way into a corner. You know, the plot has absolutely nowhere to go because you’ve made it nearly impossible to save the day. How do you fix that? Create a spell/ability for your hero/heroine and voila! It’s fixed!

Not that I use that very often. *cough* I try to work things out in a more logical way…but eh. Sometimes a writer’s got to do what a writer’s got to do!

But probably the best part of writing paranormal (and sci-fi which I’m still working on), is that the possibilities are endless. When you write in a genre with rules you make up, you’re only limited by your imagination. And let’s face it, we wouldn’t be writers if we didn’t have an imagination.

I love braingstorming new ways to twist old myths. The succubus who wants to fall in love instead of feeding off of sex. The banshee who can’t cry. A lion shifter who’s also a rock star. A fashoin designer grizzly bear. Okay, so I really like weird angles when I write my paranormal stories, but that’s all part of what makesk them so much fun to write! I don’t like the same old, same old. Just ask my stylist. Every time I go to see her, I tell her “I want to try something different”. I’m the same when when it comes to writing.

How about on the reading end? I love reading fusion stories. You know, historical paranormals, or sci-fi erotica *cough*. Do you like the same? What’s your favorite paranormal race to read about?

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