25 November 2013

Writing Over the Holidays

Getting things done over the holidays is a challenge, even if you don't have a huge family and stacked social calendar. No matter what, things are busier and the hustle and bustle of the mall, the roads and even the grocery store, makes everything a little harder to get done in a timely manner.

In my case, it's a little trickier because I just finished writing the second book in my String of Fate series. It's called King's Throne and it's the sequel to Cat's Cradle. It should be published sometime next summer, I think.

But my problem is that when I finish a book, there's sort of a let-down feeling that settles in and is hard to shake. If I let it go, I could go a month or two before picking up my virtual pen again and starting something new. I can't afford that right now because I have deadlines to meet and stories to tell!

I also have a new release coming up in just about two weeks - Wolf Quest, the sequel to Wolf Hills will be released on December 10th. (Pre-order now!) And in the meantime, I have to write the next installment of my Redstone Clan series, Magnus. In fact, I need to start getting serious about that next project, starting today.

One of the best tools I've discovered in the past few months is something called The Pomodoro Technique. Basically, you use a timer to count off 25 minutes. You don't let anything distract you or do any other activity during those 25 minutes - no cheating! At the end of 25 minutes, you take a quick 5 minute break before diving back in for another "pomodoro" of 25 minutes on/5 minutes off. After a few of these, you take a longer break, but by that time, you've got a nice chunk of work done!

I used this method (and a handy-dandy iphone pomodoro timer app) to write most of my last release - Tales of the Were: Red, which is the 2nd book in the Redstone Clan series. Judging by the great reviews for this book, it worked! So it's worth giving a try if you need some help with time management and motivation. I highly recommend it!

Oh, and if you haven't yet started reading my continuing Tales of the Were, in just five days, I'm releasing a special edition of Rocky and Slade in a single ebook volume. It'll be on sale for the rest of 2013 and is a good way to introduce yourself to the series if you haven't read those two books already. Here's a little bit about it:

Get both Rocky and Slade in a single ebook bundle!

Rocky - On the run from her husband's killers, there is only one man who can help her now... her Rock.

Maggie is on the run from those who killed her husband nine months ago. She knows the only one who can help her is Rocco, a grizzly shifter she knew in her youth. She arrives on his doorstep in labor with twins. Magical, shapeshifting, bear cub twins destined to lead the next generation of werecreatures in North America.

Rocky is devastated by the news of his Clan brother's death, but he cannot deny the attraction that has never waned for the small human woman who stole his heart a long time ago. Rocky absented himself from her life when she chose to marry his childhood friend, but the years haven't changed the way he feels for her.

And now there are two young lives to protect. Rocky will do everything in his power to end the threat to the small family and claim them for himself. He knows he is the perfect Alpha to teach the cubs as they grow into their power... if their mother will let him love her as he has always longed to do.

Slade - The fate of all shifters rests on Slade’s broad shoulders, but all he can think about is her.
Slade is a mystery. A warrior and spy who serves two masters - those in the human world and the Lords of the Were. They've sent him to Nevada to track a brutal murderer before the existence of all shifters is revealed to a world not ready to know.

Kate is a priestess serving the Goddess and the large community of shifters that have gathered around the Redstone Clan of werecougars. When their matriarch is murdered and the scene polluted by dark magic, she knows she must help the enigmatic man sent to track the killer.

Together, Slade and Kate uncover not one, but two, evil mages that they alone can neutralize. It's a tricky situation because Slade finds it hard to keep his hands off his sexy new partner, the cougars are out for blood, and the killers have an even more sinister plan in mind.

Can Kate somehow keep her hands to herself when the most attractive man she's ever met makes her want to throw caution to the wind? And can Slade do his job and save the situation when he's finally found a woman who can make him purr?

* Look for the other books in this series, available now in ebook and print.

The Tales of the Were includes:
Main series: Lords of the Were, Inferno
The Others: Rocky, Slade
Redstone Clan: Grif, Red, and three more coming soon!

The Brotherhood of Blood series is related, and includes:
Vamps: One & Only (novella), Rare Vintage (novella), Phantom Desires (novella), Sweeter Than Wine (novel), and Forever Valentine (novella)
Wolves: Wolf Hills, Wolf Quest

You can find links for all of this on my website at: WWW.BIANCADARC.COM

Now, start your timers and get busy! :)

- Bianca

24 November 2013

How To Stay in the Desk Chair Saddle

I spent years trying to figure out how to keep my butt in my chair and my hands on the keys (also known as BICHOK). Somehow I finally stumbled on the secret—at least for me. If there's a rule in this crazy writing business, it's that nothing works for everybody. This thing I figured out, it wasn't about tricks and self-discipline. What it is about is motivation—and to get myself motivated I had to do some serious self-searching. It wasn't easy, but it worked for me.

The basis of this self-searching toward motivation starts with some questions:

1. For you, is writing a hobby, a part-time job, a career, something else entirely?

2. Looking at your answer to the above, decide how much time, money, effort you are willing/able to put into writing to make it what you want it to be.

3. Depending on your answer to the above, decide what you want to achieve over the next few weeks, months, years. Set a goal that seems reasonable to you, then add more time to that to leave room for things taking longer than you think they will, and for the inevitable delays.

These questions and answers will change over time, so be sure to reevaluate frequently. Now you know if what you're currently doing is too little—or too much—time, money, effort to get you where you want to be.
Now you have what you need for self-motivation. Look at your goals and what you need to do to reach them. Each day you can evaluate how you're doing and if you need to maybe get your BICHOK going. It's much easier to get yourself going if you have a clear goal of what you want to achieve and the time frame in which you want to achieve it.

Have a happy and successful holiday week!

21 November 2013

"Getting" Busy

Our theme this month is "Getting Busy:  Tips for Staying on the Writing Track Through the Holidays."

What's this "getting" busy stuff about, huh?  I'm already busy AND IT'S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!  I went to the Dollar Tree, usually my go-to source for decorations.  This year, I've been trying to get festive since we moved into a bigger Chez Noony and have, like, space.

So, I walked into my favorite neighborhood haunt, actually my second favorite, the BIGGER one up on Howard Street, and WAS ASSAULTED BY RED AND GREEN EVERYWHERE!  I MEAN EVERYWHERE!  THERE WAS NOTHING TURKEY-RELATED IN THE WHOLE DAMN STORE!

So, I wandered the whole.damned.store.  Not a fracking turkey anywhere, nothing fall related even.  No leaves, no goofy kitschy things I could put on my turkey table to festive it up a bit.  It's two weeks after Halloween, Mama, and Christmas is way, way the fuck off over there!  And you're telling me we've collectively had a conniption fit and forgot the fricken' turkey dinner halfway between Halloween and Christmas???  What???

I decided to at least buy some more Thanksgiving cards, since we're not going to be visiting our family this year for dinner.  I started a  new day job that I love and haven't accumulated enough vacay to go.  ~sob~  They did have cards, but then it hit me:  when the frack am I gonna have time to fill these puppies out?  And holy shit, did you realize Christmas is coming?

On the radio in the car on the way back home the lady said we need a new holiday, Hallow Thanksmasbowl.  I damn near drove into a tree, though I'd be hard-pressed to say if I was crying or laughing or both.  How pitiful is it that we have all our holidays mashed into this one eight week span of time where we run ourselves ragged, trying to get everything done and spend all this money on credit that come February, we're gonna hate ourselves for?

So, here's my decision.  I'm rebelling.  I'm not going to get all excited and hot-and-bothered about the holidays and I sure as shit am not going to focus on Christmas until its due time, thankyouverymuch.  THANKSGIVING is up next, and I'm celebrating.  Not because I think it's fun that my ancestors massacred millions of indigenous people.  (Actually, half my ancestors.  The other half were still in Ireland getting shit on by the English, but that's a different story.)  (Which, incidentally, probably explains my push-pull relationship with myself, because half of me is the oppressor class and the other half is the oppressed.  "Help, help!  I'm being oppressed!"  "Shut up, you."  "See?  Come see the violence inherent in the system."  Is it sad that I suddenly understand Monty Python in a very personal way?)  Now, where was I?  Lack of turkey.  Ah, yes.

So, be thankful, my friends.  We have much abundance in our lives, particularly since we're reading and writing together on this great interweb of ours.  The folks in the Philippines have seen first-hand what can happen in the blink of an eye and so can my fellow Illinoisans (if you're not aware of our home-grown hardships, 16 serious tornados decided to eat half our state and our neighbor, Indiana).  Take a step back from the melee and focus on what's important.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty damned effective for keeping on the writing track, too.  See?  I can too stay on topic.


Come check out our new release!  This week, Torquere Press re-releases "Taking a Chance," our short contemporary M/M romance about Jay and Chance.

Doctor Jacob Davison has outgrown the hookups of his younger days and wants to settle down. When he’s abandoned by the side of the road, a leather-clad stranger stops and offers him a ride. Chance Renton is different from anyone Jay’s ever met. He’s caring and helpful, yet cynical and world-weary.

From the first moment of their shared motorcycle ride, an attraction begins to simmer between them. Between Jay’s ex-boyfriend showing up and the misconceptions they have about each other, does this relationship have a chance?

16 November 2013

Duck Soup, or Writing your Way Through the Holidays

It's been one of those days...every single day since Dragon Con. 

First the car needed a new gas line. And two rear tires. And a patch in the left front tire where there was a nail sticking out. The mechanic fixed the problems. I paid, went for a drive, and hit a curb too soon on my way home, exploding the right front tire.

The irony was not lost on the mechanic. He nearly strangled himself trying not to laugh when the tow truck drove my poor abused vehicle back to the service station.

In addition, I caught a cold before Capclave, my local SF/fantasy/horror convention. Whoever heard of getting the crud before the con? I felt like I was channeling Typhoid Mary. I followed it up with a series of minor health issues. Nothing required a prescription, but I was spending way too much time in my local drug store. Then there was a little misunderstanding with my insurance company, the service people who didn't show up when they were supposed to... Can you say "nibbled to death by ducks"?

Meanwhile, I'm facing deadlines on two stories, and the holiday season begins in less than two weeks. Guess who's NOT participating in NANOWRIMO this year.

Listening to this litany, you probably guessed I'm not one of those people who thinks writing always trumps real life. Sometimes, life gives you ducks--mean, nasty, carnivorous ducks--and no quackers... Er, I mean, crackers.

But that doesn't mean I've given up on my deadlines. I value my rep--and the prospect of payment--too much for that. I'm just not worrying overmuch about word counts.

It goes back to an epiphany I had one day at the old office job. It was summer, hot (Duh!), and for some reason I decided to buy twenty pounds of something at a store roughly a mile from the office. Did I mention it was ninety degrees plus HOT? And humid. As I walked back from the store, my stride grew slower and slower and slower, until I couldn't take another step. I just stopped.

My office was still two blocks away. I stared down the street. I'd never get there at this rate.

But I'd never get to the office--and its air conditioning--at all if I didn't move.  There weren't any cabs in view, and people weren't exactly lining up to offer aid. It was all on me. So I took a step, then another, and slowly made it back to my office.

Writing is a lot like that walk back to the office. It's long. It's hard, and the going can be a lot slower than you planned. But you'll never arrive if you stop moving.

Which finally brings us to this month's theme: my strategy for writing through the holidays. It's simple; I'll just keep at it. The units of my progress don't matter. So what if all I can accomplish today is open the document file for my Steampunk Vs. Aliens story. Tomorrow I'll open the document and write a word, or two, or fifteen. I'll research my story about the 1814 Burning of Washington, DC, when I'm stuck on the Metro or waiting for the duct cleaners to arrive. As long as I keep moving toward my goals, I'll get there.

With a small detour to cook up a pot of duck soup. When it comes to those feathered pests, I'm not above nursing a grudge.

Jean Marie Ward

15 November 2013

Holiday Madness

This is the first year in many that I'm not working in retail, so I'm actually looking forward to the holidays. It was bad enough when I sold jewelry, and we fought for the chance to work on Christmas Eve, hoping to be the one helping those men who bought last minute and often impulsively. Worse yet when I worked part time at a craft store, because although by Christmas Eve the store was quiet, by then we had already moved on to the spring stock and it felt as though I'd had enough of Christmas already... in fact I'd felt that way since some time in October!

So I plan to "do" Christmas this year, rather than just throw the tree up a couple of days before-hand and pretend it was enough. And where does that leave my writing? I'm not 100% sure. I'm not used to being able to produce at this time of the year, so it'll be a novel experience (pun intended, hopefully) to actually have a bit more time to devote to it. With the kids grown and all having their own things to do, and most of our families far away, I think it'll be fairly quiet around here. Not ideal perhaps, since this is the time for families, but until I have a grandchild or two (looks innocent) I think this is how things will go.

Now just to entice my old witch of a muse to get her butt off whatever beach she's hanging out on and come home for the holidays! I have the next book in the Unveiled Seductions series to write. In the mean time, here's a sneak peek of my next release.

Coming soon from Ellora's Cave: Jaguar in the Sun Available December 4, 2013

Jaguar in the Sun
Anya Richards

Book four in the Unveiled Seductions series.
Cassandra Solinar has a bucket list and jaguar god Xbal Montegro is on it. About to undergo an essential rite she won’t survive, she wants to wring every ounce of pleasure out of the time left. Including discovering if Xbal’s sex magic technique is as good as rumored.
It’s no hardship for Xbal to accept Cassandra’s invitation for one erotic encounter, but far more difficult to let her go once he gets a taste of the explosive passion between them. Now he’s determined to hold on to her, no matter what.
Cassie can’t tell Xbal the truth about what she’s about to do. It’s illegal, but without her death the entire world will perish. It’s a job she’s been preparing for from birth, but the loss will be greater now. For in Xbal she finds a soul-deep connection she doesn’t want to lose, and the one thing she made a point of not putting on her bucket list—love.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

14 November 2013

The Hard Makes it Great

I live in an unpredictable, chaotic world. I have a non-fiction career at GeekMom.com, a fiction career that has resulted in six books with contracts for three more as yet unpublished, and I have a life as a mom of four kids, including one on the autism spectrum and one with a variety of mental challenges that defy easy explanation.

On any given day, an emergency with one of my kids can happen, usually meltdowns at school that require instant attention. I can't commit to a solid schedule or even look for an outside job--I'd have to miss too much time or leave at the drop of a hat.

All of which isn't complaining. I love my kids, I love all the writing I do.  But every now and then, people who are aware of my daily life say "how do you do all this?"

I don't really know how I manage to scrounge time every day to write fiction. My methods vary from day to day, to handwritten chapters to daydreaming to getting up early/staying up late.

But I don't think that's the real question people are asking. I think what they really want to know is "how do you motivate yourself to find the writing time?"

Writers have all kinds of organizations available to provide motivation. We're in the midst of one right now with National Novel Writing Month. The Romance Writers of America chapters offer courses and workshops on motivation and creativity. And that's just scratching the surface.

I'd write without any of that. Because the answer to the question of "how do you motivate yourself to find the writing time?" is that I want it that bad, no matter how hard it gets.

Motivations and support can keep a writer going during challenging times but the want and need to create has to eventually come from within.

I'm not sure where my inner motivation comes from. I know from the time I was little, I made up stories, either on paper or in my head. My first work of any length was at age 14 and it was a mosh-up of John Christopher's Tripod series with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Elvish lords in exiles saved someone fleeing slavery from aliens. Yes, even then, I was tossing a whole bunch of genres in a blender and hitting "stir." If the internet had existed back then, I would have written reams and reams of (probably very bad) fanfiction.

Along with my love of stories came a drive to finish. Partially because I love writing stories too much to abandon one and partly because of my emotional background. I lost my dad when I was young and that left me with a sense that life is short. I don't want to leave things to some later date because I might not be around at that later date.

There's a sense in the back of my mind that there's just no time. So I squeeze everything I can out of what I have.

How does all this help you to write? I'm not sure but I'm guessing each and every storyteller out there has a desire, sometimes hidden, to get that story told.

Listen to that voice that whispers and nurture it until it shouts and screams at you to keep writing.

And that's hard. But, remember, the hard is what makes it great.

Corrina Lawson's book can be found at www.corrina-lawson.com, and you can usually find her wandering about her house, notebook in hand or daydreaming about the next story.

11 November 2013

Tips for Staying On The Writing Track...Oh, Look! A Kitty.

We all know how hard it is to stay on ANY track during the holidays.

The Eating Right train jumps right off the rails.

Making Daily Word-Count train hits all sorts of delays. Hey, Eating Right train, move your sluggish caboose!

Exercise to Fit in the Skinny Jeans train is held back at the station on account of weather and it's too flippin' cold to put the miles in.

For me, keeping to a writing schedule is going to be even harder this holiday season due to the addition of a new family member. Her name? The Cat. I know, highly original. I've called her many things like Monkey (when she's in one of her crazy moods and climbs up my leg), Devil (for the times she attacks me), Pretty Girl, Goofball, and Mystery. My boys call her The Cat and that name stuck.

The Cat used to be wild. She showed up one day, hunting in the field behind our house. Early in the morning, she'd wander into our fenced yard and our old dog would chase her out. When we tried to get near her, she took off. She was a true scaredy cat. But this was a good thing. Being cautious had kept her alive in the wilds of our neighborhood.

One day, my youngest son told me that he wanted to try to make friends with the wild cat. This is the same boy who has wanted a cat his entire life, but because our front yard butts up to a busy street and because we have coyotes in the area, we have always told him "sorry, no." It's a dangerous place for a cat.

I was worried about the kitty in the field.

We put dog food in a plate. The Cat was hungry, but she was also afraid. She wouldn't come when we were outside. We went in and watched her from the window. She woolfed the dog food like it was going out of style. Slowly we opened the door, but when she saw us, she skeedaddled. Here is a picture of her that's blurry because she was in a constant state of  motion. The shoes give you and idea of how small she was.

A little while later we put more food out and my son and I sat down near the plate. She ate quickly, keeping her eyes on us. Slowly, she approached. I didn't reach out to touch her, but I spoke softly. Several minutes later, she touched me. I petted her head. She jerked back, but came in again. We got to know one another and she let me pick her up.  I wish I had video of this because I have never seen anything like it. In my arms, she wouldn't hold still--love me, stroke me, here, now here, and here...Don't stop! She was starved for love and physical contact.

She curled up into me so tight, purring like a machine. She was amazingly light. With all that fur, I had no idea she was so skinny. I could feel her bones. I called my husband and told him we had a cat. My son was overjoyed.

We didn't bring her in at first. She was really afraid of going inside. But with lots of love and encouragement, she eventually did venture in for a few minutes as long as we kept the door open. And now? Well, see for yourself.

This is The Cat asleep on my hubby.

Here she is asleep on her favorite soft blanket on the couch.

And here she is awake.

I wanted to show you this one so that you could see her long ear hair. Amazing, right? 

She sleeps in the garage at night right next to....drum roll....The Dog. Seriously, this wild cat who used to be terrified of the dog who chased her everyday is now sleeping next to him. Sometimes they rub noses.

Is she still a scaredy cat? Yes. Loud noises completely freak her out. And if anyone visits us she won't come into the house. She peeks her nose through the door, smells foreigners and disappears for days. The vet agreed that she was a wild cat. 

But with us? She's family.

So how will I stay on track and keep writing during the holiday season? With The Cat on my lap.

Kimberley Troutte

01 November 2013

Wait... where did October go?

I've been trying to figure out how to post about vanquishing personal ghosts with my writing...and then I realized it's the first of November. How did that happen?

What scares me the most -- besides losing track of time -- is that I know things will go into hyper-speed from here until the end of the year. While the children and the obnoxious signs at various stores and in ads will remind me there are only "x" days until Christmas, I will feel my sanity and patience slowly slipping away with every interesting rendition of classic carols played over and over and over.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Scrooge. But you wouldn't call me Mrs. Claus, either. ;) I do love Christmas; I just dislike the rushed-panicked-commercialism feel associated with the holiday. It's still an exciting, joyous time for me, but I also manage to get at least a bit stressed out.

Added to all the holiday preparations: we have an early December birthday in our house AND the fact that yes, I am actually writing again... How many hours are there? Only twenty-four? Now I know what I want for Christmas. ;)

So how do you keep on track with writing -- or anything else -- during the rush of decorating, shopping, baking, and more shopping? That's a really good question. I think I'm slowly figuring it out -- for myself, anyway.

Number one: I could try NaNoWriMo ... that craziness that involves a commitment to write 50k during the month of November. No editing; just writing. It's a competition between friends, colleagues, and mostly with ourselves. It's crazy. It can be stressful or it can be a fantastic motivator. I tried it last year and failed miserably. But others succeed and go on to publish their NaNo books. Kudos to them!

However, the motivator which is currently working for me is the fact that I have discovered my capabilities as a writer. I can actually do this -- and a lot of this -- in a short amount of time. When I have to. When I make myself do it. I have some very batty friends to thank for this discovery; and at least two children who will never let me forget it. :)

Not only is that a wonderful, affirming revelation, it's also a kick in the rear. I can do better than what I've been doing. If I can write 9k of a story that I'm really writing by the seat of my pants -- i.e.: I had no idea where the hell the plot was going -- then I can certainly do just as well with stories that I have mapped out in my head; stories in which the characters are as real to me as my own family.

So, I suppose my main advice is that to keep on track during the holidays, you need to find a whole boatload of self-discipline, which will be followed by a bit of success, and hopefully that will give you that confidence boost you need to carry on.

But there must be other tricks we use to keep on track, right? If you have a few, please share. This is the season of giving, after all. ;)

Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...