Tag Archives: writing inspiration

The Original, Historical Tinder

In homage to Valentine’s Day (and that oh-so-hard pick-up line), check out this cheeky video from Great Big Story…about the original Tinder. Perhaps you’ll write this (or some variation thereof) into your next historical (or even contemporary) romance!

Reconnecting with Writing

artsy handwritingIf you follow the blog regularly, you know that since RWA last summer, I haven’t done much work on Three Proposals, despite back-to-back Immersions in November and January. I’ve been spending a lot of time at my kids’ school since August as the Parent Service Organization (PSO) Vice President, having run a very successful Read-a-Thon last fall and having helped with a well-attended Daddy-Daughter Dance this past weekend. I’ve told the school that there’s no way I’m going to serve on the board next year. It’s time-consuming and while I love doing stuff for my kids, I do surprisingly little in my childs’ classrooms. Frankly, that’s where I’d rather be.

As a part of future planning with the PSO, I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of my career (or lack thereof). I’m not reading blogs as much as I used to, I’m not digging into aspects of craft, and I’m certainly not putting words on the page. I’ve had requests for fulls from agents and editors who judged the few contests I’ve won. And I have this book, Three Proposals, hanging around my neck like a pigeon (it’s not albatross-worthy, but it’s still annoying and I feel like I keep getting shit on).

My conclusion? It’s time for that to change.

I’ve started prioritizing writing into my life again. Hard to go cold turkey and clear my entire schedule for nothing but writing, but a key thing I’ve done is made a regular meeting time with my CPs and commit to giving them something of mine every week (in addition to reading their stuff) — even if it’s just work on my outline for the new contemporary story I started. It’s making me keep my head in my story (and in theirs).

I also started the James Patterson Master Class (I’ve seen the link on FB quite a bit and I was intrigued). The one thing James mentions in his first lesson is that he woke at 5 a.m. to make time for writing. He had a day job and I don’t, so I’m not waking at 5 a.m. (I’m really not a morning person, anyway). But I have started putting my foot down as to what I will and won’t work on each day.

For example, today was a story day. I did have a few “housekeeping” things to take care of after I got the kiddos off to school, but once that was accomplished, I spent the better part of the morning working on my outline, brainstorming over the phone with one of my CPs, and catching up on a few blogs. The amazing part? It felt so GOOD to get back into writing again.

My son asked me today why I quit taking tae kwon do lessons. I told him it was because I discovered writing and I liked writing more than I did TKD. What I’ve forgotten over the last 7 months was how MUCH I like writing. Discovering new stories, new characters, and new ways to make their lives difficult (but their stories interesting).

My goals for February are to keep providing feedback for my CPs, finish the course with James Patterson, and have a good, strong outline of my contemporary story completed.

How have you prioritized writing in your life lately?

My Messy First Drafts

(Originally posted on eightladieswriting.com)

skier2I’ve been playing around with a contemporary story (inspired by a ski trip to Utah over the holidays) tentatively called The Lesson. I don’t have much to it yet…just two chapters, one of which I hammered out while on the plane flying home. I thought it’d be fun to throw it out there for the world to see, and also to get your comments (critical or otherwise — I can take the heat, so long as you’re polite).

I’m also putting it out in the internet-ether to demonstrate what first drafts can look like…sorta clunky, not-much-making-sense kind of things. There are a few good lines, but as my CPs have pointed out, there’s plenty of stuff that needs work, a few things that are confusing, and some useless stuff.

However, as Nora Roberts once said, “The only page I can’t fix is a blank one.”

So happy reading and do give me your feedback in the comments section. Seriously!

***

I’m going to make this mountain mine.

Jennifer Pringle played with the edge of her napkin. She sat at a small table inside the restaurant overlooking the pool and courts at the five-star hotel in Beaver Mountain, Utah. Her bosses’ words rang in her ears and an uneasy feeling quivered through Jennifer’s body.

For the first time, she wondered whether she should move on. Twenty years ago, the job of reporting to Geoff Standish seemed like a dream come true right out of law school. She’d been his aide, then his sole counsel, doing all the legal work for The Standish Group as he took over Southern California one multi-million dollar home, strip mall, and tract of land at a time.

For a reason she couldn’t quite explain, his proclamation of owning the ski resort outside Beaver Mountain felt wrong, like a tag that rubbed against your neck or a rock in your shoe.

Maybe it was because Beaver Mountain was in Utah? Geoff hadn’t ventured into Utah…yet. He was quickly making his way east, though, having just bought up some broken-down retirement communities outside Phoenix and a few small hotels on the wrong end of the strip in Las Vegas. His intention, of course, was to revamp them, stamp them with the Standish name, and charge exorbitant prices that would more than make up for his initial investment. It had worked like a charm for years and Jennifer had been the sole legal representation for Geoff during most of it.

But a ski resort?

Jennifer’s initial concerns — that it wasn’t a buy/rehab/sell, that he’d have to manage employees and customers, that establishing a casino at the resort was impossible — were all shot down like tin targets at a BB gun arcade. It will work, he’d said. You’ll see.

Geoff’s loud baritone wafted from the front of the restaurant and Jennifer steeled herself. Why was she so nervous, anyway? She’d never had a problem telling Geoff that one of his ideas was off base. He usually took her advice, too. So was she anxious because he wasn’t taking it this time?

She watched him walk from the reception area past the bar and rose as he drew near. “Good morning, Geoff. How are you today?”

Geoff nodded and held out her seat. “Splendid. Just splendid. How about that snowfall, eh?” He gestured outside with nod of his head at the six-plus inches that had fallen overnight, then took the seat to Jennifer’s right.

A server came up immediately. “Coffee, sir?”

Geoff turned his coffee cup upright. “Yes, please. Black and hot.”

“Right away. Please feel free to help yourself to the breakfast buffet or perhaps you’d prefer to select something from the menu.” He pointed to the cardboard list of à la carte offerings laying on the table.

“Thank you.”

The server nodded and left to fetch the coffee. Geoff turned his attention to Jennifer.

She mentally steeled herself. For what? “So, you’re still interested in pursuing an opportunity here.” It was a statement more than a question.

Geoff nodded. “Absolutely. However, I’ve been thinking about your concerns and there may be some merit to them. Particularly the one about employees. Never really had to deal with that, except for the peons we have in the office.” He chuckled and took a sip of the fresh-squeezed orange juice on the table.

Jennifer offered up a wan smile. “I hope I don’t fall into that category.” Jennifer gingerly sipped her coffee.

Geoff scoffed, making a pooh-pooh motion with his hand. “Of course not. You know how invaluable you are to me. The fresh pair of eyes I need.”

Jennifer’s coffee cup clanked as she set it down. May as well be direct. “This fresh pair of eyes is telling you that taking on Beaver Mountain may be more than you bargained for. It’s not a strip-and-flip.”

The server returned with a silver carafe and poured Geoff a steaming cup.

“Leave the carafe, please.” Geoff tapped the left side of the table. The server placed the carafe where Geoff indicated, then left. Geoff leaned in towards Jennifer. “I know it’s not a strip-and-flip. But I want this mountain. And the ones in Idaho and Wyoming. Snowflake Resorts has already bought up most of Colorado and California. Hell, they bought up California right under my nose. That’s my state. There isn’t much else left in the way of independent resorts, unless you go east, and I’m not doing that.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “But skiing? Since when do you even care about skiing? You’ve never been skiing a day before in your life.”

Geoff’s eyes drilled into hers. “Marla skis.”

Jennifer’s eyebrows shot up and she gave a punctuated laugh. “Marla skis? You’re doing this because Marla skis?” Marla was Geoff’s current mistress. Not girlfriend. Mistress. Calling her a girlfriend would imply that there was some sort of reciprocity, that Marla would give something — anything — to the relationship besides sex. But sex was all she gave, and she took plenty for it. Clothing. Jewelry. Cars. A stunning beachfront home in Malibu. Cash.

“Girlfriend” would also imply that she might someday be “fiancée” or “wife.” But Geoff had no intention of marrying her. He couldn’t, with his estranged-but-not-yet-divorced wife of 25 years still living in the first house Geoff had owned in Beverly Hills. Apparently, keeping his wife and paying her bills was cheaper than a divorce, or so his divorce lawyer had advised him.

“Marla skis, and so will you.”

Jennifer had taken another sip of coffee, but at this remark, she choked, nearly spitting it all out. “Me?”

“Yes, you.” Geoff pushed his plate aside and leaned on his elbow, his head close to Jennifer’s. “I want this mountain and I need your help getting it. I need you to be able to wine and dine the locals on the slopes. I need you to get a feel for the folks who work here, who run the place. I need you to understand what it takes to manage a ski resort, and the first place to do all that is with private lessons.”

Jennifer stared at him. He had to be kidding, right? She wasn’t the sort of girl who did physical activity — at all — which probably explained why she was a five-foot-five size 14. And it wasn’t like she was young and agile. She’d spent her entire career with The Standish Group and was on the downhill slide to 50. It was a little late for this bitch to learn new tricks. “Geoff. I understand your goal here. But to be quite frank, I don’t ski.”

He shrugged. “Neither do I, but I’m going to learn. And so are you.”

“Geoff—“

Her boss raised his hand to silence her. “No. You’re going to do this.”

Her shoulders popped up imploringly. “But I don’t even have ski clothes.” Okay, so that was kind of stupid, but she was kind of desperate.

“You have your corporate Amex. Use it.” He stood. “Your first lesson is today at 10 a.m. I suggest you high-tail it to the ski shop and get yourself outfitted.”

Jennifer stared open-mouthed while he finished off his cup of coffee. “Geoff, I have several important calls and a meeting with a potential client this morning.”

He shrugged. “Reschedule. Now, if there’s nothing else, I am supposed to meet Marla for a spin class.” He turned and strode out of the restaurant.

Unbelievable. She had to take a fucking ski lesson to help her boss buy a mountain he shouldn’t even be on.

Jennifer looked at her empty plate. She intended to survive on coffee alone this morning. She’d done it plenty of times before, but always when she was busy on the phone. Interacting with people. Distracted. But now she had to ski. In the cold. She hated the cold.

She hated feeling hungry even more.

Fuck this. If she had to ski, then she would damn well do it on a full belly. She spun around in her chair. “Waiter?”

The young man came to her table immediately. “Yes, ma’am. What can I get for you.”

Jennifer looked down at the menu and smiled. “I’ll have eggs Benedict, please, atop the fried chicken.”

Gravitas in Storytelling

gravity, sandra bullock

“Gravity” (c) 2013 Warner Brothers Studios.

Last night my husband and I saw “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It’s a mesmerizing film that anyone who appreciates a good story should see. It’s the only movie I’ve been to where almost no one got up to use the restroom during the film. When the movie ended, there seemed to be a huge exhale from the audience, as if we were all holding our breaths (I think we were). To say that Bullock is outstanding in the film would be a gross understatement. Don’t bother with Academy judges; just give her the Oscar now. Continue reading

Focus Hocus-Pocus

Oftentimes, I have trouble staying focused. For example, I was cleaning up the kids’ play room today and went downstairs to return a few cups to the kitchen. I wasn’t finished cleaning their play room, but a large stack of “stuff” littering the kitchen counter distracted me. So, play room forgotten, I started sifting through everything, making neat piles of mail, receipts, old newspapers, things-to-go-upstairs, things-to-go-outside, and God-knows-what-else in an effort to clean off the counters. In short order, I had a stack of “office things,” so I grabbed the stack and made my way to the office, where…you guessed it…I got distracted by a mess there and promptly forgot about the kitchen. Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand I can wave to finish cleaning the rooms I abandon, so I have to backtrack, and it often seems I’m never finishing anything. Continue reading

Lucky Number 13

For me, lucky number 13 doesn’t refer to a racehorse, a hand in cards, or a Powerball number. Rather, it will forever be the year I attended my first RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference, and the year my life changed.

In preparing for the conference as a First Timer, I read various blogs which included such sage advice as “wear comfortable shoes,” “introduce yourself to five new people every day,” and “prepare to be overwhelmed.” All excellent advice, to be sure, except the last. Strangely enough, I wasn’t overwhelmed, but energized. Excited. Determined. And my excitement and determination grew each day of the conference.

Everyone I met at RWA inspired me. I’m convinced Cathy Maxwell, this year’s keynote speaker, somehow channeled my brain when she was writing her speech.  She talked about her first conference. She knew only one other girl.  I knew just a few more than that. She left three small children at home in pursuit of her dream. I left two. When one of them got hurt and, crying, begged her to come home, she said she could not. Cathy told her daughter that being at the conference was something she had to do. I left at home a child with a nasty ear infection. Just as Cathy felt to the depth of her being that she could not leave, so did I. For the first time, I had found my calling and nothing, save a grave emergency, could pull me away.

I attended a variety of workshops, most of them focused on craft. I’ve been studying romance writing and fiction for the last ten months through the online Romance Writing program at McDaniel College in Maryland. A lot of what I’ve learned the last ten months was validated this past weekend. Some of the things I learned were new and I gladly added them to my writer’s toolkit.

The biggest take-away I got from the conference was a tremendous sense of confidence. It’s probably over-inflated, but I’ve never felt so sure that I will be successful, as long as I’m willing to put forth the work and effort; to continue learning and practicing my craft; to establish and cultivate a voice that is my own; and to bring wonderful stories to the page.

I’m anxious to get home and get writing. I can’t wait to finish my first draft, stand back, take a deep breath, and start revising.