Momentoes by Mackenzie: From Walking to Flying–A Primer on Letting Go

Skyler Graduation Announcement

Let me start by warning you you’re in the splash zone. If you’re reading this, you are in jeopardy of being splashed by my tears that are hitting my keyboard or the page. Any mom will understand my plight. It’s graduation time. And for the first time ever, I have a son who is graduating high school. In the fall, he leaves for college. Insert shuddering breath and eye-roll here. So you know what that means. Not only am I hormonal because of perimenopause, I’m also beginning to deal with the grief associated with a child leaving the nest. But I’ve been trying to push those emotions aside, to ignore them for a little while longer. I have a whole summer, right?

Then, the other night, I was minding my own business watching the American Idol finale and on popped a commercial from Google and by the end of it I was sobbing. I’m sure this will have little impact on most of the rest of the world, except moms and possibly some dads who can identify with this huge milestone. Here’s the Google Graduation Commercial link. See for yourself. The writers get this one right.

So why do moments like this hit us so hard? I find it happens when I’m reading a good book, too. It’s because a writer is adept at tapping into a universal emotion that I can identify with, that I get to my core. And that’s when I’m moved to laugh or cry. It’s those moments when I dig deep that I connect with humanity and I begin to understand what it means to be human in a crazy topsy turvey world that can often leave me breathless because of its pace and demands.

It’s moments like this one that, as writers, we want to tap into to move our readers and to connect with them. To help them understand the depths of love and grief, joy and disappointment, achievement and defeat. Or whatever other emotion is hitting close to home for our characters and the stories we’re trying to tell.

Skyler Graduation 2014

 

I have a long summer ahead of me. Have I figured out how to let my son go? To let him fly, the way he wants to, the way he needs to? No. I haven’t. All I know is I’m going to be present in every moment. Enjoy it. Experience it fully. Whatever it brings. I’ll walk with him, take one step at a time, while I enjoy the time with him, build memories, and let him know how very cherished and loved he is before he goes away from home. Because it’s those memories and thoughts, those life-lessons we learned together over the past eighteen years, that will help him continue to fly toward the bright future that’s calling him.

Skyler as Batman 1999

Will it be easy? No, I have no illusion that it will be easy for me. I’ve nurtured this boy for eighteen years. But I will put one foot in front of the other and I will be courageous as I watch him soar. And, I will know that this milestone, like the many others before and after, is a marker that connects me to millions of other people in the world. And that alone is a comfort.

I’d love to hear how you handled letting your first son or daughter fly from the nest! Comment to win a chance at a free copy of Essence (now out in e-Book, print, and audio). Two people will win a copy. Comments must be posted here sometime before May 30th, to be eligible.

Mackenzie Lucas writes contemporary romance for Soul Mate Publishing. Her debut contemporary, Essence, came out in January. And her next contemporary romance with Soul Mate Publishing, Courting Cinderella, will be out in August. Find her at www.mackenzielucas.com. She’s on Facebook and Twitter.

Writing Process Blog Tour

Books for Blog

This week I’m part of a Writing Process Blog Tour where authors talk about their process and why they write the stories they write.

At the end of this post, you’ll see that I tag three other authors who will post about their writing process next Monday on their own blogs, thus continuing The Writing Process Blog Tour! Please follow them as they tell their tales.

 

A   T H A N K   Y O U  T A G

once_forever_cover_800x1218_REVThank you to the talented Evie Owens for tapping me for The Writing Process Blog Tour, a tour where authors talk about their process and why they write what they do. Evie Owens writes paranormal romance set in the real world. She likes to create worlds where you actually believe the hot guy next door can speak to dead people. And she does it oh so well with a twist and flare all her own. Believe me, you don’t want to miss her hot stories!

The Psychic Detective, a novella that’s part of the Once and Forever anthology is available now, and her YA paranormal, Witch Boy, will be out soon.

To learn more about Evie, read her post from last week at: http://www.evieowens.com/

 

M A C K E N Z I E   L U C A S

What am I working on? 

I’m always working on multiple projects, because I get bored and need to switch gears often. However, since Essence my contemporary romance published with Soul Mate Publishing debuted in January, I’ve been focused equally on writing and promotion. Last week I completed a month-long virtual book tour. It was a fun tour, where I interacted with readers at every stop. And a few days after I finished that blog tour, I hopped on another to promote my Dragon Shifters of Derkesthai Academy series. The newest book out is From This Day Forward, also released in January.

As far as new writing projects go, I just finished final edits on an anthology piece called Matchmaker’s Moon about a matchmaker who doesn’t really believe in love but who is given a second crack at finding true love when her ex comes back to town.

I’m also editing my next full-length contemporary romance novel, called Every Heart Sings. It’s the story about a rock star who’s lost his way and the small-town community that helps him find his way back to the heart of his music. Bring in one heroine with an aversion to anything that smacks of the entertainment business and who is determined to run interference for her music-crazy nephew and you have enough trouble to keep everything hopping on this small North Carolina island.

I just started writing the first draft of my next category length (50,000-word) contemporary romance, Tricks. This is the story of a national snowboard champion who must face her biggest fear to qualify for the next Winter Olympics. Sparks fly when she encounters small-town police chief and SAR first responder, Eli Scott, when he’s forced to rescue her during a freak blizzard.

Finally, I’m working on a new adult erotic romance called The Boy Next Door. When twenty-one-year old Gwen Sanders comes home, she wants only one thing . . . to get the attention of Brody Thompson, the boy next door, who she’s secretly loved since she was sixteen. She’ll do almost anything to find out what the sexy recreational sports tour guide does with his clients at his clandestine monthly Barn Bash. She’s about to find out. One way or another.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There’s a lot of excellent contemporary romance out there. I love writing stories set in small-town communities where a quirky cast of characters gets involved in bringing two people together. My stories are also hot. I don’t close the bedroom door. I love lots of sexual tension and steamy sex in my books. And, there’s usually one protagonist who is trying to overcome or heal a past wound. Often, that protagonist’s love interest is integral in helping him/her complete that process.

The tagline I’ve claimed for my brand is “contemporary and paranormal romance with heart and passion.” Even in my paranormal romance, you’ll find the same familiar contemporary romance tropes I employ in my contemporaries. There’s a huge overlap. The only difference is that in my paranormal romance you’ll find a touch of magical realism along with the small-town contemporary romance.

Why do I write what I do? 

I’m a small-town girl. Born and bred. I now live in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I miss the small-town way of life. It’s amazing to me how much we crave community today. And I think that’s why lots of readers love small-town-based contemporary romance. I know it’s why I read it. I’m looking for characters who connect with their neighbors and learn how to navigate the sometimes sticky ties of dysfunctional family life. As always, I’m writing stories I want to read, because I always run out of titles and good authors to read.

How does your writing process work?

I’m what they like to call a Plan-ster. I do some initial planning, then I’m a pantser–I wing it. I know at least one character when I start out. I know the opening scene, and I know the ending. I usually plan a few high points between, but other than that, that’s all I know when I get started. I enjoy the discovery process that comes for me during the creative writing of a story too much to worry about planning out every little detail of my book first.

So what I usually do is I come up with the core concept of the story and write a little blurb about it, combining a Michael Hauge and a Bob Mayer type of process. Once I have my short paragraph–maybe twenty-five or so words. I’ll come up with a list of plot points. Things I know need to happen in my story from beginning to end. It’s everything I know about the story. It can be in order, or it can be out of order, it doesn’t matter. At times I’ve done this on the computer then printed the plot points out and taped them onto individual index cards. That way, I can shuffle the points around and move them as I need. These are the tent poles, as Jenny Cruise calls them–the plot points that hold up my story.

When I have my plot points written down. I sit and write an in-depth character sketch of my main characters, usually the hero and the heroine. So that I begin to get to know them. Understand their motivations and backgrounds and wounds. Something I’ve recently added to my process is that I write down each of their arcs. Where they are at the beginning of the story and where they are (usually emotionally) by the end of the story. This way, I know how they change. I may not yet know what changes them. But I see them at the beginning and the end. I’ve also begun to note the arc they have in their relationships with others beyond the main character. Say, for example, the arc my heroine has with her grandmother who is a secondary character.

Then, it’s time to begin writing in earnest. I open my word document (or sometimes Scrivener) and I begin … Chapter One. The beauty of my process is that it works for me (for now). Every book is a little different. And, sometimes, the process changes slightly. But I get down everything I know first. Then, I begin to write from one known point to the next, and as I do, fun and interesting things pop up to make my story richer and bring it alive. This is the part I love. It’s the dating phase. The discovery phase where we know each other well enough to go out and share a meal, but as we sit and have a conversation, we find hidden depths and fall just a little more in love with each other. So that by the time I’m finished with the story, there’s not a nuance I don’t know about the story I’ve just told.

 

T A G G I N G   T H R E E   O T H E R   A U T H O R S

Thanks for stopping by today to read about my writing process. Now it’s my turn to tag three other authors to talk about their process and why they write what they do. Let’s send The Writing Process Blog Tour viral, make sure you continue to follow these authors’ posts next Monday–March 10, 2014–to learn more about them and find a whole host of new books to read! Here’s who is up next:

 

 M I S H A   C R E W S

MISHA CREWS has been nominated for the Bronte Prize for Romantic Fiction and Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Award for her romantic suspense novels that perfectly blend romance and mystery while providing a twist on timeless tales of home and heart. She writes heart-warming stories set in small towns where intrigue and suspense intrude on her characters’ lives. Her novels include: Still WatersHomesong, and Her Secret Body Guard. She’s written novellas for A Spirited Season and for At the Cafe and Other Stories.

Check out Misha’s blog post on her writing process at: http://mishacrews.com/

 

M E G   M I M S

MEG MIMS hails from Michigan and is an award-winning writer of the western mysteries Double Crossing and Double or Nothing. She’s one-half of the D.E. Ireland writing team, whose series of cozy mysteries will be published by St. Martin’s later this year. Meg has also written two successful Christmas novellas, Santa Paws and Santa Claws.

Learn more about Meg’s writing process by visiting: http://megmims.com/musings/.

 

N I K K I   H O P E M A N

NIKKI HOPEMAN writes a fascinating blend of horror and mystery. Her debut novel, Habeas Corpse, is about a zombie forensics technician forced to turn amateur sleuth when an alarming series of murders threatens his community and everything he stands for. She’s also published an intriguing horror short story called “Blackbird” in the Mistresses of the Macabre anthology.

 

To find out why Nikki writes horror and mystery, check out her blog post at: http://nikkihopeman.wordpress.com/

 

H O W   A B O U T   YOU?

So if you’re an author, what’s your process and why do you write what you write? If you’re a reader, tell us what kind of stories you love to read and a few of your favorite authors, and why you love to read those stories!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Exciting November News

Courting Cinderella

Photo Credit: 123RF.com

Photo Credit: 123RF.com

Great news! I’m excited to announce I sold a new book to Soul Mate Publishing.

Courting Cinderella is a contemporary romance novella set in Colorado Springs and the fictional village of Granite Falls, Colorado.

When a small town is willing to protect the secret of its celebrity sports figure from the prying eyes of a former Marine turned photographer, a wicked step-mother, and a long-forgotten ex, true love triumphs in the best way possible. Courting Cinderella is a contemporary retelling of Cinderella where a women’s volleyball player takes center stage and an exposé sports photographer becomes Prince Charming. Watch for the upcoming release date.

Essence

Mark your calendars! The release date for my contemporary romance novel, Essence, is January 2, 2014. Watch for the cover reveal in the coming weeks! Published by Soul Mate Publishing, Essence will be available exclusively at Amazon.

Love Murder and Everything Else Sale

Twenty-four authors, twenty-four books for $.99 starting November 27 – December 3, 2013. My Dragon Shifters of Derkesthai novella, To Have & To Hold is on sale for $.99–Get your copy of these great books!

bob2_450x450

Momentoes by Mackenzie: The Care & Feeding of Superheroes

I’ve heard it said that we all have a super power, and I believe it. Some people might have more than one. But I thought I’d introduce myself to you today, since I’m new to Soul Mate Publishing and the group blog, by focusing on the superheroes in my own life and the importance of acknowledging those super powers in the people who surround us. I’d like to call it the care and feeding of superheroes.

I have four men living in my house. Lucky woman, you say. Some days, yes. And, well … you know how it goes … some days, not so much. I love my men dearly, but it’s easy for me to get hyper-critical, being the only woman in the house. Imagine that?

One of the men is Mr. Lucas. The other three are the teenaged Lucas men, all in various stages of manhood from age thirteen to seventeen. I’ve come to realize in life that it’s important to acknowledge the strengths and gifts of those around you in order to help them continue to grow. That’s the care and feeding part. More recently, I started to think about which superhero would embody each of the Lucas men, based on their individual strengths. It’s been a fascinating process and has changed, for the better, how I see each of the men sharing the same living space with me.

Here’s what I’ve come up with after my Superhero exercise.

Mr. Lucas Self-Portrait - Cropped

Mr Lucas’s Self-Portrait

Mr. Lucas is Superman. Truly. My husband has a nerdy, beta side, just like Clark Kent–glasses included. And, yet, at the core, he’s a man of steel, a superhero who goes out into the world every day to fight against tyranny. Superman is man at his absolute best. He’s an ideal. Yet he is flawed. He certainly has his Kryptonite and weaknesses. But, because of Superman’s flaws and weaknesses, he’s more human and we can relate to him. It’s his unflagging compassion and his strong moral code that allows Superman, I mean Mr. Lucas, to steer our family and keep all the Lucas men on track.

To see the full post of this blog starting October 29, 2013, go to: Soul Mate Publishing Group Author Blog.

CRAFT MATTERS: The Importance of Good Character in Characters

Chasing Mavericks PosterThis week I’ve been thinking a lot about character because I saw two movies that prompted the internal debate. The first movie was Chasing Mavericks and the second was Jobs.

First, let me say I love inspirational stories. And if they’re based on a true story, even better. I love books, movies, TV, news feeds–any story, really, about leaders–whether they’re business leaders, sports figures, celebrities, or whatever, it doesn’t matter to me as long as they’re leaders. I’m naturally drawn to them. I want to know what makes a good leader tick. I want to see how they live their life and the influence they’ve had on the people they touch. It’s important to me. I’m not sure why, but it is.

This is what led me to these two movies in the first place. And it’s interesting that for some reason I saw them at the same time because now that I look back, there’s no reason I should have seen them both this week. I rented Chasing Mavericks on Sunday. I kind of get in renting moods and will rent several movies to watch at once. So Sunday was one of those days for me. I’d wanted to see Chasing when it came out, but being the mother of three teenage boys, I was kind of afraid so I’d put it off.

chasing-mavericks-stillYou see, Chasing Mavericks is the true story of Jay Moriarty, a fifteen-year-old kid who wanted to surf Mavericks–these mythical big, I mean, huge waves. Thirty-five-foot waves. The equivalent of five story buildings. People died surfing waves this big. So, anyway, to say the least, I was a little afraid to watch the movie. But for some reason, I remembered on Sunday that I’d wanted to see it and I went out and rented it.

My husband is a Mac guy and an artist. So he’s always been drawn to Apple. And I’ve got to say, I’ve always found Steve Jobs fascinating. I’d seen his later talks televised and found him charismatic. So when the movie came out, I decided I had to see it. I wanted to figure this guy out. My husband and I went to see the movie about Steve Jobs on Tuesday.

The contrast between these two real-life men and their lives couldn’t have been bigger. Or have had a bigger impact on me. At the end of each story, I was wrecked. One in a good way, the other not so good.

The main characters were Jay Moriarty in Chasing Mavericks and, well, Steve Jobs in Jobs.Jobs Movie Poster

I walked away from Chasing inspired, even though I cried at the end. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen the movie or if you don’t know anything about Jay Moriarty’s life. But I adored this story. It was so inspiring to me. It reminded me what it means to be human. It showed me the power of a life well-lived to touch and inspire others. It also reinforced my personal belief that passion and determination will get you what you want in life. Ultimately, Chasing Mavericks is a coming of age story about human triumph under the harshest circumstances.

And, honestly, you could say that Jobs is about the same thing–a coming of age story about human triumph under the harshest circumstances. One man was conquering giants in the form of Mavericks and the other’s giants came in the form of reigning human intellect and capacity to innovate new technology and run a corporation.

However, I hated the Jobs movie. And I don’t use that word very often. I’m what I like to call a “tolerant” reader/movie-goer when it comes to story. I’ll go wherever you want to take me without too many questions. And I often find lots to love about a story. However, I walked out of the movie theater on Tuesday discouraged and feeling like I’d been trampled on.

So I got to thinking about why. Why did the story of Steve Jobs’ life so wreck me–in a bad way–when the story of Jay Moriarty’s life had inspired me? Both faced really bad things in their lives. Both had defining moments–those crossroad experiences where they could have chosen one path over another. Both strove for heroic accomplishments and influenced people in their lives.

So what was the difference for me?

The reason boiled down to character. Good character.

I mean, not well-crafted character like we like to think about and muse over as authors, but those pillar qualities of character that make-up good human beings–human beings we think are exemplary and inspiring.

Jobs MovieSee, Steve Jobs alienated those around him. For lack of a better word, he was an asshole. He walked away from life-long friends time and again. When he was at a crossroads where he could have chosen to love someone and help a friend, he walked away–ignored them, because Apple (the vision) was more important to him than the people. Some might say that’s because he was a visionary, a genius, an important man. Look at what he created. Yeah. I see what he left behind. And I don’t much like it. Sure. I adore my iPod. But the wreckage he left behind. No. I hate seeing that. At one point someone tells Steve in the movie that he’s his own worst enemy and it was true.

Then I look at Jay Moriarty’s life and see what he left behind. Steve Jobs’ legacy was a company and products–and, no, the Jobs movie doesn’t portray the end of his life. So he might have changed. Steve Jobs might have had a Come-to-Jesus moment. I don’t know. All I know is the decisions he made time and again were harsh and alienating. Jay Moriarty’s legacy was the people he loved and left behind–the lives he touched. He was kind. Even to the guy who bullied him most of his life. He smiled. He chose to stand by friends even when they’d betrayed him. He faced his fears with courage, he didn’t ignore them or pretend they weren’t there. When his mentor and the father figure in his life faced a life-crushing experience, Jay went out of his way to search for him, to make sure he was okay, to push him, and help him rally–to offer him someone to lean on. Frosty asks at one point, which of the four pillars is supposed to help me get through this life-shattering experience. And Jay says to him–the fifth pillar, me. OMG! Yes. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about people. Yes, people are mortal. And depending on your faith journey, you may believe any range of things about the human soul. But I believe that people matter. What you do to them matters. Here and beyond.

So when I think about story and character–the characters I want to populate my fiction and the character I want to dominate my life and the lives of my own boys–I want to live like Jay lived and I want to inspire others to live just like he lived. Good character matters. It inspires. And, yes, we all have Steve Jobs living inside of us–the potential for mean, alienating behavior where we choose goals and visions over people–however, that doesn’t need to define us or our lives or our journey. I want to reach for the good, the loving, and the inspiring. And that’s what I want the characters in my stories to reach for, too. I want them to embody good character, because in the end, good character does matter.

I believe it with my whole heart.

So what do you think? And have you seen examples in real life and in fiction of good character? Share them with me.

CRAFT MATTERS: Keywords, Metadata, Core Story, & Favorite Tropes

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about keywords and metadata, which essentially brought me to analyzing my core story and favorite tropes. In Atlanta, at RWA#13, Bella Andre, Courtney Milan, and Liliana Hart all spent a portion of the time talking about keywords and metadata. Each one emphasized the importance of getting those keywords right so that your readers can find you. These women have found astounding success as indie authors. First of all, let’s get this out of the way, each of these women are fabulous story-tellers. If they couldn’t tell a great story that held together, it wouldn’t matter what you called it or how you tagged it, people wouldn’t read it. However, beyond that, these women have found a key to success in getting their books in front of readers who want to read the kind of story they’re telling.

Enemies to Lovers

Megiddo Mark Novel Final CoverSo I began to think about what kind of story I tell. What are the keywords I’d use to describe each of the books I’ve written and indie published? First thing that came to mind is enemies-to-lovers. Many of my books–both my paranormal romances (indie published) and my contemporary romances (soon to be published both traditionally and indie)–are stories where the hero and heroine start out as enemies or opponents. During the course of the story, they must learn to work together, and in the process, they fall in love. The Megiddo Mark (first indie published as a serialized novel in four parts, now released as a single novel) is an enemies-to-lovers story. So is Pompeii Reawakened, its sequel and a continuation of The Megiddo Series where Sienna and Kane get their own story. Even To Have & To Hold, the first in my dragon shifter series, is an enemies-to-lovers story, which is harder because the couple is married. But still, the trope is there, if a bit twisted.

Two Dogs Fighting Over The Same Bone

The second trope I noticed as part of the core story of many of my books is the two-dogs-fighting-over-the-same-bone convention. In this scenario, the hero and the heroine are fighting over something–usually something physical–that they both want or must have for very good reasons.

TH&TH FINAL ThumbThe Megiddo Mark is clearly a two-dogs story, as is Pompeii. While To Have & To Hold and From This Day Forward (the second dragon shifters story released in late August or early September) don’t focus on the two-dog-one-bone convention, there is a suspense subplot where the hero and heroine must vie for an object that the villain is after. So, truly, those two stories also fall into that camp.FTDF_Final Thumb

Even my contemporary romances (Essence, out in the spring 2014, and Out of Bounds, out in October) are clearly stories where the hero and the heroine are fighting over a bone. In the case of Essence, the hero and heroine are fighting over a piece of land. In Out of Bounds, they’re fighting over the discovery and exposure of a secret. Even in the contemporary romance I’m currently writing, working title Every Heart Sings, the hero and heroine duke it out over the career of a rising musician. In every case, the two protagonists have a stake in this “bone.”

Beauty and The Beast

courtsey of 123RF.com

courtsey of 123RF.com

All of my stories except one (so far) are beauty and the beast stories or have elements of this story line. There’s something appealing to me about pairing a character who is monstrous (or believes he or she is) with a character who offers unconditional love. In every case, that supposed monster is tamed or healed by the love of a good protagonist. If you take that story line even a step further, it becomes the-bad-boy-redeemed trope, which is totally the focal point of Pompeii Reawakened.

Woman in Jeopardy

PR_1667x2500_72dpi_Final_Kindle - SmallFinally, I think most of my stories have at their core, a story of the woman in jeopardy. This trope definitely encompasses The Megiddo Mark, Pompeii Reawakened, To Have & To Hold, and From This Day Forward, which all contain a strong suspense subplot. However, even my contemporary romances contain an element of the woman-in-jeopardy scenario. In Essence, it’s the heroine’s livelihood that’s at stake. Same with Out of Bounds, it’s the heroine’s good reputation and career as an Olympic athlete that’s hanging in the balance.

So, if you’re a writer, what are the keywords or tropes you’d use to describe your stories? Do you have favorites that you are drawn to?

As a reader, what conventional story is your favorite type of story to read?

 

CRAFT MATTERS: Lessons from The Way, Way Back–Heart & Arc

The Way, Way BackI had heard nothing about this movie when I stepped into the theater. A friend wanted to go and I was up for a night out. I ended up absolutely loving The Way, Way Back. It felt like the perfect story. So I tried to figure out why I loved this story so much and it came down to two things for me: Heart & Arc.

First off, the writer made us care about the protagonist right away by giving us a male father figure who was picking on him. We immediately had empathy for Duncan, the protagonist. And as the story began to unfold, we saw that he was a good kid who cares about others & clearly cares about his mom and dad, who have divorced and are pursuing other relationships.

AP FILM REVIEW THE WAY WAY BACK A ENTDuncan’s awkwardly shy. What 14-year-old isn’t? He walks with his shoulders hunched and his chin down. Self-esteem isn’t his strong suit at the beginning of the movie. And is it any wonder why? His mom and dad recently divorced, and both are pushing their son off, making him feel like he’s not wanted. Duncan doesn’t belong, even among his own family.

The Way Way Back Owen

So he starts to wander away during the day, go explore town. He’s encouraged, at his first meeting with Owen, the true hero of this movie, to break out of the mold, disregard patterns, and find his own way while playing a game of PAC Man. And that’s what this coming of age movie is all about–a young boy who has been beaten up by life gaining the strength and courage he needs to stand up and find his own way.

The family or community Duncan discovers when he gets away from his summer house is wonderfully quirky and they accept him just as he is, but they also challenge him to grow, to move out of his comfort zone, to take chances, and to become a man. These characters bring the comedic relief in this heart-wrenching tale. Owen and his band of employees are hilarious. They’re an island of misfits themselves–adults who never grew up; a virtual colony of lost boys amid an aging water park.The Way Way Back Characters 3

The Way, Way Back is an amazing story of heart and growth and healing. It shows us what happens when a character is unwilling to change (the mom’s boyfriend) and what possibilities lay ahead when you’re willing to grow and change (Owen & Duncan & Duncan’s mom).

It was a simple story really–a boy who must adjust to the break-up of his family. But it had so much heart and soul that it became a living breathing intricately interwoven morality tale in an age where kids can often suffer the most from broken marriages.

The Way Way Back On A ScaleWhat I learned best from this movie is the importance of heart–touching those emotional heart strings, telling a story that matters to people and giving them characters who matter to them–and the necessity for your characters to arc. Just about every one of the characters in this story had a growth arc–except the antagonist. There’s a lesson buried in there for writers. Don’t consign your secondary characters to emotional ground zero, where they have nowhere to go. Let them grow. Let them arc. Your story will be richer for it. And your readers will care about all of them, not just the protagonist. And that will bring them back for your next story and your next.

If you have not seen it, do. You won’t be sorry!

Did you see The Way, Way Back? What did you love about it? If not, what other movies out there have impacted you and made you feel like you’d just experienced the perfect story?

After Action Report: Atlanta RWA 2013

Atlanta Skyline III RWA 2013It’s taken me over a week to recover from the RWA national conference in Atlanta. I’m still struggling to get caught up with everything at home and everything social media. I’m hoping to be back on my regular schedule come next week. Fingers crossed. The conference in Atlanta was amazing. The speakers were awesome. And the opportunities for networking were astounding. I had a great time and I learned a lot. While I came away exhausted–because the days were long and the nights were short–I also came away recharged and encouraged about the book industry and my place in it. Maybe it’s because I went into this year’s conference with a different energy and expectation that I got more out of it. But I think it was more than that, too.

The landscape is entirely different than it was even a year ago. The most popular workshops seemed to be those directed at learning about indie publishing. There were still our old favorites: regular spotlights on traditional publishing, craft-oriented workshops for beginner to pro, an arena sized book signing for traditionally published authors, PAN workshops, pitch sessions, and networking parties. But this year RWA shifted the focus slightly and allowed indie publishing to take a place at the table. Successful indie authors shared their secrets about their success and RWA sponsored a book signing & giveaway for indie authors. The energy was high, and the mood was collaborative and positive.

The clear message? This is the best time to be a writer because of all the options available to us. We can traditionally publish, we can publish with a small press, we can publish with an e-publisher, we can indie publish, we can hold our digital rights and sell our print rights, and so on and so on. Or, we can be a hybrid author who does all of the above. If we want. We have choices. Writers hold the power card.

The trick is knowing what you want. What brings you the validation that you require to continue writing what you want to write? Is it seeing your book in print? Knowing that readers are reading it? The distribution? Is it being able to make a living from your book sales? There’s a lot of self-discovery necessary these days to make your way in the book industry. You need to know what you want and why you want it. But if you’re honest with yourself and willing to work hard and write, write, write, there are no limits, and there’s no single pathway to success.

High Points:

Cathy Maxwell’s keynote speech opening the conference was one of the best I’ve ever heard. She’s an amazing motivational speaker. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, go. You won’t be disappointed. She talked to us about writing as a gift, and really, what a gift it is to be part of a group like RWA, where we’re all pursuing a similar dream. She had has laughing and crying. But most of all, she called us to action–to write and keep on writing and to never give up on our dreams.

Agent/Editor Pitches – I had three excellent pitches during the conference. One with Soul Mate Publishing, one with the Knight Agency, and one with Harlequin Blaze. This year I went in to the ptiches with a different tactic–I asked my questions first, then I gave my canned pitch. I hate pitch sessions. I don’t feel I pitch well, and the whole pitch setup seems so contrived and forced. I wanted to feel like we were just two people talking. It worked. I walked away with requests from all of them, but better yet, I walked away knowing I’d connected on some level and I’d made industry contacts that I hope to build on in my future career.

Courtney Milan/Lilianna Hart/Bella Andre Workshops – These were three of the best workshops I attended all conference. Is it surprising that they’re three best-selling indie authors? No. In each of these workshops–many of which were not taped–the presenter shared her secrets to success. And by success, we’re talking “life-changing money” as I think Nora once dubbed it. Over the past few years, the talk of making it big or making significant money within traditional publishing for the newbie author had become somewhat depressing. The only authors who could command the big bucks were Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich. That’s pretty discouraging for someone starting out who wants to make a living writing. However, this year, listening to these three women, I have hope once again that there is “life changing money” to be made if you work hard, write a lot, and are business smart.

Nora’s Party – One of the highlights every year is the party Nora Roberts throws before the Rita/Golden Heart Awards. I’ve been privileged to attend several years. And it’s always a nerve-wracking, delightful time. Nora is always so gracious and generous. The suite is filled to capacity, and by ton standards, it’s always a crush. The room is filled with big-name authors and industry professionals–the movers and shakers of the romance industry. It’s all rather inspiring and a bit intimidating. But I hold my own and don’t get sick. It’s a lovely time.

Indie Signing RWA 2013 AtlantaThe Indie Book Signing was a huge success! Honestly, I expected five people to show up. I underestimated the numbers by far. We had a line that formed outside that rivaled the Bantam-Dell signing next door just an hour before. The power of free stuff. Who knew? Yay! I gave away a hundred coupons for a free download of To Have & To Hold, the first in my dragon shifter series. All in all, I’d say the experience was awesome and really lots of fun.

Crit Group at RWA 2013 - resizedMy Tribe – This (RWA Nationals) is one of the most valuable conferences, as is my local WRW Retreat, for getting together with my tribe. The first time I noticed this tribe thing was last year in Anaheim. We were walking down the street to dinner and all around us were small groups of people talking about writing and reading books I knew–YA books, romance novels, romantic suspense, etc. I understood their language, their drive, their purpose, and direction. They were my people. Since then, every time I’m in a situation where I’m surrounded by other romance writers or readers, I feel like I’m home, I’m among my people or my tribe. It’s invaluable to feel part of a bigger group, a group of women with the same goals and struggles, with whom you can relate. There’s an energy and a connectedness that goes a long way in keeping me motivated and focused when I’m sitting all alone at my desk at home dripping those words onto the page to craft a novel. It’s hard work, but I know there are others like me doing the exact same thing, day in and day out. It keeps me going!

If you attended RWA in Atlanta this year, what was your favorite part?

If you didn’t attend the conference, what keeps you going as a writer? Where do you find the power to keep writing, even when it’s hard? Or if you’re not a writer, what keeps you pursuing the dream?

Twisted Ankles, Tree Frogs, & Timelines: On The Road to Atlanta #RWA13

Bridge in Woods 123RFThis year I have time. Lots of it. So I decided to drive to #RWA13 in Atlanta, Georgia, from the D.C. area. Yay! An eleven-hour trip split into three days and two overnight stays. Nice. Alone. Did I mention I’m driving alone? LOL. Yes. I had several people look at me in horror when I say that . . . yes, indeed, I’m driving alone. It’s an introvert’s dream. Three days of quiet before I enter the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta to meet and greet 2,000 of my closest friends. Well, not really. But, still. They’re my tribe. They talk like me. They think like me. They write stories about love and relationships, just like me. And even though I love these women, I’m an introvert and this huge conference sucks mega-energy from me. So this year, I’m fueling up my emotional tank before I arrive. Smart, right?

Yes. I think so. And I still think so on my second overnight stay in lovely Lake Hartwell, South Carolina–only two hours from Atlanta. So how’s it going? Hmmm. Here’s what I’ve learned on the road to Atlanta so far . . . and really it does apply to writing & Indie publishing, too. I promise.

Determination is Key

Well, the day before I embarked on this great quest for peace and quiet before the on-going party that is RWA, I sprained my ankle playing volleyball at a family picnic. I rolled my ankle so badly on Saturday that I could barely put weight on it. But because I played sports in high school and college, I knew I needed to ice it, take ibuprofen, and make sure I continued to walk on it–keep it limber. The pain you often feel is because of the stiffening. So I pushed through. Used my prior knowledge of sprained ankles and worked with it. Today I’m walking fine. It doesn’t hurt. However, I do have a fat ankle. Sigh. Oh, well. Can’t have everything, I guess. Point 1: If you’re going to succeed in the publishing industry, you need to push ahead with determination. Use your prior experience and knowledge, but will power will take you a long way in your journey, even when you take a hit.

Nerve is a Must

This morning I shared my shower with a tree frog. Yes, a tree frog.Tree Frog 123RF Did I mention I’m camping? LOL. I turned on the hot water at the shower–yes, an indoor shower–and climbed in, only to find a tiny tree frog up in the right-hand corner staring at me. He tried to get further away. He didn’t go far enough in my opinion. So I kept one eye on him and he kept one eye on me as I took a quick five-minute shower. I think my husband would be okay with me sharing the shower with this fellow. I hope! LOL. Point 2: With writing, Indie publishing, and in publishing in general, you will be afraid. There’s no doubt about it. Things will pop up that surprise you and scare you. Stand your ground. Keep an eye on the situation. Don’t let it scare you away. Act only and when you need to take action. ;0)

Attitude is Everything

Final lesson from this morning. I wanted to leave Natural Bridge, Virginia, by seven o’clock a.m. I packed my belongings, folded my bedding, stowed everything in the car. Then I drove to the camp office to return my cabin key. The hours posted on the office said it didn’t open until eight-thirty. Ugh. Didn’t these people know I had a time schedule? A timeline I wanted to keep? I had a seven hour drive ahead of me. No. They didn’t. So I drove back to my cabin, turned the AC back on, and meditated. Then I sat on the front porch swing and listened to the birds and watched the squirrels. I watched sleepy people in their PJs stumble off to the showers/bathrooms. Finally, at eight o’clock, I watched a little golf cart pull up to the office. Yay! A staff member to open the office. I jumped in my car and raced over there to return the key and hit the road. Point 3: Life is short. Not everyone has your agenda or schedule. Sometimes we need to slow down and enjoy the journey. There’s no use getting mad about situations out of your control. The only thing you can control is your response and your attitude. When I finally dropped off the key, I talked amiably with the staff worker and we discussed a solution to the before-hours key drop/return deposit. I became a creditable voice who contributed to the solution–not part of the problem.

Anyway, these are the lessons I’ve learned so far on the road to Atlanta. Tomorrow I’ll check in at the Marriott Marquis and go from one workshop to luncheon to pitches to dinner to party and so on and so on. I’ll network. I’ll take an interest in people and I’ll learn lots and lots about publishing and writing. By the end, I will be exhausted, even though I took my days to fill up my emotional tank beforehand. However, this way, I’m going in charged up. Besides, I’ll have two days to recharge again before I get home. Yeehaw!

Hope to see you in Atlanta. I’ll be giving away free copies of To Have & To Hold on July 18th between 3:00 and 4:15pm at the Indie Book Signing & Giveaway. See the details under Events on my website. Please stop by and say hi!