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!

 

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?

CRAFT MATTERS: Emotional Echoes That Pack A Punch

Image by Peter Vrabel RF123.com

Image by Peter Vrabel 123RF.com

Emotional tension is one of the biggest factors that will keep me reading a story or watching a movie, even if it’s not quite my cup of tea. Last night I watched Identity Theft. I’m not much of a slapstick comedy kind of girl. So the movie was a stretch for me, however, it was the emotional impact and echoes of pain I saw rippling through the two main characters in that movie that kept me watching and, in the end, gave me the satisfaction I needed. This got me thinking about why I love certain books I’ve read recently. Since I’m a romance writer, I don’t love heavy, overly-dramatic sagas. And I don’t love tragedy for the sake of tragedy. But I love story and emotion when it’s authentic and well executed. So today in CRAFT MATTERS, we’ll look at Girl With Guitar by Caisey Quinn, a new adult romance that’s a great example of a book where an author who uses emotional impact and emotional echoes to take the reader on a journey worth traveling. In any good story, the emotion–as in real life–ebbs and flows; it has its highs and lows. What I’m finding, though, is that the most effective use of emotion is those little echoes throughout the story that remind me of a character’s wound or pain.Girl With Guitar Full Size

Girl With Guitar is one of my favorite recent reads for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost is the awesome emotional journey Caisey Quinn took me on as a reader. Throughout the book, I worried and laughed and cried and fell in love and bristled and had my heart broken and forgave and kept on loving. And I knew, just knew, even though this was a romance that these two main characters would never get it together enough to be together. How is that even possible? This is a romance for Pete’s sake. Of course the hero and the heroine get together. Hello? But, no. There were several times I was convinced this wouldn’t work out. This is the hallmark of a great emotional story-teller–a great romance writer. I can certainly see why Caisey Quinn is one of Amazon’s bestselling authors. She gets a lot right–the glimpse into the country music industry, the characterization, the hot sexual tension, and the emotion.

Image by syaraku 123RF.com

The craft area I’m going to focus on today is the emotional echoes. Quinn is a master at emotional authenticity, but she keeps reminding the reader of those big emotional moments with echoes of the moment afterwards. Here are two good examples.

In the opening scene of the book, Kiley Ryans is talking to the temporary marker at her dad’s grave. She’s been kicked out of the house by her step-mom because her step-mom’s boyfriend paid too much attention to her. She’s got no family and no money. And in this opening scene, we see her vow to her dead Daddy that she’s going to make it in Nashville and she’s going to make enough money to buy him a real headstone. This is a highly charged emotional scene. Along the way, we find out how much she loved her father and how influential he was in her life and to her music.

So in Chapter Eight when Kiley performs for the first time in a paid venue, she’s finally booed off stage–despite a great performance–because she’s trying to buy time for Trace Corbin, the country star everyone paid the big bucks to come see, but who’s late. Trace never shows. When he does finally appear on the bus at three in the morning, needless to say, Kiley and Trace have a big confrontation. It’s emotional in and of itself; however, Quinn uses an emotional echo from earlier–Kiley’s dad’s death–to give the scene the extra punch and emotional twist it needs to end the chapter.

In this scene, Kiley and Trace have been fighting. He’s struggling with a drinking problem and she’s called him on the carpet for pissing away his talent and his career and for ruining her chance to make it big as a country music artist. She’s just told him that she’s glad she’s not a fan of his because there’s no one else he treats worse than her or his manager than his fans or his band mates, who choose to ride behind them in a Winnebago instead of sharing a bus with him.

“Really waitress, that the best you got? If I’m so pathetic, why don’t you just run home to Daddy now?” He cocked his head and folded his arms across his chest.

Tears stung the backs of Kylie’s eyes, but no way was she going to let this guy cut her any deeper. Snapping back as if he’d slapped her, she tried to keep her tone light. “You know, I would, but he’s been dead for seven months. And it’s a good thing for you because if he was alive to see you destroying everything I’ve worked for, you’d be in a world of pain.”

“Shit, I didn’t know–” Trace interrupted himself to scrub a hand over his face.

Masterful emotional echo. As well as a good example of the hero poking at the heroine’s wound without even realizing it.

And, again, in Chapter Fourteen, we get another one of those emotional echoes that reminds us of the stakes for the heroine. It’s merely a ripple, but we feel it to our core because it reminds us of everything Kiley has to lose.

Danny gave her a sympathetic smile and offered a few pointers about checking instead of upping the ante. “Sometimes it’s better to fold. Doesn’t mean anything. Just means you were dealt some sorry cards.”

Story of my life, Kylie thought to herself.

Isn’t that the truth? Again, this is a masterful use of emotional tension. It shows the big impact a micro-echo of emotion can have on a scene.

These are just two quick examples of Quinn’s mastery of using emotional echoes to give a one-two emotional punch. The book is filled with them. I recommend you read Girl With Guitar. You won’t be disappointed. The story is satisfying and the emotional journey will surprise and delight you. Pick it up. You won’t put it down until you’re finished and you’ll want Quinn’s next story. ASAP!