Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.
We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.
It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself. However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.
Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.
Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows. Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.
Envision Mindset: In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people. The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.
Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet. How about smells, tastes. Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.
Connect Mindset: This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.
Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.
Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.
Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”
Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!
Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time. Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me) cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.
Transform Mindset: Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret. But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity. People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.
Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?
The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.
First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?
Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.
Six days from today, calls and emails will be going out to a select group of 2014 Golden Heart and RITA entrants that will change their lives.
That sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? Can one simple call really have that much impact?
I finaled in 2008 (shoutout to the Pixie Chicks!) and again in 2009 (and shoutout to the Rubies!). I clearly remember getting both those calls from RWA Board member Trish Milburn, and probably always will.
In 2009, I entered two manuscripts — Party Like It’s 1899(which had finaled the year before , and which has now been self-published) and Codename: Dancer. When Trish told me I’d finaled, I automatically assumed it was for Party. I mean, after all, I’d finaled with it once before, right?
Wrong. She told me it wasCodename. I was shocked, but thrilled. And then I got giddy … and greedy. I assumed this meant I must be a double finalist! After all, I’d finaled with Party before, right? I figured that was the better manuscript, so if I’d finaled with Codename this year, then my call for Party must be coming, too. Whoohoo!
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something dumb like asking when the other board member would be making the other call. She was perplexed. What was I talking about? What other board member? And what other call? See, she’d seen the entire list of finalists, and knew I wasn’t on there twice.
D’oh! Yeah, real classy, Amanda.
When I decided to write this post, I thought it would be fun to ask some past Golden Heart finalists to tell us about their own call experiences and to pass along some advice for this year’s class.
Sometimes the finalists didn’t believe they’d actually finaled, and needed to search online for further proof:
2006 finalist and author of Three WishesJuli Alexander didn’t think she would final, “so I didn’t make sure my phone number was updated. I was busy at work, checking the updates online, dying to know if I’d finaled. Then the full list went live on RWA’s site. Sure, it looked like my name next to my title, but I couldn’t quite believe it. All of my work buddies had left for the day, so I printed it and went down the hall to knock on the door of a guy I barely knew. ‘Can you just read this and tell me if it really says my name?’ I asked. ‘Are you sure?’ I asked again. ‘Does it really say Investigating the Hottie?’ He transferred to another office shortly after.”
2011 finalist Bria Quinlan hadn’t slept well for several nights before the GH call. “When it came in, I was so exhausted (and excited and relieved and anxious and…) that I didn’t hear a word she said. But she promised I’d be getting an email, so I said, GREAT! and rushed off to tell everyone. I called two close friends (including Ruby Sister, the awesome Jeannie Lin) and my agent before I posted it on Twitter for the world to see. Then I freaked out imagining I’d been so overtired that I’d made up the call. Rushing to the RWA site, I paged down to YA and… I wasn’t there. So I hit refresh. And I still wasn’t there. I hit refresh once more. Oh, snot rockets! I was going to be the first person to social media the whole world with a final that didn’t exist! I was freaking out, trying to figure out if I should tweet that it was a mistake (or maybe a really bad joke?) when I hit refresh one last time — and my name popped up.”
I was struck by the number of past finalists who’d missed their calls, and went through the entire day (or even several days!) thinking they hadn’t finaled:
New York Times Bestseller Christie Craig, author of sixteen novels and three non-fiction books, waited at home hoping beyond hope to get the “You finaled” call in 1988 for her traditional romance novel, Two Hearts Too Late. “There were no cell phones or links to check for updates in the dark ages. Just the ol’ fashion nail biting, waiting by the non-portable phone. Much to my dismay, the call never came. A couple weeks later, I got the scores in the mail. Pulling my big girl panties up I looked at them. There had been a mistake in the scoring. Phoning my mentor, published author Jan Hudson who was actively involved with RWA Nationals, she went to bat for me. It took less than a week to get THE call. I had made the finals. It was my first time to enter the GH. I did happy dances all over the house. I think I cried, laughed, and then cried again. It would be give years before I get the “You Sold” call for the same book, but finaling in the GH fueled my perseverance.”
2002 winner and author of more than 10 novels — including A Sin in White — Kathryn Caskie, was on vacation in Disney World when the calls went out. “I kept checking my cell phone for any GH messages–but for two days there was nothing…Then the hotel phone rang. To my shocked delight it was one of my Washington Romance Writers buddies who had somehow tracked me down. She wanted to congratulate me for being a finalist in the Long Historical category and was shocked when I told her I hadn’t heard a word. After jumping on the bed, then remaking it, I ran down the hotel hallway screaming ‘yes!’ and doing odd ninja-like kicks. Suddenly Disney WAS the happiest place on earth!
But my favorite emotion came from 2008 and double 2011 finalist Rachel Grant, author of the upcoming Concrete Evidence, who was away at a plotting retreat and missed the calls. Click on her website to actually HEAR what she did when she found out in 2011. It’s really fun! (But be warned, it’s also really loud!)
Caller ID plays a big role apparently:
Pixie Chick (2008) Catherine Chant, author of the YA time travel Wishing You Were Here, didn’t want to get her hopes up so she wouldn’t feel disappointed if she didn’t final. A call came in around 10 am, but her husband (who was working from home that day) looked at the caller ID and thought it was a telemarketer, so he let it go to voice mail. But Catherine wasn’t so sure. “Call it intuition, I don’t know. I suddenly turned into Nancy Drew and Googled the number to see what state it was from. Then I saw on one of the GH results loops which Board member was calling my category and visited that person’s website. Same state! Now my heart was pounding a litle bit more, but I was determined not to believe it might be possible. I was so afraid of being wrong. I could’ve called the number back, but now I was starting to feel silly for all the Googling nonsense, so I decided to just wait to see if she’d call back. She did!”
2011 finalist Kimberly Kincaid, author of Love On the Line, was chatting online with her critique partners, but the minute she walked away from the computer, the phone rang. Her husband (at home between job contracts at the time) said, “Oh, I recognize that number. It’s a job recruiter I’m trying to dodge.” Kim was crushed, but they let it go to voicemail. She writes, “A minute later, my verrrrrrry guilty-looking husband came in and said, ‘Uh, you might want to listen to the mesage on the machine.’ Turns out, the job recruiter and Vicki Lewis Thompson have the same area code, and she’d called to tell me I’d finaled! I called her back so fast, it was mind-boggling. And then after I hung up, I literally jumped into my husband’s arms (like, feet off the floor, tackled him to the ground, laughing and crying like a maniac). Bless his heart, he caught me and everything!”
2005 winner and NY Times bestselling authorGemma Halliday, author of more than 20 books, including the upcoming Secret Bond, writes “I’m on the west coast, so I’m always a little behind. By the time I realized what day it was and checked my phone, I saw that there were two missed calls. Neither came up in Caller ID. So what did I do? I Googled the area code and cross-referenced it with the cities where the board members lived. Sure enough, one matched! (Can you tell I write mysteries?) Which of course made me wait by the phone for the next two hours until the number called again and gave me the good news.”
2012 finalist Natalie Meg Evanssays “living in England, I was kind of detached from the process. I hadn’t put the date in my diary and was outdoors, mucking out stables, when the call came. My husband came out with a handset saying, “You’ve got a call from America.” I hadn’t a clue who it would be and managed to drop the handset. It broke into all its different bits. I put it together thinkin, whoever it is will ahve gone. She hadn’t. I learned the amazing news that “A Tangled Season” was up for a Golden Heart. I went to Anaheim, met loads of new friends. I didn’t win, but so what?!”
2007 winnerRobin Kaye, author of Back To You: Bad Boys of Red Hook, had the house to herself for the first time in years. “It was also the first time in thirteen years that I could actually sleep in. Though awake, I was still in bed thinking about how lovely it was not to be hearing the usual chorus of ‘mom, mom, mom….” when the phone rang, disturbing my blissful state of solitude. The caller ID said Tennessee. Now, the only people I knew in Tennessee were my brother-in-law and his family, and my BIL only calls on his and my husband’s shared birthday. It was not their birthday. I thought, crap, someone had died. My father-in-law had been ill, and if Mark was calling, it surely meant that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. Either that, or it was a telemarketer, in which case, I’d be royally ticked. Needless to say, I answered the phone with quite a bit of trepidation. When Trish Milburn butchered my last name (Kaye’s a pen name) — and no, I don’t blame her for that, it took me three years just to learn how to spell it — I pegged her as a telemarketer and I might have been just a little short. ‘This is she,’ I answered. Okay, I might have barked due to disruption of my solitude thing. Poor Trish meekly introduced herself and said she was calling from RWA. She congratulated me on finaling in the Single Title category. Once I realized that it wasn’t a telemarketer and let go of my anger, I felt such a huge wave of relief, even I was surprised — my father-in-law and I had never been close, but I was immensely relieved he was still alive. The first thing out of my mouth was, ‘Well, thank God no one died.’ Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was the weirdest response poor Trish had ever received to a GH call!”
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that just being nominated is such an honor. Actually, it totally is true! And for the overwhelming majority of finalists, getting to know our “sisters” is the biggest prize of all.
2011 and 2012 finalist and author of Highland SurrenderTracy Brogan advises to take it slow. “Each year, the GH group takes on a unique personality, and it’s wonderful to watch the finalists transition from ‘Can you believe it?’ to ‘We have achieved something to be humbled by and proud of.’ There is a special camaraderie that builds from sharing this experience. It creates friendships that will last a lifetime, and a support system to get you through agent rejections, pokey industry professionals, and bad reviews. It will also cerebrate your ever victory, the tiny and huge. Now, if I could offer a bit of advice (which will most certainly be ignored!) it is to implore the new finalists to not push too hard to establish that pack identity. Inevitably someone on announcement day will say to their fellow nominees, ‘Hey, we need a name for our class!’ That will trigger all sorts of interesting converations. Things like ‘Firebreathing Unicorns’ and ‘Sisterhood of the Flaming Panties’ will take center stage. But don’t rush this process! Get to know each other first! Let a name grow organically from things you find in common. Don’t worry about building future websites, or how to mirror the Rubies’ success. Just enjoy the moments between announcement day and the awards banquet. Don’t try to control the flow, just go with it!”
2006 finalist Alexia Haynes, author of the upcoming New Adult romance Too Fast, gave this advice: “The Golden Network brings to the forefront all the things that I love best about RWA, a group of talented writers forging friendships as we strive for excellence in our craft.”
2004 winner and author of 12 novels, including the upcoming Fatal Exposure, Gail Barrett got right to the point. “Shop for your dress early. Wear comfortable shoes. Enjoy every minute of the glorious ride!”
Speaking of the conference, several past finalists had advice:
Two-time finalist (2005 and 2007) Kristen Painter, author of the Blood Rights urban fantasy series, says “Nationals as a Golden Heart Finalist is always fun because people want to talk to you about your book and congratulate you. Capitalize on the moment right now. Send queries stating your finalist status. Let anyone who has the book know. Get the word out to the industry people who matter.”
2005 finalist and author of About a BabyAnn Yost suggests researching agents and publishers with whom you want to interview. “Its a great opportunity to get your work in front of the right person. Don’t sweat the pitch too much — they are all pleasant and kind and will ask for chapters and a synopsis at least.”
2009 winner Diane Kelly, author of Love, Luck, and Little Green Men, advises finalists to have a speech ready. “Be sure to thank everyone who has helped you in your career. It takes a village to produce a good book, and that often includes a spouse, critique partners, RWA chaptermaters, and more!”
2011 winner Ruth Kaufman, author of the self-help book Find Your Inner Fabulous, stresses that “winning is no guarantee of a sale or representation. So many in my GH class have sold, some multiple books. A few already have hit bestseller lists. Not me … yet? I’m still waiting to hear about a second set of revisions… Suggestion for the finalists: Write an acceptance speech. I truly didn’t think I’d win. A finalist in my category had already sold and another had filed multiple times and won twice. Fortunately, I have years of improv training and experience to rely on and was able to come up with something on the spot. But if public speaking and performing aren’t up your alley, prepare in advance so you’ll be more confident and won’t leave anyone or anything out.”
(Speaking of speeches…if you’re one of the lucky writers who final, come back here on Wednesday, March 27 for our “Welcome finalists!” party. Ruth has graciously offered to help five finalists write their speech. Details in the post next Wednesday!)
Several finalists stressed that while the Golden Heart may be validation, it’s not the secret to success. Perseverence is.
Author of six Regency paranormals, including the recent Dangerous Magic, Alix Rickloff’s2007 final was when her husband finally realized she was serious “about this whole ‘writing as a career’ idea. It was also when I stopped feeling guilty about my writing because the house wasn’t clean or the laundry wasn’t done. OK–maybe I still feel an eensy bit guilty. Even better, while I didn’t win the GH that year and the manuscript’s sat on my hard drive for the past four years, it was just released this fall. So I finally got to see those characters and that story come to life.”
Author of nineteen Regencies (writing also under the name Diane Perkins), including the recent Born To Scandal, Diane Gaston was a Golden Heart finalist twice, both times with the same manuscript. “After the call in 2001, I ‘floated’ for days. It was the most exciting thing that had happened to me since having my children. I didn’t win that year, but I did win in 2003—and the manuscript sold to the editors who judged it in the GH.”
Four-time finalist (2005, twice in 2006, 2008) and author of What a Duke Wants, Lavinia Kentadded “Writing is a hard business and we all need to develop a strong shell for the criticism and rejection that will come our way. No matter how high you climb it never gets easy. I’ve published four hot, sensual novels with Avon and am working hard on a set of sexy, fun novellas for this summer and I live in fear of reviews, contract negotiations, sales numbers, and my critique group (there is nothing as difficult as the opinion of those you trust). So, revel in every joyous moment you get!
2009 winner Anne Marie Becker, author of the Mindhunters romantic suspense series, says “My recommendation for the lucky writers who receive the call — breathe. Sometimes we forget the basics when the extraordinary happens. Breathe. And then get to work, because soon the manuscript requests will fill your inbox.”
But Robin Perini, 7-time Golden Heart Finalist, Winner in 2011 for Stolen Lullaby (Harlequin Intrigue, which was retitled as Finding Her Son), who sold seven books From February 2011 to February 2012, had the best advice: ”No matter if you final or not! Write, write, write. I sold Stolen Lullaby (aka FINDING HER SON) as a direct result of the Golden Heart. I’d NEVER received an editor request before, but in 2011, Harlequin Intrigue bought the book in May. I had another book ready, which sold in August and became Cowboy in the Crossfire (out in July, 2012). Keep writing new stories. Every day/every week. That’s what writers do.”
She’s right, you know. So how much did you write today?
JOIN US HERE ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26 FOR LIVE UPDATES AS THE NEW GOLDEN HEART AND RITA FINALISTS ARE ANNOUNCED! THE RUBY BLOG IS YOUR DESTINATION FOR GOSSIP, HAND-HOLDING, AND PRIZES. AND IF YOU GET THE GOLDEN HEART OR RITA CALL, LET US KNOW ASAP!!!
Today I have the joy of welcoming a guest blogger from the Lucky 13s–the Golden Heart Finalists of 2013. Ella Sheridan is a finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript UNBROKEN – she’s also my twin sister. We thought we’d do something a little different, and just talk about the joys and struggles of writing, and the novelty of having someone be a part of your life from the moment the egg splits.
Please join me in welcoming my sister, Ella Sheridan!
Dani: I can’t believe you’re here! Seems like we’ve done everything together. We went to school together, took the same classes, got the same major and minor degrees. Married within 6 months of each other and had all our kids pretty close together.
Then you had to copy me and start writing…
Ella: Now, I did start when we were teenagers. I just had to develop stamina. You didn’t start until you were older.
D: Still, we’ve always read voraciously.
E: I think you learn a lot from reading. A lot of the things I do now I do instinctively because I absorbed it. From a very young age we were learning about story details, arcs, and characterization. We were reading adult books at 12 or 13.
What I think is interesting is your process hasn’t really changed all that much through the years. Whereas mine has evolved…and in some cases, is all over the map.
D: I basically do brainstorming, then plot, and get it all down in extensive notes. Then I do a really fast, really rough draft before revising.
E: And your story doesn’t really change. Once you plot it, you don’t make any huge changes (to the story) after that. But I typically have a major change—
D: In just about every chapter! I really don’t know why you want to write the book twice…what’s the point of that?
E: If I could get it right the first time, it would be a lot easier. I’m just a glutton for punishment, I guess. I’ve done that with all except for 1 Nano book, which I only had to rewrite the ending of because my critique partner read it and said, um, I don’t think so.
D: You are a plotter, though, like me.
E: Yes, I plot—
D: –Then you re-plot.
E: Then I plot some more. And then I change those plots.
D: But you know when it’s right.
E: Yes, that’s the thing that has changed a lot with my GH book. I still struggle with the worry over whether its good enough, but I don’t worry if the story is moving in the right direction, because if it’s not right, I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t settle and have that calm in my head because I know something is off. Even if I don’t know what it is. And when I get a scene right, I have peace. I’ll worry about whether someone else will like it, but I know I’ve gone in the right direction.
That’s the biggest change with this book. I don’t know if it’s a confidence level or an evolution of my process or just this book.
D: I can’t help you there. I’m actually published and I haven’t figured it out. I get it ready to send in and think, “What if I screwed that up?” But it’s too late by then.
E: Well, I’m still working on plotting the next books a little at a time, and the thought of plotting book 2 of a 9 book series terrifies me. Because I do not want to repeat what I did with this one: force myself to write a rough draft that I knew wasn’t right but I thought, well I’ll just get it on the page and revise it. Oh, man, what a load of crap…
I have never struggled with revisions this bad, even though I’ve done major revisions on all of my previous 4 books, but this one was a major overhaul and a half – agonizingly painful to revise. Part of it was that I didn’t know the rules of my world well enough. I hadn’t figured them out to my satisfaction. I tried to just push through it and hope that those details came. And that didn’t work.
The other part was that I wasn’t as familiar with my characters as I should have been. I mean, I’d been thinking about UNBROKEN’S characters for 3 years. I thought I knew them, and could write them. Then I started the book and…nope. Probably my first clue should have been that I had no music for this book. When I started writing I searched and searched. For me music is vitally important to plotting, getting through certain scenes, setting a mood in my mind—
D: Another thing we do the same.
E: Exactly. And with this book I could not find music that worked that way for me. Until I started the rewrite and then it finally fell into place. That was a huge warning sign that I ignored. You learn, though, and hopefully the next one will be easier.
Of course I always think that the next one will be easier. No. No its not.
D: Come on, girl. You’ve got to get it together. I say, as if I have it all together, and don’t call her every couple of weeks asking her to talk me off a ledge because I’ve freaked out over something.
E: We’re both needy. Something else we share. But it does kind of amaze me that our processes developed separately, but are still so similar. We both use the music, plot to an excessive extent, fill out forms and notes, and both need pictures of our characters. I need to be able to picture them, no matter how minor.
With Unbroken, I have pictures of places too. For the lair I googled underground bunkers, and came up with a home built into the ground in Sweden, but it’s all brushed concrete inside. I started looking at pictures of the inside, because they rent it to people –
D: You could actually go stay in your house!
E: Exactly! And this is where they got on the leather couch and… Research!
D: We get asked a lot, are you twins? Which is funny because I think the older we get, the less we look alike.
E: Me too. I think it’s the husband influence.
D: What would you say has been the neatest and the least favorite part of being a twin?
E: The least favorite part? I think now, there’s not anything about it I don’t like. But when I was just reaching adulthood, that was a hard time to kind of find out who I was –
D: Hey, you stole my answer!
E: Well, we are twins. I think that was a hard time to find myself, and I think it took me longer than the average person.
D: Yes, because you have to find who your identity is on your own. We had an identity as a set. But then we had to find our single identity outside of this other person, which is difficult when you’re with that person all the time. And used to being addressed as, well, one.
E: And thought of as a set. Sort of interchangeable, in a way. Even by people who should have known better.
D: It wasn’t until people got to know us, realized we had different personalities and different ways of approaching things, that we got the more individual approach.
E: The thing I like the most is I don’t have to go anywhere by myself if I don’t want to.
D: When I first started writing, it was the first major thing I ever did by myself. Even though getting married and starting a family were done separately, I was just adding another partner. And it was a normal pursuit.
But writing was outside the norm, and I had to do it alone, I had to walk into my first writers meeting by myself, make my first submission by myself. That is what helped me establish my identity more than anything. So when people talk about writing and how being a writer is something that is wrapped up in who you are, I think this is truer for me than it is for most people. Because it helped me establish myself as an individual person.
E: For me, it was more like following in your footsteps, so I felt like I had to work really hard to prove that I was good enough, that I wasn’t just going along. I had to really work hard.
That’s why the GH means so much to me too. It’s something we share, and that makes it more special to me. Probably less special for you, because you’re like I have to share this too? But for me, I feel like I’m following behind you and giving honor to a legacy, so to speak.
D: Aw, I have a legacy!
E: Don’t let it go to your head or anything… especially the next time you send line edits to me.
D: You do make my books better.
E: That’s an area I feel like I’ve come into my own. Not just with this book, but with my work as a line editor that helped set me apart and give us some differences. It’s something I specialize in. Also it helps that we aren’t targeting the same publishers either. So we’re doing the same thing but coming at it from different angles.
D: And even the things that are similar both have their own voice. We may look the same, but we don’t write the same.
E: Just like we have different personalities, we also have different voices and ways of carrying out our stories.
D: How about some fun facts?
1. We’re mirror image twins. Dani is left-handed and Ella is right-handed. We’re opposites in certain physical areas. We have the same moles on opposite sides of our faces.
2. Ella is allergic to a lot of things that Dani is not.
3. We have similar tastes in clothes, and are both struggling through that “I don’t want to look old” stage.
4. Ella is an inch taller than Dani but Dani is 2 minutes older than her.
5. We do have siblings, but the oldest is 18 years younger than we are. Our youngest sister is creative too, writing songs and poetry.
6. We handle conflict very differently. Ella is the fighter. Dani is more likely avoid conflict if at all possible.
7. Ella’s interest in martial arts adds a whole new element to her evil twin status. Dani is more of an elliptical kind of person, but Ella tells her how to hurt people in her books.
8. Dani’s 2009 GH book features a heroine who is trying to save her twin sister from a kidnapper.
D: The one thing that’s been the best about being a twin is I’ve never had to be alone, really. Through good times and bad. There’s always this person who is not only there, but actually gets it without you having to say anything.
E: We don’t have to explain things to each other.
D: All I have to do is look at you and you know what I’m thinking.
E: Just the lift of an eyebrow or the turn of the head and I get it completely. I could talk for hours at my husband and he wouldn’t get it. I want to say, “Can’t you read my mind?” But no. No, he can’t.
The older we get, the stronger the twin telepathy gets. “I’m not feeling good today. Think I’ll give Dani a call.” Yep, she’s sick.
D: That really has gotten stronger. It didn’t really develop fully until we were adults. I only remember 1 incident of telepathy as a teenager, but other than that it was mostly once we were older. Now it’s strengthening to the point that instead of being triggered by extreme emotions, it’s more everyday things.
One day, Ella texted me and said, “Did you hear from your editor today? Because I’m feeling unusually antsy.” I replied, “I got my celebratory sale shoes.” Oh, so that’s what the excitement is all about…
Dani and Ella will be hanging around today, answering questions about plotting, characterization, being Golden Heart sisters, and anything twins.
Ella Sheridan is a 2013 GH finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript, UNBROKEN. She’s a member of RWA and writes contemporary romantic suspense and paranormal with an erotic flare. Her spare time is filled not just with freelance editing, but also teaching karate/jujitsu classes. You can learn more about her here.
The human world is populated with myths that allow them to pretend their plain, mundane world is more than it seems—except those myths are true. They stem from one shape-shifting species, the Archai. The Archai’s special abilities gave birth to the legends humans revered, but man can never truly understand what it means to be Archai. Their gifts. Their purpose. The depths of their betrayals.
Arik counts on no one but himself, and he likes it that way. Isolated, alone, he watches and waits for the opportunity to gain the only thing he’ll allow himself to desire: revenge. Then, in the dark of night, the perfect weapon falls unexpectedly into his grasp.
Kat is always on the outside looking in. She’s resigned to being invisible, until an innocent walk home from work is interrupted by a savage attack, forever changing the person she’s always been. Now she’s the focus of a man bent on destroying her world to settle his own score.
Two wills clashing. Two empty hearts in need of each other. Surrendering to the hunger between them is a given, but a deadly enemy lies in wait, and surrendering their souls may be the only thing that saves them.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still on a high from all the cyber-celebrating yesterday. Thank you to everyone who dropped by the blog to share in the excitement! (And for those of you who were hoping for a call yesterday but didn’t get one, don’t fret! That call will come someday – even if it’s in a totally different form. Persistence and perseverance is key. Join the Rubies tomorrow for our “So You Didn’t Get the Call” post and some great prizes.)
Today, I’m passing around the cyber-bubbly and calorie-free chocolate because the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood would like to extend a very warm welcome (and cyber hugs) to the newly inducted class of 2013 – congratulations to those of you who are new (or re-newed!) Golden Heart® or RITA® finalists! (If you haven’t already joined your 2013 sisters, here’s the link to join their loop.)
We hope you’ll introduce yourselves in the comments below, and to entice you to share your call stories, and a little about yourselves, we’ve had a very generous offer from a previous Golden Heart winner, Ruth Kaufman. She has donated her time and energy to help FIVE lucky finalists who comment below prepare their acceptance speeches. It’s always good to be ready! In fact, one of the reasons Ruth made this generous offer is because, when she was a finalist, she didn’t think she would win and had nothing prepared. Don’t be caught in the same situation. If you’d like to be entered in this drawing, please indicate it in your comment by including: PLEASE CONSIDER ME FOR THE DRAWING. We’ll be selecting five random winners who will each receive a 30-minute Facetime or Skype consultation session with Ruth. (Please see her bio below.)
The Rubies are thrilled to share in your excitement, and look forward to hearing where this milestone leads you next in your journey. Perhaps you’ll consider GUEST BLOGGING with the Rubies in the coming months, so we can get to know you even better. We’ll be contacting your new loop in the coming weeks with more information.
Please let us know a little more about you – including your call story, if you’re willing to share. Ruby Sisters, members of other Golden Heart classes, and well-wishers of every kind will be stopping by throughout the day to offer congratulations and advice. You deserve it!
Coming tomorrow on the Ruby Sisterhood…a day of camaraderie and consolation for those of us who didn’t get the call yesterday…and many more fabulous prizes guaranteed to take the sting out of disappointment. Come join us!
ABOUT RUTH KAUFMAN:
2011 Golden Heart® winner Ruth Kaufman‘s true, short story, “The Scrinch,” is in St. Martin’s anthology The Spirit of Christmas. A medieval was runner up in RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest. An attorney with a Master’s in Radio/TV, Ruth is a Chicago on-camera and voiceover talent, freelance writer and editor and workshop presenter. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.
Welcome to the Ruby Sisters’ 2013 Golden Heart/Rita announcement celebration! If you entered RWA®’s Golden Heart or Rita contest, then this is the day you’ve been both anticipating and dreading. This is the day where new friendships could be made, where dreams could come true, and all of your hard work has paid off. This is the day where talented writers from all over the world will anxiously wait for a call from an RWA board member informing them they are a finalist.
It is an exciting day for all romance writers, because even if you didn’t enter the contest, you inevitably know someone who did. It’s time to spread the joy and keep hope alive by celebrating the announcements of those who did receive a call today. If you entered, then on behalf of the Rubies, we wish each of you the best of luck and a happily-ever-after kind of day!
FOR THE FINALISTS: If RWA® has notified you that you’re a finalist, please post your news in the comments below, and include the following info:
The word FINALIST in all caps / your CATEGORY also in all caps. Also, please give us your book title and the name you want listed if writing under a pseudonym.
If you’re a RITA finalist, we’ll also need the publisher and your editor’s name.
Prize Disclaimer: Unfortunately, we are unable to ship prizes to addresses outside of the United States. Books won by those with non-U.S. shipping addresses can only be delivered electronically. Should you win a prize that can not be digitally sent, then a substitution will be made.
Recently, I’ve been rereading a series I discovered when I was younger. It’s a five-book middle grade fantasy series based on Welsh mythology entitled The Chronicles of Prydain. Since I’ve become a writer myself, I can’t help but noticing the author’s craft. Something really jumped out at me this time. The author, Lloyd Alexander, is a real master of character voice.
Each of his characters has his own unique way of expressing himself, and that voice helps them leap off the page. You get an immediate sense, through a character’s dialogue, of who that character is.
Take, for example, Eilonwy, the heroine of the series. She’s a secret princess, a bit of a motor-mouth, and one of the first feisty heroines I read about. Oh, and she often showed more sense than many of the male characters. I loved her. I wanted her to be real so I could be her friend. One of the ways the author sets her speech apart from the others is her penchant for spouting similes and metaphors—and they’re often just this side of implausible.
Today we’ve got the fourth of our featured guest bloggers from the Golden Heart class of 2012.
A. J. Larrieu is a finalist in the Paranormal Romance category, with FIGS FROM THISTLES, which I’m just dying to read! She’s also a member of my home chapter, San Francisco Area RWA. And you can find her and like her on Facebook here, because, really, you should.
Fear, Rage and Death: Why I Write Paranormal Romance
Thanks so much to the Rubies for having me today! It’s a real honor to guest blog in this community and get to meet so many fellow writers. Actually, one of my favorite things about being a writer is other writers. Get a group of us together, and we can’t shut up. Getting to know all the Golden Heart finalists of 2012 over the Yahoo group has been just what you’d expect from sixty-four strong, smart, talented ladies: funny, sad, and taking over my in-box. We’ve all been through a lot over the past year, but one thing is clear: this is a group of survivors. And many of us have talked about writing as a way to make it through the tough times.
I know this is true for me. Every book I write is my way of dealing with something slippery and intangible, some fear or hope or longing. I write paranormal fiction because when I’m trying to understand the sometimes ugly and frightening world, it helps to put a face on the fear and make it tame. It’s hard to fight something you can’t see, so a good paranormal romance or urban fantasy takes that fear, that anger, that taboo desire and gives it a beating (or perhaps unbeating) heart.
Vampires are an obvious example. Can you think of a better personification of fear? They’re dead. They only come out in the dark. They drink blood—probably your blood—but as long as you stay in your house, they can’t hurt you. The real danger, of course, is that you’ll invite them in. A good vampire novel lets you do just that, and turns the monster into an ally. The things that go bump in the night are on your side now, and in your bed. Talk about facing your fears.
Today we welcome Karen Fleming, who writes as KD Fleming, the third of our special guests from the Golden Heart finalist class of 2012.
Karen is a finalist in Inspirational Romance with her novel LOVE’S ADVOCATE. She describes herself as a “Happily Ever After” addict whose favorite books are historical romances set in Regency and Victorian England. (Excellent taste, Karen! *grin*) Her other addiction is movie theater popcorn: “I’m a popcorn pig at the movies. I don’t share with anyone. I will buy them their own so they leave mine alone.”
We decided to do today’s guest blog in interview format, so grab a cup of coffee (or some popcorn if you’re ready to run defense) and join us for a little conversation.
Congrats, Karen on the Golden Heart final! What was it like getting that coveted phone call telling you you’re a finalist?
I was sick with a sinus bug and my head was pounding. I didn’t expect to final. I had a friend who entered last year and she said her scores were all over the place, so I entered more because I had set a goal for myself to enter this year and I was going to achieve it, but hadn’t thought past that point.
When Maggi Landry introduced herself and explained why she was calling me at 9:14 in the morning ( and yes, I looked at the time) I didn’t hear much after her congratulations and question of what name I wanted them to include in the announcement. I cried when I hung up. It was the most amazing validation of all that I’ve been working toward. It still feels surreal at times.
Oh, it’s very real, Karen! You’ll know when you get to Nationals and strangers come up to congratulate you. (Okay, I guess that’s a pretty surreal experience, too.) How fabulous that Golden Heart pushed you to finish a terrific book! Can you share the blurb for LOVE’S ADVOCATE?
Today we’ve got the first in a series of guest posts by 2012 Golden Heart Finalists! We’re thrilled to have the chance to get to know them and hear their stories.
Up first is Robena Grant, finalist in the Golden Heart in Romantic Suspense with EXPOSURE.
EXPOSURE is set in the Southern California desert near the isolated Salton Sea. A bar owner with an adventurous spirit must find her missing grandfather without jeopardizing an undercover sting. The story explores justice, revenge, and the lengths one will go to in protecting a loved one.
Robena will be talking today about what it took to grab that Golden ring.
Welcome, Robena, and congrats on your final! Take it away!!
…oh, wrong song. Ours is Golden Heart Fever. Boogie Fever was by the R&B group the Sylvers, recorded back in 1975. It’s a golden oldie, like me. And now I’m an RWA® Golden Heart® finalist golden oldie. Yay! So if you are out there thinking you’re too old for this game, forget about it. It can happen. I’m living proof.
Huge congratulations to all of the contest finalists. Honestly, I had no idea of the enormity of this event. I’ve been kicking around the RWA National conference, lurking in the corridors of Marriott hotels, for years. Friends got published, joined PAN, went to the Harlequin party, and as the years passed I wondered if it would ever be my turn to play in the big pool.
I’ve held the office of President of my local chapter, LARA (Los Angeles) and have served on the board in various capacities. But I never knew what it was like to be a finalist. With all of the congratulations, and celebrations, I had to keep telling everyone this week, “Hey, I’m a nominee, I didn’t win.” But that did not deter them. Then I joined the GH loop. I finally got it: this was huge. It’s an honor to have your work recognized. Winning doesn’t matter; being recognized does.
For the past six years, I’d prepared my entry for the GH contest and sent it off with hope in my heart. I didn’t submit the same manuscript, because I write two manuscripts every year. Over the years I’d noticed and mapped my improvement. In the beginning the numbers were all over the chart. The next year most were in the middle range but with one lower score. By the third year, I was solidly in the upper middle. In the fourth year, I submitted two entries and the numbers were really decent. I’d begun to enter contests geared to giving me feedback on certain sections of the manuscript. I fine-tuned, revised, and revised again. I learned everything I could about the craft of writing, and often asked ridiculous questions of famous authors like Jenny Crusie. She’d never laugh. She’d just say, “No! That’s not right.” And then she’d explain at length. I loved her honesty and how she didn’t sugarcoat things. Writing is too important to be sugarcoated.
Last year my manuscript made it into the top tier of the GH with excellent numbers, but I’d entered the Contemporary Series Suspense/Adventure. There were only four finalists. I often wondered if I would have been number five. But, I swallowed my disappointment and forged ahead. I got braver in my writing with an attitude of, “I might as well write what I want to write and how I want to write it, and to heck with contests.” Then the 2012 GH loomed on the horizon. I couldn’t resist those golden beckoning fingers. I entered the last book of my desert series, Exposure, but this time I decided to play with the big kids. I entered it in Romantic Suspense. The rest is history.
Robena Grant has been a member of RWA, and LARA, since 2002. She was born in Australia but has lived in the United States for many years. She has two young adult children, and lives in the Southern California desert town of La Quinta. Her interests outside of writing are exercise, book club, travel, wine, and karaoke. But she can’t sing. She writes a weekly blog as part of her website: www.robenagrant.com and can be contacted under the same name on her FB page, Twitter, and Google+.