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Thank you, Sabrina

In this year’s Rita Awards ceremony, the audience watched clips of authors thanking fellow authors who had played an important role in their writing careers.

We’re all in this together.

When RWA called for submissions for this feature, I sent in an entry–to thank Sabrina Jeffries for all she’s meant to me. We were selected to participate, but our clip ended on the proverbial cutting room floor. Since I missed my chance to thank her at the RITAs, I’ll express my gratitude here today.

Sabrina and I write in completely different subgenres, so it might seem like we have little in common. But in our private lives, we share a strong bond. We’re both the mothers of autistic adults. Whenever we talk, the conversation inevitably turns to our kids. How are they doing? How are we managing? Autism is a spectrum of disorders, and parents of autistics have a spectrum of experiences. Yet we can always connect over the joys and challenges of being autism moms.

It’s inevitable that Sabrina and I write neuro-diverse characters into our books. My latest release has an autistic main character–and Natalie’s autism is a key part of the story.  It was Sabrina’s willingness to support me that led to my submission to We’re all in this together. 

Here is my entry to RWA:

I met Sabrina Jeffries through my local RWA chapter. She’s gracious to us all, but her generosity became personal for me last summer.

Sabrina and I were on the same flight to Orlando in July 2017 for RWA Nationals. As we shared a ride to the Dolphin Resort, we become engrossed in a conversation about something we have in common besides writing. We’re both autism moms.

Sabrina Jeffries and Julia Day

Sabrina Jeffries and Julia Day at RWA Conference – Orlando

For the entire drive, we caught up on each other’s children. Sabrina’s son—who is severely autistic—is thriving in his group home. My daughter, who has Asperger’s, was about to move to Connecticut for graduate school.

I mentioned to Sabrina that my next YA book would have a main character with Asperger’s. She offered to help, any way she could. We both laughed about that, since I write sweet YA contemporaries and she writes sexy adult historicals.

A month later, though, I contacted her. Would she read the manuscript and give me a cover quote? Her response was immediate. YES! And not only did she give me a lovely quote, she was willing to promote the book.

After Fade to Us released, there were some who questioned my “credentials” for writing it. I had been reluctant to talk openly about having a child on the autism spectrum, believing it’s my daughter’s story to tell. Sabrina was there for me again with these wise words to consider.

SJ: “Being an autism mom is part of your life, too. Can you feel comfortable sharing that your inspiration came from the experiences of your daughter and family? Can you publicly celebrate the success your daughter has had?

It was the perfect advice. With my daughter’s blessing, I’ve become more open on social media about being an autism mom.

Sabrina didn’t forget her offer to promote. She’s been amazing about getting the word out about the book on twitter, Facebook, and goodreads.

Her actions are exactly what RWA embodies for the community of romance authors. Sabrina has given generously to me through her words, encouragement, and support as I released a story so close to my heart. I can’t thank her enough.

 

Do you have an author who has helped your career? If so, join us in the comments and thank him or her.

Do you have a child or family member with differences? However you manage those struggles, please know that the writing community has your back. We are there for you, so find us in whatever way is comfortable for you! 

 

Julia Day  is an author of young adult fiction, including Fade to Us, a sweet YA contemporary with an autistic main character. She also writes YA magical realism as Elizabeth Langston. (Her book I WISH is free through August 9.)

Words of gratitude

Writing the acknowledgments to my books has always been one of my favorite things to do, because it lets me thank all of the people who help me write a story. So I’m taking an opportunity today to tell them again just how very grateful I am for the contributions they’ve made to my writing career.

To the Rubies – It would be hard to list all the ways you’ve had my back. You are wise, kind, generous, and there. Although our sisterhood is virtual, I know I can count on you to stand by me through troubles in writing, relationships, or life. Thank you, Rubies; your support has been amazing.2 guys high-fiving

To readers – We couldn’t do it without you, and not just because you buy our books. We love the fan letters, the comments on our blogs, the lovely reviews that show you “get” the book, the word-of-mouth that brings in new readers, the times you show up for our book signings. Readers rock!

To my editors – You have made me a better writer. Your comments can be wrong frustrating, but you can also–through questions and debate–transform a good manuscript into something great. Thank you, editors.

To my daughters – When you were younger, you put up with a distracted mom, takeout meals, trips to historical sites you weren’t interested in, and conversations where I (the YA author) pumped you (my then-teenaged kids) for plot points and dialog.  Despite the challenges, you have grown into awesome young women. Even though you didn’t sign up to be the child of a writer, you’ve handled it with grace and humor. There are no words.

To my husband – When I recently confessed my fears about writing in a new genre, as always, you encouraged me to press on–never once pointing out the risks, the potential for failure, or the reasons I should stick with what’s safe. Instead, you listened carefully, then said, “If it makes you happy, that’s all the success we need.” Yeah, you’re a keeper. I’m so grateful to have you on my team.

What about you? Who has helped you as a writer? Who would you like to thank? Here’s your chance to leave words of gratitude.

 

Elizabeth Langston writes YA magical realism and YA contemporary (as Julia Day).  To learn more about Elizabeth/Julia, visit her website, follow her on twitter / FB / instagram, or subscribe to her newsletter.

Autism and writing what you know

I give a writing craft workshop called Write What Your Family Knows. The concept is partly about research, partly about a writer’s life. By mining my family’s interests or careers, I have instant access to a (mostly) inexhaustible source of expert information.

Do I want an alpha hero? Little brother is an Army retiree. Do I need a teen character to have a fun hobby? Just say “anime” to my baby girl, and I’m her captive audience for hours. These conversations are two-for-one; I get fabulous research and an opportunity to involve my family in my writing.

But here comes the tricky part. There is an ethical dilemma when using what my friends or family knows. Have they revealed something they might later regret if it appears in a book? Might readers assume that a character’s fictional belief or behavior belongs to one of my loved ones?

Which brings me to…autism.

Building Worlds

World building is the creation of detailed settings for out characters. Think – “giant terrarium” where we, writers, get to play God! It’s one of my favorite parts of being a writer. A story’s world is more than just a setting. Setting, like the two-dimensional background on a stage, lacks depth, history, emotion and all those other imperative aspects to a great book. World building goes beyond a date and location. It surrounds the reader, sucking them into the world’s society, culture, and the characters’ baggage.

If you can pick your characters up and skip them to another century or planet, and the story reads just fine without major changes, your world hasn’t been developed enough. It should be so intertwined with your characters that moving them would be like ripping them from a woven web of details and trying to stuff them into another. It just doesn’t work if you’ve built your world well. 

We all know how important world building is to SciFi and paranormal books, and even historical books, but it is equally important to contemporary books. If your hero is an FBI agent, he needs to speak the correct slang and understand the proper procedures (even if he doesn’t follow them). Where did he grow up? Does he uphold or fight against the dictates of the FBI code? All of these details, woven into external and internal dialogue, builds this character’s world, the world that may (and hopefully will) clash with the world of the heroine.

Young adult writers must build a world from the point of view of a teen. Knowing and using current slang, gestures, pop culture, world views, and technology are imperative to building a YA world. YA authors must put in the research, just like historical authors must check to see when vocabulary words, slang, and everyday items were used in centuries past.

Jumping from century to century, in historical books, also requires research to create a realistic, believable world. Details that impact character discussions, prejudices, beliefs and behaviors include:

local and national government,

religion,

economics,

celebrities,

superstitions,

social and family rolls,

daily habits,

health issues of the time

Society can change even decade to decade. I remember this every time I try to find pictures of my three kids. My nineteen-year-old’s memory box is full of prints of her as a baby. My eleven-year-old’s box has only a few prints because the rest of them are saved as digital pictures on my computer. So even over the course of eight years, life has changed.

My last Scottish historical series, The Highland Isles, features Highland warriors from the early 16th century. This was a time when King Henry VIII was interfering with Catholics in both England and Scotland, but he still celebrated Christmastide. Move forward to the late 17th century (the setting of my upcoming Highland Roses School series), and Scotland was so against Catholicism that they outlawed Christmas celebrations, calling it a popish (Catholic) holiday. Even when the official ban was lifted, Christmas wasn’t reinstated as an official holiday in Scotland until 1958 (400 years of no Christmas!).

 

 

Every great story must have a rich, color-packed world, which is more detailed than a pencil-sketched setting. However, be sure to sprinkle the details in as needed. Dropping in large amounts of world detail can bore a reader like a large background dump. Even in SciFi books, the details of the world must come naturally, using literary vehicles such as dialogue and interactions with the different aspects of the world.

If your story takes place outside of normal history (steampunk, SciFi, paranormal), you need to define what makes your world special. Capture it in notes or on a collage of pictures so you can refer to it while writing.

I’m a very visual person, so I make collages of my characters and the basics of their world. I keep them near me while I write. I also create a soundtrack for my book’s world and listen to it while I write. I’ve even gone so far as to drink my character’s favorite drink and light a candle (for that flickering candlelight) while writing because it helps me to step into my created world. My goal is to really understand where my characters are living and, therefore, what my characters are feeling and thinking.

What worlds have you created? How do you ensure that you’ve included enough detail?

For more information about me and my worlds (books), drop by my web site. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know what worlds I’m currently creating.  https://www.heathermccollum.com/

 

WHAT IS 13?

It’s Friday the 13th and today’s topic is fear.

What is fear?

Fear has been defined as a vital response to physical danger. If we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. However, often we fear situations that are not life threatening but pose an emotional danger and thus avoid them in the name of sanity. But by not facing our fears, we are feeding the gluttonous monster.

Think about fear in terms of your desire to write, or your lack of writing. What is stopping you from being who you are? Have you let someone else’s goals become your goals? Are you intimated by the productivity, or success, of others? Did you reach for a star only to it have fade away before you could grasp it?  Did you receive love from an editor or agent and then found that relationship wasn’t meant to last? Has life in general attacked you?

We all let outside factors affect our productivity from time to time. There is no shame it, but at some point, we should recognize that we’re causing ourselves harm by tying ourselves into a knot of stress, and by extension hurting our love ones.

Great works take time and love. You can’t give your muse love if all you feel is angst because….  So you’re not the writer who can pound out three books a year. Personally, when my life is over, I want to be remembered as writing that one memorable book for my readers rather than one-hundred toss away novels. I continue to work on my skill as a writer and I want my next work to be better than my last one.

So you haven’t made USA Today or NYT best seller list. I have my opinions concerning those publishing crowns, which I’ll keep to myself today.  However, if that’s your goal, you’re not done writing yet, right? The next book might hit a list. The same goes with gaining the interest of a publisher or agent.

So life has encroached on your path? We all have priorities. Family and friends top my list. If I walked away from them during times of need to write, I wouldn’t respect myself. I can write any minute of the day and any day of the week. Some of my best ideas came during stressful times.  A truly great story mirrors life. Take notes.

My motto has been since I started writing and continues to be; Word By Word, Line By Line, Page By Page.

So today, on the day others have imposed on us to be fearful of black cats, cracks in the side walk, mom and pop hotels, strangers, bright lights in the sky, let’s examine our fears for what they truly are and then brush them to the side and enjoy our passions.

 

 

Autumn Jordon is sneaker-wearing Ruby who authors light-heart contemporary romances and seat-edging mystery/suspense novels. Her newest release, Perfect Fall is the book of her heart. Check it out at www.autumnjordon.com and while you’re there join her occasional newsletter.   

Let’s Talk – Disabilities in Romance

I’m writing this post today from Duke Cancer Center where I will be talking to third-year medical residents as a survivor of ovarian cancer (Survivors Teaching Students is a nationwide program – https://ocrfa.org/get-involved/survivors-teaching-students/ ).  

As I watch the people move before me, I am awed at some of the conflicts, determination, and love that I see. These people (and I can proudly say that I was one of them) are heroes and heroines, battling against foes plaguing their bodies. They often have husbands, wives, and partners with them.

When we, as authors and readers, talk about increased diversity in romance, we often jump to race and sexual orientation diversity. We’ve made great strides in offering readers wonderful stories in these areas, however, I still do not see many disabled heroes and heroines in romance.

Decades ago I met a young writer at a conference who had just pitched a story idea with a blind heroine. She was told by the agent that she would not be able to sell a blind heroine to a publishing house. Do you think this is still true?

Some say that readers want fantasy when they read romance. That bringing the challenging conflicts that come with a disability to a romantic story could turn readers off. But with television shows like ABC’s Speechless, with a main character with cerebral palsy, I believe the tides have begun to turn.

 

My Highland Hero shaving my head when my hair started falling out. He shaved his too.

As an ovarian cancer survivor, I’ve thought about writing a heroine with cancer. Of course, she will live as I only write happy endings and that is what readers of romance expect. But as I toss and twist the plot in my mind, I realize that the story actually falls more into the category of realistic fiction than romance because the fight for the woman’s life becomes the focus and not the building relationship. Can such conflicts overshadow the romance, thus shunting the book out of the romance genre?

There are all types of disabilities, some much easier to deal with than others. I could easily see a dyslexic heroine or an amputee. I’d like to read a romance between a cancer warrior heroine and a doctor. The whole taboo thing about patient/doctor boundaries would be so interesting to explore. The military book I read while judging last year’s Ritas had a very strong hero dealing with the loss of his leg and phantom pain. The core story still remained about the growing relationship.

But what about someone with bipolar depression or complete paralysis from a spinal injury? Would these types of disabilities be too much for the casual reader? Or would these books open a view into the struggles that come with these conflicts, pulling readers into the richness of the characters? However, again, would the focus in these books end up being on the physical/mental conflicts rather than the romance, making these books realistic fiction with romantic elements?

What do you think? I think we’ve come a long way in areas of diversity over the last decade, but I still don’t think all people are represented in romance. Do you have examples of diverse heroes and heroines with disabilities? Do you think there is a market for such romance? What type of diverse heroes and heroines would you like to see in romantic literature?

 

And before you leave, since it is still September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month (and I’ve got my teal on!), please remind yourself of the symptoms of this sneaky, vicious disease.

 

Bloating that is persistent

Eating less and feeling fuller

Abdominal pain

Trouble with your bladder

Other symptoms may include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities.

**************************************

Hi! When I’m not writing Scottish Historical romance and driving my kids around, I’m an educator and advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. When I was diagnosed six years ago, I barely knew even one symptom of this very quiet disease, which is the most deadly of the GYN cancers. If you are a warrior, survivor, or just want to chat, please feel free to contact me at Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com . I’m an “open book” when it comes to talking about my OC experiences. Heather

 

 

 

Kids Are Back in School=Let’s Get Down to Business

It’s that wonderful time of year when the kiddos go back to school. There should be some holiday songs to accompany this like:

Silent Day, Wholly Productive Day

Rudolph the Brown Nosed Teachers Pet

Over the river & through the woods, back to school we go…

 

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love my three darlings and sleeping in a bit over the summer, but my writing takes a hit when I’m hauling them to all sorts of activities or encouraging them to entertain themselves. So when the end of August and early September roll around, I’m ready to get back into my school year routine. I treat this time like New Years, and re-energize myself to jump back into writing.

So let’s talk about productivity goals for the “New Year.”

Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing where you’re headed, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY week day. It’s doable with my current schedule, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.

Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.

Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?

 

Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  

Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays” with some success (sometimes it’s a different day or just a left over day).

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. I signed up for the New Wellness newsletter, which sends out free (and to purchase) crock pot recipes for the freezer. Here’s some of their free stuff:

21 Healthy Freezer Meal Prep Sessions for Back-to-School

 On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.

I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have one kid in high school (one just left for college & took her dirty dishes and laundry with her), so he helps clean the kitchen at night. And my 10 yo can empty/fill the dishwasher now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the two of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner (or relaxing time – you know that’s allowed and encouraged, right?).

Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.

Okay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

All authors have stories about receiving The Call. For some of us, that big, memorable call might have been about the Golden Hearts or the Ritas. Others may have a call story about getting their agent or first sale. Or maybe it’s the first time they hit a best-seller list.

But The Call that we’ve all experienced is the moment we knew that we were called to write stories–that magical moment we scratched a pencil across paper (or put our hands on the keyboard) and knew this is what I was born to do!

What Do Your Characters’ Jobs Reveal About Them?

Jobs are hard for writers. Not that employment is hard, or even writing, although they are, but deciding on jobs for characters is especially hard. A reader’s first impression of the hero and heroine might be provided by their occupations and go a long way toward establishing personality traits.

If your blurb indicates that a hero is a cowboy or an oil-rig worker, that describes a type of physicality that wouldn’t necessarily be associated with a doctor or an accountant. The difference between a botanist and a financier speaks volumes without saying another word.

In my Billionaire Brotherhood series, the three heroes are, well, Billionaires, but is Independently Wealthy really a job? They each needed to have their own professions, but I didn’t want them to be the hard-driving corporate-executive type that’s often associated with the term. In my character profiles, they were designated as the Intellectual, the Dare-devil, and the Athlete, so their occupations needed to reflect that. All of them had broken away from their super-successful family businesses. One was an English professor, one was a financier, and one was a football player. For their counterparts, the heroines needed to be the kind of every-day, girl-next-door women that wouldn’t normally populate the men’s social circles. One was a writer, one was a pediatrician, and one was a museum curator.

In my Good Riders series featuring a Cincinnati motorcycle club, I wanted to show that people from all walks of life enjoy riding motorcycles, not just troublemaker, bad-boy bikers. My heroes include a news reporter, a computer programmer, and a fireman. The heroines are a documentary film-maker, a teacher, and a midwife.

And then came the fourth Good Riders book, FACE THE MUSIC. The hero is an astrophysicist and the heroine is a classical pianist. Oops! I knew nothing about either one of those professions. So, that was a challenge. Why would I do that to myself? It was an accident, of course.

The hero, Elliott, is the brother of Mitch, the hero in MEANT FOR ME. Elliott was introduced in Mitch’s book as this science-guy, physics kid. He pre-existed before I knew he was going to have his own story. Since he had once been a child prodigy, I wanted the heroine to have been a child-prodigy, too, in an area that seemed opposite of Elliott’s strengths. I liked the idea of a contrast between the creative artist and the man of science combined with their commonality of similarly odd childhoods. Writing them was fun, but I’m not sure I’ll go so far outside my comfort zone any time soon.

Since I write contemporary romance, my characters are never going to be intergalactic bounty-hunters or mystical priestesses. Typically, I give my characters jobs that are relatable to me as well as to readers. But what kinds of professions most appeal to readers? Conventional wisdom says to avoid rock stars and sports heroes, but is that still true? What are some interesting or unique jobs I could consider for my future characters?

https://www.amazon.com/Face-Music-Good-Riders-Romance-ebook/dp/B072DTF7C5

 

 

 

Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories that feature heart, heat, hope, and humor. Before publication, she was honored to be named an RWA six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner. Since abandoning her day job in 2014, she has self-published eight books and a novella. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC, from the Good Riders series, debuted this week.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at www.JacieFloyd.com, https://www.facebook.com/JacieFloyd/, https://www.pinterest.com/JacieFloyd/, or https://twitter.com/jaciefloyd

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Beef? Finding Truth and Pain in Comedy

Go on–write comedy!

Maybe you can’t go full Nora Ephron, but even the most serious of novels can use a break. Even you (yes, you!) can add a few lines for laughs to break up all the kissing and fighting and sighing and scheming in your romance.

If it doesn’t come out naturally, it always seemed to me that it shouldn’t come out at all. But several years ago, a friend told me to expand my comedic skill set, so I decided to give it a shot. I borrowed “The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not” by John Vorhaus, and set about learning how to be more like Jennie Cruisie.

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The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: It’s certainly tricky, but I did indeed have a blast! 🙂
  • Kate Parker: Wow, Vivi, it sounds like you had a blast. congrats on doing so well. That buzzer sounds like a demon.
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Thank you, Anna! I tried to give ’em a fight to the finish! 🙂
  • Anna Bennett: Congrats, Vivi!!! It was sooo fun to watch and cheer for you! I loved that you were in it up till the...
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: We can thank my mother for the please. I barely remember what I said or did – it was...

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