Sunday, October 25, 2009

Maggie Toussaint's Advice -Balancing Writing and Life

Welcome Maggie Toussaint, romantic suspense author and yoga teacher.

How does a writer balance all the parts of life and keep writing and publishing goals on track?
   When you hear the word balance, specific images come to mind. Maybe it’s a teetering seesaw, or a tightrope walker, or a blue heron standing on one foot. For each of these examples, adjustments are made to achieve a balanced state.

   Our lives and publishing careers often conflict, sending hapless writers into a tangle. Given that confusion, I ordered my priorities, with the most important coming first: family, church, day job, writing, friends, promotion, volunteering, and housework.
   Did you notice where writing came in? Number four. Three other things take priority. I’m lucky to get ten to twenty hours a week for writing and promotion. Once I understood what was reasonable given my “load,” I wasn’t frustrated about the hours I wasn’t writing.
    In addition, I take time for myself, wasted time, if you will. This time, while not directly productive, relaxes my mind and body. The healthful benefits spill over into every segment of my life.

How do you do it?
   I know writers who carve writing time out of sleep time or out of lunch time; neither of those works for me. My optimum writing time is right after breakfast. Armed with that knowledge, I hoard that time for writing my first draft.
   I set reasonable word count goals per week and later, chapter edits per week. I accept that life interferes, and I won’t get all my mornings to write. And I also know that some days I’ll have an extra chunk of time, and I’ll exceed my weekly writing goals. Those are very good weeks.
   Respecting the time when I am most productive keeps my momentum going in my work in progress. I record my progress by day so that at the end of the week, I see how realistic my goals were. If I’m constantly missing the mark high or low, I make adjustments to the next goal. That keeps my expectations in line and gives me a visible endpoint.
   I also have a writing friend that I report my goals and results to on a weekly basis, she does the same for me. There’s no judging of performance, just lots of positive reinforcement for moving forward. And having that accountability keeps me on task.
   Playtime is important. My play activities include yoga, music, time spent outdoors, pampering myself, and reading. Of these, yoga is the most important to me.

Can you offer suggestions to keep the mind clear in order to write and set priorities and stick to them (most of the time)?
Prioritize your responsibilities. Know your writing mindset. Accept the time limitations to your writing schedule. Guard that writing time like a precious jewel. Hold yourself accountable to your goals.
Take time for yourself, time that relaxes and rejuvenates you. Find a way to release tension. Yoga is a huge part of my wellness plan, along with meditation. Discern what gives you that “ahhhh” moment and incorporate that into your weekly life, if not daily life.

For me, writing fiction is like stepping into another world. While one part of my mind loves marketing and promotion, they become addictions and take over. How do you balance promotion and writing to keep the present and future?
    The first step is to recognize you are writing for publication and not solely for yourself. Authors who publish with small presses, as I do, assume a large part of the burden of promotion.
    When a book releases, I restructure my priorities so that promotion comes on par with my day job. I consider it that important.
    There are a few weeks before and after the release when my ten to twenty hours of writing time goes exclusively to promotion. Again, I view this as necessary to generate awareness of the product. But once that initial push goes by, I ramp back to splitting promotion and writing time, with the writing time percentage inching up with each week that passes.
    My study of yoga comes into play here as well. Acceptance of who I am at each stage in this process (I am writer; I am a promoter) helps affirm my choice and keeps me grounded.

Thank you for reminding me that the answer is “more yoga.”
   Listening to my mind and body helps me balance writing and promotion. I gain perspective of the bigger picture, the world in which my family and friends live. I want to exist in both worlds, so I divide my time accordingly.
   Finding that perfect blend, that unique, balanced mix of life and writing is my ongoing goal.

With the holidays coming up many writers are going to be manic and discouraged. What tips can you offer?
   Each holiday season I struggle with balance because there is so much extra to do (gifts, cards, parties, visits) in an already busy schedule.

   Here’s how I cope. I need to have “down” time, to be apart from the festivities. I decorate the house for the holidays, but I don’t get insane about it as I once did. I keep the level of effort reasonable, and I guard my writing time to the best of my abilities.

   Even though there are more activities during the holidays, take time for pampering. Soak in the tub with a good book instead of watching the news one night. Schedule a facial or other body treatment. Sample holiday foods in moderation.

What is your latest release?
    My cozy golf mystery titled IN FOR A PENNY. In the book, accountant Cleopatra Jones wishes she’d gone to work instead of golfing when her wild approach shot lands on a dead banker. The police believe her best friend did the deed. Of course she didn’t so Cleo sets out to prove her innocence. There’s sizzling romance from the sexy golf pro along with family gymnastics with two teenage girls, an ex-husband, and Mama. How could anyone forget the woman who thinks up menus like Spickle Fish Lasagna? And let’s not forget the dog co-star, Madonna, who is the spitting image of my short haired St. Bernard granddog.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a romantic suspense. Realtor Roxie Whitaker and security expert Sloan Harding meet when a tree falls on his house. While Roxie struggles to stabilize her business, Sloan searches for his missing inheritance. Sparks fly, but his wild past and her determination to establish a museum in a building his father is accused of torching, put them at odds. Someone else wants that lost fortune, someone who will stop at nothing. This work is tentatively titled Tempest in a Teapot.

Thanks Maggie for being my guest on Wordshaping and your wise advice for writers and just about everybody else.

A scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, loves to solve puzzles. Whether it’s the puzzle of a relationship or a who-dun-it, she tackles them all with equal aplomb and wonder. Maggie’s cozy mystery from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, is about a terrible golfer trying to save her best friend from a murder rap. Her three other published works are romantic suspense books, one of which won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. Her day jobs include freelancing for a weekly paper and leading a yoga class. Visit her at Toussaint


Contest question: Rafe Golden, the golfer in the book was styled in the vein of which international professional golfer? Here’s a huge hint: in golfing circles he’s known as “The Big Easy.”

To enter, send an email to 
with the word “Contest” in the subject line. 
The winner will be randomly selected on October 31.
Contest Closed
Congratulations Molly!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bess McBride- The Truth About Writing in an RV

Welcome Bess McBride, romance author and chronic traveler. I've been trying to catch up to you for a long time.

Now that I've got you here, tell me what it was like to write while living in an RV?
I thought it would be much easier than it actually was. When I first began writing, I had a house and an office of my own...with a door.  But when we sold the house, moved into the RV and hit the road, I found that I still felt the need for a "desk" to stay organized, so I used the dining table that is common in most RVs. However, that's not a particularly moveable item of furniture in a small space, so that meant I had to write in the living/dining/kitchen area. And I discovered I was only able to write when I was alone. What I did end up doing was scheduling my writing time for when I was alone and late at night after my significant other had gone to bed.

How long were you on the road?
I thought we were going to be on the road forever...that certainly was my plan. But in the second year of living and traveling on the road, the economy took a dive, and my significant other found it difficult to find work. Since neither of us is of a retirement age, I decided to give up the life, settle down again for a while and return to work full time, which I have. It's actually much, much more relaxing though I have little time for writing and promoting.

Since you worked as well as traveled, how did you balance your work, writing life, and promotion?
As part of the traveling life, I wanted to work for the National Park Service in a summer seasonal capacity and then "hang out" in a warm lovely climate near the beach in the winter. During my summer seasons at Glacier National Park, I took the late shift...that is...from 1 pm to 9 pm, and I was able to write in the mornings and late at night after my significant other went to bed. And I was able to write on my days off which were not the same as his.  It didn't do much for my love life, but I got a lot of writing done!  :-)  In the winters when I didn't need to work, I had all day to write and promote while my significant other worked his 40 hours a week. However, now that I've returned to a 40 hour, Monday through Friday work week myself, I am struggling for time.  :-)

What did you like best about being a traveling writer?

All the new experiences and places I saw that I was able to incorporate into my writing. Traveling keeps me from being stagnant.  I've traveled all my life, and I love traveling, though I'm thinking several trips a year should be enough for me!

What was a lot harder in an RV?
I wasn't able to write while we were actually on the road from one place to another. Just checking routes, looking for overnight accommodations, gas and food, and settling the pets every night was taxing enough.  I was exhausted at night, plus we like to go out and eat somewhere in the area we were in and drive around in our car for a bit to see the local sights.

On the road, did you do all your research online or did you have a "library?
One of the most important rules of traveling in an RV is to travel light to keep gas prices down and stay within the maximum weight limits of the RV. I stored most of my books, even those on writing, in storage. I did have some books with me, but not as many as I would like.  And in an RV, there really isn't any spare space for a bookshelf. I did most of my research on line, and in fact, I still do. My only writing books are generally "how to write" books.

What's your advice for writers who want to take off in an RV for a life of writing?
The most important thing to know is that unless a writer is already successful (which means different things to different people), but in this case, I'll define it as able to pay their bills and rent and gas and insurance with their advances and royalties, I would suggest that they have another way to make a living. I've only met a few people who traveled and wrote, and those folks were retired and had independent incomes. I have a small income as a retired military member, so that allowed me to pay my bills.

The other thing to know is that internet coverage is spotty on the road. Many RV parks may not even offer wireless connections, and if they do, I found they often were unreliable.  I always had a back-up modem on my phone to tether my computer to, although it is dial up. I've had to use it many, many times during my RV traveling days.
I'm settled in an apartment now and enjoying the thrill of flushing a toilet and an office of my own.I might tackle RV living again in the future when I make more in retirement, but until then, a cruise to the Caribbean or a tour of Europe might just be what I need to keep my traveling toes warmed up!

Thank you so much for the interview, Amber!!!

Bess McBride was born in Aruba to American parents and lived in Venezuela until her family returned to the United States when she was 12. She couldn't fight the global travel bug within her and joined the U.S. Air Force at 18 to "see the world." After 21 wonderful and fulfilling years traveling the world and gaining one beautiful daughter, she pursued her dream of finally getting a college education. Armed and over-educated, the gypsy in her took over once again, and she embarked on a full-time journey in a recreational vehicle to look for new adventures and place settings for her writing. She is the author of On a Warm Sea of Love, A Train through Time, A Sigh of Love, Caribbean Dreams of Love, and A Trail of Love. A Penny for Your Thoughts is due out in 2010.

Visit Bess McBride's website
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On a Warm Sea of Love!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mark David Gerson - Guided Meditations for Writers

As a yoga teacher who specializes in teaching people to relax, I recorded a CD that relaxes the body with the side effect of freeing the mind for creativity. I would love to hear about your guided meditations for writers.

First, how can guided meditation help a writer?
Meditation is a valuable tool for getting us in the "creation zone," for moving us out of the stress and anxiety of our everyday lives and into the natural place where creation can occur with ease. It's not a replacement for the rest of our lives, but a practice for more mindful — and creative — living.

Although each of the ten guided meditations on The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers is keyed to a particular purpose — getting out of judgment, acknowledging the power of our writer-selves, aligning with our vision for a piece of writing, for example — their deeper goal is to get you into a place and space where any and all of your writing can flow more naturally, freely and spontaneously. (The 2-CD set opens with a general track of inspiration and instruction and then moves into my studio recording of each of the meditations scripted in The Voice of the Muse book.)

How can writers enhance their creativity?
1. Recognize that there are no rules in creativity. Your page is blank for a reason. Creativity is not about formulas and repeating what’s been done before. It’s about invention and individuality. Be yourself and free yourself to express that individuality on the page—without
second-guessing, self-criticism, or judgment.

2. Read. Anything good. Often. For fun. Don’t feel you need to analyze what you read. The more you read, the more you will absorb other authors’ techniques, successes, and failures. The more you read, the more you will intuitively know what works and what doesn’t—in their work and in your own.

3. Write. That’s what a writer does. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you’re writing. And as long as you’re writing, you’ll be stretching your creative muscle and honing your craft.

How did The Voice of the Muse come about?
The Voice of the Muse was also not consciously planned. I wrote many of its inspirational vignettes originally for
myself, longhand in my car, at a time when I was feeling stuck in my own writing. It was only a few years later,
when The MoonQuest was with an agent, that it suddenly occurred to me that I might have enough material from those jottings to put into a book. I did, and an early version of The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write

Do you have any additional advice for writers?
Trust the story, even if you don’t yet know what it is.
Trust your innate creativity. Take it word by word and allow your pen or the keyboard to spell out the story for you. Allow yourself to be the passenger on your creative journey, not the driver. … If you can begin to believe that your story always knows best, you’ll never go wrong.

Mark David Gerson is author of the five-time award-winning novel The MoonQuest and an award-winning book book on writing for writers in all genres and all experience levels, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. He has also recorded The Voice of the Muse Companion, a 2-CD set of guided meditations for writers. Mark David's essays on creativity, personal growth and spirituality reach readers in more than two dozen countries. He is currently working on a screenplay adaption of The MoonQuest and a sequel to the novel.
To learn more about Mark David Gerson and his work, visit his website and Voice of Your Muse Blog.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Clover Autrey Writing a Little Bit of Everything!

Welcome Clover Autrey, ParaNormal Romance reviewer, Fort Worth Examiner columnist, article ghostwriter, and adventurous fantasy (with lots of romance) author.  

I guessing other writers want to know how you got the gig with the Fort Worth Examiner.  
How did you approach the Examiner?

I was interviewed by another writer working for the Examiner for my own books, so I knew a little bit about it, and then when one of my RWA chapter mates mentioned they were looking for writers in our area I thought I’d like to do it. I had to write sample articles and that was that. I’m the Romance Novel Examiner over Fort Worth so I get to interview and get to know other romance writers. It’s great fun. I approach writing the column with what readers, instead of what other writers, would want to know. Basically, I let readers get to know an author and her books. The exposure hasn’t been bad either. My own website views increased dramatically.

Sounds great. Maybe I’ll see if my local paper needs an online column. Now, what about ghost writing for cash? That sounds even better.

I was very fortunate to get this job. I happened to know a friend who knew the company owner and knew I could write. I’m under contract to not disclose what articles I wrote, but I can say they are similar to what you’d see on Wikipedia—just short 250 word articles. I make $10 to $20 per, pumping out around 40 articles a month. Nothing to eat bon-bons over, but for a second job I can do around my kid’s schedule while in my PJs, it’s a win-win.

Aside from the heavy duty research for each article on the most random of things, I learn a great deal about making every sentence count and how to write in an active, not passive voice, which has carried over into my fiction writing

What the differences between writing fiction/fantasy and writing for a newspaper?
Tone and perspective. When I write a column or article, I write as myself and use both a conversational and confident tone. I’ll let you in on a little secret. In person, I’m quite shy and will generally hold back, but when I’m seeking someone to interview and during the interviews, the shyness has to float away.
With fiction all traces of Clover Autrey is shrugged off and everything is written from a character’s point of view. But that’s not a hard transition at all, since all writers do that whether they write in other formats or not.

Tell me about PNR (ParaNormal Romance Reviews). How is writing reviews different?
The best part about reviewing is free books and reading new authors. I try to be very honest and remember that even though I have a writer’s baby in my hands, I’m not writing reviews as a favor to them, but with the reader in mind, so I am very careful to first, not give away the ending or any surprises in the book and second, not praise a book that clearly doesn’t deserves it. That said, I also won’t trash a book. Criticism can be written in a kind, honest manner without tromping all over a writer, while at the same time letting readers know it isn’t exactly a top pick. There really is an art to writing reviews. Anyone can definitely tell by tone alone which books I absolutely gush over and which, reviews, though still good, aren’t gush-worthy.

Thanks, Clover, for visiting and sharing your secrets.

Upon Eagle’s Light is the first in Clover’s Eaglekin Series. Eaglekins are able to share a mind link with an eagle and are being hunted for their special abilities to be used as assassins.
Chase the Wind, the second book in the Eaglekins series, will be released May, 2010. It introduces the Wind Riders, an elite cavalry, whose young leader has to follow an Eaglekin he distrusts to save his brother.
She is also the author of The Sweetheart Tree, a Civil War time travel romance. 

Clover’s Website 
Win a one-of-a-kind Eagelkin inspired necklace.
Visit Clover's blog to learn how to enter for a 
chance on this beautiful hand-crafted necklace.

"Be prepared to be completely swept away"