Monday, May 28, 2012

Interview with Author Denise Moncrief

I had the opportunity to speak with newly-published author Denise Moncrief today about her short story, Eye of The Storm.  

Denise Moncrief Biography

Writing is my passion. I tell people accounting is a skill I learned to earn some money to support my writing habit. I've been writing off and on since I was seventeen. I have a wonderful husband and two incredible children. They not only endure my writing moods, but also encourage me to indulge my passion.

I wrote my first "novel" when I was seventeen. It was seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last Harlequin I read. The urge to write wouldn't let go of me. In my twenties, I started another novel, only to abandon it after Chapter Four or Five. I started writing seriously about eight years ago and now I write every chance I get.

Eye of The Storm
Kieran Talbot’s problems as a resident at a Tallahassee hospital force her to take a leave of absence and escape to the beach. One stormy night, a bruised and bloodied man collapses in the front doorway of her borrowed house.

A storm blows in off the warm Gulf waters, promising to drench the coast with the first downpour of a very hot summer. Kieran retreats to the beach house as the deluge begins. Just as she gets comfortable, the door bursts open. Rain soaked and bloody, Davis Jackson falls through the doorway. He needs a hospital, but he doesn’t want the cops involved. Danger follows Davis wherever he goes. Kieran won’t tell him her story and Davis won’t tell her his. Together they must fight for their lives during a Class Three Hurricane on Florida’s Gulf coast.

Thank you so much, Denise, for agreeing to be here today.  You must be very excited about releasing Eye of The Storm.  Thank you so much for having me here.

Tell us a little bit about Eye of The Storm. I enjoyed writing this story so much. The characters sort of defined the drama. The dark situation evolved from their dark past. The tension seemed to create itself.

 I wrote Eye of the Storm for a prompt. The publisher was looking for a beach romance. So I thought to myself, “Everyone will be writing those fun and sun, meet at the beach romances. I wanted to do something a little different. What if there is a hurricane to interrupt their romance?” After that the story wrote itself.

Eye of the Storm didn’t end up in that anthology, but rather was published a stand-alone story.

How very neat that something so wonderful came from a publisher's prompt! I've never thought of trying anything like that before. 

Who is your favorite character from the story and why? Oh no doubt my favorite is Davis, the hero. Despite his obvious physical and emotional scars, he still has a sense of mischief. He’s direct, a mean what you say and say what you mean sort of guy. And…he’s hot.

Hot men are always a plus! :-)

Where does the inspiration for you stories come from? Almost anywhere. An overheard conversation. A picture. A movie. A news report. An abandoned house in Arkansas jump-started a new plot for me once. Some little something will capture my imagination.

What made you decide to publish short stories versus novel-length books? Well, actually my first submission to Still Moments Publishing was a full-length novel which as of now I’m in the process of working my first edits. Between the time I submitted Deceptions of the Heart and when they offered me a contract, I submitted the short story Snow White and the Seven Dogs  for their Unleashed Hearts anthology. I’ve written quite a few full-length novels and queried more than a few agents. But I’ve spent a lot of time on writers’ critique sites writing to short story prompts for contests. So writing to a specific prompt on a deadline is not new to me. I think writing the shorter lengths helped honed my skills for writing full-length novels. I like both and will probably continue to submit in all lengths.

We will be sure to be looking for your novel in the future as well as more shorts!

What do you have planned next as far as writing goes?  I would like to stretch my writing by mixing other genres with romantic suspense. Right now, my focus is suspense with a healthy dollop of romance. My work in progress adds a paranormal element that I’m really excited about.

Paranormal is hot right now. Sounds like a great plan!

Most writers I know (myself included) love to read.   Are you a reader as well, or do you prefer to wait for the movie? I would rather read the book. I am an avid reader. My Good Reads profile doesn’t even begin to list all the books I’ve read. Seldom do I think the movie is better than the book. The most recent exception is The Hunger Games. I might have done myself a disservice by watching the movie first.

What is your favorite book (or movie if you’re not a reader)? Favorite book and movie is without a doubt Gone With the Wind. And yes, I liked the book much better.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers? Write, write, write. Don’t stop collecting ideas and creating stories for them. Don’t let rejection or strong criticism keep you from doing what you love. Most writers do what they do because they want someone to read what they wrote. Find someone to critique your stories. Hone your craft. Go to seminars. Read books on writing. Network with other writers. Join critique sites. But mostly…don’t stop writing and don’t stop submitting to agents and publishers. I waited eight years before I signed my first contract. It was well worth the wait. During that wait, I perfected my writing skills. That moment when I put my signature on my first contract was priceless.

That is wonderful advice, Denise!

Have you released any other titles?  Tell us a little bit about them.  Still Moments Publishing released my first short story in April. Snow White and the Seven Dogs appeared in the Unleashed Hearts anthology. All of my pending released will be published by Still Moments. Sleepless in St. Lucia will be released by in the Something Borrowed, Something Blue anthology in June 2012. My first full-length novel Deceptions of the Heart will be released in the fall of 2012. My short story Trail’s End will be released in the Bullets and Boots anthology in September 2012 and my short story Ghost in the Garden will be released in October 2012 in the Haunted Shadows anthology.

Wow!  Your upcoming release schedule sounds to be busy.  That's terrific! 

Anything else you’d like to talk about? I’m a Southern girl. I’ve lived in Louisiana all my life. And yes, I have a drawl. Writing is my passion. I tell people accounting is a skill I learned to earn some money to support my writing habit. I’ve been writing off and on since I was seventeen. I have a wonderful husband and two incredible children. They not only endure my writing moods, but also encourage me to indulge my passion.

Thank you so much for being here today, Denise Moncrief.  I appreciate you sharing with all of us.  Best of luck in your writing career moving forward!

If you would like to follow Denise and keep up with what she is working on, you can get in touch with her at the following sites:
twitter @dmoncrief161

Once again, Denise's stories are available at the following links:
Unleashed Hearts buy links
Eye of the Storm

Both stories can be purchased directly from Still Moments Publishing

Have a terrific week everyone! Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 21, 2012

No New Books I Love This Week

Unfortunately, friends, I am still making my way through the Sookie Stackhouse series, working my way up to Deadlocked.  On top of that, my first fourteen chapters were returned from my editor, and I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Although my critique partners at did an excellent job, nothing replaces an editor.  She is pointing out scenes that would work better from the other character's point of view, and why, suggesting changes to a certain character to make him fit the story better.  It is a lot of work, and I've only made my way through the first six chapters.  I'm very excited though, as I think this will all lead to a much better end product.

Joust coverI know I highlighted Mercedes Lackey not too long ago, but I've decided to share with you the book series that inspired me to start writing my first book (the one that fizzled at 150 pages).  Joust is part of a four-book series dealing with war between two countries each struggling to overtake the other.  The greatest war weapon available is the fearsome dragons and their riders, often turning the tide in battles.

Vetch is a young boy who has been captured by the opposing side and is serving as a serf to a cruel master.  When a dragon rider realizes Vetch's plight, he decides to commandeer Vetch as his dragon boy. The rest of the series deals with Vetch's journey toward manhood, and his role in helping to end the war between the countries. You can read more about this book and the rest in the series at Mercedes Lackey's web site

When I reached the end of this book, I realized I didn't know of any other books where dragons were portrayed as intelligent creatures that were allies and companions to the characters in the book.  (I had, of course, already read Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series).  I tried out a few series that looked promising, only to realize they weren't really about the dragons like I'd hoped.  A story came into my head about a young woman, Lena, who is transported to a magical land by a dragon she soon bonds with, Vallerand.  There was an epic struggle between races and Lena would have to right the wrongs.  Of course, as I've previously mentioned, I do not really have a fantasy book in me, and I finally realized romantic suspense was were I could shine.

However, this series of books will always have a special place in my heart for prodding me into this wonderful adventure of novel writing.

Have a terrific week, everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Self-publishing and Money

So, there has been a lot of conversation going around lately and I've been devouring blogs, trying to discover the magical price a self-published author should set for their first book.  It seems the "gold rush" of 99 cent books or free Amazon Select giveaway days is gone.  Word on the web is that Amazon has changed their program, and there is no longer a post-free bump to boost your book's ratings and gain visibility.

Does it even make sense to sell our books for 99 cents?  My answer to this question is a resounding "No!" I am willing to do giveaways and hand out a few free books here and there, but I have decided there is no way I want to take place in the mass giving away of thousands upon thousands of my book.  I have had the very good fortune of making many friends in the writing community, and they are so wonderful about sharing information.  Through the knowledge gained with their experiences, I've learned I'm not willing to give my book away, especially if there is now little benefit gained from doing so.  I've worked hard on Always & Forever, as have my critique partners and my editor, and it is worth way more than 99 cents.  Now, I am a new author, and I'm not so confident in my ability to market that I am going to price it at $9.99 either.  I've been thinking $3.99 seems like a good, fair price range.  Then again, a recent blog by Ed Robertson explains how Amazon has changed their algorithms so that higher priced books will rank higher on the popularity rankings, even if the lower priced book is actually selling more.  You can read that article in its entirety here.  What does this say for Indie authors who are trying to gain visibility?  Does it make sense to price your book lower than $5 when $5 and above seems to be the price point getting the most exposure?

I think books have been devalued in the eyes of the consumer.  They are so used to getting free books (and I basically think a 99-cent book is the same as free) that they think all books should be priced at this rate.  This image has been going around, and I really think it says it all.  Why is a book someone reads while drinking a Double Mocha Iced Coffee worth less than the drink, which took someone a few seconds to whip up?  My Kindle app is full of free books and cheap books that I will probably never read.  But if I pay $5-$15 for a book, you bet I'm going to read that sucker.

{After getting a few comments this morning and sleeping (so tired when I wrote this last night, but I'd promised it would be up) I want to make something clear. I do not think it is the readers' fault the book has been devalued. They've come to expect this because it is what so many of us are doing when we price our books, thinking we have to price at 99 cents to sell because of what "experts" told us.  This is neither an attack on authors nor readers. I think things just got warped in the "gold rush" mentality that started happening, and now we are starting to see a fallout as authors realize they aren't making a fair wage. Not that mid-list writers have ever made a fair wage.}

Many Indie authors are starting to speak out against the idea of a 99 cent book, and I'm happy they are.  I think devaluing something that takes so much work and effort is not a good idea.  Rob on Writing recently ranted My Novel Is Worth More Than John Locke's Comb (warning - this link contains some explicit language), and he's right. Why should we sell our hard work for the same price as crap that can be bought at the dollar store?  Lindsay Buroker discusses how it doesn't matter if you are a new author. Even established authors are unknown to people who have never read them.  She claims you just need a good cover, an interesting blurb, 5-10 reviews (that don't all need to be good), and a clean novel (meaning you hired an editor and didn't just throw a bunch of error-riddle crap up on Amazon).  You can read her entire article here.

I think the view points of Indie authors are slowly changing. We are slowly banding together and realizing there is no reason to sell our work for an amount that will never make us a decent living, let alone pay a single bill.  Heck, at 99 cents a book, only earning 35 cents on each sale, you would have to sell quite a few books to even afford that Double Mocha Iced Coffee.

Honestly, my expectations for a cheap book are low to begin with, and for that reason I may never read it. If someone wants more than a few bucks for their novel, I'm going to assume they've gone through all the proper channels to edit and present a book worthy of reading. Of course, it's always a good idea to read the free sample and make sure the book isn't full of errors beyond the norm in the traditional publishing industry.

I want to find the readers who are at least willing to spend as much on an entire novel of mine as they would on their coffee, or even if I price higher, it still would be cheaper than a combo meal at many fast food places.  If they pay a little more money for it, they'll probably read it, and then *crosses fingers* they will rave about it to all their friends! That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

Where do you stand on this issue?  Do you think my plan to charge $3.99 for my book is too much, too little?  What are you willing to pay for a really good romantic suspense? What is your top price for an Indie book, or even an eBook?

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day everyone!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Books I Love ~ Michal's Window by Rachelle Ayala

Michal's Window by Rachelle Ayala
5 stars!
Michal's Window
 Not your Grandma's Bible Story...

It's not easy being a woman, least of all princess of Israel. Married as a prize, abandoned as a wife, Michal fights to claim her rightful spot next to King David, the man she loves with all her heart. 

Separated by war, concubines, and kingdom politics, Michal embarks on a journey of adventure and heartache where she is befriended by a goddess-worshipping priestess and tempted by a Philistine prince.

From reading scrolls high atop the palace walls to seduction with a henna-painted body, Michal is not your ordinary Bible heroine. Join her in Michal's Window and let her delight you with her courage, devotion, and outrageous passion in her relentless drive to win back her husband. 

My review:
I loved the story of Michal's Window.  Admittedly, I read it as a favor to Rachelle at first, since I know her (and she is a terrific person), but it is not normally a genre I would have picked, expecting it to be only understood by very religious people.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not to be the case.

Michal's Window is a wonderful mix of biblical fact and imagination. It is easy to cheer for the tenacious Michal as she fights for the man she loves. Michal's longing for David and her undying love, even in the face of adversity, pulls at your heart as you live her life through her eyes.

Not being a person who is 100% up to date on bible stories, Michal's Window slipped me into the fantasy of 1000 B.C. Israel. Ayala does a wonderful job at mixing fact with fiction, and the story gripped me from beginning to end. The familiar story of David and Goliath is fascinating to watch play out per Ayala's interpretation. The seduction of Bathsheba is reenacted in an intriguing and intimate manner. The other parts of the Bible that I am less familiar with did not detract for me being able to enjoy the story Ayala portrays.

Although the LORD does play a large part in the book for David, I never felt preached at. Instead, I was wrapped up in the characters and their problems as if I were there, walking in their sandals.

Ayala has wonderfully portrayed both the time and the people. I would definitely recommend this book to any lovers of romance or historical fiction.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day to a Wonderful Woman!

Happy Mother's Day to all you mom's out there!

Biggest shout out to my own Mommie! I love you so much! 

My mom has always been there for me, and there are no words to express my gratitude for the sacrifices she made while raising me. I'm the youngest child of six, and by the time I came around my parents were going through tough times. They divorced when I was three, and my beautiful mother took on the task of being a single mom to six children! I can't even imagine that! 

What I do know for sure is this--I had the best childhood a kid could hope for.  Growing up in the country, swimming in canals, camping every weekend in the summer, barbecues, tree houses and flood irrigating. I'm sure we never had much money, but I never realized that. All I knew is we were happy. 

I remember my mom used to feel bad because as the three youngest, my brothers and I didn't get a stay-at-home mother like the older kids did. However, I remember coming home from kindergarten once a month and mom would already be at work (she worked shift work at the potato plant to support us). She would have lunch sitting out for me with a sandwich, chips, half a Snickers bar and half a Pepsi.  I used to love that. It made me feel so special that she took the time to do that before going to work and I got a special treat. She always felt bad because it was store bought stuff and not homemade. Funny the difference perspective makes.  

If you read my post yesterday about Grams, you know already that music was an integral part of my life growing up. At home, I never remember the radio being off. When MTV came out, we always had that channel playing if not the radio. I remember one year my brothers went to live with my dad in California, and my sisters were already all married and moved out of the house.  My mom and I lived in a little apartment in town for a couple months, just the two of us, and the radio was always playing.  Our theme song that year was Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (YouTube link to Don't Worry, Be Happy) and to this day I sing that when I'm having a bad day. In fact, it's the ring tone I have set when Mom calls me. 

The older I grew, the closer I became with my mom. I'm one of those fortunate people who didn't have tumultuous teenage years where I hated my parents. Instead, my mom has always been my best friend, teaching me right from wrong, championing me in all my life decisions, sitting on the phone for hours if I need a shoulder to cry on. She has always encouraged me and believed I could do anything. Everyone needs somebody like that in their life. 

She put herself through college while also working and being a wonderful mother. I don't know how she did it all.  I'm not sure she even slept during the years she went to college, educating herself to make a better life for us all. We lived a lot of places, we went through a lot of changes, but I always knew I could count on Mom. 

Thank you, Mommie, for being the strong, independent, loving woman you are, and teaching me to be the same. When God picked the family to send me to, he definitely chose right! I love you so much! Happy Mother's Day!!

Great books:
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, Carol Bodensteiner, A memoir of a happy farm childhood.

Michal's Window by Rachelle Ayala - Love, Betrayal, Redemption: King David and the daughter of Saul, E-book: Paper Amazon: B&N

Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman, A novel about Richard III in the 21st-century, E-book: Paperback Amazon: B&N

Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux - A story of love and perseverence. E-book: Paperback:

After Ten by Michele Shriver- A story of acceptance, forgiveness and the bonds of friendship. Amazon: B&N:

Always & Forever by Chantel Rhondeau coming summer 2012 - A suspected murderess must start over - romantic suspense. Excerpt

Saturday, May 12, 2012

In Memory of Grams

In the spirit of celebrating Mother's Day, I wanted to share a little bit about my Grandma Lillian (Grams to me).  Grams was a wonderful lady, whom I dearly miss.  I think all the humor genes in our family came from her. Unfortunately, my brothers and sisters got the biggest portion of those genes and I have to be content to enjoy the humor of others.  Still, Grams was the person who taught me my first dirty limericks.  She was always saying something funny, pure deadpan demeanor.  She was great fun.

As I little girl, I loved going to Grams' house. I sat for hours at her vanity, playing with the jewelry in her multiple jewelry boxes and putting on her makeup. Grams had narcolepsy and fell asleep at the drop of a hat. I'm not sure if I was supposed to be playing in her makeup, or she fell asleep and didn't know about it, but I had a lot of fun!

Grams really taught me love of all things creative and was the reason I joined band in high school. She wasn't a writer, but a musician. Boy was she talented. Her and my Uncle Mori played in a jazz band and performed at many events throughout our community. That woman had mad skills. She played by ear. Grams only had to hear a song once and could replicate it on the piano.  Even when her Parkinson disease became so bad that her head and hands had tremors, she would still slide up to the keyboard and treat us with a tune.

She also loved singing. My last few visits with her, the dementia had become so bad that I'm not sure she always knew who I was. However, she never forgot the words to her favorite songs:  Say Say Oh Playmate, Strangers in the Night, How Much is That Doggie in the Window (she loved the "woof woof" part--I can still hear her doing it), and some song about Ka-Ka-Ka-Katie, beautiful Katie (don't really know what this one is called). We had many more, but my brain can't remember the names of them.

She loved singing those songs and would sometimes remember who we were after singing. Then, she could be enticed to talk about her childhood and tell stories about the horse she used to ride to school, Buck. She loved that horse. She and the other children had horse races during lunchtime and Buck always won.

We lost Grams four years ago, but I am so fortunate to have had her in my life. This Mother's Day, don't forget to thank the women who may not be your mother, but had a significant impact on the person you've become.

The best thing Grams ever taught me? She was babysitting me one evening when I was eight years old. Of course, she was asleep, but I played on the floor in the same room as her.  I asked, "Grandma, what's twelve plus twelve?"  She opened her eyes, looked down at me and said, "Twelve plus twelve is twenty-four. Now shut your mouth and say no more."

She promptly fell back to sleep, but I never forgot what twelve plus twelve was!

I love you, Grams!

Great books:
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, Carol Bodensteiner, A memoir of a happy farm childhood.

Michal's Window by Rachelle Ayala - Love, Betrayal, Redemption: King David and the daughter of Saul, E-book: Paper Amazon: B&N

Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman, A novel about Richard III in the 21st-century, E-book: Paperback Amazon: B&N

Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux - A story of love and perseverence. E-book: Paperback:

After Ten by Michele Shriver- A story of acceptance, forgiveness and the bonds of friendship. Amazon: B&N:

Always & Forever by Chantel Rhondeau coming summer 2012 - A suspected murderess must start over - romantic suspense. Excerpt

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Finessing Your Muse - Wednesday Writing Tip

Okay, after my mini breakdown last week, I'm feeling back in form this week.  Thanks so much for everyone's support and ideas on how to get my motivation back!

This week, I thought we'd talk a little bit about where ideas come from.  For new writers, the prospect of learning to talk to your right brain (your Muse) is a little scary. In the beginning, I resisted the idea that there are two separate people in my brain, and I didn't want to give my Muse her own identity.  That was the hardest part for me.  Once I got past that, it was just a matter of listening. It's really a training program of sorts, learning to do that.  Once you get used to listening to the cool stuff your Muse pitches, you'll see story ideas everywhere.  Eventually, your Muse will never shut up! But that's a good thing...most of the time. :-)

The first method I practiced when trying to open up my Muse was actually something I first learned in third grade.  We called it brainstorming there, or making a spider graph. One writing class I took called it making a sweet spot map. Another class called it mind mapping. Yet another mentioned something about bubbles.  Whatever you want to call it, making a spider graph is an excellent way to prompt your Muse to start talking.

I never could figure out what the classes were telling me to do exactly, so I did what worked best for me.  I told my Muse I wanted to write a novel length story and I wanted it to be a mystery.  Then, I wrote the first word that came into my mind in the center of a piece of paper.


I put a box around this word and waited.  The waiting is very important.  Don't think of anything, just look at the word.  My Muse is like a bored child being forced to sit idle in the corner when I use this method. Since I'm refusing to think of anything consciously, she will start trying to get my attention.

"What about aliens?" she asked.

"No," I replied.  "We want a mystery, remember?"

She became a little huffy, but I could tell she was still thinking. I simply stared at FEAR, waiting.

"Fine!" she screamed.  "I see a girl."

Well...this was better than nothing.  After all, every novel needs a main character.  "What's her name?" I asked.


I quickly drew a line off FEAR and put Rachel, drawing a circle around that word.

Next we got boxes for Rachel's past and the stepfather who murdered Rachel's mother.  Every time my Muse pitched something I didn't like, I simply told her no and waited.  She worked faster than I thought possible. We discovered our mystery together, making circles as we went.  Rachel's stepfather is about to be released from prison, and Rachel wishes he would just fall off the face of the planet.  When he turns up dead the morning after his release and Rachel wakes up covered in blood with no memory of the night before, things heat up.  Men start entering Rachel's life who may or may not be there to help her.  People from her past start to appear, and Rachel learns she has multiple personalities as the story progresses.  Are one of her personalities committing horrible crimes?

You can use Mindmeister to make this on the computer, but I actually work on real paper.  I used lined paper in my writing notebook (which is literally just a fancy journals for me) but I've heard some people say they prefer blank paper without lines. Either way, this is a great way to learn to communicate with your Muse.

Boredom is always the key factor for me. This might sound crazy, but folding laundry works even better for me than staring at a blank page. Laundry bores my muse to tears.  She can't wait to give me ideas if I'm just standing there with clean clothes in my hands. If there is a certain thing I want, I ask for it first before I start the "bore my Muse to death" campaign.  If there is a certain word I already know I want to build around, or maybe a certain problem in my book that I need my Muse to work on, I will write that down to start us off. She has all the good stuff, just sometimes she keeps it to herself.

In Always & Forever I had a character who I didn't really know his purpose.  I told my Muse, either find me a purpose for him, or I am going to kill him, then I went and mopped the kitchen floor (works as good as laundry, but I hate this chore so wouldn't recommend it).  Boy, did she ever come up with the best idea! It made the entire plot of my book that much better when I forced my Muse to figure out why that character was in the book.

Your Muse knows all the answers to your story issues, too.  Sometimes, you just need to ask the right questions.

Unfortunately, Rachel's story is one of those I gave up on after a while.  I over planned it.  I'm very much a seat of my pants writer, and knowing the entire story beforehand takes out the fun for me. However, I think of Rachel from time to time, and maybe one day I will find a new twist to her story and give it another try.

Oh, a parting suggestion.  Never, ever tell your muse what she says is stupid. If you don't like an idea, just say no with a gentle reminder of what you are looking for.  If you say "What the heck did you say that for? How stupid!" s/he will run to the furthest corner of your mind, stick his fingers in his ears, and make a raspberry sound at you for days!

For more suggestions on mind mapping, check out these sites:

Happy writing, everyone!  May your Muse be totally cooperative!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Books I Love~Mercedes Lackey/Phoenix and Ashes

I have a confession to make, I'm still making my way through Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick.  Then, I'm going to read my new Sookie Stackhouse book by Charlaine Harris (that I just received in the mail yesterday!) Deadlocked.  Because of that, I'm going to recommend one of my favorite past books. This book is hitting this list because it's one I've read over and over, and I enjoy it every time.

Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey is quite possibly the best book out of her Elemental Masters series.  If you love fantasy and magic, with a little romance thrown in, set in the time of World War I, this is the book for you.  In fact, I recommend all of the books in this series that came before this one.  I was disappointed with the next in the series, Reserved for the Cat, and can't recommend it, but the rest - terrific!

Phoenix and Ashes is a unique retelling of the popular story of Cinderella.  Having loved fairy tales since I was a young girl, this series is just what I like in a fantasy.  The use of elemental magic by the main characters adds to the fun!

Amazon description: In this dark and atmospheric rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale, an intelligent young Englishwoman is made into a virtual slave by her evil stepmother. Her only hope of rescue comes in the shape of a scarred World War I pilot of noble blood, whose own powers over the elements are about to be needed more than ever.

The Fire Rose (The Elemental Masters Fairy Tales)That books vies for spot of my "favorite" with the first in the series (not really considered part of this series because it is set in America instead of England) The Fire Rose.  This is the wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Both of my copies of these books are so worn and well read, the pages are starting to fall out.  Can't go wrong with either if you like fantasy. 

For more information on Mercedes Lackey's prolific writing and her many available books, visit her page  This is, by no means, the only series of hers that I read, and reread, and I will probably recommend more from her in the future. 

Have a great week, and happy reading!  Soon, I'll be off to wonderful Bon Temps, Louisiana with Sookie Stackhouse to chase her vampires! Can't wait to read more about sexy vampire, Eric Northman! Though I have to admit, Vampire Bill also gets sexy points (but I am team Eric for both the show and the books). 
    Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd (aka Eric) from HBO's True Blood~based
on Chairlaine Harris's Sookie books.
Stephen Moyer (aka Vampire Bill) from
HBO's True Blood

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing Tip Wednesday ~ Motivation ~ 5/2

I decided to move on to something today that has been a very real issue for me lately, and I more need your help this week to help me find my motivation than I am going to help anyone else with a tip.  Sorry about that.

How do we stay motivated as we write?  What keeps us going?  Most of us are not doing this for a living, although we'd like to.  We have busy lives and sometimes writing takes a backseat to other priorities.  Your kids have a band concert, football practice, or dance recital.  Maybe you had a fight with your spouse.  Perhaps you have health problems.  On top of all this, you still have to cook dinners, clean the house, go to your day job.

Where does writing fit in?

Like many people, my life has exploded lately.  On top of my family duties and personal issues, I added in the networking with Twitter, Facebook, managing this blog, and Triberr.  You can read about that here if you missed it last Friday.  With all this added responsibility, I haven't done actual novel writing.  I've tried to stay caught up with my critiques at Critique Circle, I've thanked all my "Tweeps" at Twitter, I've followed new Facebook groups and "liked" everyone who likes me ... I've been overwhelmed!  The hour I used to set aside for writing in the morning before anyone else woke up has evaporated into time spent networking.  I'm working on ways to manage these things better, and will post on that later.

Does this happen to everyone else too?  I've been struggling for a way to kick start myself into gear.  I need motivation to write the new novel.  Always & Forever is with the editor, and there isn't much I can do there.  In a way, I feel a little let down at saying goodbye to Zach and Lilly, knowing soon I will finish with them and they will be out in the world, hopefully selling *crosses fingers*.  But just like children leaving to college, I won't have the same relationship with them I once had when they leave the house.  During editing, I was so sick of them I thought I couldn't wait to see them leave (must be the teenage years!).  Now, I have to admit to having no small amount of fear.  What if I fail with the next book?  Can I write something that good twice?  The fear is almost as paralyzing as the overwhelming commitments I've gotten myself into.

However, I want to be a writer.  I really do.  Eventually, I want this to be what I do for a living, so I can't let these little speed bumps sidetrack me from my goals!

The first thing I've done to try and get myself back on track is to read more books again.  I love helping my critique partners and looking for ways to improve their stories, but somehow that is not the same as reading for the pure pleasure and joy of reading.  I find that when I read for fun, it sparks my imagination and my Muse once again speaks to me.  The last few mornings I have awoken with the urge to write.  I've had other things that needed taken care of first.  Hopefully by the weekend my obligations will be fulfilled and I can begin writing. In the meantime, I'm going to continue reading every night, revving my Muse up so she will be ready to go when we write again.

Another thing that really helps me is having people who I know are enjoying the novel and are waiting for the next chapter.  Part of my problem right now, no one is reading the new book (loosely named Crime & Passion) and so there is no urgency for me to get a chapter finished.  No one is going to be disappointed if I don't write.  I have no one to impress.  I'm very much a people pleaser.  The thought of someone being disappointed because I don't do what I'm supposed to really motivates me.  If you are not involved in a critique group and find your motivation flagging, I suggest you join one.  Critique Circle is free and a great place to meet up with other authors who are all looking to help one another.  So, my job next week is to start inviting people to read my new book and putting up the chapters I have done.

Another program I really enjoyed in the past at CC was the ability to log a goal for how many words I plan to write in a given month.  It shows up on my profile page, and other people can see if I'm making my goals or not, as I log each day how many words I managed to type.  This really pushed me last time I used it.  It is a potentially very public place to fail if I don't meet my goals.  That motivates me.

If all else fails, I'll get some chocolate, a hot bathtub full of water, and some scented candles along with the current book I'm reading.  A little "me" time is sometimes just what we all need!

So, what do you all do to stay motivated?  Any tips for me to try?  I have to start writing soon!

Have a great week!!