Jeanne: Telling Parallel Stories

Like Jilly, I have been spending time judging contest entries lately. Unlike Jilly, some of rails-3309912_640mine have been pretty good. One, in particular, interested me because the story paralleled the romances of three different couples, which is what I’m trying to do with my third demon book, The Demon Wore Stilettos.

I was especially interested because every time I tell other authors what I’m working on, they say, “That’s way too complicated. You need to get rid of some of that.”

And it may come to that, but I really want to keep all three stories, so I was happy to see someone else had tried the same thing with, I thought, some success. Her stories were all set in the same small town and used the marriage-of-convenience trope for all three.

Mine are all set in Minneapolis-St. Paul and all revolve around the second-chance-at-love trope.

Where I thought the contest entry could have been stronger was in cohesion. The stories run along side-by-side like train tracks, never crossing, never even approaching each other. In mine, the three couples are, respectively, demons, humans and angels. All three couples have had past romantic encounters and all are now, for various reasons, no longer in those relationships. Continue reading

Nancy: Clearing the Decks

As I mentioned in my last post of 2018, New Year New Writer – Zen Edition, in 2019, I’m working on balance. Balance between extreme fitness goals and creature comforts, online life and IRL friendships, work and play. One of the things I need to do to before I can even think about balance, though, is whittle down my to-do list du jours.

Some people might suggest not writing a to-do list every day. To those people I would say What is wrong with you? And when I’d recovered from my shock, I’d politely point out our brains must work very differently, and I’d spend the rest of the day wondering how anyone functions without a to-do list. Continue reading

Jilly: Give the Girl a Goal!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week judging contest entries.

We’re talking genre fiction, not literary works. I’ve been judging as a reader. Clean, smooth prose is good, but it should be a delivery vehicle for strong storytelling.

Many of the pages I’ve read have been thrilling. The heroine has a strong, active role – she’s a bodyguard, or a firefighter, or sniper, or a PI, or whatever. The world-building has on the whole been convincing and the writing sound.

So it pains me to say I would not have bought any of the stories I read, nor even bothered to read on if the author had given them to me gratis.

The problem, I think, was that not one of these strong, active heroines had a goal. They had expertise, they were parachuted into action-packed scenes, and they responded as they had been trained to do. They saved themselves, children, cute puppies and even hunky heroes. Things happened to them, and they reacted. Boom! Pow! Continue reading

Elizabeth: What’s Your Alligator?

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, it’s the beginning of a whole new year.  As is traditional, we’ve been talking here on the blog about our plans for the new year – whether they involve rigorous SMART goals or the more inspirational Word-of-the-Year.

For those who have been reading along, my 2019 word is Happy, which so far has meant Sunday mornings snuggled under cozy flannel sheets, afternoons curled up with coffee and a favorite book and, much to my surprise, putting about 5,000 new words on the page.

Well that was unexpected! (Not that I’m complaining.)

At Ye Olde Day Job, this time of year is both a time for nailing down yearly goals with their detailed measurement criteria as well as a time to indulge in the latest training to “be more positive!”, “increase productivity!”, “work smarter, not harder!” and the like.

Whether it’s “Eat That Cookie” positivity training; “Eat the Frog” productivity training, or “One Minute Meditation” stress-reduction training, every year seems to bring a new method with its associated book.  I’m not sure how much positive benefit we actually see from the exercises, but at least the authors of those books are benefiting. Continue reading

Jilly: 2019 In A Word

Can you believe it’s Twelfth Night already?

I feel rather late to the New Year’s Resolution/Goal Setting/Watchword party, but it’s been interesting to read about everyone else’s approach, from Jeanne’s specific, measurable, time-limited SMART goals to Elizabeth’s ultra-flexible pursuit of happiness.

There are still 51 weeks of 2019 ahead of us, so I’m going to join in the fun 😉

For the last few years I’ve picked a watchword to epitomize my approach to the coming year. It’s less prescriptive than a set of resolutions. More of a theme, in the sense of “an idea that recurs and pervades.”

My word for 2018 was TRIMMINGS, courtesy of Michaeline. On 30th December, 2017 she said:

We live in a time where we can get online support and critiques, buy the best organizing tools ever, and even publish ourselves with only our own Inner Censors as the sole gatekeepers of our work. Or we could get a pencil and paper, and then publish pictures of our handwritten pages on Instagram. It’s all trimmings. What really matters is the happiness you get from writing.

TRIMMINGS turned out to be a useful word, but not for the reasons I’d expected. A couple of weeks after I wrote the post, my mum died, my best-laid plans went up in smoke, and I had a sharp lesson in focusing on the things that really matter.

I didn’t do any more writing until April, and then I sat down with a blank sheet of paper to think about how I wanted to spend the rest of the year. I decided the best way to get my mojo back would be to take on a new self-contained project or two that would get me into my happy writing place again and carry me in the right direction but without too much pressure.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Shredding the To Do List

Happy 2019!

Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to get used to the fact that summer is over, never mind accept that it’s the start of a whole new year.  Despite my mental denial however, the clocks did tick past midnight Monday night and the big sparkly ball did drop in New York’s Times Square (in the rain, even), so that means the 1/1/2019 on my calendar is apparently correct.

On the plus side, to mangle a quote from an old favorite book of mine (Anne of Green Gables):

“it’s a brand new year with no mistakes in it yet.”

Normally on New Year’s Day, after enjoying the annual outdoor Hockey Classic on television, along with a mimosa or two, I kick off the Great Winter Cleanup, which occasionally includes dismantling the Christmas tree with the help of a chainsaw (don’t ask!). Continue reading

Jeanne: Welcome, 2019!

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Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland, UK

As this post goes live, Baby New Year 2019 should be toddling across the threshold in Greenwich, England, which means that it’s time to give some thought to goals for the year.

I try to set SMART goals–specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. And I set them across an array of categories.

  • Health/Fitness
  • Relationship
  •  Culture/Education
  •  House
  •  Retirement/Savings

Those probably aren’t of interest to the average reader, so we’ll focus on my writing/marketing goals. Continue reading