The Power of Words

For MaryG's blog post

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

I heard that a lot when I was growing up when someone called me names. Today we call that bullying and encourage our children to tell someone so we can hopefully stop it.

I remember repeating that phrase hoping to make it true. It never became true.

As an adult, I realize it is one of the biggest lie I was ever told.

Words don’t just hurt you, they have the power to destroy you.  They can cripple your motivation, creativity, and emotional wellbeing. Families have parted ways, friendships have been destroyed, marriages ended, jobs lost, and careers ruined all because of words.  Heck, wars have been started because of words.

We all understand that words are a powerful weapon.  So, who are these enemies that use words against us?

One of them would be the person you talk to the most, right?  And who is the person you talk to the most…yourself.

We talk to ourselves more than anyone else every day.  We are often our worst critic.

We don’t really set out to harm ourselves. Maybe we just repeat what someone said to us at some point in our life and we’ve internalized the words over time. Sometimes these negative words are born from an unnamed fear.

Everyone has said “I can’t do ___” at some point in their lives. At least, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t said it to themselves or even out loud.

Okay, so I really can’t stand on my head. I know adults who can, but I’m not one of them. But frankly, I’m not willing to put the effort into practicing standing on my head until I’m able to do it. So, the real truth isn’t that “I can’t stand on my head”, it’s “I don’t want to stand on my head.”  There is a big difference.

What we say to ourselves can be so toxic that we defeat any good that is in our lives.

If we say we can’t do something, pretty soon we are convinced that we can’t do it, and then we give up before we ever try. All because we believed what we’ve told ourselves.

“I’m stupid.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t measure up.”  The list is endless.  Some of those things may keep people in very unhealthy relationships and keep us repeating bad habits.

As a writer I fight my Evil Internal Editor (EIE) every time I sit down to write. Sometimes I begin fighting my EIE when I start thinking about sitting down to write.  “I’m tired.” “I’ll do it later,” “I’m not motivated.” Or my favorite.  “I’ll do it after I get X, Y and Z done.”

Do you KNOW how many Xs, Ys and Zs I can come up with?

There are books written about the power of words. I’m not even going to try to list them here. But visit a self-help section of a bookstore or online and you’ll find plenty of resources. There are so many books written because turning negative words into positive ones isn’t easy.

It takes five positive words to replace one negative word.

The first step is to acknowledge the negative things we think or say. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

Second, take every one that comes to your mind and turn it into a positive. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.

At first you may be tempted to say “I can’t ___” and turn it into “I can ___” followed immediately by “Who are YOU kidding?

Every time I catch myself saying “I can’t write this book” I stop myself because “I can write this book.”  If you catch yourself saying “I don’t know how to write this book” turn it around to “I am learning more about writing every day.”

It takes daily effort to turn our negative self-talk into positive self-talk. It’s not a quick or easy fix. Remember that it takes five positives to erase one negative.

While words can be negative they can also be life giving.  If you’ve had a parent, teacher, friend or family member say, “you look nice” or “you did a great job” then you know it made you feel good.

As your words become positive, your attitude will grow more positive, and soon you will be able to accomplish the things that are important to you.

Good luck on your journey of changing your self-talk.

It will be worth it!

Mary's Bio picture

Mary Gardner wears many hats as a Christian, mother, grandmother, writer, reader and manager of her homeowner’s association. She writes romance and romantic women’s fiction with small town settings. Although she is not yet published, she has been a finalist in several contests and won her category in a few. She was a 2007 RWA Golden Hearts finalist and the 2nd runner up in the 2008 – Harlequin Superromance® Conflict of Interest Contest. Mary is a member of RWA and is a RWA PRO. She lives with her cat near her family in a small town in Indiana.Her website: www.maryrosegardner.com

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Meet the Author on RWF

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It’s the first day of autumn, and we have our hard-working President here for an interview.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

JL: Romantic women’s fiction. I need my romance! See my article here for my personal definition of the genre.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

JL: I’ve written a couple of short stories in other genres. Second Chance Dress has no genre that can I name, but you can get a copy of it for free when you sign up for my newsletter. 😉 The other one is a time travel (yes, me!) that I’m waiting on for rights reversion before I self-publish.

 

RWF: What is your last published title?

JL: Sight for Sore Eyes. Here’s the blurb.

How many stick and stones can one woman survive?

Emma Finn once dreamed of being a photographer, capturing exotic landscapes and poignant vistas. Then a series of tragedies tore her life apart. All she craves now is stability—reliable, boring, safe.

How many bumps and bruises can one man take?

Ophthalmologist Asher Stockdale left big city life when his ex-wife took his young son away. When he met Emma, he pictured her as the centre of his new life in Clarence Bay. So why is he encouraging her to resurrect her old dream and go gallivanting around the globe? Dare he ask her to stay?

How many roadblocks can one romance encounter and still cherish the love?

If Emma goes to India, will she be able to heal, or will she regret her choice?

Carpenter ants, a rescued Pirate, and a pair of scheming seniors help Emma and Asher to see what really lies before their eyes.

You can read an excerpt at www.JoanLeacott.ca

 

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

JL: Celebrate the amazing thing you’ve accomplished! Treat yourself to something special. Then let yourself, and the story, rest for three weeks before you start editing. That way you’ll both be fresh and ready to go. For the first pass, just read; resist the urge to edit. Note where you catch yourself smiling or are confused, angry, or tearful. The places of confusion get your attention first.

 

RWF: Do you have a running theme?

JL: Reconciliation. I didn’t start out with that in mind; a friend pointed it out. I find the revelations and growth required for honest reconciliation to be an endless source of conflict and resolution.

 

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

JL: In the bottom of a pail of dirty water. 😉 When I’m engaged in mindless chores like washing floors, I reflect on events (large, small, recent, and past) in my life and that’s my greatest source of inspiration. My first story grew out of the sentence, ‘A woman goes home to help her sick mother’. I was cleaning my mom’s house while she was receiving chemo treatments.

 

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

JL: I’m self-employed as a book formatter and Microsoft Word educator. You can see more at www.WovenRed.ca. The job came out of the technical skills I acquired as a self-published writer.

 

RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

Definitely a plotter—I Y Excel to weave plot lines and keep a series bible.

 

RWF: What’s a surprising or little-known fact about you?

JL: I’m taking piano lessons. My parents were immigrants with five children and not a lot of money. Once I had the time and resources, I realized a life-long dream to make music.

Thank you, Joan, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come share a bit about yourself and your writing.

 

Joan is a renaissance woman. She is skilled in many arts—sewing, knitting crochet, cross-stitch, painting, and piano. Oh, and writing contemporary romantic women’s fiction. The skill favored by her husband and son is cooking. She spends her winters in Toronto attending plays, ballets, Pilates and Yoga classes. Whew! Her summers are spent on the shores of Georgian Bay relaxing with a book and a glass of wine on the deck.

When does she write? In every moment left over!

 

Interview with Anne Parent

AnneParent

For our interview today, we welcome Anne Parent.

Good morning, Anne.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

AP: Women’s fiction with romantic elements and contemporary romantic fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

AP: Not currently, but I hope to write an early 20th century historical. In addition, I have an idea for a late 19th century romance.

RWF: Want to tell us what you’re working on?

AP: I’m working on the story of a divorced professional woman who is willing to do anything to have a child of her own, including making a deal with a man for his sperm. She has to face the complications of her first pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage and guilt. This leads her to break the agreement with the man who provided the sperm, creating chaos in both of their lives.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

AP: I read a wide variety of books: women’s fiction, contemporary romance, craft books, mysteries, and classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?

AP: I prefer to read in other genres while I’m plotting, but I read in my genre once I’m well into the book to see how other authors have dealt with specific situations. I read craft books for inspiration and to learn new techniques all through my writing process.

RWF: Do you have a running theme for your books?

AP: I always include a social issue to add depth to my books.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

AP: I read a wide variety of craft books, as well as books on subjects that interest me: gardening, knitting, travel, and photography. I was an essayist prior to writing fiction, so I enjoy reading well-written essays.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

AP: This actually depends on what I’m looking for. When I first began this journey, I took online classes for everything. Now, I limit my online classes. I’m willing to pay more for a class that pushes me, such as Mary Buckham’s power plotting webinar. I love conferences, but this year I’m devoting my time to finishing this book. I’m a sucker for craft books. I have a library to rival the bookstores. They are my go to inspiration, as well as problem solving resource. I have bookmarks (my book darts) and notes throughout many of them. People have asked if I’d read all of the books in my library. My answer: bits and pieces of all of them, and cover to cover for quite a few of them.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

AP: For my current book, the inspiration came from my daughter, who discovered a health condition which caused her miscarriage. Thanks to insightful doctors, she now has two beautiful children. My book is my way of giving back. Other inspiration comes from things I read which interest me, as well as daily living. I had a college professor who told me inspiration is all around us and writers are observers of life. This was the best writing advice I ever received.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

AP: I am fortunate to be able to give my time to my writing. I had to retire early due to an illness, which was actually a gift to my muse.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

AP: For the past two years, I let my writing become secondary to building a house and moving in. Prior to that I was actively involved in my local RWA chapter, which allowed me to use it as an excuse not to write. However, I now have a commitment to my writing I’ve never had before. I use a Franklin planner and record my writing time, as well as distraction time. When I see my writing time is slipping, I set it as my priority. This is helping me stay on track.

RWF: How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?

AP: Ah, editing! I love making my writing stronger, but I have to have complete silence with no distractions when I edit. When my office door is closed, my husband knows not to enter unless it’s an emergency. I can write with distractions around me because I’m putting the story together, but editing requires my full attention.

RWF: Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

AP: I’m both plotter and panster; however, on the continuum between the two, I definitely lean in the direction of plotter. I like to know the key points I’m writing toward. I’m willing to let my characters lead me in some instances, but it usually ends up down a path with a dead end. Thus, the struggle with my current WIP. I let the panster take over and I’m now re-writing the last third of this book.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

AP: I tried going with the flow when I lived in Wisconsin because I helped my daughter a lot. Since my husband’s retirement to Tennessee, I’ve found I’m much more productive planning my time. Distractions still arise, but I can limit them more here. I have trouble saying no to family. Although I try to keep my mornings free Monday through Friday, things still creep into my time if I’m not diligent.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

AP: I like to have a strong romantic element, but I focus my writing on the woman’s journey.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

AP: I prefer to sit at my desk and write; however, if I’m stuck I may go to a park or coffee house to clear my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. I’m fortunate to live on six wooded acres which allow me to find various spots to set my muse free, so I take my laptop and walk until I find a place of inspiration.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

AP: I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in the past, but I’m a slow and deliberate writer. I find it pushes me to put words, not clarity on the page. It has been counterproductive to me and my writing style.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

AP: This is a difficult question for me. Setting plays an important role in my writing and becomes a character to some degree. I usually start with a question and let the setting and character lead me to see if there is substance to it.

Thank you, Anne, for sharing a little bit of your writing world with us.

Anne Parent  married her soul mate and they raised three glorious children. She now has six phenomenal grandchildren. She comes from a background of vital women, including a beloved grandmother, the last of the true Southern ladies. She has always stayed in touch with her Southern roots through her best friend Wanda, who happens to be the daughter of her mother’s best friend and the sister of her brother’s best friend.

She began her journey into higher education at the age of 18 at the University of South Carolina (nursing, math, and journalism) before finally deciding she needed life lessons in order to decide on a career. She pursued engineering at Greenville Technical College, before figuring out this wasn’t the direction either, and studied at Butler University (couldn’t decide between English and journalism). She took some time to build more life lessons in raising children before deciding on her final path, a degree in English from Indiana University – Indianapolis with a minor in American Studies, at the age of 45. A true late bloomer!

Anne now lives in Tennessee where she writes romantic women’s fiction set in Southern towns, both imaginary and real. She adds a contemporary social issue to her books as part of the woman’s journey. Her hope is that her characters will take her readers away from reality and they will come away feeling ready to tackle whatever they find holding them back in their own lives.

You can find Anne atwww.anneparent.com; FB : Anne Parent and Anne Parent Author; Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneWParent

 

 

 

2017 AGM with Jodi Thomas “World Building and Walking the Land”

On Wednesday, July 26th, we held our annual general meeting with guest speaker, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Jodi Thomas. She has also won five RITA’s, is in the Romance Writers Hall of Fame, won the National Reader’s Choice Award and written over forty novels and numerous short story collections.

How privileged we were to have her!

All who came to hear her discuss world building listened with intent. I wanted to be able to hold onto her words, hoping later to recall every bit of the information she’d shared.

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As a writer, she is passionate about others learning the craft. In her unique style, she explained her process of discovering and creating her story.

Since her goal is to sell, she begins with marketing. She said we needed to know our goal, in other words, our purpose in writing the story and the amount of time we intended to invest in the project.

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Jodi writes five days a week, approximately three hours a day.

For those of us who have trouble staying on track, she said to find a writing buddy that would keep us accountable in reaching our goal.

She suggested we study five books in the genre we plan to write. Use them to discover how much dialogue, points of view, etc. that these publish authors have written in their story. Simply put, use the novels like study guides.

After some brief conversation, she paired us off into threes where we created, using her technique, a workable story.

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas

Once she begins her project, she takes her idea and then builds her world (setting), and then “walks the land” (learns about the area and the people to get an understanding of the characters she plans to write.) “You need to know how the people in that locale do things, say things.” Ms. Thomas stated.

She explained how to take a location, narrow it down to a specific place. And she instructed us to take time to learn how the community does things.

For example: Who ran the town, in other words, who was “royalty?” Who was in charge of the specific place you chose—was it the patriarch of the family? The matriarch? What were the laws of the community? Their customs? Who were the givers and the takers in the town?

How did they use or tell time? Example: In New York, people might determine how far it is to a place by how long it takes to get to that location, whereas, in Texas it would be determined by how many miles they had to go.

“You need to understand your characters. Each one is like a coin—it has a good and bad   side, so to speak.” Put another way, for every good trait there is a bad one.

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Before closing, Jodi took time to talk with us about making our group better—more useful for all of our members.

Some great ideas were generated and hopefully, we’ll be able to adopt them into our online group.

Stay tuned to hear more.

sheila RWA Florida 2017a

Avery Cove is currently VP of Communications for RWF. Also, she’s held the position of Secretary. She was a 2017 finalist in the Historical category for WisRWA Fab 5 contest. She writes both historical and contemporary romantic women’s fiction. She has a degree in Creative Writing and has been PRO for several years. Before she goes to her day job, she wakes up each morning to walk her very spoiled dog as the sun rises. She is working on book one of her contemporary series, loosely based on a town in the Ozark mountains.

Avery is a member of RWA and many online chapters. She can be found at her Facebook page and Twitter. Her website is www.averycove.com and she writes at http://averycove.blogspot.com/  and Sheila’s blog.

Interview with Betty Bolté

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Today we have author, Betty Bolté, sharing some of her thoughts.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

BB: I’m writing a series of historical fiction about famous American women that have romantic elements since each of the ladies was married, which I think should qualify as romantic women’s fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

BB: I also write American historical romance and paranormal romance (think witches and ghosts…). I’ve also written and published in nonfiction books and in magazine/newspaper articles.

RWF: What is your last published title?

BB: In May, I released The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3), a paranormal romance set in the forests of southcentral Tennessee. You can read an excerpt of it and my other books on my website at www.bettybolte.com.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

BB: Hard work, persistence, and a bit of luck. I determined in the 90s that I wanted to be an editor of a children’s magazine, but I needed a degree to be considered. So I went to Indiana University and got a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Then decided I wanted to write, not edit a magazine! I worked at freelancing articles for magazines, newspapers, and did tech editing from home. All the while, I wrote my stories and worked on improving the craft of writing fiction, which is a very different animal from writing nonfiction! I joined RWA and went to chapter meetings to learn about the industry and craft. Bought craft books, attended conferences and workshops, etc. In 2006, I decided I wanted a master of arts in English with a concentration in literature to further study and analyze story, which I received in 2008. Slowly but surely over the course of 20 years, I learned how to write fiction that others want to read. In fact, my first romance to be bought by a small press was the result of a tweet pitch I did in January 2014. As of 2017, I’ve published 9 romance novels and will release my 10th, a novella, in Dec 2017.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

BB: Congratulations! Don’t be in a rush to publish. Take the time to make sure the story is really ready by having beta readers provide feedback. If you’re going the indie route be sure to hire a professional fiction editor to assess and help you refine the story. Your reputation as an author is determined by your storytelling and writing skills. Be sure to put your best foot forward!

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

BB: Don’t panic. Take one day at a time, one task at a time. Then get busy writing the next book to the best of your ability.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

BB: I enjoy women’s fiction, historical romances, light paranormal romance, some contemporary romance, historical fiction, mysteries, and some of the classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in the genre your writing in or something else?

BB: I’m an eclectic reader so am reading a variety all the time. I tend to read more nonfiction when I’m writing my historicals for research into the time and place of the story.

RWF: What type of non-fiction?

BB: I read a lot of historical biographies, analysis of conflicts or lifestyles during the conflict, and documents about people and places related to my historical fiction. I find books in historical site gift shops, in the library, and online, sometimes dating back to the 1700s. I’ve also found it fascinating to read about medicine and cooking in the 18th century. I’m in the process of adapting some 18th-century recipes to modern cooking techniques and tastes and sharing the results on my blog at www.bettybolte.net. It’s been quite a challenge but fascinating, and gives me fresh insight into how cooks managed to put together a meal with limited resources.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

BB: I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time now. I used to run a freelance writing/editing business, and previous to that a word processing business, from home during the 1990s through about 2002. From 2004-2012, though, I worked full-time as a tech writer/editor for a major corporation and wrote on the weekends as I had time around my family obligations. I’m not mentally functional before 6 am nor after 10 pm, so I don’t have the option of writing before or after work like some authors I know. Thankfully, now my time is my own.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

BB: I write Monday through Friday, 8 am to noon, unless there’s a very good reason for me having to be elsewhere or handle some other task. Like this past spring when my hubby and I moved from our farm in Tennessee to a house in Alabama. Writing didn’t happen for almost a solid month while we dealt with packing, movers, shedding clutter, and unpacking, and a myriad of tasks and issues in between. Now I have an office again for the first time in 20 years where I have an actual desk to work at. Talk about being in heaven!

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

BB: I have never had an interest in pressuring myself into writing a book. For one thing, since I write mainly historicals, I want to have the time to understand my characters and their world. The interaction between who they are and the limitations on them from their environment and societal expectations as well as the facts of day-to-day life play a major part in determining the action and setting of the story. For example, questions need to be answered before I can write a scene about how my character traveled from point A to point B – on foot, horseback, carriage, boat? The kinds of situations each mode of transportation would present varies drastically. Rushing through a draft would mean upping the likelihood of major revisions later, so I’d rather not go down that path.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

BB: It depends on the story. For my A More Perfect Union historical romance series I defined the first three women first – Emily, Amy, and Samantha, and then added Evelyn and Elizabeth’s stories later. Their situation and viewpoint was a direct result of reading an essay written in the 1780s about how women should not have the same education as men or they’d become masculinized or perhaps even injure their brains! I wanted to bring to life their reality during the American Revolution and how the women of that time actually sowed the seeds of the women’s rights movement in America. For the historical women’s fiction, the ladies actual history dictates the story details. My paranormals in my Secrets of Roseville series tend to blend both the characters and the setting as the basis for the entire story, so I can’t really divide them. They work together to guide the story, in other words. Each story presents its own challenges and appropriate approaches. I just have to be willing to be flexible. Most of my stories are written in third person, but the ladies’ stories are all in first person, which is a new adventure for me!

Thank you, Betty, for sharing a little bit about yourself and your writing world.

 

Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master of Arts in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. Get to know her at www.bettybolte.com.

 

Interview with Mary Ann Clarke Scott

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Good morning, Mary Ann!

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

MS: It’s funny that everyone talks about this now, and it’s so accepted. I sat firmly on that fence for years, while teachers, agents and colleagues said, “You have to decide! You can’t sell a book that’s not either women’s fiction or romance.” And I sat there, obstinately. So I’ll take Romantic Women’s Fiction, thank you. It perfectly describes what I do, and what I love to read, too. I focus on the heroine’s journey, the character arc, the growth and personal challenges, even when it’s also the hero that’s experiencing that arc. The function of the romantic relationship is as a catalyst to change. And, I guess, it’s the prize at the bottom of the box. But for me, it’s always there. Other WF writers use friendship or familial relationships as that foil. For me, it’s always the love interest.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

MS: I write some science fiction. I have a feature screenplay in the Cyberpunk genre that I’m going to novelize one day soon. And I have a plan for an ambitious, branched Steampunk Time Travel story. I also have a plan for a middle grade series. Someday.

RWF: Do you have a new book out?

MS: I have two! After agonizing for years about the publishing journey, I made my decision and self-published my first book, Reconcilable Differences, in August 2016, and my second, The Art of Enchantment, in March of 2017. Now I’m in a hurry to finish and release the other three manuscripts I’m sitting on.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

MS: Frustration, impatience, or patience, depending on how you look at it, growth, risk-taking, a belief that I could. Finally. The desire to move to the next stage of my career, and write for others as well as myself. Self-publishing is an enormous undertaking. I think in my gut I knew that, and put it off until I felt I “knew enough.” Or was prepared to commit to the hard work.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

MS: Put it away and write another one. And another one. Don’t get hung up on your masterpiece. No matter how brilliant it is, the next one will be better. You can’t see it now, but you will. We never stop growing and improving at our craft. Don’t assume because you’ve sweated blood that there isn’t more to learn. Do NOT spend ten years tweaking your first book. Waste of time. Give it some air.

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

MS: PM me! We can cross-promote! LOL

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

MS: I’m an eclectic reader. I read a lot of romance and women’s fiction, but all kinds, depending on my mood and what I’m looking for or looking to escape from. I also love science fiction, a little mystical, magical realism sometimes, literary fiction, an occasional action/suspense with romance mixed in.

RWF: When writing do you read in the genre your writing in or something else?

MS: I shift into sidelines – romantic comedy or historical, or literary. Reading really good WF kind of intimidates me. I get inspiration from them, too, but, you know. There’s always someone who’s so much better than you, and that knocks the wind out of you sometimes.

RWF: Do you have a running theme?

MS: The more I write, the more I see that there are ideas I revisit, dressed up in different ways. I guess that’s how my first stories evolved into series. I saw that I kept coming back to the same ideas: identity, belonging, balance, self-knowledge, empowerment. Learning to be one’s true self, even if there are reasons why you’ve been denying that, as a survival mechanism. I think this is very true to life, and I like to explore it in different ways – that turning point in a life that changes everything – and brings you closer to yourself. The universe. Authenticity, I guess. And a touch of spiritual awakening, in a vague, non-religious way. A kind of Zen thing.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

MS: Most of it’s too slow for me. I can’t stand self-help. I read the dust jacket and the introduction and feel – ok, got it, or I already knew that! I don’t read much non-fiction, unless I’m researching something for a book – then I’ll gobble up all kinds of weird stuff. History, geography, different professions, astrophysics or chemistry, philosophy or religion, sports, botany, whatever. And I read writing craft. Lately I read far, far too much about book marketing. 😉

RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

MS: I am a plotter. I can’t write without knowing where I’m going, and that I’ve worked out the structural underpinnings of my story. The more I write, and the more I study craft, the more this has become true. Maybe because I was an architect? I don’t know. I like patterns. And symbols. And archetypes. I love story structure. It actually stimulates my imagination, and helps me problem solve. It’s fun. Right now, I’m being more conscious of navigating the heroine’s journey in a nuanced, conscious way, hitting the right notes. But even when I don’t plan everything, it’s in there, so I suppose I should trust myself more. It’s just that I like it, the planning process. A lot. It’s like a big juicy puzzle. But the reason it’s fascinating to me is that it’s inherent in us, collectively. That’s why there are both kinds of writers.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

MS: Ah. Chaos. I’m a binger. I either have my writing hat on, or my publishers hat. I can’t seem to do both simultaneously, on a schedule. One is introspective, meditative, creative and immersive. The other social, rational, linear, frenetic. And I tip back and forth. Whichever job I’m doing consumes me, happens continuously, and life flows around it. I’m lucky my family is pretty self-sufficient these days, and so I attend to them when I can, and when I can’t, they manage. I’m always juggling though.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

MS: Oh, I write from home. I’m very lucky to have my own lovely office, and live in a beautiful place. I also have a great coffee machine. That’s all I need.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

MS: I have done, the past four years. For a long time I thought I wouldn’t like the pressure – but it turns out I like it – the focus, the frenzy and the community of crazy writers all pushing so hard to get words down. There’s something freeing about not having time to fret about whether they’re any good. I’ve got a few new ‘partial’ manuscripts out of NaNoWriMo. Too bad my books are 100k words or more! It takes me six months or more to write the second half.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

MS: Well, mostly I begin with character. But sometimes with a scenario that might be inspired by a place, an event, a song, or the stories that are embedded in them. But in those cases, the first thing I do is come up with a person who finds themselves there and then build up from that, around the character. Why are they there, in that situation? Where did they come from? How are they damaged or deluded? What do they want, and what, or who, can I throw in to make their life hard, transformative. I especially like dreaming up two characters who can do that for each other simultaneously.

RWF: Thank you, Mary Ann, for sharing your time and a bit of writing world.

 

M A Clarke Scott is a Chatelaine Grand Prize winner for The Art of Enchantment, first in the Life is a Journey series of romantic women’s fiction about young women abroad who discover themselves and fall in love while getting embroiled in other people’s problems. Reconcilable Differences is first in the Having It All series about professional women in Vancouver struggling to balance the challenge and fulfillment of career with the search for identity, love, family and home. She also loves to weave dramatic relationships into steampunk and cyberpunk adventures.

She’s been a telephone operator, a dental hygienist, an architect, a gerontologist and an education savings advisor, and is now affectionately known as ‘Doc Maven.’ When not writing, she meditates while hiking wooded mountain trails, does yoga and Pilates to fend off decrepitude, reads eclectically, contemplates wormholes, experiments with painting abstract expressionism, kills plants and tries not to burn dinner. Her geeky fascinations include time travel, archeology, European history, French films, neuroplasticity, metaphysics, Jungian psychology, using big words 😉 Clarke Scott lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with three large men and four small mammals, all of them hairier than she. Although she knows she lives in Paradise, she still loves traveling the world in search of romance, art, good food and new story ideas.

You can read more about M A, her books, and ideas that strike her fancy at http://www.maryannclarkescott.com. Join her mailing list to receive a bundle of free goodies.

Website: http://www.maryannclarkescott.com

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Food & Fiction – Delicious Together!

food &

by Kristi Rhodes

Beef up your next writing project with a few well-placed food references. I know. Forgive me. Sorry to start with the food words in the very first sentence…

I love to read about food in my fiction, whether it’s a couple sharing a tropical fruit parfait in a Hawaiian romance or a detective devouring a hot, buttery lobster roll in a Maine-set mystery. Including food references in your work can add another enjoyable dimension.

Below are a few easy ways to sprinkle culinary terms into your writing:

  1. Food Words are Delicious Describers:

Looking for that perfect word to add interest to your sentence? How about sticky, steamy, bitter or bubbly? In Kathy Temean’s article, 101 Descriptive Words for Foods, she gives page-after-page of delicious describers. This list makes it easy to add sizzle to your next writing.

Another exceptional find for fabulous food words is in Ingrid Sundberg’s article, The Color Thesaurus. It is a fascinating block of color shades and names associated with them. She uses labels like coconut, for a color that is pinky white, or butter that is just that perfect shade of soft yellow, or honey that is a deeper mix of yellow and brown. 

  1. Foods Words are Fabulous in Simile/Metaphors/Comparisons:

Food words are relatable and common enough to provide easy comparisons for your work. The only caveat is to avoid overused idioms like sizzles like bacon or juicy as a peach, but unexpected food comparisons can delight your readers. Try …quick as the breakfast waitress at Dot’s Corner Café, or …refreshing as cold chunks of watermelon on a ninety-degree day. I’m sure you’ll come up with much more clever ones, but that gives you an idea.

 

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.-James Beard-2

 

  1. Food Words Immerse Readers in Time Periods:

Food references can pinpoint time periods. My childhood is full of fond food memories. Jello salad was my favorite at picnics. Pineapple upside down cake meant birthday celebrations. Twinkies were my after-school treat. Fondue was mostly for adult parties, but I loved to sneak a forkful of bread dripping with cheese. My top of the list, though, was banana pudding. The kind with layers of pudding and bananas and ‘Nilla wafers. That was reserved for when my mom really wanted to spoil us. Whenever I see those foods in books, movies or magazines, I’m transported back to the sixties and seventies in my house with my family.

My friend Suzy is writing about twin princesses living in a castle around the Middle Ages. To add authentic detail to her holiday celebration scene, she researched the ingredients and decorations used in making gingerbread houses during that time period.

Food references can help the reader be more in touch with the time period of your work. I know they thrill me when I read them in fiction.

  1. Food Words Reinforce Your Setting:

Food references can make your setting more identifiable. Tex-Mex in Texas, avocados in California or peaches in Georgia – certain foods bring a place to mind. By mentioning the food in your setting you can reinforce that location to your reader. If your protagonist is living in Connecticut, maybe she eats a fresh-picked apple from the tree in fall, or enjoys chowder by the shore or stops at a diary farm for a wedge of a heavenly local cheese. All are opportunities to give a local flavor to your writing.

Splattering your work with food words can enrich your sentences with juicy adjectives, or make your seventies-set novel come to life or have your Florida scene pop.

Do you use food references in your writing? Share your favorite in the comments section.

  

Kristi Rhodes pic

Kristi Rhodes has been the Treasurer for RWF since January 2016. Her current MS, The Tropical Transformation of Joanie Weston, was recently selected as a finalist in the Women’s Fiction category of the WisRWA Fab 5 contest. In her spare time, she loves to cook and entertain, especially using tropical ingredients. Foodies will enjoy the references sprinkled throughout her work. Contact Kristi through her website, on Twitter or on Pinterest.

Fun Fact: There is a genre in fiction that is called Food Fiction. A list of these foodie treasures can be found here: http://literaryfoodie.blogspot.com/p/food-fiction-list.html