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RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maclarkescott

FB: https://www.facebook.com/authorMACS/

GR: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15160160.M_A_Clarke_Scott

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/maclarkescott/?eq=m%20a%20clarke%20&etslf=5966

IG: https://www.instagram.com/maclarkescottauthor/

 

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

 

 

 

 

Advice on Attending RWA Nationals wit h Heather Burch

Hello ladies!

I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference in Orlando in July! I made a quick note of a few things that might help you along your way. These are things I’ve learned over the years. I attended my first RWA national conference in the early nineties. Now, I haven’t been every year, but I’ve got at least ten RWA national conferences under my belt.

Here are my helpful hints…

Luggage Hacks

Before I leave for conference and even before I pack my suitcase, I try on each outfit. Then, I take a snapshot on my phone. Now, the arduous job of packing has just been made simple! I even get an idea of which outfit I’ll wear each day. At conference, all I have to do is refer to my photos and BAM! There’s my clothes, shoes, and accessories all in one place.

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Pace Yourself

There’s so much to see and so much to do. But it will be around for the entire conference. You don’t have to get everything in on the first day.

Make a Plan

Whether you are a paper copy note maker or a tech savvy schedule maker, you need a plan before you go. Yes, it will change. But it’s worth the time and effort to have something to glance at. RWA provides a lovely schedule when you arrive, but let me tell you, it can be overwhelming. Go to the website and check out the list of workshops far in advance. If a few of them really speak to you, make a note so that when you get the copy of all the events, you’re not overwhelmed. In past years, I believe RWA even sent the schedule ahead of the conference. Still, I try to familiarize myself by spending some time on the RWA website.

Make Time for Friends

Every year, I look forward to just sitting and catching up with my writing peeps. Whether you drink or not, the hotel bars (especially lobby bars) are a great place to connect. Whenever I have downtime, I just make a loop through the bars and sure enough! I run into friends.

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Attend the Parties. Go to the book signings.

One of the things I love most is the signings that feature specific publishers. An entire row of authors will be there signing complimentary copies of their newest releases. It’s a book lovers’ heaven! I will be signing on THURSDAY morning at 8:30-9:30 at the Montlake and Lake Union signing. If you make it to that one, I’ll sign a copy of my book for you! Plus, I’ll give you a hug just for reading this article.

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Wear Comfortable Shoes

You will walk and walk and walk. Make sure your feet aren’t screaming by noon. Do your footsies a favor and wear shoes that are already broken in and comfy on your feet.

Don’t Forget to Join the Conversation!

Are you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? Use the #RWA2017 hashtag on all your upcoming conference related tweets. And while you’re there, find me and let’s start a conversation.

Heather Burch pic for blog post

A little bit about me…I write for Lake Union Publishing (Amazon’s women’s fiction) currently. I’ve also written for Montlake (Amazon’s romance publisher) and I’ve done four books for Harper Collins. In 2014 my novel One Lavender Ribbon was named one of the year’s most quoted books by Kindle readers. My Montlake and Lake Union books are translated around the world. All in all, it’s been an incredible adventure and at the very heart of it is community. I couldn’t do what I do without the amazing writer friends I’ve made. I owe so much to RWA and my fellow authors! I’m a member of Tampa Area Romance Authors, my local chapter of RWA. I hope you’ll find me on social media so we can get connected and start visiting about the conference!

https://m.facebook.com/heatherburchbooks

https://mobile.twitter.com/heatherburch

https://www.instagram.com/heathereburch/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4983102.Heather_Burch

You can see all of my books on my website

https://www.heatherburchbooks.com/

Interview with Author, Tina Newcomb

Welcome to our series, Interview with an Author. We’ll introduce members of RWF at all stages of the writer’s journey. 

Come join us, learn about the wonderful writers who are a part of Romantic Women’s Fiction a chapter of RWA.

Today we meet Tina Newcomb.

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

TN:  I write sweet contemporary romance/mainstream with romantic elements (I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s the closest description I can come up with). I am working on a women’s fiction novel that I hope to pitch at RWA in 2018.

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

TN: I’m working on a series set in a fictional town of Eden Falls, Washington. I’ve finished five books and hope to complete at least one more by the end of 2018. I plan to self-publish this series (one book a month) starting in July of this year.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

TN: When I have time to I read, I turn to women’s fiction. Just a few of my favorite authors are Karen White, Barbara Delinsky, Sarah Addison Allen, Barbara Claypole White, and Barbara O’Neal.

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

TN: Each book in my Eden Falls series is loosely based on different occupations. Book one is about a flower shop owner who uses the Victorian language of flowers to build her bouquets. This art is mentioned in each book.

Eden Falls has small town charm where smiles are frequent and a helping hand is always near.

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

TN: I think I learn more from local classes or those I attend at the RWA Conference. I don’t have enough discipline to follow through with the online classes—I would rather be writing. I have a whole library of craft books that have never been opened.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

TN: I find my inspiration while traveling. I usually start with a setting and add characters. My husband and I take a two-week driving vacation every year and I always come home with a rough outline for a book. The series I’m working on came after a trip through Washington State. My women’s fiction will be based on an island we visited while in Maine.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

TN: I write six days a week. Even if I can only edit a page or two, I make time to sit at my computer and write.

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

TN: I’m a pantser. I know the beginning of my book, I usually have an idea for my black moment, and I know how it will end, but the middle is a total mystery until I get there. I’ve tried to outline and plot several times, and I’ve tried several different methods, but I end up frustrated.

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?

TN: I watch my grandson during the day, so I have to work around visits to the library, or the museum, bike rides and trips to the park. I wake up early and try to write an hour before he comes. I also try to get in an hour or so after his mom picks him up in the afternoons.

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

TN: I believe my stories are based on my character’s journey whether male or female. I sprinkle romance in and I always have an HEA.

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

TN: I write in my office, on my bed, or in the family room.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

TN: I love NaNoWriMo! I’ve participated twice and completed both projects I started. Having only thirty days, really pushes me and keeps me focused. I do have to plan a rough outline (eyelid twitches) for NaNo.

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

TN: Setting always comes first.

Thank you, Tina for sharing your writing time with us.

Tina Newcomb pic

About Me

I was born and raised in Utah on the foothills of the spectacular Wasatch Front, where life as a kid was magical. Summers were spent hiking or swimming in the neighborhood pool, winters were for sledding down mountain hills. I acquired my love of reading from my parents. My mother was a librarian and stacks of books were always close at hand. I wrote my first (more than three page) story in fourth grade. Tobie, my heroine, bravely solved The Mystery Behind the Iron Door. I took writing classes in college and stories began to develop.

I moved to Memphis, Tennessee as a young mother and lived there long enough to learn “Bless your heart” is almost always followed by an insult, fried chicken is a staple, and any measurable snow will, most likely, close the schools for days. I do miss the dogwoods in spring and the smell of barbecue permeating the air at Memphis in May.

My pen and paper were put away as adult life and motherhood took precedence. Three kids later, I wrote my first novel, but had no idea what to do with it. It ended up in a box on a shelf. Numerous years later I came across the manuscript in a closet. I pulled it out, dusted it off and started all over again.

I now live in beautiful Colorado with my (amateur) chef husband. Six of our eight kids and one of three grandkids live nearby.

Fun Facts:

  • I have the most loving, generous, PATIENT husband in the world.
  • I’m grateful for my kids.
  • I adore my grandchildren.
  • My mother introduced me to The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.
  • My father introduced me to non-fiction.
  • My favorite author is LaVyrle Spencer.
  • Crazy as it sounds, I love to clean.
  • My favorite ice cream is pralines and cream.
  • I don’t have a favorite color or a favorite flower.
  • My least favorite flower is a sunflower. (I know, I’m damaged).
  • I love Bear Lake, Utah, raspberry shakes and Miami, Florida strawberry shakes.
  • Country is my music of choice.
  • My favorite season is spring (closely followed by fall).
  • Chinese or Mexican food? Don’t make me choose.

www.TinaNewcomb.com

www.facebook.com/TinaNewcombAuthor

www.twitter.com/TinaNewcomb

www.pinterest.com/tinanewcomb

www.goodreads.com/tinanewcomb

 

 

Taking a Jab at this Writer’s Ultimate Opponent – Self-Doubt

Throughout my writing journey I’ve had to fistfight with self-doubt. Harsh reviews or agent rejections fueled stagnant writing periods and kept me from getting words on the page. Self-doubt needed to go.

Knocking out my apprehension started with this inspiring kick-butt quote.


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller


When I read that quote in two different articles this week, I took it as a sign to keep my chin up and continue to pursue my writing goals.

Kristi 1stblog

One way my self-doubt surfaced was in negative thinking. “That agent will never choose my work. She’s in New York and so many talented authors send her manuscripts, I shouldn’t even submit.” Or, “I’m not sure why I entered that contest. I’ll never win. It was probably a waste of time and money.”

Christina Katz, in her book, The Writer’s Workout, suggests that we reframe negative statements and reveal the truth.

“The truth about _____________ is ______________.”

My negative-turned-positive example (by using the agent sentence three paragraphs above), is — “The truth about agents is that they build their businesses on finding new authors.  If I want to be a professional writer, I have to wade through rejections and keep submitting my work.”

Reframing negative statements made sense to me. Positive messages were my new modus operandi.

I made it through the first round, conquering negativity, but still had a lingering self-doubt to defeat.  Reading The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, in the chapter titled, “Valuing our Experience”, I found a break.

She suggested, “We (creatives) must be small enough, humble enough to always be a beginner, an observer.” But, then she adds, “…we must stay big enough to recognize that any individual criticism, any negative feedback, accurate or not, must be seen in light of the bigger picture:  we have actually made something and we plan to make many — and perhaps better—things more.”

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Small, yet big. That’s a tough balance, how do I do it? Ms. Cameron said we achieve this balance by developing a “creative routine”. She says the routine ensures we value our experience by “paying active witness to ourselves and our world.” Her routine is writing three pages long-hand each day. She calls them her Morning Pages.

Also, at the end of her chapter, to help the reader understand this experience, Ms. Cameron suggests listing fifty things you are proud of, everything from small to large.

I thought it would be silly, but I went ahead and listed the numbers down my page and started to think and write.

As I sped through the first twenty, then slowed for the next ten, I felt a shift of my attitude. The list was valuable.  When was the last time you cataloged the things that made you swell with pride? Powerful stuff. I almost caught myself patting my own back. Yeah and I did that toonumber twenty-five, made chicken parm from scratch. I am good.

I’m not sure I’ve knocked out self-doubt, but I’ve definitely got it on the ropes. And with it on the ropes, I’ve felt empowered to be brave and daring in my writing. Making it richer by searching for the raw emotions that made me swell with pride, or feel desperate, or madly in love, or madly in hate, and bring that to the page. No more perfect women and polite plots.

To misquote Helen Keller –


“Make your writing daring or nothing.”


Have you found successful strategies to conquer self-doubt? In the comments, let us know what’s worked for you.

Kristi Rhodes RWF treasurer2 

Kristi Rhodes is the Treasurer for the RWF Chapter of RWA. She writes romance and women’s fiction, both set in tropical climates. She moved to the Northeast from Florida more than ten years ago. Tropical writing keeps her toes in the sand when there’s snow on the ground. You can reach her at her website, on Twitter or on Pinterest