Ten Things Writers Need to Stop Telling Themselves

More than any other group of people, writers should get the power of words.

Words move people to stand behind a leader. To willingly go into battle, knowing death is likely. To fight to protect the weak and innocent.

Words make us laugh, bring us to tears, and the best, the most powerful words, are engraved on our hearts. We quote them when we need strength, or to show love, or evoke sympathy.

So why do we as writers so often neglect the power of words when it comes to our own work, our own self–esteem?

It’s not just writers. I’d hazard to say it’s a widespread problem–perhaps a little more so among women than men. It’s not that men don’t internally belittle themselves, but I believe many more women are raised to verbally–and publicly–abuse themselves than not. Call it what you like. An appealing ‘humility’ or whatever. The truth of the matter is many of us constantly run ourselves down and we are scarcely aware that we’re doing it.

Lately, I’ve been running into all kinds of conversations, blog posts, and Twitter threads about the power of words and why in particular, we as writers shouldn’t denigrate our work and abilities, lest the repetition of our negative words becomes the truth. I understand this concept, but like knowing I should eat vegetables and choosing pizza instead, positive affirmations are difficult for me.

I grew up in a religious household. Many religions drum into you your lack of worthiness as part of your need to be redeemed. Most religions are patriarchal in nature, which adds an additional layer of unworthiness if you happen to be female. My family was also full of over-achievers. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, pastors… if you weren’t giving back to society in some way, you weren’t worthy. Standards were often impossibly out of reach. If I brought home less than straight A’s from school, I was under-performing to the family standard. If I got straight A’s, well, anyone could get straight A’s at a public school.

So reading books like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking was encouraged. But even as I read it, a burning resentment smoldered inside. Thinking positively wouldn’t get you out of a bad situation. It wasn’t going to cure chronic illness, or make you smarter, prettier, more talented. I read the book and rejected the message.

Same with the body positivity movement. No, I’m not saying the movement is wrong. I think it’s high time we rejected the fashion industry’s standard of beauty (artfully enhanced by Photoshop, which means not even their own standard-bearers live up to the hype). We should all embrace the notion that women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and physical ability–and not erase the less-than-impossibly perfect because they somehow don’t measure up.

But that concept of equality that I will grant to everyone else comes harder to me. Why? Because I don’t believe it. Not as it applies to me.

I’ve been hearing negative commentary about my looks, my intelligence, and my abilities my entire life. It’s still ongoing today: from my family, my co-workers, the man on the street, society as a whole. I have a book of ‘positive affirmations’ that is practically empty because I can’t think of anything to put in it that won’t make me roll my eyes and snort.

I get up in the morning and note the dark circles under my eyes and how my hair is thinning. I curl a lip at the roll of fat around my waist. I point out how unattractive I am, and how I should do something about it when I’m not so flat-out exhausted. I frequently say things like “I’m too old for this crap”, meaning “I’m at a point in my life where I should be treated better than this” but all my brain hears is I’m too old.

So I join a body positivity group, but drop out because I can’t complete the exercises. I routinely say things to myself I’d never say to a friend–not even a stranger, for that matter. I know better. But like Steve Martin’s character in Roxanne, I’ve perfected the art of running myself down so well, I take the wind out of anyone else’s ability to do so.

When Katie Masters (are you following Katie? If not, you should) posted on Twitter about not belittling your own work because doing so would make it true, I tried very hard to internalize her advice. I’m really struggling with that right now–on top of the never-ending loop of negativity that tells me I’m too old, too fat, unattractive, not sexy enough, not smart enough–I also bemoan the fact my writing is Not Good Enough. It’s not terrible. But it’s no where near where I’d like it to be. When I read stories by people who are hitting it out of the park, even as I clutch them to my chest because of the magic they evoke, I’m crushed because I’m not in the same league. Hell, I’m not even in the same country.

See, I’m doing it again.

And likewise, Neil Gaiman has said some wonderful things about writing, impostor syndrome, and comparing yourself to others. But when I went looking for a specific quote to share here, I fell down a rabbit hole of impossibly excellent quotes, which might just turn out to be a blog post all of its own. But suffice to say, enough people out there that I like and respect have been telling me to stop undermining my work. There’s a difference between self-deprecation and self-denigration and I think too many of us choose the latter thinking it’s the former.

Ironically, what finally made me see what I was doing was harmful was the far right. Um, yes. You heard me correctly.

See, they get the power of words. Make them illegal aliens, not people seeking asylum through legitimate channels. Call them rapists, drug dealers, terrorists, animals. Make them less than human, something you don’t want in your neighborhood, and you will turn a blind eye when they are rounded up and placed in concentration camps. 

It works because on some level, the people who believe these things want to believe them. It fits their internal narrative.

But one thing I’ve learned as a writer is we have the power to change our own stories.

So here are some things I’m going to stop telling myself. I hope you’ll stop saying them to yourself as well.

  1. I’m Not Good Enough. Here’s the thing, everyone has someone they look up to as better than them. Better parents, better writer, better friend, lover, person. There are people who are prettier, smarter, and more talented. All you can do is be the best you there is. That’s all that’s required of you. And it is a heckuva lot easier to do that if you stop beating yourself up at the same time. You may not be as good as “them”, but everyone is at a different point on the same path and no one else walked it the same way you’ve done. Cut yourself some slack–and keep walking.
  2. I’m not productive enough. What the hell does that even mean? Productive enough for what? To build a following? To make a killing on KU? Are you a writer? Do you put words down in the format of your choice? Then you’re productive enough.
  3. I’m not successful enough. Frankly, this is garbage thinking. If you go into writing because you want to be rich and famous, honey, there are easier ways of doing that. What are your criteria for success? A bestseller ribbon? Winning awards? Being featured in Oprah’s book club? Making a gazillion dollars? Your definition of success should be dependent on the stage where you are right now. Sometimes that means simply putting words–any words–to paper. Sometimes that means self-publishing a story that got rejected. Sometimes it means putting the rejected story in a drawer and coming back to it in a year or so to see what it needs to fix it. Sure, you’re going to keep moving the bar higher. Just don’t place it at unrealistic heights that discourage you from even trying.
  4. My writing sucks. Does it really? No, seriously, is it the worst thing you’ve ever read or are you just being hard on yourself? Have you eaten today? Taken a shower? Walked the dog? STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD. Take a break and do something else. Because you know this isn’t really true. You may not be as good as you’d like to be, but there are people out there who like your work, who (oddly enough) think you’re a good writer and they wish they could write like you do. I know, there’s no accounting for taste, but if you truly sucked, no one would like your stories. So just don’t even go there.
  5. I’ll never _____________. It doesn’t matter what you put here. Top the bestseller list? Win a prestigious award? Make enough money writing to quit the Evil Day Job? It’s both easy and true to say, “Not with that attitude you won’t” but the question you should be asking yourself is “Does it matter if I don’t?” If you have none of those things now, how will your life materially change if you never achieve those goals? Spoiler alert: it won’t. So are you going to let that stop you from writing?
  6. That one bad review is somehow more accurate than the fifty glowing ones I received. Ouch. Bad reviews hurt. But if the comments in a snarky review are outliers, then let it go. If you’re hearing the same things over and over again from beta readers, critique groups, editors (all of which should have assessed your work before you publish it), and readers, then that should be a heads up that you’ve done something wrong and you need to change it. But when you get that nasty gif-laden review that seems to come out of nowhere, keep this in mind: there are only two reasons why someone leaves that kind of review. Either they have a following because they are the Simon Cowell of reviewers–and therefore their fans hang on every gif with glee to see someone else be destroyed–or they want to make you feel so bad you quit writing. Are you going to let some soul-sucking vampire make you give up on your dream of telling stories? No? Then ignore this kind of review. Don’t read it. Don’t acknowledge it. Don’t let it have any power over you.
  7. My stories will never change the world. Oh cupcake, you don’t know that. Sure, on the whole, I would hazard to say most stories don’t change the world–at least, not in ways that we can see. Maybe there will never be theme-parks where kids of all ages dress up as characters from your stories and buy story-themed items, but I wouldn’t let that get you down. The vast majority of stories written won’t be read thirty, forty, fifty years or more down the line either. But your story can change the life of the one person reading it today. Maybe you gave them hope or laughter on a day they needed it most. Maybe you snuck in a little enlightenment and made them see things in a different manner than they had before. Maybe you represented ‘self’ to the reader who’d never before recognized themselves in a story. Don’t discount that. Most world changing events–for good or bad–happen in incremental steps over time.
  8. Everyone on social media seems to be doing so much better than me. Ugh. If you’re going to sit around comparing yourself to others on SM, just turn it off for a while. Keep in mind, SM is where people either tend to post about the best, the worst, or the most mundane in their lives. I don’t know about you, but I seldom feel envy at seeing pictures of what someone had for dinner–so let’s cross those out. That leaves the I won the lottery-went to the Bahamas-became a bestseller-lost thirty pounds without trying crowd vs the my life is SO bad you’ll never be able to top it crowd. Remember, those people going through stuff both good and bad are merely at different points on the path as you. You’re seeing a snapshot into their lives that doesn’t reflect anything else that might be going on. And the person with the new cover art/new release/award-winning story might be YOU next week, month, or year. Celebrate wins with your friends. Comfort if there are losses. But if you can’t stop comparing yourself, then walk away from SM for a while–put that time into writing the next story.
  9. My stories don’t matter. This is another version of ‘won’t change the world’ but on a smaller level. So I ask you, is it necessary for them to matter? There is nothing wrong with telling a story for the sheer entertainment value of telling a story. Don’t sell that short. It’s worth more than you think it is. 
  10. I’ll never be as good as so-and-so. This may well be true. On the other hand, I bet that author has someone they feel the same way about as well. Recently someone listed one of my couples among their top favorite pairing–along with my ALL TIME FAVORITE pairing in the same genre. No joke. I’d never been as flattered in my entire life. Never in a million years would I have put my characters on the same page–but someone else did. So maybe we aren’t the best judge of our work.

What it boils down to is this: words matter. The words we tell ourselves on a regular basis matter a lot. If we’ve spent a lifetime running ourselves down, we’re not going to change that soundtrack easily–the grooves have worn deep. But in order to change we MUST stop playing the old soundtrack. We must challenge lies whenever we hear them–be it from ourselves, our families, or people in positions of power over us. We must stop accepting negative feedback as being the only right message simply because it’s the message we believe.

I really struggle even saying things like, “that’s not so bad.” Believe me, I know how hard it is to reprogram your thinking. But I’m going to give myself a month of NOT running myself down. Of stopping the negative feedback loop whenever I hear it playing and countering the conditioning by telling myself positive things about myself that I believe every day. I think if I start with things that won’t make me snort coffee out of my nose, then I can progress to things I want to believe.

I challenge everyone reading this to do the same–and come back here in a month and let me know what changes you are seeing in your life. Let’s do this together.

 

June WIP Wednesday

Old black dusty vintage typewriter on the table.

It’s the first Wednesday in June, so you know what that means, right? It’s WIP Wednesday!

The rules are simple: please keep your snippet to under 500 words (I know sometimes that’s not a good stopping point–a little fudging is allowed) and no graphic sex–let’s keep the tone PG-13 for the general reading population.

I’m offering a snippet from my upcoming release, Ghost of a Chance, another in the Redclaw Security series. In this story, Sarah Atwell has been given a second chance at a life she left behind when her grandmother leaves her the family horse farm–only it comes with strings attached. She must fulfill the terms of the will or the farm go to horse trainer Casey Barnes instead. What they don’t know is that outside forces aim to tip the balance–and in doing so, create a dangerous situation for them both.

Fortunately, Casey is a former Redclaw Security agent–and the bad guys won’t know what hit them…

A quick recon of the tracks indicated the stray horse had turned back onto the path the others had taken, so Casey wheeled Indy back to rejoin Sarah.

How had the horses escaped the dry lot? Why were there so many canines involved in chasing them? Wild packs of dogs existed, and coyotes were becoming bolder, but nothing about the steady drive of tracks toward the road made sense. Initially, Casey’s distrust of the semi-feral Shepherd had led him to believe the dog was behind the escape, but the sheer number of paw prints dispelled that notion. The dog might have been present, but she wasn’t alone. If the animals chasing the horses meant to hurt them, they would have caught up with them by now. None of this was consistent with wild animals making a nuisance of themselves. If the horses in the dry lot had been attacked and had fled in desperation, there would be fences down. The gate wouldn’t have been standing open.

That required human hands.

The forced movement of the missing horses toward the main road smacked of deliberate manipulation. But why? What did anyone have to gain by doing something like this? If it hadn’t been for the fact one of the missing horses was Athena, it would be easy to dismiss his concerns as fanciful. But the entire inheritance hinged on keeping Athena safe through her high-risk pregnancy. Which beggared the question: who would benefit if something happened to Athena?

As far as he could tell, the only person was him. And since he knew he wasn’t behind the series of “accidents” that left him without answers.

Now it’s your turn! Share a little snippet with us!

Emotional Writer’s Block: Get Real or Go Home

I’ve been struggling with a WIP for over a year now, while at the same time dealing with a great deal of personal loss. For some time, I thought my inability to punch my way through the barriers in the story had to do with the initial set up: I took two strangers and isolated them on a farm in a snowstorm. For much of the story, it’s just the two of them, with no other characters for interaction.

Now, I confess, that kind of scenario is one of my favorites. Show me a story with ‘snowed in’ as a premise, and I’m one-clicking that baby. It was only a matter of time before I wrote one myself. And I’ve written novels before in which the two main characters were the only speakers onstage for much of the story. So I couldn’t understand why this story felt so wooden and dull, why the protagonists seemed to have little chemistry or sparkage.

I knew my creative energy was down because my emotional well was depleted. But I’ve written in those circumstances before, so I just didn’t get it. Why was this story being so difficult?

It finally dawned on me that the problem was I had two characters that were walled-off emotionally and unwilling to communicate. Well, let me tell you having one such character is pretty standard in romances. It’s usually the hero with the stiff upper lip,  who doesn’t share anything with the heroine until she breaks down his emotional barriers. It’s my favorite kind of hero, to be honest. But you can’t have both main characters walking around with a stick up their ass, saying “I’m fine” whenever someone asks how they are doing. Two taciturn and uncommunicative characters isn’t just difficult to write, but they’re boring to read as well.

My critique group tried to point this out early on, but I wasn’t having any of it. I was defensive of my characters and their inability to vent their emotions. I had my reasons for why they behaved in a certain way–and yet I felt the lack of connection and complained about the dullness of their interactions. Now, I don’t confuse bantering with bickering. The first is a witty, sometimes playful back and forth between the two main characters. Think Nick and Nora from The Thin Man movies or the early days of Castle. Banter isn’t mean. It doesn’t snipe at one another, taking nasty potshots along the way. I don’t want my hero to be a jerk–especially if he and the heroine are trapped together in the same house for a while. But there has to be that spark between them. And with both of my characters being tight-lipped and suffering-in-silence, that wasn’t happening.

I frequently joke that when I don’t know what to do with the plot, I blow something up or burn it down. It’s a great way of getting unstuck from a plot point, or when your characters are wasting time getting coffee or putting on makeup instead of moving on with the story. I was pounding my head on the desk trying to figure out how to get my characters to engage without turning one of them into someone I didn’t want to be around, when it suddenly hit me.

I needed an emotional fire. I needed for them to get real or go home.

There’s a lovely scene in Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers, in which Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are discussing this very same problem with one of her stories–and Lord Peter’s suggestion is to get real with the murderer–give him a true reason for committing the crime as opposed to being a vehicle for posing a pretty mystery puzzle. Give depth to the story beyond what the genre called for. Harriet, having just been acquitted of murder recently (thanks to Lord Peter), is reluctant to do this because it may hurt too much. Lord Peter essentially says, “What difference does that make if it makes for a better story?”

(Lord Peter really gets Harriet on a fundamental level. My goal is to one day create a romantic couple with that kind of dynamic in their relationship.)

In many ways, I believe writer’s block can be boiled down to this: an inability or unwillingness to get real with the characters. For the writer to strip themselves naked and stand on display in the form of their fictional creations. Not that characters are necessarily stand-ins for authors, but when you read that one sentence that utterly rings true for you, when someone details an experience, and you nod knowingly because you’ve had that experience yourself–that’s getting real.

And that was what was wrong with my WIP. To fix it, I went back and re-wrote all the dialog and interactions, taking out the silent, simmering refusal to emote and putting back in the emotions I’d been afraid to experience myself. 

So far, early word from my beta readers is promising. They love the WIP and think it’s better than my previous book, which is a relief, let me tell you.

So much so, it’s going to be my new motto: Get Real or Go Home.

 

Civil Hearts by Claire Gem: Love, Loss, and Ghosts? Tell Me More!

Please welcome Claire Gem as she shares with us her exciting new story: Civil Hearts!

Thank you, McKenna, for hosting me on your blog today! I’m excited to announce my new release, CIVIL HEARTS, is now available for both Kindle and in paperback. There’s an interesting story behind the story . . . but first, here’s the blurb:

 

He’s a sexy Southern gentleman—with epilepsy. She’s a widow scarred from her husband’s brain cancer. Her new home is haunted by a Confederate soldier—and she’s a Yankee.

 

A widow with no family, web designer Liv Larson yearns for big change. After all, she can work from anywhere, right? Why not throw a dart at the map? She heads out of the big city for the rural South and falls in love as soon as she arrives—with the Belle Bride, an abandoned antebellum mansion.

 

Heath Barrow loves his country life, managing his antiques store in sleepy Camellia. But he’s lonely, and his condition—epilepsy—makes life uncertain. It’s already cost him a marriage. A new medication and the new girl in town have his heart hopeful again.

 

Sparks fly between Heath and Liv. But his first seizure sends Liv into a tailspin. Its mimics those her husband suffered before he died . . .

 

To make matters worse, Liv discovers she’s not living alone. Her challenge? Dealing with a Confederate soldier, one who clearly resents his Yankee roommate—even though he’s been dead for over a hundred and fifty years.

 

~~~

 

The idea for Civil Hearts came to me in a dream. Believe it or not, this is how a LOT of my story ideas come to me, but there is a shred of true history here. Years ago, when my kids were still little, my husband and I fancied moving to central Alabama, where some friends of ours had relocated. We took a trip there, loved the countryside and the low cost of living.

 

A realtor took us around to look at a few homes—and one of them was a dead ringer for the Belle Bride. The memories of walking through that abandoned antebellum home have been buried in my subconscious for years. I got a funny, tingly sensation as we toured the lovely but poorly cared for old home, as if someone were watching us. And there was an old barn out back where I caught sight of something, some movement, I never did identify.

 

We didn’t move to Alabama, and I forgot about that chapter in my life. Until I dreamed about it. Only this time, there was a Confederate soldier pounding on the front door. A ghostly one.

 

In Civil Hearts, my hero is epileptic. I tend to address some of life’s more serious issues in my novels: the hero in Spirits of the Heart is an alcoholic; the heroine in The Phoenix Syndrome goes deaf. I think it’s important for authors to portray life as it really is, even in the romantic fairy tales we create. It’s one of the reasons I endeavor to evoke more emotion in my readers.

 

You can buy your copy of CIVIL HEARTS here.

The book trailer (which I had a blast putting together, by the way!) is here.

 

I hope you enjoy Liv and Heath’s journey, and I’d love if you’d sign up for my Author-Reader group so you’re the first to know when the next Haunted Voices, SIRENS OF SALT, will be released later this summer.

 

Thank you again, McKenna, for hosting me today.

My pleasure, Claire! I’m really intrigued by your story! 

 

Claire Gem’s Bio: Strong Women, Starting Over

   ~Redefining Romance~

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of six titles in the genres of contemporary romance, supernatural suspense, and women’s fiction. She also writes Author Resource guide books and presents seminars on writing craft and marketing.

 

Her supernatural suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival, and was a finalist in the 2017 RONE Awards. Also in 2017, her women’s fiction, The Phoenix Syndrome, was a finalist in the National Reader’s Choice Awards, and her contemporary romance, A Taming Season, was a Literary Award of Merit finalist in the HOLT Medallion Awards. Her latest release, Spirits of the Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 “I Heart Indie Awards.”

 

Creating cross-genre fiction she calls “supernatural suspense,” Claire loves exploring the paranormal and the unexplained, and holds a certificate in Parapsychology from the Rhine Research Center of Duke University.

 

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 39 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

 

Media Links

 

Website:                      http://www.clairegem.com

Blogs:                          http://www.clairegem.wordpress.com

                                    http://www.hauntedpathways.wordpress.com

Facebook:                    http://www.facebook.com/clairegem.author

Twitter:                       http://www.twitter.com/gemwriter

Goodreads:                  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8284235.Claire_Gem

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2nabvbm

Youtube Channel:        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO-vB7WDZhEQ8U4YpC937ng

 

 

 

 

Fallen for Shame Book Tour with Anna Edwards

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Teagan Holland left her old pack under a cloud of prejudice. Her breed, an Asiatic wild dog, considered nothing but vermin. But as the Glacial Blood Pack are about to find out she is one the kindest people they will ever meet. The accident prone dog also has a strength within her that will be needed to help stave off the now homeless Nuka Lincoln’s attempts at revenge. Will she regret taking this job?

Tyler Quinn has been a fighter for the pack since he was eighteen. He is mysterious, and nobody knows that much about why he joined them. All they do know is that he is a fantastic cook and a bit of a computer geek. Behind the man he portrays is a secret that threatens to send him on a path that he thought he had left behind. Will the white powder be his downfall?

Fallen for Shame is the third book in the highly recommended Glacial Blood Series by the author Anna Edwards. It is set in a paranormal world full of drama, suspense and great love affairs. Plus it features a secret that must never be told for fear of the consequences.

A family isn’t always blood; it’s the people that accept you for who you are.

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About Anna

Anna hails from the rural countryside near London. She previously worked as an accountant, and while she still does a bit of accountancy on occasion, the majority of her time is now spent writing and looking after her family.

An avid reader herself, Anna turned to writing to combat depression and anxiety after her diagnosis in 2015. She loves travel, hunky heroes with dirty mouths, demure but spunky heroines, and dramatic suspense. You will find all four woven into each of her magical stories.

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Fallen For Shame by Anna Edwards Release Day

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Teagan Holland left her old pack under a cloud of prejudice. Her breed, an Asiatic wild dog, considered nothing but vermin. But as the Glacial Blood Pack are about to find out she is one the kindest people they will ever meet. The accident prone dog also has a strength within her that will be needed to help stave off the now homeless Nuka Lincoln’s attempts at revenge. Will she regret taking this job?

Tyler Quinn has been a fighter for the pack since he was eighteen. He is mysterious, and nobody knows that much about why he joined them. All they do know is that he is a fantastic cook and a bit of a computer geek. Behind the man he portrays is a secret that threatens to send him on a path that he thought he had left behind. Will the white powder be his downfall?

Fallen for Shame is the third book in the highly recommended Glacial Blood Series by the author Anna Edwards. It is set in a paranormal world full of drama, suspense and great love affairs. Plus it features a secret that must never be told for fear of the consequences.

A family isn’t always blood; it’s the people that accept you for who you are.

Although book three in the Glacial Blood Series, Fallen For Shame may be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

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About Anna

Anna hails from the rural countryside near London. She previously worked as an accountant, and while she still does a bit of accountancy on occasion, the majority of her time is now spent writing and looking after her family.

An avid reader herself, Anna turned to writing to combat depression and anxiety after her diagnosis in 2015. She loves travel, hunky heroes with dirty mouths, demure but spunky heroines, and dramatic suspense. You will find all four woven into each of her magical stories.

Follow Anna Online!
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Btjgyk
BookBub: http://bit.ly/2ySXdOx
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2yTKQC4
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2BDeGjE
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2CzwOYj
Website: https://authorannaedwards.com

The Power of Creating Your Own Talismans

Long before it ever became a thing, I was in the habit of declaring “This would be my year of living ____________.”

One year it was fearlessly. Another was without doubt. Once it was passionately. As with most things, I would start out with good intentions that will fizzle along the way.

I tend to do a bit better if I can put my intentions into a form I can keep in front of me as a frequent reminder.

I also firmly believe in the power of talismans. Even more so if you create them for yourself.

Even as a child, I had a vivid imagination. My parents, imminently practical people, would come into the bedroom once to show me there were no monsters hiding there, but after that, it was up to me to deal with my fears. I used to lie awake quaking with terror over the hump of clothes piled in a chair (which I was sure was a gargoyle, just waiting for the lights to go out) or the shadow in the corner that was probably a burglar.

I finally conquered my fears when I decided I had the power to seal the monsters in my closet. Each night when I was sent to bed, I would round up the imaginary horrors, chase them into my closet, and cast a spell to contain them there. Problem solved. I was able to go to sleep without fear. The funny thing is, to this day, I’m unable to get a good night’s sleep unless my closet door is closed. If it is open even a crack, I have nightmares.

It illustrates the power we have within ourselves to overcome certain kinds of fears and doubts if we put our minds to it. Not everything. But many things. Especially the kinds of restrictions we’ve put on ourselves in the first place that keep us from being all that we can be.

As an adult, I find I still reach for objects I can imbue with strength when I need something to carry with me as a reminder. I love polished stones with words carved into them. As a child, I used to assign words to stones and carry them in my pocket as I needed them. One day I might carry courage. Another, hope. Today I carry joy.

These days, it’s much easier to find stones with words carved into them, but I still have the stones from my youth. I can grant them any word I wish. I love putting my hand in my pocket and coming across the smooth stone, rubbing it as a reminder of the word I wanted to keep near my heart that day. I’m not particularly religious or spiritual. I just find comfort in these small acts.

As an adult, I’ve frequently found strength in fandom, in a favorite character’s courage or behavior. I’ve taken to having iconic quotes made into bracelets or necklaces to remind myself the kind of person I want to be. I seem to need a lot of reminders! I think this is because my negative self-speak is so strong and has been honed over a lifetime of insecurities. So yes, I need to create my own talismans. Not as wards against evil, though sometimes they feel that way, but to offset the self-hate that’s been in place for so long.

For a while I had a ring that said Never Surrender. I bought a bunch of them and wore one until I found someone who needed it more than I did and then I gave it to them. I’ve given them all away.

So imagine my delight when I found out that declaring your intent for a year is a thing now. I noticed people on my timeline talking about what their word for the year might be. And then too, I’ve been seeing people get encouraging phrases stamped on aluminum bands like the one I’ve shown above. I love what I’m seeing. The Etsy store The Broken Circle has all kinds of great phrases on metal bracelets–like “Doubt Not” and “Slayer of Words”. And I recently discovered a website called MyIntent.org that will make a custom bracelet or necklace with the word of your choosing. How cool is that??

So what are you waiting for? You can assign a word of power to ANYTHING. Or you can search for the right phrase that will lift you up every time you see it and create your own talisman–or have someone make one for you. I ordered a bracelet from the My Intent project that said “Persistence.” That’s my word for the year. It’s to remind me of my favorite Calvin Coolidge quotation.

Author Interview with Jennifer Julie Miller

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Jennifer, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Wow, let me see. I have a boy job by day. I’m a Brazer at a local factory and I have done that for 18 years now. I have only been writing since 2015, and I am the proud author of four books. I have two grown kids and now I have both of their better half’s also. I have a very rotten granddaughter who reminds me to play, with very supportive parents, aunts, sister, and friends. I have been blessed with my very own Happy Ever After. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who makes me smile every day, and after all these years I still miss him when he isn’t around. Rick is my very best friend in the world and I’m lucky enough to be married to him.

I began writing in 2015, after my husband had a dream about a girl and her magical Water Skippers…. He got up one morning and said, “Come on, we need to go buy a few things.” He took me to a local office max. I honestly, had that deer in the headlight look. I had no idea why we were there, anyway, he says. “Pick out a nice notebook and a pen I have something I want you to write.”  We came home and he told me all about this dream. This is what my very first book Water Skippers is all about… A dream my husband had.

The underlying theme is Love, Love…. Our lives are so much more than sex and arguing. There is no greater gift than to love or to be loved and my books hit that hard.

That is so fascinating–an entire series born out of your husband’s dream! I love too how supportive he is of your work. I have that too, but so many women writers I know struggle to find support among their families for what they do. 

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

A little town in southern Ohio, called Ironton.

I’m a small town girl myself! There’s a lot to be said for growing up and raising a family in a small community.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in my forties… so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…

Hah! I know what you mean! I think a lot of writers try out different professions and hobbies until they realize it was all just prep for writing. What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?

I only like to read things that aren’t real.. life is real enough, so of course I want to escape into my writing the same way.

Have you written in other genres?

No.

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

I am all country girl, but I can play dress up also.

I know what you mean! I wear practical clothes but love pretty lingerie and having my nails done. 🙂

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think things that are experienced are easier to write.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it! Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I have to have the ending in my head, but other than that. I write as I go.

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

1000 miles from nowhere, with room service.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

Ragon my pet dragonfly is my favorite.  He represents all the good we have in all of us.

Oh, that’s nice! Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Water Skippers. It’s the first book in my series and they are the magical creatures in all of my books. They are my little heroes, and they always help the guy get the girl.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

My husband, family, and books…. I need more than three hahahah.

If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?

I want to be a dragon.

Nice! Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I would love to write full time, just can’t afford to.

I hear you on that one. I’d love to be a full time author myself. What advice would you give to someone starting out as an author? What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?

Have very thick skin.. This is a crazy rollercoaster ride. Don’t stop; write until your fingers fall off, because when someone tells you they love it… It’s all worth it. 

Remember the little things, like the first time you held a guys hand, or that amazing awkward first kiss. Take the time to look up at the stars, and take the time to play in the rain. It’s the little moments in life you will always cherish. 

You are so right there! How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

There is a lot of my own life, and especially the way I feel about things in all of my books. All of my books are me. My mom says it’s like being inside of my head…. So many of the stories in my books, have really happened in my own life. 

Research: love it or hate it?

I don’t do it… this is fiction, just go with it.

Editing: love it or hate it?

Ohhh the misery, but I like to learn new things.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It means everything.

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Ohh yea, I have cried like a baby.

I think we’ve all had that experience. I recently wrote a blog post about handling bad reviews as a reminder to myself and others how to deal with the stinger you get sometimes.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

Yes,  it helps tune out all the background of the world around me.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

When I finished my last set I cried. It was like I had lost a member of the family.

What are your writing goals for 2017? Your personal goals?

I honestly don’t know.. my set will be put in a box set for Christmas, but other than that I’m open.

Where can your readers find you and your stories online?

Http://Amazon.com/author/jjm5325903.  I am also on Twitter www. Jenniferrick@twitter.com…. Also I love to talk so email me at Jenniferjuliemiller@gmail.com…. And I have a website https://jenniferjuliemille.wixsite.com/mysite..

Book One: Water Skippers

Book Two: A Dragonfly’s Whisper

Book Three: Earth Shadow

Book Four: Shadow Reborn

Seven Shifters I’ve Known and Loved

Today I have Liza Street, author of the Corona Pride series, sharing with us her favorite heroes from shifter romances. I’m delighted to hear what she has to say, as some of these delicious shifters are new to me! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already added to my TBR pile based on this list.

Don’t you just love this cover? Be sure to check out Liza’s links at the end of the post to find out how you can get a free story!

So tell us, Liza! List your favorite shifter heroes and why you find them so amazing!

 

 

  1. Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Clay was my first shifter heartthrob, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the violent acts he does to ensure the safety of his pack and his questionable behavior toward Elena in the early stages of their relationship (which I won’t spoil just in case there are one or two PNR fans who haven’t yet read this book), I fell hard for his southern accent and his absolute devotion to his mate. In my head, he’s even hotter than the guy who plays him in the television series. Is he flawed? Very much so. But since he’s my first, I go easier on him.

  1. Matt Barns from Gray Back Bad Bear by T.S. Joyce

It’s impossible for me to talk about how much I love Matt without saying how much I love his mate, Willa. These two were absolutely perfect together, at turns vulnerable and hilarious. Willa, especially, brought some geeky levity to their relationship, and while I adore Matt on his own, I love him even more with Willa.

  1. Arik from When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais

So this guy is completely vain, especially about his hair (that is, his “mane”), but…I sort of loved him for it. Sure, I also wanted to throttle him, but I liked that even though he thought so highly of himself and his mane, he was still vulnerable with his friends. His vanity was great for laughs.

  1. Alcide Herveaux from Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Alcide…sigh. I really couldn’t care less about Bill or Eric. I wanted Sookie to end up with Alcide. Of course, a whole lot of random complications kept them apart throughout the series, but for a while there, I was Team Alcide.

  1. Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Okay, I’ll be honest. I read Slave to Sensation a long time ago and I can’t remember any details about Lucas except that he was totally hot and there was tons of sexual tension. Hmm, might be due for a re-read….

  1. Derren Hudson from Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright

If you love a good alphahole, you will love Derren. He starts off the story with all kinds of prejudice against Seers, and of course the heroine just happens to be a Seer. He’s controlling and derisive and super controlling. Something about Ally has him rethinking his prejudices, and you know what happens to a controlling man whose worldview is challenged? He’s cranky. So yes, Derren’s an alphahole. If you don’t like violent sex, this book might not be for you. (Not violent as in non-consensual or rapey, if I’m remembering correctly. Just…violent. Explosive. Demanding.)

  1. Adam Hauptman from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Hello, Hot Neighbor! This dude is just solid. Solidly built, and solid at heart. I don’t want to say too much and spoil later events in the series, so I’ll just say that I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with Mercedes in Moon Called, and the way she teases him by leaving an eyesore junker car in sight of his house. Sa-woon. I love those two.

About Liza Street:

Liza likes her heroes packing muscles and her heroines packing agency. She got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. It wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.

FREE BOOKS–Join Liza’s mailing list and get Fierce Heartbreaker, FREE, as well as an exclusive Sierra Pride prequel story and other goodies! Visit Liza’s Free Book page to get started. 

Liza’s Amazon page and her website.

Make Your Hero Someone Worth Idolizing

As a writer, I’m frequently asked to pen a few words about the most influential book I’ve ever read. There’s no question which book it would be: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve been a lifelong fan of murder mysteries, particularly the British cozy, in which the body is discovered in the library and the protagonists sit around and discuss this development with wit and erudition. I still regularly re-read the classics of the Golden Age of Mystery: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allinghmam, Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, you name it.

Gaudy Night remains my favorite book of all time, the one novel I’d want with me if marooned on a deserted island.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.

By the time you get to Gaudy Night in the series, Lord Peter Wimsey, the dapper aristocratic peer with detective tendencies, has been seeing Harriet Vane for several years. Harriet, the somewhat cynical mystery writer, is looking to piece together the remains of her life after having been acquitted of murdering her former lover in a time when murder was a capital offense in Great Britain. Harriet is intelligent and strong-willed, determined to make her way in an unforgiving world without compromising her beliefs—the tenant of which caused the break between her and her deceased lover. Peter Boyle had first refused to marry Harriet on principle; when ‘living in sin’ was almost as much a crime as committing murder. Boyle does a turnaround and decides to ‘make an honest woman’ out of Vane, condescending to make things right with society and her family after first forcing a split with both. Harriet refuses to marry, and instead breaks up with Boyle.

When Lord Peter first meets Harriet in Strong Poison, she is a prisoner in the dock for Boyle’s murder, and Lord Peter has very little time to prove that Harriet is innocent. He also falls in love with her at first sight, and subsequent meetings shows the two of them are mentally and emotionally compatible—for Lord Peter is not a slave to his emotions. Though he would have done everything in his power to prove Harriet’s innocence, he would not have proposed marriage to someone he didn’t think he could make happy.

But Harriet, bruised by life’s circumstances and emerging out of prison bloody, but unbowed, will have none of men offering marriage. The next few books in the series continue in the usual Sayers vein: an interesting and clever murder with Lord Peter being witty and brilliant in the course of deduction and solution. Harriet is not always a presence in every story. I confess, I prefer the novels in which she is there. The interaction between her and Lord Peter take the stories beyond the simple murder mystery formula. At one point in Have His Carcass, Lord Peter and Harriet have a very telling conversation about the fictional characters in Harriet’s latest novel. Lord Peter suggests a fix for the story that would require Harriet to rewrite her story in order to make the characters three-dimensional, more real. Harriet protests that this would be a painful process, whereupon Lord Peter gets to the heart of the matter, asking her what difference would that make if doing so gave her a better story in the end?

This is a critical turning point in many ways. My hero, Lord Peter, sets a precedent for doing whatever is best for the story, no matter the personal cost to the author. I frequently say, “Everything is grist for the mill” and it is true: no matter what the trauma I might be experiencing, at the same time there is this Critical Observer taking notes. I know at some point that experience will be transmuted and used in a story. I like to think that Lord Peter guided me to this choice.

In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers takes this concept further. For most of the series, the Lord Peter we see in the stories is the same face he presents to society: fatuous, superficially shallow, yet clever enough to solve ‘little difficulties’. He solves mysteries while never failing to produce the most appropriate quote. He’s entertaining at parties. He collects rare books, loves music, and is a peer of the realm. It’s easy to see why he is frequently underestimated by his adversaries. However when we meet him in Gaudy Night, it is a Peter who has come back from a series of harrowing adventures—and Dorothy Sayers lets this show. This Peter Wimsey is older than the one we met at the beginning. He loves Harriet, but he’s also tired of the song and dance. He tells Harriet that the next time he asks her to marry him will be the last. Sayers makes good on that earlier suggestion that an author should do whatever is best for the story.

Gaudy Night isn’t just a story about Harriet deciding whether or not she’ll marry Wimsey. She’s deciding what path to take for the rest of her life. She’s having to choose between the life of academia and quiet study, where everything seems clean, ordered, and black and white—and the messy disorder of a life more passionate, with the man who loves her, writing stories to entertain instead of enlighten. Yes, there is a mystery, but it is the catalyst within the crucible rather than the main story. In Gaudy Night, for the first time in their relationship, Harriet views Peter as a man rather than as an appendage, and that scene in which she becomes conscious of him as a sexual being is one of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read. No, seriously. One of the steamiest, most sensual scenes I have ever read. Even though there is no sex involved.

There comes a point in Gaudy Night in which Harriet’s life is threatened—and Peter does her the honor of letting her take the risk. He doesn’t swoop in and forbid her to risk her life. He warns her of the risks of kicking over the ant hill—he acknowledges she can choose to say nothing and walk the cloistered halls of her university for the rest of her life—without him. He is also prepared to be there to pick up the pieces afterward if things go badly. It is one of the most perfect examples of an adult relationship that I’ve ever seen. When at the end of Gaudy Night, Peter proposes and Harriet says ‘yes’, your heart is singing with hers because you know this is the right answer for both of them. Sayers makes Peter an honest, three-dimensional human being in Gaudy Night, putting her money where her mouth is as an author. Not only has this book influenced me in my own personal relationships, but it has definitely influenced me as a writer, too.

I fell in love with Lord Peter when I was thirteen. I named a horse after him. I feel badly for all those young girls who are looking at Edward Cullen and thinking that’s what the perfect man is like. Because Lord Peter is a gentleman who will treat me as a lady—and an equal.

It’s what I strive for as an author, even though I write in a completely different genre. Someday, I want someone pointing to one of my heroes and saying, “This. This is what I want from a relationship. To be treated with honor and dignity. To be treated as an equal and an adult.”

Because let me tell you, baby. There’s nothing hotter than that.