The allure of the writer’s retreat

Amtrak has been in the news recently, over a writer’s residency¬†program that it is testing. Some people worry that commercialism will flaw the integrity of the writer’s experience, while others (like me) clap in gleeful anticipation of an adventure.

The fact of the matter is that writers have been doing their own versions of a writers retreat for years (think “Walden”). What a lovely concept that now someone may give you a retreat at a discount or for “free” (everything does have its price, you know).

I plan to apply to the Amtrak program, though I do worry about the ability to win a spot and performance anxiety if I do. (Ugh. No one’s going to check or read through my notebook like in school, right? If so, no blushing…or lectures.)

But since it is unknown if/when the Amtrak residency would occur, I have funded my very own kind of writer’s retreat. ūüôā

Later this year, my husband and I will board a transatlantic/repositioning cruise (check these out, there are actually good deals). Many of my coworkers commented that they wouldn’t be able to do such a vacation. Eight days at sea?? Surely, at some point the boredom would drive you crazy.

I lift a shoulder in response. Meh, maybe some people would go stir crazy – though ships have a lot of planned activities to stop people from reenacting scenes from “The Shining.”

But for someone like me, it will be heaven. Hanging out on the sun drenched top deck with a book or a notebook, creating and reading to my heart’s content…sigh, it will be lovely. And on days that I have trouble finding my muse, I can participate in any number of the boats activities.

Now, I just have to finish up these evil edits to my novel, so that I can dedicate my fun in the sun time to a new project. But alas, we all have to struggle through the tunnel before we can step out into the light.

Review: “Chasing Fire”

Review for “Chasing Fire,” by Nora Roberts

imageNora Roberts is awesome Рa fact that she continues to prove with every book release.  She is always able to spin together an excellent plot, lively characters, beautiful scenery descriptions, and excellent dialogue.

<Sigh. ¬†Girl, if you ever teach a writing class, I will sign up. ¬†Even if it’s Intro to Composition.>

In “Chasing Fire,” we follow the story of the Zulies, the brave men and women who parachute in to fight forest fires in Missoula. ¬†As if her job wasn’t dangerous enough, Rowan finds herself the target of a psychopath bent on exacting revenge and, separately, a rookie that wants to ignite a romance with her.

<Bad pun, I know, but it was too tempting.>

The best part about this novel is its heroine, who is the kind of character that all girls (big and small) can admire. ¬†She’s a strong, independent woman who is full of energy and life.

I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it is to read about strong female characters in romance. ¬† This sub-genre has long featured pretty, but somewhat empty-headed heroines that can’t seem to function on their own and need to be rescued by the hero (in some books, this occurs constantly). ¬†Rowan is an especially refreshing because, she is more than just self-sufficient, she also has some serious guts and fire fighting skills that make her a true hero.

Chasing Fire” is an amazing novel that gives you a view from the trenches in fire fighting and in falling in love, all while biting your nails over an unfolding mystery. ¬†5 out of 5 stars. ¬†ūüôā

Smutty Saturdays

Smutty Saturdays – Celebrating the steam

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Introducing “Smutty Saturdays,” to celebrate amusing/memorable quotes from the best smutty novels. ¬†After all, isn’t a Saturday the perfect day to curl up with a steamy read? ¬†ūüôā

“I love mangoes.” – From “Her Best Worst Mistake,” by Sarah Mayberry

Sometimes the smut is all about the context and, trust me, this one is a smutty line. ¬†ūüôā

The Value of Bad Reviews

Critiques can be helpful, if done right

I recently read a New York Times article, in which  two writers explained the necessity of negative reviews.

I hadn’t realized that there was an unofficial movement to stop giving proper reviews. ¬†As a writer and a sensitive person who suffers from low self-esteem, I can honestly say that I do not¬†enjoy negative feedback. ¬†Let’s face it, some critics tend to be more inventive with their negative reviews than with positive ones…most of the time, unnecessarily so.

But, what is the point of getting a review, if you can’t get honest feedback? ¬†No one likes being told that something that they worked on (some times for years), isn’t perfect or <cringing> isn’t good at all. ¬†Hopefully, instead of laying into your work with non-specific but poetic meanness, critiques should give authors something to work on. ¬†Because isn’t better to get a grade (even if it’s an F), than to simply be ignored or get a pat on the head for a “good try?” ¬†I mean, what am I, a child?

How else can you hope to get better, without criticisms?

If someone thinks your work isn’t very good – don’t you want to know? ¬†Don’t you want some direction on what to dig out or fix? ¬†I do, because no matter how difficult and upsetting it may be to take criticism, in the end – it helps you break free of your own barriers and with any luck, grow into something better. ¬†ūüôā

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Review “Tempting the Best Man”

Ebook Review of “Tempting the Best Man,” By:¬†J. Lynn (pseudonym for Jennifer L. Armentrout)

imageOkay, I have to confess, sometimes I take a chance on an author and purchase ebooks based on their cover art. ¬†I know that it’s shameless. ¬†But really, this just goes to show the importance of your overall “curb appeal” in winning over readers. ¬†(Side note: I wonder where one can get cover art of people cavorting for self-published romance novels. ¬†Something to research, I suppose. :p)¬† ¬†Anyway, I am glad that I purchased this fairly quick read on Amazon for the oh-so-tempting price of $1.99.

In “Tempting the Best Man,” the first of the Gamble Brothers Series, we follow the story of lovesick Madison. ¬†You see, Madison has spent nearly her entire life mooning (and then lusting) after one of her brother’s best friends since childhood – Chase Gamble. ¬†Making matters worse, fate decides to tempt (or torment) Maddy by casting Chase as the best man to her maid of honor role in her brother’s wedding. ¬†Even more “unfortunate,” is a glitch in the room situation that has our heroine and hero sharing the same cabin. ¬†Poor Maddy.

But we know better, don’t we? ¬†Because where there is unrequited love in romance land, there is generally steaminess to follow. ¬†And oh my, does this book deliver on the steam. ¬†ūüôā

I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars, for the steamy romance set in a location so close to my current home (hey, I can’t help but enjoy a little locality now and then). ¬†All in all, a fun, satisfying, and quick read. ūüôā

Pen name or not?

Should authors use pen names or their own names?

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Like many decisions a writer must make, the choice to take a pen name or not is an entirely personal one.  There are many people who will give you advice on this, but it boils down to what you want and your own comfort levels.  Here are some things to consider before making a decision:

1)  Do you want to separate your day job from your writing?

For me, the answer is YES.  I am a woman working in a male dominated industry and in a male dominated field.  So, do I want every one with the help of powerful search engines finding out that I write dirty, dirty smut?  No, no, a thousand times no.

2)  What genre do you write?

Certain genres tend to have more authors using pen names than others. ¬†Judging by the names of authors on Amazon, I’m guessing that a lot of erotica authors use pen names. ¬†Depending on your genre and how it would interact with your personal/professional life (see #1), you may want to use a pen name.

3) Are you trying to break into a new genre? 

If you’re moving from one genre to another, a pen name (or a different pen name) could be helpful. ¬†You wouldn’t want to read your kids a bedtime story written by Stephen King, would you? ¬†

But then again, there are advantages to a sort of brand recognition (assuming you have a brand).

4) Are you trying to hide your gender?

Female authors have been pulling this trick for ages – you’ve written a great story, but you worry it won’t sell because of your gender.

Some authors may also use a pen name if they want to conceal their gender due to genre novel stereotypes. ¬†Ever wonder why nearly all romance novelists are women? ¬†…or are they?

One solution to the gender issue is to create a pen name.  Another is to market the hell out of yourself and your story Рbreak down the gender barrier, crash through the glass ceiling!  Prove all of those haters wrong!

5)  Are you a private person?

If you value your privacy and don’t want your personal life (virtual or actual) intertwined with writing, then a pen name might be the way to go. ¬†There is definitely something to be said about keeping your public persona separate from your private one.

Of course, don’t necessarily have to solve this problem with a pen name either. ¬†If you find yourself crushed under the weight of extreme popularity (oh, champagne problems), you can always follow J.D. Salinger’s solution and become a recluse. ¬†ūüôā

In the end, it’s up to you and what you want. ¬†As for me, I’ll go with a pen name. ¬†But the next question is, how do you come up with one? ¬†I’m thinking the stripper name formula (first pet + street name) won’t work for this one. ¬†ūüėČ

*Be aware that if you do decide on a pen name and copyright your work through the U.S. Copyright Office, you have the option to write in both your pen name and your actual name, just your pen name, or just your real name when you register the work.

Review “Countess Conspiracy”

Ebook Review: “The Countess Conspiracy (The Brothers Sinister Book 3),” By: Courtney Milan

imageSebastian Malheur is known throughout England as a brilliant scientific mind. ¬†Some revere his work, while others think him to be a reprobate. ¬†What they don’t know, is that he is taking credit for another scientist’s work. ¬†Why would he live a lie for so many years? ¬†Well, because he’s in love with a very complicated woman.

Violet is many things – a widow, the Countess of Cambury, friend of infamous rake/scientist (Sebastian), gardener, and – the brilliant scientist behind the beginnings of genetics.

For years, Violet depended on Sebastian to publish her life’s work. ¬†But the years of lies weigh heavily on Sebastian. ¬†He shocks her to the core when he announces that he will no longer live this fraud, and more unfathomable to her, he confesses that he loves her.

This book has more conflict than in the typical novel of the historical romance genre (will they/won’t they get together). ¬†It also deals with the complicated subjects of self-esteem and self-worth. ¬†In a world where women are not expected to be more than pretty decorations in a room or baby makers, Violet has convinced herself that she is a freak of nature and unworthy of love. ¬†But it will take more than Sebastian’s attempts to change Violet’s mind, true acceptance can only come from within.

This book is an excellent addition to the Brothers Sinister series that is already ripe with strong heroines and excellent story lines. ¬†5 stars for an excellent heroine and the mate for her mind as well as her heart. ¬†ūüôā