Shamed

I’m not one to post pics of my kids on the blog, typically. But this kid–holy moly–he has put me through the ringer today.  And when the end of the day came, I could’t help get a bit introspective. I’m not a helicopter parent, by a long shot. I like being able to hear my kids outside, but I don’t ever feel like I need to be right there “handling” things, resolving fights, or just making sure everyone’s playing nicely. I like the kids to learn a bit of autonomy, and I definitely want them to learn to fix their own problems. You’d be surprised at how conflict resolution happens when adults aren’t there to mediate.

All that being said, my little guy went missing today. We were all relaxing and hanging out at the house. Windows were open and sounds could be heard wafting in. Knowing my husband was downstairs and around and getting lunch, I slept for a wee bit–maybe 30 minutes. When I woke up, I took stock, went next door to check on the kids, as I knew my daughter was over there and assumed my little guy was too. But he wasn’t.

And that funny panicky feeling started in my chest. I looked through my house, every room and closet and even the bathrooms. Back outside, I started calling for him, thinking he might have gone to play with another neighbor friend. My friend across the street started helping right away. And I started knocking on doors. I was freaking out about the “back to [fucking] nature” area behind the houses. What if he’d decided to take a hike? It seemed unlikely, he hadn’t been one to wander off so far, but there was just no guarantee!! This might have been his first time. I went back in the house and looked again–every closet and every corner. Outside, my circle grew…and another neighbor guy joined in.

Until about twenty minutes later, I knew I was going to have to go back to the house. I needed to call the police. Walking back, I continued calling his name, but by the time, I got back to my street, my voice was silent. My friends, next door and across the street, were standing in the street. And then my husband walked out of our house.

“I found him. He’s under Virginia’s bed, sound asleep.”

I cried. In the street.

I’m not a helicopter parent. But for the first time in a long time, as this day ends, I keep seeing the “unconcerned” people from the other next door. They’re new to the neighborhood so maybe that’s why they just sat out back while I frantically searched. There was a funny feeling in my gut, though. One I’d never had before…

Shame.

They were judging me.

It felt like it.

And though I’m still not going to be a helicopter parent, I’ll probably be a sheep dog parent for a while, circling around.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

It’s NaNo Time!

Hi guys! Okay, I admit, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted here. I would love to tell you I’ve been doing something amazing, like a book tour, but that would be a big, fat lie. I am simply lazy about blogging.

In any case, my favorite season is here, which always brings me new energy–weird, I know, given that winter is coming. Autumn brings beautiful colors, cooler weather, sweaters and boots, my birthday (hurray for cake!), squirrels eating pumpkins I never get around to carving, Thanksgiving (a food-centered holiday which is, of course, my favorite), and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  If you don’t know about NaNo, it’s an event in which  thousands of writers all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. NaNo’s website provides advice, pep talks, and word counters, and local NaNo groups provide write-ins where you can meet actual people outside of your house and write with them.

I love NaNo, because it gives me the impetus to get a lot of words on the page, words I then massage for the rest of the year to turn into a book. Eventually.

Last night, I was on a panel of writers who have “won” NaNo (reached the 50K word goal) at the Cuyahoga County Public Library (such wonderful support for writers there!), sharing experiences with other writers who want to do the same. I came up with a list of tips I thought I would share with you.

1. Plan, just a little.

Some of us are planners, some of us are pantsers, and others are somewhere in between. No matter which one you are, do at least some planning. Have some details ironed out before November 1, such as:
• What is your setting? Contemporary, historical, futuristic, fantasy? City or small town?
• Who are your main characters? What are their overarching goals? What motivates them?
• If you’re writing historical fiction, have you researched the time period? If you’re building a new world, have you ironed out the basics, such as names, languages, places, technology, etc.?
• Map out the main events in your novel, the main turning points, so when (not if) you get stuck in the middle, it’s easier to get yourself back on track.

2. Discover how fast you write.

I learned this tip in an online class I’m taking this month called “How to Write Fast,” taught by Peter Andrews. (Super helpful, and I’d recommend it if you see it anywhere–check out his blog too.) Do this before you start: set a timer and write for 15 minutes. Write anything—a description of your dog, a dissertation on the weather, a synopsis of your story, whatever—just write for 15 minutes. Do not edit as you go. When the timer goes off, count the words you wrote. Multiply by four. That’s the number of words you can write per hour. That gives you an idea of approximately how much time you need to devote per day to write 1,667 words.

For example, I wrote 425 words in 15 minutes, which is 1,700 per hour. At that rate, I only need to write one hour each day to reach my NaNo word count. When you look at it that way it seems far more manageable and easier to schedule. Admittedly, it can be harder to write that fast when you’re trying to figure out where your story is going next, which is why #1 above is helpful.

3. Turn off your inner editor.

Seriously. Turn that sucker off. If you try to polish every scene during NaNo you will NEVER FINISH in time, or possibly at all. There will be plenty of time to polish later.

4. Write with other people.

I find writing with other people—whether in person or virtually—to be the single most helpful thing I can do for my productivity.
• Go to a NaNo write-in.
• Sprint with NaNo on Twitter (@NaNoWordSprints).
• Get together with friends to write in person and/or start a chat group on Facebook Messenger for sprints.
Savvy Authors has a sprint room; membership is free.
• My local RWA chapter, NEORWA, has an online workshop during NaNo for sharing ideas, sprinting, etc.  It’s free and open to anyone; you just need to register, which you can do here.

5. Winning isn’t everything.

Sometimes even if you plan, schedule, turn off your editor, and write with other people, the words just won’t come. I have done NaNo six times. I only won twice, and neither of those books has been published. I didn’t win with the three books I have published.  Do try to win, because it’s awesome and fun and feels fabulous, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Like many other things, NaNo is simply a tool to help you get words on paper. It doesn’t work for everyone.

My tips will almost certainly conflict with that of other folks, but no one technique works for everyone. Please feel free to share your own tips in the comments, and happy autumn!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

It’s beginning to look a lot like–

Poop. Christmas? Already?

Yes! Before Halloween, even. Dis-gusting, I know. But, it could be worse.

Shortly before Christmas last year, I was contracted by Entangled Press to write a book for them.  It wasn’t a book of my own creation, but one they’d outlined. It was up to me to flesh it out.

It was–rather, I should say is–a Christmas-themed book.

When I first started writing Santa Maybe, carols played, lights twinkled, and everyone was merry and bright. But, as usual, the holiday passed. The air grew warm. The Easter Bunny came and left. Flowers bloomed. And I was still writing that &#@!*$ Christmas book.

Baseball season began; my son played first base while I sat in the car with my laptop, melting and cursing Christmas. By this point, I was channeling my hero, Justin. Justin loathes Christmas, mostly because his dad was killed during the holiday. It’s not his happiest time of year. (Understandably.) That little character “thing” made the book that much harder to write. Depressed heroes are not fun–or funny. (Did I mention this was supposed to be a romantic comedy?)

Finally, I finished the first draft and in May I sent the book to my editor. (If I could have flung it at her, I would have. By this point, I did not love this book. I mean, seriously. Santa in the Springtime is just plain wrong.) Worse, she sent the wretched thing back. For revisions. In August! I had to wonder how they can stand Christmas in Australia; it was hard to write (or think) sentimentally about snow, sugar cookies and the scent of balsams when you’re gulping iced tea and slathering on sunscreen. (I considered sticking my head in the freezer a few times to get in the right mood…)

You know, I even had dreams that it was Christmas, and it was muggy and there were leaves on the trees (and shrimp on the barbi? Which was really weird because I live in Rhode Island, USA), and everyone looked at me like I’d gone insane. Because I kept asking, “Where’s Santa?” And–of course–because it was the Fourth of July. Insanity! Holiday chaos!

Finally, after a summer full of Christmas, the book was completed, the final version was approved, and a release date was scheduled: November 13th.  Hurray! And you know–I’m kind of looking forward to Christmas this year. At least it won’t be beach weather. 🙂

Here’s a little video that gives you an idea of poor Justin’s story. I can promise you that in the end, he loves Christmas at every time of the year.

About Cyn D. Blackburn

Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.

When Writers Literally Take You Away

Today, I wanted to share with you the results of research I did completely online. When you’re a writer, especially just starting out (or not raking in the big dough, like most of us), you can’t afford to visit every place you write about. I did go to Lousiville to research it for Exactly Like You, the first Cupid’s Cafe book. And when I arrived I saw a sign directing drivers to Taylorsville State Park.

A big chunk of my book takes place there (a site I’ve never actually been to). I could use my imagination for some of it–I live in West Virginia, also part of Appalachia–and I have been camping before. Other parts, I did extensive research on Kentucky’s state park system web site. Can you tell which is which? Not if I did my job well. Most importantly, after reading the excerpt, do you feel like you know what it’s like to visit the lake in Taylorsville?

Excerpt from Exactly Like You

They drove the forty-minute trip to Taylorsville Lake State Park in silence. The sun began to peek over the horizon as they pulled into the campground. Roxie had never been much of an outdoors type of person, but this view. She could just make out mist, nearly dissipated, as it blanketed the marine blue lake. Dotted throughout the water, covered in trees bursting with green leaves, were small islands. Aidan checked them

Aidan checked them in, because of course he’d had the foresight to book them what the clerk called a “primitive” site. That didn’t sound in any way appealing. As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”

As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”

“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.

That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of

They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of truck bed and broke into her snack stash. She was popping M&Ms into her mouth when he stood up and put his hands at the small of his back, like it was hurting. “I could use a little help here.”“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood.

“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood. He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”

He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”

“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”

“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”

After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”

“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head. “So what do we do next?”

“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head.“So what do we do next?”

“So what do we do next?”“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”

“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”“You didn’t bring that, too?”

“You didn’t bring that, too?”He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”

He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”

“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just…

“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just… sit there and watch the wild animals.”She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”

She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.

“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature

Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature CDs she’d given her clients to help them de-stress back when she worked.When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.

When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared.

“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared. “We missed lunch.”

“We missed lunch.”“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.

“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends.

He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends. He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips.

He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips. They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?

They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.

Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.“Now what?” she asked.

“Now what?” she asked.He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”

He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.

“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.


We writers have pretty strong internet-research game. We also ask each other questions: what’s life like in a small town, a coastal neighborhood, a big city? We can be extremely resourceful in finding those perfect details that set the scene for a story. If we do it well, the reader is grounded there and they can become immersed in the story itself.

Q: What book has taken you away to another place or nailed a locale so well, you felt like you’d been there?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Four MORE Great Apps for Creating Interesting Pictures

Hi, all! Jennifer here again.

I’m back again sharing some great apps I’ve been using in order to create more visually appealing pictures to post online. I particularly like using them for Instagram since I find the filter choices a bit limiting there.

And away we go!

  1. Snapseed  I used this gem when my picture came out too dark. I was able to “brush” it up and was able to see faces. Love! Plus, you can also add text to your pictures.
  2. Instasize  Oh my gosh. SO many more filter choices! Great for creating collages and videos too
  3. Touch Color  When you want to create B&W pictures with just a pop of color.
  4. Boomerang  Well, not really for pictures. More for videos. You can create short videos that loop back and forth (hence the name). But such fun!

Try them out on your phone for yourself and have fun playing around with them!

Hope you find this helpful!

Until next time!

Jennifer

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About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH.

Four Great Apps to Create More Interesting Social Media Posts

Hi, all! Jennifer here!

You can tell that people take their social media posts pretty seriously nowadays.

Even my own daughter bought herself a $600 camera and a $800 lens for…

Instagram? Now, she’ll probably deny that until her dying day, but she’s in high school, she’s not taking a photography class and she’s not in any photo clubs. And she does post some really nice pictures online.

What would you presume?

Now, me? I’m way too cheap and go right for the simple (and FREE) phone apps.  I’ve been having fun playing around with my photos using these apps so I thought I’d share my four personal favs.

  1. Over  Over is great because it has a lot of nice choices for templates. But of course, if you want to spend a little more, you can really have a great selection.
  2. Color Pop  This is one of my favs because I love B&W and I love color. Now I can do both at the same time.
  3. Let’s Draw   Pretty much what the name suggests. You can draw or write directly on any photo.
  4. Pic Collage  Really fun site where I can create colorful ads with stickers and words and pictures or just do a collage of pictures.

That’s all I’ve really had to time to experiment with, but my daughter has some more she said she’d show to me.

Can’t wait!

So…until next time, have a great week!

Jennifer

XOXO

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Have you signed up?
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About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH.

  • Our LATEST Buzz!

    Cyn D. Blackburn's Wrapped Up in You releases on November 13. *** The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series were released in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous was released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, CUPCAKES & CUPID is available.