Writing Out of My Comfort Zone

photoHI, all! Jennifer here.

This month on the HSG blog, we’re talking travel and settings.

Settings in my romance books usually revolve around two places I love and know well: the Jersey shore and the Boston area.

I can’t help it. There is a certain amount of comfort level there.  But maybe I’m too comfortable. Maybe I’m even in a bit of a –gasp—rut.

photo (2)Well, my recent trip has totally inspired me to take my next book into a completely different location: MONTANA.

I just love that area. It’s so lovely and totally different from the fast-paced lifestyle of the east coast.

Here are a few tidbits I experienced there:

1) I traveled through two towns (about 20 miles apart) and still couldn’t find an ice cream parlor.  (what the?)

2) It’s common to travel from town to town and have ZERO cell phone service. (scary)

3) There’s no sushi in or around Helena, the capital of Montana (hint, hint)

4) It was kind of hard to eat vegetarian. All I really wanted was a nice big salad. No. But plenty of hamburgers and steak and fried chicken (sigh)

5) There were a lot of biker bars (fun)

6) No chance of frizzy humidity hair head (booh-yah!)

Needless to say, I can really play these experiences up and have some fun with my heroine. It’s about time I take travel experiences and apply them to my writing.

 

What about you? If you’re a writer, have you been stuck in a setting rut? What setting are you dying to put your characters in?

Have you ever been to Montana?

**DON’T FORGET** The blog swag this month is a FREE digital copy of the winner’s choice from the new Decadent Tease Imprint courtesy of Clarissa Yip! Comment on any post in August to be entered to win.

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.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” -Dr. Seuss

normalwvviewI live in the mountains. Actually, I live in a valley surrounded by mountains and when I was a little girl I imagined that living in a bowl would be exactly the same.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that some of the sights I see every day–endless trees bursting with color, gurgling streams where rocks jut out to create the perfect sleepy fishing hole, fluttering snowflakes that settle inches thick to blanket my part of the world–are things people spend money to vacation to see.

Of course, most of us don’t appreciate what we have and long for that which is far away and exotic. I have found those places in books all my life.

The bustle of a New York city street, munching croissants in a street cafe in Paris, sloshing through the constant rain on a busy London sidewalk. I’ve been all these places and more. An Irish pub, an Italian villa, a Bahamian beach bungalow.

The thing is, it didn’t quench my desire to see these places. It only made me want more. I set the first novel I wrote in a city, a big one, and struggled to write it because I knew nothing about living in a big city. I did throw in a visit to a small town, which I think is one of the highlights of the story. I’ve since realized to write what I know; I can tell you everything about small town life. I suppose there are people out there that long to read about the simplicity and connection that comes with living in a small town.

I have hopes of being able to take some “research” trips one day. Tell me about your favorite books where the setting stood out as much as the characters.

(My first recommendation? Anything by Nora Roberts set in Ireland. Seriously, wow.)

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.

5 Benefits of Taking a Vacation from Writing

beach

I’m going to be doing some traveling this month to visit family. I’ve been considering whether or not to take another kind of vacation while I’m away–a writing vacation. Here are five good reasons to take a vacation from your manuscript.

  1. Gives you time to have experiences that will inspire your writing. A weekend trip to the lake, a concert in the park, or dinner with interesting people are all the kinds of life experiences that can lead to new story ideas and fresh characters. If we spend all our time in our respective writing caves, we won’t have anything new to draw from.
  2. Helps you see your writing with a fresh set of eyes. Writing needs to breathe before the editing stage; otherwise, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. A break between the first draft and the edit can be just what you need to see your manuscript more objectively.
  3. Reminds your friends, family, and loved ones what you look like without a laptop glued to your fingers. Balance is vital, and we need to learn to protect our relationships. Being on The New York Times Best Sellers List won’t mean anything without the people we love there to share it.
  4. Provides time for reading. We all know writers should also be readers, but sometimes it’s difficult to find time to read for enjoyment when you’re writing. Take a writing break and fill your e-reader with all those books you’ve been dying to dive into. Not only will they provide wonderful information about trends in your genre, but a great book will remind you of the power of story and why you love to write.
  5. Gives your mind space for creativity. Just like a page layout needs white space, our minds need room to wander and play. Silence, quiet walks, and prayer or meditation can all improve creativity.

About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and young son who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.com

Summertime…Music to My Ears

This month at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses, our theme is summer. We’ve talked about everything from movies to favorite vacation spots and activities. We’ve talked about romances with summertime settings and our awesome vacations and staycations.

I’m a huge fan of summer. I love hot weather and our annual beach vacation. My birthday is in July. We’re no longer bound by the “school schedule.” For me, there’s plenty to love about summertime. I even have a summer playlist featuring some of my favorite songs that remind me of warm weather, vacations and all things hot and fun. 🙂

As a writer, a playlist helps me set the right mood for my writing. For example, if it’s the middle of winter and I’m writing romance set during summer vacation, my playlist helps me forget that softly falling snow and remember, in vivid detail, the feel of hot, grainy sand between my toes. Also, during warm weather, I love rolling down the car windows and blaring some of my favorite warm-weather tunes.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorites.

Summertime, New Kids On The Block

Cruel Summer, Bananarama

Summer Breeze, Seals and Crofts

Sealed with a Kiss, my version is performed by Bobby Vinton

Cruise, Florida Georgia Line

Dirt Road Anthem, Jason Aldean

Carolina Girls, General Johnson and The Chairman of the Board

So, what are some of your favorite summertime songs?

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a $5 Amazon e-Card and a digital copy of Nina Croft’s upcoming release from Entangled , Losing Control.

 

 

About Tina Vaughn

Tina Vaughn is an award-winning journalist and contemporary romance author who’s always dreamed of being a writer. Her writing career began in elementary school when she wrote her friends’ love letters to their boyfriends in exchange for Mickey Mouse ice cream bars. After spending nearly fifteen years as a journalist and newspaper editor, Tina remembered she preferred fiction to fact and began writing what she loves most…steamy contemporary romance. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her husband and daughter, and is known for commemorating milestones with silver jewelry, tattoos and/or ice cream.

Summer Schedules

 

dreamstimefree_102201Summer is my favorite season, but as much as I love it, my writing does go down because I’m constantly running kids to the beach or camps or trying to adjust to NOT having a schedule.  But this summer I’m on a mission to finish my manuscript and have it subbed by the end of July (Or early August)

*cough cough*

Anyhew, this self-imposed deadline has forced me to do a few things differently in order to meet my goal.

Here’s what has helped me:

1) I get up earlier. Having a new puppy has certainly helped with that respect, but I found it’s a GREAT time to get some needed editing or writing done while the kiddo is sleeping in.

2) I exercise more. What? Yes, this actually has given me more energy and my mind seems to be in better focus in the early morning.

3) I cut my blogging schedule. As much as I enjoy reading and writing blogs, that is A LOT of time to use that I don’t have until the fall. And guess what? I still have my bloggy friends and my sales have not been affected.

4) I cut my Facebook time. Yes, I like Facebook and I like all my Facebook friends. But I check in ONCE a day for 5 minutes and then I’m out of there. And guess what? My FB friends still like me and my sales have not been affected.

5) When I have two or three hours of time to work on my writing—I ONLY work on my writing. Yes, I’m tempted to throw in a load of laundry or just quickly empty the dishwasher, but those little things add up to BIG time eaters. I do them AFTER I’ve worked on my writing.

6) I’m reading less. Is that a good thing? Well, for me, summer is usually my reading time, but since I’m writing, something has to be sacrificed. Not that I’m not reading at all, just not reading as much or as fast.

That’s my summer schedule and I’m sticking to it. So far, it’s been working out great. 🙂

 

How about you? Does you writing schedule change in the summer? How do you keep on track?

Don’t forget, every comment this month is entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card AND a FREE digital copy of Nina Croft‘s July release from Entangled, Losing Control.)

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.

Wedding Romances? I do

This month we’ve been talking about weddings here at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses.

While I wasn’t a June bride, I was a summer bride. My husband and I will celebrate our twelfth anniversary in August. Why August? Well, it was for a most practical reason. We chose the date because, by then, my husband had completed his college coursework and received his degree.

That’s the thing about weddings. Sure, they are romantic and full of promise, but they can also be practical. Just look at the use of weddings in romance novels and movies.

As an avid reader and author, I find that marriages of convenience and fake engagements are fabulous tropes for a romance author.

Ask yourself this question: What if true love isn’t the reason a bride or groom says “I do”? If they’re not marrying for love, why are they willing to wed?

There are an infinite number of possible answers. It’s obvious our hero and heroine need something from each other. Maybe the wedding will help seal a business deal. Maybe those nuptials are a publicity stunt. Or maybe one of our characters needs money.

The thing is, getting married isn’t going to solve all their problems. It’s going to create a whole set of new ones. Our hero and heroine aren’t interested in love, but that’s exactly what they find. And this is the type of tension and angst that, in turn, helps create the stories I love to read—and write.

Weddings in romances can also help set the tone for the entire novel. The wedding can be the happy ending. Weddings can even be the tool we use to introduce or reunite our hero and heroine. And, don’t forget this: the hero and heroine don’t necessarily have to be the bride and groom. What if their professions bring them into the wedding sphere? Think photographers, planners, florists, caterers, bakers, ministers, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Do you like to read or write wedding romances?

Please comment and share some of your favorites with us.

All comments this month are entered into a drawing for a $5 Amazon gift card.

About Tina Vaughn

Tina Vaughn is an award-winning journalist and contemporary romance author who’s always dreamed of being a writer. Her writing career began in elementary school when she wrote her friends’ love letters to their boyfriends in exchange for Mickey Mouse ice cream bars. After spending nearly fifteen years as a journalist and newspaper editor, Tina remembered she preferred fiction to fact and began writing what she loves most…steamy contemporary romance. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her husband and daughter, and is known for commemorating milestones with silver jewelry, tattoos and/or ice cream.

  • 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, A PROPOSAL & PUMPKIN PIE is on sale for .99 through Thanksgiving.