Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Personal Perspective: Balance

In The Prosperous Writer this week, Christina Katz challenged writers to think, and blog, on the topic of balance. It’s not a topic I approach with any kind of authority. I can’t give advice to anyone else on how to balance their lives…their work, their kids, their spouses and their laundry. I’m still working on that myself. I have learned in my short career that balance is different for everyone. Still, “balance” is the last word I would use when describing my life. It’s all or nuthin for this WAHWM. At least, that’s how it seems.

On days when it’s just me and Baby M, with no reinforcements forthcoming, I enter a writing void. It’s difficult to concentrate with a 22-month-old climbing my leg and waging war on my computer. I’m lucky if I get to jot down some notes and check my email while she’s napping. Then, when help arrives, it’s all writing, all the time. Baby M is an orphan, my parents lose their youngest, my husband is widowed and (greatest of horrors) the bed goes unmade. No balance there!

Yet, I’ve become glad of those zany days when there’s no backup plan. On those days—when my husband is teaching in Portland, when my mom has her church quilting group, when my dad makes himself generally scarce so he won’t get recruited to babysit—I get a chance to regroup and reconnect. Those are my sewing days, my baking days, my cleaning days, my days to spend time with Baby M and not feel guilty about the work I’m not doing. In their own way, those “unbalanced,” writing-less days restore balance to my life. Without them, I’d be one burned-out writer mama.

Balance. It’s a work in progress. I’m finding it though…one writing wasteland at a time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Sale!

Time for a shameless plug. is letting us have a sale on our book!

Now through the end of March, purchase Creative Marriage Proposals and enter IDES when you check out to get 10% off.

Don't wait...this sale really does end soon!

Wondering what you'll get? Here's a snippet from our Holiday & Seasonal Proposal section.

Ice Skating

Rockefeller Center or the frozen pond out back…gliding across the ice with the love of your life is romance incarnate. The best part is, you don’t have to be an Olympic caliber skater for this proposal to work. Whether you’re Fred Astair on ice or skate best on your butt, you’ll be able to sweep your girl off her feet with this breathtaking setting.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An ice-skating rink, indoor or out, public or private
  • Ice skates for both of you (make sure you know her shoe size!), or assurance of available skate rentals
  • A thermos of hot cocoa or coffee if there’s not a coffee shop nearby
  • Extra hat, gloves, scarf and even jacket for her, just in case
  • A blanket, in case you need to huddle together for warmth

To do this properly, surprise her with the idea of an ice-skating date. You can show up on her doorstep, skates in hand, or mention it when you just “happen” to be near a viable piece of ice. Either way, get her there. If she’s not a good skater, you may have to beg or cajole. If she’s not dressed warmly enough, you’re prepared for that! Just make sure she knows it’s not her skill on the ice that matters; it’s your desire to be with her and hold her hand.

Of course, your own skating skill may play some part. If you have talent on the ice, it won’t be a problem to turn and kneel without falling over. If you can’t manage that, well…pull her down with you and opt for a less conventional proposal pose. We really don’t think she’ll care.

Celebrate your engagement with a cup of hot cocoa or an extra-hot latte.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Feedback: Writer Mama

All right, I've finally finished Writer Mama by Christina Katz. It took me longer than my usual speed-of-light reading pace because I actually tried to do the exercises Katz supplied at the end of each chapter. All right, I fudged on some of them. Having made it though the whole book, though, I can now give it an unequivocal thumbs up as a resource for aspiring mothers-who-are-writers.

If you have studied writing and/or journalism, you can consider much of the content something along the lines of a thorough refresher course. Even with an advanced degree, some of the chapters served as a dash of cold water to get me out of daydream mode and back into writing mode. If you don't happen to have a degree in journalism, the insights will be a godsend in starting your career.

Katz writes in an easy-to-understand manner and is thorough in her advice. My favorite part, though, was the exercises I mentioned above. You can read all the books you want, but none of them will help you establish your career unless you sit down and write. The exercises in Writer Mama urge you to action and provide clear, gradual steps for breaking into freelance journalism.

If I had one beef, it's that she paid little attention to writer toddler mamas who had to move in with their parents because they're flat broke and their doctorate-holding husbands can only find jobs at local grocery stores...but I guess she can't be expected to cover everything!

Writer Mama. Buy it. Read it. Use it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Make Your Writing a Full-Sensory Experience

Do you use all five senses when you write?

Most Americans are visual people. We see people's points, look at problems from every angle and read between the lines. That's not so bad. After all, you want you writing to be visual, right?

While it's true that you do want your writing to paint a picture for the reader, never neglect the power of using all five senses to draw a person into the scene. Let's take a scene from a romance novel, for instance. Imagine you're writing a scene between your hero and leading lady. You describe the look on the hero's face as he gazes at the love of his life, the stormy blueness of his eyes, the cleft in his chin. You add that he sees a tear trickle down her cheek. Wonderful! Now, what about the other four senses? Let’s see what you can do with those.

Hint: If it helps, close your eyes in order to focus more intently on the non-visual aspects of the scene. Ready? Go!

Sit still for a moment and listen to the sound of your breathing; focus on how it sounds to you. How are your characters breathing? Is the hero’s breathing ragged and hoarse with emotion or exertion, or is it deep and calm, comforting? Now broaden your scope. What sounds linger in the background, mostly unheard? If the setting is a castle bailey, you may hear the ring of a blacksmith’s hammer, he clucking of a chicken or the sound of a hoof on stone. A more urbane setting may include the tinkle of wine glasses or the showering notes of a harp. Immerse yourself in the sounds and then write them into the scene.

Focus on your nose for a moment. First, let yourself take in the smells around you right now…the scent of a cooking meal, the espresso-scent of a coffee shop or the smell of lilacs through an open window. Now focus on your scene. How do your characters smell? Do you smell sweat or perfume? What about their environment? Hone in on their surroundings and small what they smell. Are the scents harsh and intrusive—does the smell of horse manure waft from a nearby stable—or does the fragrance of flowers add to the emotion of the moment? Follow your nose.

If your scene contains food, this is easy. Does the heroine taste the seductive flavors of strawberries and champagne, or are they dining on wild game charred over an open fire? Focus on the taste. If it helps, find something similar to taste for yourself (always a good excuse to have champagne in the middle of the day!). If your scene doesn’t include food, open your mind to other taste possibilities. What about that tear that trickles down the heroine’s cheek…does it run onto her lips, where she tastes the salt? Did the hero just get in a fight? A cut lip could leave him with the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. If your mouth is watering right now, you’re on the right track.

Touch is explosive and emotive. As he reaches out to cup her face in his hands, how do his hands feel on her face? Are they rough and calloused from working long hours, or are they the smooth hands of a rich nobleman? Does he run his hands over her hair? What does it feel like? Is it smooth and well-coifed, or is it a riot of tangles because she’s been playing the tomboy? Whether your characters are dressed in silk, homespun or buckskin, focus on the feel of the material against the skin. Now add the weather. Are their faces kissed by a warm sun or blistered by tropical heat? Are they standing in a light rain or drenched and shivering in a torrential downpour? Think about every texture in the scene and how it might play into the emotion you’re trying to convey.

Once you take the time to focus, it’s easy to see how the use of all five senses can enhance any scene. Don’t imagine, either, that this only works for fiction. Whatever your writing genre, make it a full-sensory experience for your reader. You will boost your readership and leave them coming back for more!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

eBook Available

All right, I haven't been great about updating this blog lately. That doesn't mean I haven't been busy! Our new eBook, Creative Marriage Proposals, is now available in ePub format for those with eBook readers. Enjoy!

Download for only $7.95 at

When the time comes to pop the question to that special someone, you want to do it up right...but how? With panache, of course! This book of creative proposals provides all the ideas you'll ever need, along with helpful tips and a healthy dose of humor. So don't stress about coming up with that perfect proposal...we've done it for you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Our Book

I've dropped hints over the past couple of months that my husband and I are collaborating on an e-book. Yes, I've spoken about my progress and my frustrations, if not my hopes and fears. Well, it's done! I posted a more-or-less finished project on yesterday, and Creative Marriage Proposals is now available to order in its print version or as a download. What's it about?

When the time comes to pop the question to that special someone, you want to do it up right...but how? With panache, of course! This book of creative proposals provides all the ideas you'll ever need, along with helpful tips and a healthy dose of humor. So don't stress about coming up with that perfect proposal...we've done it for you."

I'm excited to have this book finally online. More than anything, it's gives me a sense of completion and progress...and do I need progress right now! If you'd like to check it out--and maybe buy it for yourself--here's the info.

Creative Marriage Proposals: How to Pop the Question...with Panache!
ISBN-13: 978-0-557-34713-1 ID #8429324
Paperback $15.29
Download $7.95

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.