Category Archives: Dana Rodgers

Anita Clenney Splashes in the Mermaid Pond


Today we are joined by NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Anita Clenney. She grew up an avid reader, devouring Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books before moving on to mysteries and romance. After working as a secretary, a Realtor, teacher’s assistant, booking agent for Aztec Fire Dancers, and a brief stint in a pickle factory (picture Lucy and Ethel–lasted half a day)…she realized she’d missed the fork in the road that led to her destiny. Now she spends her days writing mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil and Destined Love. Anita lives in suburban Virginia, outside Washington DC, with her husband and two kids. Anita has agreed to share with us a recent chat she had with Cody MacBain, hero of her second book, Embrace the Highland Warrior.

Anita: I’m sure you have better things to do, Cody, but thanks for joining me.

Cody: We’ll have to make it quick. I have an appointment with a demon.

Anita: Does the demon know that?

Cody: ‘Course not. It’s all about stealth. That’s how the clan has survived this long.

Anita: Can’t you get one of the other warriors to handle him?

Cody: <Crosses his arms> You know bloody well, the powerful demons have to be assigned. You want me to send Faelan or Ronan and have them killed.

Anita: Uh, sorry. I’m sure the ladies wouldn’t appreciate having Ronan killed.

Cody: <Frowns, narrowing his hazel eyes> You saying the ladies like Ronan better than me?

Anita: No. That wasn’t what I meant at all, although he does seem to have a pull for the female sex. You’re just fine. Better than fine, actually, with all that dark hair, strong jaw, and intense eyes. Can I get a drink please? No, don’t let Brodie get it. He likes to play tricks. So can you tell us about these demons, or does that violate some kind of warrior code?

Cody: There is a warrior code. Centuries ago, they would have eliminated anyone who found out about the warriors, for the good of humanity, you understand. I’m making an exception here, since it’s Halloween. I want to warn people that there are real monsters hiding out there, creatures that make Lord of the Rings look like a fairy tale.

Anita: Sounds…unpleasant.

Cody: Life’s unpleasant.

Anita: Not all of it. You and Shay used to have a lot of fun.

Cody: Aye. Back then.

Anita: Shay didn’t know then what was going on? She thought all that training was just a game?

Cody: <Shifts in his seat> But I couldn’t tell her who she really was. It wasn’t my place.

Anita: But you were her best friend…do you regret not telling her now?

Cody: <Stares at a little tattoo on his wrist that looks like a sword> Aye. I regret lots of things.

Anita: Care to elaborate?

Cody: No.

Anita: Okay then. So tell me about your brothers.

Cody: <Shrugs> What’s to know? They’re like all brothers, make you crazy one minute, saving your backside the next.

Anita: Lachlan’s your younger brother. He reminds me of Ronan.

Cody: Aye, he’s a handful, and he’s usually got his hands full…if you know what I mean.

Anita: I think I do. I saw him eyeing Anna earlier.

Cody: <Snorts> Anna will put him in his place. She wants nothing to do with men. Unless she’s sparring with one.

Anita: You seem close to the other warriors, but they live in Scotland. You and your family spent most of your lives in America.

Cody: It was our mission. We had to protect Shay. But we had other missions as well. The world is a warrior’s battlefield. We travel wherever our assigned demons go. We don’t spend much time at home.

Anita: That explains the lack of accent. There’s just a hint of brogue.

Cody: That’s part of our disguise. We have to blend in with our surroundings. And we don’t want the demons to know where we’re from.

Anita: Doesn’t the kilt ruin that plan? <Looks at Cody’s kilt>

Cody: We only wear them at home, not in battle. Except Faelan. We’re having a hard time getting him out of his. <sexy grin> Though he takes it off a lot for Bree.

Anita: <Clears throat>Well, he is from the 19th century. Kilts were more common then. Should I ask if it’s true…what you wear, or don’t wear, underneath?

Cody: <Another grin, drops open his knees> I could show you.

Anita: Please don’t. <If he wasn’t careful, she’d find out regardless…Fanning>Water, I didn’t get my water. Tell me more about Shay. You seem uncomfortable when I mention her. I know you were close growing up. How close?

Cody: <Grin fades> What do you mean?

Anita: I mean, were you best friends?

Cody: <Rubs the tattoo on his neck> You could say that. We knew everything about each other.

Anita: Everything? Are you sure about that? I hear there were secrets.

Cody: <shifting in seat, again> Let’s talk about something else besides Shay.

Anita: You know your voice sounds different when you say her name.

Cody: <Scowls, and a racket sounds outside door. A horrible screeching sound as the door splinters. Bloody hell! I think the demon’s found me.

Anita: <jumps up> Maybe the kilt gave you away.

Cody: <Pulls a dirk from his boot, hits a button extending it to a sword> You’d better hide. You might be able to write books, but you can’t fight worth crap.

Anita: Okay, looks like the chat is over. Oh my God. Did you see that thing? It looked like an Orc.

Cody: He’s one of the prettier ones.  

Anita: <Jumps up, runs toward a closet, glancing over shoulder> Are you opening your talisman? Good grief, you’re opening it. You’ll kill me.

Cody: I told you to hide. Close the door and cover your eyes or this’ll be your last book.

Anita: <Hides in closet and covers eyes as a blinding flash penetrates the darkness> If you want to know more about Cody and Shay, here’s a blurb for Embrace the Highland Warrior, available now.

They were driven apart by a timeless secret…

Cody MacBain let the woman of his destiny slip away. A member of an ancient clan of Scottish warriors, he grew up beside Shay Logan as her secret protector, but his heart compelled him to become more. Until Shay’s true identity was revealed, and the fated pair’s chance was gone…

But danger will drive them back into each other’s arms…

Shay fell for the boy next door, suspecting nothing of the ancient secrets he guarded. After a stinging betrayal, she’s determined to banish the memories of her first love forever. But the past can’t let go, and the boy she once loved has returned to her a warrior determined to protect her from the unspeakable evil fate has planned…

You can find out more about Anita and her books at:

http://www.anitaclenney.com

http://www.facebook.com/anitaclenneyAUTHOR

http://www.twitter.com/anitaclenney

http://www.mysteriesandmargaritasblogspot.com

http://www.goodreads.com/anitaclenney

http://www.redroom.com/anitaclenney

Some of the places Embrace can be purchased:

http://www.amazon.com/Embrace-Highland-Warrior-Anita-Clenney/dp/1402251262

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embrace-the-highland-warrior-anita-clenney/1100076266

http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Embrace-Highland-Warrior/Anita-Clenney/9781402251269

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/embrace-the-highland-warrior/id468777516?mt=11

 

We’ll leave you with an excerpt from Embrace:

Cody sighed. Might as well get it over with. He removed the shackles, returned them, and bent over her. “Shay, wake up.”

Her eyes flew open. She planted both hands against his chest and shoved, knocking him on his back, then sprang on top of him. “How dare you handcuff me to a bed?” she yelled, punctuating each word with a shake that rattled his brain. He didn’t fight back. She had to get it out of her system, and he didn’t blame her. He’d be more than pissed if someone shackled him.

She landed a fist into his stomach, and the breath rushed out of him. Okay, enough was enough. He captured her hands and rolled, trapping her under him.

“Get off me, you oaf.”

“I’ll get off when you stop beating the snot out of me.”

She let out a war cry and lunged for his throat, teeth bared. Intrigued, he hesitated a second too long, and she sank her teeth into his neck. A jolt of desire shot straight to his groin. He’d never been one for the rough stuff, but damn! He pulled back before she could do more than leave a bruise. He trapped her legs with his and held her hands above her head, letting his full weight press her into the soft mattress. She still struggled but could move only enough to get him excited.

“I’m sorry, Shay. I had to do it. It was too dangerous to let you go traipsing through the woods. I had to keep you safe.”

“What if he was hiding in one of the other bedrooms and sneaked in here while I was handcuffed to the bed? You left me so I couldn’t even protect myself.”

“Lach heard him out in the woods, but that’s why I locked the door, just in case. If this guy had broken it down to get to you, you would’ve screamed, and I would’ve come running. I was never far from the house.” He’d heard every name she called him.

Her eyes still flashed fire, but her breath was steadier, and she kept glancing at his mouth. He thought that was a good thing. He wondered if she’d calmed enough not to hit him, because he should move. She had to notice the effect all the wiggling around was having on him. He felt her hips push against his, and he groaned. He relaxed his grip and lowered his head, letting his lips touch her chin. He kissed his way to her mouth, and she head butted him in the nose.

While the stars exploded in his head, she shoved him aside and bolted out the door. He jumped up and went after her as she pounded down the stairs. He caught up with her outside. She was swinging her purse like a whip, headed for the car.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“Get away from me.”

“You can’t leave.”

“Watch me.” She opened the door. “I’m tired of people hiding things from me. I thought you were going to stop. Now you’re handcuffing me to the bed.”

“I explained it to you.”

“Don’t touch me,” she said, jerking away when he grabbed her arm.

“You’re not leaving.”

Shay straightened her shoulders. “You can’t stop me.”

He grabbed her, tossed her over his shoulder, kicked the car door shut, and stomped up the steps.

“Put me down!” Shay kicked and twisted, cursing at him. He dumped her on her feet inside the door.

She blew her hair out of her face, and as soon as she could see, she threw a punch at his chin. He deflected it and grabbed her arm. “Stop hitting me.”

“How dare you throw me over your shoulder like some kind of caveman,” she spat, trying to wrench her arm free. It didn’t work, so she used her knee.

“Ah, not there.” Cody trapped her knee. “I made the mistake of letting you leave here nine years ago without listening to me. By God, I won’t do it again. You’ll listen if I have to sit on you,” he growled.

She drew back her other arm, and before she could throw the punch, he had her on the floor and was sitting astride her, pinning her wrists to the floor. She bucked and twisted, but he held her down. “We can do this all night if you want, but you’re going to listen to me this time.”

“Listen to more lies? You’re still hiding things from me. Like the fact that you have Nina’s entire house under surveillance. Like the fact that you’ve got a Bat Cave in your basement. Like the fact that you were in Scotland when the stalking started.”

“You think I’m your stalker?” he yelled. “Me! I’m trying to keep you alive. We’re all trying to keep you alive. That’s what the clan’s been doing your whole damned life, trying to keep you alive! And just like always, you’re making it hard as hell. Your father wasn’t a bloody spy, and that thing in your living room wasn’t a man!”

 

My publisher will give away a copy of Embrace the Highland Warrior to one commenter, US and Canada only please. My question is, if you could interview anyone, past or present, who would it be?

 

 

 

 

 

Colors of Fall

For some fall is about buying a new backpack or lunchbox, sharpening those pencils and sending your children back to school. For others fall is symbolized with tailgating and crowding into stands to cheer on your favorite football team.

While the pools have closed, fall sports have begun and school has been back in session for a few weeks now, fall did not in fact officially begin until yesterday, September 23rd.

So what does it mean the first official day of fall? Well it’s more than the beginning of a new season. It is the autumnal equinox. Equinox derives from Latin’s aquaeus meaning equal and nox meaning night, and is appropriate since this is the time of year when night and day are almost equal in length. This happens twice a year, once in the spring (March 21-22) and again in the fall (September 22-23), when the earth’s tilt is neither toward nor away from the sun.

The autumnal equinox has always been a time to mark change as we move from summer’s bounty to the colder, darker days ahead. Throughout the world and throughout history festivals have been held to celebrate the bounty of the harvest.While many people mourn summer’s passing, I always look forward to fall. It is probably my favorite time of year. I plant pansies and chrysanthemums, put out my scarecrow and some pumpkins. My family picks apples and enjoys exploring a local farm’s wagon rides and Maize Maze. We take walks in the woods, soaking up the reds, yellows and oranges that blaze festively from every tree, and go kayaking. I love the low hanging fog over the river in my backyard, the honk of geese and nothing says fall to me like the smell of a fire.

With the cooler temperatures I also feel revitalized, ready to get back into a more regimented routine and undertake those tough projects that may have been set aside while my kids were out of school. This year I’m tackling a historical that I set aside back in May.

So what about you? Is there a special way you and your family mark the changing of the seasons? And do you find you are more productive during the cooler months or the warmer part of the year?

“To Be Or Not To Be?”

“To be or not to be?” Okay, maybe that’s not exactly the question. The real question is whether to write under your own name or under a pen name?  Well, there seem to be a lot of differing opinions to that ever-important question.

First, let’s start with why someone might write under a different name. Well, why would a super hero have an alias? For privacy of course. A lot of people choose to write under a pen name for the same reason. I mean think about what would happen if everyone knew you were a super hero? Fans hassling you all the time to sign autographs, take pictures with them, begging you to make public appearances so you can rescue their cat out of a tree. I’ll be honest, I suck at getting cats out of trees but it might be nice if someone, someday thought I was fabulous enough to ask for my autograph. 🙂

Or maybe you work in a position where you would rather people not know that you are also a superhero book writer by night. If, for example, you were a kindergarten teacher and you write erotica you may not want the parents of the kids in your class to know that. We all know that writing erotica does not a pervert make, but there are those small-minded individuals out there who might think that it makes you less qualified to teach their little angels. Those same people seem to forget that those little angels wouldn’t be here if they weren’t occasionally turning up the heat in their own lives.

For someone else it might be because they write in different genres. If you have built a reputation for writing in a specific genre, like say historical romance, under one name, and you want to branch out and write in a different genre, YA for example, you might want to do it under a different superhero name. Readers tend to develop certain expectations when they pick up a certain author, so if you are going to be giving them something completely different you may want to do it under a different name.

Another reason to write under a superhero name may be in an attempt to appeal to a more diverse audience. Joanne Rowling for example, was asked by her publisher to pick a more androgynous pen name in hopes of appealing to a wider audience. She does not have a middle name so she borrowed her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, and writes under J. K. Rowling.

I considered using a pen name but ultimately chose to write under my own name, as do most of the writers that I know. Why you ask? Because I think your name is unique to you and brings with it a certain amount of your heritage. I don’t work in an overly judgmental career, so I didn’t see any reason to hide my identity. I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive friends and family, and honestly most of them don’t care that I’m a writer, unless it means I can get them an autographed copy of a book. 🙂 And basically, I want to take credit for my work under my own name. I think it would be wonderful to have someone think enough of my writing to travel to an event to get my autograph or have their picture taken with me. I mean really, how cool would that be? There may come a time when a pen name might be beneficial if I decide to take my writing in an entirely new direction, but for now I will write as Dana Rodgers.

Now it’s your turn. Do you write under your own name or a pen name, and why?

 #amwriting

Project: Untitled

Deadline: None

New words written: Not nearly enough, but it’s early

Present total word count: 7,987 words


 


Bump, Bump, Bump

My family is on vacation this week at Massanutten Ski Resort. This morning I took one for the team taking my children on a summer tubing ride. So I buy the tickets and up, up we go. We get to the top of the slope and I bravely climb into the giant inner tube. When I’m ready and give the nod the burly blonde college age guy slings me down the giant funnel…where I squeal like a little girl. Fortunately they were shrieks of delight, not horror. At least until I reached the first real bump. I think it should be mandatory for the ride attendant to mention using those glorious abdominal muscles to keep your behind off of the ground! Let’s just say I’m still recovering from my afternoon of fun. 🙂

But bumps are all part of the experience, even in writing.

You start a new story and everything is going along so well. Your characters are telling you their tale. Your dialogue is almost writing itself. And then BAM! You hit a bump. Sometimes it’s a little bump, other times it’s more like a wall. It might be working out a kink in your plot line or deciding how to add more conflict to your story. Or it might be one of those horrible turning points. You know the ones I’m talking about, a decision point in your story where you can turn right or left. Neither decision is wrong, either direction will lead to a great story, but your writing comes to a screeching halt until you decide which way to go. Or your bumps may come at the end, during your editing process. Or writing the dreaded synopsis or query letter.

What kinds of bumps do you deal with in your writing and how do you overcome them?

Wizards, Witches and Muggles, Oh My!


I woke up at four-thirty in the morning the other day with an idea for a scene and instead of rolling over and going back to sleep like any sane person, I instead rushed out of bed and down to my computer to spend the next two hours writing. Why you ask? Because I’m a writer and that’s what writers do. We take our thoughts, ideas, dreams and musings and transfer them to the page, hopefully, creating dynamic characters, witty dialog and conflict along the way.

But why lose sleep? How important could one idea be anyway? I mean really, people have hundreds of ideas everyday. Is one idea really so important that you should stop every thing? Roll out of bed to get it down before it evaporates into the floating mists of dreamland? Can one idea for a book or a scene or a character really change the world? Heck yeah! Some people would disagree with me, but for those people I have only two words: Harry Potter.

Think of how many millions of fans on continents around the world have been affected by the Harry Potter books and movies. None of that would have been possible without J.K. Rowling taking the time to get her ideas down on paper.

Joanne Rowling first conceived Harry Potter in 1990, while on a crowded train from Manchester to King’s Cross station in London. She began writing the first story longhand in 1991 while teaching English as a foreign language in Portugal. Fighting depression after a failed marriage, she returned to her native Scotland in 1993 with suitcases half full of different versions of Harry Potter stories. Struggling to support herself and her daughter, she continued to write the books in Edinburgh cafes during her daughter’s nap times when she wasn’t working. In 1995 she finished the first book, typing it out on an old typewriter and submitting it.  It took six years for Joanne Rowling to bring that first glimmer of an idea to the published page, but she didn’t give up, even after being rejected by several publishers. Can you believe it? I bet those other publishers feel pretty silly now!

Her first manuscript, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released by Bloombury in June of 1997 winning several prestigious awards. When Bloomsbury released the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in July of 1998 it went straight to the number one slot on the BookTrack bestseller list. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was released in the United States in October of 1998 and Warner Brothers, recognizing a huge opportunity, paid a seven-digit sum to secure film rights for the first two books. With the wild success of the first two books and movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in July of 1999 and became the fastest selling book, topping book lists and selling 64,000 copies in the first 3 days.

Beginning with the 2000 release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, booksellers around the world began holding midnight release events with games and live entertainment to coincide with the release of Rowling’s books. Anxious fans would line up around the block, some dressing up like characters from the books, to be the first to get their copies. This was the first time in history where people would line up around the block to get a copy of a book! To bittersweet fanfare the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was finally released on July 21, 2007. It had taken 17 years to bring her original idea, thought up on a crowded train, to fruition and get the whole story on the page and into bookstores around the world. And a record number of fans lined up for it…Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 11 million copies in the first twenty-four hours. As of June of 2011, the book series had been translated into 67 languages and sold over 450 million copies. The world built throughout the Harry Potter book series has even been turned into a theme park in Orlando, Florida.
And all of this stemmed from one woman’s idea. So let me ask again—how important is an idea?

Shut Up and Listen

I’ve been out of touch recently, lavishing in the brief respite from the buzzing schedule of my normal life. My family and I have seen a few sights, visited with grandparents, attended a reunion and just relaxed. I’ve enjoyed basking in the sun by the pool with a favorite book (that I’m reading for fun, not research), the air permeated by the familiar scent of sunscreen while my kids swim with their friends. I’ve enjoyed taking my girls to the mall where we can walk and talk, have lunch and window shop. And of course lots of giggling over boys—I do live with two teenage girls after all. For me, a family vacation allows time to unwind and reconnect with each other without the day-to-day distractions of home life.

During the school year I’m all about schedules. Who has to be where? Soccer, field hockey, volleyball, basketball, track, chorus, cello, friends, doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, sleepovers, and then some…Whew, it makes me tired just writing it. 🙂 We all have these scheduling drains on our lives and we all know how hard it is to find time to write, but have you ever considered the story inspiration that surrounds you everyday while you’re going about your normal routine?

It might be the next table’s conversation while you’re at lunch or someone standing in line with you at your local coffee shop, a teacher or coach at your child’s school or the receptionist at your pediatrician’s office. You know how it happens, you’re standing there minding your own business, and suddenly, someone does or says something outrageous or hilarious or poignant and the next thing you know, a story or character idea flashes in your head. You stand there thinking, I so need to put that in a book. It’s an A-ha moment in which your universe suddenly makes sense, at least the one you have built in your story.

Earlier this month we attended my husband’s 25-year high school reunion and I have to say inspiration abounded. Fortunately, most of the attendees had moved on from being the ‘nerd’ or the ‘cheerleader’ to just being people with jobs and lives with bigger things to worry about than who’s going out with whom and what kind of car they drive. But how could I not zero in on the stereotypical ‘obnoxious jock’ that spent his high school years making everyone else’s life miserable. The poor man is 43 and spent his evening reminiscing over his “glory days” of giving wedgies in the locker room and proving that he continues to be a foul mouthed jerk by screaming, “Nipples” when the photographer was taking a group picture.

Another comical inspiration occurred recently while on a family trip. We stopped at a small roadside diner for lunch and I thought I was going to spew soda through my nose when the lady taking orders turned around and in the worst southern accent you can imagine and shouted across the entire restaurant, “Chicken up! Pluck ‘em and fry ‘em!” I mean honestly, who does that? Well apparently, she does.

So whether it comes in the form of a news article, television, movie or a person on the street little tidbits sneak in and make you think, Wow, what a great idea for a book, or a scene, or a character, or dialog… and the next thing you know your story takes off.  Now that I have told you my secrets for story inspiration it’s time for you to check in and share, where do you find your inspiration?

 

No Room for Doubt

Do you ever spend hours, days, weeks pouring your heart and soul into your writing only to go back, read it and think, “Oh my God, what was I thinking? This is crap. I have no talent. No one will ever want to read this.”

Well, guess what? You’re not the only one!

I love to write. I love the creative process and making the story come alive on the page. For me it is not just the destination (the finished story), but also the journey getting there (developing characters, and hammering all of those twists and turns into place). But I often find, especially during my editing process that doubt creeps in. I start wondering what the heck I’m doing. Wondering why I ever thought that I could write a book.

Recently, while going through one of these moments, a friend introduced me to a new type of encouragement in the form of John Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck? Maybe, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath will ring a bell… or Of Mice and Men or East of Eden or The Winter of Our Discontent or Cannery Row

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962, and even he harbored doubts concerning his ability to effectively bring the written word to the page. While working on The Grapes of Wrath, he composed letters and wrote in a journal. Some of this material was later published in Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath 1938-1941. Throughout this journal John Steinbeck writes about his struggles, worries and self-doubt.

The following are a few quotes from Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath 1938-1941:

June 14, 1938–“Yesterday was a bust. I could have forced the work out but I’d lost the flow of the book and it would have been a weak spot.”

June 18, 1938–“If only I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability.”

August 1, 1938–“I didn’t work then [July 25] or all week. …Hope to lose some of the frantic quality in my mind now. It’s just like slipping behind at Stanford. Panic sets in. Can’t organize. … I’m jumpy. …Don’t know who will publish my book. Don’t know at all. No reason to let it slide though. Must keep at it. … Wish I could control the jumping jitters though.”

August 30, 1938–“I’m having a hell of a time concentrating with so many things going on. … I hope this book is some good, but I have less and less hope for it.”

September 26,1938–“This book has become a misery to me because of my inadequacy.”

So the next time you doubt yourself, remember, there are other incredibly accomplished authors out there who have also acknowledged uncertainty when it comes to submitting their work. When you start to question yourself just remember:

1. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Your voice is your own and it is unique. Why do we have so many different types of writers? So many different genres? Because there are so many different types of readers!

2. In the words of Nora Roberts, “Write the damn book!” Forget about everything else and just get your ideas down on the page because you can’t edit what doesn’t exist. You can always cast off what doesn’t work later.

3. Trust you instincts. Everyone worries about breaking the rules. Ignore the rules because they are intimidating, and that can lead to insecurity. Instead focus on telling a great story. Once the story is on the page you can obsess over comma usage and dangling participles.

4. Make time for yourself. I know it sounds difficult, and it is, because life gets in the way, but consistently setting time aside for yourself and scheduling around that time will help you to put words on the page.

5. You are not alone. Believe in yourself. Everyone has experienced moments of self-doubt or insecurity, even someone as accomplished as John Steinbeck. If he can do it, so can you… So keep writing!

 

 

Acronym Soup

It always blew my mind when my husband would come home and say something like…

“After retiring from the USMC four years ago, I went to work for the DoD as a PM with a PMP cert and have managed elements of the MTVR, HMMWV, MRAP and MATV programs, all ranging from ACAT III up to ACAT ID according to the DoD 5000 and DAWIA standards.  We work to counter IEDs, EFPs, RKG-3s with BFTs, Armor, RWS as well as the TAK-4 suspension from OTC and have expended billions in IR&D, PMC and O&M funding over the past 9 FYDB.”

Anyone understand what I just said? I didn’t either for the longest time. I had to learn to speak acronym.

Many people use acronyms, and some of them are so imbedded in our everyday lives that we don’t even realize we are using them. Things like TV, PJs, NASA, NATO, OMG, BFF, TLC, LOL, AOL, UPS, TGIF, LASER, RPG, USMC, USA… Sorry for the examples, I live with two teenage girls and a retired Marine…Yep, enough said.

Translation without the acronyms: “After retiring from the United States Marine Corps four years ago, I went to work for the Department of Defense as a Program Manager with a Project Management Professional certification and have managed elements of the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected-All Terrain Vehicle programs, all ranging from Acquisition Category 3 up to Acquisition Category 1D according to the Department of Defense 5000 Order and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act standards.  Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, Explosively Formed Projectiles, Ruchnaya Kumulyativnaya Granata–3s with Blue Force Trackers, Armor, Remote Weapon Stations as well as the TAK-4 suspension from Oshkosh Truck Company and have expended billions in Industry Research and Development, Procurement Marine Corps and Operating and Maintenance funding over the past 9 Fiscal Year Defense Budgets.”

This may still sound like a garbled message from beyond and be just as alien if you do not work in military circles, but we do the same thing in the writing industry.

My CP thinks the heroine in my WIP will never get her HEA, or even a HFN, because she’s TSTL.

Translation: My critique partner thinks the heroine in my work in progress will never get her happily ever after, or even a happy for now, because she’s too stupid to live.

We romance writers tend to speak our own language, and that can be particularly challenging for someone new to writing. If you don’t understand what a critique partner or an agent or an editor is trying to tell you, then it is impossible to improve your writing.

I am going to leave you with a few commonly used writing acronyms and I invite you to add any that I may have overlooked.

CP (Critique Partner)—This is someone who gives you feedback on your writing, hopefully, in a constructive way. Usually this arrangement works as an exchange where you are expected to critique the other person’s writing as well. Some writers have one critique partner while others are part of a group.

GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)—This tells you what your main characters’ goals are, their motivation for achieving these goals, and the conflict that is preventing them from achieving these goals.

POV (Point of View)—This is who is talking in the scene. You usually want to decide who is narrating the scene based on who has the most to lose, or what you might be trying to hold back from the reader or other characters in the scene.

WIP (Work in Progress)—The story you are currently working on.

MS (Manuscript)—This is a complete story you have already written.

HEA (Happily Ever After)—This is your happy ending where your hero/heroine are in love and all of the major conflicts have been resolved.

HFN (Happy for Now)—If you are not wrapping things up with the couple getting married or making a life-long kind of commitment, you at least want to make it clear they are happy and together for the long term.

TSTL (Too Stupid To Live)—This is a character that makes so many stupid decisions that the reader wants the character to die, or at least have consequences for their actions.

 

Who Are You Meant To Be?

You know how some things are a secret? Like the chocolate stash behind the canned vegetables at the back of the pantry. Yep, no danger of anyone finding the mini candy bars hidden there in my house.

Writing was one of those things for me.

I grew up in a less than ideal home and I used writing as my outlet. Over time the journal entries and poems of my youth evolved into short stories. Not very good ones at first, but it was still satisfying to see the story in my mind come to life on the page. And yes, for those of you wondering…I do in fact carry on conversations with my characters. In what other profession is it possible to get paid for talking to your imaginary friends? Yeah, in most places they medicate you and introduce you to a little thing called a straitjacket!

But I kept my writing a secret. No one knew. Not my friends, not my family, not even my husband, a wonderful man I have been married to for almost 18 years! I never set out for it to be a secret. It’s not like I lead a double life as a secret agent or anything. I just never felt good enough, talented enough to make my deep, dark, crazy dream of being able to walk into a bookstore and one day see my name on the shelf a reality. So, I didn’t say anything.

Then about three years ago a friend asked me to be a beta reader for her manuscript. She knew I was an avid reader and I jumped at the opportunity to give her feedback. Boy, did she get more than she bargained for! Fortunately, she was so happy to get constructive feedback that she called me again and again to ask questions and get opinions. In return, I was thrilled to be involved with a real author; after all she had an agent. We worked well together and I quickly became her critique partner.

Since that fateful day, Anita Clenney has encouraged and cajoled me into coming out of the writer’s closet and embracing the insanity that is the publishing industry. I have written my first full-length manuscript and pitched it at the WRW Retreat. Although, I have been fortunate enough to receive multiple submission requests I now realize that it doesn’t matter. The true gift that my friend has given me is confidence in my own abilities. She has opened a door to an entire community of incredibly talented nut jobs that talk to their characters too.

My friends and family have been very supportive since my coming out. The first time my husband read an excerpt of my work he said, “Holy crap! I had no idea you could write like this!” and “Oh yeah, now that I know, can you edit my master’s thesis on water management in Europe?” For the record, I would rather edit an entire manuscript than his incredibly dry academic thesis again.

And by the way, my dream of seeing my name on the bookstore shelf came true April 29, 2011. My friend and critique partner, Anita Clenney, published Awaken the Highland Warrior (the first in a trilogy) and bless her heart, she dedicated it to me.

The point is we all come from different places and have taken different journeys to get where we are today. For some of us the path has been relatively easy, tripping over wonderful opportunities at every turn. For others, the road may have been wrought with challenge and constant reminders of past failures. But the question I ask is this–Have you ever looked back at your life and thought… Wow, that was so not worth it. I really wish I hadn’t tried. Or, do you more often look back and think… That was such a great opportunity. I wish I had learned to _____________. Or, I should have _____________.

At the end of the day, no matter what your journey is, put it all out on the line and see what happens. Because you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and along the way you short change yourself out of being who you’re meant to be.