A New Year of Possibilities

Congratulations to KARA O’NEAL, who is the winner of the Femmes Favorite Book of 2014 post! You’ll win an official Violet Femmes mug! Enjoy! I’ll be reaching out to you to send your gift.

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For me, welcoming in the New Year is like buying a brand new notebook. The spine is perfect, the cover unwrinkled, the pages are blank. How I choose to fill them is up to me. But rather than that causing me stress, I’m energized with hope…with possibilities.

notebook

2014 was both a good and bad year for me. From a writing perspective, it was a good year. My debut book, Untangle My Heart, was made available world-wide in March, I completed edits for the second book in the series, Forever in My Heart, and I started writing the third story. Things were stressful at my day job but that was okay because my writing kept me grounded and brought me joy. From a personal perspective, I suffered a deep personal loss at the end of last year. Looking forward to 2015 gives me a chance for a start fresh and with it, renewed enthusiasm to strive to be the best person and writer I can be.

At the 2014 NJ Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, one of the speakers asked us to write down our goals. Here’s what I wrote with 2015 in mind:

  1. Finish writing Tangled Hearts Book 3 (Awaken My Heart).
  2. Begin plotting/scoping/writing a new contemporary series.
  3. Pitch new series at the 2015 NJRW conference.

Even as I’m typing this #3 is sort of freaking me out as I haven’t pitched in a couple years and the thought of going through that process…AGAIN…makes me feel as though I’m taking a step back. But as I think about this more, I realize it’s not going backward. Rather, it’s going FORWARD. Similar to RoseAnn who mentioned in last week’s post that she’s in RoseAnn 2.0 mode, I need to move to the next phase in my career. I’ve gotten my feet wet and am published. Now I need to move up the next rung on the ladder.

I’m 32k words into Awaken My Heart, and I’m hoping to finish it during NJ Romance Writers Jersey Romance Writing Month (JeRoWriMo) this February. Of course, Forever in My Heart is being released February 20th, which means I’ll need to spend time preparing.

In addition to my writing goals, I’ve set some personal goals:

  1. Get back to my goal weight by the end of March.
  2. Attend Jazzercise three times a week.
  3. Spend more quality time with my family.

No matter how many goals I set, sometimes those goals have to be changed or extended. And that’s okay. It’s my empty notebook to fill as I see fit. Life’s too precious and too short to be spending it not doing what you want. So have fun, enjoy life, and fill your notebook with things that make YOU happy!

Since last week we asked what your writing goals are for 2015, this week I’d like to hear what your personal goals are. Is anyone planning to run a 5k or a triathlon? How about any special trips?

Enjoy your year of possibilities!

Hugs,

Maria

 You can find me at:

Website|Twitter|Facebook|Goodreads|Pinterest

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Believe

Photo credit: 2 little banshees / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: 2 little banshees / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I love this time of year. That is to say, I usually love this time of year. Last year was the first Holiday season where my Christmas Baby had been ruthlessly pulled under the truth about Santa tent. With her birthday on the holiday, she’s always had double the fun, double the spirit, and double doses of believing in the season. Nothing could pull her out of her holiday slump last year. This year…she’s back, and it has made all the difference as we prepare for the season. This naturally turned my thoughts to writing and inevitably…my sock drawer. Completely logical, right? I promise, it is…let me break it down for you.

I’ve been in a sorting, organizing frenzy over the past few weeks, throwing things into the donation pile with an abandon I usually never attain. It’s been liberating. Finally, it was time to tackle my sock drawer. When I started I BELIEVED I had NO socks. As I started to sort, match, organize, discard, I soon realized that I was a sock junkie. True, I found some socks with holes, like those you’d find in a plot that you’d need to discard. I also found items that didn’t belong, like long sleeve black gloves I’d worn when I was a bridesmaid a MILLLION years ago, kind of like those scenes that should be ruthlessly cut from a manuscript. BUT I also found a lot more of value than I ever expected. In fact, the draw is filled with a wealth of riches. The truth is, I’m a bit of a sock geek. I mean, who doesn’t want to wear their warm and fuzzies during the winter while curled up on the sofa reading a good book…or writing one?

While sorting, my thoughts turned to a new Young Adult Mystery novel of mine. I started it back in February for the NJRW JeRoWriMo writing sprint. I’d written 15 K words in one week and then left the story for crap. I stuck it way down in the bottom of the sock drawer, so to speak, and focused my energy on a new Humorous Contemporary Romance series. In short, I slid back into a comfy pair of old socks and got down to the business of writing. Nothing wrong with that, I LOVE this new contemporary series, and I hope to one day share it with my readers. However, this summer I pulled the YA out and found I truly LOVED the story. I darned the holes I could now see, polished it a bit, and submitted it to two contests. Guess what? That story, WINGING IT, I’d left for crap, is now a finalist in both writing contests!

Writers (or at least this one) are emotional. It is so easy to doubt ourselves. If we don’t believe in our work, who will? So, at this time of year, when we are focused on the magic of the season, I’m going to remind everyone, regardless of your passion, please remember that fulfillment in any endeavor starts first with your own ability to BELIEVE.

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Starting the Next Book

How do you start your next story? I don’t mean where, exactly. We all know the first chapter should begin with a life changing event. Ideally with a smidge of the everyday world shown, enough meat to show the character’s character, her (or his) dilemma without backstory slowing us down though.

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[Gpointstudio/Young Thoughtful Woman/Photos.com]

Sigh. If it were only that easy. For me STARTING the next book, period, is the hard part. I’ve attempted freeform scribbling of story ideas—you should see the disjointed pages of “maybe’s” I’ve got. Maybe he should do x, maybe this happened to her in the past, maybe that. If there’s a gem in that mess it’s hiding pretty well.

I’ve tried starting with only the most basic premise, using bold, black marker to set out the major plot points on index cards. This tactic is supposed to be so great. The cards can be rearranged so easily, you can take them everywhere! To begin, you only need a few big scenes! This major thing happened, they have to end here, something crushing has to happen about there, etc. Then you play a game of connect the dots—more index cards forming a dotted path from A to B to C. Except wait—you have to actually write something on them. And therein lies the trouble. Anyone else find all those blank rectangles laid out in row intimidating? Stilting? Truth be told, I did start my last book this way… sort of. But it didn’t get me very far. This time, index cards seem to be getting me nowhere.

Some people research heavily, all the gems of information igniting story ideas and plot twists galore. Ummmmn. If I don’t know what I’m writing, how do I know what to research?

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Things I Learned About My Writing Style

St. Patrick's Day shamrockI went to a St. Patrick’s Day dinner last weekend at my church. While this isn’t something I’d usually drag my husband to, a friend of ours invited us and we figured, why not? In attendance were several other couples our age plus around fifty or so people over the age of seventy. Yup, it was like having a party with my parents and grandparents. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to have had a good time. We were placed closest to the bar (yeah!) and the food.
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Learning to Speed Write

New Jersey Romance Writers just finished its February writing challenge,  JeRoWriMo, or Jersey Romance Writing Month. The challenge, to write thirty thousand words in the month of February.

I started a new project for JeRoWriMo this year, and I’m happy to say, I met the 30K goal, despite a few obstacles. Five day trip to Texas? No problem. Three out of four family members, including me, sick for over a week? Piece of cake!
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Favorite Romantic Moment

valentines day couple

For many of us, we eat, drink, and sleep romance. We’re writers. It’s what we do. Especially if you’re a member of NJ Romance Writers and are participating in our 30,000-word February writing challenge, JeRoWriMo (Jersey Romance Writing Month)! Even while I’m working my day job, driving, or even—forgive me—hanging out with my family, a part of me often is thinking about my characters. It’s not enough to write that happily-ever-after for our hero and heroine. We have to write it in a way that evokes the emotion of the reader; to make our characters so real that our readers fall in love with them as much as we do.
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United We Stand

Don’t forget to enter our One-Year Anniversary contest to win a Nook Simple Touch. You can enter through November 30th. Click the link below for a few fun ways of entering. The more you do, the more chances you have at winning. You need to enter through the Rafflecopter link to be eligible to win. Good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c70/

Over the past few weeks, NJ and its surrounding states have gone through a tragic event in Hurricane Sandy that’s touched many of us in one way or another. Some were inconvenienced by lack of power while others were devastated in worse ways. But through all the sadness, I repeatedly hear stories of people helping people. Whether it’s giving someone shelter, food, clothes, contributions, people are reaching out to help.
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