SORMAG Online Conference 2013- Readers and Writers, will you be there?

On the panel add

Have you heard about the SORMAG Online Conference ?

If not, you have to check it out!

SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) is hosting its annual conference which gives authors the opportunity to learn from one another. Readers, here’s a chance to talk to some of your favorite authors! The event last November 1-3rd!!!

Workshops will be held online as well as by phone.  Each day will have a theme:

November 1st: New Writers

November 2nd: Readers

November 3rd: Published Authors

I’m excited to say that I am not only attending, I’m also on several panels! You will find me on the Social Media and Readers panel on November 2nd, and the Marketing panel on November 3rd. Both are live phone panels, so stop by and say hi!

Follow this link to learn more about the conference topics and what authors will be participating!

Register

Have you ever attended a conference without leaving your home?
Register for SORMAG’s Online Conference for readers and writers. Learn from published authors, network with fellow writers. Pitch your manuscript. Mix and mingle with avid readers. Win a few door prizes and never leave the comforts of your home.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

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Guest Post: A Quick Trip into Chaos: My Writing Experience

 Aspiring Authors: at times you may feel down, unsure of what your supposed to do with your writing. Fear not! We’ve all been there! Today, author Catherine Stovall stops by to share her journey to publication! Thanks, Catherine! 

I am not one of those authors who have been writing novels ten or twenty years. In fact, I started just about two and a half years ago. About two weeks after my 30th birthday, I decided that I wanted to write a novel. Inspired by the onslaught of cuddly paranormal creatures, I wanted to supply teens and young adults, much like my own, with novels that embraced the darker side of things.

The writing went quickly and before I knew it, Stolen was born. I worked hard to proofread, edit, and perfect my manuscript. Before I knew it, I was down to the BIG question. I had to choose what to do with my book. I was unsure whether I wanted to self-publish, try for an agent, attempt the traditional route, or choose a small press.

Self-publishing wasn’t for me. I admire those brave souls who put on their entrepreneur hats and storm into the world of publishing and I have since published a short story on my own, but at the time, I knew I wasn’t ready for that. I needed more guidance, more direction, and the help of someone who positively knew how to do what I didn’t.

The guidelines for the well-known print publishers, terrified me. Most print publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers, only those with agents. Agents do not generally accept authors who have not previously been professionally published. Not to mention, most publishers and agents accept very few projects a year. I found myself in a conundrum. To proceed or not to proceed, that was my question.

That’s when I tripped my way around the internet and discovered small presses. I knew this was the path for me as a new author. Everything I was looking for was there. Here were companies who welcomed unsolicited manuscripts without an agent, provided professional editing, and offered very competitive royalty rates. When I learned that I could have a bigger say in the entire process by using signing with a small publisher than I would with the larger publishers, I dove in.

Sixteen letters went out. In a matter of weeks, I received several polite no thank you letters, one letter that not so politely told me not to give up my day job, and two letters saying yes. Stolen: Requiem of Humanity Series: Book One was released just twelve days before my thirty-first birthday. In less than a year, I had become a real author.

Through 2012, I continued to work hard, prepping my next releases. I self-published a short story, Fearful Day, in June of 2012. In addition to Fearful Day, Reborn: Requiem of Humanity: Book Two released in December of 2012 through the same small publisher as Stolen. I also started working on many new novels and shorts, one of which is my brand new release, Faire Eve. I was very happy with how things were going, and though I wasn’t wildly successful, I received letters and post from fans who were cheering me on.

Here, we come to the part of the story that is the here and now. So far, 2013 has been a fabulous year. I have been blessed enough to meet, and be signed with, the fabulous Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. Faire Eve is my first release of the year but far from my last. I have also signed a short story to CHBB’s sister company, Vamptisy. You will be able to grab a copy of my short story, Bloody Freedom in the Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds anthology in August. In addition to these, I have a few full lengths and shorts that are currently in negotiations. Hopefully, 2013 will be the best year yet for me and my fans.

All in all, my experience has been amazing. There have been ups and downs. Rejections hurt, reviews are nerve wracking, and the hurrying up to wait part of the business is intolerable. Yet, I love what I do. I have had a gentle ride into the chaos that is an author’s world. The trip has been fun and I am looking forward to the rest of the journey.

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Faire Eve Cover

Under the watchful eye of her over protective mother, Eve grew up in a world without magic and fancy. She never cared about riding a unicorn, dancing at balls or being a princess. Now, all the things she never desired are hers and every other girl’s dream is her nightmare”

The Sidhe ruled over fairy magic from the twilight city, Trig Na nOg, until a beast cast a dark spell to send them into a death-like sleep. In an attempt to reap revenge on the fairy people, Tiritchiq hunts Eve and her entourage as they campaign to place the halfling princess on the throne.

In order to save the world of Evalon and a family she has never known, Eve travels through dimensions, crosses dangerous landscapes, and learns to accept the Sidhe blood within. With the moody and handsome Daione Warrior Eldon by her side, she must embrace the darkness inside of her and face down a powerful foe.

 Amazon     Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing

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About the Author:

Catherine Stovall is the author of Faire Eve, The Requiem of Humanity Series, Fearful Day, Sweet Sally Slasher, and Bloody Freedom. Stovall is a member of the International Thriller Writers and the creator of International Bug Your Library Day, an operation to spread awareness for Indie and Small Press Authors.

Catherine is a fearless creature who surrounds herself with the joys of life both in and out of her fictional worlds. She lives in Southeast Missouri with her husband, three children, and pets. When not writing, she spends her time riding motorcycles, wearing elaborate hats, and genuinely enjoying the oddities in life.

Facebook      Website      Twitter

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook     Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

To Blog or Not to Blog?

blogThere was a time when I didn’t spend much time on the internet, much less read or follow a blog. Yet, in the last 3 years, I’ve become an avid blogger! Who knew? During this time my blog has undergone several revisions…from colors, to layouts, blogging platforms…and most importantly, what I blog about.

So, why did I start blogging? The answer is simple….to become a better writer.

Sounds crazy, right?

When I started blogging in 2009, I had no idea what I would write about. I mean really, at the time I was a stay at home mom who was attempting to write a book. What did I have to talk about? Hmm…kids, the community, my dogs. BORING!!! Who wanted to read that? LOL! In the beginning I had about 4 people who stopped by to read what I wrote. And that was only because I asked them to check it out. I had no idea how to format a blog post or how long it should be. Adding a picture was a hair pulling experience (did I mention I wasn’t THAT computer savvy?). Yep…suffice it to say I didn’t blog very often. Those blogs are still available if you’d like to read them:

 Four Miles and Counting….(my very first post!)

…Two Pit Bulls, One Paper Clip and a lap top to put it all in! (the next daring endevor!)

I know, I know, the big question is: did it actually help your writing?

The answer: YES!!!! (Seriously, take a look back then and now and you’ll see my writing technique has changed though my voice is pretty much the same.)

What are the benefits to writing a blog? As I stated above, writing a blog helped me find my writing voice, or rather, get comfortable with writing something, having people read it. Getting used to receiving comments and feedback about my blog post helped me get used to the idea of reading reviews as a published author. You can’t please everyone and of course everyone will not agree or like what you have to say. As writers, we have to get used to that idea. Why not do that with a blog?

And as they say about anything you strive to get better at: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and you will improve. I strongly suggest that if you are an aspiring author looking to practice the craft of writing, start a blog! Find a topic or subject that is important to you (your writing platform or niche), and use it!

As time went on, I gave up on my blog for several months until I discovered my blog niche was writing about my experiences as an aspiring author. The more information I ran across, practiced, or new technique I found, I wrote about it. Sharing my story led me to other writers who were doing the same thing I was. Forming connections with other writers lead to networking, networking lead to learning new writing techniques from more experienced writers…and well, here I am today! It took a lot of work and continues to take a lot of work to keep this blog going, but I am proud to say that as of right now, I have over 900 blog followers.

I guess what I have to say and share means something! Thank you guys!!!

The question I am asked most by writers who would like to start a blog but fear they will never have a following is: “I have something to say, but who is going to read it? How do I promote my blog?” The answer is simple. If you’re tied into the major social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Stumbleupon, etc., your potential readers are right there waiting. Choose a snazzy topic, a witty title, develop your layout, and use those free social networking tools. Before you know it, you’ll have a blog following, too!

Good luck and happy blogging!

MJ

Guest Post: How I Cracked the Mystery Novel by A.T. Hicks

 For all of you writers out there who have found mystery writing as your Muses calling, author A.T. Hicks is here to help you! Read today’s guest post and find out how she cracked the mystery novel formula!  Thanks for sharing A.T.!

Mystery writing to me was as complex as the Di Vinci Code and as befuddling as Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I didn’t understand how those clever writers did it. How they came up with their daring plots and sub-plots, their nefarious characters and the resolving of the crime at the end. In other words, becoming a mystery writer was as far from my goals as climbing Mount Everest. It just wasn’t gonna happen.

But alas, my own creativity told me, I was wrong…

Now, I’m a very curious person and I’m arrogant enough to believe that I can solve any puzzle I put my mind to work on. Last year–February 2012 in fact–I told myself I was going to learn to write cozy mysteries. You know–those stories where a woman in a small village or town digs out the pie thief and the murderer of that pretty girl next-door–all while knitting mittens and drinking hot toddies. Very cute, right? But I wanted to write my own mysteries; one that was a bit more risqué. A not so cozy mystery series, if you will.

The series would be penned A Peaches Donnelly Mystery.

But before all this fabulousness could start, I had to crack the Mystery Novel Code. After weeks of studying the structure of plot, development of character and general lay of the land of many mysteries, I had one of those illuminating moments where the mystery (no pun intended!) is finally solved. And it was oh, so simple. One can use this formula to write a mystery, suspense or thriller as complex as their mind, and research, can devise.

The Mystery Plot Rules:

1) Set from the very beginning who will be murdered and why. The murder can happen at any time, but you need to have a pretty good idea of who the victim, or victims, will be.  IE: Regina is found impaled with a spiked heel the day after her big promotion.

2) Decide who the murderer is. Now, this rule is a little flexible. I have had in mind one would-be murderer, then, after getting deep into the plot, found a better, less obvious murderer. This changes from writer to writer and in the end, you’ll figure out who the best murderer is for your stories plot.

3) Decide why the murderer has murdered this person and don’t give it away! The reason why someone killed someone else can again be as complex or rudimentary or hilarious as you want it to be.

4) Sprinkle subtle clues in from the very beginning and continue to consistently sprinkle clues in most chapters. The clues should always tie neatly–and sensibly!–into the storyline. Important: be sure different clues from the victim’s life or from the crime scene tie in with a word or a line or a theme about the murderer. IE: the deceased was immoral and slept with folk’s men. Show that the killer was a fiery Bible thumper or that the killer was a mousy woman with a gorgeous husband. But in no way should these people be at the forefront of the readers mind as a suspect. A light hand is required here.

5) Sprinkle in red herrings that throw the reader for a loop. These red herrings can be in the form of jealous spouses, angry co-workers or hateful neighbors. IE: Becky had always hated Regina and when she got the promotion she was after, a nasty argument ensued. Three days later, Regina was found murdered with Becky’s spiked heel. In the mind of the reader, this makes Becky a likely suspect. They can also be in the form of something that ties a particular person to the victim. IE: Regina’s ex-boyfriend was had a restraining order levied against him because he was stalking Regina. But remember, none of these obvious suspects should ever be the killer.

6) Don’t forget to summarize what the investigator has discovered throughout varying chapters where our heroine/hero interviews a suspect or discovers a clue(s). Now, this can be done in varying ways, either through a conversation with a sidekick or partner throughout the chapter, with a bit of a mental summery of clues discovered thus far, or a bit of both. This is stylistic and up to you. But it must be done. This way the reader doesn’t get lost in the book.

7) No matter what, move the plot forward! Everything you write should be moving the investigator, amateur sleuth or hard boiled detective inexorably to the killer. The clues should stack up, perhaps leading the reader astray at times, but always leading the reader forward. There’s nothing worse than a storyline that plods along!

8) The discovery of the murderer, no matter how ridiculous or hard-boiled, should always surprise the reader. This is the fun part where all your excellent writing comes together. It should be fast-paced, fun and exciting. It should take the reader on a roller coaster ride of ‘Ohhh–yeahhhh!’ They should be remembering your red herrings and clue summaries.

I view writing mysteries as a person who puts together a thousand piece puzzle would: piece by piece. Each piece should fit neatly into the other to give the reader a tight, seamless ending that makes sense and provides them with a feeling of satisfaction.

There you have it folk. I’ve cracked the Mystery Novel Code now you can, too!

Check out A.T. Hicks novel today!

Peaches and the Gambler Silhouette (1)What does a strip club, a dead man and a Dove ice cream bar all have in common? Peaches Donnelly.

Peaches Donnelly has a major problem: she’s just been fired. Unaccustomed to filling her days with nothingness, she embroils herself in the murder of a childhood friend. However, standing between her and the solving of this heinous
crime are two pesky daughters, a selfish opera singer sister, the diet from hell and two sexy men she can’t resist.

Add to this bubbling pot a hasty decision to go undercover as a stripper and you have a story rife with drama, laughs and a little dash of danger.

Follow Peaches and the always funny cast of characters in this first installment of a rollicking series of cozy mysteries.

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About the Author:

When A. T. Hicks isn’t penning outrageous fiction, she’s shooing a renegade tomcat out of her garden, trying to prevent her escape artist dog from slipping out under the fence once again and negotiating with her teenaged daughter to complete her chores.

 Twitter     Facebook     Blog/Website     Amazon     Email

Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ

Guest Post: Minnie Lahongrais

Writing Divergent Lives

Divergent Lives JPEG One Page CoverIn July of 2011, I sat at my computer to write what I thought was going to be the story of a woman, born of Puerto Rican immigrant parents raised in El Barrio who was conflicted about the ideals she was raised with. I wanted to show how those ideals played out in the revolutionary times of the 60s.

The working title for the story was Standing on the Precipice. I thought I knew how the story would play out when I sat down to write it. I wrote the prologue as well as the first chapter in one sitting then printed that section with the intention of reading it on the train on my way in to work the next day.

The next morning, while putting on my makeup, a childhood memory came rushing back to me. I should have been asleep, but I was eavesdropping on my mother who was having a conversation with my older brother’s girlfriend when I heard this little tidbit:

“The baby died in utero; choked by its umbilical cord when its twin, in a hurry to be born, climbed over it and killed it.”

I was horrified because I knew the person she was talking about! I didn’t read that excerpt on the train that morning. Instead I played out several “what if” scenarios in my head.

“What if that child hadn’t died? What kind of life would it have had? What if the baby had been born with an abnormality? How would the family handle it? What if they gave up the child? What if they think the child is stillborn and it’s sold on the black market instead?”

While discussing the possibilities with another author one night, I decided on a title and release date. Both decisions were important in order to make an impact. Divergent Lives was born that night.

I threw out the prologue, made the first chapter the second chapter and wrote the ending. Now all I had to do was get there.

I began my research in earnest. I studied the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths but became frustrated because I found that both mental conditions could easily be confused for one another. I did find one tiny difference and settled on making these two main characters — the twins — sociopaths.

I studied Bolivia during the end of World War II.

I spoke with an OB/GYN who had knowledge about how things were done in the 60s. I met with a psychotherapist who practiced in the 80s.

I set about studying the laws governing drug sales in the 80s and spoke with real estate experts about amenities that were available in the early 00s in newly built condominiums.

I studied the growth of technology between 1990 and 2000 and I spoke with retired policemen about police procedures.

Once I had all that information in one place, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was pretty excited. The thoughts and ideas ran rampant in my mind 24 hours a day. I couldn’t get them all down on paper fast enough and resorted to voice notes. Today I listen to those breathless notes filled with excitement in my voice and I can only chuckle.

I would rush home to write. What was once the first chapter became the second chapter, what was once the last chapter became the first and I continued on from there, writing consistently and steadily for almost a year. Then I hit a brick wall.

A year after starting this story, I was two thirds of the way through – I had a beginning, an ending and a big hole in the middle. I called my manuscript my “donut” and put it aside to ruminate on how I was going to close up that big ole hole. I put together a list of thirteen issues I needed to address.

I was getting ready to go in for surgery and I knew I would be convalescing for three months. I figured I could address those issues during that time. Wrong again. The first six weeks after surgery were pure hell. I couldn’t focus, I was drugged up, and my characters abandoned me.

I was taken off medication during the 7th week after my surgery and my characters came alive for me again. I finished the story over the next five weeks.

Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.

A quote, written by Marquis de Sade in “Dialogue the Fifth” from his Philosophy in the Bedroom aptly states the message I wanted to convey with this story.

“One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bandy-legged or well-proportioned.”

Think about that. Are we to blame for who we are?

 Divergent Lives is available now on Amazon.com in the US as well as in the UK Additional purchase links for other parts of the world can be found on my website.

Minnie Lahongrais

Contact Minnie on the following sites:

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My Website – Worldwide purchase links can be found here

Divergent Lives on Amazon.com

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Crash and Burn…Are Your Manuscript Files Backed Up?

A computer crash is the biggest fear of any author. Months, even years, of hard work, creativity, and research are gone in a matter of seconds. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The latest laptop to fail.

Over the past year, I’ve gone through three laptops and now a computer. Okay, the laptops weren’t the newest on the market and two of them were free. I’m not complaining because they got the work done. The more I worked, the more it got used, and apparently, they couldn’t keep up with me or the newer programs I needed to keep my writing going.

Last week, I began having problems with my and newest laptop. My husband is a technical whiz and has rebuilt his computer several times. He’s been able to recover files from major crashes and do major overhauls on his machines to make them run faster. Simply put, he’s got the best computer in the house! He needs it since he produces, engineers, and records artist  on his machine. In short, he’s got money sitting in his hard drives.

He informed me that my computer needed to have the Windows uninstalled and reinstalled in order to make it work better. So far he’s had to save my butt and fix the thing about 5 times in the last three months. I backed up all of my files, anticipating my computer hard drive being completely wiped out, and happily handed it over. Needless to say, something went wrong. It wasn’t his fault, it’s the computers. It’s about four years old and had already been having some issues with the hard drive. Long story short, it accepted Windows 7, but refuses to accept Word. How is a writer supposed to write without WORD????

So, I sucked it up and got my son’s computer tower, brought it to my office, and promised him I would not take it over forever. Just long enough to keep my writing momentum going without getting behind while waiting for the laptop to be fixed.

That black spot is what caught on fire!

All went good for a few hours. I managed to start typing the first chapter of the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs series, Jaded. I had already printed out the MS and went line-by-line with my red pen doing edits. I typed of the first ten pages last night. As I was going through the words on my Passive Words checklist, I began to smell smoke. My first thought was the stove had been turned on accidentally and a pot or plastic cup was on it. (My office is right off the kitchen). I looked over at my 11-year-old son who was washing dishes and asked what was burning. It was then I noticed smoke coming from under my desk. I pushed back from the desk and realized the computer tower was on fire! I, of course, freaked and yelled for my husband. Everyone in the house came running. Fortunately, I was able to blow out the flames, but the computer was done.

I was sitting there on the verge of tears. After waiting, fretting, and struggling with the desire to sit down at a computer and get things moving along, I was once again computer-less, not to mention my son’s computer is now toast. But then I realized something that made me laugh. My family thought I was crazy. In the scene I was working on, the heroine, Yasmine Phillips, is stressing because her computer crashed and literally burned.  Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief glimpse at the WIP:

My paper work filed away, I turned back to my computer and pulled up the accounting program used to manage the hotel.

“No, no, no!” I pounded on my key board, but nothing worked.

“What’s wrong?” Brandon leaned forward to peer around my monitor.

The screen flashed a rolling script before it went completely black.

“Oh shit,” I groaned, flopped back in my chair, and put my hands on my face. I wanted to snatch my hair out. “Shit, shit, shit…”

Brandon whistled. “You, my sister, are seriously screwed.”

If looks could kill, he’d be dead right now. I sat up and even though knowing it was a waste of time, flipped the on switch of the computer tower. There was a spark of energy that flashed and burned out in the grounding wire of the extension cord. Brandon and I jumped up; he lunged for the cord in the wall while I ran for the fire extinguisher in the hall.

Fortunately I didn’t need it.

My brother fanned smoke as the smell of burnt electronics permeated the air.“I hope you had that information on a backup system.”

“No, I know I’m supposed to, but I never got around to it,” I grimaced.

            Brandon reached over and patted me on my shoulder. “So far, I’m not liking the idea of being manager at the new location”

Talk about irony! My office still smells of burnt plastic!

Several months ago, my husband asked me if I’d been backing up my writing files in case of a computer crash. At the time I felt that wasn’t necessary. I had my files saved to USB and that was enough. Then I began hearing horror stories of computers crashing, partial files missing, USB’s lost, and realized I needed to step it up.

I’m not the worlds most computer savvy person. Thankfully, my husband is. He walked me through the steps and showed me how to save entire files on to a CD. Not only have I backed up my manuscripts, I’ve backed up all research, articles on writing, photos, and e-books on writing. If anything ever happens, all I have to do is pull out the disk and download it to whatever computer I’m on and have a perfect snap shot of my work. Doing this every couple of months, weeks, or whenever major changes are made, can keep your work current. That way if you ever experience an issue with your computer, you can rest assured your time dedicated to your work was not in vain.

Other options for additional places to store your work are:

  • Online storage services (some are free, some you pay for.)
  • Emailing a copy of latest work to yourself and archiving it. 
  • Create a buddy system with another writer you trust. Exchange digital copies of you MS for each other to hold in case yours ever is lost or destroyed.
  • Even though this is the age of digital information, there’s nothing wrong with going old school and printing out a copy to have on hand.
  • Purchase an external hard drive to save your work on. That way if your main drive on your computer fails, the external hard drive will still have your work. Think of it as a giant USB. 

These are the few that I can recommend. If anyone has any other methods, please share! 

MJ

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Does Your Story Have A Soundtrack?

Soundtracks. They can be found on T.V. shows, movies, and commercials. Even life has a soundtrack.

Have you ever found yourself doing random things like, cleaning the kitchen, walking down the isle at Wal-Mart, or sitting through the dreaded school conference bored to death and your mind wanders…a random song comes out of no where, yet fits the moment perfectly?

That’s your personal soundtrack. Or laugh track, depends on the moment. LOL!

Every author finds inspiration for their story somehow, be it life experiences, a television program, newspaper article, you know the drill. Music is a big thing in my household. With my husband being a music producer, there are artist coming through at least once a week to record. If not, then he is always working on a new track, playing it for everyone to hear. My son, who recently finished playing in the Youth Orchestra for the Alliance Theater, plays the string bass and bass guitar. Suffice it to say, music is always playing around here, no matter what time of day. Because of that, the combination of my husband and son’s artistic abilities were the bases of one of my main characters in A Heart Not Easily Broken, Brian Young. 

While writing the first book of The Butterfly Memoirs Series, I ran across the perfect song for Brian, Butterfly, by Crazy Town. No the title of the song has nothing to do with the series, just pure coincidence. I’ve been driving my kids crazy – no pun intended – for the past two years listening to this song. It’s the first track on “Mom’s Driving Music’ CD in the car. If I’m driving and a scene is formulating in my head, the poor kids are held hostage as I keep hitting the repeat button over and over again. To bad! It works for me!

The bass line played in this song speaks to me. Brian is a bass guitar player in a band called Diverse Nation. When he meets his love interest, Ebony Campbell, he’s playing in a night club when he spies her dancing in front of the stage. One look and he’s hooked. When I picture this scene in my head, I can imagine him, eyes glued to her curvaceous body as her hips sway, arms held over her head and eyes closed, lost in the music. He is captivated, his fingers strum the bass line while the band does a cover version of the song. Listen to the song…can you picture it?
 

 Another song that inspires me while writing the women in my books is Miss Independent, by Ne Yo.

It sets the stage for the strong female characters I write in my series. In truth, it’s also the type of woman my male leads are looking for. The kind of woman that can stop them in their tracks and make them take stock of what she has to offer. She’s strong, hardworking and has her own goals in mind. She will never be needy, yet always appreciate what the man in her life has to offer.

When editing, I refuse to listen to anything with words. Instead, I pull out my list of instrumentals.While working through my dreaded forty-six word Passive Words/Phrases list, my favorite song to listen to  is Fantasy and Fables, by KTEK.  Follow the link to track number 16. (Shameless promotion, this song was produced by my husband, so if you follow this blog, you MUST listen to it. I promise it won’t disappoint!)

Other songs that have made their way into my writing soundtrack include,  Making Love In the Rain, by Herb Alpert -great for writing love scenes- and Through the Bamboo Forest, a song from the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, performed by Yo Yo Ma. A hauntingly beautiful song I can feel in my soul, I pull this track out when I’m deep in editing mode and need to ‘be’ my character in order to write what it is they see, think, hear and feel. Since I write in first person, I put my heart and soul into every action and statement made by the characters in order for them to become so realistic, I can hear their thoughts. I put on my headphones and the song on repeat. It’s amazing how focused I get and how much can be accomplished while this song plays.

 

So, these are the songs that fill my head and inspire me while I write. What do you like to listen too? Do your characters have a story that is inspired by a song? Please share!

MJ

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