TGIF: Two days of sex, passion and books …

This weekend the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, (NJRW) whose theme is “Unleash Your Passion,” happens and I’ll be there.

I’m looking forward to the lineup of guest speakers and presenters, which includes best-selling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs and husband and wife team, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.

There will workshops for writers at all levels, some include:

  • Using POV to create emotionally powerful scenes
  • The Core of Romance
  • Women’s Fiction: Hitting the Genre’s Sweet Spot (see, told you there’d be sex!)
  • E-pub, Self-publishing, Marketing and Selling the book and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

There are also editor/agent appointments for those pitching their books, a Literary Book Fair, where authors sign their books for their fans, and most of all, networking opportunities.

I’m not pitching a book this year. However, I will be handing out business cards (which ALL authors should have–yet to be published and published) and networking. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people at these types of conferences, not only as supporters of my work, but as friends.

The NJRW conference will also have a professional photographer on site to take studio and environmental portraits. Need a new head shot for your book or Web site? Say cheese!

While I’m there, I’m going to take a trip to Barnes and Noble, which is only 10 minutes from the conference location. There are a couple of new books I want to pick up.

    I find J.K Rowlings’ adult book,“The Casual Vacancy”very intriguing. It’s also on Nook, so I will be making my e-book purchase!

    Ken Follett’s,“Winter of the World” (part of the Century Trilogy), which is on Nook as well! Yippee!

    Actor and Director Penny Marshall’s, book “My mother was Nuts,” looks hysterical.

    I couldn’t buy books without including a Romance novel. “Return to Willow Lake,” by Susan Wiggs, one of the conference speakers, is on my list to buy. It’s on NOOK as well. However, I may purchase this at the conference, so that I can get Susan to sign it! Perfect timing!

By the way, the authors signing at the Literary Book Fair donate a portion of their proceeds to literacy. Nice, huh?

I’m taking a bag large enough to transport all my new books—those I plan to buy and those I don’t!

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

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Is life too easy for your characters? Bring on the obstacles …

When writing fiction, particularly romance, we have been taught that readers want a heroine or hero who experience tragedy and then rise back from the depths of hell to claim (or reclaim) their true love. My words, but you get the gist.

Short and sweet, a character must overcome obstacles (and many) if your story is to have a satisfying ending, or for romance writers, the must have happily ever after.

If you’re having trouble doing that, an article, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters” from Writing World may help you get started. This is one of the best writer’s reference sites around. I keep a binder filled with a plethora of articles on the craft and business of writing that always come in handy.

Case in point.

I’m working on my second book, and for some reasons I didn’t think my heroine, a pediatric nurse and single mother, who is afraid of getting involved with another man after a mentally abusive relationship with the father of her child, didn’t have enough obstacles. So I went back to my trusty binder and reread, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters.”

So far, the list of obstacles in my wonderful heroine’s life goes like this. While camping with the new love of her life, she falls off a ravine, sprains her ankle and gets bitten by a snake. At some point in the story, when she finally finds true love, she loses it. She chooses not to believe the hero when he tells her that her ex-lover, who has slithered back into her life, isn’t sincere and has ulterior motives for coming back. And if a separation isn’t enough, the ex-lover kidnaps her son (and his) to force her hand into marriage. Nice guy, huh?

Oh, and did I mention that professionally, my heroine comes under suspicion for aiding and abetting a criminal in an illegal prescription drug ring?

Hmmm … I think I need more obstacles.

When in doubt …consult your crystal ball or (critiquing partner!)

As you may recall from a previous post, there are a few ways that I try to get over “writer’s block.”

Another way to get over the “non-writing hurdle” is to talk to your critiquing partner. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend getting one. My critiquing partner suggested going back to a story that I wrote a few years ago, and see if it will work as a novella or short story.

Brilliant idea!

Sometimes, when we’re writing a full-length novel, and particularly the sequel of another book, it’s hard to get the thoughts to flow properly. It probably doesn’t help if you’re still trying to publish the first one. (I know it is with me as of late.)

We’re usually so close to our projects, we tend to miss what someone from the outside, looking in, might see. Your critiquing partner is the best person to offer advice, because they may be going through the exact same problem.

However, working on an unrelated project, can get your creative juices flowing and you may actually be able to finish with a minimal amount of angst.

I will go back to my second book, a sequel. But for now, my novella, which takes place in Puerto Rico …yum!) will keep me moving forward and keep writing top of mind.

Today is August 17 and the premiere of “The Expendables 2.” I’m psyched because I as mentioned, I will be taking mental notes of all the bad ass characters. Hey, you never know what might work in a WIP!

Have a good weekend. See you Monday.

An Affair to Remember: I Met Joe Black in Australia and he became my Bodyguard

If you haven’t guessed from the blog’s title, I’m a movie nut.

Okay, let me start over. (Remember, confession is good for the soul.) I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic.

Ahh …just breathe. But hold on, there’s more.

This condition has been perfected over the years. When I was a pre-teen, I kept a notebook (five one-subject brown notebooks to be exact) of all the movies I’d ever watched, rated them and noted (with stars, in ink) whether or not I would watch them again.  My records were so meticulous that Siskel and Ebert, now Roeper, would be jealous. Yeah, I know no life. (Hmmm …I wish I knew where my old notebooks were.) 

But later on, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. For most of us, movies—like books—are a means of escape. Movies often deliver messages, influence behavior, spark reflection and literally change lives.  

Now, that’s a powerful medium.

I also find that movies serve as a vital and (wonderful) source of information and research. I recently blogged about my favorite fictional heroes and heroines of the silver screen who influence my writing. However, there are a few movies that also get me in the mood to write romance. They have a way of continuing to make me believe in happily ever after. (I also have to keep a box of tissues nearby.)

I tried to limit my list to the top 27 movies for writing romance and I can’t tell you how difficult that was.  Why 27 movies?  Because everyone always does the top 25, and I wanted to stay below 30. 🙂

So, here’s my list of favorite romantic movies. Each are special and have had an influence on my writing, and in some respects, my life. Perhaps there’s a few here on your list of favorites. If so, tell me about a favorite scene or line or why you could watch it over and over again.

  1. The Way We Were, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand
  2. Somewhere in Time, Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour,
  3. Australia, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
  4. An Affair to Remember, Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
  5. Bridges of Madison County, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep
  6. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton
  7. The Mask of Zorro, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones
  8. Sabrina (remake) Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear
  9. Someone Like You, Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear
  10. Legends of the Fall, Brad Pitt, Julia Ormond, Aiden Quinn
  11. Meet Joe Black, Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani
  12. Love Jones, Larenz Tate, Nia Long
  13. The Notebook, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
  14. The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston
  15. The Wedding Date, Dermot Mulroney, Debra Messing
  16. Romancing the Stone, Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner
  17. A Walk in the Clouds, Keanu Reeves,Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
  18. The American President, Michael Douglas, Anette Bening
  19. Message in a Bottle, Kevin Costner, Robin Wright
  20. The Wedding Planner, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez
  21. Pretty Woman, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts
  22. Sweet Home Alabama, Josh Lucas, Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey
  23. You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
  24. City of Angels, Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan
  25. Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Dougray Scott, Drew Barrymore
  26. Hitch, Will Smith, Eva Mendes
  27. Out of Africa, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep

Uh oh it’s only the beginning of the week and I feel a movie weekend coming on. Better go stock up on popcorn. 😉

Perils of a Romance Writer (Okay, a writer. Period)

One of the downsides of writing is the evitable “writer’s block.” Some don’t believe in it. Others will swear it’s a common malady among people with a creative pen. (Or computer)

I tend to sway on the side that it exists and is generally connected to that other known malady-lack of motivation.

For the past few days, I haven’t been motivated to write anything, but my blog. And I guess that’s okay because I’m STILL writing. Lately, this blog has been my saving grace.

Experts say when you can’t get a scene, or a word, or a chapter to flow, (which has been my problem) you should do something else. Take a walk, clean the house. I have a friend (she’s a best-selling author) who makes spaghetti when she gets stuck. (Maybe I should start cooking. On second thought …)

One article in Writer’s Digest, (I love this site) said at the first sign of trouble, retreat. So, I did.

Because of my lack of motivation to write, I’ve started doing other things. And instead of going for a walk, or cleaning the house, I made another video. (Oh, yes I did!)

In one of my post last week, I shared a video that I’d done on my book, “The Heat between Us.” It’s an animated view of a scene made possible by Xtranormal.

Again, I can’t stop singing their praises.

This video is an introduction of the characters in “The Heat Between Us.” Besides reading about their trials and tribulations, I thought it would be a nice idea to hear from them, personally. I hope you like it.

I find that this form of creativity has, in fact, helped me with my writing. I’m back at work on the second book, which is the second of a three-book series. And I’m already thinking about a video or two or three. 🙂

Eavesdropping on a love story

I have a new toy. No, it’s not a telescope, new magnifying glasses or a writing pen turned camera (remember, Enemy of the State?)

It’s actually video and movie capabilities! I am the new Steven Spielberg!

Yes, I’m overdoing it.

But I am excited about another way to promote my book and perhaps, my blog. Or just have fun. We all know that we can make our own book trailers. And I’ve discovered a cool way to do just that, with animation.

I just happen to be browsing blogs in my Google alerts, and I ran across this cool blog where one writer made a video instead of an ordinary post.

Hmmm …the old brain starts to wonder if this might be something to look into to. It was. The site is called Storytelling: Xtranormal and it instantly turns your words into a 3D animated movie. Now, if you’ve heard of it, I have to shake my head and wonder, where the heck have I been?

It is amazing and so fun to create. There is a web version that I dabbled on first. All you have to do is create a login and password, and then you can get started. You’re given 300 xp (xtranormal points) which allows you to buy extra backgrounds, sounds etc.

The windows version of Xtranormal is downloadable, and can go on your desktop. This has a more actions for your characters to do, as well as more actors in a scene. I recommend playing around with the Web version first. Then try to download the Windows version. (Sorry Mac users, I’m not sure if there’s a version of this product for you.)

Now, nothing this cool is free. so note, that they have various plans that you can purchase for your filming needs. They also provide video tutorials and support.

I spent most of last night trying to make a video about one of the scenes in my book, (I can’t wait to get home to make another one!) and I’d like to throw caution to the wind and share it with you.

::::drum roll please :::

Be gentle with me, remember it’s my first. 😉

The TV show Scandal: Class is in Session

I can’t wait for September. Believe me. It’s not what you think. My children are grown, so going back to school isn’t the reason! I’m almost embarrassed to say why, because I haven’t felt this way about an upcoming month is AGES.

So, here it goes. It’s ABC’s fall lineup and one show in particular. Scandal. OMG.

Okay, I’d like to admit right here and now, that there are two shows I watch religiously. And this is big, considering I’m not a television watcher—anymore.

I admit there was a time when I used to sit in front of the box at least three hours a night, after work to relax. That’s really not a lot, you might say. For me, that was a lot.

Then about seven years ago, my three hours of television watching came to an abrupt halt. I became immersed in my books and writing. I rediscovered my love for the written word and began putting stories that have been stored on my hard drive, for more than 20 years, another try.

So, what’s this have to do with Scandal? Everything.

First of all it’s, Shonda Rhimes latest “drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff.” You know, Shonda. The creator who gave us Dr. McDreamy of Grey’s Anatomy, and the subsequent spinoff Private Practice.

Well, she’s back and class is in session.

“Scandal” is Relationships 101 for any writer of fiction, particularly if you’re a romance writer. The sexual tension between the lead characters, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), who just happen to be a professional “fixer” and the president of the USA, respectively, is charged and powerful.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Olivia’s staff—five hot shots—four attorneys and one ex-CIA-scary-military dude—who work in her “non-law firm” and are loyal to her and what they do. They each bring intelligence and their own special abilities to the table when averting crisis and scandal.

When telling a story, your characters must pop from the page. In romance, the sexual tension hero and heroine is a must and the writers of Scandal make that happen. The show is a must watch for writers, particularly romance writers. The dialogue is fast paced and witty and the interaction between the characters is a real and expertly executed by the actors.

I’m literally taking notes.

Whether it’s film, television or books—good writing is good writing, and Scandal’s writers deliver. You get to know the characters, flaws and all, just as you should in a good book.

If it wasn’t called a political drama, I’d swear it was a romance. But that’s what makes the show work. It isn’t all about politics. It’s about relationships, and how people handle issues thrown in their paths every day. It’s about one woman, in particular, who knows her business, has confidence in her abilities and knows when to back off for something bigger than herself (she breaks off her relationship with the leader of the free world so he can do his job. Or does she?).

Even if you’re not a writer, Scandal is an entertaining, fast paced drama. If you want to catch up, you can watch the full episodes on ABC Online. I can’t wait until September. I’ll have my notebook ready!