Thursday, May 29, 2014

Say Something

Since finishing my last novel, I'll admit it. I've been floundering to figure out what project I want to turn my attention to next. Perhaps, there are some writers out there who plow steadily along, never stopping to wonder WHAT NEXT? I am not one of those writers and I can be hard on myself for it. Sometimes I can be downright mean to myself about my lack of productivity. I mean, we've all seen the "cute" little signs floating around Facebook that say, "I should be writing!" Not so cute, if you're already giving yourself a not so healthy dose of self flagellation.

But today I started writing something new, that isn't really new at all, but a story I've been thinking about for close to 20 years, probably longer than that because it takes place in Brooklyn, in 1976, the setting of my own childhood. So why is it time to write this story now? Because I'm ready to say something.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." I think I've known the what of my story for a long time. I know where it starts, what happens in the middle and how it turns out in the end. But I think I've finally figured out what the heart of my story is and what I want to say about the character, the world I'm creating, and, as a result, this world I'm living in now.

Not sure what I mean or what F. Scott meant? Well, remember back to the day in high school when your English teacher asked you to identify the theme of the story? That's what I'm talking about here. I don't think writers should get preachy or push their politics onto readers, especially young readers. But life does teach us things about hope, love, sharing, community and it's great when we can share those bigger lessons.

As for me, it's taken me time to understand what it is I want to say. I've been circling around this story, but finally, I think I have it and it feels good. How about you? Are you ready to say something?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bryant Park: A Different Point of View

For the past few months, I've been slogging through the sloppy first draft of my latest novel. For some writers this translates into unbridled abandon, chasing their characters along any path that strikes their fancy. Not for me. When I say slog, I mean slog. My current work in progress is so muddy, that there are some days I really doubt this mess will ever come together to form a cohesive narrative with a beating heart. Some days it's actually easier to wash the floor, wash the laundry AND wash the dog then to deal with my WIP mess. But when my husband asked me if I'd like to tag along to the city (the city in my case being New York City) while he went to a business conference, I jumped at the chance.

So here's a picture of my office today. This is Bryant Park. The park, buttressed by the grand dame of all libraries, the main branch of the NY Public Library system, on one end, is a slice of Paris. At the center of the park is a large grassy green. There is a gushing fountain, kiosks selling coffee and snacks, an antique carousel and even a petanque court. This morning, I took my croissant and hot chocolate (purchased at Le Pan Quotidiane cafe across the street) and settled into one of the green chairs ringing the green. Here's a picture of my favorite corner of the park. It's close to the carousel and the children's reading corner sponsored by Scholastic. I sat for a sweet two hours hacking away mercilessly at my WIP. While I can't say my prose were particularly inspired more today then any other day, I feel like a change of venue helped to push me forward a few more pages.

So how about it? What might happen to your writing if you change your point of view?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Parenting A Child, Parenting A Book.


Lately, I've been thinking about parenting. Let me be honest. I'm a parent to one young adult son, so when am I not thinking about parenting? Recently though, after a conversation I had with some friends on how to get our kids to do what we want them to do, I've been thinking about what the role of being a parent really is.

Coincidently (though I don't really believe there is anything coincidental in life), I was watching Oprah's Super Soul Sunday this past weekend and there was mention of an upcoming guest named, Shefali Tsabary. Dr. Tsabary is a a Ph.D. and a clinical psychologist and the author of The Conscious Parent. Full disclosure, I haven't read the book, but I did read this article in the The Huffington Post about disciplining our kids and why it doesn't work. Essentially, what the Dr. says is that when we say, "I want to discipline my kid" it means we want to learn how to control or manipulate them into doing something we want them to do - because, we of course, know what's best for them. Right? But truth be told, being a parent is about guiding a child and teaching them how to create a sense of self-discipline in themselves. So when our child gets into a bind and we aren't there to give them the answers, they can find the resources within themselves to make good choices.

So why is this on my mind? Well, as I've said, I have a son, who is a filmmaker and he/we have just endured one hell of a long semester as he put together (wrote, directed, casted, edited, produced and did special effects) a short film for his fiction class. And when I say hell. It has been HELL. To see your child struggle to essentially take a seed of an idea and communicate it into a massive vision is tough. To not be able to do anything FOR him or to CONTROL the process for him in order to make things easier, is really, really hard for a parent.

But the other reason this has been on my mind is because of my own creative process. What I'm realizing is that there is no real control in the process of creation, as there is no real control in the process of parenting. All we can do as creators of creative work and of children is to do the work and have faith. For the answers do not lie within us, the parents of the creative work, but within the creation itself.  As we take the idea we start with, our stories develop and grow with our nurturance. But too much control will kill the creation. Just as the child with the helicopter parent doesn't get a chance to make decisions for themselves. Of course sometimes there are detours.  But if faith and belief prevail, amazing things can happen.

Back to my son... We are closing in on Finals Week and I just received his final edited movie in my inbox. OMG! He's done it!  Were there bumps in the road along the way? You better believe it. Was there ever a time when he thought it wouldn't come together? Sure. Was there ever a time when I thought about the money we were spending on his tuition and how that money could be used for a down payment on a condo for him? You betcha. But now that I see the finished product, those thoughts no longer carry any weight. My son did the work of a real artist. He took that little seed of an idea that he had and with hard work, dedication, and belief in himself, he grew that little seed into a work of art that reflects his truth.

Parenting a child or parenting a story. Both require self-discipline, faith and massive amounts of patients. And no matter how we try to steer or control our way out of them, bumps are just part of the process.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Frisky Business by Tawna Fenske

I have to admit, what got me interested in this book was the cover, particularly the adorable pup peering over the bench. While it was clear this was a romance - and here I must say, I don't particularly gravitate to the romance genre - this book promised to have something more I could sink my canines into (pun intended). 

Here's a brief blurb from the back of the book:

No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, ex-fiance, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she's had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming - and disturbingly wealthy - chairman of the board.

Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you'd never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can't help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit.

And just as I'd hoped, Tawna Fenske delivered. Just a page in and she had me laughing with her wit. Marley is a fun, intelligent and sexy protagonist. Her one fatal flaw is that she often opens mouth and inserts foot, saying whatever comes to mind and inadvertently revealing her own insecurities. But this is the exact trait that makes her extremely likable as a character. When Marley meets Will, the handsome hipster/self-made millionaire, the attraction is undeniable. However, if Marley wants to keep her new job as well as her promise to herself of staying away from rich guys with big issues, she needs to deny her attraction to Will. This creates some great tension.

But there's more to this story than the bittersweet tension of attraction that can't be acted on. Will's been hurt from a recent divorce and he doesn't know if he can really trust Marley, who seems so adept at switching personas in order to get donors to write big checks for the wildlife sanctuary. And Marley has her own secret. A couple of secrets really, which makes for a satisfying read.

A little bit about Tawna:

Tawna Fenske traveled a career path that took her from newspaper reporter to English teacher in Venezuela to marketing geek to PR manager for her city's tourism bureau. An avid globetrotter and social media fiend, Tawna is the author of the popular blog, Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing, and a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her fiancĂ© in Bend, Oregon, where she'll invent any excuse to hike, bike, snowshoe, float the river, or sip wine on her back deck. 

She's published several romantic comedies with Sourcebooks, including Making Waves and Believe it or Not, as well as the interactive fiction caper, Getting Dumped, with Coliloquy and Marine for Hire with Entangled Brazen. Her latest Sourcebooks release, Frisky Business, was praised by Kirkus Reviews as "
an appealing blend of lighthearted fun and emotional tenderness."

Tawna's quirky brand of comedy and romance has earned kudos from RT Book Reviews, which nominated her debut novel for Contemporary Romance of the Year, and from the Chicago Tribune, which noted, "Fenske's wildly inventive plot & wonderfully quirky characters provide the perfect literary antidote to any romance reader's summer reading doldrums."

You can find Tawna at:

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Devil's Temptation (Book 2 in the Devil series) is here!

Yay! It's here. The second book in the Devil series is hot off the presses!


Fighting the Devil brought Cooper and Grace together. But without a little evil to spice things up, the everyday life of a normal teenager is pretty dull. A summer job crewing on a billionaire’s yacht in sunny Italy might be just the ticket to rekindle passion. While the setting is perfect, the winding, sinister back streets of Naples are also the perfect playground for a scorned Lucifer to wreak havoc. And if evil doesn’t rip them apart, the sultry billionaire’s daughter and the sexy First Officer might be what it takes to finally destroy Cooper and Grace’s love forever.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Madness Continues!

Brenda Drake, Queen of Contests, is hosting another contest on her blog. #Pitchmad is what it's called and it's another great chance for writers to pitch the premise of their finished manuscript. This time around the agents are looking for middle grade, young adult and new adult in all categories. So if you have a polished manuscript feel free to throw your hat in the ring. I had a lot of fun participating in #pitchwars and this time around should be a blast too. The theme is Clue (I love that game, don't you?). So give it a shot.

Here's the link to Brenda's site with all the rules. Have fun!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Motivation Monday

"It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any." - Hugh Laurie

Yeah this guy said it... Yep, Dr. House said it. And this quote is now one of my favorites. Many people, especially writers, are always waiting for that perfect moment to do something. They want to be 110% ready before they quit a job, quit a relationship or begin writing the book that's been stirring in their heart for decades. What most people mean when they say they want to be ready is that they want to be certain. Well, there is no certainty. You cannot be certain that you will write the perfect book. There's no certainty that you will publish what you do write. What IS certain is that, if you don't start writing now, you will wake up tomorrow still waiting to be ready. So go do the thing you really, really, really want to do. And do it now!