Spring

Rainy and cold days at this time of year can be good and bad. The bad part about it is that I want nice, warm weather. Isn’t this SPRING after all with sunny skies and flowers blooming? After the cold of winter, I long to soak up the sun and walk barefoot outside. I want to sit on the porch and enjoy a morning cup of coffee with my hubby. I want to listen to the birds sing and the neighborhood kids play ball in the park.

Spring fever takes its toll on me. I always think that April/May should have warmer weather than what it gives us. We get blasted with wind, rain, and sometimes snow. I have to be a little more patient before the winter chill leaves us and I can open the door to summer.

The good part about this time of year is that we get the rain to help turn everything green. It also keeps me indoors a while longer so I can focus on my writing. I don’t mind sitting up in my office at my desk. I don’t feel guilty because I can’t enjoy the beautiful warm day outside. Now is the time to focus and get The Calling – Book Two completed. I’m halfway there.

Writing Romance

Saturday, March 7, I attended a writer’s group event in Amery, Wisconsin, that was hosted by the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. One of our WisRWA members, Helen C. Johannes, spoke at the event to discuss romance and what it means. The writer’s group in Amery, chartered by the Wisconsin Writer’s Association, wanted to learn more about what constitutes a romance novel and how to write one. Tina Susedik, Danielle Johnson, and I, members of the WisRWA – Chippewa Falls Area, went to support Helen and to help answer questions about romance writing if needed.

Helen did a great job explaining the definition of a romance novel. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization defines a romance novel as having a central love story with a happy or optimistic ending. She explained how romance writing received a bad rap in the 80’s when people began to stereotype romances as “bodice rippers.” Not so much anymore. Today, romance is a big business with over $1 Billion in sales.

Today’s romance stories are sophisticated, fun, comedic, smart, suspenseful, etc. There’s different genres within romance which includes, but not limited to, historical, young adult, suspense, contemporary, and erotica. The question was asked whether or not Romeo and Juliet was a romance. The classic is a love story but not a romance because the ending is tragic. A few good examples of romance in movies include: The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and Shrek. I remember my nephew, a producer, telling me that romance doesn’t sell. I beg to differ – note the three movies above.

Helen also discussed how she writes. Her style is pretty much free form. She creates the story in her head, she may have a loose outline, but mainly she writes. She won’t know how the story ends until the last word is written. Tina Susedik is the same way. For me, I will create a detailed outline, but it always changes.

I think the writer’s group enjoyed learning about romance. I had a fun time as well. It’s nice to have a refresher on the basics of romance and to confirm why we write. In the world that we live in today, it’s nice to read a story with a happily ever after or an optimistic ending. We can live in someone else’s world for a short period of time.

 

Lessons Learned: Reading Books as an Author

I love to read novels, and I have enjoyed reading hundreds of books throughout my life. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is how my style of reading has transformed in the last few years. I learned that I have different ways of reading books, a perspective that has changed since becoming a professional writer and author.

My boss from my full-time job was the one who got me thinking about this. He said that when he read my book “Gitana – Life Plan,” he could “hear” me tell the story. I didn’t think too much of his comment until a few weeks later when I started reading “Click. Date. Repeat.” by K. J. Farnham. I found myself doing the same thing. I read the book as if K. J. was telling me the story. Thinking back, I did the same for Tina Susedik’s book “Riding for Love.” Because I knew the authors, I could “hear” their voices as the narrator. I really enjoyed reading their books having that different perspective.

I then thought about books that I read because I’d met or heard the author speak at a local or national conference. Authors will provide their point of view on how to construct a plot or to give characters depth by using examples from their books. Later on, I’ll read the books to understand more on what they were referring to within those sessions. By doing this I can improve my writing skills.

Next, I’ll read books by major bestselling authors. I’ll read their books to find out why the novels became hits. Was it the action? The way the story was written? The characters? I read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed” to understand why they were popular, especially after hearing the negative feedback about the books. I also wanted to read the books to see how E.L. James continued the storyline of Christian and Anastasia since my next writing adventure will be a trilogy. Could I have read the Hunger Games trilogy? I could have, but the Fifty Shades books had me curious.

And finally, which I’m pleased to say, is that I still have my old style of reading as well. I enjoy reading books by authors that I’m not familiar with. I’ll pick out the book by its cover, by the way the back blurb sounds interesting, and or if I’ve heard about the book from friends or in reviews. I’ll then snuggle in and read the story. I love discovering new favorite reads.

So which perspective do I like best? I like them all. I’m glad I have the variety.

Lessons Learned: Routines are Temporary

Everyone has certain routines that turn into automatic pilots. For example, I get up at 5:54 a.m., exercise, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and then head out the door. I’ve been doing this routine for quite a while now so my body goes where it needs to while my mind wanders to other things. This routine has morphed from different routines throughout the years. When the kids were little, I’d have to get them ready for daycare or school. When I experimented with writing in the morning, I woke up 40 minutes earlier to handwrite my novel. Routines are great and keep you moving but they are not permanent. You can’t get so hooked on them that you can’t function without them. I’m guilty of it. My husband’s guilty of it. Just remember…routines are temporary. They need to or will change based on life events.

Getting up every morning and getting ready for work is pretty common and will change to a degree. Other routines are pretty drastic and can take their toll on you or the people around you. For example, my husband and I walked during our lunch hour for over ten years. Two years ago I started a new job. Our buildings are farther apart, and my schedule doesn’t allow for a set lunch hour so it’s rare when we have the opportunity to meet. In many ways you can say that we were blessed being able to walk for as many years as we had. But when you suddenly don’t have that time anymore, the routine is sorely missed. I had to adjust based on schedule. My husband was forced to accommodate. He still continues to walk like we used to which makes it harder on him to adjust. He misses sharing the time with me, and I feel guilty, having been the one to break that routine. It’s been two years since our routine has changed, and we still haven’t fully recovered. We continue to look for that new routine to help us gain more time together.

Being aware of routines and adapting when they have to change can help you transition to your next routine. Nothing stays the same. Even if your routine is changed temporarily due to an illness, you may not go back to the original way of doing things. Be accommodating. Try making it better. Work on compromises as new events or ideas come along. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. You have to adjust to new ways, try different things, until one can fit your needs for the time being.

Lessons Learned: Story Structure and Being Clever

Mike and I watched All is Lost, a movie written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The only star is Robert Redford, and the movie theme is about man versus nature. If you intend to watch the movie and don’t want to know the ending, here’s my spoiler alert. You may not want to read the last part of my blog.

All is Lost

For me, I was intrigued how the movie had little dialog. Only two scenes had dialog: the narrator (Mr. Redford) spoke in the beginning of the movie and then when calling for help. I thought it clever to film the story without words, and I was drawn to how the story structure unfolded. I think my husband nailed it when he said that it was like reading a book in scenery form. Books are all about detail to help form the story and setting. This story had both.

The first turning point of the movie begins when the man wakes to find that his sailboat is taking on water. His boat has hit and is stuck to a shipping container that’s floating in the middle of the sea. Who would have thought of that!! The container has left a huge hole in his boat. We watch as he painstakingly detaches from the cargo container, patches the hole, pumps out the water from inside the boat, and dries everything off. This includes watching him fix his radio that briefly works again.

The change of plans or the second turning point arrives with a rainstorm. The good news is the patchwork holds up. The bad news is the antenna on top of the mast gets disconnected. When the storm is over, the man climbs up the mast to reconnect it and sees another storm heading in his direction. This storm is a knockout. His sailboat capsizes and manages to upright itself with him inside the boat. It capsizes again when he’s out on the deck. Back on the boat, he now inflates the life raft, jumps aboard, and rides out the storm. When the storm breaks and he wakes, there is little left of the sailboat—the point of no return.

After taking food and water from the sailboat, he now has to survive on his raft. The elements are harsh as the days go by. The emotion is raw when the man sees two ships pass by and neither one, even with flares, stops to rescue him. The last turning point of the movie, the major setback, is when the man builds a fire out of pages from a book to draw attention to another ship off in the distance. The fire gets out of control and the raft burns to nothing. The aftermath or spoiler alert is when the man floats in the ocean with nothing left for his survival. As his body sinks into the sea, he looks up and sees a rescue boat and a light searching the water. The man swims up and reaches for the rescuer’s hand.

I liked how the ending was left to the imagination. The viewer could either believe that the man was actually rescued (the happy ending) or he was being drawn to the light in death. I’m not sure if that was the original intent of J.C. Chandor, but I thought it was clever.

My lesson learned is how you can take a simple story, one that’s been told before, and make it unique. Be a little creative, be clever, and you’ll have a story that pulls the reader/viewer in. This movie was good. We had to fast forward in a few places, but it’s still one that I’ll remember.

Lessons Learned: Relief in Big Packages

Today we closed on our lake property. Sold. Finally. Who knew that it would take almost a year to sell the place? But then, it was our lake property, meaning mine, my sister’s, and my parents. Our property was special. I’ll indulge more on that in future blogs. For today, I’ll just say how relieved we all are that it’s off our plates, shoulders, and whatever else goes with the saying.

When we had a buyer, a relative of our neighbor, we decided to go with a real estate lawyer. This was going to be a nice, simple transaction.

We should never have thought that…shame on us.

The buyer couldn’t get a bank to loan him the money. Something with co-signing on a loan had sent red flags to all banks. He asked if we would extend the date on the purchase agreement while he put his other land that he owned up for sale. We agreed. This was only a minor setback. Besides, winter was coming, and our dad needed more focus than the property.

In March, we received the call that he had sold his property so he could buy the land. We started the process again. Well…the life estate on our property threw us for a loop when the lawyer provided us with all the closing paperwork. Not what we expected, but we could work with it. And then our dad passed away. We needed time for him, for grief, and for family. And time for the lawyer to re-do the paperwork with his passing.

One step closer became another step back. There were errors in the title. One error in the land description and something about a previous, previous owner not submitting the divorce papers for his ex-wife who had owned the property with him. Huh? That was two owners ago. Nevertheless, the papers/record needed to be fixed. But wait. The title company, even though we had title insurance with them, said they admitted to the error but wouldn’t fix it. They gave us a letter of indemnity. I guess most title companies will accept the letter of indemnity. However, not the title company that the seller chose. Heaven forbid! We either had to fix the errors or find another title company. A new title company was easier.

Okay. We’re back on track once again. Except there’s a slight issue with the trailer that was on the property and sold separately to the future owner. The neighbor said that the tile had split. Mike and I went up to the property to check it out. She was right. The tile in the kitchen and bath had split. Really? It couldn’t wait? After thirteen years of having no trailer issues? Luckily the floor underneath was fine. No water damage or warping. We reduced the price of the trailer to help with the cost of fixing it.

On Friday, we scrambled for signatures, notaries, and Fed Ex delivery. Today, we waited for the buyers’ turn to sign and close. At 1:10 this afternoon I received the call that the closing was complete. Hallelujah. Tonight I’m celebrating.