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#IWSG Drawing the Line

Join us HERE, the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh.

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Jemima Pitt, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

Hope your October is off to a great start, writers! Warm weather has continued in Ohio, allowing me to sneak in some outdoor swims late in the season. Friends and I swam in a local quarry last week, and the 72-degree water temperature was brisk but invigorating.

Sadly, I had to cancel a swim vacation in Baja, Mexico. We planned to glamp and swim 2-4 miles a day in the Pacific, but international travel didn’t seem wise in the throes of the never-ending pandemic. But maybe I’ll fulfill my dream of swimming in Spain next year instead.

This month’s question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

I rely on my reading preferences to draw the line in my writing. I enjoy reading creative curse words and healing from horrific traumas. Therefore, my characters sometimes swear like sailors, and I embrace the challenge of delving into the aftermath of sexual trauma or criminal violence in my sport romance and romantic suspense novels.

Though romance is my favorite genre, I don’t enjoy reading plentiful, graphic sex scenes. It’s no surprise that I avoid writing erotica.

I also value free speech. While I don’t want to offend readers, I hope to stay true to myself without worrying about political correctness.

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Writing Success #IWSG

Created by Alex Cavanaugh, join us here.

Many thanks to the cream-of-the-crop co-hosts for September: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month’s question:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, this image speaks to the essence of writing success:

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

It’s the pure joy of your words capturing an idea and connecting with a reader. When your words elicit deep emotion from readers, you’ve made it.

How do you define success?

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#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience

Holla, writers! Happy August to you.

Join us at IWSG or Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful August co-hosts: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!

Credit: Los Angeles Times

I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!

Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.

Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.

This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.

Speaking of trauma, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is enlightening.

I also enjoyed the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

writing

Behind the Scenes of Sports Romance RIVALS

How important are critique partners and editors? If writing is a sport, then . . .

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, is the helmet that prevents my concussion:

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay 

And my editor, Jessica Royer Ocken, is the kneepads that stops floor burn.

Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay 

I’ll demonstrate with a scene from my latest release, sports romance Rivals.

Ohio State volleyball coach Lauren is angry with Michigan Wolverines football coach Jeremy for a thoughtless request. Jeremy’s star quarterback, Evan, is struggling, and Jeremy asked Lauren to bring Evan’s twin, Emma, to console him. However, Emma is Lauren’s star player, and both Lauren and Emma would’ve had to miss an important volleyball match to help Evan.

Here’s the original scene when Jeremy tries to make it up to Lauren. What do you think of his apology?

 “I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose down at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance and massage his muscles instead. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into a flush of arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his solid body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchy of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister has, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? I have to concede that his solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him again.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” says Jeremy. “And I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His tired eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, thought his apology didn’t go far enough. This is where characterization edits can really help. I know my characters’ intent, but sometimes their motivation gets lost in translation between my mind and the manuscript. I incorporated Nicki’s suggestions to beef up Jeremy’s apology and explain what it means to Lauren.

Editor Jessica Royer Ocken helped tighten and clarify my writing throughout the manuscript, including changes to tense, spelling, and word deletion in this scene.

Here’s the edited version:

“I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his firm body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchey of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. That was one-hundred-percent desperation. But there’s no excuse.”

Damn straight.

“Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? His solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him.

We let go of each other but still stand close.

“But Evan doesn’t matter as much to me as you do, Lauren. I’m so sorry I put him ahead of you today. I promise I’ll never do that again. You come first with me, okay?”

Something shakes loose inside of me as I listen to his words. I realize he’s the most important person in my life, too—ahead of my parents, Sam, Alex, and my assistants. Here I was, so scared to let any man in, worrying he’d hurt me like Paul did. And somehow this Michigan Wolverine has burrowed his way into my heart, inch by inch. His prominence in my life is the very reason his earlier actions hurt so much. But his apology seems sincere. I can see the fear in his eyes as he begs for my forgiveness.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” Jeremy says. “But I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

What do you think of Jeremy’s apology? I hope it resonates better with the reader on my second attempt. How do your critique partners and editors help you as a writer?

Links for Rivals:

Amazon US https://amzn.to/3cOoZDu

Amazon CA https://amzn.to/36Omdu0

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3rsHG3K

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2LtL2UT

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#IWSG Writing Future

Join us HERE and thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the group.

Much appreciation to the co-hosts for the July 7 posting of the IWSG: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

This month’s question: What would make you quit writing?

This question hits deep because I haven’t written fiction for about eight months. And I’m not feeling a current urge to write. But I won’t go so far to say I’ve quit–there’s a finality to that statement that doesn’t fit me right now. If I speculate about reasons for taking a break or even quitting writing, here’s what comes to mind:

  • Lackluster sales. There are so many books out there that it’s hard to capture reader’s attention. Still, I’m disappointed by sales of my last two novels, Rivals and Twin Sacrifice. I’m thankful for lovely reviews by readers devoting time to my books–I just wish there were more of them. Reviews, even critical ones, spark motivation in me.
  • Consuming career. I have high productivity goals and a fast pace in my psychologist position at an academic medical center. Therefore, I want to decompress on weeknights and weekends by swimming, reading, walking, socializing, playing volleyball, and watching TV. (Swimming laps outside in the summer is so relaxing!) The demands of my career have felt even more relentless this past year due to the pandemic worsening mental health for many, especially teenagers.
  • Time for a break. I started writing in 2007 and publishing in 2010, and maybe it’s just time to slow down. I like to write only when I’m inspired, and I don’t want to force it.

How are you feeling about writing? What inspires you to jump back into writing after a hiatus?

Image by AI Leino from Pixabay 
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#IWSG Letting a Manuscript Percolate

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh, and join us for the IWSG here.

Thank you to the co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG: J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

I’m more impatient than a toddler awaiting ice cream, so my first draft doesn’t stay on the shelf for long. In fact, I can’t even write one chapter without some serious editing as I go. I marvel at authors who shelve their stories for months or delay publication for years. As soon as I’m done with my manuscript, I’m shipping that puppy off to my editor!

Although impatience has stayed constant over the 11 years I’ve been publishing novels, I hope the clarity and tightness of my writing have improved. I’ve observed that at least my critique partner and editor suggest fewer edits with each successive novel.

On another note, how’s your writing motivation these days? Sales for my latest novel have pretty much sucked–not awesome for inspiring my muse. But I am enjoying reading engrossing books like We Are All Made of Stars and watching riveting TV shows like Mare of Easttown.

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#IWSG Taking Risks in Writing

Happy spring, northern hemisphere writers! Join us for a monthly venting of our hopes and fears at the IWSG, Alex Cavanaugh’s brainchild.

Thanks to our helpfulco-hosts this month: PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton.

April 7th’s question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Sometimes anxiety prevents me from being brave in my personal life, but I have taken some risks in writing. My March release, sports romance Rivals, was the first time I wrote a novel in present tense. I like it! It’s fun! And another risk with Rivals (especially financially, eek) was the creation of my first audiobook. I’ll share more about the wonderful world of audiobooks in May.

As a psychologist, I need to broach uncomfortable topics to be effective, and another way I take risks is to incorporate squirmy themes into my stories. Twin Sacrifice dives into recovering from childhood sexual abuse, and the Blocked trilogy explores falling in love across the political aisle.

One big motivator to take risks: the support of fellow writers! Thank you to Nicki Elson, Ellen Jacobson, Shannon Lawrence, Pat Garcia, Valerie Ullmer, Sheri Hollister, Natalie Aguirre, Alex Cavanaugh, and Diane Wolf (I hope I’m not missing anyone) for your great support.

What risks have YOU taken?

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#IWSG Countdown to Launch and Reading Pet Peeves

Happy 2021, writers! Join us for this supportive monthly gathering to vent our hopes and fears. You can sign up at our founder Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to this month’s collegial co-hosts: Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

How’s your writing? I’m gearing up to publish my next sports romance, RIVALS. We’re working on the cover design, and I’m scheduling a day off work in March for the release. Since I’m self-publishing, I want to avoid the typical Tuesday of traditional publishing launches. What do you think of releasing a book on a Friday? I’m considering 3/19/21.

Question: Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?

Ooh, I like this question. My first two pet peeves as a reader are the very errors that plagued my early writing:

  1. Adverb abuse. I hope writers won’t waste my precious reading time with She left swiftly when it’s more fun to read She skedaddled.
  2. Cliches. Don’t “beat a dead horse” by using phases like “every cloud has a silver lining” or “it’s raining cats and dogs”. My aunt told me that good writing is poetic–fresh, lyrical, and unique.
  3. But most of all, I’ll abandon a story that lacks an emotional connection to the characters. If I don’t care about the people inhabiting the story, the writing quality doesn’t matter. I love vulnerable characters who grow through facing intense conflict.
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IWSG: Writing Productivity

Thank you to Alex Cavanaugh and the congenial co-hosts for December: Pat Garcia,Sylvia Ney,Liesbet @ Roaming AboutCathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

December’s question: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

In the past, the demands of my university day job used to lighten in the summer months, and I would write more then. Now, my day job is steady throughout the year, so my writing has the same pace year-round: LEISURELY.

Although my writing pace has slowed, I’m thrilled that the wonderful Jessica Royer Ocken took less than two weeks to edit my latest novel, Rivals. Thanks to the speedy critique of Nicki Elson as well! I’m now working on cover design, formatting, and…

creating my first AUDIOBOOK *squee*

Image by Felix Lichtenfeld from Pixabay

Audiobooks are the only format I read these days, and I’m eager to develop one of my own. If you’ve made an audiobook, any tips for me?

Happy Holidays to all writers!

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Insecure Writers Support Group: Why I Write

Happy November, writers! Kvetch with us at Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG: Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

November 4 question – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Fantastic question! I never expected to become a writer. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I lived the writer experience long before publishing novels. As a psychologist, I write a case note after every psychotherapy session. These are narratives about the past, present, and future; narratives about tragedies and triumphs. I’ve also written a few scientific journal articles and book chapters.

So, maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched that I started writing novels, since they share a common motivation with my case notes: trying to make sense of why we do what we do.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay
Image by Foundry Co. from Pixabay
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

Over time, I’ve developed other reasons for writing:

  • Demystifying psychotherapy
  • Sharing the healing power of love
  • Exploring how functional and dysfunctional families work
  • Creating happy endings when I can’t find them in real life, and…
  • CONNECTING with the reader. I think we’re all seeking connection.

What about you? What motivates you to write or read?