Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What? No Candles?

Good news. You’re peeking into my writing corner on a good day. Bad days there are dirty coffee cups stack
ed like a Jenga game on the desk, chewed bits of paper on the floor (from my dog, not my anguish), and research books laying around like dead little soldiers.

As you can see, there aren’t a whole lot of romantic inspirations on those two walls. No photos of dashing young heroes—that’s what Pinterest is for. Here’s my hero board. There’s not a cut-glass bowl of dark chocolates. Hah! As if that would last even two minutes. And you’ll notice there are no candles or soft fabric or fresh flowers. So, what in the world inspires me to write romance? Two things that are invisible . . .


Spotify is my usual haunt that I play in the background as I write. For each of my stories, I make up a soundtrack. Here’s the one for Brentwood’s Ward. Or check out my playlists on Spotify under mmgriep. Almost always it’s instrumental music that makes my mind wander and heart melt. Think about some of your favorite movies. It’s not just the story and visuals that touch a person’s soul. Music has a way of crawling into the deepest parts of the human psyche.


I’m not a hippie, but there are some lingering aftereffects of being born in the 60’s. I love the smell of patchouli, myrhh, and lavender. Not all mixed together, though. That would make me sneeze. The thing is that writing is sensual, and no, not in the 50 Shades of Grey kind of way. I’m talking the five senses. Engaging all the senses tends to make me enter into a scene more realistically and/or romantically. Sounds kind of mystical, eh? Not really. Studies have shown time and again that the brain fires all its pistons (disclaimer: my technical term for a big word I can’t pronounce) better when the senses are engaged.

There’s your peek into my little writing corner of the world. I admit, though, there is a chair in the corner at my local Starbucks that’s a little worn from my behind as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last Stop on the Giveaway Train

This is it. Today's the day. The Goodreads Giveaway train is about to leave the station. Don't miss your chance to get on board the steam engine rolling down the tracks to El Freebo Ville. You've got until midnight tonight to scoop up a free copy of WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT.

Click HERE.


What if the words
went down deep inside
if you swallowed them
and they became part of you?
What if you camped on those words?
Allowed them to soak in every part of your life?
How different things would look.
Not nearly as scary or depressing.
You'd have more compassion spilling out to others
because you'd have nothing to prove
no pretense
no fear.
And yet you are loved
whether or not you chew and taste
and fall back in the grass bloated with those words.
Oh, God,
help us to hear that whisper.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Pomodoro Technique

When I think pomodoro's, I think a whopping big can of tomatoes at the center of a table that the server sets a hot pizza on. So when I first heard of the Pomordoro Technique, my tummy started growling. Fat Lorenzo's here I come!

But yeah, just like when I thought pilates was some kind of pastry, I was totally wrong about the Pomodoro Technique as well. Turns out it's a fantastic way to manage your time.

All you do is set a timer (preferably one of those cute plastic tomato types) for 25 minutes, then spend that time slot working like crazy nuts on whatever task it is you want to accomplish. The key is not to do anything else for those minutes, and when the timer dings, take a break. A short one. After 4 sessions you're allowed to take a longer one.

There are several benefits touted by users of the Pomodoro Technique . . .

  • Regular, short breaks can revitalize the brain, meaning you ought to be more creative and productive.
  • It forms a habit of focusing on a task by working in short, intense bursts.
  • Helps you plan your time more effectively.

I haven't tried the Pomodoro Technique myself, yet. But it's a great excuse to go out and buy a cute little tomato timer.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

5 Sites That Make Me Smile

This week I'm tooling around the country, wreaking general havoc wherever I go. Okay, so really I'm in Seattle for a friend's wedding, but hey, it's a good time and I'd like to share the smiles with you. Check out some of my favorite sites . . .

One-Star Book Reviews
Sure, my books have been dissed by grumbly readers, but so have the greats, and this site has great 1-star reviews of classic books. And nothing is sacred. Even the Cat in the Hat takes a hit.

An interactive art generator. Just squiggle the mouse around and whammo, you're a Picasso. You can also change the settings to try different colors, mirror techniques, or spiralling. And if you hold down the cursor, it keeps on designing.

Koalas to the Max
Not only is this another interactive art generator, it's also a hypnotizer, super-stress reliever, and possibly a portal into an alternate reality. Okay, so really it's a big circle that splits into a bajillion others as you move the mouse around, but what the heck? Why is this so calming? Ditch the pyschotropic drugs and just go to this site.

Pointer Pointer
This one's interactive, but it's got nothing to do with art and everything to do with a pointer finger. Just hover your mouse anywhere on the screen and shazam! A photo pops up with someone pointing their finger at the exact spot you chose. Yeah, it's stupid, but in a highly entertaining way.

Coldplay Turtle
Speaking of entertaining, turn your volume up and watch this YouTube. Could just be my twisted sense of humor, but this one makes me laugh every time.

Anyone here brave enough to share some of your favorite sites? Paste a link into the comment section and I promise I'll visit them. After all, I am on vacation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Get Over It

Whenever I tell someone I'm an author, immediately following the deer-in-the-headlights stare, the person I'm talking to invariably says, "Hey! I've got this great story idea."

To which I reply, "Then you should write it."

That's when Mr. Slump Shoulders takes over, and the person wilts in front of me. "Yeah, I should." Then they slink off into the sunset, and I know that book will never get written. Why? Three reasons . . .

Yeah, I get it. Thinking about writing a book can suck the living breath right out of the hidey holes deep down in the caverns of your lungs. No, really, I get it. If I dwell on the magnitude of work it takes to write a book, I'd curl up in the fetal position, too. So here's what you have to do . . . just say no to your gnarly thoughts. You don't have to have every plot point figured out, research a bajillion books, know all the characters and their motivations and what they like to eat for breakfast before you start writing a novel. Those things can be added in on later drafts.

Lots of people start writing a book, but then they make the same mistake I did when I first began -- going over, and over, and over the first few chapters, trying to perfect them. That's when it hits you upside the head that you're not perfect, and neither are your words. Stress sets in as you try to rearrange phrases, sentences, paragraphs, your rubber duck collection, and all of it crashes in on you, landing you in the corner with your thumb stuck in your mouth as you call for your mama. As tempting as it is to make sure you've got things right before you move on, here's a piece of advice for you . . . MOVE ON! Write the first draft. It won't be perfect. It doesn't have to be. It's a freaking first draft for crying out loud so cut yourself some slack.

Some people barf words on a page like a drunk who's been on a month long binge. I'm talking word explosion. Descriptions of characters down to their nostril hairs. Entire narratives on how the wind sounds in the beech trees at sunset. Pages and pages and pages of dialogue about the heroine's favorite tea and why darjeeling trumps earl grey. To which I say, "Stop the madness." Cut the crap. Fight the urge to let your fingers run too wild on the keyboard.

If you can get over these three writerly hurdles, then you, my friend, will soon be the proud parent of a brand spanking new manuscript.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5 Non-Negotiable Hero Traits

I finally got around to finishing up last season's Downton Abbey. I'm still behind a season on Person of Interest, but that doesn't come out on DVD until August. That means I'm on the prowl for something to fill the void for the occasional freakish moments when I can actually park my heinie on the couch and watch a show.

So I flicked on the first episode of Hell on Wheels. I know. I hear you. What's a good Christian girl like me doing watching a show with a filthy title like that? It's just a title, so cut me some slack. Yeah, it's a stupid name, but hold on . . . it was the premise that hooked me.

The story is the Civil War has just ended and it's the great race to build the transcontinental railroad (hence the sensational stupid name). I'm not a railroad buff, nor a Civil War junkie, but the story part I was most interested in is the hero, Cullen Bohannon. His wife was killed during the war by some rogue soldiers and he's out for revenge. I'm a huge Count of Monte Cristo fan, so that's why I was super excited to watch this. Despite my enthusiasm, though, one episode was enough. Why?

Because I didn't like the hero.

Don't get me wrong. The actor, Anson Mount, is a hunka-hunka, so no complaints in the eye candy department. But his character is kind of a jerk. Oh, he's got the smoldering looks and the grief of losing his wife, but doggone it, within the first 5 minutes he shoots a guy in the forehead at point black range, in a church, in a freaking confessional booth. Really? That's not a very endearing quality for a hero, which brings me to my point . . . there are some qualities a hero MUST have.

5 Non-Negotiable Hero Traits

1. Like-ability
Just because a hero's special someone is dead and he's grieving doesn't make him likable. Show him petting a puppy or helping an old lady across the street or something.

2. Honorability
Shooting someone in the head is not an honorable act. If a reader or viewer can't root for the main character because they're ticked off the hero is a cold-blooded killer, then Hoss, we have a huge problem. Deep down everyone wants to cheer for virtue and nobility.

3. Purpose
A hero needs a purpose in life other than checking off a list of who he's going to kill. He's got to have a goal that's respectable. Capping people off is not a good aspiration.

4. Truth Lover
First and foremost, a hero must be a lover of truth, one who will forsake half-truths, deceit, and seek to find out the facts before he acts.

5. Compassionate
Can you relate to an unemotional automaton? Yeah, me either. Heroes care, not in a teary-eyed, sniffly manner, of course, but in a deeply emotional, heart-wrenching fashion. If the hero doesn't care about others, then it's just as likely the reader (and/or viewer) won't care about him.

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