The Importance of Gratitude by Sarah Madison

I’m recycling an old post here today because I think it’s very timely.

I wrote this a few years ago when I was going through a bad patch. I think even though it may be harder than ever to practice in a world that seems to be going down in flames, it may be more important than ever to try this little exercise.

“I’m so glad to have this opportunity to speak about gratitude here today because I’ve been conducting a little exercise lately, and I would very much like to share the results with you.

See, I’m a bit of a Human Eeyore. I have a tendency to see the worst case scenarios. I don’t consider this pessimism—instead it feels more like realism to me. In fact, that’s part of why I like writing romances. I believe in happy endings, even though I think few of us get them. Not only does writing make my day a bit brighter, but if a single story makes it easier for someone to get through a bad day, then I feel like I’ve done my job as a writer. That’s what I call success.

You know that scene in Jupiter Rising? The one where the main character wakes up each morning and recites, “I hate my life.” Yeah, that could be me. I’ve been struggling with depression, job burnout, and caregiver burnout for a while now.

Recently I became inspired by several people I follow who have been posting daily about the things they are grateful for in their lives. This prompted me to attempt to do the same, though to be honest, I found it easier some days than others. Still, I was determined to give it my best shot. Every day for an entire year, I would post three things I was grateful for or three things that made me smile.

I haven’t managed to do it every single day, but I’ve been doing it for nearly two months now, and I’m starting to see some changes in my life. First of all, it is seldom the Big Things that make me feel a sense of gratitude. Big Things don’t come into our lives every day. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in our lives. Taming the feral cat hanging around the house. Getting mentioned on a “Best of” list. Having someone leave an awesome review for one of my stories. Getting a surprise gift in the mail. Hearing from a friend that I’d lost touch with. Rain on the roof at night. The ghostly vision of a full moon just after dawn. The intensity of the constellations in a winter’s sky.

I found myself waking, not with the thought of how much I hated my life, but wondering what three things I was going to find to post about that day. Even if the morning started off rocky, I’d remind myself I still had to come up with three things—and that very thought changed my entire attitude toward the day. Little by little, my first thoughts turned to what would I find to make me smile that day, and let me tell you, that’s a powerful thing.

I’ve never been a big fan of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ because if I don’t believe something, I can’t fake my way into it. But this exercise has taught me that the mindset of gratitude is contagious—and the more you immerse yourself in it, the easier it becomes to see the good things that you have in your life. And when you see your life as one of plenty instead of one of wanting, then good things seem to find their way into your life. Sounds like voodoo, I know, but I challenge you to give it a try. If you can’t commit to an entire year, at least 30 days. Spend 30 days finding just three things each day that make you smile. You’ll be glad you did.”

So. Here’s the thing. That exercise was easier to practice when I was ‘only’ depressed. Before the added burdens of profound anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness that 2017 has wrought. When everything is going to hell in a handbasket, practicing gratitude isn’t the easiest task to give yourself. There are times when we need to be outraged. When we should be upset. When we should march. Raise our voices in protest. Persist. Reclaim our time.

But I saw a valuable piece of advice someone shared on Twitter recently in which they said their therapist told them it was important to practice self-care because we as human beings weren’t designed to handle a constant stream of trauma and anxiety. Sometimes we must disconnect. Recharge. Soothe.

It’s the only way we can stay in the battle long-term.

So with that, consider practicing gratitude in your own fashion on whatever scale you can manage. These days, I try to take a photo of something that makes me happy and post it. I’m also reading—a LOT. Stories that make me happy. Stories that make a crappy day a little bit more bearable. I’ve said all along that was my intent in writing and sharing my own stories, so it only seems right that I find peace in the works of others.

If you enjoy audiobooks, Fool’s Gold is now available on Audible. Fool’s Gold was voted best M/M romance by the 2016 PRG’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards, and is narrated by the talented Gary Furlong. Do check it out!

If you’re a reviewer with a website and would like to review Fool’s Gold, feel free to contact me (link below). Until I run out, I have a few codes available to share.

Bio: Sarah Madison is a writer with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.

Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards and is the winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for The Boys of Summer. The Sixth Sense series was awarded 2nd place for Best M/M Mystery Series in the 2014 PRG’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

Contact links:
Website
On Amazon
On Facebook (Author page)
On Twitter
On Dreamspinner

Email: akasarahmadison@gmail.com

Let’s talk about Goodreads (for a chance to win books from Lou Sylvre)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Lou Sylvre here, making my September appearance on Authors Speak. September has always been for me a month of changing perspectives, and I’m going to ask you to help me change my perspective on a topic we all know and love—Goodreads.

In 2011, when I made my debut in the M/M genre with Loving Luki Vasquez, I used Goodreads a lot. I had a blog there, regularly posted, and gathered a small following. My publisher organized chat or party events for new releases and the like on that platform, and although the format could be challenging, the events were well-attended and fun, and always led to me meeting new readers and fellow authors alike. I had a group where I posted news bites, art, and things of interest, and readers joined in, also engaging in discussion and asking me questions, which I loved to answer. (I’m not sure if the group still exists, but if it does it’s been derelict for quite a while now.)

I also posted reviews of my fellow authors’ writings, letting people know that if it didn’t get at least four stars or more likely five, I wouldn’t review it. I wasn’t there as a pro reviewer, and wasn’t interested in slamming anyone or bringing them down, and just didn’t have the time and energy to invest in reviewing something I wasn’t all that thrilled about. People liked the reviews, I think, and maybe that brought me to the attention of some new readers too.

Then, in 2014, I ran into personal hard times, and basically had to cut back on all my activities for a couple years. I didn’t write as much, I didn’t publish much, I didn’t promote much. Sometime around then, my publisher also stopped setting up chat and party events on Goodreads. Long story short, Goodreads sort of fell off my radar (along with a lot of other stuff). Now I’m wondering whether I should, so to speak, reinvest.

Please tell me what you think:

  • —About blogs on Goodreads. (Do you blog there? Do you read blogs there? Have favorites?>
  • —About Goodreads groups. (Do you have an author group, or other group that you run? Do you belong to groups aside from the major ones like M/M Romance?
  • —About Goodreads author events? (Do you hold them? Do you attend events others are hosting? How often? What piques your interest to make you want to attend?)
  • —About Goodreads reviews. (Do you post reviews on Goodreads? How much attention do you give other reader reviews on that platform?
  • —Anything else you’d like to share about your Goodreads experience. (Are there other features you utilize? Things you dislike? Etc.?)

In appreciation, for each substantive answer to one of the above questions, I’ll enter your name in a drawing—win any two of my books! Answer multiple questions, get multiple entries, and I’ll keep the entries open through September 30th. (Note: I have to exclude the V&J series bundle, and my most recent book, co-written with Anne Barwell, Sunset at Pencarrow

Thanks for reading. I’ll do my best to respond to comments appropriately, and I’ll be back with a new post next month!

Anne Barwell – And Then What Happened?

I didn’t get as far as an Authors Speak post last month as I was knee deep in promo for my blog tour for Comes a Horseman, the third and final book of my WWII series.

Thanks again to everyone who hosted me, commented on the blog posts, and entered the rafflecopter giveaway.

So…. it’s my chance to have some time out before the next project, right?

That brilliant idea ended up lasting about a day. I started back on my huge to do pile which had been shelved because of the blog tour, and even put together a bookcase which is part of plan to declutter and sort out the house.

That evening, I got copy edits for One Word which is releasing from Dreamspinner Press in November. I figured I’d get them done within the week, and then have some time to play catch up—again. So Friday I return the edits, and Saturday evening there are edits in my inbox for my January/February release Prelude to Love.

So…. nearly done with those, and now wondering how much time I’ll have before something else with a deadline shows up. [edit – between writing this and posting it, I got proofs for One Word so there goes my week of getting other stuff done]

Meantime I’m watching TV in the evening after work is done for the day, and knitting beanies. The ones in the photo were for my granddaughters—and delivered last Saturday along with a cardy for the new baby, and one for his older brother. I have a couple more beanies to knit for friends and then a jersey for one of my daughters, so that’s going to take a while.

I’m getting a bit twitchy because of lack of actual writing, so looking forward to finally getting back to that as I have 18thC Scots lads, and dragons clamouring for attention. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to at least finish the beta I owe, and stick to my plan to write a book review a week until I’m caught up.

I also want to start an author newsletter in time for the blog tour for One Word. I’m planning to make it quarterly so I don’t spam people, and perhaps have a short piece of free fiction in each newsletter which wouldn’t go up on my site until the following newsletter, so subscribers get it first.

So, finishing this post with a question. What do you guys like to see in newsletters, and do you have any hints for someone just starting out with one?

More Writing Rituals and Tools

 

Hello there and welcome back! I missed last month, sorry about that.

Last time I talked about my primary writing tool, the digital story bible.

This month I’m going to delve into another step in my rather chaotic process. The writing journal.

Beginning when I was very young, I wrote in a notebook I carried with me. When I was in school it blended in with my other school books, later I switched to smaller ones that could more easily fit into a bag or pocket.

In the years since I’ve switched to a digital format. I keep all my thoughts and ideas in a digital journal, it’s one of the notebooks in my OneNote that I talked about in my last post.

I have, in part, returned to physical notebooks and journals in the last six months or so. This happened for a variety of reasons and I partially blame Grace Duncan (fellow author) and Elizabeth North (owner of Dreamspinner Press).

Every year Dreamspinner Press hosts an author workshop and all those in attendance are given a nice welcome/gift bag. There’s the obligatory beverage receptacle (travel mug, water tumbler with straw) with the Dreamspinner logo, name tag and lanyard and lovely journals among other things. Every year is a little bit different.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping these super sweet journals on a shelf in my office. For the longest time I was afraid to use them, I might ruin them or not organize them the right way.

Grace pointed out there was no right way and leaving these journals sit unused just wasn’t right!

So, determined to put them to use, I bought some colorful stick on tab dividers and made one journal into a reference book. In there I keep things like the HTML codes I use on my website and in my newsletter, a list of reviewers and what format book they prefer. Who to go to for a blog tour, dos and don’ts of social media and promotions and other miscellaneous information.

Grace convinced me to try using one for story development and the third I plan to use as a coding notebook. I began taking coding classes and believe it or not, much of the early stages of website coding is done on paper! Go figure. The Dreamspinner journal is a perfect size for coding projects. All that aside, they’re pretty impressive looking.

At work I help maintain much of the machinery that runs our lab. I need to have a list of some error codes and remember how to reset software. I use a little notebook with a homemade suede cover for my personal reference. We have shelves full of user guides, but I find a few notes jotted down of the most commonly needed tasks is easier and simpler. Using my OneNote was hit or miss since the building is cinder-block and the WiFi is sketchy at best. One draw back with digital journals is you do need a way to be online to use them. Besides, handing my phone over to a coworker who needed the information wasn’t something I was comfortable with, a small notebook was a good work-around. And it’s cute!

To further my handwritten journal evolution I discovered refillable travel journals. These are perfect and pretty cool looking. Seriously, I’m so much about aesthetics I sometimes think I was an interior designer in a past life. I love color and texture in everything! Travel journals not only have removable/movable/refillable pages but many come in appealing colors and textures.

Since I’m not really permitted to be on my cell phone, or a tablet, at work, other than on breaks I would often make notes on scraps of paper. Little, pocket-sized journals are easy to carry and fun to use. I also tend not to misplace, throw out or otherwise lose them like I did with the scraps of paper.

In this picture you can see my big DSP journals, my little handmade one and then a few travel journals I purchased or were given to me as a gift.

I’ve read a few articles that explain the difference between how our minds work when we use a digital format and when we old school it and use paper and pen. (Of course I have fun colored pencils and gel pens to go with my journals!) Our brains actually fire different synapses and different parts are engaged depending on whether we type out notes or hand-write them.

For me handwritten notes seems to bring out the most creativity and that’s how I’ve been brainstorming. Everything I write down goes into my digital journal because the handwritten stuff looks like this:

As you can see, it’s a general mishmash and very unorganized. Writing my bits of ideas out gets the creative juices going. Transferring those ideas to my digital formats organizes them. It’s there I add pics, maps and research links.

My system is ever evolving, hopefully for the better. What I like the best about both methods, digital and physical is they’re portable. I love have access to all my writerly stuff all the time everywhere I go. (I’m sure there’s a blog post in that statement somewhere.)

Every writer needs to develop their own system that works for them. We’re creative types so, at least for me, the tools I use have to be appealing to look at, nice to hold and make me go ‘ooohhh‘ even just a little bit.

Until next month!

Anyone who would like to check out the products of my insane scribbling, it’s all on my website! Click on the banner below to take a journey to Emotion in Motion.

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth Noble

www.elizabeth-noble.com

 

 

The Green-Eyed Monster of Writing and How to Fight It by Sarah Madison

Hey there!

Yes, I’ve been AWOL for a while. Life has been kicking me in the teeth lately, and I’ve bailed on a lot of commitments as a result–my monthly post here being one of them. Truth be told, while I’m in this mood, I need to take a break from posting about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy. I’ll come back to that thread at some point, I promise, but first I’d like to talk about something else: battling envy as an author.

I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with this. As an interesting sidebar, I’ve noted that depending on what social media site I’m on, I’m a slightly different personality. I tend to be more policitcal on Twitter and reveal a bit too much of my personal life on Facebook. When I had an Instagram account, I was relentlessly perky. Weird, huh?

Not really. I think the account tends to mold your responses and interactions there. Facebook in particular tends to shape two different kinds of posts depending on the feedback you get from your followers. Either your life is wonderful and perfect as you post images from your trip to Bora Bora, or your life is on the skids–so bad you’re starring in a country music song.

I like Facebook, but sometimes I have to avoid it. Studies have shown too much time on social media–and in particular, Facebook–can make you depressed. I believe it. I’ve posted about that fact before. Marketing gurus tell us we must spend time on social media, making connections and interacting with fans. Mental health experts tell us we sometimes need to take breaks from social media.

That’s advice I can accept. I find that too much time on Facebook and the like (I’m looking at you, Twitter) makes me depressed. Despite knowing most people post about the good things in their lives, skewing us into believing their lives are better than ours, I find Envy, the green-eyed monster, often stalks me when I read the happy posts of others.

These days, I don’t have the energy to deal with the frequent melt-downs and drama either.

But today, after weeks of reading books I thought were problematic at best and stank like sewer gas at worst, I read a book that was really good. One I could barely put down. One that pulled me in and got me involved in the lives of the characters, even though it was a genre I seldom enjoy. And miracle of miracles, the author put real obstacles in the paths of our protagonists, not simple misunderstandings that five minutes of conversation would have resolved if the characters hadn’t been such blooming idiots.

And like always when this happens to me these days, I felt a pang of envy that I would never write anything half as good.

It’s bad enough when you read something that stinks but made its way to the bestseller lists. You know the writing is subpar and the plot grates on your writerly soul, and yet thousands of people rushed out to buy it. Worse, they seem to be gushing over it. Even the people who admit they hated it couldn’t help but buy the next book in the series because they had to know what happened next. Look down your nose all you want, but storytelling like that can’t be as bad as you think.

But at least with a story like that, you can tell yourself its very badness is what attracted some readers to it, and since the author is laughing all the way to the bank, there’s no point getting on your high horse about it.

No, those stories, even though their success is inexplicable (and makes you grind your teeth with rage) are somehow easier to accept than the others.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that are so damn good, it takes your breath away. They remind you why you fell in love with books in the first place. No, they aren’t such masterpieces that people will still be reading them generations from now, but they are damn fine stories just the same.

And it kills you that you don’t write that well.

In some ways, this kind of story is harder to take than the drek that inexplicably become a bestseller.

Stop. Take a deep breath.

First of all, this Unbelievably Awesome Writer didn’t become that way overnight. Like you, they wrote. A lot. With passion–sometimes more passion than execution. What they didn’t know, they learned. They put in their time at the keyboard, honing skills until they produced the story that caused such powerful envy in you. Stop fretting about how good they are and how you’ll never write anything a fraction as good. These authors were like you once. You are on the same journey as they are. They are just farther along on the path. That doesn’t mean they are innately more talented than you are. Talent alone is meaningless without the grit to achieve your goals. And it is one thing that can be improved on with training and practice.

Second: this writer whom you hold in awe probably has half a dozen or so authors that make them sigh and fear they will never write anything as good as Writer X. There will always be someone better than you at any stage of the game, be it writing, or making money, or creating art, you name it. And there will always be someone worse than you, who either doesn’t have the knowledge to recognize their work stinks or isn’t prepared to do the work to make it readable, or simply because they are new at it and are farther back on the path. You can bet the author you’re in awe of has authors who awe him or her. Has days where they think their work sucks. Sits biting their nails for the first reviews to come out after promising themselves they wouldn’t read them. It’s the nature of the game.

Third: just because you love it, and the story seems to be univerally loved on all fronts, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Read the reviews of your favorite books by your favorite authors. Most of them have their share of unkind reviews, same as you. And if someone can hate a story you love SO MUCH, that’s a pretty good indication it’s not for everyone. Everyone–believe me EVERYONE–gets bad reviews and rejected from time to time. Don’t let them dimish your dreams and goals.

Fourth: though it may not seem like it, there are people out there who are going to think your stories are awesome. Don’t disparage their intelligence because they like your stories. It’s rude at best and insulting at worst.

Fifth: Read more books just like it. Yes, read more books that make you cry with envy over how good they are. Don’t read crap. Your brain absorbs what you continually expose it to. Crap reading translates to crap writing. Want to be a better writer? Read the good stuff.

Most of all, let the writer know what you thought of their work. For all you know, your feedback may be the one thing that prevents them from pulling all their hair out and chucking the writing business as a lost cause.

In the meantime, I’m back to reviewing the audio version of Fool’s Gold. With any luck, it will be up on audible.com before the end of August.

 

Class time! Gay Romance University redux, Anne Barwell’s Echoes Rising series (Lou Sylvre on someone else’s books, again)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy EndingsHello readers! To my chagrin, I realize we Authors Speak writers posted not one single post in the month of July. I, for one, didn’t realize I’d missed my day to post until it was long gone. Some of us were more on the ball than that, but just had a crazy calendar and didn’t make it. I hope this month is better, and I’m going to kick off August by posting on time. But… (isn’t there always a but?) because my calendar has gone crazy this month, I’m recycling. Don’t get me wrong! This post is completely right for the day!

Let me explain.

As you may have realized, I like to talk about other authors’ books. A few years ago, on my sylvre.com blog, I did that by featuring “lessons” at Gay Romance University. In 2014, I made a lesson about Anne Barwell’s book, Shadowboxing, the first book in her World War II historical Echoes Rising series. Read on to revisit that day in class!

Why is this the right post to republish today?

Because today, the final book in the series has been launched at DSP Publications! Happy release day, Anne, and congrats on creating a series truly worth the read.

Okay, then! Let’s go to school!

(Get your textbook, and the rest of the series at this DSP Pubications link.)

Please take your seats people, we want to get started…. What’s that? Boxer shorts? Certainly they’re allowed…. Yes, sir, briefs, certainly. Sure, speedos are not only allowed but encouraged. Be comfortable, but do pay attention in class.

Even though Kristopher Lehrer’s last name means ‘teacher,’ as we examine the early pages of our textbook, Anne Barwell’s novel Shadowboxing, it is Kristopher who is most in need of schooling. Oh, he is a learned man, it’s true—a physicist working on an important, possibly world-altering project. Unfortunately Very Important Projects often become the clouds where a scientist’s head is most comfortable. Kristopher’s attitude, as the novel opens, is reminiscent of the fearless forward motion of a horse with blinders.

To illustrate, consider this: Kristopher’s friend—the man that could have been his first true love if Kristopher had been honest—is Jewish, and in World War II Germany the yellow Star of David he must wear means that he is in danger every time he steps out in public. And, though David is a respected physician, he can no longer practice medicine for the same reason. Yet when Kristopher meets him for coffee he has no clue why his friend is upset, or scared. Read along in your text (or look over your neighbor’s shoulder if you haven’t yet picked up your text). We look at what happens when David challenges Kristopher’s naivety, beginning on page eight.

“Have you any idea what kind of people you are working for?” David spoke quietly, as always, but there was an underlying tone of fear in his voice that Kristopher didn’t remember hearing before. David’s emotions were always controlled; it was something that Kristopher had envied. “Have you any idea of their real agenda?”

Kristopher snatched his hand away, trying to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Why had David come to him? Surely he couldn’t have presumed to use the closeness they’d once had to further whatever agenda he had? “I’m a scientist, David, trying to make the world a better place, just as you are. We are working for the advancement of science and for the good of the Fatherland.” The last sentence came out sounding like the mantra it was. Any doubts that Kristopher had were always dealt with efficiently when he repeated those words. While he knew the potential danger of the device they were working on, the chances of anyone considering utilizing the catastrophic component of it were remote.

“You always were naïve, Lehrer.” David raked a hand through his hair and replaced his glasses, adjusting them when they slipped down his nose. “Wake up and take a look at what’s going on around you before it’s too late.” An edge of desperation and fear sharpened his voice as he lowered it to almost a whisper; it sounded as though he was talking about the end of the world.

“Too late? Too late for what?” His earlier fears of being used vanished at David’s tone. Kristopher’s voice rose in pitch, all attempts of hiding his conflicting emotions lost as he tried to desperately work through his rapidly escalating confusion.

David shook his head, unwilling to say more, his eyes darting nervously around the small Kaffeehaus before his gaze settled on the man who had entered several minutes earlier. “I have to go. I’ve said too much already.”

“Wait!” David was already halfway out the door before the word was out of Kristopher’s mouth. He pushed his chair back, ready to follow his friend, then hesitated, suddenly unsure as to what had just happened.

A week later, dining at home with his sister Clara (whom he loves and depends on) and his father (with whom he has a strained relationship), he is shocked to hear that David has disappeared, and clueless as to why such a thing had happened. What’s more, he is just as dumbfounded when Clara says (on page 11)…

“Poor Kristopher.” Clara rolled her eyes. “You’re so involved in your work that you haven’t noticed what’s going on around you.” There was no teasing in her voice now. Whatever this was about, it was something very serious. “It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.”

… as he is when his father says…

“They are Jewish, Kristopher. What other reason is needed? Better that they are rounded up and sent somewhere more suited for their place in the scheme of things. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Jews are nothing more than parasites interested in taking control of the economy for themselves.”

We, the readers can take our first lesson from this, and the downhill spiral of father-son relations that follow. Please take this down in your notebooks. It will be on the test:German_Experimental_Pile_-_Haigerloch_-_April_1945

The longer you keep your head stuck in the clouds of denial (about anything, really), the more it hurts to pull it out.

Our next unit of study follows Kristopher as he goes about his work the next day. The clouds around his head have been disturbed, but not quite dislodged. Feeling cranky and a little wooly due to a poor night’s sleep, he enters his boss’s office when the boss is out, and rather clumsily knocks a pile of papers on the floor, and reads this sentence on one of them:

Cue ominous music.

We look forward to putting these plans into reality. Such a device will ensure the continued success of the Fatherland during this war against our enemies.

Kristopher’s head falls from the clouds with a mighty thud, which hurts and can’t be ignored even by a dreamy physicist.

Gott im himmel, as my very German mother would have said. Here Kristopher had been, believing he was working on nuclear fission for peaceful purposes, and suddenly he realized he’d been living in a lollipop world.

For a number of minutes, our scientist is unable to think straight. He knows what he saw, but he’s unsure of what he might do about it, or even how to keep from getting in trouble for standing in his boss’s office with his pants down (figuratively of course, because that would be far too weird).

But a guard comes along, Obergefreiter (Sargent) Schmitz, and helps him organize his brain and move his body, thank goodness. Of course, at first, Kristoffer is afraid that Schmitz will actually contribute to his danger, but he soon realizes he was lucky the Obergefrieter came along. He leaves the office that day still waffling about what to do. Like most ordinary Germans of the day, he loves his country and has some significant blind spots about it—a phenomenon not unknown at any age of the world in just about any country, including all of those where readers of this blog might be living today. But you don’t become a leading physicist if you are slow-witted. Once Kristopher’s sight is forcibly cleared, he cannot escape the truth about the leaders of the Nazi regime and what their intentions are.

After much soul-searching, presumably some hand-wringing, and a few horrid nightmares, Kristopher Lehrer confronts his boss… and is told in no uncertain way to mind his own business. The encounter goes from bad to worse. (You can read about this in home study, chapter three of the text.) When he is discovered in the room with his dead boss by the same Obergefreiter Schmitz, he figures his number is up.

Thank heaven for pleasant surprises, large and small. When Schmitz asks Kristopher if, as smart as he is, he can come up with no better plan than to threaten the guard with broken glass, here’s what happens (at the beginning of chapter four).

“My plan? […] I don’t have a plan. […] Do you honestly think I would be standing here waving a piece of broken glass if I had a plan.”

“Good point,” Schmitz admitted.

[Text elided by blogger… er, I mean university professor Lou Sylvre. Kristopher says:]

“Have you come to hand me over to the Nazis?” Whatever happened he didn’t intend to go easily.

The corner of Schmitz’s mouth turned up in a half smile before he shook his head. “I’m here to help you, Herr Dr. Lehrer.”

“You expect me to believe you?” Kristopher wished the desk behind him would disappear into thin air, although it still wouldn’t be of much help as Schmitz was blocking the path to the only door. “I know you’ve followed me for the past week.” He noticed the slight look of surprise on Schmitz’s face with a degree of satisfaction.

“You need to trust me, Dr. Lehrer.”

You may guess that Kristopher isn’t so sure that’s the best course of action, but like people everywhere when they’re in danger and want to trust someone, he looks for a way to do so.

“Give me one good reason.”

“The Nazis will be here in, Schmitz said, consulting his watch, approximately ten minutes. Either you trust me, or you tell them what you’ve just told me. I doubt they will believe your story.”

His voice softened. “I do.”

Now, students, you may have guessed that the Obergefreiter isn’t really the Obergefreiter. His real name is Michel, and he’s not even German. And his interest in Kristopher, like Kristopher’s trust of Michel, soon weaves into a whole new feeling. After negotiating much hell and highwater together, Michel soothes a startled, overwhelmed Kristopher in his own native tongue.

“A l’aise, Kit. Je suis ici… Ssh, tout est bien.”

Yes, Michel is there and all is well for the moment. There’s a whole lot more trouble to face, more evil to evade, more heroes to meet—all kinds, German, foreign, soldiers, everyday people. But Michel does whatever he needs to do to keep Kristopher alive. And since this is Gay Romance University, it isn’t giving away secrets to let you know, that once Michel has seen to the matter of Kristopher’s continued existence, he gets the opportunity to use a little French term of endearment.

“It’s all right, mon cher. I love you. I’m not letting you go.”

That is the end of our lesson, today. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, click the link provided above (just below the gallery of cover images) to find the books in the DSP Publications store.

I thank Anne Barwell, Kristopher, and Michel for the privilege of treating the serious story of one of the world’s most painful times with a bit of irreverence. Truthfully, the heroes in this story are a reflection of all the real life heroes on every side of that war and every other, especially the quiet ones not lauded in headlines. They all deserve our gratitude, and I take no such service or sacrifice lightly.

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Thanks for reading, everybody! If you’d like to check out or revisit the rest of the GRU posts, just go to Lou SylvrePosted on Categories Anne Barwell, Lou Sylvre, New ReleaseTags , , , , , , 3 Comments on Class time! Gay Romance University redux, Anne Barwell’s Echoes Rising series (Lou Sylvre on someone else’s books, again)

When Do You Sleep? – Anne Barwell

Now I’ve done a few monthly blog posts I’m starting to run out of topics. If anyone has any ideas for future topics you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

A big thanks to SJ Himes for today’s topic – a writer’s slice of life. I went for the title because it’s a question I often get asked, or a variation on that being ‘when do you have time to read?’

Because I work full time, as well as writing, and have family commitments, I tend to live on a fairly tight schedule or I’d get nothing done. In saying that, though, despite making plans I do need to be flexible and be prepared to throw everything I’ve planned to the wind. Family emergencies happen far too often, especially of late, and also sometimes I start my weekend and realise I need to walk away from everything I’d planned to do for a while just to keep what’s left of my state of mind.

I’d love to know how others manage their work/writing life, while ensuring they still get some time out.

I figure I’d outline a typical weekday, and then contrast with my weekend.

I work fulltime in a public library, so it’s a busy job and quite physical. I figure I’m about the only one on staff who loves working afternoons/late night and weekends! Many people shift onto weekdays and a regular 8.30 till 5pm as soon as they can. However, with trying to juggle writing—and everything attached to it—afternoons and evenings work well for me. As I don’t start work till 12.15 four days a week, it means I can set an alarm in the morning and get a couple of hours writing related work done beforehand. I usually get home around 9 onwards at night so that gives me time to check emails, post blog tour stuff, and then relax with an episode of a TV show, before reading in bed and turning my light out about midnight.

Saturdays—as we don’t open in the evenings—I work what could be termed a normal day, starting in the morning and finishing after we close at 5pm. Saturday mornings remind me why I prefer to work the hours I do. After three late nights, the early start is a bit of a shock to the system. I get emails read over breakfast and that’s about it, and by the time I get home I’m too tired to write. Most Saturday evenings are social time because of it, either classic movie night, and/or planned get-togethers with friends.

Weekends are all go. Yay for several hours of writing time, although it’s far from uninterrupted as I need to fit in all the other weekend jobs such as grocery shopping, cooking, and baking. Because I work three evenings a week I bulk cook on my weekends and freeze so I can grab a container of food to take to work for dinner. Ditto for the baking—it’s usually muffins to take to work etc. It’s sad when writing breaks are when I do my housework and the other stuff of that ilk, but that’s life.

This Week’s Baking – Blueberry Muffins

Mondays and Tuesdays are also time for any appointments, and other errands. Nevertheless I tend to multitask—despite the cats thinking my being home means they should get fed every time I shift in my chair—so on a good day I can get quite a bit done. As it’s the weekend I don’t set an alarm but I’m still at the computer by about 9.30 at the latest and checking emails over breakfast. It’s nice not to have to stop to get ready for work just as I’m getting into the writing zone though.

Graphic from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Monday and Tuesday evenings I take off for orchestra rehearsals and SF club meetings/movie nights. I’ve set my schedule that way because otherwise I tend to work until 10pm at night, which is what happens when orchestra takes a break on Monday nights. Ditto for any Saturday/Sundays I don’t make plans to meet up with friends.

Often I write in chunks of time, as I can grab them, and it’s great to see a novel growing slowly, a bit here and there. Sometimes I find myself looking at big picture stuff, but I’ve found it doesn’t pay to do that as it tends to be daunting. I’ve written 13 books in the past 7 years so I figure my system is working more-or-less, adding in annual leave when the deadlines push back.

It’s a busy life, but on the whole, one I enjoy. However, if you find a TARDIS—preferably with a Doctor—somewhere, please let me know. The idea of going off to see different worlds and times, and arriving back before I left is very appealing. Along with a few extra hours in my day.

To Blog or Not to Blog, or…

… Promo is Hell*

*With respect to Matt Groening.

Promotion is one of those necessary evils in publishing. Once upon a time, an author could write a book, send it to the publisher, approve edits (sometimes) and the rest was taken care of. The publisher promoted the work, did the advertising, and handled all that stuff.

Nooooot so much anymore. As I was working out what I wanted to write today, I was thinking about the dreaded B word again—blogging—and realized that, while it’s not the worst thing in the world for me, it is certainly not my favorite. So what am I doing on a blog here where I am voluntarily blogging?

Well, glad you asked! (Even if you didn’t really.)

Blogging is one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. The good news is… it’s not always necessary.

I find there are two different camps of authors when it comes to blogging. Most fit in one or the other, though a few hover in between. One camp is the “You must blog or you will never get anywhere!” camp. The idea being that the only way to keep up with the readership is to have regular posts to your blog and it’s the absolute end all-be all of promotion. These are the bloggers who post at least a few times a week, if not daily. Everything is bright and shiny with all the links working and everything in order.

The other camp consists of authors whose blogs haven’t been updated in a solid six to eight months and the last one was an announcement for their second-to-last release. It sits with cobwebs in the corners, a not-so-small family of spiders under the eaves and a solid coating of dust over all the surfaces. These guys often forget they even have a blog. *coughI’veDoneThatcough*

I tend to be somewhere in between. I get really excited about my blog, make all these plans to write a whole bunch of posts and ideas for different types of posts, then… I get busy or have health issues or something and I let it go. And then the only thing that goes up for months at a time is maybe a release announcement, my Friday fiction post, and a guest post here and there. I don’t quite get to the point of cobwebs (and spiders aren’t welcome in my blog any more than my house!), but I certainly let it get neglected.

Back when I was first published I, like many other new authors, muddled through, trying to force myself to do All The Things. I tried to blog, and Tweet, and post on Facebook, and even Tumblr and beyond. I went nuts trying to keep up with it all. Then I heard a piece of advice that stuck with me and I haven’t abandoned it since.

Find a couple of things that work and stick with them.

Well, then. Tweeting is (mostly) out. I have some followers and I retweet and share other tweets, but for the most part, I don’t try. Brevity has never been my talent and 140 characters is downright criminal for me. My tumblr is not for the faint of heart and, thus, not the most appropriate place to share everything. So what, then, do I do? I wasn’t sure I could blog—I drew a blank on topics and always thought I should basically be writing the next Epic Adventure (read: way too long) to make it worthwhile.

So I asked myself where do I spend most of my time? Well, duh. Facebook. Why not make what I already use work for me? I know how the algorithms work. I know what time of the day is good to post (early afternoon or late morning. Too late and people have gone home and too early and no one’s had coffee yet. And weekends are notoriously slow.). I know that pictures gain more attention than text and that links are outright suppressed (always post a picture and put the link in the description or comments).

Of course, the downside of using what I know—where I spend most of my time—is that I spend… way too much time on Facebook, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

So, then, to blog or not to blog? For me, that means… sometimes. I am not likely to let it go completely. I like posting my weekly fiction and I like hosting other authors. If I can ever get myself motivated (again), I will probably post a few other things here and there, but worry not, I’ll likely let it go again, as well.

Should you blog? Well… look at your habits, look at what you like to do and what you do best. That should tell you plenty.

And remember that if Promo is hell? Well, you’ll be in good company.

Writing Rituals… or the things I do to write a novel…the story bible

Happy one year to Authors Speak. My first post was a year ago this month! Thank you Lou Sylvre for all you do for this group.

One of the things I’m often asked as a writer is: how do you write a whole book?

I don’t have a concept of a life without creating a story and writing it down. I have, literally, done this in some form for my entire life. Writing is second nature and storytelling is ingrained to the point I can’t not write.

The drive and desire to write does not create books, screenplays and poetry. Telling the story is the end result but it’s only one part of the process.

We writers are a fickle lot and there are an infinite number of ways to create that product, a completed novel (or screenplay, etc). The simple fact is, however, the creation of all stories does have a few common elements. It’s how each writer goes about organizing and using those elements that is individual to each and every one of us.

So, since this article is about me, I’m going to talk about what I do—my rituals—to write a novel. Firstly, I write novels, not screenplays or other forms of written works, so that in itself dictates a number of my writing rituals and tools.

A book is a book, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction or part of a series. They’re all books, aren’t they?

Wrong.

Every so often I’m asked to write something for a friend or coworker that isn’t fiction. It’s sort of like training to compete in one sport then trying to switch for a day to another sport. Yeah, you can muddle on through and probably not embarrass yourself, but you won’t be in the best form.

Everything I do in the course of creating and writing a book centers around the fact that book is fiction and a novel.

The first thing that happens when I set about creating a new novel is the basic plot idea. For me, plot and title come first. After I have those I begin plugging in characters and locations.

My initial ritual with a new novel or series is making a list of plot points. The order doesn’t matter and is likely to change, but I want a general idea of major events in every story. If the initial story is going to be part of a series I make a separate list of major events I’d like to include in the series.

The next step I take is to plan out where my story will take place. For that I use maps, books and the world’s best location explorer, the internet. Specifically, Google Earth and maps.

This is where the creation of my story/series bible begins. I have a bible for each series, and for every book within a series. I think all the authors I personally know have some form of bible for their works. For me, setting up my bible and organizing it, filling it with research, scene ideas and reference photos is one of my very most important writing rituals.

This is a page from the bible for Gone Away. There are personality traits for the two main characters, inspiration photos and links to research. This page is what I call my basic story board. It holds all my general ideas. Eventually I’ll create individual pages for the characters, plot, location and so on that has much more detail.

Some people use paper notebooks, I know others who employ index cards or journals. This is the digital age, and all of those tools have been recreated in the virtual world.

I use OneNote, which is a digital notebook system. It can be used on a computer, tablet or phone, so I have it with me wherever I go. At one time I figured out that if my OneNote notebooks for the Sentries series was somehow transformed to traditional paper notebooks each one would be hundreds of pages long and probably form a stack about three feet high.

I love my digital bibles. They are filled with photos, links and articles and become a scrapbook for every project. If I have an idea to use a waterfall or certain type of car in a story I can collect images and details, putting them on my digital pages. As I write it’s helpful to go back and refresh my memory with a visual image or check details from articles and links I’ve saved. If I’m planning a series I keep a list of what needs to be included in book #1 as foreshadowing for later books. On the reverse side of that I have other notebook pages with lists of events and characters from earlier books to reference in later books in a series.

This is one of the dozens of pages created for The Vampire Guard series and contains info on the organization featured in the series and some of the secondary characters.

Another nice feature of using a digital system is I can easily move pictures, information and links from one bible to another.

My final step before beginning the actual writing is characters. There is so much of a character that never makes it into a book. I know all sorts of details, childhood pets, favorite color and what kind of pizza they like! Every detail that comes to me about a character is recorded in case I need to use it. Images go in the character sections as well. Photos of people who look like my characters are a helpful reference when writing descriptions.

For me creation of my bible is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a novel. As I work on each bible the story begins to gel in my mind. The plot ideas and characters start to take on a life of their own and the story begins to play in my head. From there on it’s simply a matter of recording that story.

More on that another time.

http://www.elizabeth-noble.com/

Lou Sylvre on the Co-Writing Two-Step (Also Sunset at Pencarrow, Happy Pride, and a Giveaway!)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Lou Sylvre here for my monthly post on Authors Speak. Before I get to anything else, thanks everybody who entered the Merry May giveaway. Our winner has been contacted and will soon be the proud owner of a new Kindle Fire and a bunch of books. Next, I want to say happy Pride Month, everybody on the queer spectrum and all allies!

Next, I want to say, this post is short. I know you can see that for yourself, but let me explain. I wanted to write all about my experiences co-writing (something I’ve not done before) Sunset at Pencarrow with Anne Barwell, but I have been delayed getting this post done, and now I find out my grandsons have a band concert performance tonight, the final one of the school year, and for the oldest, the final one of before high school graduation! That means I need time to make myself presentable. Others have written about the juggling act that being a writer is, and I won’t add to that, but I will say, dang. The phrase “free time” is an oxymoron.

So here’s the brief, bare-bones, bullet-point version of my report on the adventures of co-writing:

  • We approached the task by each taking one character as our own, writing the scenes that called for their point of view. While we didn’t stick to this religiously, and we suggested tweaks to each other’s writing, this method worked out great, in my opinion. It wasn’t half the work, nor was it twice the work. The work, aside from the actual writing was just different.
  • Having a work partner helped keep things moving according to plan. Of course, I didn’t want to let my co-author down, nor did I want to hold Anne back. But, more than that, the input from outside my own brain stimulated my creativity like a second muse. When I read a scene she wrote, I felt a need to respond on “my” character’s behalf.
  • Sharing the character couple’s story with another writer made them and their romance all the more precious, and added to the rewards that came with getting to “The end.” All struggles along the way, the hours spent on chat hammering things out, the research to make sure the character world was as accurate as could be and matched between scenes—all that was more than worth it.

Long story short, Anne and I will write together again, and I’m looking forward to it.

Let me leave you with that, and with a little info about Sunset at Pencarrow. Here’s the blurb, some links, and the giveaway.

Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

Click right here for a link to our release tour schedule and blog links.

Your comments are welcome, as always, and don’t forget to enter the Sunset at Pencarrow giveaway!

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