Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5T Tossup--Is your writing letting you down? A dozen quick fixes to manage the thinking life (in three easy steps)

As an author, I make my money by thinking. Luckily for me, I grew up in a family that valued thinking. Also I have the great good fortune to be married to a thinking man, although we sort of were the only ones to understand each other, lol.

The problem happened after college, when I we both were launching our careers and our family. The time to think shrank with each new obligation. Don't get me started on what happened with the kids entered school.

Now I've had experience both as a thinker and a doer. What have I learned?

There are three things you must do to maximize any job that requires thinking.

1) Minimize anxiety.*

The reason I started writing this today is because of a task I've given myself--sending an introductory newsletter to general signups from a party. Basically, I'm cold calling a preselected list. Some people relish a challenge like that, but I have a tendency to start a joke with the punch line ("Only one, but that light bulb really has to want it!"), laugh, and then wonder why nobody joins in. (Oh, yes, the set up: "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?")

Four of my favorite quick-fixes to minimize anxiety are:
  • Meditate.
  • Exercise/confident body postures (the Wonder Woman pose).
  • Limiting myself to the FIVE TOP JOBS that need to get done today.
  • Tackling a job I know how to do. 
This post is an application of point four. I know how to write. This blog is easing my anxiety so I can think about how best to approach all those new readers.

*Something I didn't realized before, but anxiety in the thinking life includes too much NOISE and too much DISTRACTION. "Too much" is different for different people of course, and even different for the same person at different times or under different circumstances.

2) Minimize boredom.
We all write a scene that we can't stand. Or get sleepy because we're uninspired by our characters or plots. Bored by same-old, same-old, we can't even scare up the energy to try to think up something new to inject.

Favorite quick fixes:
  • Cut off bad bored habits (mine is clicking through game after game of Spider Solitaire, until my eyes bleed)
  • Ninjas!
  • Reminding myself my husband is working, and by darn, I'd better be working too.
  • Mixing in new projects on a regular basis

3) Maximize time in flow.
Starting quicker and easier gives us more actual productive thinking and writing time. If you've set the stage with #1 and #2, you should find your thinking time goes easier. But how do you get into and out of it best?

Favorite quick fixes:

  • Mood-setting behaviors. For me, I try to chew on ideas in my morning shower. Another way I get into the swing faster is by re-reading and editing the scenes I wrote the day before.
  • Mood-setting environment. For me, it's scent. Maybe yours is a character sound track.
  • Know your rhythms and work with, not against them. I hate to admit it, but I work best from 7:30 am to 10:30 am.
  • Leave yourself a hook. End your writing period before you're exhausted, and leave yourself some little cue about where you're going next. An exciting cue. HOOK YOURSELF like you'd hook your reader.
Does it work? Well, this is January 16 as I write this, and since January 1 I've finished a novella and am a third of the way through editing a novel. Plus I'm promoting a major box set release. And best of all, I've started my cold call newsletter intro.

**Thanks to my husband Gregg for constantly posting links to articles on consciousness

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2T Repeat Performance

So you may have heard that in December, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. I thought you might be interested in seeing the posts here.

photo credit: noir photographer via photopin cc
Television, Books and the Power of Story -- originally posted April 2014

Do you enjoy television or movies or the theater? What are your favorites? I have some confessions of my own to make, and I think you’ll be surprised.

Before we get chatting, I'd like to introduce myself. I’m Mary, usually Mary Hughes to differentiate me from the zillions of other Marys out there, Mary Jean if you’re my cousin Mary Ann :) . I’m a new regular to the Magical Musings team and I’m so very thrilled to be here. Huge thanks to Edie Ramer, Michelle Diener and the awesome Magical Musings team and readers for welcoming me!

Books are a passion of mine. But a picture paints a thousand words—you can’t get more concentrated storytelling than a movie, television, or play.

A couple hours can plunge us into deep drama, as with Death of a Salesman or Streetcar Named Desire. An hour brings justice to an NCIS criminal or cures (or kills) a House MD patient. Sitcoms solve world problems in 30 minutes or less. Commercials tell a complete story in mere seconds! (Have you seen the TJ Maxx/Marshalls commercial? Two groups of sassy women march at each other like football teams about to clash. One set carries red Maxx bags, the other blue Marshalls. We think it’s going to be a Jets/Sharks West Side Story moment but they meet and become friends. The message: you can have both! That’s a story in a nutshell.)

But books...ah, nothing will ever replace them. Because, Scrubs internal asides aside, nowhere else can you truly get the thoughts and smells and raw feeling and emotions found in a book.

So here are my confessions.
*My husband and I didn’t own a television for the first five years of our marriage.
*One of my favorite entertainments? The Geico commercials. “Do Dogs Chase Cats?”—yes, they do, in a Bullitt-style car chase—continues to top my list.
*Though I adore sparkling comedies, I never saw Scrubs before this year.

What visual entertainment is your favorite? Do you have a can't-miss show or a movie that will forever be with you?

BONUS! I also adore quirky comic strips. Here’s XKCD on television before the Internet.

Want to see what I mean about the up-close-and-personal touch, taste, and emotions you can only find in books? Get inside a shy flutist’s head in hot vampire romance Downbeat. Striking the right note could shatter more than their hearts. Warning: Contains a master of seduction and symphonies, an awkward and innocent flutist, small-town humor, heart-stopping action, and an exodus to Iowa. Oh, and the cheese balls are ba-a-ack—and deadlier than ever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

3T Writing Tidbit

When to reveal?

This is one I struggle with. I've done other 3T Tidbits about it, but this is a different slant, brought about as, on this Tuesday in January 2016, I begin mapping out the opening to a new vampire UF/romance.

Here's the rule I've heard--reveal the THING (twist, secret, change of heart, whatever) as late as possible.

So I did. That led to vague nonsense, random bad feelings about blah-blah that I didn't actually explain until it was too late for the reader to care.

New directive: reveal the THING when it will do the most damage.

Or has the most impact, but I like the word damage. I think we remember damage longer than impact.

Example: Vampire UF/romance--as I'm envisioning it now, starts with a prologue from the point of view of Our Hero, an ancient vampire who's also FBI or NSA, not sure which yet, stationed in New York City. He's kneeling beside a bloodless body with two very obvious puncture marks on the throat. "This is the fifth one."

Now, I could leave it at that, and it might make a nice little mystery, but I'm going further. Our Hero says, "A vampire is murdering humans and wants the humans to know it. Wants to show vampires are real." "Why?" asks the sidekick. "My guess?" says Our Hero. "Incite panic."

So right away, I'm revealing the bad guy and his motive, because now it's not just a murder, its a vampire who's operating against the vampire Code of Masquerade, which I think raises the stakes.

Our Hero needs to go to Heroine's HomeTown (for Reasons), but because he's not part of the town's  Local Vampire Network, he needs an excuse. Enter Our Heroine, a HomeTown native living in New York (who does NOT want to go back to HomeTown). He says he has to go undercover and Our Heroine's homecoming (or class reunion) is the perfect excuse--he's going as her date.

At this point she knows something is off, but not what. He doesn't tell her, not that he's a vampire or that he's not part of the LVN and the locals are going to get miffed. She'll get vague vibes that things are off, but won't know what. I could have him reveal this stuff to her, but I think it'll be much more effective if he tells the truth after--you guessed it--he's started to care for her and will care about the lie hurting their relationship.

See how this works? Try imagining the THING revealed now. How much headache or heartache does it cause? Now imagine revealing the THING later on down the road. Is the damage worse? The same? Less? If the same or less, how much clarity does the story lose by revealing later?

Now you can decide the best place to put the reveal.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

1T Status Update--Is it Summer Yet?

photo credit: Happy New Year! via photopin (license)
Happy New Year! Warm wishes for a prosperous 2017!

Here in the north, it's deep winter. I don't have Seasonal Affective Disorder but I do have a twitchy diminutive version of it.

Late October or early November, I usually put a pin in the calendar as the first day I CAN'T STAND THE DARK anymore. I know that I'll have to suffer from now until December 21 (shortest day) PLUS that number of days into February or March, before I can stop huddling and shivering, and can start to breathe again.
So to help me and those like me, here's a reminder that yes, summer is coming.

Ah, summer!

Looking ahead:
  • The box set Happily Ever Alpha is releasing next month. 
  • We'll have another grand HEA Facebook party soon. 
  • Preorder HEA for $0.99. 
  • Preorder iPad Mini giveaway here.
  • Night's Caress is in the hands of my Entangled editor. 
  • Now I get to pick what to work on next! So what should it be, Soul Mates, Night's Kiss, or something completely different? Email me if you have a preference :)