Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alberta Romance Writers' Association Celebrates 25 Years!

This past weekend, my writing organization, the Alberta Romance Writers' Association (ARWA), celebrated its 25th anniversary!  There were over 60 current or former ARWAnians in attendance, and the air was filled with conversation and laughter the whole day. I loved it. Way to go, ARWA!  Yay!  (I feel like there should 
Did I mention there was a
champagne (or sparkling juice) toast?
Yummy. Cheers, ARWA!
be sparkles and glitter on this post.  Maybe some fireworks too.)

I discovered ARWA in 2003, and have learned so much from this wonderful group in the years since then!  Before I'd joined, I'd written two historical romances and one contemporary romantic suspense, but I'd never known anyone else who wrote or even wanted to write.  I didn't know how to edit, I had a superficial understanding of POV, I'd never heard of pivotal scenes... yep, I was winging it.  I had a few friends who loved to read, but they couldn't understand why I would want to write something. 

When I joined ARWA, it felt like a homecoming. 

At my first meeting, someone played a funny song about writing a novel and the characters misbehaving - God, I wish I knew what it was called (If I find it on the internet, I'll post a link).  Anyway, everyone was laughing - probably because, like me, they understood the challenge of having an ornery character.  In that moment I knew I was where I belonged.  At that meeting, I also met people who'd actually published, like Judith Duncan (ARWA was created from a writing class Judith held in 1987) and Grace Panko (one of the founding members and our current President).  I was in awe.  I'm probably still in awe. 

Since joining, I've enjoyed getting involved with the organization.  I've done a variety of things over the years from helping with the website and social media, to being a Director-at-Large and then a President (Past-President now).  And, I've loved every minute of it.

So, the party last Saturday was a joy.  ARWA is a supportive and encouraging group, which has nurtured a strong sense of community and promotes learning the craft of writing. I thank those people who started this group and kept it going strong for all these years, because without them I wouldn't have had the learning and friendship opportunities that I've found with ARWA.

So, this is my thank you!  I love you all, and wish you all the best for the next 25 years!

Check out blogs by Suzanne Stengl and Sarah Kades who have also posted their thoughts on the day!
The party was held at the Willow Park Golf and
Country Club.  My little Toyota was parked
between a Porsche and a Lexus.  Fit right in.  ;)


Here I am with Darlene and Deb
just before the partiers arrived.

Each table had pink roses to match our ARWA's logo. 
Each place mat was different and showcased
covers of books written by current or former
members.  At the end of the day, some members
were collecting the authors' signatures by the
image of their cover(s) on the place mats.

Raven and Sarah welcomed everyone. 

The spacious room had big windows
 overlooking the golf course.

Dee Van Dyk gave a beautiful keynote speech.

ARWA publishes an annual magazine called
Treasures along the Fenceline, showcasing
works by our members. This year our
25th Anniversary Short Story contest winners
were also published in the issue. The winners
and the magazine were announced at the party.
Congratulations to the contest winners,
Randi-Lee, Jessica, and Maggie!  :)



Aren't these adorable? 
They were used for the door prize draws.




Congratulations, ARWA!  (And, thank you!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - All That Glitters #8

This snippet is from my work in progress, ALL THAT GLITTERS. (Other snippets from this story can be found here.)

Introduction to these sentences: This excerpt follows directly after my last SSS post. Driving on country roads for the first time, Annie loses control of her truck and drives into a ditch. Quinn sees her accident, so he stops to help. Both Annie and her truck are fine, but when she tries to get out of the truck, her door hits the steep slope of the ditch. She can't open the door wide enough to squeeze through - she's trapped. Quinn told her he'll pull her truck out of the ditch, and Annie decided she wants out of the truck first.  She's had to crawl out through the window, which has been a special challenge for her.  Last week, Quinn took her by the waist and she realized she'd need to brace herself on his shoulders in order to escape the truck.  We left it off with Annie letting go her fears and reaching for Quinn.

Here are the six:

          Then Annie was suspended in the air with her eyes still safely shut.  She couldn't open them and see him that close - she just couldn't.  But her other senses weren't so easy to control, not when his muscles rippled beneath her fingers and his spicy scent teased her. 
          When Quinn lowered her, her body brushed like a whisper against his until tall grasses tickled her ankles.  A heart beat later, she was standing on solid ground. 
          "You can open your eyes now."

Phew!  There, she is out the truck!  :)

*****
Thank you for stopping by to read my Six Sentence Sunday post. You are all wonderful! I appreciate everyone's comments and ideas, so let me know what you think! :)

Check out the Six Sentence Sunday website to find links to more author blogs and snippets! The other writers who participate in this are fabulous and talented too - so check them out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Home Offices - Where do you write?

I spend a lot of time writing in my living room.
(Image:© Maksym Protsenko | Dreamstime.com)
I am typing this blog post in my living room - my laptop is balanced on my crossed legs, I'm on the loveseat, and the TV is blaring (it is on one of those pawn shows). 

I typically work from this perch. I tweet, post and blog from here. And, if the house is empty and quiet, I write and edit here. But I can't write if the TV is on or someone else is here. At some point in my past, I could write amid family fights, movies and all kinds of things... but not now. (Is that a sign of aging?)


But I wonder: Why am I here when I have a home office? Am I trying to be social?  Do I feel I'm going to miss something if I'm downstairs?  Is my office too cold?  Too cluttered?  Too dark? 

The bigger question: If I moved to a new home, would I even need an office?  ABSOLUTELY! (Or so my heart screams.) My dream office has built-in bookshelves, a large smooth table to serve as a desk, a big screen monitor, a white board, a picture window with a pretty view, a soft reading chair, good lighting, space on one wall for a lot of sticky notes... oh, and the yellow walls. 

But would I use it?  My practical side is uncertain. 

Then again, we eat our meals in the living room too, and yet I still want a table and chairs.  Hmmm, maybe we just need one huge living room. 

Where are you most comfortable writing?  If you have an office, do you use it?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - All That Glitters #7

This snippet is from my work in progress, ALL THAT GLITTERS. (Other snippets from this story can be found here.)

Introduction to these sentences: This excerpt follows directly after my last SSS post. Driving on country roads for the first time, Annie loses control of her truck and drives into a ditch. Quinn sees her accident, so he stops to help. Both Annie and her truck are fine, but when she tries to get out of the truck, her door hits the steep slope of the ditch. She can't open the door wide enough to squeeze through - she's trapped. Quinn has just told her he'll pull her truck out of the ditch, and Annie has decided she wants out of the truck first. Quinn's suggested she crawl through the window, assuring her he'll make sure she doesn't fall.  Last time, she was dangling out of the window unsure of how to get to the ground from her position.  She froze when Quinn touched her, but ended up leaning toward him when he put his hands on her waist.  She is still clenching her shirt closed, trying to prevent Quinn from getting another view of her cleavage.  Ah, modesty.

Here are the six:

          "Brace yourself on my shoulders," Quinn said. 
          Annie reached for him with her free hand, but it wasn't enough - she was still awkwardly perched half in and half out, only now she had the added distraction of actually touching him.  She wiggled and kicked, trying to inch forward.  God, what was she doing?  Swimming to him? 
          Closing her eyes, she let go and placed her other hand on Quinn too. 

Once again, Annie is almost out of the truck.  If things go as planned, her feet should touch ground next week.  :) 

*****
Thank you for stopping by to read my Six Sentence Sunday post. You are all wonderful! I appreciate everyone's comments and ideas, so let me know what you think! :)

Check out the Six Sentence Sunday website to find links to more author blogs and snippets! The other writers who participate in this are fabulous and talented too - so check them out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Genre Labels: Are we fooling ourselves?

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work, which is never a good idea.  I'm usually hungry by that time and end up wandering through "easy" aisles.  All kinds of crazy pre-packaged things - full of sugar, sodium and things only chemists can pronounce - lurk in those shelves.

Last night was no exception.  It was there, in the mysterious rows of one-step meals, I discovered cauliflower mac and cheese.  It is supposed to fool people into thinking they are eating regular mac and cheese while they actually consume some strange cauliflower noodle. 

Sure, I thought, why not?  (See how hungry I was?)

See?  It looks like regular
mac and cheese too.
I cooked the noodles.  They smelled like boiled cauliflower, which didn't excite me.  But, by the time I added the packet of cheese flavor, the result mimicked regular mac and cheese pretty convincingly.

My taste buds thought I was eating mac and cheese, but I wasn't - not really. 

Now, you are asking yourself, why is she talking about this?  How is this related to genre labels?

J. Ellen Smith from Champagne Books recently spoke to my writing group.  She mentioned that if a story had oral sex in it, the book was shifted to their erotica line.  Since then, I thought about the heaps of romance books I've read - some printed more than 25 years ago.  (I'd prefer that you do not do the math on that.  Let's pretend I was two when I started reading those.) Most of what I read can be categorized as mainstream "romance" not "erotica" and a lot of them, though not all, have included oral sex.

Does this mean that all this time when I thought I was reading one thing, I was actually reading something else?  As a reader, I don't remember being surprised these scenes were included.  I didn't feel misled by the genre label on the spine of the book.  If oral sex was included, I didn't mentally mark it as something "different" from what I had anticipated.  Am I atypical?  The way I see it is that as long as the intimacy scene has a purpose in the book, I am happy to read it.  On the other hand, if the scene is gratuitous - included solely for the purpose of having another sex scene - and doesn't further the plot or the character development, I often flip past it. 

Does the label matter?  I enjoyed the books I've read, just as I enjoyed my cauliflower mac and cheese.  In the end, a cauliflower noodle and a regular noodle are still both noodles. 

But, as a writer, I wonder about these things.

I've written stories where the characters have closed the bedroom door.  There was no plot or character reason for the reader to follow them into that situation.  The actual particulars of the sex scene weren't necessary for the story's development.  Would people like to read it?  Perhaps.  Or, would they skip over it knowing it was just gratuitous?  Perhaps.

Have I included oral sex in stories?  Yes.  In one book, it was the trigger of an important emotional realization in the main character.  Has it happened in all my stories where the sex scene has been included?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I've never seen it as a line in the sand before, so I never really considered the implications of including it or not.

What do you think?  Is mainstream romance actually an erotica cauliflower noodle dressed in cheese powder?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - All That Glitters #6

This is another snippet from my work in progress, ALL THAT GLITTERS. (Other snippets from this story can be found here.)

Introduction to these sentences: This excerpt follows directly after my last SSS post. Driving on country roads for the first time, Annie loses control of her truck and drives into a ditch. Quinn sees her accident, so he stops to help. Both Annie and her truck are fine, but when she tries to get out of the truck, her door hits the steep slope of the ditch. She can't open the door wide enough to squeeze through - she's trapped. Quinn has just told her he'll pull her truck out of the ditch, and Annie has decided she wants out of the truck first. Quinn's suggested she crawl through the window, assuring her he'll make sure she doesn't fall.  Last time, she was struggling to get out with her upper body hanging out the window.  She froze when he touched her.

Here are the six (Annie speaks first):


          "What are you doing?" 
          Annie jerked away from him but, given her position, she couldn't get far. Ignoring her question, Quinn stepped closer and reached for her waist again.  She tensed as the warmth of his large hands seeped through the thin cotton shirt to her skin.
          "Relax."  When he spoke, his breath tickled her neck, and she instinctively leaned forward. 


Annie is almost out of the truck.  And, like I said last week, I'll continue to post from this scene until her feet are on the ground.  With only six sentences at at time, this seems to be taking a loooong time. 
*****
Thank you for stopping by to read my Six Sentence Sunday post. You are all wonderful! I appreciate everyone's comments and ideas, so let me know what you think! :)

Check out the Six Sentence Sunday website to find links to more author blogs and snippets! The other writers who participate in this are fabulous and talented too - so check them out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Losing Weight: Yes, there is an app for fat!

I've decided to start a regular post on "My Writing Life", and today is the first one!  Since it is Tuesday, I'll plan to post these on Tuesdays.  And, I'm starting with news:

As of today, I've lost ten pounds! 

How is this relevant to "My Writing Life"?  Well, read on...

Background: At my day job I'm at a desk, and at night when I write or network on my laptop - no, Mum, I'm not wasting my time ;) - I do a whole bunch more sitting.  I'm not coordinated or agile enough to balance on an exercise ball at my desk or walk on a treadmill while writing.  I'll admit that I've never tried those things, but I think I know myself and my limitations well enough to understand that I'd injure myself within the first minute.  So, over the years, well, those opportunistic pounds have moved in and set up camp. 

That said, my weight has stayed about the same for years, so I figured it had hit some kind of natural equilibrium.  I didn't fret about it like some people I know.  I like the Dove commercials and did my best to see my body as a representation of the person I am and who I am comfortable being.  Besides, if I was super skinny I wouldn't have this cleavage, would I?  ;) 

(Good grief, I've used the word "cleavage" a lot on this blog in the past few weeks.  I never would have predicted that.  LOL)

Yes, in my minds' eye, the
slinky red dress is dazzling.  :)
Image: © Bonairina | Dreamstime.com
Anyway... back to my story...

The Moment of Change: A few months ago, though, my hubbie and I decided we should get healthier.  My decision wasn't about body image (though I suppose feeling comfy in slinky red dress would be nice).  No, my decision was about making sure that as I get older my body is healthy enough to sustain me through to a pleasant old age. 

We looked at all the weight loss programs out there.  We didn't want to spend a bunch of money, we didn't have a lot of time to go to support meetings, and we wanted something we could integrate simply into our lives. 

An App for Fat: So, I did a search on my smart phone and, what do you know, there is an app for fat.  (Okay, it isn't actually called that.) The app we decided on is MyFitnessPal.  Then, I discovered that a friend of my mine had used the program and recommended it.   So, we downloaded the free app and were set up in a matter of minutes. 

I set my profile so that, ideally, I would lose one pound a week.  Nothing drastic.  Just something manageable. 

Hubbie and I linked our accounts so we can see one other's daily food intake and how much we exercise, and we get notifications of each other's progress.  Of course he has lost more than I have (mutter, mutter, mutter), but it has kept us motivated and focused.  

I ♥ the Chocolate Fairy! 
Image : © Alnat | Dreamstime.com
The Results so Far: So, I am happy to report that today, nine weeks into this endeavor, I have crossed the ten pound threshold!  (And I've eaten chocolate every single day!)  The last few days I've had to keep tugging up my pants - it is all very classy.  ;)

But, I still say "Yay!" 

(Now, on to the next 10, and the 10 after that, and so on). 

*****

Has anyone else looked at balancing the inherent sedentary nature of writing with getting healthier?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - All That Glitters #5

This snippet is from my work in progress, ALL THAT GLITTERS. (Other snippets from this story can be found here.)

Introduction to these sentences: This excerpt follows directly after my last SSS post. Driving on country roads for the first time, Annie loses control of her truck and drives into a ditch. Quinn sees her accident, so he stops to help. Both Annie and her truck are fine, but when she tries to get out of the truck, her door hits the steep slope of the ditch. She can't open the door wide enough to squeeze through - she's trapped. Quinn has just told her he'll pull her truck out of the ditch, and Annie has decided she wants out of the truck first. Quinn's suggested she crawl through the window, assuring her he'll make sure she doesn't fall.  When her foot gets caught on something, Annie looks down and realizes that her position, crawling on the seat toward him, is displaying her cleavage to Quinn.  Last time, she wished for a turtleneck.

Here are the six:

          Truck windows weren't meant to be used as doors, at least not by her and not while she was still clutching her shirt closed.  She'd managed to get her upper body through the opening, but when she tried to pull her leg around, her knee kept hitting the steering wheel.  
          How did they do this on The Dukes of HazzardWould it be better if she backed toward the window bum first?
          When she started to crawl back inside to reorient herself, Quinn cleared his throat and she froze.
          Then he touched her. 

As I said last time, I'll post more excerpts from this scene over the next couple of Sundays, at least until Annie has two feet on the ground!

*****

Thank you for stopping by to read my Six Sentence Sunday post. You are all wonderful! I appreciate everyone's comments and ideas, so let me know what you think! :)

Check out the Six Sentence Sunday website to find links to more author blogs and snippets! The other writers who participate in this are fabulous and talented too - so check them out!