The value of vacation is not where you go, how much you spend, or what you do when you get there. It’s not the suntan I look forward to (mostly because I burn too easily) or the tropical drinks by the pool (although they are pretty great). For me, vacation is about recharging. Recharging my mental, physical, and emotional self. I run ragged most of the year with a full-time career, co-owning a business, writing, and participating in several social and industry groups. Oh, right, and then there’s family…let’s not forget about them.
Just like our everyday lives, there are good and bad vacations, but it’s up to you to make it fit your needs. For me, vacation needs to take me out of technology and unplug from the everyday, it needs to be a source of quality time, and it needs to relax me.
When I’m on vacation I like to totally unplug from my “normal” life. I turn off the cell phone and avoid email and social media. Most of the time when I travel I don’t even bring the laptop with me, but there is always that fear to be without it should a great story idea pop into my head. Sure I’m temped to post all the great pictures of my trip or just check-in on emails, but if I start I know I won’t be focusing on my time away.
Spending uninterrupted quality time with loved ones is one of the greatest vacation secrets. It is time that we get to make memories together doing things that we love doing. A day at the beach or a weekend in Disneyland it’s all the same to me. As long as I have people there that I love, I can make it a great time with them.
Vacation is the one place I don’t feel guilty sleeping in to 8:30. I know that doesn’t sound all that late, but when you are up every morning at 5:00, 8:30 is sleeping in. It’s also a great time to take a mid-day nap if you can. I always have a book to read (in front of a fireplace or at the beach/pool) and most places can recommend a spa for a pedicure, massage, or facial if I really want to relax.
Whether you vacation for a weekend, a week, or more make sure you are using it to recharge your batteries, ignite your passion, and focusing on you. Slow down and listen to your body. It will tell you exactly what you need. That way when you get back to your normal life you are ready to take it on in full-force.
Rejection is such a foul, nasty word. Rejection. It even tastes bad when you say it. I remember my first rejection when Brad What's-his-name turned me down to the movies in the 8th grade. Oh, I was heartbroken. I remember my first rejection letter to a college I applied to. I was devastated they didn't want me. I remember my first rejection email where I interviewed for my first real job. How could they not sense my fabulousness?
No one wants to be rejected, but it's a part of life. Sure it stings for a few moments, creates some self-doubt, and churns the emotions but we pick ourselves up and move on. We grow stronger. Smarter. Sassier. I didn't marry my eighth grade crush, go to my first choice college or get that first job, but life has a funny way of working out just the way it
should. I married my best friend, graduated with an MBA in Business Administration and Marketing, and I've had a fantastic professional career. Not bad for being rejected, right?
This past week I received my first rejection from an Agent. I’ll be honest. I was hesitant to open the email when it came through. Did she love it? Hate it? The rejection she wrote was so nice, but it was still an ego blow and a little emotional. After reading the email - oh 9 or 10 times - I appreciate the time she took in reading my book and providing feedback. I've decided to take her comments to heart and consider them carefully.
Was I disappointed she didn't want to sign me as a client and help me make gobs of money? Well, sure. Who wouldn't be? But I look at it this way - she is giving me the opportunity to improve my craft, grow as a writer, and push myself toward bigger and better things. This is a tough industry, and as a writer you have to be willing to do what it takes to make your book stand out.
In the writing world, rejection is common. That's not to say it makes me feel any better, but a major part of the process. This was my first book rejection, but it probably won't be my last either. I simply hope to look back at this first book rejection when I am a published author and know it was for the best.
For the past two years I have been listening to stories of the RWA Annual Conference from my local chapter mates, hanging on every word of their experience, vicariously living through them. I purchased the conference recordings and listened intently, sometimes repeatedly, to gleam every ounce of info I could to make my writing stronger. Smoother. Seductive.
This year, by luck, the RWA Annual Conference fit perfectly into my schedule, and I was already scheduled to be in San Antonio for another event the following days. Could this be fate or perhaps a dream? I dare say yes. Actually, make that a hell yes!
Although I've loved hearing the experiences of other chapter members and listening to the recordings (usually on the treadmill at the gym), I was finally able to experience the annual conference for myself. And what an experience it was. From the moment I arrived at the conference I could feel the energy around me. A few thousand like-minded individuals looking to teach, learn, and build relationships.
It's exhilarating being in the presence of such accomplished writers hearing their experiences and advice for success in this saturated and ever-changing industry. I did my best not to gush over any of my favorite authors and in the process made a few new ones. I also enjoyed meeting other new, aspiring authors and discovering (although I think I knew it already) the items I've been having trouble with are the same as many other writers. I have found romance writers are open about their experiences. They are willing to answer questions regarding the industry, their genre, trends, or dish about hunky cover models.
It was a fantastic place to learn inside and outside the classroom. From the book signings, to the workshops, to the vendors, to the keynote speakers, to developing relationships with agents/editors, to meeting new friends, and impromptu conversations over coffee I highly recommend attending if you can. I've attended other writing conferences, seminars, and workshops and they are all wonderful in their own way, but there is nothing like attending the RWA Annual Conference. It's extremely rewarding and
Whether you are a new writer, veteran writer, or somewhere in between; there is a little something for everyone at this conference. I look forward to seeing you all next year in New York City!
I was cleaning a bookshelf in my office and discovered a book on etiquette. I’m not sure where or when I picked up this little gem, but there it was sitting on the shelf just minding its business. Naturally I flipped through the book to see what silly things I was doing right or wrong, and I was surprised to find some interesting stuff.
The majority of etiquette is common sense (I hope), but using proper etiquette is a balancing act of being polite, displaying a welcoming attitude, and making others feel comfortable. Sounds simple enough, right?
One section in particular grabbed my interest in reference to introductions. In the business world, writer’s groups, and other professional groups I meet a lot of people. I have always been under the impression “Hello, I’m Lisa Heartman” was my introduction, but discovered it is so much more than that.
A proper introduction, according this is book, should include your name and a brief description of what you do or services you offer to entice people into a conversation. Equally as important are your handshake and body language. She goes on to recommend having a few different introductions for different situations. I thought with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference quickly approaching I should hone my introduction skills.
“Hello, my name is Lisa Heartman, a contemporary romance writer that likes to get to the heart of a story.”
“Hello, I’m contemporary romance writer Lisa Heartman.”
“Hello, I’m Lisa Heartman, contemporary romance writer and vice president of programs for the Desert Rose RWA chapter.”
"Hi, I'm Lisa Heartman. I write contemporary romance novels about the everyday side of romance."
“Hi, I’m Lisa Heartman, if you buy my contemporary romance novel I’ll bake you fudge brownies.”
Well none of these are perfect, but I have a few weeks to work on it. We all know the importance of a good first impression, and using proper etiquette is a great way to do that. It’s just a little something extra to help agents and editors remember me, and I’m okay with that.
As an unpublished writer, I often get questions like who do you write like? As badly as I would like to tack my name on to a few of my favorite authors out there, the question is difficult to answer. Who would I choose? There are so many wonderful writers that have helped to shape me over my lifetime.
I would love to say, I have a similar style to this author or my voice is like that writer, but really, I am Lisa Heartman. I’m not “just like” any of my favorite authors, and they aren’t just like their favorites either. Everything we experience in life shapes us, and since we all have different experiences, we are truly different even if we have a few similarities. That’s what makes each and every one of us special, different, and great in our own ways.
Why would I want to be the next Author So-and-So, when I can be the first me? Sure, I would like to have the success and name recognition of them, but it takes time and hard work. I’ll get there eventually. The truth is readers, editors, publishers, and agents are going to find my similar traits to other writers, and that’s perfectly fine, but I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself so early in my career by saying I’m just like anyone.
There have been thousands of great writers before me, and there will be thousands after me, but there is only one me.
The last week of the month I work on my blog, and every month I review what has happened (personally and professionally) in my life before I decide what to write about. I recently got into a great debate with another writer about character names and I wanted to share some of the discussion.
Character names are getting more unusual. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, was the name that got the conversation going. While we did chat about a small handful of names, Katniss is a perfect example for both sides of the debate.
On one hand (pro unusual names) it gives the character an advantage to stand out from the crowd from page one. An extraordinary name can give them a larger than life personality because they are one of a kind. Amanda and Susan are nice names, but they have a totally different feel than Katniss. When writer’s use a name a reader doesn’t know in real life, it is difficult for them to put a personal opinion and prejudice on them, allowing their minds to be more open to character development and personality.
The other side of the argument (con unusual names) they can be difficult to pronounce or spell for readers. They may have challenges remembering the name when it is too unique. In fact, books with too many bizarre names can be distracting or aggravating for readers. In sci-fi and fantasy genres this may be more acceptable, but something to consider. A strange name may make it more difficult for readers to connect with characters, and
therefore not allow them to get lost in the book as a writer may desire.
Although you can argue points on both side of the topic, and I won’t tell you which side
I was on, there are good and bad points for each. It really just depends on the author’s vision for the character. At the end of the day, if an unusual name works for the character, the story, and ultimately the readers that’s all that counts.
My good friend and critique partner Maria Cox invited me to participate in a My Writing Process Blog Tour. Although I was thrilled to join her and said yes right away, I was also a little nervous since this is my first blog tour.
For those of you that don’t know Maria Cox...Maria knew at a very early age that she wanted to be a writer. What’s even more interesting is that she knew at the age of ten that she’d be a romance writer. Consequently, Maria wrote her first short love story at the age of eleven and has continued to write ever since.
Unlike Maria, I didn’t realize my dreams of becoming a writer until about two years ago. With a gentle push by my parents I attained my BA and MBA in Business Administration with a minor in Marketing. I’ve been in the marketing profession since leaving college, and although business will always be my first love, writing has become my passion.
I love the creative possibilities and escape writing provides from a sometimes hectic everyday life. Those that know me might say I’m emotional and sarcastic, which are not good qualities for a marketing professional, but they are excellent traits for a romance writer. Being a romance writer allows me to wear my heart on my sleeve and say things that I could never say in an office environment.
What am I working on?
I am currently in the revision and editing stage of my first contemporary romance novel. Editing is not my favorite part of the writing process, but a necessary one. I look forward to getting my first book completed and getting it into the hands of agents, publishers, and readers.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work differs from others because I come at my stories like a movie. I like sassy, strong leading-women in my movies, and I write characters following those same guidelines. I like for my heroines to feel free to toss a drink in someone’s face, say those witty come-backs that we all want to say but don’t, and feel free to tell the hero to butt out.
Why do I write what I do?
Real life is often a roller coaster, and romance novels have helped me through some tough times. I write romance novels because it’s fun. Where else can you solve all your problems, and fall in love in 300 pages? Everyone loves to talk about love, and I think we all deserve to meet a special someone and live happily ever after (whatever that means to you).
How does your writing process work?
I have a very active imagination, so I let the book play out in my head like a movie before I get it down on paper. Once I have a good working outline of where I want my story to go, I conduct a casting call with my character sketch. This allows me to match up my characters to celebrities with similar looks, personalities, attitudes, etc. The process makes it all feel more real to me, and hopefully that will come through to my readers.
Next week: I’m honored to introduce you to 3 amazing authors. Please click on their names below and check out their websites and/or blogs. Then stay tuned for their "My
Writing Process" blog tour on April 7th.
Lena Jakes is a single mom of two teenage boys and three dogs. Born and raised in
California, Lena now calls Phoenix home. She is usually found hiding from her kids (and dogs) at her antique sewing table turned writing desk. It's there she creates new worlds with modern men and strong women to escape to as often as she can. Her first novel Hardened Hearts was published in November 2012; the second book in the Teams series, Austin's Apology will be available soon! Follow Lena on Twitter: msleanjakes or Facebook: lenajakes1
Ann Marie Stone was born and raised in Arizona. Up until recently, she has spent most of her adult life in college and working in sales and customer service type positions, while also raising two incredible kids and serving three years in the Army National Guard. In September of 2013 Ann Marie decided to pursue her dream of becoming a published author and has begun to work on writing full time. She is currently working on her first book in an eight book series, titled Reborn. She believes the knowledge she has obtained from life experiences as well as her educational experiences has assisted in creating some interesting and complex characters.
Shari Broyer’s earliest writing awards were a 1st place trophy for Creative Writing and First Runner up for Poetry at 8thgrade graduation. Currently, she’s Board Member and Editor--The Desert Rose newsletter, Phoenix Desert Rose Chapter, Romance Writers of America; member, Christian Writers of the West Chapter, American Christian Fiction Writers; facilitator, Writers Roundtable, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ. She writes in many genres and indie-publishes her works via Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace. Her short Inspirational Christmas story--Jesus on a Park Bench—published
12-24-12, is an Amazon Inspirational bestseller.
Spring is my favorite season. It’s when Mother Nature shows us her true beauty with the new flowers blooming, babies being born, when we shove the closed-toe shoes back in the closet and bring out the sandals, and my all-time favorite – Spring cleaning.
I know what you’re thinking. Spring cleaning? That girl’s crazy! We still have a few weeks until Spring starts. Well, before you have me committed, hear me out. I love Spring cleaning because it allows me the chance to start fresh. It’s the perfect opportunity to clean up the clutter that has been building all winter, clean out the closets and cupboards, open the windows and welcome the fresh air. Here are a few Spring cleaning items on my list that you can incorporate in your housework.
1. What’s old is not new again: Sometimes old is just old. If you no longer wear it, use it, or like it get rid of it. Anything in good shape (a.k.a. gently used) can be donated to a local charity or thrift store, brought to a consignment shop, or start a pile for a garage
2. Dust Bunnies beware: Take time and care to vacuum behind furniture, dust ceiling fans, tops of appliances, cabinets and lighting fixtures, and wipe down baseboards and window sills.
3. Germs be gone: Now that we are through cold and flu season it is a good idea to wash all of the blankets, pillows and covers in the bedrooms and main living areas to rid your
home of any remaining germs. Disinfecting light switches, handles and door knobs with Lysol spray is great too.
4. Can you see me: Window cleaning isn’t fun, but the difference is clear! Remove curtains and valances to wash them, clean the windows, and rinse all of the window screens.
5. A fresh new me: Go through make-up bags, medicine cabinets and emergency kits. Properly dispose of any expired products and replace vital first aid items.
6. Safe and sound: Keep your family safe by changing the batteries in all of the smoke detectors and check fire extinguisher dates and pressure gauges.
7. Just the classics: This one may hurt a little bit, but it’s time to clean off the bookshelf. I know it’s difficult, but are you really going to read all of those books again when great new books are being published as we speak? Slim down your selection to just your favorites, and like that you have room for new books. Used books are always welcomed as library, hospital, and assisted living community donations.
Being completely honest, I’m not a fan of cleaning, but I love a clean house so it’s a necessary evil. Including these simple Spring cleaning steps will create a clean, happy, healthy and clutter-free home.
Every January we get a fresh start to the year, which for most people means making resolutions that will be long gone by spring. Resolutions like losing weight, helping others, or spending more time with family. Don’t get me wrong, these are all great resolutions for a happier, healthier you, but I’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt.
I believe the reason why resolutions just don’t work is simply the general nature of them. Sure, we all want to be in better shape or be better people, but these willy-nilly resolutions aren’t strong enough for us to continue fighting, yet every year we make these blanket resolutions and fail. There must be a better way.
A few years ago, I gave up on making resolutions. They don’t work, and when I fail I feel worse than I did before the resolutions started. Now, instead of making resolutions, I make goals. There is a commonly used acronym for setting goals S.M.A.R. T.
S – Specific: Be specific about your goal.
M – Measurable: Make it measurable to check your accomplishment.
A – Attainable: Establish actions to take to make you goal a reality.
R – Realistic: When you reach your goal what kind of reward will you feel/receive?
T – Time sensitive: Set a timeframe to complete your goal.
Whether your goals are career, financial, education, family, health, or attitude oriented S.M.A.R. T will help you to accomplish your goals. Here are the same resolutions I mentioned above compared to their SMART goals.
Resolution: I want to lose weight this year.
Goal: I will lose 10 pounds by my vacation in April so I feel great at the beach.
Resolution: I want to help others this year.
Goal: I will teach at least one person a week something to help them complete their job more effectively.
Resolution: I want to spend more time with family this year.
Goal: I will make time three days a week to cook dinner so we can all eat together, and host family game night every month.
As you can see these example goals are stronger than the resolutions. The goals feel more significant because they are positive and action oriented. By establishing more specific goals you’ll know when you have achieved them or (on the flip side) how much longer you have until you accomplish them. Don’t be afraid of writing your goals down and sharing them with others. By doing this you give the goals more power and establish a support team.
In taking my own advice, here is one of my goals for 2014.
Lisa’s Career Goal: I will complete the editing on my first book by March 31st, so that I may begin submitting my book to publishers and agents April 1st with an executed
contract by November 30th.
This time of the year I love to snuggle up with family and friends, drink hot cocoa, and watch Christmas movies. I love Christmas movies! They make me laugh, cry, and above all they make me feel good. There are some great Christmas movies out there, but I’ve picked my top 10 favorites to share with you:
The classics: These classic movies are so uplifting. Every time I watch them I get all girly and end up using a half box of tissues. White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
The old cartoons: These cartoons remind me of the simpler times, and the magic of Christmas from when I was a kid. I loved watching these movies with my family when I was a child. They were fun, but had a good message. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The funny families: These funny Christmas movies remind me no matter how crazy I think my family was, they are nothing compared to these odd-ball families. A Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Home Alone.
Lisa Heartman writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels.