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A Room of Your Own by Another Virginia

Desk2Having a room of one’s own is not a necessity but it is helpful. My writing space is a home office. I now use it to work from home several days a week for my ‘real’ job. Even though my employer gave us the option a long time ago, I didn’t take them up on it immediately. I worked from home when the weather was bad in the winter or if I had an appointment in the middle of the day, but I wanted to save that space for my writing. I thought it would make me avoid where I had to work for 40 hours each week. Well actually just 30 hours a week because I still go into the office one day a week. Just because I don’t want my supervisor to forget me or my parking ramp ID to quit working. Yes, that is a thing. It happens.
But the ability to work from home most of the week was too good to not take advantage of it. Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a little longer each day, save myself that 60-minute drive commuting and get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go to work in my own home? I am so much more productive. There is no one around to distract me and the bathroom is just down the hall. The one at work is at least a half block from where I sit. Granted I lost those Fitbit steps, but I have saved myself a lot of time that I can now use for my personal writing. When the weather is nice I can take a walk on my break or slip downstairs and ride my stationary bike for a while or do a little housework. Believe it or not, I have managed to dust and vacuum my whole house on my breaks and lunch time.
I work four tens which means that I work 10 hours a day, four days a week. Years ago, there were news articles that predicted Americans would soon all work a four-day work week. I waited decades for that to happen. Now that I am close to retiring, well at least in the next few years, it is an option.
So, I do work at home 30 hours a week now and it has not made me not want to use my office for my personal writing. If anything, I use it more often.
I write on a laptop, but I connect it to a monitor and keyboard because it is more comfortable for me. I tried taking my laptop to a coffee shop, or the library, or even down to my dining room table just for a different view outside the window and I have become so used to using my keyboard, I prefer writing in my office now.
My current work in progress is going well. I aim for writing a scene a day. Since I am in the initial stages of this project, I am not sure yet how long this will take. This week I am just giving myself the pleasure of writing as frequently as possible so that I can calculate how many words a week I can produce. I plan to take that information and make a more solid goal. I will be using a new craft book I bought this week. It is Cheryl St. John’s ‘Write Smart Write Happy’ through Writer’s Digest. Cheryl is a multi-published author friend from the Omaha area. We have been friends since the ‘90’s. She even used my name in one of her books. It was a historical romance and there was a married couple, the woman was Virginia and her husband’s name was Gruver. Since I am a fan of hers, I emailed her when I noticed it. She says she does that often. She will also be speaking at my local RWA chapter meeting in March.
But getting back to her book, the beginning of the book deals with goal setting and I have found it very interesting. It takes it a little deeper than just a word or page count, it helps you break it down to get a better idea of how long your project will take. I will blog more about that and the other craft book I am using this year in a future post.
Where is your magic spot to write? Do you like to write in public or prefer ‘a room of your own’?
Here is my office on a good day. Feel free to comment. Would love to hear more about your writing process.

Until next time,

Virginia

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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Magpie Murders

636318482052153699-MagpieMurders-HC-CThis is my first book review for 2018. This was a book I have had on my radar for a while. I belong to a couple writer’s organizations, as you know and at a recent Christmas party for our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, I snagged this one.

I finally finished this book, not because it was boring but because I try to savor good reads and yes, I read slowly.   If I didn’t have to work, I could have stayed up half the night to finish it towards the end.

The author is Anthony Horowitz . I am a huge Midsomer Murders fan. If somehow you have never heard of Midsomer Murders, it is a British Television show and Anthony Horowitz is the screenwriter for it. That show is one of the reasons I signed on to Netflix. One of those reasons it takes me so long to read and write but that could be a future post.

Since reading this book, I did discover he wrote Moriarty. I am assuming it is a Sherlock Holmes version written in his nemesis point of view. Have not read that one yet and because my – to be read pile is so huge, if I do, I am not sure when it will happen. So many books, so little time.

Back to my review. A big reason  I thought this book sounded interesting is that it is a mystery within a mystery. I could not figure out how that could happen, but he did an excellent job of it.

The protagonist is Susan Ryeland. She is the editor of the fictional book ‘Magpie Murders’, written by one of their star authors – Alan Conway.
The whole book is her story about that book and it begins with us reading the book with a few scenes buried in between telling us about the protagonist’s (Susan Ryeland’s) life while editing it.

They pull you into the story ‘Magpie Murders’ which is set in a small town in England with the book’s protagonist – Atticus Pund who solves mysteries in picturesque villages in England, like the series Midsomer Murders.

Well you  read all the way through the book in the book and get to the end and realize at the same time as Susan Ryeland that you are missing the last few chapters. By this point – Atticus Pund tells you he knows who the killer is and then there is no more.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem except, the fictional  author Alan Conway dies accidentally by falling off a tower of his home. Of course, people begin to think it may not have been an accident and Susan Ryeland, the fictional editor,  is pulled into the real time mystery because this could make or break her career.

This leaves the reader with lots of questions, who killed Alan Conway and also how does Magpie Murders end – who killed the victim in the book? By then, if Alan Conway had been a real person and alive, I might have killed him for not giving us the ending of his book.

There are lots of suspects in both stories, lots of twists and turns, and a little romance.
I hope this didn’t confuse you. It makes total sense while you are reading it. I do hope it makes you want to read the book. You will see that it is a big book and that may have been why it took me so long to read .  No matter how long it takes you, it is well worth it.
Woman In Window Book

My current book is ‘Woman in the Window’. I am about half way through it and will review it later. What are you currently reading? How is your writing project going? What keeps you moving forward. Would love to know. Please feel free to comment.

If you are a local Iowa writer and looking for a writer’s group, check out both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime – Iowa on Facebook. Hope to see you at our next meeting – February is the 3rd Saturday at  10:00 AM at the Pleasant Hill library for IRN and 3:00 PM at Café Diem in Ankeny for Sisters in Crime – Iowa.

Planning to write about my writing space next month.

Until next time,

Virginia

 

 

Priming the Pump

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I suppose it depends on how old you are as to whether – Priming the Pump – makes sense. To be honest, I am not old enough to remember using a hand pump. We always had a faucet in the kitchen or bath and you turned it on and there was water but before my time and before city water, everyone had wells and you had to pump your own water. It took a few tries to get the water to come out and that was priming the pump.

An author friend once said that she always reads something from a craft book before she starts writing. Her name is Cheryl St. John and since she has written many novels and a Writer’s Digest book on craft as well, I thought I would give it a try. I call it priming the pump. I pick up a book on craft and read a little before each writing session. It helps get my ideas on the page. I find that I have to write a little bit, edit, and write a little more before I can find the right words to flow. One way to prime the pump.

It isn’t difficult for me to find something to read when it comes to the writing craft. I have a fairly extensive personal library of craft books.  I read mostly novels but I also keep a craft book handy just for this purpose. I try to either have two books going at once and alternate between fiction and reference books.  By the way,  this is her current craft book and Cheryl has a new book on craft coming out within the next month or so through Writer’s Digest also. Might check it out, I know I plan to buy it. I will post more about it in a future post. Cheryl is one of the authors who will be speaking at an Iowa Romance Novelist meeting this spring and I look forward to seeing her again. You can also check out an older interview with Cheryl on this site where she explains a little bit about her writing process.

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Today, I watched a YouTube video with Stephen King. If you have never read his craft book – ‘On Writing’, I highly recommend it. I never thought of watching YouTube to help my writing until a writer friend mentioned it at one of my local writer groups. It is another way to prime the pump.

Today’s video was where he was a guest speaker at a college in Massachusetts. He is always entertaining to watch but most of his talks do have a warning about adult language. He explained where he got ideas for some of his books, like ‘Cujo’ and his trip to a motorcycle repair shop. I did enjoy another one of his stories. At the time that he got his first big advance for Carrie, his car wouldn’t run and it was going to be difficult for him to come up with the money to fix it. His advance was half of $400,000. Someone in the audience asked him if he fixed his car or bought a new one. He bought a new Ford Pinto. That made me chuckle, not because of the make of car but because my first new car was a ’72 green Ford Pinto. I loved that car, just like he loved his. As an aside, if you ever watch – Stranger Things on Netflix, you can see what my old Pinto looked like. It was just like the one Winona Ryder drives in the show. Well my husband hated the car, so I only had it maybe a year or so before he sold it and bought me a ’73 Nova. I never liked it as much as my Pinto even though I ended up driving it for 13 years.

Boy did I get off topic. The other thing I picked up from the video is that Stephen King doesn’t plot. He used to also write without notes. He said he uses notes now because he is getting older and it helps him remember. He said if something is important enough to tell a story about, you will remember.

Well I have gotten further along with my story idea. I have shorter days this week because of the Monday Holiday for Martin Luther King day. I will write this week and I will have something for my critique group next Sunday.

I am getting close to finishing  – ‘Magpie Murders’. I haven’t figured out who the killer is yet and that is my definition of a good mystery.

How is your writing going? Are you writing regularly or are you stuck? If that is the case, you might check out the latest Writer Magazine, it has lots of information about getting unstuck.

What do you do when you get stuck? Next time, think about Priming the Pump. I hope this was at least entertaining if not informative.

May your writing flow this week and let me know what you are reading?

Until next time,

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Planning a Novel Week 2 – With a Cold

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I don’t know if it is the horrible Holiday Cold I have been suffering with or what, but this week was not so productive. I came down with this cold the Wednesday before Christmas. It is mostly gone except for I sound like I have a frog in my throat. I have been drinking lots of liquids and I admit a couple nights I had some eggnog with a little Captain Morgan Rum. I thought it might help burn it out of my throat. It didn’t but then afterwards I didn’t care so much.

About all I’ve managed to do this week is play with my plot idea and try to come up with my plot points which was my plan. I am still trying to figure it out. I think I need to work on my characters more. I still don’t know my protagonist that well. Part of me wants her to be a Private Investigator and then another part of me wants her to be a Realtor. I have had friends who suggested the Realtor because I was one and you know that write what you know thingy keeps popping up.

Well I need to work on that this week along with everything else that didn’t get done. I managed to get one room cleared of Christmas decorations, later today I will take down the second tree and the few other things left to put away. And while I do that I will ponder my story a little longer. I tend to brainstorm better when I am doing other things. Usually things that make it difficult to take notes, like take a shower or wash dishes or drive.

I am focusing more on writing descriptions of the characters that have less to do with how they look and more with who they are. I try to find out what they want, why, and how they plan to achieve it. When it comes to the actual physical descriptions, I rely on google to find photos of people that remind me of what I picture them to look like. I am using OneNote to keep my story organized. I have Scrivener but haven’t committed to using it yet. I am more comfortable with Word.

I use OneNote for work. It’s set up, so we can keep personal notes on it, I call them my cheat sheets. It also allows our team to share information that we can all see. I soon discovered how useful it could be for my novels. If you haven’t tried it, you might check it out. It is part of the Office Suite of products that comes with Word, Excel, and all the rest. I didn’t find the learning curve too scary.

I am still reading – Magpie Murders, about half way through it. I am a slow reader and cannot usually get through a book in a week anymore. This one is also big but keeping my interest.

It is getting closer to the first meeting of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. This month is when we introduce the members who haven’t seen my emails and Facebook posts about what to look forward to. No speaker this month but we will be focusing on goals and preparing members for critique. We are switching up how we critique this year. In the past, we would get someone to volunteer to send their work out to the members and then the next month we would all critique it. It worked but it felt like it didn’t work for enough people. So, starting this month, I am encouraging anyone who wants a critique to bring it to the meeting and someone will take it home to critique and bring back. The one rule is that if you bring something, you must critique someone else’s work. I will be emailing a message to the group later today and relay to the out of town members to email the group and look for someone to share a critique with. We don’t have many out of town people, but we do have  one author who lives in Florida in the winter and other members who drive a long way (One person drives 3 hours one way to a meeting each month.) and others who drive 1-2 hours to get here. With Iowa winters it isn’t always possible for them to make a meeting.

If you are a member of RWA and are interested in joining our local chapter, check us out on the National site. We are working on setting up PayPal, for some reason we must do it yearly. Or you can always contact me, and we can get a membership form to you to fill out and return with a check.

If romance isn’t your thing, I also belong to the local Sister in Crime chapter. The same applies to that group if you are interested.

My mantra for this week is – I will complete my novel planning, so I can start writing the novel.

Have you written down your goals for 2018? Are you writing? Are you reading and if so, what?

May this week be productive for all of us.

Until next time,
Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Happy New Year 2018l

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While sitting in my family room with my first cup of coffee this morning, we noticed tracks in the back yard. A deer had passed through while we slept. Wish I had seen it.  But then if I’d looked out in the night and saw it looking in, I might have been a little less enthusiastic about the whole experience.

Which brings me to my reason for this post – my  2018 writing project. I will be writing a mystery with a paranormal twist that involves death by werewolf. I know sounds a little gruesome but hey, it is a childhood fear. We’ll see how it goes.

I am sending this message out a few hours early. The new year won’t start until after midnight but I decided to get a head start.

This is in the very beginning stage of writing. I have been thinking about the idea for a while and taking notes but I haven’t actually started putting words on the page.

I plan to share my writing process this year. Hopefully it will help you with your project and help push me forward. If I have learned anything over the years it is that there is no one way to write a novel and from what my author friends have shared, it changes with each novel. Writers are always looking for their process. Hoping that it will make the next one easier. But once you’ve written a few, you know that is not true. Each project is different and you just have to do the work until you get to the end.

I am not a plotter or a pantzer but something in between. So my goal for this week is to figure out my plot points. I use those to guide me through telling the story. If I can figure out my plot points, then I can create scenes that will get me from say the beginning to plot point one and then on to plot point two and then to plot point three and then the resolution. Sounds easy but it’s not. There will be lots of writing and editing before it is ready for publication. This is all about the first draft and I do know that when it is done, it will not be done. It will be crappy because that is what first drafts are. So this will be my journey to write my crappy first draft. I can blog later about edit and revision.

Once I have that figured out, I’ll have a loose outline.

I need to know my characters so they can help me tell the story. So I will also be completing character sketches this week. I use the term complete loosely because as I write, I discover more about my characters and continue to write down information all the way through to the end. I will go into more details about this with my next post.

To help me get there I purchased my planner for the year. I am a geekster when it comes to office supplies. I have used several planners over the years and this year I have settled on the Top Down Planner. The concept is to help you discover your goals and the steps needed to accomplish them. It is supposed to help  you focus on what is most important. It looks like an upside down food pyramid except food isn’t involved, unless you snack as you plan but that wouldn’t help my other annual goal of weight loss but again, we won’t go there.

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Besides writing my other favorite pastime is reading but if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you already know that. Currently I am reading – Magpie Murders. I won it at a Christmas gift exchange with my local SINC chapter – SINC-Iowa. It had been on my radar for a while so it was a huge win. And by the way, if you live in Iowa and write either Romance or Mysteries and are looking for a writer’s group, I belong to both chapters. In fact I will be President again this year of the local Romance Writers of America Chapter. Both organizations are always looking to add membership so comment here if you’d like more information. Or go to the National websites and sign up and then you can locate our local chapters or one near you for more information.

I have had personal issues that have kept me away from my blog longer than expected but I plan to post more often, at least a couple times a month.  I hope you will follow my posts and feel free to comment often. Maybe together we can make 2018 a productive year.

Feel free to share your writing process and books you’ve read and since I’ve been fighting a Holiday cold and staying in from the bitter temperatures – a little chicken soup wouldn’t hurt also.

Stay safe and have a wonderful New Years Eve – see you next year!!!

Virginia

 

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July Already?

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I have been planning for this since January and I cannot believe it is already July 2nd. There are so many things I had hoped to do before the trip, like losing 20 pounds. Well that didn’t happen.

Even though, this year has been going fairly smoothly. I am currently the President of our local chapter of Romance Writers of America and our organization has had a very good year, thanks to all the members and my fabulous board – Cole, Jan, Marilyn, and past President Kerry. We had a productive retreat in June thanks to everything that Marilyn did to head that up. We have found our “go to” person when it comes to events. We spent a day writing as a group. Well we did have a delicious breakfast and lunch – thus the need to lose 20 pounds. Everyone seemed involved in their writing. I was able to rough draft most of a chapter that day in my current work in progress.

We have added a few members and had several visitors over the past few months. So at this point, my year as President is half over. As you can see from the photo above, I plan to attend this year’s conference and I get the pleasure of traveling with Kerry. The two of us attended a conference in Chicago a few years ago. That had been Kerry’s first larger conference. I explained to her that one was only a taste of what to expect at the National Conference.

Romance Writers of America is the largest writer’s organization in the world and when they put on a conference, they don’t hold back. Attendees have access to so many choices for workshops and you get to meet hundreds of authors. They have luncheons with keynote speakers whose names are always gracing the NYTimes lists in huge conference halls with large tables set with fine linen and crystal. The food is always tasty and they treat you like royalty. There will be book signings held by the different publishers and if you are ready to pitch your work, there are agents and editors available. There will be award ceremonies and parties and the best opportunities to network with other writers.

I have attended and will be attending other writing events this year but this is the big one.

Part of the joy will be attending with a good friend and seeing her excitement of being a first time attendee.

What are your plans for this year? Do you have that one event that you can’t really do every year but you so look forward to – when you can?

Other things that have been keeping me busy this year besides reading and writing is I discovered Bullet Journals. It is another way for me to focus some creativity and be more productive – but I will make that another post in the future.

Here are a couple of books I’ve read recently. The Lost Girls is a haunting story about a woman who tells about the disappearance of her sister when they were children.  By the time we find out the truth the narrator has passed away and her niece has inherited the family summer home and has discovered a journal. We learn about the present day family and the past through flashbacks as the protagonist reads her great aunt’s journal. This one I could not put down. I love a mystery.

Full Wolf Moon pulled me in because I do love the Preston Child books I have read in the past. Though both collaborate on those, each write their own books also. I have had a fascination with werewolves since I was a child and watched the old horror movies in the sixties. Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy didn’t really scare me but the Werewolf did. This one had a pretty good twist and explanation but to be honest it didn’t grab me like I had hoped it would. It still was enjoyable and gave me ideas for maybe a future project.

What have you been reading? Always looking for suggestions. Hope your summer is going as well as mine and hope to spend more time with my blog.

 

Okay, if you have been following me for a while, I had abandoned my blog. I had heard that authors were finding blogging not so useful in their careers. It is true, with a full time job and trying to write – it is difficult to squeeze out the time. But blogging is something I do enjoy and even if the rest of the writing world doesn’t agree, I am going to attempt to get back into blogging because it is something that gives me joy. If that is all it does, that is okay too.

In the meantime, keep writing and reading.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

An Evening with Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Elizabeth Phillips at an author event at the Franklin Library in Des Moines last week.  It was wonderful.

I met her several years ago in Anaheim at a Romance Writer’s of America National Conference. I attended her workshop and it was very informative and entertaining so I knew her talk would be memorable.

She write’s humorous romances with quirky characters. Most of her hero’s are sports figures. Her heroines are strong women who sometimes find themselves in awkward situations but it always works itself out in the end. If you have shied away from romance thinking you might not like it, I would encourage you to check out this author.

I arrived a few minutes early and met a handful of my Iowa Romance Novelist friends. We sat in a group toward the front. She introduced herself and then she acknowledged our organization. I have never had an author do that. She introduced us to the crowd to let them know about our local authors and to help us maybe attract a few new members.

Most authors stand up front and speak about how they started writing or where they got the idea for their last book. She did do a little bit of that but most of the evening was spent with her reading excerpts from her books and awarding gifts to the first person who guessed the correct book. Even though I have read a few of her books, I soon started feeling inadequate. These women were very familiar with her work and it quickly became a very lively event.

She explained how some of the children in earlier books were brought back and she told their stories.  The more she talked about the books, the more I wanted to read them. It was not a good thing for someone like me. I am a bookaholic.

That night I did buy two books and had her autograph them. What hooked me on Natural Born Charmer is the fact that someone is walking down the street in a beaver costume in it. I have to find out what that is all about. I bought First Star I See Tonight because it is her most recent book.

Since then, I have purchased most of the rest of her collection. It will take me a while to catch up and I know I will enjoy every minute.

But before I can start reading those, I had to finish the one I have been reading.

a-story-to-killIt is a cozy mystery with a protagonist who is a mystery author. Her ex-husband was a college professor and he owned a huge home close to the campus. After his death, he surprised her by leaving his home to her. She decided to make it into a writer’s retreat. She invites writers to spend one week a month there to work on their own books while she as the author in residence encourages them. It was the first in a series and I did enjoy it. The characters were likeable and it kept me guessing until the end where she did hint that her husband’s death may not have been a heart attack like she was originally told; so a little  mystery to come.

I continue to work on my projects. Working on the second draft of the novel I finished before I went to Tennessee. I put it away and have just taken it out so that I can look at it with fresh eyes.  I meet with my critique group Sunday so need to have something to share with them then.

I am also developing my mystery series. Not a lot to talk about at this point but moving forward.

Until next time, keep writing and reading.

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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