I'm doing a double-take again this week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog. I am the Production Manager at a small market television station, and one of the programs we produce is called QuizMe. Think of it as Jeopardy for elementary school children. We shoot fifteen half hour episodes over three days, and those three days are this weekend, April 22 to 24. So I'll be a wee bit busy, and won't have time to join the usual hop. But the topic was so interesting I didn't want to miss it, so I'm giving you another two-fer this week!
This week's topic is posed by Leslie Hatchel:
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about writing? Who did you learn it from?
I have learned so much about writing in the last few years (and am still learning, of course) so this was a bit difficult for me to narrow down. One of the simplest tricks I learned was to watch out for sentences that start with "There was…" For example:
"There was a house on the corner of the block, standing forlorn and neglected, hiding behind a ragged hedge."
I learned to get right to the meat of the sentence:
"On the corner of the block stood a forlorn and neglected house, hiding behind a ragged hedge."
So now when I'm editing I keep a wary eye out for "There was…" sentences and zap them where they stand!
Next week's topic was suggested by A.S. Fenichel:
Where is your favorite place in the world and why? Share some pictures if you can. Does this place wind up in your books? Feel free to share more than one.
See what I mean about it being fun and interesting? Mr. C and I love to travel, and we've been lucky enough to visit some amazing places. It would be hard to narrow down a single one, so I thought I'd share a few of my favourites in photos. Check them out below.
I do put locations I've been in my books. For one thing, all but one of my books have a tie to Prince George, my hometown. And the one that doesn't is set in Vancouver, a beautiful British Columbia city I lived in for a couple years and visit often. NO LIFE BUT THIS, my most recent release, is set mostly on the Portuguese Island of Sao Miguel, Azores. Mr. C's parents emigrated from there in the 1950's, and we visited in 2013. While it wasn't the best vacation (my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip our second day there and spent the two weeks in hospital) we did at least get a chance to explore the culture and island.
I'd love to hear about your favourite places to go. I may even find some to add to my bucket list! And once you've done that, be sure to hop over to Leslie Hachtel and see what writing advice she thought was the best.
It's time to take a break from writing on the Romance Writers Weekly blog hop. A.S. Fenichel asks:
When you're not writing, what do you do? Hobbies, passions, goals…
If you joined me from Leslie Hachtel, welcome!
Downtown is pretty precious in my world, as it is with most people. With a full-time day job, grown children that come to visit (yay!!), my own writing, the occasional editing project, and the necessity to cook and clean at least once in a while, I don't have a lot of time left to fill.
When I do, I can usually be found reading, and most likely a romance novel, though I do try and branch out occasionally. Each week in my newsletter I write a little about the books I'm currently reading (FYI: If you subscribe to my newsletter here, you get a FREE copy of my short story, The Life She Had Before.)
If I'm not reading, I'm usually hanging out with Mr. C. I'm not much of a winter person, so during the cold months I generally huddle inside. Now that spring is on it's way, we are taking the dog for long walks, and I can't wait for things to thaw just a bit more so I can get out in my gardens. I love to plant things and see them flourish, although I'm not much for weeding. And the warmer weather also means we'll be able to get out camping soon. SO looking forward to that!
What do you do when you have downtime? I'd love to hear from you! Leave a note in the comments, then be sure to hop on over to the instigator of this topic, A.S. Fenichel. You'll find her blog here!
So I didn't join the blog hop last week (I spent a romantic weekend in Victoria with Mr.C instead), but it was such a fun topic I didn't want to miss out completely, so this week you get a double dose of the Romance Writers Weekly Blog!
Last week, A.S. Fenichel asked: What can’t you live without? Tell us some things you can’t do without.
It can be coffee from your favorite shop or a pink tee-shirt. Whatever it is, tell us about it and why you can’t go on without it.
If we're talking about writing, the number one thing I can't live without is the Internet. I use it constantly when I am writing – looking up better words with an online thesaurus, or fact checking topics like "the world's most famous cello pieces." And my laptop would be number two. The flexibity to move from room to room, or even write outside, cannot be overstated!
When it comes to non-writing "things", it is harder to choose. I love my morning cup of coffee, but if I had to, I could live without it. Same goes for my after work glass of wine. I adore my e-reader for its ease of use and ability to store thousands of books, but reading a "real" book holds a special joy as well. If I try to think of objects that are irreplaceable, the first thing that comes to mind are family photos. We are a big picture taking family (maybe because both my husband and I work in television and are very visual people) and the thought of losing all those photos from when our children were small is heart-breaking.
What would you find it difficult to live without? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!
Now to this week's topic!
Jenna Da Sie wants to know: What do you do when writer’s block hits? Share some tips for our fellow writers.
Even if you're not a writer, it is easy to get blocked, to feel uninspired and blasé. Show of hands among you who stand in the kitchen at 5 o'clock each day and can't think of anything to make for dinner? Yeah, I thought so!
As a writer, the best way to unblock is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that getting words on the page – any words – is better than nothing. Nora Roberts is credited with saying "I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank page." And I truly believe this. Sometimes the only way through is to put your head down and keep going, no matter how bad you think it is!
So glad you joined me this week! Keep on hopping round the blog with the instigator of this week's topic, Jenna Da Sie.
By the way - Romance Writers Weekly member, Xio Axelrod,
recently became a New York Time Bestseller as one of the authors of
Hot on Ice: A Hockey Anthology!
We are all very excited and proud of her!
I have read a few of the novellas in the box set already, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Congratulations, Xio!
Today's topic on Romance Writers Weekly comes from – me!
Telling stories is as old as the first time a caveman came back from a hunt and told about the big one that got away. Every family and relationship has a story or two that gets told at every get-together. What’s that story in your family? What’s that tale that everyone loves to hear told over and over again?
Oral histories are precious and easily lost. Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, I encourage you to jot down some of your family favourites in a computer document or journal. I believe it is so important for the next generation to be connected to those that came before.
Every family has those special stories, some going back generations. For example, my father's ancestor settled in Nova Scotia in the 1700's. Legend has it that he married an Indian woman, and those of us with dark hair and dark eyes are throwbacks to her. This doesn't take into the account the multitude of other genes that have contributed to us from other members of the family, of course, which is what makes it a legend, I guess!
Most of our family's favourite stories make us laugh so hard tears come to our eyes at every telling. On my mother's side, her family emigrated to Canada from Belgium after World War 2. My grandmother's family was from quite well off, and hadn't been too happy about her moving across the globe to be the wife of a farmer. Their first house was small and primitive – but across the street was a large, lovely, well-kept home. So my grandmother took a photo of that and sent it to her mother, with the implication that was their house. I love that story!
My own mother is a creative, talented woman with a daring, adventurous side. She is often the subject of our family stories. Like the time she glued pearl beads to my young brothers' ears to play a trick on our conservative grandmother. Or, in the 1950's, how she smuggled a chipmunk to Belgium on an airplane. The story my own children love best is the one where she was snowshoeing along a road and a snowplow approached. She thought it would be fun to stand under that nice, soft spray of snow arcing off the blade of the blow. Yeah – it's not soft. It's hard, packed tight by momentum. It knocked her flat on her back and all my dad could see of her was the tips of her snowshoes and a mound of snow. My kids wrote lyrics to the tune of Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer to memorialize their favourite Gramma story.
Be sure to visit A.S. Fenichel next for a peek at her family stories. And I'd love to hear from you, too! You're invited to tell your own funny, poignant, well-loved family story in the comments. I'll be sure to read and respond to them all.
This week on Romance Writer's Weekly, we've been asked to blog about the story behind our name, and if we have a pen name, how did we come up with it?
If you joined me from A.S. Fenichel, welcome!
I do and I don’t use a pen name. Brenda is my real first name, and Margriet is my middle name. With a little bit of detective work, anyone can discover my full name (hint – check the copyright pages of my books!). I decided not to use my last name when I published for a couple of reasons. One was that it tends to throw people off, as it's rather unusual. I didn't want to scare people away from asking for my books at the store because they didn't know how to pronounce it! The second was more for my own sake – I wanted to keep my writing life separate from my personal life. In the world of social media, it just seemed to make sense. But I think if I were starting over again, I might not do that. Being an author is so much a part of who I am that trying to keep the two separate seems unnecessary now.
When I discovered once that one of my favourite authors used a pen name, I have to say it changed how I read her books. It wasn't that I liked them less, but somehow knowing her real name made me feel like I was in on a secret. I actually felt more connected to her. It's hard to explain, and more than a little odd, I know.
The next step on your hop is Marc Stevens. I am fairly certain he has an interesting story about how he got his name (because I know a bit about his creation), so be sure to check it out. But before you leave, why not leave a comment below.
What do you think of your own name? Do you like it, or do you wish you could change it? If you could change it, what name would you pick?
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, Leslie Hachtel ask:
If you could ask any author (living or dead) one question, what would it be?
Did you link to me from A.S. Fenichel's blog? If not, be sure to hop all through the links today and visit her, too!
Holy cow, this is a hard topic today! One author? One question? How the heck I am I going to narrow it down?
Years ago (before e-readers) if I wanted to discover new authors I had to – gasp! – go to the library and browse through the shelves. While romance and mystery were always my go-to genres, I also made it a personal requirement to choose one biography and one classic novel. While I usually enjoyed the biographies, the classic was often disappointing. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough, but most "classic" novels tend to be heavy reading, with depressing subjects, and while valuable in their own right, aren't necessarily something I want to cozy up with on a Saturday night. However, it was because of this pledge to myself that I discovered "Pride and Prejudice" and the other works of Jane Austen.
I've rhapsodised about Jane Austen's brilliance in other posts. But in regards to this week's topic, I think I know what question I would ask her:
"What do you think of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?"
I know, it's not really a writerly topic, but wouldn't it be fun to hear her take on this?
Want to take part in this week's blog? Leave your author and question in the comments below. And then be sure to keep the hop going by clicking through to Jenna Da Sie here!
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, Leslie Hachtel asks:
What is the writing project you’re thinking about doing next and why?
If you joined me from Leslie's blog, welcome! It was cool to find out what her next project is!
For me, my next project is a few months away (I'm a very slow writer) but it is always there, niggling away at the back of my mind. The reason for this is that the book I am currently writing is the second in a trilogy, so my next project will be the third in the series, and ties in very closely with this one. This is the first series I have written, and keeping everything straight through all three books is proving a challenge. But since the first hasn't been published yet, I can make minor changes to it as I go along, thank goodness!
The working title for the series is "It's a Man's World." I wanted to write stories about women working in non-traditional jobs, so I created Bendixon and Sons Construction. The thing is, there are no "Sons" working there. Instead, it is a grandfather and his granddaughters. Camryn, Mattie and Jo are the Bendixon sisters. Mattie (Book 1) works with her grandfather and is a hands-on construction worker. Jo (Book 2) is a computer programmer who helps the company with state of the art residential technology. And Camryn (Book 3) is a business woman who has to step in and save the company when it is facing financial ruin.
I'm excited to be writing a series, but I am definitely finding it different than writing a stand alone. Fingers crossed I can make it all work out!
I wonder what Tracey Gee is up to? Check out her blog here! But before you go, tell me about a project you're working on. Anything at all - arts and crafts, a business goal, a new hobby or travel plans. Let's see what our future holds!
If you're reading this blog, it's probably because you're a reader. Which is also the reason I became a writer—I love to read and want to share my own stories with others. This week on Romance Writers Weekly, we're discussing our favourite books as a child or young adult.
If you joined me from Jenna Da Sie, welcome!
I started reading at a fairly early age. Not dramatically early, but by the time I was in Grade Two I was devouring Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys. Very shortly after that I moved on to Anne of Green Gables, which still holds a very special place in my heart. The other series that really influenced me as a child was Lord of the Rings. I'm pretty sure I read that around Grade 5 or 6 at the latest, and I still remember how enthralled I was by the world Tolkien built!
Looking at those books, you might be wondering how I ended up writing romance. Well, when I ponder these series, it is the personal relationships I remember best. Gilbert was my first book boyfriend. If Anne hadn't come to her senses, I was ready to step in!! And who can forget the love between Arwen and Aragorn? Even the non-romantic connections were what drew me to these characters—Anne and Matthew, Frodo and Sam. To me, stories are about people. That's what makes them memorable, and that's what I want to share with my readers.
What stories from your childhood have stuck with you? Be sure to share in the comments! And then hop on over to visit S. C. Mitchell
and see what stories he holds dear!
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, S. C. Mitchell has set us a Flash Fiction Challenge:
Give us a romantic scene to set the mood for Valentines Day.
Before I give you my scene, I have to confess something. Mr. C and I don't "do" Valentine's Day. We don't exchange cards or give gifts or go out for dinner. It's something we decided a long time ago in our marriage, and it works for us. But that's not to say we aren't romantic at other times of the year. As our kids get older and leave home, it's actually easier to find time for romance, for connecting with each other again. We love camping, and while times at the lake with the children are some of our best family memories, there is something to be said for the two of us heading off on our own. That being said, what I've written below isn't really fiction. We've had days like these. But here's my scene:
We spend the day in our boat, puttering around to different bays and backwaters, anchoring when we feel like it to take a swim in the clear, peat-coloured waters. The sun warms my skin with a gentle caress, and the rocking motion caused as other boaters skim by us is soothing. In the prow of our boat is a wide bench and I lay there, pretending to read but really just soaking in the view, the serenity, the very air.
When the sun begins its descent behind the mountains, my husband steers us back to the dock. It's a short walk to our trailer, set up in a clearing among the trees. On our way we pass other campers—a group of young men in tents, harried parents with young children drunk on freedom, a rental motorhome with its tourists shut up tight behind closed doors.
The steaks have been marinating all day. I slice onions, green peppers and mushrooms and wrap potatoes in aluminum foil. My husband gets the fire going and pours us each a glass of wine. We're in absolutely no hurry, even though we are both starving after our day in the fresh air. When the potatoes are just right, he fries up the vegetables, then slides the steaks onto the grill over the dancing flames. The sizzle and snap makes my mouth water.
We eat off plates on our knees sitting beside the fire, with a second glass of wine to complement the meal. The light is finally starting to fade on this long summer's night. We will clear up our dinner together, play a few games of crib, and then snuggle together in our comfortable bed.
It may not be lobster and roses, champagne and candlelight. But to me, time like this, time spent together with no distractions, no interruptions, in conversation or in silence, is the most romantic of all.
I love to hear what you think of my little scene above. Are you a outdoorsy person? Or would you prefer a more urban experience? Let me know. And then, be sure to hope on to A.S. Fenichel whose next on the blog hop!
Leslie Hatchel wants to know – what's my favourite romance genre and why.
I read two main genres – contemporary and historical. If I had to choose between those, I would have to say historical is my favourite. Well, today at least. Somedays it's contemporary. I'm fickle that way...
I enjoy contemporary because I can relate to the characters. I understand the world they live in, their challenges, the technology they use, the way they travel. But I love historicals for the opposite of all those reasons. I know I'm reading fiction, not a history book, but many of my favourite historical authors do intensive research, and I trust that they're getting the main facts right. I see these stories as a snippet into the way "real" people lived then. I also appreciate the slower pace of historicals. I don't mean the slower pace of the story, but the slower pace of the characters lives. When I'm writing my own contemporary stories, I often have to remind myself of the immediacy of our world. My heroine has a question for her hero – she can pick up her cell phone and text him. No need to actually see him. But where's the tension in that? With historicals, most of the action has to be face to face.
What kind of romances do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below! And then be sure to continue on to the next in our blog hop, Leslie Hatchel herself!