What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?
I recently had to give up the delusion that I could be everything for everyone.
I wear many hats. In addition to being a phenomenal romance author, I am a freelance writer, contributing to multiple platforms. I am also a terrific wife (my husband is a lucky man), mother of six , homeschooler, content editor and writing coach. A lot of stuff, right? Well, those are the things left after I did some soul searching and decided I was doing way too much.
Hey, romance addicts. Let’s welcome author Brenda Whiteside to the Layla Writes Love blog. I am thrilled that Brenda is sharing her experience with transitioning from traditional to self-publishing.
My first contract offer landed in my email inbox in 2009. I jumped around the house like my pants were on fire. Seeing an offer, the thrill of putting your creation out for others to enjoy never gets old. I stuck with my publisher for eleven years.
I whipped the vehicle to the side of the road, put it into “park” and jammed on the emergency brake. I jumped out and joined about 50 other people along the bank of the Madison River inside Yellowstone National Park. We watched a pair of trumpeter swans gliding gracefully through the ripples of water with six cygnets. Although I had seen swans before, rarely had I encountered so many babies with their parents. I’ve not experienced such a sight since.
I relish open spaces, like those found in Yellowstone. Public lands, from parks and forests to wildlife refuges and national monuments, provide sacred spaces to still one’s soul, open one’s heart, and inspire creativity in one’s mind. I am fortunate to live near such special places, and each visit produces a piece of writing or two from the experience.
Other landscapes can stir the imagination, too, such as community parks, botanical gardens, and picturesque farms. Nature’s sights, sounds, and smells open the book of our senses and provide opportunities for creativity to flow.
Two other special outdoor spaces spark creativity for me. One is a ranch located 75 miles from my home, owned by some friends. About three times a year I travel and stay there for an extended period of time. The sage and grass-covered hills, rolling Powder River, and the distant Bighorn Mountains provide solace, and livestock and wildlife encounters bring smiles. Crimson sunrises greet me, and golden sunsets beckon sleep. The quiet relaxes me, and my friends’ generosity brings me joy. The modular guesthouse at which I stay possesses large windows from which one gazes upon the nearby fields and woods. White-tailed deer, fanned-out turkeys, and dancing sandhill cranes abound. I’ve composed many articles, short stories, and book chapters at this scenic and tranquil place.Continue reading “The Outdoors: My Writing Inspiration”→
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?
“Make the story as long as it needs to be.” The words from my writing coach echoed in my mind when I began my journey writing romance and continues to help me with each story as it evolves.
Storytelling is an art form that requires writers to let the tale unfold the way it needs to. Resisting can influence the quality of the final execution. I have been in situations where I tried to pound a story to fit into specific word counts, mainly based on my own capricious standards or a publisher’s guidelines. The story almost always pushed back, leaving me to streamline and coax it into the required length. Sometimes it worked–but not always.
The characters in my romances drive the plot. Besides unfolding how a couple falls or stays in love, I like to portray them doing it while holding down jobs or running businesses. While they may not be flat broke, they still have to get up and put in the work, and their clothes reflect their ambitious and entrepreneurial lifestyles.
Every writer gets inspiration from somewhere, a muse that shouts (or whispers) in their ear, asking for a book. Often, I find mine in songs or from a phrase in a conversation.
I wrote the paranormal, erotic romance, The Man of Her Dreams (soon-to-be republished), based on a song I heard while out driving. The song was Wish You Were Here. It was about a man who had gone away for business and sent his wife a postcard talking about how beautiful the place was. He ended with “Wish you were here!” He died on the way home, and she received the card after his death. In The Man of Her Dreams, the heroine receives a strange card from her husband and then he dies on the way home. Her card ends in mystery and intrigue. I am enjoying re-reading this book as I update it for a publication this summer!Continue reading “How Author Dee S. Knight Finds Inspiration”→
Hey, beautiful ones. I am excited to introduce the author, Ann Raina. Ann lives and works in Germany with cats and a horse. Riding and writing are her favorite hobbies. Her latest series, starting with Twisted Mind, turns around an FBI-agent, his demanding lover, and a bad case getting worse.
In all of her books, she combines romance, suspense, and humorous elements, for no thrilling story can stand without comic relief.
Have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage? If so, where and why?
Pilgrimage is an important part of my faith. In Islam, traveling to the venerated city of Mecca (known as Hajj) is a sacred journey that provides those blessed with the chance to perform Hajj rites expiation of their sins and closeness to the creator.
Some people save for their entire lives to make the holy trip. Others go on Hajj to die. It is an arduous trek. Every pilgrim has their Hajj stories, telling of illnesses, injuries, and challenges to finishing everything without blowing their cool. Despite the physical obstacles, many Muslims through the world strive to go on Hajj. The emotional and spiritual benefits far outweigh any difficulties.
Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?
Why y’all asking people to tell their secrets?
A lot of my work as a cultural critic and author involves me asserting confidence about my abilities and talents and using them to encourage writers to form supportive networks that will help us all get our words to the world. While I am blessed to get to write for online publications and my own stories, I also take advantage of opportunities to coach, mentor and cheerlead my fellow writers to get their thoughts and stories out there. I guess that is why it is hard to accept the infrequency for substantial mutual support. Continue reading “#IWSG – Swallow Rejection, Focus on the Work”→
Talk about the setting of your book. Is it entirely imaginary or is it based on a real-life place?
I love writing stories that allow readers to tap into the fantasy and escapism that fiction provides. At the same time, I like to include points of reference from my environment. Similar to integrating real-life characters experience, my story plots also contain geographical references to position readers in characters’ environments, potentially essential to reinforce arches and allow them to relate.
Settings in the romance genre tend to be at economic and geographic extremes. At a Popular Cultural Association conference, romance scholar Jodi McAllister pointed out that romance plots frequently unfold between female protagonists and rich men in cities or small-town bearded hunks. She posed a question asking why people didn’t seem to fall in love in the suburbs. She made a great point. I spent my teens and early adult life reading about ridiculously wealthy men taking their love interests to bed. Not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoyed the escapism, but not everyone lives like that way, nor do they exist in tiny towns with one traffic light. I want my readers to see themselves in my stories.Continue reading “Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces”→
Share how you keep your characters, storylines, etc., organized. Do you use an outline? Notecards? Post-its all over your walls?
I am back, everyone. I’ve missed writing for this blog hop, but I was slammed…hard…with a number of illnesses and was laid out for weeks.
Yeah, it took a while, but I am better now and ready to go!
Okay. How I keep track of everything needed to write a cohesive novel, novella or short story. What fun! And how convenient that I recently wrote articles about high and low-tech productivity for the awesome Haute Hijab blog. Below are some tools I use to keep things in check while story writing, even rebellious characters like Quinn Ang and Raad Khouri.
What are your top three distractions and how do you deal with them?
Note: I am writing this post on the road. Please forgive any typos.
A writer’s life is full of all kinds of distractions, which can make finding the time to develop ideas and getting out of one’s head and onto paper (or the screen) difficult. I have mentioned that time management can be an external factor hindering writing.
Damn those twenty-four hours in a day. They just won’t listen and become more. Authors have professional (novel writing is not the main source of income for most) and personal lives, each demanding energy and time. Finding sufficient time to develop a plot, construct character arcs and write content can be difficult. One cruel irony is that creative often burgeons when there is no time. Authors scramble to find a moment to weave a story, but frustration usually sets in when the brilliance blazing in their minds flickers into embers because that’s how it often works. Write right now or risk losing everything.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Control is something I have a difficult time relinquishing to anyone. I can delegate easily enough but must maintain the power to make the final decisions, especially when it comes to my writing.
Like many authors, I put a lot of myself in my books. I have been exhilarated while writing some scenes and depleted by others. More than time and talent, storytelling requires energy. After completing a fleshed-out plot, I am usually vested in it and the characters, making it hard to detach myself and place it into someone else’s hands. I figured out pretty early into the novel-writing process that I did not want to let go.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
For people dedicated to the craft, writing is an impactful part of their lives and identities. I mentioned in another post, “I acquired and honed skills to interpret and craft words, using a range of prose (and a tiny bit of poetry) to harness the resilient power of language for liberation and resistance.”
Endeavors to generate words can be powerful and empowering, making writing a tool and art form requiring commitment.
Dedicated writers pick up their pens [or fire up their keyboards] to share their perspectives and stories. The better ones know that wordsmithing involves layers of composition, drafting, editing and revising—all of which require development. Only deluded writers think that their skillsets are fine and they don’t need to hone them.
How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I saw this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt, I laughed because it coincides with some realities I have had to face while participating in NaNoWriMo this month. The month-long writing challenge is meant to get writers to sit themselves down and finish a set goal during November.
Although I signed up for NaNoWriMo years ago, I had not participated. Why? That’s for another blog post. This year, someone encouraged to consider using NaNoWriMo as a tool to complete book four in the Brothers in Law romance series. Brandon and Hawwah want their story out there, so I agreed. I am half-way through the challenge and only have a little over 4k of my 50k goal achieved. I have been writing but not just the manuscript.
I am thrilled about the release of my new novel, Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit. It is the second book in the Brothers in Law Romance series and the most difficult to write.
The characters in my books face realistic issues that impact their falling and staying in love. In Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit, Toni must deal with the pain of infertility while watching her sister-in-law have baby after baby. She was successful in concealing her anguish the first time, but with a new pregnancy comes renewed pain and desire to be a mother. She needs to decide if she should stay quiet and suffer in silence or try again, something her husband, Marcus doesn’t want.
Marcus loves Toni and works hard to make her happy. Seeing her in any pain tortures him, so he decides that they just shouldn’t try to have a kid anymore. Unfortunately for him, the infertility demon doesn’t play fair. Toni vacillates emotionally; he feels helpless, and their marriage begins to fall apart. Continue reading “Feeling a Character: Why Toni Kent Tore into Me”→
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.
Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it. At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.
Lyndell Williams, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. I’m Kayelle Allen, author and owner of this blog. Happy to have you here! We’re excited to find out more about your hero…
Know the Hero from Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit
It’s late, he’s bored. What does he do?
Marcus Kent is never bored. He has an intense schedule at work. When he gets a minute, he will chill with his boys Simon, Faisal, and Quinn and then head home to his wife Toni. For Marcus, twenty-four hours is not nearly enough, so he needs to be strategic about his time so he can fulfill all of the demands on him. He’s all about getting things done with efficiency.
What kind of food would he impulse buy if hungry?
Marcus is a carnivorous alpha. Red meat is his food of choice, especially burgers. He doesn’t eat just any meat. Although he is not Muslim, he prefers halal meat, so he will stop by his favorite halal spot or another one (NYC is packed with them) to grab a quick bite. Of course, he’ll have to go a little longer on his daily morning run but having some ground beef goodness is worth it.
Describe the kind of clothes he prefers to wear.
Marcus has a walk-in closet with a wall stacked with high-end sneakers. They are his award for working hard at the community center he directs, keeping wife, Toni happy and being there for family and friends. He sheds his business suits as soon as possible and slaps on a pair of those bad boys with some sweats and a tee-shirt to run through Harlem or have a game of basketball, completely elephant trunkin’ it.