Quick escape from Writers Block

My BFF is my key to new ideas

Dear Pam,

getoutwriterblockcardw-4in-72dpi

To escape writer’s block, first douse the raging fears and find a route to fresh thinking. To do this, I write to my friend, Pam, and explain what’s blocking my writing.

 

 

Here I am again, writing to you because of writer’s block.  Have I ever told you what magic it is, tapping your powers to   unblock my thoughts and words?

When I have overwhelming doubts about my writing, the blank page stares at me. The curser blinks, taunting me, and I can’t move forward.

What works for me, every time, is to start writing to you, just as if we were on the phone, only on paper. I know I can joke with you, confess my fears and stumble along, and something happens. It’s like the doubts and fears that have been plaguing me vanish. My pen and paper melt away and I am in tune with my novel.

It’s been a long, successful habit of mine, spanning decades.

It started in high school during study hall. I’d be procrastinating, avoiding work on an essay or report, unable to decide on a theme or position despite the looming deadline. In lieu of disaster, I stumbled upon this method of turning to you, and you have never failed me.

Let me count the ways you have helped me.

#1. Reassurance.

Dear Pam, I have discovered fiction, and am so excited I’m paralyzed. I’m writing my first novel. It’s a time travel. I know the setting is England, but I can’t decide on which time period I’d like to visit. What makes me think I can write a novel?

#2. Making decisions. Dear Pam, On the advice of a literary agent who loves my writing but doesn’t represent my genre, I’m leaving the time travel genre to write a straight historical romance. I’m agonizing over dialogue. If I try to be accurate to the fifteenth century, only a few people will understand it. If I write with contractions will I be a laughingstock?

#3. Finding focus. Dear Pam, I’m writing a contemporary women’s fiction novel loosely based on my mother’s trauma with Alzheimer’s. I’m scared, so scared I can’t plot the darned thing. What I’m sure of is …

#4. Trusting my vision. Dear Pam, my first book released! I’m writing about Gypsies, in a non-arm-candy way that’s never been done before in historical romance. I want to make it a character-related series, but this second novel just sits there, frozen after the first chapter. I worry that the hero is too bigoted to be likable.

#5. Moving forward. Dear Pam, I’m in the saggy middle and sinking fast. I think I’ve written myself into a corner, and I’m trying to find the way out. I can trash all I’ve written and start over. There has to be another option. Let me see. I could…

So, you get the idea. It’s a simple strategy that works. I’ve heard of other ways to break writer’s block that may also work for you. One friend of mine relies on showers to get the thoughts flowing. Works almost every time, she says.

Another has a special tea she brews and places on her desk with three lit candles.

Another walks in the park. Yet another meditates.

Many of my friends believe in the power of BIC (butt in chair), not budging until the words flow and if desperation sets in, writing stream of consciousness or drivel until ideas are nudged into motion.

 

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Crimson Secret Releases Tomorrow!

What a morning! Just 24 hours until Crimson Secret releases! This is the fourth novel in my Coin Forest historical romance series set during the War of the Roses! I’m fascinated by Queen Margaret of Anjou and King Henry VI, her long-suffering king. Too mentally addled to rule, he was pushed aside by his queen. Clever Margaret stepped in and took the reins of power, creating chaos, financial disaster and a civil war that lasted over thirty years.3DCrimsonSecret200x236

My hero and heroine are polarized–she and her family are deeply devoted to Margaret, and he carries secret plans and provides financial support to the Duke of York, who wants to take the throne and power from King Henry and return order and fiscal responsibility to England.

To their dismay, the hero and heroine meet and experience an electrifying attraction to each other. Nothing is sweeter–or more forbidden for them, but they are smitten and can’t control themselves.

I loved exploring the marvelous push and pull of their relationship, and they surprised me at several critical times.

Now, they’re poised to go out into the world of readers. The suspense is unbearable!

FREE GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

FREE NEWSLETTER GIVEAWAY!  I’m giving ten signed copies to ten lucky winners of my Goodreads Giveaway! Sign up for that giveaway.

AND, I’m giving away another three free copies to those who join my newsletter (see the form to the right, above), so you’ll have several chances to win!

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Free signed copy of Crimson Secret!

  • As we near the July 15 release of Crimson Secret, I’ve entered a Goodreads Giveaway! Ten lucky winners will get a signed print copy of Crimson Secret, 4th book in the #1 Amazon Bestselling series!  To enter, go to CRIMSON SECRET GIVEAWAY3DCrimsonSecret300x354

Tense with the treachery of medieval battle–colorful with the forgotten charms of a living bridge–and perilous when young lovers dare to pursue the forbidden.

Master bridge builder Luke Penry is a known traitor, committed to destroying Joya’s beloved Queen argaret so the Duke of York can rule. Like her noble family, Joya is deeply devoted to saving her and keeping King Henry VI on the throne. They’re both right, both wrong, both lost in the heat of unbridled passion and growing uncertainties. It’s a dance of imperiled love amid the War of the Roses, and time is running out to reveal their true loyalties.

“…political intrigue with a hard-won romance along for the ride. Recommended for fans of star-crossed lovers. –Library Journal

“A freshly imagined setting filled with intrigue and passion–loved it!” –USA Today Bestselling Author Cassie Miles

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Countdown and giveaway! Crimson Secret releases July 15!

The excitement mounts! I just received notice of The Library Journal’s review of Crimson Secret!                  “Political intrigue with a hard-won romance along for the ride. Recommended for fans of star-crossed lovers.”3DCrimsonSecret300x354

And from USA Today Bestselling Author Cassie Miles: “A freshly imagined setting filled with intrigue and passion — loved it!”

#1 Amazon Bestselling Author Peggy Waide says, “Romance, intrigue and lush historical details. Crimson Secret has it all.”

This is my first novel released as both an eBook and a paperback novel, which just adds to the fun.  Finally, those who prefer a print copy will have that option.

It’s the fourth book in the international award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling Coin Forest series.

Master bridge builder Lord Penry is a known traitor, committed to destroying Joya’s beloved queen so the Duke of York can rule. Like her noble family, Joya is deeply devoted to saving her and keeping King Henry VI on the throne. They’re both right, both wrong, both lost in the heat of unbridled passion and growing uncertainties. It’s a dance of imperiled love amid the War of the Roses, and time is running out to reveal their true loyalties.

Also, I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads, so you can get it for free! As soon as they provide it, I’ll post the Goodreads icon so you can click on it to enter the giveaway. I’m providing ten free books, so the odds are in your favor!

If you’d like a guaranteed copy, Crimson Secret is available now for preorder on amazon.com

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

Mothers Day

 

 

Following my not-so-annual tradition, here’s my Mother’s Day poem for 2016!  I hope it brings some sunshine to you on this special day. It will delight me further if you share it with your special mother–birth mother, mother-in-law, stepmother, adopted mother, or your aunt, sister, daughter or friend.  Happy Mother’s Day!  –Janet Lane

                           Always My Mom

by Janet Lane

You are the tree

I am the limb

You are the house

I am the trim

You, Mom

You are the notes

I am the song

Your loving arms

 Help me along

You, Mom

You gave me love

Warm like the sun

Laughter and fun

Second to none

You, Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

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CAPERS – do you know what they are?

They’re delish. You cook with them, but do you know what they are?

I wanted a quick, easy recipe for tilapia, and found a delightfully simple, quick one that included wine, salt and pepper, butter and parsley – that’s it! Just my kind of recipe, and the tilapia is pan-fried, also simple and quick. (Just turn off the heat before you add the parsley and capers in the last step.)Capers

As I returned the small jar of capers to the fridge, I wondered what a caper was, really.  Google to the rescue. I found splendidtable.org and learned from David Rosengarten that capers come from a plant called capparis spinosa, and that capers are actually a bud that grows on the plant every spring. Left to itself, it will produce the lovely purple flower shown here. After the flower’s done blooming, the plant produces a fruit called the caper berry.

The berry resembles an olive, has a similar taste, and David says it’s quite delicious. In Greece, the leaves of the plant are also used.

The caper plants are grown in the Mediterranean, Asia and Australia. And yes, they can be cultivated. If I lived in a warmer climate, I’d try it myself. What a delicious conversation piece!Caper Flower

What, you may ask, does this have to do with writing? It’s research, which I always enjoy; they’re delish, and one of my characters will likely be cooking with them.

Want to know more? Here’s the URL:  http://www.splendidtable.org/story/you-cook-with-capers-but-do-you-know-what-they-really-are

Wishing you a fragrant, delicious day!

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Do fiction readers have better social skills?

These guys must have recently read some good fiction novels!(Photo courtesy pixabay.com)

These guys must have recently read some good fiction novels!(Photo courtesy pixabay.com)

I read a fascinating research report from The Wall Street Journal on March 8th. According to a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reading fiction can  improve one’s social skills or social cognition.

The Harvard University study involved 16 women and 10 men ages 19 to 26. They underwent MRI scans of their brains while reading excerpts from novels and magazines.

The fiction readers showed enhanced activities in regions associated with reading about people, and such enhanced activity was linked to higher scores on social cognition assessments.

This could explain why I love my fans, my book club discussion groups and writer conferences–because the people are so interesting.

You can read more about the study at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377

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March 14, 2016 · 9:58 am

Ireland is calling me … and you

I will be teaching in Ireland this August when I team up with multi-published YA/Middle Grade author Dianne Salerni to present the “Character, Conflict and Stakes” conference. It will include private consultations and writing classes, with plenty of time for brainstorming plotting ideas.       Brochure Castle 2.3 in

These surprisingly affordable tours are unique in that they combine writing workshops with touring fascinating attractions in Ireland — a fourteenth century abbey, haunted castles, stone circles, mysterious lakes — it sounds too good to be true, but it is! I’m excited to see all these inspirational sights and share my tips with fellow writers. Something I love almost as much as writing is inspiring other writers to follow their hearts to create successful, award-winning stories.

This tour has been described as the perfect holiday or birthday gift. I first learned of it through Pam Nowak and Susan Spann. Pam attended the tour last year, and my writer’s soul screamed for me to attend with her, but I couldn’t. I so wanted to stow away in her suitcase. She was generous about sharing, though, and I saw photos of her touring days.  Pam will be presenting a June conference on Craft, Career and Publishing.

Susan, a publishing attorney, presented last year and posted several pictures that made me drool. You can see her post at http://www.susanspann.com/looking-for-a-writing-retreat-try-ireland-this-summer/

And now I’ve learned something equally as exciting: non-writers are welcome to attend, also! That means my husband can join me. He won’t be participating in the writer’s meetings, but he can enjoy the tours. He’s a golfer, so he’ll probably hit the links while we discuss plotting and characterization, then join us to see the forests and castles and abbeys. Here’s a general post from the tour organizers: http://www.theroadlesstraveledireland.com

If it works out, I’d love for you to join me for the writing, the sights, and the inspiration!

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To the best actress: a vampire breast lift

What the Oscars reveal about good writingOscar

As Oscar Night nears, I’ve been movie viewing. Two years ago I decided I had approached this awards night unprepared too many times. Movie after movie was highlighted and praised, and too often my viewed flicks were limited to Disney and Pixar.

Then our daughters left home and I found myself no longer watching any theater movies at all.

My new MO is to list the Best Picture nominees and see as many as I can before the show. My current tally: 6 viewed, 2 still on the list.

I started with The Revenant (Leonardo DiCaprio). A “revenant,” BTW, is someone who comes back from the dead. Based on the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, it’s the story of a man who, after being mauled by a bear, is stripped of his weapons and left to die in the wilderness by his friends.  Message for Novelists (MFN): Man Against Nature plots still work. Also, with an appropriate Author Note, the plotline of stories based on a true story can be massaged and altered to give a more complete character arc. (No spoilers, but after viewing the movie, look up the true story of Glass and see how they tweaked the ending.)

Next up was Bridge of Spies (Tom Hanks,  Stephen Spielberg).  With this talent, I knew it had to be good. Based on the true story of attorney James Donovan, which makes it even more incredible and appreciated. No tweaking with the story for arc’s sake—Donovan really was amazing. MFN: Look to this and similar true stories for inspiration, because they successfully define “hero.”

Then I saw Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan) and fell in love with love. This is the romantic’s romance, a beautiful love story oozing with the charm, uncertainties and sacrifices of a bygone era. MFN: Love is timeless, and the movie reminds us that plotlines need not be complicated, convoluted or sensational to make a reader care, to make a reader cry.

The Big Short (Brad Pitt) surprised me. It tells the story of the banking industry’s collapse in 2008. From first glance, it seemed to be a distasteful topic. Who would want to revisit a flaming failure that left the middle class people bleeding, unemployed and homeless? MFN: The screenwriters triumphed with this by demonstrating that with care and creativity, a complicated story can be told in layman’s terms so everyone can understand it. I’ll still need to view it a few more times, just to absorb it all, but it’s a movie everyone with assets should see.

Spotlight (Michael Keaton) tells the story of the in-depth news team from The Boston Globe that broke the 2001 story of an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. I admire films that tell the story after the fact. Everyone enters the theatre knowing the ending, so the strength of the story has to lie in the story’s middle. This film is classified as a drama/thriller, and the creativity and strategy with which the team overcame obstacles to find the truth may inspire writers of mystery and intrigue.

Room (Brie Larson) is another inspirational survival story, but with a twist. Jacob Tremblay is magnificent, an outstanding new child star. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue. MFN: a static setting is not at all boring when presented with a compelling character study and the bond of mother and child.  A memorable example of really getting into the skin of your characters. It’s definitely a book I’d like to read.

My journey continues as Oscar Night nears. Oh, and about the Vampire Breast Lift? It’s one of the gifts in the goodie bags that will be distributed to all the nominees. I’m sure the topic will be raised during the awards program.

What’s your pick for Best Film?

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50 Shades of Happy

… the final installment of my happiness series.

Did you try the “Three Acts of Gratitude” exercise? The Fun Fifteen? (See my Feb. 20 blog.)    If so, did these simple strategies nudge you up a step on the happiness scale?

Happiness is Free Feb 2016

I tried it. It didn’t launch me into euphoria, but it did instill a quiet happiness inside me, an inner strength that made each day a little easier, a little brighter.

When happy, our creativity triples. Be grateful for the simple things in life, recall specifics about them, and this daily practice will retrain your brain to see the world in a brighter light. Think of one positive experience in your last 24 hours, day after day, and it will empower you to find new meaning in your life.

Simple but powerful stuff.

I started this happiness journey because my life was feeling flat. I felt my options slipping away, as if I had been given X number of days left to live and that all the pleasant surprises and opportunities I would ever receive had already been sent—and there would be no more.

These exercises (Gratitude and Fun Fifteen) reminded me that the joys and pleasant surprises of life were still gracing my days. Once I started focusing on happiness, some sunny and cumulative effects began occurring.

Returning to the topic of the first installment of this series, first find happiness in yourself, and then go forward to claim success. Don’t wait for “success” to make you happy because luck can be erratic, unpredictable or nonexistent. Be happy, and then go forward with your dreams.

Here are some new book releases with tips that may help you sustain happiness:

THE GRATITUDE DIARIES: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan—how living gratefully leads to a richer, more fulfilling life.

BROADCASTING HAPPINESS: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change by Michelle Gielan

RISING STRONG: THE RECKONING. THE RUMBLE. THE REVOLUTION, wherein social scientist Brene Brown takes us through the process of getting back up after stumbling and falling.

I’m wishing you good luck and much happiness in your life journey!

–Janet

 

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