Conference Time!

This weekend, RWA San Diego will be co-sponsoring the California Dreamin’ Writers Conference in Brea, California. Conferences are a great opportunity to learn, network, make friends, and pitch your manuscript. I’ll be there myself, and as a first-time attendee, I’ve been scouring the Internet to find tips on how to make the most of my conference experience. Here are some of the tidbits I keep reading over and over again:

What to Do

  • Attend workshops. Conferences offer a plethora of educational seminars and interactive sessions. Try to attend as many as possible to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available and gain insight into the industry.
  • Practice your pitch. It isn’t very often that you have a captive audience with an editor or agent. That time is precious and fleeting! Know what you’re going to say, and make sure you’re comfortable actually saying it. (For those attending CDWC, Beth Yarnall and the team will be leading a Pitch Practice on Friday night at 8PM!)

What to Bring

  • Business cards. You’ll be handing them out at all those awesome networking events. For some great advice on how to design an author business card that’ll work to your advantage, see this post.
  • An old-fashioned notebook and pen. All that great information you learn in the workshops won’t mean a thing in the long-term if you forget what was said. Make sure you take notes! And if you’re attending CDWC, log onto the Yahoo! group to download and print out all the useful handouts that go along with the workshops you plan on taking part in.

What to Avoid

  • Pitching to agents and editors in the bathroom. Seriously. Apparently, there are people that do this. Don’t be one of those people.
  • Clamming up. There are so many fantastic opportunities to network at a conference. Many of us writers tend to be introverts — socializing can sometimes be a little draining, right? But now is the time to let your inner extrovert shine through! Chat with your tablemates at dinner. Strike up a conversation in the elevator. Attend all the mixers and social events, and be ready to participate in discussions. I’ve read countless tales of writers who’ve made lifelong friends at conferences. Who knows — maybe you’ll meet your new BFF at the “Build Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Bar” during Friday night’s dessert reception!

Do you have any advice for conference-goers this weekend? If so, please share in the comments.

See you on Friday in Brea!

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Finding Focus

“Con-Cen-Tra-Tion! Can-You-Hear-Me? If-So-Lets-Go!”

-I’m probably the only one who remembers that little rhyme from grade school.

Like a lot of writers, I’m always on the search for an ideal setting to write in. We’ve all dreamt about a perfect place where the sun is shining, the perfect breeze drifts through your pristine lace curtains, and the sound of the cheerfully chirping birds serenade you as steam from your freshly brewed cup of tea wafts the delicate smell of roses into your nostrils. My ideal spot is both in a cosy coffee shop with a warm latte by my side, or cool towel on the beach with the waves of the ocean crashing against the rocks.

Just you, your writing, and peace. It’s the only place you can get any writing done whatsoever.

Yeah, we all know that’s bull.

If you’re anything like me, you write in pure chaos. I find my laptop time is spent crunched up on the corner of my couch with a fat, meowing cat on my head. The only serenades I get are the “pew pew pews!” coming from my husband’s Playstation as he destroys aliens. And lets not get started on the constant cell phone interruptions, bathroom breaks, stomach growls, and while I don’t have children, I’m sure that just adds even more to the mix for those who do.

Lets face it. We are busy, busy people! I’ve had a writer tell me that the only place she can get words in was at her son’s soccer games. I sneak words in while at work in between unruly customers. Another writer I know writes everything in a small journal she hangs around her neck while working at a daycare and transcribes it later. Through our chaotic lives, focus eludes us. You write with distractions, you write while multi-tasking, and when you go back to review your work, you cock your head to the side and think “What the hell did I just write?”

Focus can be eluding.

Everyone has their own ways of finding “The Zone.” A big factor for my focus is sound. Voices are a huge problem for me. I will listen in on the conversations around me instead of the conversations my characters are having inside my head. So instead of being a nosy busy body, I plug my headphones into various “white noise” websites to keep my focus steady.

Here are just a few I use:

  • Focus at Will is my favorite. It generates music that helps enhance concentration
  • MyNoise.net has everything. You want coffee shop murmurs? Ocean waves? Spooky ambient sounds? This one has it.
  • Rainy Mood is exactly what it sounds like. A lovely rainy day.

Once I can get my ears concentrated on something else I can hear the voices of my characters as clear as a bell. Then I can write with numerous cats on my head while the husband saves the galaxy… In high-definition stereo. Even when I can’t get to that perfect coffee shop, I still keep on writing. That makes the visits to my ideal spot all the more productive.

What are your favorite ways to find focus? Or are you someone who can concentrate in any situation? Do you have an ideal writing space to retreat to? Do you write with a cat on your head?

Share with us in the comments section! …Especially if you write with a cat on your head. I want to feel less alone in that respect.

 

 

Ask a Romance Writer

Welcome to the first installment of RWA-SD’s Ask a Romance Writer, where the fearless members of our chapter answer your burning questions about any and all things related to writing romance.

This week’s question:

What are some writing resources you can’t live without, and why?

“As goofy as it may sound, I couldn’t live without my Excel spreadsheet!  I use it to track word counts and have it set up so I can add my word counts as I go and see where I am for my overall goal and my daily goal. Sometimes knowing, ‘just 150 more words to goal!’ can keep me going.”

Marie Andreas

“I can’t live without non-distracting background music. For free on-line radio, Soma FM offers all kinds of groovy music, including space sounds!

Focus at Will is a paid site that provides music to increase your productivity and focus. There is a 30 day free trial.”

— Laura Connors

“I write exclusively in Scrivener. I am able to separate each POV into its own scene and then pair them into chapters. I can drag and drop those scenes or chapters wherever they need to go without worrying if I’ll lose them during a cut/paste.  Scrivener also tracks my word count which helps me reach my daily and manuscript goals. I’m sure there is a lot I’m not doing that I could be doing in Scrivener, but for now, it works perfectly for me.

On my Apple phone, there is an app for recording voice memos. I love that! I think best when I’m walking. Usually I’ll forget the brilliant idea when I’m finally home to put it on paper. So I record it while I’m walking. Getting the main points, even acting out some of the dialogue. Then I can transcribe it when I’m feeling particularly stuck or need word count. Most of the time, it’s a scene I’ve forgotten about and it pushes me over the hump.”

Rachael Davila

“I swear by AutoCrit! I’m terrible with repeating words, and often I can’t see them in my own work. Autocrit highlights them for me as well as checking for verbs I might overuse. There is an annual membership fee, but I think it’s completely worth it. I run every chapter through it when I’m editing. You can try it out for free!”

Lisa Kessler

“I can’t write without music playing in the background. It varies of course depending on what I’m writing.

I play a Reader’s Digest CD of The Most Beautiful Songs of the Century, love songs, when I’m writing contemporary romance, or classical music. I play Ravel’s Bolero over and over when I’m writing erotic love scenes.

Haven’t found the right CD for writing a mystery and suspect that’s why I can’t get it out of my head and onto the page.”

Toni Noel

My critique group. I’ve been working with the same wonderful people for over 5 years. They help me untangle plotting problems, tell me where my story isn’t working, and cheer me on. I can’t imagine being a writer without their help and support.

RWA. A fantastic place to network, get educated, and hang out with some great people. RWA’s conferences, classes, and workshops have expanded my knowledge base and made me a better writer. And I love seeing all the writers who attend our monthly meetings here at RWASD.”

Janet Tait

Thank you to all who participated for providing us with lots of new ideas to help enhance our productivity and improve our craft! Keep an eye out for next month’s installment of Ask a Romance Writer!

Meet The Chapter Mates: Tameri Etherton

What better way to get to know our own chapter than with a good old-fashioned interview! Once a month we’ll be picking a chapter mate to find out a little more about them and their current projects.

Tameri Etherton Bio Pic web

This month we’re featuring Tameri Etherton, author of The Stones of Kaldaar.

Tameri is a fun-filled gal who has a passion for writing. She shares that passion with everyone she meets. Lets find out a little more about her!

 

 

Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?

I’m a glittery kind of gal who loves a good cup of tea, chatting with friends, and hanging out with my prince charming. My two kids also keep me busy, but I make the time to write every day.

I love writing in a variety of genres ~ fantasy, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and erotic romance, mostly. Switching genres helps me keep energized and excited about the stories. Especially since I’m writing a series and being immersed in that world for too long makes me miss little details. Switching to erotic romance swings me right out of that funk!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve heard a writer is someone who writes. So, I’ve always considered myself a writer because I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I didn’t consider myself an author until my first novel was published. It’s still a thrill to see my name on a finished book and realize, hey, I’m an author.

What does RWASD mean to you?

RWASD is full of wonderful, soul-enriching men and women who each month fill my creative well with their support, their achievements, and their friendship. I adore the members of our chapter and look forward to seeing everyone at the meetings. It’s humbling to be part of an organization with so many accomplished authors, all of whom are incredibly giving with their time, their advice, and their experience. It makes me want to pay it forward to the next generation of writers and that’s a beautiful thing.

Etherton - GrootWhat is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?

Learning everything I didn’t know! Writing is the easy part ~ it’s discovering the minutiae of what it takes to publish a book. There’s always more to learn, more to figure out, more to frustrate the heck out of you, but you’ve got to persevere. This writing gig is the best job in the world. Not only that, it’s my passion. And when you have a true passion for something, you never stop challenging yourself to be better. For me, that’s being a better writer, mentor, and business person. It’s that last one that always trips me up, but to publish books, you have to understand the business of writing as well as the craft of putting words to paper.

What would you consider your ‘Magic Moment’ while writing? When you love what you are doing? When you feel most in the zone and the words just flow?

I love writing, so pretty much any time I sit down to write, it’s a magic moment. I tend to plot while napping, or walking, or cleaning the house, so I don’t often have trouble with the story and when I sit down to write, I write. My true magic moments come when I’m reading over my work—to edit, revise, or just to remind myself where I was at in the story—and a scene captures my heart. There are several scenes in both book one and two of the fantasy series that I’ll cry each and every time I read them. Those moments are magic. Every. Single. Time.

Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?

Well, just the other day I was lying on a nice heated table with acupuncture needles in my face, ears, arms, and legs. Which meant I couldn’t move. There I was, just relaxing when it occurred to me I had to kill off a character I love. I understood it with such clarity that it hit me hard. I might even have shed a few tears, which was awkward because I couldn’t move. Then I hoped the poor doctor didn’t come in because he’d freak and think I was in pain from the acupuncture. I’m still bummed I have to kill this character, but it’s what the story demands.

Steamy or sweet? Which do you prefer?

Steamy!

If you could go back 20 years ago, What advice would you give yourself?

 Stay awesome. Everything you’re doing, it’s going to work out in the end, just keep doing it! Oh, and I’d tell myself how much I think she’s super fabulous and to not listen to the haters. Then I’d give myself a kiss and whisper, ‘I love you’.

 Tell us about your latest novel!

Tameri's current book "The Stones of Kaldaar" is available now!

Tameri’s current book “The Stones of Kaldaar” is available now!

Sweet! I love chatting about books. My latest novel is book two in the Song of the Swords fantasy series. The Temple of Ardyn continues the story of a young woman who was raised on Earth and taken to another world. Half of her family is out to kill her, there’s an assassin stalking her, and her evil sister betrays her in the most vile way imaginable. All of this is happening to her while she’s learning to control magical powers. It’s crazy fun. Oh yeah, and in this book she gets to have sexy time with her betrothed. Readers were a little upset they didn’t hook up in book one. But the villains sure did! I think the readers will be quite pleased with Taryn and Rhoane’s relationship for a little while. Then it might break their heart. I know it does mine. But I’m a sappy kind of gal, and every book needs a little happily ever after. Until the next book…

 

To find out more about Tameri and her work, visit her website: A Cup of Tea and Sorcery.