Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! Some advice...

This is a blog I posted about a year ago...I read it (to remind myself of a few things) and realized this was some perfect "new year/new start" advice...

Happy New Year! Enjoy! ...

A few weeks ago, I had a bad cold and spent a Saturday and Sunday in bed. If you know anything about weekend TV, you know I was bored to the point of tears and ended up watching a "special" about Garth Brooks. But, man, am I ever glad I did. The show was designed so that Garth himself didn't do much talking. His friends talked about him, his work ethic, etc. After a while I started making notes. :)

And here they are ...

8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write.

1. He loves music and wants everybody to love music.

That sounds pretty simple, until you really think it through. Because he loves music he promotes well...but he also writes, produces and sings the best songs. The best songs. And what does that mean for his audience? He doesn't shortchange them. They always get the best.

So...If you really, really, really love WRITING and your genre, you should be looking for the best ideas. You should be doing YOUR best when you write. Your love of writing (or your genre) should shine through your work.

2. He has respect for other musicians and songwriters.

You have to have a healthy respect for what you do and everyone who does it in order to be your best. If you only half-heartedly love romance, I genuinely believe it shows in your work.

If you're working hard, if it takes you months to write a book, if you study writing, if you tear your scenes apart again and again to make them perfect...So are your peers. Lots of people are working full-time jobs and writing. Lots are caring for kids, elderly parents or disabled adult children. We should never, ever, ever discount the trials and tribulations of other writers.

It just plain makes us better people to be kind to each other. And God likes that. :)

3.  He has a good range.

Garth might be a country singer, but his songs transcend the genre.  Because of #4...

4.  He loves telling a good story.

That's so true. His music is all about storytelling. And he does it well. He picks subjects that resonate, and he makes them vibrate with reality and emotion. Literally. LOL

I heard Elton John talk about storytelling and music once and it totally changed the way I looked at music. He said smart songwriters tell a story because people love stories.

Well, lucky us! That's our business. But that takes us back to not shortchanging your audience (something I talked about a few weeks ago in the Hybrids blog), to figuring out what they like to hear, to learning to write your story is the best it can be.

5. He is an entertainer.

And so should we be. People get a show when they go to see Garth. People want to be entertained when they read our books.

So many times we get caught up in word counts and craft that we forget we're entertainers. Nora Roberts wasn't afraid to break a few rules. Suzanne Brockman took regular romance "hook" or trope stories and turned them  on their ears. Laura Kaye's writing vibrates with sensuality, even as her characters charm you to death. LOL

When I pick up a book, I want to be swept away. And it took me a few books (like 20 -- sometimes I make my younger self sound like a real idiot) before I realized, as a reader, I wasn't special. All readers were like me. A book doesn't have to have tons of action or ideas that transcend the norm. The writer simply has to take her genre or subgenre's conventions and use them to entertain readers.

We are entertainers. So...entertain. :)

6.  He has a respect for his audience (very much, his friends said, like another successful guy...Frank Sinatra)

The pundits  used to tell us our audience was bored housewives. We now know that's not true. Our audience is lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, secretaries, nurses, business owners...Everybody.  You should appreciate the fact that a reader picked up your book. You should give her her money's worth. But most of all, you can't talk down to her.

Readers are very smart. If you write poorly, they will spot it. If you don't research, they will know. If you don't like what you're doing and "phone in" your book, they'll see it.

And they won't come back. So even your books with the tightest deadlines have to be your best work.

(I'm talking to myself here because I'm a week late and tempted to write fast and get this turkey in. Instead, I slowed down...God help make sure the book is the best it can be.)

7. He's never afraid to be passionate.

And don't we love that? Being passionate, I think, is part of being a good entertainer. And we're all in the entertainment industry.

I love category romance. :) I love the point in the story when the tension is so tight you know it could snap. The story could change. The characters could do something they regret. It puts me on the edge of my seat.

That's what I want to see in books I read. That's what I want to get into my stories when I write. Granted, I'm not always successful...but I'm not afraid of that passion. Not afraid to confront it.

In fact, smart romance writers use it! We are, after all, in the passion business! LOL

8. Even with success he remained a nice guy. :)

Ah, would that we all could be. Sometimes I think it's easy for the uber successful to be nice guys. Let's face it. They're making the money. Readers are stroking their egos. Their Facebook fan page numbers are through the roof. Amazon loves them. Agents call them out of the blue. Editors call their agents and ask them to write something for them...

Sigh. I could be nice if I were on top!

That's what we all think. But the funny part of it is, the people on top have greater struggles than those of us hovering in the middle. There's constant expectation. Not just from their publishers, but from readers...AND THEMSELVES. When you are on top, you want to stay on top and there are thousands of wannabes nipping at your heels.

So whether you're on the top or in the middle or just starting out, know this:

You're going to have bad days. There will always be somebody who is doing better than you are. You will question your talent. There will never be enough hours in a day or days in a deadline...

That does not give you license to be mean.

In fact, given that we're all in this together, being nice to people is a way to form support groups, critique groups, lifeboat groups and make the friends who may someday save you. :)

But being nice is just plain the right thing to do. Jealousy, meanness and condescension only make you sadder than you already are. In other words, you're hurting yourself.

So grab your talent by the handle and get going. Don't worry about what anybody else is doing. Don't think you're better than anybody else. Don't worry that you're not getting the recognition you deserve. Just write your best book. Enjoy the process. And be a well rounded person. Enjoy your family. Love your spouse. Go fishing (or swimming or bingo playing or shopping). Have other passions aside from writing.

Because nobody's ever clearly the best. Rankings change. Genres go in and out of style. Things like Facebook get invented and change everything. :) Don't be so one-dimensional that you can't be happy unless you're the best. :)

And think of Garth Brooks. :) Be passionate, love your industry, love your audience, love your craft, love your peers, be a storyteller. A great storyteller. Be proud of yourself. :)

Happy Reading...And happy new year! May 2015 be your best year ever. Be blessed and be a blessing.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Layering demystified

This tidbit appeared in a much longer blog published in February or so. It's not complicated...Since we're all probably close to having holiday brain. LOL


The trick to having a layered character is to give him an interesting, difficult, or jumbled up past, something that kind of collides with the heroine's story and affects both of well as the romance.
In Daring To Trust the Boss, the hero was a former foster child, who was almost obsessive compulsive in the way he dressed and behaved, not wanting ever to look like someone who didn't fit into the billionaire world he'd edged his way into.
The heroine had been sexually assaulted (she got away before she could be raped) by the town rich kid, who, of course, was never prosecuted. She embarrassed and humiliated herself by coming forward, then the people of her little town harassed her, saying she'd lied about him attacking her and was only trying to extort money from him.
So we have a 3-tiered hero. Former foster kid, who isn't comfortable with who he was or is, and who isn't sure he (the real "he") fits anywhere.
And a harassed heroine, determined to make her way in the world...but also very determined to be herself, the real person she is, because if she doesn't, then the old boyfriend wins.
He's hiding behind a façade. She's "out there."
Notice how many layers there are to that. And also notice that they all relate to things that happened in their pasts.
You don't "tell" readers every detail of their pasts on page one. It's your job to make sure your conflict is strong enough, deep enough that at least one aspect can slowly reveal itself. 

In DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS, we held back the idea that he didn't know himself, that the life he lived was a façade. Then being around her, he begins to long to be himself; he yearns to be with her because she likes the person he is underneath all his polish. But he fears letting go.

Do you see how "layered" that is? How slowly revealing these things makes his character more complex? 
She, at first, doesn't trust him. Then once he lets her take over a big project and she gets a taste of the freedom of having the money and authority to be the business person she always knew she could be, she soars. Because she's ready. And that only makes him want what she has -- that confidence and freedom -- all the more.
Now...All that is a very long way of saying that a book is about steps...Journey Steps (I call them...even do a workshop about it) of two characters going from who they are at the beginning of the story to who they are at the end of the story.
Your book could be set up like my old Sil Romances used to be. A cute premise, close proximity, banter, flirting, near misses with sex, conflict ...but if you don't have those layers of character that come from things that happened in their pasts, then the story really is only a surface story.
What your editor wants is for you to go from the cute meet, set up, cute premise, banter, flirting story to one that has something in the characters' backgrounds that takes readers deeper and involves them in the characters' lives in a real, genuine, personal way.
And that's layering. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading!

Monday, December 15, 2014


Again, this nugget I lifted from a longer blog I wrote earlier this year. I'm still so far into deadline mode I worry that I'll never get out. LOL

I love this! THIS is my philosophy of writing.


Anybody can write a book. All you've got to do is think up a plot, give your characters some arcs, divide it into scenes and get it into your computer, and eventually onto paper. But how many people do you know who really know how to tell a story?

In my younger days, I had a friend who was a joke teller. It didn't matter where we were, fifteen minutes into any party or wedding or even funeral, my friend would have a crowd around her. Laughter would spill out into the room and her crowd would grow. Because her jokes were good? Some were. But, really, her jokes were good because she made them good. She knew set up. She knew how to deliver a punch line.

In thirty seconds, she could draw you in and then hit you with something that would cause you to belly laugh.

That's storytelling.

I talk about this a lot...especially after I judge contest entries...published or unpublished...because I think a lot of us "get it" that we have to be craftspeople, but few of us realize that, somewhere along the way, our process has to involve that magical part of us that knows how to lift the mundane into the sublime.

Is there something about your story, the way you tell your story, or your characters that lifts all those words on the page from the expected? Is there magic in your story? Have you every really tried to write beautifully? To create characters so real you expect them to show up for Christmas Eve supper?

If you've only ever crafted, if you've never let yourself look for the magic...give yourself that gift in 2015. Don't just be a writer. Be a storyteller.

Happy Reading

susan meier

BTW HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE is still FREE! Don't know how long it will last, so grab it while you can!

Monday, December 8, 2014

What to do when you're too tired to think...

I have two proposals due this month, a story to write and ... well, there's a major holiday in here too. So as I mentioned last week, I skimmed all my blogs and came up with some short, but helpful things I'd said this year that bear repeating...

When you are too tired to think, you can do your manuscript a great disservice. You can delete good stuff and keep bad stuff...and not even know you're doing it.

So what do you do when you're too tired to think?

1. Step away. Get so far away from the computer that you can't even see it! Don't tempt yourself to work when you're too tired.
2. Give yourself options of ways to rest your brain. Normally housekeeping is my go-to mundane activity to heal my brain. Yesterday, it wasn't cutting it. Why? I think because it was still part of a routine. And my brain wanted something different. My something different and your something different could be two totally different things. Some people like bubble baths. Some people shop. Some people eat out. There are lots of things you can do to rest your brain. Write a list of 20, give yourself choices so you really will rest your brain.
3. Once you've decided what you're going to do...throw yourself into it. Forget your book. (Buy the popcorn!)
4. Remember to move. My trainer is a very smart woman. She can take one look at me and know when I need to push physically to help myself mentally. If you don't belong to a gym and/or don't have lots of workout tapes, ride your bike, take a walk, run up and down your stairs! LOL Do something to get the blood flowing.

And most of all #5...don't be mad at yourself for needing a day off. I usually work six days a week. Lately, I've been working seven. How fair is that to my poor brain?

Taking a day off rather than pushing can usually reap the reward of a fully cooperative brain the next morning. It worked for me. :) Don't push yourself so much that you hit that wall that totally stops you...maybe for a long time.

Happy reading...

susan meier

Monday, December 1, 2014


Because I have several projects due before 1/1, I went through my past blogs and chose bits and pieces of longer blogs to post this month. They are short...we're all busy in December...but have at least one important concept.

Happy Reading...Enjoy the post...

Time management lovers (myself included) can tell you a million ways to squeeze in another ten minutes of writing every day. Or we'll show you how to carve out blocks of time so you can write five pages, one page at a time, in between running your kids to soccer practice and dance class. We tell you to keep a notebook (small one) in your purse or pocket so that every time good ideas come to you, you can jot them down. I even recommend doing lists of twenty on the run, over the course of days, so that my bouncing brain can draw on multiple inspirations at church, the supermarket, a park, or from people I find at those places...

But the truth is, there are times when I really need to focus. I can't proofread quickly. I like to weigh every word. But you can't weigh every word when you have a cat on your lap, supper simmering and your smart phone pinging away with new Facebook messages.

When drafting, I can write a page and then do dishes. Write another page and vacuum the living room. Write another page and feed the cat. But when I revise, or proofread, or even read for continuity and consistency as I'm writing, I need a quiet room. I focus. I sink into my book. I [sometimes] pretend to be one of the characters and experience the book from his or her point of view.

I give my book all of myself, my attention, my focus, my dedication, because when a reader opens my book I want HER (or him) to give it all of her attention.

So think about that this week. When a reader opens your book, she slides into your story. She focuses on your characters. She falls into your world. If you haven't submerged yourself into the book before her, looking for inconsistencies or things that might jar a reader...she will find the things you missed.


Happy Monday

susan meier