November 1st is almost here…and that means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. For a category romance writer or a children’s book writer, you may end up with the first draft of your whole novel. For everyone else, you’ll have 50,000 words at the end of the month.  So, if you’ve ever wanted to write a book, or you’re a writer who needs a kick in the pants to get more words on the page, this is the month to do it!

If you’re thinking, “A novel in one month?! That’s impossible!,” just look to the thousands of past “winners” for encouragement (there’s no prize at the end, but the writers who complete the challenge are winners!). If they can do it, so can you! I have a friend who is a 5th grade teacher and her students win NaNoWriMo every year. So, my personal goal this year is to write with the reckless abandon of a child–turn off my inner editor and get words slung onto the page. You can’t revise what you haven’t written!

I’m moving on to a new project for NaNoWriMo and will be writing a young adult romance. I think I’m going to also switch it up a bit and write in first person present tense. I’ll be writing without a plot; I only know the two main characters at this point. It’s going to be a challenge, but NaNoWriMo is the time to experiment and try new things.

So, join me! Start writing. You can do it!

“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?” — Michelle Obama


Openings #1

When writing, my favorite part of the book is the opening. I love to write them. When I get a new idea, it’s always the opening scene that comes to me first. Usually, it’s the “who” and the “where” (the characters and setting). The “what” and the “why” (plot and theme) come later. I carry a little notebook with me to jot down new ideas. Maybe they’ll become future books, maybe not, but I thought it’d be fun to post one here from time to time. This one came from a prompt on Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write blog. Feel free to let me know what you think. Would you want to read more about Sarah and Jake?

Sarah drove through the rolling hills, past the picturesque horse farms with bluegrass so lush and green it didn’t seem real, until she reached the old farmhouse. Even after a decade away, it was as familiar as her own face. Sure, it had aged a little, but so had she.

She walked up the steps to the front porch, smiling down at the paw prints of her favorite cat. Daddy and that cat had battled constantly and he’d sworn she walked through his wet concrete on purpose. Sarah’s eyes immediately moved to the towering maple, its leaves turned up and silver in the sunshine. The marker was still there, beneath the tree, though the name painted on it had faded long ago. Even Daddy had tears in his eyes the day they buried that cat.

Sarah sat down carefully on the old porch swing. The rusty chains creaked in protest, but held her weight. She looked out over the yard where the chickens pecked and scratched the ground, searching for bugs. Her mama loved a colorful egg basket and always had a mix of breeds. This flock was no different. Sarah spotted Black Australorps, Wellsummers, Barred Rocks, and a Cream Legbar. They’d lay eggs ranging from the darkest brown to the palest blue. Colors that couldn’t be found in a store.

Beyond the yard were acres of hay fields, with green and golden stalks swaying in the breeze. It was gorgeous, but after dark it would be magical. The fields would come alive, a million fireflies looking like stars that had floated down for a closer view. She inhaled deeply, taking the fresh air into her lungs. It felt like she was breathing properly for the first time in years. She hadn’t even realized how stressed she’d been in the city until now.

“Sarah?” The deep voice was as familiar as the house. She twisted in the swing to look at him. Jake stood near the silver maple, leaning on a shovel. He hadn’t changed much. His muscles seemed bigger under his dirty white t-shirt, but his face was as freckled as it had been when they were kids. Back then, her heart had thundered in her chest as he dared her to jump from Bald Rock into the deep part of the creek. A few years later, it was his kisses that made her pulse race. Now, it seemed just the sound of his voice could send her heart into overdrive.

It was a shame she had vowed to hate him for the rest of her life.


The Power of Romance Novels

I had a terrifying couple of minutes this morning as I waited to hear back from a friend who works in the Fifth Third building in Cincinnati — the site of an active shooter situation. She quickly texted back that the building was locked down, but that she was safe. The sense of relief that washed over me was immediate and overwhelming, until it dawned on me that the texts of the family and friends of the victims would go unanswered.

Last week, I listened to my mom recount the horror of active shooter training at the high school where she teaches. It’s now necessary for teachers and students to prepare for gunfire in the hallways, cafeterias, and libraries. In a matter of seconds, a school can become a war zone.

The world is a scary place. Racism. Sexism. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Violence. Injustice. Climate change. The decimation of the environmental protection agency. The changing face of SCOTUS. The economy. Mental illness. Sickness. Death. The list goes on.

That’s why we need romance novels. When we’re overwhelmed by the evil in the world, we can crack open a romance novel and be reminded that love conquers all. Through the twists and turns, the laughter and tears, there’s always a happily ever after at the end. It’s guaranteed.

Romance novels are about overcoming the odds, growing as a person, changing for the better. They’re stories of hope, kindness, and the power of human connection.

So, read. Read romance. Share your favorite books with others. After all, we’re in this together.

We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m a Reader

My earliest memories involve books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t devour one right after the other, as quickly as I could get my hands on them. My parents are readers, so there were always books in the house, and we visited the library often. With its towering shelves and infinite number of books (or so it seemed to my wonder-filled eyes), the library was an enchanted place. It even had a cat, Spike, and every kid knows that cats are magical creatures and gatekeepers to parallel worlds.

Reading was always encouraged at home. We weren’t even forced to put down our books for meals; they were allowed at the dinner table. And you know who doesn’t mind being grounded? A kid who doesn’t need an excuse to stay in her room all day with a book, that’s who. My brother and I have long since moved away, but there’s rarely a conversation between us that doesn’t include a book recommendation. Books are the #1 gift at holidays. We share our beloved and tattered favorites, knowing it may be months (or years) before they’re returned to our shelves.

For a long time, I thought all families were like mine. Readers. It wasn’t until much later that I realized just how lucky I was.

According to Literacy Inc., 80% of families in the United States haven’t purchased a single book this year. EIGHTY percent.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how much I have benefited from literacy privilege. I take for granted that it’s a resource I’ve always had. Without basic reading comprehension skills, it’s nearly impossible to pass a driver’s test, find a job that pays a livable wage, read the labels of over-the-counter medications. Illiteracy is a trap and once you’re stuck, it’s nearly impossible to climb out. Always has been. Just look at the slaves who risked their lives to learn to read and write. As Frederick Douglass famously said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

And none of that even takes into account a good story’s ability to change lives. Countless stories have shaped who I am. Fiction is a treasure and books have made me rich.

It’s terrifying to think how different my life would be without books. That person would no longer be me. She’d be an impostor, a stranger.

Because I’m a reader.

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

I’m a Writer

Writers have to write. Those are four words that we hear again and again, on blogs, in tweets, at conferences. And sure, it’s true, if there’s more to the sentence. Writers have to write in order to finish a book. Writers have to write if they want their stories read. Writers have to write if they want to get paid. 

But more often than not, that’s not what the speaker means. They mean that writers have to write, as if their fingertips are possessed by the ghosts of authors past. William Carlos Williams said, “I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” I’m sure that for some, writing is a compulsion; they have to write. But for most of us, I don’t think that’s the case.

It’s certainly not true of me.

Writing is hard. Most days, I’d rather read a book, or watch a movie, or take a nap, or stare at the sun until my retinas burn out.

I write because I enjoy it (sometimes). I write because I feel like I’m pretty good at it (sometimes). I write because finding the right word is more satisfying than finding a huge chunk of chocolate in a pint of Graeter’s Double Chocolate Chip (and let’s be honest, very few things are better than chocolate).

I write because I’m a writer. And I have stories I want to tell.

“I hate writing. I love having written.” — Dorothy Parker