Friday, July 17, 2015

Stepping out of my comfort zone


As an introvert, I like to stay tucked inside my comfort zone. But occasionally, I force myself out of it, in big or small ways. 

The other day I did something I never do: I posted some photos of myself demonstrating exercises for a writing loop I belong to. 

Now, you might think this is no big deal, but if you know me or are friends with me on Facebook, you'll see that I rarely post photos of myself. If I do, they're just parts of my face, rarely my whole face or body. If I find a photo I like, I use it for years. 

I'm a personal trainer in my day job. If you saw me in person, you might think I don't look anything like you might have expected a personal trainer to look like. I'm 50 years old, and I'm far from a size two. I'm very fit, but I'm certainly not "skinny." In fact, like many women my age, I have a few extra pounds I struggle to lose. I post a lot on Facebook and my blogs about fitness, but I've never used photos of myself demonstrating exercises, because I know what people's expectations are, and I'm just not comfortable sharing photos like that.

But the other day, I did. I was trying to explain some exercises and finally thought, "Screw it. I'll just have my hubby take some pictures. That'll make it much easier." So I did. And you know what? The world didn't end. The internet didn't blow up. In fact, nobody even commented. So basically I was worried about nothing. 

Sometimes, we just need to do it. Push aside our discomfort and do it. Whatever "it" is.

What about you? Have you done anything recently to push yourself out of your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments so I can give you a virtual high five. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Starting From Scratch, Part II

This is an ongoing series on my process of writing a new story from start to finish. 
You'll soon see that my process is a complete mess. But it is what it is. I am working on a novella, Christmas in Stilettos (Book 4 in my Red Stilettos series) that will be part of Passionate Kisses 3: Under the Mistletoe, a boxed set with nine other authors. It will release in October.


STARTING FROM SCRATCH--Part II

I am two weeks into the month, and I'm supposed to have this novella written (the first draft anyway) by August 1. I took the first week to plot and plan as much as a nonplotter and nonplanner can. I tried to figure out who my characters are, what they want, what the main conflict(s) will be. I thought about the setting, what my characters look like, who they are, where they live. 

Finally, four days ago, I started to put down words... and soon learned that everything I plotted and planned means jack shit.

I'm about 4500 words into what I expect will be a 20-25,000 word novella. And it totally sucks so far. I'm so not kidding.

Here's my problem (well, one of many): As hard as I try to figure out who my characters are and where the plot is going beforehand, I can't figure those things out until I actually start writing.This is super frustrating to me, because I know I'd finish projects much faster if I could figure things out in advance. I can actually write a pretty fast first draft, but it's always such a mess, it takes forever to clean up and polish.

I've been fighting my process for years, reading every plotting book out there, attending any plotting/planning workshop I could find. I've learned a lot. If my brain actually worked like a plotter, I'd be set. But it doesn't. Yet I keep hoping. I keep trying to plot and outline before hand, hoping with one of these projects, it'll magically come together for me.

Here's how my process usually goes (despite any attempts to
tweak it): I will crank out a really, really shitty first draft (note: if you haven't read Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird where she talks about shitty first drafts, you must. In fact, click that link now and go get it. Seriously. I'll wait.). I've realized that whether I write my first draft really slowly and agonize over every word, or whip that puppy out as fast as I can, it will suck in equal measures. So I might as well write that suckage quickly, eh? [Check out these 10 Rules for Writing First Drafts]

So that's what I'm doing right now. I'm just cranking out the words. I call my first draft my discovery draft, because it's really more like a crappily written outline than a tangible first draft. I'm discovering new things about my characters and story every time I sit down to write. In fact, I often talk to myself on the page. I turn the font color red and just start "talking to myself" until I figure out what to write next. If I write total gibberish (like below), I'll just delete it when I'm done with my writing session. But if I actually come up with something useful, I cut and paste that snippet into another file to look at later during revisions.For instance, here's a snippet of Chapter One:


She shrugged and her blush deepened. Really need to figure out where home is, etc. For each of them. Where is "home" for her. Colorado? Nevada? Some small town. He grew up in Seattle. I think. #@% I just flipping can't figure out who these people are! This is so stupid. What the hell comes next. what is she thinking right now? I don't care, which means my readers won't care which means I'd rather eat chocolate than write this shit.

He knew why she hadn’t called them. It would’ve been awkward. Because she thought his family knew about their situation. “Yeah, about that…” He cleared his throat. "They assume you're coming with us.”



Anyway...that's where I am now. I just reached the first turning point of the story where everything changes. The draft is total and utter crap at this point. But I'll keep going and eventually--I hope and pray--I'll start to figure out who the characters are and what their story is. 

Until next time... keep writing!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Starting From Scratch--Part I



Part One
Along with some of my Passionate Kisses boxed set sisters, I will be doing #HoNoMo in the month of July. That means HOliday NOvel in a MOnth. In my case, it's a novella not a full-length novel. In order to meet my deadline and not get backed up on my other projects, I need to write the entire first draft in July. I thought you might find it interesting to follow my progress. I will post an update when I have progress.

Speaking of serial killers...this one sits on my desk.
Not much in this world is both more terrifying and exciting than starting a new story from scratch. (Well…serial killers, spiders and clowns are more terrifying to me, but they’re not the point of this post.)

I have a Christmas novella to write in July for a boxed set (anthology) with nine other writers that comes out in October. All I have for it is the premise I’ve come up with: “A divorcing couple pretends to be happily married when they go home for Christmas.” I also know Francesca is the heroine and the title of her story is Christmas in Stilettos. (She was a minor character in Dancing in Stilettos, my novella that releases in late July if the sun, moon and stars align.)

That’s pretty much all I know. I am not a plotter. I am not a pantser (someone who writes by the “seat of her pants” without a plan). My process is somewhere in between and it ain’t pretty. Every time I sit down to write a new book, I think it’ll be easier, especially if I’m “just” writing a novella or short story. But it’s not. Every book is harder than the last one to write. Every new book convinces me that I’ve forgotten how to write and will never, ever, EVER figure it out again.
My messy process.
  
If I was a big drinker, I’d be swigging tequila about now. But I’m not. I am a chocolater—and chocolate does nothing for my creativity and only makes my bum bigger. But it does make me happy.  I’m eating a Linder ball as I type this.

Back to the point of this post… Starting a project from scratch. The first thing I do when starting a new story is jot down everything I know, everything that’s been flitting around my head. In this case, it’s not much. I know the heroine’s husband has been deployed in Afghanistan and they decided before he left to split up. I know they have twin toddlers. I don’t know where they’re going “home” for Christmas or why they have to pretend to be happily married.

In my files, I have a bunch of forms I’ve saved over the years from various plotting and character classes I’ve taken. I also have a bazillion books on plotting and characterization (because reading about writing is WAY easier and much more fun than actually writing the damn book). At this point in the process, I use Story Safari and Discovering Story Magic to start figuring out who my characters are. I can’t start writing until I know their basic GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). The problem for me is that I can’t figure out the characters until I’ve written some of the story. See my dilemma? My process is a mess!
The basket I carry my process in...


But it’s my process and I’ll cry if I want to.

The goal is to get to the point where I feel I must begin to write. Once I “see” that opening scene in my head, I’ll start. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon, because my calendar says: July—write draft of Christmas in Stilettos.

Anyway… that’s where I am right now. I spend a lot of time staring into space, thinking about my characters.  A lot of time walking my dog, ignoring my neighbors and thinking about my story.  One of these days—I hope!!!—I’ll be ready to start the actual writing because the clock is ticking.

What’s your process? I will love you forever if it’s messier than mine, because it will make me feel slightly superior.




Sunday, June 28, 2015

My apologies and news



Boy, I've been lame-OH! in keeping up on this blog these past few months. I go in spurts where I'm really, really good and devoted to keeping it updated, then spurts where all you hear is crickets when you come on here. Where did everybody go???

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I'll be starting a series of posts called Starting from Scratch, where I'll take you through my totally effed up process of beginning a book/story from scratch until it's ready to go to my editor. For this project, I'll be working on Christmas in Stilettos, which will be part of the Passionate Kisses 3  boxed set (PK 2 hit the USA Today best-seller list, if you remember). I have on my calendar that I'll be writing the first draft in July. Some of my PK sisters and I will be doing #HoNoMo (Holiday Novel in a Month) with Camp NaNoWriMo, to spur each other on, so I'll keep you posted on how that's going, too.

Here's some other news--my new boxed set Summer on Main Street just released with five other authors. It has six sizzling small-town romances. I've include the links if you don't yet have your copy. It's just 99 cents!





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fabulous Firsts with... KATE HILL



First Five Sentences of... 
STARVING ARTIST


Blair remembered the day he first met Grace. He was working as a stable hand in the home of a wealthy lord. She was the blacksmith’s daughter and had come to the stable to fetch her father because her younger brother had taken ill. Blair had fallen in love with her at first sight, but being a young man and wanting to see the world, he had recently joined the army. They had little time together before he left and was soon sent to war.

Available now!

* * * * *

FUN FIRST FACTS ABOUT KATE

What was the first romance you ever read?
I was in grammar school and it was an old Harlequin called My Tender Fury. If I remember correctly, the hero was a teacher. Even way back then I thought the romance was a little too sweet, but I enjoyed it. :-)

Tell me about your very first kiss?
I'm afraid this first wasn't so fabulous. :-) My first kiss was so disgusting it almost turned me off ever kissing again. Not the right person, not the right moment. Nothing about it was right, except that it showed me what I didn't want in the future.

What’s the first thing you do when you start writing a new story?
The first thing I do is start getting to know the characters. I spend a lot of time thinking about them, taking notes and imagining how they would react to different situations.

MORE ABOUT KATE
Always a fan of romance and the paranormal, Kate Hill started writing over twenty years ago for pleasure. Her first story, a short erotic vampire tale, was accepted for publication in 1996. Since then she has sold over one hundred short stories, novellas and novels.

When she's not working on her books, Kate enjoys reading, working out and spending time with her family and pets. Kate also writes under the pen name Saloni Quinby. She enjoys hearing from readers and she can be contacted at katehill@sprintmail.com

Find Kate online here


Monday, February 2, 2015

New boxed set available to pre-order!

The same authors from the best-selling Passionate Kisses, 
are proud to present
 Passionate Kisses 2: Love in Bloom. 
Available now to pre-order, 
releases February 17! 
Get your copy now!







Monday, November 3, 2014

Meatless Mondays--Mexican Lasagna


It's not that I don't love a good steak or cheeseburger every now and then, but I just feel better when I eat less meat. So, my family enjoys Meatless Mondays. Here's what we had tonight.


MEXICAN LASAGNA

1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped (I actually use about four, but I love garlic)
2 tsp olive oil
1 can mexican stewed tomatoes, pureed
1 can black beans, drained
1-2 cups frozen or canned corn (I use frozen)
1 cup salsa
Shredded cheddar cheese (I use lighter fat cheese, made with 2% milk)
Corn tortilla chips (I used baked chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 8x8 pan with cooking spray (I double this recipe and use a cake size pan). Saute onion in the oil until it's translucent. Add garlic. Stir until the room fills with yummy garlic and oniony smells, then add the tomatoes, beans and corn. Cook on low until bubbly.

Sprinkle a layer of crushed tortilla chips on the bottom of the pan. Spoon a layer of the bean mixture on top. Sprinkle light coating of shredded cheese. Repeat layers of chips and beans. Top the whole thing with the salsa, then add another light layer of shredded cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes until it's all bubbly and yummy looking. Serve with a big side of non-starchy vegetables.

You'll never miss the meat. I promise!

Enjoy!

P.S. Trying to fit in exercise to your busy schedule? This is a CXE recipe: Cook. Exercise. Eat. Put dinner in the oven. You have 35 minutes to workout while it cooks. No excuses.