Archive for 'ECWC'

My First (Personal) Interview!
Sunday, March 28th, 2010 ♦ 2 Comments »
Chassily Wakefield

Chassily Wakefield

The text of the following interview first appeared in The Emerald City Romantic Quarterly, the official newsletter of GSRWA, and was conducted by my friend and fellow writer, the very cool Lori Lyn. I’ve made minor tweaks to it again since then (and added some extra photos for fun), but it’s essentially the same. I want to thank Lori again for inviting me to do an interview, it was a lot of fun, and also Michele Staci, fabulous editor of the newsletter, and her terrific staff, for all the hard work they put into creating such a beautiful piece of art. Thank you, everyone!

The interview:

  • What genres or sub-genres do you write?

Hi, Lori! First, I want to thank you for the interview, how fun! This is my first one, ever.

I always thought I was writing romance, either contemporary or historical, usually with paranormal or fantasy elements. Then I had a heart-to-heart with the fabulous Mary Buckham, who very kindly asked what I was writing. After I described it to her, she looked me in the eye and said, “Well, you know, that’s not really romance.”

After I picked myself up off the floor, we continued talking. By the end of the discussion, I had a new answer to the “What are you writing?” question: Mythic Romantic Fantasy. A Hero’s journey. A Medieval setting, plus a new Fantasy world. Epic battles between good and evil with a strong romance throughout, BUT (brace yourselves…) not necessarily a happy ending.

  • How long have you been writing with the intent of becoming published?

I wrote my first book when I was 8 years old – 200 pages on my life plan, now unfortunately long lost – my kids would have loved it – and went on to earn my degree in Creative Writing and English Literature, but I didn’t get serious about writing for publication until about two years ago.

Since then, there have been many starts and stops and missteps along the way. I have four or five partial manuscripts moldering away that I will probably never revisit, but I learned a lot from each one. The fantasy series I’m working on now, and am committed to finish, is based on a story I started when I was a freshman in college (24 years ago! OMG!) and have fiddled with over the years. I have enormous files of research and notes on it that I’m now trying to organize and make sense of, and of course it has changed dramatically – hopefully for the better – since then, too.

  • How does a story first come to you?

My stories usually first come to me as one particular scene and almost always start off with the heroine, not the hero. For example, my WIP originally came to me as a scene of the heroine nearly drowning. A novel I was working on last year (one of those moldering away) came to me as a scene of the heroine running through an apple orchard, on her way to meet a group of her friends. Another one started with the heroine breaking into her cousin’s house. Then it’s all about figuring out who this person is, and why she’s doing what she’s doing in those initial scenes. The plot grows from there, with the hero taking shape based on who would be the best man for that heroine.

*Extra Note: Since the original interview, I have completed Laurie Schnebly Campbell’s FABULOUS Plotting Via Motivation online course (available at WriterU), and TWO rounds of her Master Class and… The WIP is fully plotted! Hallelujah! Laurie is an incredible teacher, and I highly recommend her classes. She helped me achieve what has eluded me for decades – a truly, 100% completed plot outline. I’m over the moon! Not only that, I actually have two completed outlines, the WIP and a Contemporary YA Romance I began specifically for her class. TWO BOOKS! Yes, yes, yes, they still have to be written (and the WIP still requires tremendous amounts of worldbuilding), but the outlines are there: 25 and 22 chapters, respectively, of 3 to 4 scenes each. And I have the skills now to go back to the aforementioned moldering manuscripts and whip them into shape, as well! Whooooohooooooo!!!

  • Tell us about something that inspires you.

My kids inspire me, nature inspires me. A beautiful piece of fabric, a painting, a clever phrase in a good book. A song lyric. But the biggest dose of inspiration I receive on

My gorgeous kids

My gorgeous kids

a daily basis comes from the people right here in GSRWA and my other writing loops-n-groups. I’m constantly amazed by the depth of generosity from writers as a group. The knowledge, the support and the willingness to share is just incredible. I’m inspired by the notes of success when members post their good news, and by the notes of support that flow in when the news is less happy. I’ve learned so much, and gained so much in friendship and support, since joining RWA just over a year ago. I can’t even verbalize the difference it has made in my life. I am not at all the same writer I was in January, 2009, nor am I the same person. My life has been enriched by these associations, on a deep, cellular level.

  • What is your workspace like (do you have an office, use headphones, have a whiteboard/plotting board, use candles)?

Oh, my workspace. <laughs> Our main computer is in the family room, where everyone congregates. There is NO privacy, no door to shut. Our three kittens are constantly crawling all over the desk. It’s a family computer, so everyone has their piles of work alongside mine. The book shelves in the hutch are stuffed with books (those are almost all mine, I admit, but they’re a total mess.) My husband and I both have overflowing inboxes, there’s the family calendar, the drawers are full of household files rather than writing files, which are all in boxes, some of which are not all that accessible. Filing and organizing for the writing life has been an ongoing problem for me. I’m hyper-organized in every other aspect of my life, but for the writing accoutrements, I need an intervention!

I have candles that I forget to use, and tons of instrumental music in my iTunes folder that I forget to play. I prefer to write in silence (not that I get a lot of that), but I will pull out the earphones if I’m trying to work while anyone else is home. I try to avoid that as much as possible. In the past, that has led to not working at all on school holidays or when my husband takes a day off work. Having dedicated myself to becoming a professional, producing writer, that doesn’t work anymore, so I’ve been looking for solutions. I know a lot of writers go to cafés or Starbucks to write, but I’m too self-conscious for that, so now I’ve started taking my laptop into the dining room and using the earphones in there. It’s still not ideal, but it’s better than being in the middle of everything in the family room.

I do have plotting and whiteboards for drawing out my world, but they’re locked up so the cats can’t chew on them right now. I love those little furballs, but I’m ready for them to morph into stately older gentlemen!

Our "kittens" who are now HUGE and into everything. Gibbs keeps a lookout, while Jack & Norrington inspect the fridge.

Our "kittens" who are now HUGE and into everything. Gibbs keeps a lookout, while Jack & Norrington inspect the fridge.

  • How do you handle family and/or friends requests for your time when writing?

With a snap and a snarl. LOL It depends on what it is, really. If it’s homework help (especially math!), that often has to, uh, wait until I’m done… or forever. If they want to take me out to dinner, I’ll make the sacrifice to leave right away. (Kidding! I’m kidding.) We’ve worked out a system. They know that I’m working in the morning, until at least 1 PM, Monday through Friday. During that time, they try not to disturb me unless it’s an emergency.

  • What is your daily writing regimen?  Are you more of a morning worker or a night owl?

I’m an insomniac and a total night owl, but that doesn’t work so well with family, or with trying to write, at least for me. If I don’t get the words in first thing, they don’t get done. So, despite my natural tendencies, I get up and write, and I don’t do anything else until I meet my daily word count goal. After that, if things are moving along I’ll keep going, otherwise I switch to dealing with online classes, email, things for 1st Turning Point (where I’m the Cabin Girl) or Membership Chair duties or whatever.

Once my family is in bed for the night, I go back to work until my eyes glaze over. By then, I’ve spent so much time on the computer that I can’t really tolerate any more for the day, so I’ll work at the kitchen table, going over my plotting, character sketches, drawing maps of my world, things like that. I am trying to turn my schedule around a little bit, though, because I have trouble staying awake to write when I’ve been up until 4 or 5 AM, then have to get up by 8 AM to get the kids to school.

  • Do you use any audio or visual aids when writing?

This lovely photo (taken by my hubby, the photographer), has something to do with my WIP. Shhhhh... it's a secret.

This lovely photo (taken by & © my hubby, the photographer), has something to do with my WIP. Shhhhh... it's a secret.

I use photos of movie stars or models out of catalogues and magazines as references for my characters, and I have piles of pictures I’ve collected over the years of everything from lingerie to a baby’s stuffed animal to a castle above the sea. Now I’m working on drawing up the world I’m creating.

  • What is the most important thing you need to have happen before you can begin writing a story?

Hmmm, tough question. I’d say it depends on the story and the day. I’m a pantsing-plotter, so I can go at a story both ways, but they each have drawbacks. If I get too caught up in minutia, I can do detail work forever and never write. I once created a 400-member family tree, not just with their names, but their dates of birth and death, the name of the hospital, city, state, country where they were born, the cemetery where they were buried, the college they graduated from, the church they got married in, where their kids were born, why they moved there… I mean, it went on forever, for characters three or four generations back (including aunts, uncles and cousins and all of THEIR spouses – I had to make up my own genealogy forms, because the standard ones only deal with direct lines of descent!), who were never going to be seen or mentioned in the book.

However, if I just start writing, I can get 50 pages down pretty fast, but then come to a screeching halt because I have no idea where the story is going or who the characters really are or need to become. I’m taking an online class with Laurie Schnebly Campbell this month – Plotting Via Motivation – that is helping me identify the critical things I really need to know before I start writing, while keeping me from getting too bogged down in irrelevant details. We started with a brand new story idea for class, but I’m going to take her Master Class in March (through WriterUniv) and apply the concepts to my WIP to identify and resolve any plot holes or problems with characterization.

*Extra Note: as mentioned above, I’ve completed Laurie’s wonderful course now, and the truth is that I’m really a plotter. The pantsing never worked out well. Thanks to Laurie, I’m now a happy plotter!

  • What is your most embarrassing moment regarding your writing career?

The most embarrassing moment I can think of (among many. Eh-hemm), happened in my very first writing workshop when I was in college. The workshop involved, by turns, each student bringing in copies of a completed short story for everyone else in the class to take home and critique over a week’s time. The following week, we’d deliver our critiques for the class. The first problem turned out to be length. Everyone else in the class believed “short story” meant no more than 10 or 12 pages. Mine were never less than 30, so my classmates really hated me when it was my turn, LOL.

But the really embarrassing moment was listening to my first critique. I could tell something was up when I walked in the door, because my classmates were fairly bristling in their seats. They couldn’t wait to let me know what they thought, and what they thought was that I was a complete and utter idiot! They loved the story. Loved it. Until the very last page, when I made the ultimate newbie-writer mistake by killing off all my characters in one fell swoop because I had no idea how to end the story, and I knew I was already way over my page count. They were positively furious. Then the instructor jumped on the bandwagon to let me know how very uncool that was and how I was to never, never, ever do such a thing again. I think it took a solid week for the blood-rush to drain back out of my cheeks.

  • What is the best moment regarding your writing life so far?

There have been a lot of great moments, but the very best has to be a tie between my first GSRWA meeting and first OlympiaRWA meeting. Oh, and the Emerald City Conference. And being asked to join 1st Turning Point. Becoming GSRWA’s Membership Chair. Too many to count! Though I have to admit that getting The Call will probably jump to first in line when it happens. I know you guys will understand that one!

  • What’s your favorite comfort food?

Chocolate is the only possible answer to that question.

  • What’s one of your favorite words?

Again, chocolate.

  • What’s a word you hate?

“No.” ‘Nuff said.

  • What are some of your writing career goals or plans for the next few years?
    The pirate garb is the favorite in my family

    The pirate garb is the favorite in my family

My goal for this year is to complete, polish and send out my WIP. My dream, five or so years from now, would be to have the third book in my series coming out, to wild acclaim, of course. I’d also like to develop an online workshop. I enjoy taking them so much, I’d like to try my hand at giving one if I can come up with enough content that would be beneficial to people. I’d also like to get the nerve up to do some live workshops or public speaking, but that’s a phobia of mine, so it will require serious work on my part to be ready for anything like that. The writing is #1. If I’m lucky enough to do some sort of book tour/signing type thing, I’d love to include a signing booth at a renaissance or fantasy faire. That would be a blast, and let me make use of all my favorite costumes, many of which were made specially for me by my middle daughter.

  • What words of wisdom would you like to leave us with?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last year is to write your story your way. Don’t try to force it to be something it’s not, or something that doesn’t feel right to you. If you fight yourself too much on that, it sucks all the joy right out of the process. Writing should be fun, even when it’s hard.

March 2010 Bonus Question:

  • What is the first American city to put police on bicycles?

In its modern form: Orange, New Jersey. (Thank you, Google!)

Answer to January 2010 Bonus Question:

The first soft serve ice cream machine was located in an Olympia Dairy Queen!

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 ♦ 4 Comments »
Lesa Dragon, Conference Chair Extraordinaire

Lesa Dragon, Conference Chair Extraordinaire

The Emerald City Writers Conference took place in Seattle on October 9-11, put on by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America chapter. I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As a conference virgin, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The only other large-scale gathering of a “conference” nature I’ve attended that even came close was LeakyCon 2009 in Boston last May, which was fabulous, but all for fun, not business. Leading up to this conference, I had a lot of worries, despite knowing that many friends would be in attendance.

The first worry, of course, was what to wear. No, not the writing or pitching or meeting scary editors/agents (who were completely wonderful, in any case.) “Business casual” is tough to define, especially for someone who has been out of the official workforce for so long. Did I need a suit jacket? What about the shoes? Luckily, the ECWC organizers had a special email loop for conference attendees where every conceivable question could be answered by the organizers themselves or people who’d been to conference before and knew what to expect. They were an amazing resource, and I know that loop helped calm the nerves of more than a few newbies. The fact that we devolved into comedy toward the last few days before conference helped enormously, and also got us started thinking about scheduling for 2010. Sunday morning PJ & bunny slipper sessions were a popular suggestion, as well as Friday and Saturday night workshops in the bar at 1 AM. It turns out I’m not the only writer on earth who is a confirmed night owl and not a morning person. Who knew?

I carpooled with Kate Diamond (check out her posts on Damned Scribbling Women), which was a blast. We went up to the hotel a day early in order to attend a synopsis workshop led by Deborah Cooke (Claire Delacroix), and to help stuff goodie bags for the conference. Kate was a hoot to drive with, full of great advice and book recommendations. As a double finalist in the Emerald City Opener contest, she was also a great resource to pump for info on craft and the business of writing. That’s a girl who is going places. Remember her name.

Tamara Lynne Smith & Kate Diamond

Tamara Lynne Smith & Kate Diamond

Deborah’s synopsis workshop included several “AHA!” moments (and what a gracious lady! She was a pleasure to listen to.) I’m confident that everyone who attended will produce synopses much easier, and the results will be far better, thanks to the information Deborah provided.

I had the pleasure of driving Terrel Hoffman (leader of the infamous Eye of Argon annual Friday night reading – that was another first for me, and quite an experience! Google it if you’re unfamiliar with it. I dare you), Monica Britt and Kate Diamond to the workshop, which took place at the Mercer Island Library, and spawned this all important question: “How many romance writers does it take to find a library?” Answer: “Four, if they have gps and a cell to call Kate’s husband for directions.” Thank you for getting us to our location with time to spare, Mr. Kate Diamond! :) Monica and Terrel kept us in stitches the whole way there and back, and through our several wrong turns.

After that, it was back to the hotel for stuffing goodie bags and chowing down on excellent pizza in the hospitality suite. What an eye-opening experience! I knew, in a cerebral sort of way, how much work is involved in putting on a conference of this magnitude, but seeing those ladies in action was something to behold. Their organizational skills were incredible.

As a bonus, we also got to scope out the raffle baskets, as they were being put together and final touches added in that room. I put my name on several and tried to tell them not to bother wrapping them up for the raffle, just to send them straight down to my car. That suggestion was uniformly ignored, although I did wind up with the one I wanted most of all, The Plotting Princess, which contained a hand-made tiara along with plotting tools. It was put together by Shelly Shellabarger and Celeste Deveney, who made the tiara, and was completely fabulous! I also scored a terrific basket full of signed copies of Julia Quinn’s novels, which I cannot wait to tear into, I love her work! Yes, you read that correctly, I won TWO baskets in the raffle! I never win anything. Never ever. I still can’t believe two fabulous baskets came my way, it was so exciting! That happened for a couple of people over the course of the weekend, actually. One generous soul donated her second basket back to the raffle, since she’d already won one, but I am far too selfish for that. I won two baskets and I kept two baskets!

Friday began with a meeting of volunteers in the hotel lobby, so we’d know where to be/what to do over the course of the conference, then it was downstairs to registration. From the first moment, any lingering nerves vanished. I was immediately among friends, whether I’d ever met the person before or not. To a man (or woman!), every single person I met was a delight. My only regrets were in not having more time to spend and not getting to meet everyone. What an amazing group of people! Truly fabulous, from the brand-newbies like myself to the multi-published authors, who were unbelievably generous with their time and wisdom. I’m not going to list everyone by name because invariably I would accidentally leave someone off and I don’t want to risk that, because absolutely everyone was just wonderful. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on the conference itself, and to everyone who went out of their way to make us all feel welcome and comfortable.

There were too many wonderful events over those three days to go into them all. That conference had everything! Fabulous keynote speakers (Christine Warren, Deborah Cooke and Lisa Jackson), wonderful agents and editors (Alexandra Machinist, Elaine Spencer, Megan McKeever, Wanda Ottewell, Steven Axelrod and Peter Senftleben), the incredible Cherry Adair, whom I have heard Theresa Meyers, of Blue Moon Communications, describe as “a force of nature” and now know exactly what she means!

I signed up for Cherry’s Write the Damn Book! challenge this year, which means I have one year from the close of this conference to the start of the next to write and finish a book. The requirements are to start a new novel and finish it within that year, and if you do, you are eligible for a drawing for fabulous prizes. Cherry is incredibly generous! But she’ll hunt you down if you don’t finish and you’ll have to explain to her exactly why not. Be warned! Since I am in the middle of one novel already, I have to finish that one first and then write the one for the challenge, which will be the second in my series, so lots of writing for me this year! That’s a good thing.

As if that weren’t enough, the workshops truly boggled the mind. It was SO hard to choose which ones to attend. Thankfully, the conference was recorded, minus a couple of workshops, so the CD will be a real asset to have, but I still hated to miss anything.

New friend, and fellow Las Margaritas Amiga, Helen Cho

New friend, and fellow Las Margaritas Amiga, Helen Cho

I first attended Elaine Spencer’s “Always Wanted to Know but Been Too Afraid To Ask?” session, in which she was extremely forthcoming about the business and what to expect out of the submission process. Dinner and the keynote on Friday night was followed by Cherry’s Write the Damn Book! awards for the previous year (congratulations, everyone! I intend to be up there with you next year!), and the Agent/Editor panel, during which all six of them answered quite a string of questions, and conference attendees were able to get a better sense of what each agent/editor was interested in seeing.

Then came PitchFest! We divided up by table, each of which had one published author to help us all work on our pitches and refine our delivery. I was lucky enough to be seated with the lovely Gina Robinson and a group of incredible writers. Everyone’s stories were so interesting and fun to listen to, so diverse. Each person had valuable advice to contribute to the table as a whole. The support and generosity of spirit of writers in general never ceases to amaze me. The hope that everyone there would do well and succeed in their goals was a palpable feeling in that room. Every single person was invested in helping everyone else be the best they could be. It was inspiring to see.

I ended up deciding, rightly I believe, not to pitch at this conference. I am just not far enough into my novel. I didn’t want to burn any bridges by pitching something that wasn’t ready, but the PitchFest experience was invaluable. I know I’ll be ready to knock their socks off when the time comes, and I want to send a personal thank you to the ladies at my table for their wonderful and constructive feedback on my story. Good luck to you all!

On Saturday I started off by working the Hospitality Desk. I very much recommend that conference newbies, in particular, volunteer to help with as much as you can. It was an amazing experience, and because of the volunteering, I got to meet far more people than I would have otherwise. Plus, it was a LOT of fun!

After my shift, though, it was time for the workshops. Over the next two days I attended classes given by Bob Mayer, Linda Wisdom, Cherry Adair, Eileen Cook, Sharron Gunn, and moderated for the incomparable Mary Buckham. My mind has been on information overload ever since, but in a good way! I have reams of notes and every lecture contributed such value.



Then there were all the just-for-kicks events. The newbie reception. Eye of Argon reading in the lobby. The fabulous book fair, where I had to practice far too much restraint. It was so hard not to walk out of there with a copy of every book! The Dinner Divas, where I met a fantastic group of women I am excited to call friends. Karaoke! OMG! If only I’d had my video camera! I did get a few pics, all from karaoke night, as you can see, but overall I was just terrible about remembering to take out my camera. Next year I’m going to hang it around my neck or something so it’s always available, and make sure the video camera comes with, because there were many video-worthy moments! Never let it be said that writers are lonely, solitary, quiet-type people. At least not romance writers! These people know how to party, even the shy ones.

Dancing for karaoke

Dancing for karaoke

What an event! There was so much more, I can’t begin to describe it all, or all the wonderful people. One thing is for certain: ECWC is one event on my “Never to be missed” list. I’m so glad ECWC was my first conference. Any others I ever attend, including Nationals next year, will have a job trying to outdo it. It was a truly memorable, amazing experience from start to finish. I just wish it could have gone on longer! Thank you, again, to everyone who worked so hard to deliver such an exceptional event. You guys ROCK!

Thank you, too, to everyone who went out of their way to congratulate me on this beautiful new website (thank you again, Emma!) and tell me how much you’ve enjoyed it. You guys made my day, everyday.