Character is Everything in Storytelling – My Greatest Heroine

Grandma & Me at Two and a HalfWe create many heroines in many stories. I believe our most powerful heroines re-create pieces of powerful women we have known. The quintessential powerful woman in my life was my maternal grandmother. Whenever I write a strong woman – as I do every time I write a woman as hero – Grandma is part of her in one aspect or another.

In the novel I am about to publish – A Villain for Vanessa – the heroine travels a long way into the unknown to find what she hopes will be a better life. Grandma did that in the late 1890’s. The exact year differs in different research sources. As with many family stories there is disagreement on the details. Debate runs rampant regarding the why or how or what.

What isn’t disputed in the case of Grandma’s migration is that she traveled alone. She was a small town girl of eighteen or nineteen or maybe twenty depending on which source I credit. She sailed from England in what I imagine was the lowest class of passage and entered this very new world for her by way of Canada.

My best guess from the bits and pieces of fact I’ve found is that her expenses were paid by a family with several children. They were bringing her to what would one day be my hometown in the remote northern region of New York State. The same region where my newest novel and the three before it are set in a fictitious town named Riverton.

The family that bought Grandma’s steamship ticket was previously unknown to her. So was the climate where she would live. I imagine her caring for the children of strangers through the shock of her first frigid North Country winter. I remember her incredible garden when I was a girl and wonder if she was recreating the warm springtime English gardens of her own girlhood.

I’ve studied the customs and fashions of the specific time period when she migrated. I picture her in a white shirtwaist and dark skirt and of course a hat being greeted by people she’d never laid eyes on before. No relatives or friends had preceded her to America. She was on her own. That took courage. It was a wonderfully brave act – the behavior of a heroine.

My Uncle John had a picture on his wall of Grandma at that young age. Her hair was pulled up in a kind of Gibson Girl poof with a bow in back. But it was her eyes that captured me. They were young and most likely blue. Her skin was pale and most likely blushing. Grandma was beautiful. I wish I’d inherited that picture. I carry it in my head and heart instead.

Above all I carry in my head and heart the gentle smile in that picture. The same smile I would bask in decades later when she taught me which flowers to harvest from her amazing garden and exactly where to cut each stem. Nowadays I bask in her more aged smile gazing down at me from another picture on my wall in this room where I write.

She did her best to instill in me the courage it took to put her button-shoed foot on that lonely ship from Plymouth. The example of her courage carries me through challenge and heartbreak and triumph too. I in turn instill that courage in the strong women I write. There is something of Grandma in each of them. Not only her bravery but her loving heart too.

That’s why my heroines are so dear to me. I believe character is everything when it comes to storytelling. Everything good in my life began with Grandma – including the strong women who grace my stories. Her name was Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette. The photo here is of Alice Jane and me Alice Elizabeth at two and a half already modeling my model heroine.

 

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com https://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter https://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Villain for VanessaRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Official launch June 17 – will be available here. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE eBook at the same site and most other online book retailers.

Managing Indie Author Expectations

Baby typing imageDaredevil folks say “Danger is my middle name.” My motto is more like “Worry is my middle name. My most recent worry obsession has been what I perceive as my lack of Indie Pub progress.

I work hard at writing my novels and publishing them from my Alice Orr Books company. I have an excellent productivity ethic. My self-discipline standards are high. So why am I not speeding along toward the top of the heap the way I did in previous professional endeavors?

In my past incarnation as a literary agent I employed the same principles I follow now. I figured out exactly what needed to be done and did those things as absolutely right as I possibly could. Which worked like gangbusters on that other work life road. Now – as an independent publisher of my own books – not so much.

I whined about this to another indie author recently. She’s on the gangbusters track for sure. It is true she has a strong background in professional marketing. But I have a strong background in business. Shouldn’t that even us out? Apparently not. “How long have you been doing this?” was her first question.

“I published my first indie novel a year and three months ago.” I’d begun to detect her drift as I said that. I didn’t ask the length of her indie history. I knew she’d been at it for years.

“You’re a baby at this game.” I heard the truth of those words at once and all of a sudden my perspective shifted.

I’m well aware there was a golden opportunity window during which many indie authors were able to grab the brass ring and be pulled to mega sales territory. That was several years ago within about the same timeframe when my wise friend launched her indie career.

I’m also well aware of the deniers who speak out against what they label as negative thinking. “It’s still a wonderful time to indie pub.” They declare this repeatedly and they are right. But they leave out the caveat. That it is not and most likely will never again be those olden golden nearly instant mega sales days.

Here’s the rest of that caveat. It is still a great time to publish our books independently. BUT it will take longer to see positive sales results than in the golden years. AND we will have to work like hell to get there. In other words we’ll have to #1. Figure out exactly what needs to be done. #2. Do those things as absolutely right as we possibly can.

May I add #3? We must perform those essential activities not only as correctly as we can but also for as long as is needed to get us where we want to go. This is the aspect of realistic expectations we have to contemplate thoroughly before deciding whether or not the indie path is for us. Do we possess the wherewithal to keep on jogging for a long run?

I’m hoping I do. I intend to try anyway. I will also take a chew toy along for the tough teething times on this steep learning curve ascent. Meanwhile worrying is premature because I’m just a baby in this indie basket. How about you?

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks 

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A Villain for VanessaRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Official launch June 17 – is already available here. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE eBook at the same site and most other online book retailers.

 

Setting a Book Launch Date

Boldt CastleBeginnings are crucial or they at least seem to be. We get only one chance to make a first impression and we mustn’t squander that chance. How many times have you heard that? How many times did it make your throat clench in response? And when we refer to the beginning as a Launch the ante is definitely higher still.

Battleships Launch with the crack of a champagne bottle across the bow. We need to come up with something equally Dramatic for a book launch. I must do that now. A Dramatic Opening just like in my stories which I often jumpstart with a murder scene. But I don’t want to bump somebody off to kick off of my new book. I’d prefer to be more subtle than that.

My chosen date must be dramatic nonetheless. And memorable. And related to the story – a Romantic Suspense novel. So I’m looking for a Launch Date that is romantic somehow and suspenseful somehow. I feel the throat clench coming on and some head spinning too. My anxiety level soars as the ante does the same.

Then inspiration strikes. A date commemorating something dramatic for me. Life changing even. Romantic and suspenseful too. Plus it was literally A Date. My first date with the man who has been my romantic hero and best friend ever since. Sweet Jonathan as I’ve come to call him. Forty-four years backward in time from this coming June which is almost here.

The Ask was suspenseful for sure. I could feel he was on the verge of it but I wasn’t certain he’d actually get there. The anticipation was intense. Would he ever do anything besides gaze at me all moony eyed when he didn’t think I was looking? My girlfriend Marsha urged me to make The Ask myself but I couldn’t. This was too important to me. He had to take the first step.

Then it was Saturday June 17th. Jonathan and I worked at the same facility and we were running an event together that day. A field trip to – of all places – Heart Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. The island is shaped like a heart because the legendary owner had it re-engineered that way in honor of his devotion to his wife. He built a castle there for her too.

What a romantic story. Except she died and romance turned to tragedy. A romantic story remained unfinished. The castle remained unfinished also. I was starting to suspect Sweet Jonathan and I were destined to be unfinished as well. Then – when the suspense had my heart pounding at an excruciating pace – the climactic scene finally occurred. HE ASKED.

Dramatic. Life changing. Suspenseful. Romantic. Few days have been more of all of those things for me than that sunny June afternoon on the river I’d loved since I was a child. The river which just happens to appear prominently in my new book. In fact this exact same river comes close to drowning my heroine and my hero along with her.

The life I now live was launched that day on my river. The romantic love chapter of my life began and has since deepened into a complex and compelling story. I didn’t know our future story yet but I did know I was falling in love and found out soon afterward that Jonathan felt the same. Meanwhile I was quite terrified but he wasn’t and that saved the day.

I save the day again now for the launch of A Villain for Vanessa – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Bobby and Vanessa’s story but Jonathan and Alice’s story even more so. Because without a special afternoon of spectacular sunshine on Heart Island forty-four years ago I might never have lived my own up close and very personal Romantic Suspense.

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks 

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A Villain for VanessaRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Official launch June 17. A Villain for Vanessa will be available here. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE eBook at the same site and most other online book retailers.

 

 

 

Why I Write Stories about Big Mysterious Houses

Mansion image“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Joan Fontiane voice-overs that at the beginning of the Hitchcock film Rebecca. The first time we see Manderley we understand why it won’t leave her. Why it won’t even let her sleep without revisiting there.

I come from a place with many big mysterious houses. Manderley wasn’t just a large house. It was an estate. My personal history houses weren’t that grand but they were grand enough. At least the seemed so to me.

My family lived in an ordinary house. A Craftsman style bungalow with a wide porch and a peaked roof and dormers. I loved that house but I was fascinated by the big mysterious ones.

They lined the streets of certain neighborhoods of the town where I grew up in a remote area of New York State we called the North Country. But those weren’t the only big old houses in town. Sizable domestic structures could be found just about anywhere. Though not on our one-block street which had been built on a more human scale.

Maybe that contrast was part of what drew me to these oversized piles. I’d walk slowly past them after school even though they were out of the way from my shortest route home. I’d gaze between the broad trees across their deep lawns. Then upward floor after floor until my neck bent back at a right angle.

Who could possibly need all of that space? What went on inside that required so many rooms to happen? When I was young most of these places were still owned by single families. They hadn’t yet been split up into apartments as many of them someday would be. I imagined them occupied by eccentric elderly ladies. One of the most famous actually was.

This particular mansion was on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets. My elementary school was walking distance from there. Every spring we would parade to that corner – one classroom’s worth of kids at a time. The teacher was always in the lead. Her most trusted pupil was assigned to travel up and down the rest of the line herding strays and stragglers back on route. I was never assigned that responsibility.

I was more likely to be a stray or straggler along the blocks between Academy Street School and the mansion. But as soon as we arrived a hush would settle over me despite my reputation for never being hushed by anything. The purpose of our expedition was to look at the gardens but I barely noticed the flowers – profuse as I’m sure they must have been.

My entire attention was captured by the house. As if each of its many windows was a magnet pulling me out of myself to be sucked into one opening after another. I longed to be carried inside but I was a little terrified too. Especially the day I saw a white lace curtain move aside for a moment beyond a bed of tall blue delphiniums – as a pale face appeared at a window pane.

Was this the heiress I’d been told lived here? Was it anyone at all or had I conjured her from my hunger for a glimpse inside? If she was an heiress with wealth and a mansion why would she steal a single peek then drop the lace curtain and retreat as if spooked by a gaggle of eight year olds gawking at her nasturtiums?

Meanwhile I was intoxicated myself by the spooky possibilities. I understood that big old houses have secrets. They are built from secrets and each secret is a story. I would probably never know those stories. They belonged to people rich enough to own such places. People powerful enough to hold onto their hidden tales and keep them hidden.

My only recourse was to recreate those stories myself out of the whole cloth of my imagination and populate them with the stuff and characters of dreams and sometimes of nightmares. I’m still doing that. Each of the books of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series so far has a big mysterious house at its center and a murder in the darkness of its heart.

I delight as much in unlocking the rooms as I do in unlocking the mystery. You’re welcome to accompany me – back to my version of Manderley again.

 Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Wrong Way Home is a FREE eBook at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APC22E and most other online book retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.  A Villain for Vanessacoming soonwill be Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4.

 

How A Story Becomes THE Story – THE VICTIM

AliceOrr_AWrongWayHome_POD[1][1]I write Romantic Suspense novels which for me means that just about every story includes a murder or sometimes a couple of murders. The murder that happens first usually gets the story going. It is also what forces my heroine and hero into involvement with each other and with finding the murderer for whatever reasons may apply to their particular story.

Which means there’s a Victim. A person whose life has been taken by someone whose identity is as yet unknown with a motive for killing also as yet unknown. The suspense part of the story is about ferreting out this murderer’s identity and motive. The victim may actually appear only briefly in the story but he is crucial to making that story work.

Frequently Asked Question: Do you kill off real-life people in your stories? My Usual Answer: Not usually. Which means I might kill off real-life people in my stories sometimes. Here’s the victim of A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1. What’s your guess? Am I fictionally bumping off a nonfiction person here – or not?

Excerpt from A Wrong Way Home

Anthony Benton wasn’t in the habit of walking across the lawn to his condo complex, especially not on a miserable night like this one. He valued his Bruno Magli’s too much for that. What if somebody saw him slipping and scrambling through wet leaves like a snake in the grass? Good thing nobody important enough to care about would be out here in this damned weather. It was supposed to be spring, but you’d never guess that in this godforsaken place.

Spindly young trees whipped in the wind as far as their short trunks would bend while Anthony counted the weeks backward in his mind – one, two, three, four, a month. This crap had only been going on for a month. Aggravation made it feel a lot longer. He woke up each morning with anger churning inside him. He could barely remember when he didn’t have to think about things like whether taking the straight route across the lawn was safer than the longer way around the curved sidewalk.

How could he have ended up in such a humiliating position? Scurrying from his car to his house like a scared animal. He’d worked too hard making himself into Anthony Benton for this to be happening. Worst of all, there was nowhere in this jerkwater town he could turn for help. What was he supposed to say? “My dim bulb ex-wife is persecuting me?”

He’d be the butt of jokes from every hayseed in the county. Too many people envied him, and most of them were dim bulbs too. He’d have to put up with their sneers or be roasted all the more. That’s how it was in a place like Riverton.

The damp mist had turned into a steady drizzle. Anthony cursed under his breath and walked faster. He’d left his umbrella in the car. A month ago he would never have made that miscal­culation. He’d have had a plan all laid out in his mind with each step thought through and not a single flaw in the thinking. He’d have grabbed the umbrella from under the driver’s seat and had it at the ready in the outside pocket of his briefcase.

He’d parked under those dripping trees tonight because the walkway to the complex was only a few yards across the macadam from there. He’d done that because of her, to cut down on the chance she’d catch up to him between the car and the building, the way she did two nights ago.

She’d shouted and sniveled and grabbed at his clothes. He was sure some of his neighbors must have witnessed the scene from their windows. She’d made threats, too, said she’d get a gun and come after him.

He’d itched to pick her up and throw her as hard as he could onto the pavement right then. He was plenty strong enough to do that. He’d picked her up and thrown her before, but that was in private. If he laid a hand on her in public and somebody saw it, he’d be the one in trouble. That’s how it went these days…. End of Excerpt from A Wrong Way Home.

Anthony’s not a very likable guy is he? Don’t worry. He gets his comeuppance. In fact those just deserts are about to be served to him cold – very cold. Feel the chill eBook free at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APC22E and most other online book retailers.

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Villain for Vanessa ECover (1) 100 x 150px - 14.6KB - SmallAll of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.  A Villain for Vanessacoming soonwill be Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4.

 

How to Manage Your Writing Time by Managing Your Writer Psyche

Time Management imageQuestion: What is my biggest writing time management problem? Answer: Me.

If you’d asked me this question last month or maybe even last week I’d have said this. “My biggest problem with managing my time to write is all of the demands made on my hours and my energy and my spirit too. So there!”

Reassessment tells me this is not the true answer to the question. Why not? Because it leaves Me totally out of the equation. As if the power in my life to live my life and parcel out my time somehow resides outside of myself in other people and other circumstances.

The true answer has been banging on my head for a while now. Often from the advice wise friends have tried without success to give me. Also from my own observation of other – or the same – friends. Even from my priest who’s been talking a lot about self-care lately.

My biggest problem with managing to find time to write is the same problem I have with managing too much of my life in general. I simply do not know where to put myself in the lineup of my priorities. As one of those wise friends of mine put it – I don’t put myself at the center of my life.

I’ve been long conditioned for this behavior. My mother used to tell me I wanted to be at the center of things. As if that wasn’t at all where I belonged. Even my sainted grandmother raised me to believe that if I wasn’t making the world a better place I shouldn’t be here.

All of which I interpreted as a clear admonition to put everybody else first. To do everything I could for everybody else whenever possible. And most pointedly – at least in my hearing of it and therefore in my head – that doing for myself or taking care of myself was a bad thing.

BTW both of those women followed their own advice. One of them did so with teeth gritted and resentment in her heart. Happenstance didn’t happen well for her. The other did so with love and kindness in her heart and she fared better. But not as well as she deserved to or should have.

Meanwhile I carried on the family tradition by leaping straight into the helping professions in first one form then others. Schoolteacher. Community organizer. Social worker. Book editor. Literary agent. That last requiring perhaps the most outpouring of self of all.

Guess where most of my time was spent through all of that. On other people’s needs. And where it was not spent. “You have a right to have your own needs satisfied.” That was another wise friend talking to me. My response was to stare at her as if she were speaking a language from an alien galaxy.

I’m telling this story first because I need to tell it. But even more so because almost every writer I know – maybe almost every person I know especially if she’s a woman – needs to hear it. Because so few of us put ourselves solidly at the center of our own lives.

In particular we don’t put ourselves at the center of our writing lives. Ask almost any writer what she’d do if she were truly taking care of herself. If she were truly satisfying her own needs. That writer at her most honest would say this. “I would spend more of my time writing. But I don’t.”

We need to change that. Specifically we need to change our minds about that and our hearts too. Otherwise we will never be able to manage our time or our energy. We will never be able to give our hungry spirits what they require to be satisfied. The opportunity to express themselves.

Not to mention we won’t be able to manage our writing careers either. So there!

 Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com                    http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter                    http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks 

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A Villain for Vanessa ECover (1) 100 x 150px - 14.6KB - SmallA Villain for Vanessa – coming soon – will be Book 4 of Alice Orr’s Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series featuring the Kalli family and the Miller family in stories of Romance and Danger. A Wrong Way HomeBook 1 – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/

 

How A Story Becomes THE Story – THE END

A Villain for Vanessa ECover (1) 100 x 150px - 14.6KB - SmallYesterday was a big day for me as a writer. It would be a big day for any writer. So big that lots of excitement is involved. Happy excitement. Jubilant excitement. The excitement of relief. Naturally I wanted to share it.

“Jonathan” I call out from the multipurpose couch/daybed/pillow place in my office where I do most of my writing. “Come in here please. And bring your glasses.”

Last month Jonathan and I passed our forty-fourth anniversary of being together so he may have known the reason for my mysterious request. But he didn’t share that knowledge with me. He allowed me to build the suspense. I write Romantic Suspense after all and I love to milk every ounce of dramatic tension from a scene.

I wait at my laptop with my fingers poised over the keys. The cursor is already in place. The Solid Caps key has already been clicked. I’m ready for the climactic moment but I keep myself in check as is my nature. I maintain a cool façade when my insides may be roiling. Except if I can’t manage that kind of control. In which case it would be wise to run to a distant county.

Jonathan enters the room and stands behind my right shoulder. I don’t look up at him and he doesn’t speak but he’s excited too. I feel those vibes jumping off of him. He obviously does know what’s coming and I’d better make it happen soon or he’ll go all premature on me and you know how that can ruin things.

I touch the keys at the same instant a lump rises in my throat and tears gather under my eyelids. I swallow the lump and will the tears not to fall. Not yet for the emotion. Not quite yet. My fingers move. Six letters separated by a space in the middle form at the center of the page.

THE END

Seconds of silence follow. Reverence for what it has taken to get here. This book has been a challenging adventure and we all know what the word challenge means. This book has been a giant pain in the patoot to make happen. I’ll share those challenging tidbits in future posts. Meanwhile yesterday after those two words become a fact on the page a silence is in order.

Then the kisses begin. Starting at the neck where all sexy romantic heroes know just what to do with their lips etc. And Jonathan is definitely my sexy romantic hero. Especially where my writer life is concerned. Many years ago he was the one who asked the question nobody – including myself – had ever asked me.

“If you could do anything you wanted with your life what would it be?” The dramatic tension was high then too. I could barely breathe. I almost couldn’t talk. “I’d be a writer” I whispered. What Jonathan responded was basically “Go for it my darling.”

I’ve been going for it ever since. Right up until I typed THE END to my fifteenth novel yesterday. It’s called A Villain for Vanessa. Over the next weeks – on as many Mondays as I can manage – I’ll tell you how this story became THE story for me.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com                     http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter                    http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of Alice Orr’s Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/  A Villain for Vanessa will be Book 4 of the Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series.

 

How to Thrive through Downer Times

Black Dog imageLet’s be honest. We all have them. Winston Churchill called them his Black Dog. If Winnie could admit to experiencing the black-and-blue blues so can we.

I’ve heard a lot of folks owning up to exactly that over the past few months. Maybe it’s the failure of spring to arrive. Maybe it’s the refusal of unpleasant realities to stay away.

Whatever the motivation for a trip to Bummerville an escape strategy is needed. May I suggest three steps along that exit route.

First – Don’t Confide in Anybody but Your Journal.

The world runs on gossip. The writer world runs on storytelling gossip. We should be careful not to fuel that ride. I’m saying you shouldn’t trust anyone. I am saying you shouldn’t overestimate anyone.

People can talk without thinking. People repeat things without thinking about the damage they can do. Sometimes they even succumb to the temptation to use knowledge as currency. Especially juicy knowledge.

The more intimate the story the juicier its potential can be. And nothing is more intimate than the insider details of somebody’s emotional meltdown. The tidbit may be told with compassion. “So sorry for her hardship.” Or with bogus compassion. “Soooo sorry for her hardship.”

The result is the same. The subject of the tidbit is portrayed as down and out or on her way to getting there. An image that does her no good no way no time. Therefore Mum is the word.

Second – Smile While your Heart is Breaking.

Some call it behaving as if. Behave as if you’re fine. I know it’s fake. Worse yet I know it’s hard to do. I also know light attracts and darkness repels.

We don’t want to break down the good work we’ve already accomplished. We want to build it further. Maybe we don’t feel capable of that construction effort at the moment but we can manage to maintain a holding pattern if we try.

My brother Michael once gave me some sage advice. He suggested I take acting classes to learn more about creating story characters. I’ve come to understand the added value of making yourself into a story character when it serves your career purpose. As I said. Only your journal page requires full – or even partial – disclosure.

Third – Tell a Bright Tale Until it Comes True.

I believe in the power of professional pretense. That power has more to do with convincing yourself than it has to do with convincing others. You are the one feeling lousy – or lost – or left out somehow. You are the one who must find a way off the down escalator. The real purpose of spinning a positive less-than-total truthhood is to hear it yourself about yourself.

“The future’s so bright I’m gonna need shades.” That’s the prophecy you want to self-fulfill. Keep repeating it to yourself and everybody and one morning you’ll wake up to find those shiny lenses reflecting your vision of yourself come back to full and lovely life.

Alice Orr http://www.aliceorrbooks.com                   http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter                   http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of Alice Orr’s Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/

The Real Reason for Writers Conferences


Sunrise New Jersey imageI’m just now emerging from the sweet fog of a weekend writers’ conference.

Why a fog? Because that’s what the misty airlock feels like between conference world and my daily world. A fog of adjustment before re-entry. Why sweet? That’s a more complicated question. The sweetness of the fog is a carryover from the sweetness of the experience and the many nectars of its ingredients.

Is there a downside? Maybe the case of Crammed-Brain Syndrome many of us take with us from two or more days of workshops and panels. Or the soft brace I’m wearing on my wrist after scribbling like crazy in my notebook to capture every morsel of good information.

Otherwise I must begin my entirely personal sweetness recipe with three days and two nights in a hotel. I’ve long maintained  that room service and maid service are among the supreme triumphs of this or any culture. A twenty-four hour snack corner in the lobby runs a close third.

This particular hotel was superb by the way. The bed was just right for my Mama Bear body. The toiletries were top shelf and I did bring all leftovers home with me. Plus I awoke each morning to the glowing sunrise you see above.

The conference luncheon was great. Only a small strip of hotel chicken atop the tasty pasta salad. And the keynoter made this a standout event. Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of the most energetic and inspiring speakers I’ve heard. “You never know” she said. You never know what waits around the next corner. So keep trying. Keep hoping. Keep enjoying. Keep writing.

Of course book signings can be humiliation hell unless you’re a bestseller. I’ll never forget the time I signed next to Nora Roberts. R for Roberts. O for Orr and OMG. The P’s knew enough to stay away. But at Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference the fabulous O-P section placed me between L.G. O’Connor on one side and Caridad Pineiro on the other. Sweet indeed.

Which brings me to the delectable heart of conference world ambrosia. Writers – Writers – and More Writers. At meals. In corridors. In workshop rooms. In the bar. At informal get-togethers and more formal ones. New friends and friends in the making. All members of the writer tribe.

Writers talking. Writers laughing. Writers debating. Writers sharing. Everywhere I turned I found writers on furlough from the trenches encouraging one another to fight through and past whatever obstacles we all inevitably encounter.

So here I am post-fog. Facing the rewrite of Chapter Thirty today and the new write of Chapter Forty to come. Embraced and emboldened by the real reason I attend writers’ conferences. In order to return home afterward reminded of how blessed I am to do this author thing.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com               http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter                   http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks  .

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.

 

How to Bookmark Your Brand

AOB Sunrise ImageI said it over and over again back when I was still presenting workshops for writers. “Don’t brand your book. Brand yourself.”

I have a habit of not listening to my advice. Just ask my savvy author friends. They get a kick out of puncturing my pride with my own words on occasion in the form of a humorous anecdote. I could make a column of those witticisms called “What Alice Says vs. What Alice Does.”

To be fair to myself I did pay attention to my message when it came to one thing. The visual that banners the website where this blog appears plus my Facebook page and my Twitter feed.

I thought a lot about that visual. What image best represents who and where I am right now? Not just in my work but in my life as well? I needed inspiration so I went to Shutterstock.com and started clicking through possibilities.

Nothing grabbed me for quite some time but I didn’t mind. Compared to my usual work routine of struggle to make my characters and their actions come to life on the page – searching through hundreds of graphics felt like toddler play.

Then I saw it and I knew. Just as I was thinking I’d have to settle for “good enough” there was “perfect” staring out at me from my laptop screen. It was titled “Sunrise over the Sea” and the colors were glorious. The sky was gold and red-orange and reflected in water that turned to blue-green as it flowed toward me.

This is the way I feel about the place I now occupy and what I choose to do in this place. A new morning filled with promise. The crown of a full life spent doing things I loved – now offering fresh things I love. A dawning with mysterious adventure ahead. What will happen today?

I immediately emailed Kim Killion and Jennifer Jakes of The Killion Group Inc. We were on the same wave length as usual and within hours my sunrise was everywhere. Eventually we’d strengthen the impact with my book covers overlaying the right corner of the banner.

I couldn’t stop smiling. This was my brand. I’d had difficulty understanding exactly what Brand was until that moment. Your brand is You. Not as much what you do on the outside as what you feel – or are in route toward feeling – on the inside. I’d noodled around the edges of that. Even wrote a Blog Post about how long it had been. But the words didn’t sink into my heart before I made the sunrise my own.

Then I designed my first bookmark and that bright gold/magenta/turquoise epiphany disappeared into forgetfulness. It was a beautiful bookmark but it was for one book only. A Christmas novella no less – limited by both its singularity and its seasonal story.

The novella came and went along with the holidays. I gave away more of my thousand bookmarks than I thought I would. The rest were trash but I still liked the bookmark idea. I don’t care if they’re in or out. This is my sunrise time and I do what feels right for me. Right?

That reminder brought my epiphany winging back. “Brand yourself not your book”  goes for bookmarks too. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my new Alice Orr Books bookmark so I can send it to Killion. And – you guessed it – the background is my sunrise.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.