Thursday, July 26, 2012

Muse Protection Program

Photo courtesy of Svilen Milev (yes, three F's!)
As writers, we're a pretty neurotic bunch. I suspect more than half of us are also superstitious. I know I am. When I write, I have to have the same music on (Original Cast Recording from the Phantom of the Opera starring Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford), be in same clothes (smurf pajama bottoms and a t-shirt), have the same drink at hand (Dr Pepper for story stuff, Llano Blush for the sexy stuff) and be at a real desk (I've tried to write propped up in bed or lounging in the chaise and it's just so unproductive!). I also follow the exact same routine when I get on the computer and before I start writing. I like to think of it as priming my muse. Getting her out of bed and ready to face the writing day.
First, I check my email. Then Facebook. Then Twitter. I scan my favorite news sites (5 in all) then finally open up my music player and hit play on Phantom. I'm ready to go and so is my muse. She settles down and we kick some serious writing ass. That blinking cursor and white screen don't scare us!

It hasn't always been this way, though. In fact, it's only been a few years since I got BACK into writing. I was in a void of creativity for two years and it was a most depressing time. I was often grumpy and empty yet every time I tried to start anything, even write one lousy sentence, my muse dove for the covers and refused to come out. She'd been beaten near to death with a very large stick. And probably a bomb made of C4.

Unfortunately what was going on wasn't quite that obvious. It was subtle and stealthy and nearly lethal to my creative side. When I finally realized that the situation was killing my muse, I removed myself from the situation but my muse refused to come out to play.

Squee! The Muse and  I
celebrate our first
As I said, it took her two years to come back out. I lured her out with Julie Cameron's The Artist's Way, good, supportive friends, sheer determination and a rope. It was one of the hardest things I'd done but it was a positive thing. Not long after, I published Her Dark Master, my first book. I was elated.

Things went swimmingly for a while then I ran into another roadblock when I was unexpectedly waylaid by a wall of censure and cold shoulders. The thing that made this really bad is the attitude emanated from people I trusted and confided in. I fought for months and I felt my muse slipping further and further away. This time, though, I was determined not to let her go. I threw the rope around her teeny little waist and yanked with all my strength.

Then, I sat down and had a talk with myself. It was rough and often rude and there was lots of crying (hey, I said we were neurotic. Not only do we hear the voices in our heads, we often argue with them.) When the tissues were sodden and the chocolate consumed, I had an epiphany. She and I worked out a deal to protect her at all costs: write for myself, my characters and no one else. Ever since I had that brainstorm, my muse and I have been happily burning up the keyboard with lots of books (nine of them with more on the way!) and even more ideas. I can quite often be caught with my face frozen, mouth agape and brain working feverishly. Thankfully, my family is used to this expression and now, instead of calling an ambulance, they hand me something to write on.

The lesson of Muse Protection came to the fore again today when I was involved in a discussion with fellow authors about how to handle the things we all have to face like rejection, critics, ridicule and the ever popular "You write what?!" I offered my two cents, then my muse and I happily went back to writing a chilling little story that makes my skin crawl and her cackle with absolute glee.

I'm not sure about the story, but she's having a blast and really, if your muse is happy, who cares?

So, protect your muse. Protect your writing. Cull from your life those who would drag you down and pummel your muse into creative unconsciousness. She deserves much better than that.

P.S. My muse just happens to be the adult form of Ember, the daughter of Cutter & Leetah from Elfquest by the genius and talented brains of Richard & Wendy Pini. If you don't know Elfquest, then you are so missing out. It's one of the coolest graphic comic series in the history of ever. Check it out! My Ember muse image is from the Gatherum. She's totally grown, sporting a huge assed sword and looking smug and defiant. LOVE IT.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

THE Romance Writer's Conference

RWA's Annual Conference begins July 25 in Anaheim, California
Photo by Hilde Vanstraelen /

Starting tomorrow, the Romance Writers of America's annual conference begins in the bright sunshine of Anaheim, California. This four day long event is chock full of writers (both published and pre-published), editors, agents and various romance reading enthusiasts.
I so wish I was there.
Since my first conference in 1999, I have missed very few of them. Each one is different, held in a different city with a different theme. The only constant is the absolute level of enthusiasm that permeates the event. Being a writer, surrounded by other writers who get you and by potential publishers, is thisclose to Nirvana. The conference is jam-packed from the time you rise in the morning until you drop into your bed late, late at night. Workshops, seminars and editor/agent appointments are in full swing usually from 8 in the morning until sometimes 10 at night. Afterward, the hotel bar is the place to be. A lot of interesting conversations are held in the bar. If you're lucky enough to be in a city where the RWA conference is being held, you should meander on down to the conference hotel and just hang in the bar. Fascinating.
On the final night, RWA announces its Golden Heart and RITA award winners - basically the Oscars of the romance writing world.
That's usually held on Saturday night. On Sunday the hotel empties out pretty fast and I'm certain the staff breathes a huge sigh of relief that can be heard on the opposite coast.
In the years I've gone, I've been treated to some phenomenal experiences. Things that I'm forever grateful for. Here are some highlights:
I love this JG novel. In fact, I loved it so much, I named the heroine
of my upcoming book Empowered after the Madelyn in this book. She was such a great role model. I re-read this one all the time and it never goes stale.
Honor's Splendor
1999 -Chicago. My critique partners and I are sitting in the lobby of the hotel trying to figure out what to do next when one friend sees my ultimate favorite author strolling by. Without a qualm, she yells out "Yoohoo! Julie! Julie Garwood."
Julie looks over and my friend points to me and says "This is your biggest fan."
Julie smiled, came over and spent the next 30 minutes talking to us. I was in absolute heaven.

2001 - New Orleans - A good friend and I signed up for the Walking Tour of New Orleans and saw so many beautiful bits of architecture, history and downright spookiness. I fell in love with New Orleans that trip and long to return. During our tour, we passed by Anne Rice's house. Unfortunately for us, she was not in town. Our tour guide said that when she is, she always brings out a plate of cookies for the tour groups and chats with them. How cool would that have been?

The Hawkins brothers return with
Hayden's poignant story of redemption,
confession and absolute passion.

As Good as His Word
2002 - Denver - The first time I hooked up with the rocking cool Susan Gable for what would become conference tradition.

2003 - New York - This was my first trip to New York City and I was pretty darn impressed. I walked and shopped and played. One of the most fun things was going to Jekyll & Hyde's restaurant. The atmosphere was appropriately creepy even if the food was mundane.

2004- Dallas - The conference was in my hometown and I got the chance to show off Texas to my out-of-state friends. We rode the bull at Billy Bob's in Texas. Wow.

2006 - Atlanta - This just happened to be right after the Georgia World Aquarium opened and Holy Carp! If you've never been, you must absolutely go. It's breathtaking.

He's a Texas lawman carrying
a badge...and a grudge.

And he could die protecting
his unintended bride.

Laws of Attraction
2007 - Dallas - Yep, it came back just a few years later. This time I had the double pleasure of getting Diana Duncan AND Susan Gable with me. We had an absolute blast and I'm pretty sure we drove a lot of people nuts.

2008 - San Francisco - I was fortunate enough to go with another writing friend who was getting back into the business after a little bit of time off. We walked everywhere in San Fran and truly enjoyed the city. The views and people are breathtaking. Our particular favorite were the Pocket Gardens that littered the city. This was also the year I met with my future Red Sage Publisher for the first time. She was a delight.

The final book in Sophie Oak's
Fae Trilogy is not to be missed.
A lost princess, dark magic &
two men determined to find
their own true one.
2011 - New York - Quite possibly one of the best times I'd ever had at conference. I attended with Sophie Oak who is one of the smartest, wittiest and best writers I know. She is also a huge foodie. We went to dinner at Cirque where we feasted on a five course dinner that was out of this stratosphere. I still dream about that dinner.

Throughout the years, many other things have happened but those things are NOT for publication. Although, I'm sure if you make it to the conference hotel bar, you will hear some stories. A lot of stories. Most of them are even true.

Each year, RWA sponsors a free literacy booksigning that is attended by hundreds of authors. The event is free to attend to the general public and the authors are eager and excited to talk to you. They won't rush you off and they are truly delighted to see you and interact with you. So, this year the event is being held in the Anaheim Convention Center. You can see a list of all the authors signing at the link above. All of the proceeds benefit local literacy programs. So stop by, buy a book and give your favorite author a thrill by telling her (or him) how wonderful you find his work. Honestly, we really, really love to hear from you!

That being said, stop by my Facebook author page and "Like" me! I'm also on Twitter (@Jennifer_August) but I'm a bit saucy, so be warned.

For updates on my newest releases and the craziness I get into, check out my website at You can sign up for my monthly newsletter and get even more dish!

Happy reading,