Gone Fishin’

Fishin’ for words, that is. I’ll be out of town until next Saturday at a writers’ retreat with 9 women. We’ve rented a beach house in Virginia Beach. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom. From morning till about 3:30 PM, we’ll go off on our own to write. In the afternoon, we’ll come together to talk shop or read excerpts. For dinner, one of the writers will cook up some yummy sounding meals. She’s already sent us the menu:

  • Saturday: Guiness Beef Stew, bread, salad
  • Sunday: Chicken parm, and pasta in a roasted tomato sauce
  • Monday: General Tsao’s shrimp, rice noodles and stir-fried veggies
  • Tuesday: We eat out together.
  • Wednesday: Whatever fish looks good, fixed some delicious way, asparagus (or anise) and either risotto or wild rice.
  • Thursday: Sausage (chicken) and peppers
  • Friday: Fritatta

Another writer loves to bake desserts and there are promises of a chocolate cake, warm and gooey from the oven. Did I mention I’m bringing my Couch to 5K podcasts so I can continue my interval training? ;-)

This sounds like it will be a wonderful break for me, but let’s not forget the real reason I’m going. The writing. I started my new novel during NaNoWriMo in November 2009. Do you know what today’s date is? After writing about 27,000 words, I was catapulted into the world of book promotion for my first novel, which came out that same month. Not much writing, except for blogging, has been accomplished since then. And that’s a very baaaaaaaaaad thing. So, I need this trip to get me back on track. In fact, there’s a wee bit of fear that I won’t be able to, but I’m doing my best to ignore it.

If you happen to stop by while I’m away, feel free to send me some love. I’ll need it. If I don’t respond right away, that’ll be a good sign.

Catch you when I get back. Have a wonderful week doing things that make your heart sing.

[Update: See my post A Vacation for My Soul for more on my retreat experience.]

And the winners are…

I want to thank everyone who participated in this giveaway, whether you entered to win a copy of my book, posted news about the giveaway on your Facebook page or blog, or stopped by to leave a friendly message.

Drum roll please . . .

And the winners are:

21) Sam I am

22) Cynthia

28) Heather

I have sent emails to the winners. If you don’t receive it, please contact me at Margaret@MargaretReyesDempsey.com and provide your full name and mailing address, and indicate to whom you would like your book personalized.

If you didn’t win but are interested in reading The Benefactor, it is available in both print and e-book formats. Please see my website for further details.

Thanks for sharing your favorite books with me. Happy Reading!

Giveaway: 3 Signed Copies of The Benefactor

I was planning to do this Giveaway on Ground Hog Day, sure that Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow, dooming us to six more miserable weeks of winter. But I don’t need that punk Phil to tell me nuttin’ as I sit on Long Island buried under a foot of snow. So, for all of you who are finding it difficult to get out and just want to settle in with a cup of tea and a book, I’m giving away 3 signed copies of my romantic suspense novel The Benefactor to see you through the cold.

Here’s a blurb:

They say the truth will set you free…

After her parents’ tragic deaths, eight-year-old Kate Barrett began receiving anonymous gifts from someone called Secret Friend. Years later, after landing a challenging job and the apartment of her dreams, she is caught off guard when another package shows up at her now unlisted address. Troubled that someone is watching her every move, she sets out to discover the stranger’s identity.

The pressure rises when a coworker’s flirtatiousness crosses the line and Kate makes a disturbing discovery at work. Just when things couldn’t get more bizarre, love comes from a surprising direction, and shocking clues to the mystery surface in an unthinkable place. But nothing can prepare Kate for the truth about Secret Friend, the deaths of her parents, and how her destiny has been cunningly manipulated.

See my website for reviews, praise, an excerpt, etc.

The Rules:

  1. You are automatically entered to win if you post a comment at the end of this blog and mention a book that you love.
  2. One entry per person, please.
  3. No entries after 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, January 30, 2011.
  4. Winners will be selected at random and announced on Monday, January 31, 2011.
  5. No purchase required.

Good luck! Feel free to link to this post on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. so your friends and family can enter as well. And if you see something here that you like, subscribe to my blog to get notified of new posts and future giveaways.

Have a good weekend.

UPDATE: The winners have been announced in the post And the winners are…

Marketing or Madness? You be the judge.

That there is the Ron Popeil of book promotion.

Who is that crazy man hanging upside down, you ask? My dad, of course. Hi Dad. :-D

For the record, I’ve warned my parents that any information that comes my way may end up in a blog. Now I think they just might be tempting fate. When this photo showed up in my inbox last night, well…you can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s what mom’s email said:

I just got an urgent call from Dad in the basement, which requested that I bring my camera. Being the helpful person I am, I hopped right to it – and this is what I found:

Dad reading “The Benefactor” on the Kindle while on the inversion table with Marilyn in the background and the name of the book indicated on the alphabet play mat.

Should I send for a psychiatrist?

Um, well, maybe.

Needless to say, I howled with laughter. That’s truly inspired, dad. And inspirational. It’s been a little over a year since my romantic suspense novel The Benefactor was published, and I admit it’s been a learning experience trying to balance promoting the book with writing my next novel. Midway through the year, I started to devote more time to the writing part. But Dad has reminded me that as long as my book (baby) is out there, it needs to be promoted (nurtured). So, my very first new year’s resolution is to do just that.

The Benefactor is available in both print and e-formats (including Kindle). Check out my website http://margaretreyesdempsey.com for information on the book, reviews, excerpts, etc. Here’s a blurb to whet your appetite:

They say the truth will set you free…

After her parents’ tragic deaths, eight-year-old Kate Barrett began receiving anonymous gifts from someone called Secret Friend. Years later, after landing a challenging job and the apartment of her dreams, she is caught off guard when another package shows up at her now unlisted address. Troubled that someone is watching her every move, she sets out to discover the stranger’s identity.

The pressure rises when a coworker’s flirtatiousness crosses the line and Kate makes a disturbing discovery at work. Just when things couldn’t get more bizarre, love comes from a surprising direction, and shocking clues to the mystery surface in an unthinkable place. But nothing can prepare Kate for the truth about Secret Friend, the deaths of her parents, and how her destiny has been cunningly manipulated.

One of my goals in promoting my book has always been to give back to the community. As such, all of the net proceeds from my book signings have gone to causes such as Pediatric MS (bet you didn’t know kids could get multiple sclerosis), literacy, donations to schools, etc. If anyone out there would like to partner with me for a charity event, feel free to contact me at Margaret@MargaretReyesDempsey.com.

Happy New Year! Wishing you many creative moments in 2011.

Procrastination

Happy Birthday to my Mom, a woman who never procrastinates.

Friend and fellow writer Deborah Atherton recently blogged about procrastination. I filed my nails for four days and finally read her blog. I’d been in a rut—nothing going on except the worrying that nothing was going on. In case you’re wondering, not writing was the nothing going on.

It’s quite odd to not get started on something you really want to get started on. It got me thinking about the cause, and it was at this point that I read Deborah’s blog and the article she refers to, which puts forth several good theories. When none of them resulted in an aha moment for me, I continued my pondering until some surprising conclusions surfaced.

For many years, I’ve fought the idea that a writer must write every day. As an unstructured person, I never did and it didn’t seem to be an issue. I chalked it up to personal preference and never understood why others made such a fuss. But suddenly, I’m rethinking that. I realize that for me it’s all about momentum, and that procrastination is a symptom of the loss of momentum, stemming, I think, from the dread of the effort it’s going to take to get back on track.

Case in point, last year I was in a regular exercise routine when August arrived and I jetted off to Scotland for two weeks. When I returned, I never resumed exercising. Just. Stopped. Completely. There were some attempts to restart but nothing took hold. Then, in April of this year, I decided to take the advice of Olympic Gold Medalist Jennifer Azzi, who recommends never letting two days pass without doing some kind of exercise. Almost seven months later, I have stuck to that. I exercise every day or every other day. Missing two days has happened only on rare occasions. Last month, I went on a two-week holiday to Italy. When I returned, and let me admit that re-entry was difficult, I realized that I wasn’t getting back to the routine and recommitted to Azzi’s principle.

I think we can all relate to how difficult it is to start an exercise routine when you’re not in shape. Writing is no different. When I’m engaged, the ideas are flowing along with the ink. Even if I miss a day, my mind is still simmering and “writing” in thoughts that will later be committed to paper. But when I’ve let it all go mid-novel, when I haven’t worked in weeks or months (or, dare I say, a year) and can’t remember where I left off, the thought of picking up the pieces is torture. I can’t just start writing at that point. I need to first find the novel on my cluttered desk, and reread it to figure out what the heck I was thinking, consult my notes about the various thoughts I had as I was writing, and then resume the work. Contemplating how much has to happen before I can dig in again is draining. It would have been so much easier to stay in the groove. I think it’s time for me to apply Azzi’s rule of exercise to writing. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

There was one more point that nagged at me. What is it exactly that takes me out of a task? I love to write, why would I stop? I feel great when I exercise, why would I stop? In the absence of a commitment to a principle such as Azzi’s, it comes down to something as simple as my personality type. I am a “putterer,” easily distracted. I jump from one task to the next. My friend Richard Lamb, who writes a regular movie blog (and even had posts ready to run while he was away on vacation…sigh) says I’m like a magpie, a bird prone to thievery, according to folklore, because of its penchant for shiny things. I can be in the middle of one task, when “something shiny,” as he says, catches my attention and I’m off on another adventure. He’s right. And so, it’s not the lack of desire for the task at hand, but the promise of something new that gets me every time and usually distracts me long enough to break my much needed momentum.

Lucky for me, the shiny bits this week were Deborah’s blog, Rich’s good example, and the memory of Jennifer’s sage advice. Let the writing begin anew.

Update 1/25/2011: See my new blog series Magpie’s Shiny Things.

The Beginnings of a Blog

My first blog entry and it seems there is nothing more appropriate than a few paragraphs on finding the time to write. I can find so many reasons for not starting now, whenever now may be. Bills to pay, desks to clear, books to read. You know how it goes. But whenever I take the time to write and throw away the phone and any other distractions, I’m always amazed by what I end up with. Today was one of those days. I printed out what I had on my novel-in-progress to refresh my memory, applied sunscreen, and headed outside with a cup of coffee and my Neo (more on the Neo later—for now, just imagine a portable word processor that is smaller than a laptop).

There is nothing more inspiring to me than being in nature, and today was certainly the day. Even the tree cutters and landscapers couldn’t get me down. I was in my own little world, doing my thing, typing away out front on the driveway. My neighbors still look at me strangely when I do this. I’m originally from Ozone Park, New York where everyone sat out on their front stoops. On Long Island, people don’t do that. (In fact, you rarely see your neighbors except when you ring their doorbell to politely ask them to refrain from feeding the half dozen feral cats that have decided your front yard should be their litter box. Geometric progression nightmares keep me awake at night, but I digress) I figure when I get published, the neighbors will no longer look at me strangely, but will nod knowingly, aware that they had been witnesses to a minor miracle in progress.

Needless to say, I got tons done in my novel. And the creative energy generated by just taking the time inspired me to complete the tasks I left behind in order to write. Writing must always be the priority. I’ll never create anything good if I first sit down to write after a day of mind-numbing chores.

So, more on the Neo. But first let me say that many years ago I invested in a popular laptop, one of the first models that had a full-size screen. The thing weighed a gazillion pounds and put off heat like a sauna. I thought I would cozy up with my laptop and write the great American novel in my bed at night. How many times do you think I attempted that? How about not once. The thing was just too clunky. So, I continued with my notebooks and pens. I am a sucker for supplies. My husband tells me I get an eerie gleam in my eye whenever we drive by a Staples store. I buy college-ruled spiral notebooks with colored covers and perforated pages. In the past, I used to write with a fountain pen, but lately I’m into those blue and white barreled Bics with the four colors of ink. I use the blue and black ink for writing my drafts and the red and green ink for editing my drafts.

I always feel much more creative when I am writing longhand than when I am typing. Typing is too mechanical and detracts from my creative flow. I have written entire novels longhand with no problem. My issue is when it’s time to type them into my computer. I HATE that part. It is the most tedious thing I have ever done. And I can’t pay someone to do it because they wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting. I tried bypassing the longhand stage and just typing into my desktop computer, but the distractions were a hindrance: email, stock quotes, Webkinz, Amazon, you name it. And then, I found something called a Neo by Alphasmart. I don’t quite know how I stumbled upon it. Probably in a frenzy of web surfing to avoid typing my manuscript. But there it was, a tiny little device, smaller than a laptop and under 2 pounds that offers a full-size keyboard and a screen that displays three to six lines of text at a time (I prefer four). That’s it. No email, no games, no Amazon, no stock quotes, no instant messaging, no distractions. It’s so small I can sit anywhere and type away and when I’m done I plug it into my computer and all my info gets put into a Word file. What more could I ask for? And with only four lines of text displayed at a time, I’m not tempted to constantly edit my work as I am writing (the worst form of writer’s constipation). With three batteries, I get something like 700 hours of juice. It automatically saves my words and shuts down when inactive. When I press the on button again it takes me right back to where I left off. There is room for 8 different files. Some of the techies out there will complain that it isn’t enough. But that’s the point, it’s simple. All you do on it is type your words.

Oh, and it offers a typing tutorial for those who are still using hunt and peck. In fact, at $200, I bought one for my eight-year-old son who is a budding writer and he has been learning how to type with the proper fingers. He also uses it to record the play-by-play of the Islanders games. It comes in a lightweight carrying case, with the cord to connect to your PC when you’re ready to upload, and a user manual that is very clear. Originally it was marketed to schools for students. But I have to say, it is one of the best gadgets I have ever seen for writers who want to get back to the basics and just write. In closing, let me say that I was not paid any money to say any of the above. I really do love it. In fact, I am writing this first entry on my Neo.

It’s got to be after 7 PM and I’m still sitting outside, although I’m wearing a sweatshirt now because the wind has whipped up a bit. It’s time to go in. But the creative energy is still high. I’m zapping some to all of you writers out there who are looking for a bit of inspiration. Just get outside or wherever you’re most creative and start writing whatever pops into your head. Before too long, the juices will be flowing. If anybody out there has any good tips on getting down to the task of writing, I’d love to hear them.

Nitey nite.

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