Friday, October 24, 2014

Muse Moments: Lifting my kids' playlists

Have I ever mentioned that we listen to a little bit of (almost) every kind of music in my house? Well, we do. And over the past couple of years I have to admit that I've built my 99% of my writing playlist from my kids' song discoveries. I'd never heard of the alternative groups they adore, but now not only do I know their lyrics, I've collected their tunes on my computer. When I'm ready to write I hit play, shuffle, and get carted off into my characters' worlds.

So last week, my daughter plays a song that's new to me by Hozier and I have been absolutely fascinated with it ever since. So much so that I've concocted my own background story for the lyrics and allowed it to serve as my anti-villain's theme for the angst I'm putting him through. He's in a pretty bad spot - the Black Moment - so one song can't carry the whole ordeal. I added in Muse and Incubus and the guy is now out of his mind.

It's been a long week at work. Forgive me, the writer, who's taking it out on the people in her pages. Imagination has its perks. Let's see what you think:

Here's Hozier singing "Like Real People Do." The opening verse says:
"I had a thought, dear
However scary
About that night
The bugs and the dirt
Why were you digging?
What did you bury
Before those hands pulled me
From the earth?"

There's also "Starlight" by Muse. The lyrics that move my keyboard are pretty simple:
"Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations"
But it's mostly the way he sings "I just wanted to hold you in my arms."
And then lastly (for tonight) I've been stuck on "Love Hurts" by Incubus for over a month now. He sings:
"Love hurts...
But sometimes it's a good hurt
And it feels like I'm alive.
Love sings,
When it transcends the bad things.
Have a heart and try me,
'cause without love I won't survive."

Now back to the tormented lover in my book who's about to lose it all. Without love, he won't survive either. Fade to black.

'Til next time, find more me at and

Monday, October 06, 2014

Raking words

Leaves have invaded my yard. The heat kicks in without manually prompting the thermostat. I tossed my grandmother’s quilt across my bed. Fall has arrived. 

And it just occurred to me that I am SO ready for a change in season. 
I can’t say I’ve been in a rut that only autumn can cure. Or that I need a blast of winter to blow all the crap out of my life. No, I’m welcoming the change the way you welcome clean lenses on a pair of dirty sunglasses or open curtains after a dark night. Fresh perspectives are good. 
So the WIP (ridiculously close to finished for too many weeks now) also got a fresh look last week as I spent several nights re-reading it from page 150 forward. That was about 150 pages of me trying to act like a reader, not writer or editor, immersing myself in a stranger’s story. 
For the record, it didn’t work. But what I accomplished was perspective. Yes, the characters are on the right track. The upcoming moments – some heart wrenching, some triumphant – will ring true. And like summer fading into autumn, I will have to let this story go in order to move on to my imagination’s next season. 
Picture me gathering words onto pages like leaves raked into a pile. That’s me today. #changingseasons #amwriting

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to work

Is anyone else wondering where Summer went? I am. Can't believe the kids go back to school next week. I, personally, could use another month now that I realize Fall is around the corner. There's no denying it: We drove to St. Louis last week to visit family and noticed that trees all along I-94 have begun to shed their green in favor of autumn hues. Already.

Too short, as always, but the summer was well spent. Especially that week with family. I hadn't seen my brothers in far too long and we spent the days simply enjoying each other's company. I suppose people who see their family members all the time can take laughter around the table or debates over news stories or sitting in silence together for granted. I was good, I didn't.

In fact, I didn't write a single word on my story during the entire week. Oh, I thought about it. Even opened my laptop on a few occasions, but I didn't want to immerse myself in my other world and run the risk of missing out on what was happening around me in my real world.

I'm now behind on my word count and won't have the book finished in four days as planned, but hey, it was worth it. On the drive home I felt refreshed in a way that has nothing to do with sleep. I popped in a Michael Jackson CD as rain fell across I-80 and managed to untangle a web of story snares I've been wrestling with for weeks. I couldn't write the ideas down (since I was driving and all), but managed to remember all the plot solutions until we got home. They're now safe on a piece of paper covered with squares of scribbles that only mean something to me.

They mean a lot to me. Because now, with about 88 pages to THE END, it's back to work.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Blog in the Round

I was very excited to be invited to participate in Blog in the Round - 4 Questions and Pass It On by Montlake Romance author Liane Spicer. She and I have traveled some of the same ups and downs in our writing journey and she’s been a wonderful colleague and faraway friend in my writing world. I’m honored that she thought of me. Liane was asked to participate by the fabulous Marissa Monteilh. Blog in the Round is a great way for readers, and other authors, to get to know us better, and it demonstrates the amazing author camaraderie and support that we have for each other.

So, here goes:

What am I working on/writing?

I am about 25,000 words from the end of my latest fantasy romance that features a pretty awful villainess. I have to say that she’s a blast to write. There’s something about her having no sense of remorse that allows the words to flow. She’s easy to define, which makes the heroine – her opposite – easy to define and write as well. When I finish this WIP, I plan to take a break and write a novella or two before diving into the WIP’s sequel.

How is my writing/work different from others in its genre?

When I published Where Souls Collide seven years ago, African American authors who wrote paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi, seemed hard to find. Over the years, I’ve found that’s not really the case. We’re out there, but more importantly (to me), I don’t want my work to be defined by color.

My characters are diverse and their everyday problems – from finding love, to unemployment, to the threat of divorce – are universal. I always work around a theme of second chances because I believe every person and every character deserves another chance to get it right. I just happen to find that so much easier to ensure with a little supernatural intervention.

Why do I write what I do?

My kids have heard the story of how I loved Mio My Son (by Astrid Lindgren) over and over and over. I read it in the fourth grade and I still remember how devastated I was by the idea of eating subtraction soup: the more you ate, the hungrier you got! Who would think of something like that? I guess it got my mind going because I gravitated to stories depicting fantasy worlds. Eventually my fascination spread to my TV viewing because Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and the Night Stalker became my favorite shows. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Toni Morrison and, later, Anne Rice became my favorite authors.

Not to mention that my mother was an AVID romance reader! I’d go behind her and read as many of her paperbacks as I could. I practically inhaled those books as a teen. It would be many years later before I merged my two reading loves – romance and the supernatural, but once it happened I haven’t really thought of writing anything else.

How does my writing process work?

I sit down and I start writing. Not true. I sit at the computer and usually waste a good 20 or 30 minutes online. I do. But I keep a writing journal and at the start of each month I list 4-5 writing-related goals for the month. They include a target word count, a social network action, something related to industry memberships or craft workshops, and web site tweaks. It’s the word count that gets me offline and on to writing.

When I look at the clock and see how much sleep I can get after two hours of writing (I do have a day job), I pull up my iTunes and start my WIP’s playlist. Music is an integral part of writing for me. My current playlist includes movie soundtrack music (from Inception, Looper and Thor, for example), along with alternative songs from groups like Muse, rock from Evanescence, and pop from Bruno Mars. It’s eclectic but the overall list works together to set a desired mood while specific songs help direct the characters’ actions. 

I write until I either fall asleep, surpass the word goal or the characters stop talking for the night. Then, I log my word count and words written for the day in my journal, make a few notes for the next day and shut off the computer. (But there are always sticky notes nearby because the mind never stops!)

Thanks for dropping in. You can always visit me here or on Facebook or Twitter as well. And be sure to stop by Liane’s page, too.

‘Til next time, happy reading!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Won't let go at any price

Today is the last day of the 2014 Romance Writers of America conference. Several of my romance-writing colleagues are in San Antonio, Texas, attending workshops, signings, parties and otherwise professionally commiserating. Wish I was there.

Kind of.

I've been thinking about re-joining RWA for the past couple of years. While my book was in limbo I didn't see the sense of it. I have my local critique group to keep me moving forward on my WIP and I didn't want to invest in a membership I didn't feel qualified to utilize. But how can I move my writing career forward if I'm not on top of industry changes and connected to the writers who are making a go at romance? It was one of those catch 22 situations for me.

You see, RWA's express purpose is "to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income."

So, in a perfect storm of events -- a week that I wrote 12 pages pulling all-nighters after the day job, turning a significant plot corner in my story, and watching the RWA conference posts start to flow through my online feeds -- I traipsed over to the RWA, filled out the doggone form and just joined.

Sheesh, Stefanie.

I can't tell you how good it feels though. So, re-joining the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) chapter was the next stop along with the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America (GDRWA). I am really excited -- ecstatic -- about taking these next steps to move my journey forward.

Next year's RWA conference is in New York from July 22-25. I'm already planning to take the time off from work. I might drive. I might fly. But I do want to be there.

In between, my WIP will be finished and published and I'll be on book two of what I plan to make a series. Gotta set goals. Gotta go for them. Otherwise, what's the purpose of having a dream?

As I started writing this post, "If You Leave" by The Cure was blaring from the radio. The lyrics, "...touch you once, I touch you twice, I won't let go at any price," seemed meant just for me today. Re-committing to my writing career is both easier and harder because I've touched it once or twice: I've been published. I know what it takes and I know how that feels. I'm back in and I won't let go at any price.

"I always knew we'd meet again...someday."

Keep believing!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The feeling never gets old

Where Souls Collide by Stefanie WorthToday I peeked into Amazon to find that Where Souls Collide has eased back into the Top 100:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,655 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store) #94 in Kindle Store; Kindle eBooks; Literature & Fiction; African American; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

It's just the inspiration I need as I'm facing an unmet word count goal and the need to go to sleep because I have to work in the morning. So, forgive me if I set my sights on the prize and get back to writing.

Where Souls Collide on Amazon

Book trailer, excerpt and reviews for Where Souls Collide

Friday, May 16, 2014

Being Back

In the weeks since my last post, my brother was diagnosed with cancer and I stopped writing. Some people can charge through life's curves by setting their keyboards afire. Not me. I admit. This kind of thing brings me to a screeching halt.

In the early weeks I actually felt guilty about even wanting to put my God-given talents to use on fiction. Surely I had better things to do with my time and talent. I guilted myself into a few fits and starts; days when I'd say, "Your WIP is calling..." or "Your characters miss you..." or "You're not waiting on some magical checkered flag to rev your engine are you?..." But really, my family and I needed each other desperately for those first 21 days or so.

Then I began to see glimmers of a new normal: I slept through the night and actually felt rested the next morning. I went a whole day without bursting into tears. (Though my heart still trembles out of nowhere several times a day...) My brother met a fellow cancer warrior who lifted his spirits and quieted ours. And then I knew that I could return to my back-burnered pages.

Can I admit that I had no idea where I was in my story when I went back? It's like leaving any book midway through and picking it up after a month. I had to backtrack, refresh, re-introduce myself to the people in those pages. Once I'd forgiven myself for attending to my life, the words began to flow.

This book itself has had more than its share of ups and downs. Originally slated for publication in 2011 (then re-scheduled a time or two), I wrote the bulk of the first draft while I was going through my divorce. I should have brought the manuscript to a screeching halt while I gathered my wits, but I didn't. I forged ahead.

When the edits came from my wonderful editor Monica Harris (God rest her soul), Dorchester went into bankruptcy and the rights to my unpublished book went into limbo. It would be two years before the company and my contract found a new home when Amazon bought my former publisher and I became a Montlake Romance author.

During that time, I reluctantly started another book. Monica passed away, my oldest son went off to grad school, I settled into singledom, and realized my original story now belonged to an author with a new mindset. My beautiful cover deserves to sandwich some pages. So late in 2013, I started that story -- The Wicked and the Wonderful -- again, in earnest. And then the cancer curve came.

Yesterday, I re-read the scene I left off on six weeks ago. After some editing (which I usually don't do while I'm writing), I even scribbled the first few paragraphs of the next scene on the back of a marked-up page. And today, I'm writing this post.

I feel okay. I'm doing okay.

I won't bother typing in yesterday's changes. I'll put those pages into the draft binder with the rest of the manuscript's pages and move on to the next square in my plot chart. I'm looking forward to the villain and the heroine meeting up ahead. I hear their words and I have found my smile.

Being back is good.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

World Book Day

In honor of World Book Day, I decided to go around the house snapping photos of all our books (except the ones on my nightstand, which you saw here.) Not that I was surprised, well, ok, I was surprised by all the books we have stacked up, laying around, read and unread, loved and forgotten.

The books on the shelves in my office are actually deceiving because they're stacked three rows deep. The collection of an unknown number of mass market paperbacks with broken spines and yellowed pages, that's the shelf that houses books I swear I don't remember. Like you'll see Taltos by Anne Rice there. That story I recall fondly. Waiting by Frank M. Robinson is well-thumbed but...I guess it's been a long time.

(That crown on top of The Thorn Birds, oh, that's from my reign as Miss Black Teenage World of Missouri. Another story for another blog...)

Then let's see, there are shelves in the hallway that house a range of books. There's one holding the "baby" books that my daughter kicked out of her room last year. Yes, that made me sad (*sniff*) because she booted them to make room for her teen fantasy picks like the Evermore series and books that add angst to a tween life that doesn't need one more word of drama. (Oh, the humanity!)

There are books on those baby shelves, however, that came from my parents' house. Titles like Oliver by Syd Hoff and A Bargain for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban were mine when I was little. (Frances was a favorite.) In fact, me and the kids spent over an hour last week thumbing through all the titles from Barney and Big Bird on up. We have so many books crammed in there! The shelf beside the baby shelf houses series like Narnia and Harry Potter.

Mind you, each of my kids has his/her own bookshelves in their rooms. While the girl is drawn to angst, the boy gravitated to Eragon and Hunger Games.

I grew up in a house full of books and I have faithfully continued that tradition. There is another shelf in the hallway with books from home. I have The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (in two volumes) and I wonder if my father has ever noticed it's missing...

You can see The Tommyknockers (*teeth chatter*) hanging out on the second shelf there and on top of the book shelf are books written by my writing friends in the early days of this author's venture into publishing.

So, one that note, I have to make one special mention. I think it's pretty cool that I always wanted to be a writer and that I grew up to be an award-winning journalist and an author.

As much as I've written about it over the years, I'm not sure how many people know the story of me walking into a Borders bookstore one sunny afternoon in downtown Detroit and seeing a book by Phyllis Bourne called A Moment on the Lips. I picked it up, took note of the cover and the publisher: Dorchester, it said.

I bought the book and sent off my manuscript to that publisher's new African American romance line. And guess what? They offered me a contract for Where Souls Collide! The book that inspired my submission was Phyllis' first book, too, and a couple of years later, we would both pen novellas for The Holiday Inn anthology. Pretty cool, huh?

Indeed, all the years of reading and writing collided that day and I have enjoyed every moment of this adventure in words.

Happy World Book Day!


Write. Now.

Dear WIP,

I'm out in the community repping for the 9-5 this morning and all I can think about is you...

The playlist that draws me in with its sultry strains of Linkin Park, Gia, Likki Li and anything Inception...

That scene where she discovers what's really going on...

The moments he wonders how on earth he lost her...

And my villainness on the war path.

Yes, in this space of day where the crowds have lulled and I'm left to my deepest, dark thoughts, I dream of you, WIP and the surprises you have in store for me tonight. ;)

Forever yours,

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Love your heart

You may or may not know that February is American Heart Month. You also might not know that heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans. It is also the #1 killer of women -- killing more women than all forms of cancer combined.

As writers, we spend an awful lot of time with "butts in chair, fingers on keyboard" -- as we should to meet word count goals and publishing deadlines. But you should also love your heart enough to get up 2-3 times an hour and walk around. Go get a glass of water (and drink it!). March in place for 60 seconds. Run up and down the stairs a couple of times.

Study after study continues to show that too much sitting has a negative effect on your health. I totally understand the importance of finishing that next scene. I've also seen the devastation of heart disease up close. And to know that 80 percent of all heart disease is preventable gives me all the more reason to get you off your butt today.

This red-lipped kissy face is for you and the 1100 women we lose to heart disease every day. Every day.

Love yourself. Love your heart.

I Go Red for my grandmother, my grandfather and myself. Who do you fight heart disease for?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Word Tease

Photo excerpt from page 43 of Where Souls Collide.

Sure, he wants her. But will he win her. . .

Saturday, February 15, 2014

PICTURE OF THE DAY: Books on the nightstand

Sweet dreams?

I have to-be-read piles all over the house: magazines in a basket under the window, research articles in my office, books by genre on the hallway bookshelves, an assortment of reading stuff in the family room, and (of course) the ever-present list in my head.

But this is the short stack on my nightstand -- part research, part pleasure, part test of nerves.

What's in your to-be-read pile?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Spoken word

Last night, I wrote an entire scene of dialogue. Just dialogue. That's not something I've done before and it's definitely not the way I usually write. But I really liked it.

I could say that's the approach I took because I was tired or I knew we had a big day at work today and I needed to shut down early. But truth is, I think the two characters in this scene were talking at me so much I could only quiet them by translating their conversation via keyboard -- with a quickness.

By not troubling myself with facial expressions, smells, gestures, sounds, setting, etc., I forced myself to get every word right in establishing the purpose of that scene and moving the plot forward. What they said to each other is crucial to the story. And because I pared down the writing to nothing but dialogue, they said what mattered in a way that will make it easy for me to go back and fill in the supporting cast of  facial expressions, smells, gestures, sounds, setting, etc.

I have to say that I like this bare bones approach. Every now and then (I confess), I've lost my writer's way along the road to creating a crisp night, or a steamy love scene. I finish what the characters are doing and lose the precious phrase between them that turned the action from right to left, from predictable to..."didn't see that coming!"

But not last night. Even as I re-read the scene, I know what they were doing because I chose active, vivid words that relay their pain and disappointment, their discovery and surprise.

It made me think of a movie I LOVE. Have you ever seen Closer with Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman? (Oscar-nominated, thank you.) That flick is a study in dialogue for me. I watched it over and over again when it was out years ago, and each time I felt compelled to rewind if I missed a single sentence. What they said mattered, word after word.

Which is how a book should be written.

It shouldn't be a string of 80,000 words, but a melody of 80,000 acoustic notes, so that when you say them aloud and the reader plays them through his/her brain, they ring authentic and emotional.

And when you miss a word -- the right word or turn of phrase -- the attentive reader knows that the conversation is out of key.

Whether or not I'll write tonight's scene as pure dialogue remains to be seen. It's early for me to hunker down. But already, I hear the heroine's voice pleading at me to not miss a single note -- uh, word. Seems she has more tunes via story to tell.


(Photos via Microsoft Clipart)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Send me wishes

You've probably seen that meme floating around the internet about how being a writer is like having hundreds (or thousands!) of tabs open in your browser. A little too accurate for me today, summed up like so:

Send Me Wishes

Must. Write. Now.
'Cause scribbles in my head don't count.

But I'm distracted by

the waiting stairclimber,
impending snow,
sleepless children,
fictional kisses,
sad news,
the dishwasher's humming,
a Diet Coke crave,
open windows in my brain

that let everything in.




So about those wishes...
Must. Write. Now.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

No resolutions, just perspective

I heard the promo for Ed Gordon's radio show the other day. The one where Stephanie Mills remarks, "How can you have all those people around you and you die?" (in reference to Whitney Houston).
Looking forward to a fantasy-filled 2014!
It got me thinking: You know, it's not about the size of your entourage, posse, clique, fan base or group of followers. It's about who makes up your sister-girl circle, fellas, friends, "fam," etc. Let's face it, some people care more about what you do than the you in what you do.
So my wish for all of us in 2014 is that we surround ourselves with truth - people who lift us toward light with love. Let's just work to be better each day and rise above our own expectations. When we fall, get over it and get up. Never stop believing that we are divinely equipped and inspired to achieve our dreams.
Here's to you and yours, me and mine in 2014: Happy New Year!