Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club — Lesson #17

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #17 – The Relaxed Fist Is Stronger Than the Tense One

This is one of those counter-intuitive things that makes sense once you’ve done it. When you first start training in martial arts, you think that if you tighten your muscles, you’ll deliver a more powerful punch. But you actually deliver a more powerful punch by relaxing your muscles. This is because you can generate more speed that way.

Being tense also makes you tired faster. That means you stop sooner or give up earlier.

Being relaxed about your work, your writing, doesn’t mean being lazy about it. It doesn’t mean not caring what happens. It means not believing that there is only one project, or one opportunity, or one person/editor/publisher/agent/shiny awesome orb of spectacularness that will make all of your dreams come true and you had damned well better not screw it up.

It’s hard to be creative under those circumstances. Being relaxed as a writer means not thinking, “This is IT. This must be PERFECT or I will FAIL and I will however inadvertently flush my writing career down the toilet.”

It means being willing to be wrong, or stupid, or misunderstood. And doing this whole crazy thing anyway.

Tell me about a time when you were relaxed in your writing. I want to know what happened next.

 

###

Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

Romance for Less!

One of my publishers has an amazing sale on their Kindle ebooks–all Crimson Romance releases are just $1.99 through the month of February. Jenny, Jessica, and Alicia are thrilled because they like selling books almost as much as they like writing them. Although not all of their books are Crimson releases, a big bunch of them are. So if you haven’t picked up one of their (our?) titles, now’s the time.

For more about Jessica Starre’s books, click here. Jessica is the one who is closest to me in sentiment, although she actually believes in magic. And mermen.

Jenny Jacobs, on the other hand, is extremely sweet. You would like her, although she probably has cats.

Alicia Thorne agrees with me about Greek sailors, but other than that she is kind of a pain in the ass. Don’t  tell her I said so, though.

And please remember that a portion of all proceeds of my (their? our?) romances goes to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance as part of the Jennifer Lawler Charitable Partnership. I hope for a cure; they work toward one.

 

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #16

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #16: Physical Strength Creates Mental and Emotional Strength

One of the most important lessons I learned when I began training in martial arts was not to give up when I was tired. Some of my greatest breakthroughs occurred from pushing myself a little bit more. And I found that building my physical strength (by continuing to work even when I was tired) also helped me build mental and emotional strength, not just by some magical form of osmosis but also because I applied the lesson from martial arts to other areas of my life.

Today instead of talking about how physical strength creates other types of strength, I want to talk about the idea of pushing yourself a little in your work as a writer. I’ve been thinking about this because of a project I’ve been working on that is more challenging than I expected. While part of me wants to go find something fun and easy to do, I’ve found that this more challenging project is pushing me to re-develop some good writing habits.

One of these is intense focus. Because the project is challenging, I’m tempted to wander over to Facebook every ten minutes. But the project is also heavily deadline-oriented and I don’t have time for that. So I have had to push myself to maintain focus for long blocks of time throughout the day. This is something I know how to do but over the past few years, I’ve been less vigilant about maintaining the habit. Getting it back feels good, but if I hadn’t taken on the challenging project, I wouldn’t have to push myself in the same way.

What are some things you’d like to push yourself a bit to do in your writing life?

 

###

Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club, Lesson #15

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #15: Teach others and you will learn

When a martial artist has achieved a certain level of competency in her martial art, she begins to teach it—and discovers that this is where the true learning begins. To demonstrate the techniques and coach other students, the martial artist must become intimately familiar with the mechanics of each technique, why it’s done, and why it’s done the way it’s done. To keep ahead of her students, the teacher must always strive to learn more. When she’s asked a tough questions, she may say, “I don’t know,” but then she’ll feel compelled to find out.
Her students also bring information and challenges to her that she learns and grows from. To become a good teacher, she must discover more patience than she thought possible. She will have to demand more of herself so that she doesn’t hold her students back. And she must think on her feet constantly and creatively.
The writer must do the same. Sharing her experiences with other writers is not simply a generous impulse but also a way for her to continue to master the craft. Articulating her knowledge helps her apply it to her own work.
Taking on the role of the teacher can result in even greater mastery of craft.

What are some things you have learned from being a teacher? If you haven’t taught, where are some opportunities for this?

###

Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club, #14

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #14. Know Your Target

In this lesson, I talk about knowing your audience, even going so far as to developing a profile of your reader down to the tiny demographic details that will tell you where to find him/her and how to connect.

But today I want to talk about knowing your target in a larger sense. Not that I’m trying to induce an existential crisis in anyone, but I think that occasionally stepping back and asking, “Why am I doing this?” is crucial to our growth and progress. We can forget that question in the crush of deadlines and to-do lists.

I was talking to a friend of mine last week about how I was starting to feel like a nonprofit organization, that the reason I worked to make money was so that I could keep on working. We had a good laugh, but there was also the germ of an important idea in that sentiment. I don’t do this work solely for the money, although I certainly like to pay the bills and I expect to be paid fairly. But I do the work so I can keep on doing the work. In other words, the process is what matters to me.

For someone else, it really is about maximizing profit. I don’t criticize that at all, but I can see where that person would make very different career choices than I would. By knowing what my target is, I know how to make better choices for me. And I’ll have a better idea of what type of guidance I need to seek out.

What’s your take?

###

Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

A touch of magic

My various alter egos have written a lot of romances over the years, but one of my favorite is Jessica Starre’s A Certain Kind of Magic. This was the first anything I’d ever written with paranormal elements, and I found the whole process so much fun. Here’s a peek at the first part of Chapter 1:

A Certain Kind of Magic

Morgan Reilly’s step faltered when she caught sight of the shimmering in the bushes. Resolutely, she turned up the sound on her iPod and picked up the pace, her leisurely jog turning into a flat-out run as she tried to get the shimmering out of her line of sight. Surely she could outrun it. Just because she hadn’t yet didn’t mean she couldn’t.

When she reached the stop sign at the corner of Tenth and Main, she paused and sucked in a deep draught of warm September air, wiping the sweat from her forehead and wishing she’d brought a water bottle. Wishing all she had to worry about were the usual dangers to a woman jogging alone: shin splints and rapists. She did not, under any circumstances, look over her shoulder.

The four-way intersection was clear. No surprise: it was almost always clear, despite being the juncture of the two main thoroughfares in this sleepy hamlet. That was why she’d chosen this place for her recovery, which wasn’t going very well, not if she was still seeing things.

Focus on the facts. She repeated the phrase like a mantra in time to the Ramones on the iPod. Focus on the facts, focus on the facts, focus on the facts. She needed to ground herself in the physical, the things she could smell and taste and touch. A detective did not need an imagination. Leave that to the DA who had to make the case. A detective looked at facts, collected facts, cold hard things that you could hold in your hands, that you could subject to scientific tests and store in the evidence room. First day of class back at the Academy. The job had saved her life then. No reason it couldn’t save her life now.

She forced herself to pay attention to the tall, leafy oak trees shading the street from the midday sun, the cracked, buckling sidewalk beneath her feet, to see the blue sky, partly cloudy, arching above. Very real, very concrete. She was not imagining that. She took in a deep breath.

New-mown grass, wasn’t that a good smell? Drowsy hum of a lawn mower at work, wasn’t that a pleasant sound? Nice and real. Didn’t get much in the way of blue skies and new-mown lawns in the 5th Precinct. Sweet-smelling breeze drying the sweat on her face. Wasn’t that a good change from the smog and the dirt? The scatter of pebbles beneath her running shoes. She concentrated on the feel, the sound. Real. She crossed the street.

Sometimes trauma to the brain could cause visual and auditory hallucinations after a head injury, the neurologist had reassured her. But did other people participate in their hallucinations? If, for example, you hallucinated a big, orange-striped Cheshire cat with a wide grin and the habit of dematerializing, did you also feed it, and brush its coat to get the snarls out, and smell the distinct cat smell, and feel the needle-sharp prick of claws on your skin? Did you sweep its shed fur up off the kitchen floor? Did you empty the damned litter box?

She was thinking no. But that was how vivid her hallucinations were. They weren’t getting better, despite her best intentions, despite being on leave from Manhattan South, despite the utter desperation that had driven her here. The hallucinations were getting worse. She had begun to worry that instead of dealing with a minor head injury, she was suffering a major mental illness. Not that worrying had improved her mental health any.

The small yellow house she rented was halfway down the block but even from here she could see the figure sitting on the front porch. She stumbled a little on the curb. Maybe she could keep running past. Just go on running and running, never stopping.

With a sigh, she crossed the street, trotted down the sidewalk, and took the three steps up to the porch. The individual sat cross-legged on the narrow porch rail, unlike a real person who would at least have the sense to sit on the step. He wore faded, worn work clothes, neatly mended, probably not by him. The afternoon sun glinted off his blond cap of hair. As she walked across the porch to the front door, he jumped off the rail and stood up. He was shorter than she and lighter. He glowed in the sunlight, reflecting dazzling waves of light. She recognized the pointed ears right off.
###

All of Jessica Starre’s books can be found on this list. And here’s the Amazon link! Paperback and ebook versions are available.