Author spotlight with Virginia Ripple and book giveaway

I am super pumped today because I am doing another, yes you read that right, ANOTHER author spotlight and book giveaway. SQUEEEE!

Today, I have the fantastic honor to feature Virginia Ripple. Virginia has been telling stories since she could hold a crayon but has also felt Called to ministry since she was a toddler. As long as she can remember her desire to write has been alternately eclipsed and balanced by her need to serve God. Since moving back to her home town, she has written two non-fiction books:

  • Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives: when life seems impossible to cope with, God reaches out to remind us of his promises for our lives. Journey through scripture to meet God in new and unexpected ways as you discover what it means to “Fear Not!”
  • Simply Prayer: a non-fiction book that explains how we often make prayer a lot more complicated that it needs to be and gives ways to make prayer simple and enjoyable.

Her future plans include writing several Christian fantasies, as well as teaching various workshops and Bible studies. The adventure of writing non-fiction to writing fiction keeps her on her toes.

Welcome Virginia! I am so excited to have you here and to learn more about your process as a writer.

Thank you, Natalie for featuring me as part of an author spotlight here on your blog. I’m so looking forward to interacting with everyone in the comments.

So you’ve written two books that are non-fiction and are currently working on your first fiction novel, what are some of the difference between writing in the two styles?

Writing non-fiction is pretty straight forward. You have facts and anecdotes, things that will directly help a reader. While a non-fiction book can have entertainment value (and should if you really want to keep a reader’s attention), it doesn’t have to.

Fiction, on the other hand, means spinning a tale that may or may not create a change in the reader and it has to be entertaining. If it doesn’t, then there are plenty of other things that person could do instead.

In either your fiction or non-fiction, are you a plotter or a pantser? What’s your writing process?

I started out as a pantser for both, but I’ve since discovered things go smoother and faster when I have at least some kind of plan.

Generally I begin by imagining what the story might be about. I do a little work on who the characters are, but just the basics. Then I start plotting, filling in the details. After I’m satisfied with my outline, I start writing scene by scene. I don’t worry about chapters because then I get overwhelmed thinking about how many words the book “has” to have.

I can’t say I’m a complete plotter, because, as I’m writing a scene, sometimes the characters take over and lead me down a path I had no idea was there. After I finish writing that scene, I adjust my outline if I need to, make a few notes of things I made need to change later and move on.

How did you come up with your non-fiction or fiction ideas? Is there a different process for each?

There’s a very different process for each, at least for me.

With non-fiction, I look for questions to answer that could help someone. Being a former minister, I tend to see a need for people to re-connect with their spirituality, with God, but oftentimes we make it harder than it needs to be. That was the reason behind Simply Prayer. I heard a lot of people complain about spending just 15 minutes in prayer because “it’s too hard.” I wanted to help these people understand what prayer is and give some ways to do it that were fun and maybe not what they’d thought of before.

My fiction ideas come in flashes of scenes or dialogue. I rarely begin writing a story with the intent to answer a question or make a specific point. I hate fiction that is only a sermon in disguise. Why would I want to inflict that on a reader if I don’t like it?

How long does it take you to write a novel from start to finish?

So far it’s taken a year per book. I know there are others who can produce a book every month or every six months and maybe someday I’ll be able to do that, but for me it’s about quality. Well, that and my perfectionism.

My husband actually had to talk me out of scrapping Simply Prayer and starting over when I found a few typos in the proof copy.

What’s your advice to writers JUST starting out, like me? What do you wish you would have known when you started out?

What you learned in high school English isn’t enough to make a career of writing. In fact, it’s just barely a beginning.

Read as many books on how to write as you can. I like the Write Great Fiction series because it breaks everything down into components from structure to character building to dialogue. And don’t discount writing blogs.

Find people who will support your dream and make a commitment to work toward that dream every day.

What’s coming up next from you? Tell me more about your fiction work on the horizon?

Right now I plan on releasing this current book later this year, most likely around Thanksgiving. After that I have five more planned in this series.

What’s your favourite Urban Word? Ever used it?

I don’t have a favorite Urban Word, though I have to say I’ve had a hard time explaining my sudden laughter at work after reading some of the ones you’ve posted here. 😀

Would you share an excerpt from Simply Prayer?

The Proper Position

When you think of prayer one of the first images that often comes to mind is someone kneeling either in church or at the foot of a bed. But that doesn’t mean that kneeling is the “appropriate” and only way to pray. In truth it doesn’t matter what position you choose. If you feel more comfortable kneeling, then that is how you should pray. However, if you feel moved to stand, to sit, or even dance, then that is what you should do.

Imagine talking to your best friend. What do you do? You choose a comfortable position. If you’re home or in a coffee shop you usually sit in a comfortable chair. If you’re standing in line at the store you may lean over your cart. It all depends on the situation. However, when talking with your friends the position you’re sitting or standing in does not matter to the conversation. It’s the same with God.

The book sounds incredible Virginia and wonderful suggestions on how to make prayer a part of your every day life and how to keep it simple and easy. For years, I’ve used prayer as a way to feel connected with my Dad and Mamma K who have both passed on. I keep it pretty simple and basically just have a conversation with either of them in my head. Sometimes in bed before I go to sleep, sometimes when I am driving, and sometimes when I am just sitting watching TV or taking a bath. I believe they hear me and I believe when I have concerns or confusion, they speak to me by whispering to my heart. I have found it to be one of the most profoundly healing discoveries in my own life. You are right. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Virginia, thank you so much for swinging by my blog. Your two non-fiction books sound touching and inspiring. I can’t wait to see what your fiction holds for us. I wish you all the success in the world.

Enjoyed Virginia so much you want more?! You can:

What about you; any questions for Virginia? Have you made the switch from non-fiction to fiction and have advice to share? How does your writing process differ from hers? 

Book Giveaway Details


  • 1 special edition signed e-book of Simply Prayer (open internationally).
  • Grand prize: a signed paperback of Simply Prayer (open to US/Canadian)

How do you win?

  • The book giveaway is open all week; February 27-March 3, 2012 (11:59 pm AST).
  • You will earn one entry into the draw each time you comment on any of my blog posts this week.
  • Tweet about this post and earn an additional entry (be sure to put my twitter handle @nataliehartford in your tweet so I know).
  • On March 4, 2012, I will put all the names in a hat and hubby will draw the names of the winners.
  • Check back March 5, 2012 where I will announce the winners.


Guest post by Barbara McDowell: Rehab for writers in hiding

Barbara McDowell

Today, I am ticked pink! I know…shocker! But seriously, I am thrilled to welcome my long-time (since the very beginning if you can believe it) blog buddy, Barbara McDowell, to my digs. At her blog, Life Can’t Drive 55, Barbara posts about a variety of topics such as her musical inspirations, writing journey, the quirks of life and longstanding addictions for all things dancing, performance, reality TV shows and boy bands. Barbara’s confessed that In Sixth Grade, She Wanted to Be a Go-Go Dancer and She’s Like the Runaway Bride When It Comes to Class Reunions. Some other faves include 7 Things To Not Do While Driving, and Who Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up? Her Rants from an Idol Addict posts are a hoot and provide keen updates from her now 11 seasons of watching American Idol. She also recently wrote a touching tribute about Don Cornelius, the founder of Soul Train. Do make sure you pop over to check out Barbara’s blog. She’ll welcome you in and pass some dark chocolate.

Take it away, Barbara!

Thrilled to be here, Natalie! I appreciate you for letting me wander in from the winter winds.

I am a short story writer, budding novelist, blogger and occasional poet. But as of six months ago—when I went into writer rehab—without seeing me in a class, at a conference or me telling you, you wouldn’t have known it. See, I’ve been a writer in hiding.

I know I’m not the only one. I’d point out some others to you, but see…they are still in hiding. There are places we all meet to cavort in our masks. The locations vary and the times are preferably when popular reality TV shows are on so others are at home and no one sees us.

Some of you may be thinking, “you poor thing, why would you hide your creativity and life spark?” *stopping to accept some hugs and gather the tissues* Well, one doesn’t set out to live in hiding. It is born out of listening to some limiting beliefs from others and embodying them as your own. It is a progressive thing that seeps in and grows. And the limits become fears. And the fears become habit.

I come from a family of science and math types that, while fascinated by my vivid storytelling and on-stage antics, didn’t believe there was a viable future in someone being a writer or performer. Yes, some may become stars in these fields, but I was told to be more practical. First limiting lesson learned: Writing isn’t practical.

So I told no one I wanted to be a writer.

One thing I do have going for me is an independent spirit (hello, true Aquarius over here) and stubborn streak. I wiggled my way through elementary, middle and high school as a quiet writer. I thrived in English classes and spent my time in Biology and Algebra filling notebooks with my poetry.

Moving on to college, I made my first run out of hiding. Insert a minor in creative writing paired with some scarfs and head wraps, and I thought I’d be a writer. Then a guy I dated would come over and find me sitting on the dorm room floor, scrawling away in my composition notebook with Hendrix playing and incense wafting. I fancied myself to be a generation too late, displaced hippie writer. He’d always make a crack about what I was writing. The fact that I was writing. Next limiting lesson learned: Writing is silly and people will mock you.

So my non-writer friends never saw my writing.

Then came death by English department workshop. Let’s throw a mix of sheltered, self-absorbed, emotional 18-22 year-olds into a circle and move the critique switch to “go.” And it wasn’t lost on me that most of the time I was the only minority in the room and since that minority was black, the expectation soon became that I’d channel either a Cosby Show or Cops sensibility with no leeway in between.

No, my parents aren’t doctors or lawyers. What do you mean a suburban setting isn’t realistic? Yes, I am writing what I know. No, I’ve never seen a drive-by. Yes, I could write about one, but I’d have to go do some research. Okay, I get that you want to hear some slang, but that’s not my native tongue.

And being a horror-leaning writer just made it worse. No love lost there. Next limiting lesson learned: You must write what others expect.

So I lost my voice and there would be periods of time that I didn’t write a word.

Once I made it into the work world, writing was relegated to a dusty hobby. I had a file cabinet organized with poetry, short stories and essays that never saw the inside of a submissions envelope. I worked wicked overtime and went back to school to earn an advanced degree. When I would write and fall in love again with the process, I’d feel like I was stealing time away from more important work. Even when invited to join a writers’ group, I compared myself to the others and felt like an imposter because writing wasn’t regular in the full balance of my life. Plus I was writing short stories versus novels. And I wasn’t published. Or I wasn’t writing full-time. More limiting lessons learned: Just writing isn’t okay. Real writers are published. Real writers write full-time. Real writers write books. 

So what does rehab for a hiding writers look like? For me, it needed to be a mental (distracting the voices with brownies) and physical (just do it!) change.

Steps to come out of hiding:

  • Call yourself a writer – Yeah, pretty simple concept there, but how many of us let the external and internal gremlin voices keep us from doing this? A huge ah-ha came for me when I tapped into the blog and then books of Kristen Lamb. One of her gems is when she said that when asked what we do, we should answer that we are writers. If we lead with telling about our day gigs and then mumble about being a writer, then writing will forever be relegated to being a hobby and having a secondary life role. Kristen has a way of facing off with the inner fears and making them quiver. I’m telling you go pronto to her blog and learn!
  • Let people find you – You know the main reason no one was commenting on my early blog posts? I didn’t tell anyone they were there. Writing by its nature is a solitary endeavor, so the boom of social media has provided so many avenues to make connections. When I joined Twitter, the doors flew open. Determine what social media tools work for you and then use them.
  • Join up with some online writer communities#MyWANA is a great starting point on Twitter to find like-minded souls that are both rock stars and former writers in hiding. The folks networking there will inspire and challenge you. Other great places are #ROW80, frequented by those participating in the A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge and #WriteCampaign, used by those doing the Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign. All great peeps.
  • Go to conferences – Don’t just go. Tell others about it. Heh, heh. Seriously, keeping immersed in the craft and sharing the time and/or travel with others shines a light on the importance. When I shared I was going to the Kenyon Writers Workshop last summer, a colleague commented “why would you want to waste your vacation time at a conference?” Once I got done telling her why, I felt bolstered by the importance of spending time for my writing.
  • Invite others in – I’ve done this by joining in conversational tweets, dialoguing with people in blog comments, e-mailing and asking others for help and most recently hosting some guest bloggers.
  • Flash people! (cough) I mean do guest blog posts – This was a huge fear of mine. The inner voices of doubt contradicted as they wondered what if no one comes to read it and what if everyone comes to read it. There is a sense of vulnerability in putting your words and thoughts onto another person’s site. But I tell you, it is so freeing. People outside of your circle will not only see you…they will see you as writer.

I won’t shoot up rockets and sparklers and tell you that the process of embracing my writing life was instantaneous. Remember what I told you earlier about my stubborn streak? What I can tell you is that working up the courage to move towards being the writer I know I am meant to be has been worth every step.

Thanks again for having me, Natalie! I hope everyone enjoys the post. You can always find me at:

Visit me at:
Follow me on Twitter at: @BMcDowellOH
Read my recap articles on season two of The Voice at:

Is your writing life and personal life fully intertwined? 

Do you write content or in a genre that others find unexpected? 

Have you ever felt pushed to write something else?


Barbara McDowell

By day, Barbara McDowell works in training and development, managing the educational needs and course development for the staff of a regional accounting firm. In the depths of the night, she is a crafter of stories birthed with dark, human themes. Suspense at each corner turned. Terror sometimes waiting at the end. Initially a short story writer, Barbara is in process on her first novel that focuses on the twists of redemption and forgiveness. A lover of coffee, cats, crime dramas, crochet, conspiracy theories and chocolate, Barbara can be found blogging at or tweeting at @BMcDowellOH.

Thanks so much for coming over and sharing such a wonderful and open post Barbara. I think there are so many of us out there, me included, that can relate to your experience. I am still finding myself struggling to “put myself out there” as a writer and I haven’t fully intertwined my writing life and personal life fully yet. It’s coming but slowly. In reading your words and experience, I draw a great amount of comfort, support, strength and inspiration. You are forging the path and I am right there with you.

We are writers, here us ROAR!

P.S. In case you missed Monday’s post where I spotlight author Elena Aitken, you should definitely check it out. There’s a great giveaway!

Author spotlight and a book giveaway!

As most of you know, in July/August 2011 I took Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course (go sign up for her next class) with about 40 other writers/bloggers. Our class was called WANA711 and you can find most my fellow classmates in my Circle of Friends on the right-hand menu.

Given that so many of our classmates are published (traditional and self) authors, the WANA711 class has decided to do book/blog promotion throughout February and March. So watch for more author spotlights, book giveaways, and blog guest postings among the Circle of Friends.

Elena Aitken

It gives me great pleasure today to welcome Elena Aitken to my blog digs! Elena is a writer, a mother of twins, a swimmer, a wife, a volunteer, a runner, a friend, a triathlete, a daughter, a sister, a Brownie leader (recently retired), an auntie, a cyclist, employee…she’s doing it all!

She’s been writing in one form or another since elementary school. She turned to non-fiction for a number of years and was a regular contributor to local parenting magazines, published in four Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, and a compilation by Seal Press. It wasn’t until 2005 that she tried her hand at writing fiction and wrote her first novel. It’s buried on her hard drive but she’s written four more that she shares with the world:

  • Drawing Free: sometimes Mom loses herself in the daily struggle. What would happen if one day, Mom just kept driving? (her latest release)
  • Nothing Stays In Vegas: a contemporary romance novel spanning the bright lights of Las Vegas to the tranquil Canadian Rockies.
  • Unexpected Gifts: a Christmas romance.
  • Betty & Veronica: a touching short story showcasing the power of best friends.

Welcome Elena! I am thrilled to spotlight you on my blog. I recently read both Drawing Free and Nothing Stays In Vegas and I have to tell you, I was totally blown away and more than a little jealous. The story lines popped, the plots and subplots were interesting (with a couple of twists I did NOT see coming), the writing was smooth and flowing, and the characters were amazing (believable, authentic and so real they jumped off the pages).

Thanks, Natalie for having me over here on your blog. I’m super excited to hang out with you. Even if it’s only virtual.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? What’s your writing process?

Is it cheating if I say I’m both? I actually am a bit of both. I do like to have a somewhat clear idea of what’s going to happen in a story before I start, and I’ve recently started using a technique called storyboarding that’s really helped me develop all the key points of a story. BUT…it’s never that straight forward because every single time I start writing, the characters kind of take on a life of their own, and lead the story in a different path. Inevitably, I end up adjusting my original plan. For me, the key is to be fluid and listen to the characters. And yes, I realize that makes me just a wee bit crazy.

How do you come up with your story ideas? I mean from the very start; how do you brainstorm, pick a final idea to run with, and then develop the idea with a plot and subplots?

That’s a tricky question. Story ideas have never been a problem for me. They tend to pop in my head at all times, always have. I’ve always made up stories in the strangest places, but in the car, while driving longer distances has always been my favourite place to brainstorm, which is handy because I drive a lot. As for picking the final idea, that’s harder. I usually go with the idea that won’t leave me alone. I work it, developing it in my head, creating scenarios, etc. If it works, I’ll try sketching it out. Sometimes, I stall out at that stage, which just means I’m not ready for that book at that time. But other times, it works. It’s usually the story that keeps nagging and won’t leave me alone that makes it to the planning stage and ultimately the writing stage. I have to love an idea.

How do you develop your characters?

Oh, another tough one. Character creation usually comes from an amalgamation of traits I observe from those around me and of course, my imagination. What I usually do is sketch out a few details and then just start writing and the character develops itself. Of course this almost always means I have to throw out the first few thousand words I write, but that’s okay. Because I write women’s fiction, all of my characters are usually someone I’d be friends with or at least know in real life. Even if it’s someone whose actions I don’t agree with all the time, I have to relate to them in some way.

How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?

That totally depends on the book. With Unexpected Gifts, my Christmas story, it was fast. Really fast. I think I wrote the first draft in five or six weeks. But with Drawing Free, I wrestled with that one for almost three years. It got three complete and total rewrites, a whole lot of stress, and a ton of angst. But I couldn’t give up with that one. For me, Becca’s story in Drawing Free, needed to be told. Nothing Stays In Vegas was a pretty fast write for me as well. I think the first draft took a total of three months. Of course there are edits and rewrites after that. I’m fairly prolific which is good because I have a lot of ideas!

What’s your advice to writers JUST starting out, like me? What do you wish you would have known when you started out?

Hmm…I think the best advice I could give is to write what matters to you. Fall in love with your characters and love your story. You have to want to go to the keyboard everyday and totally immerse yourself with these people/characters. I think too many writers fall in the trap of writing what’s ‘hot’ or what they think agents and editors want. Don’t. Write what YOU want. I wish that someone would have told me earlier to trust my own voice. But even if they did, I probably wasn’t ready to listen. Another good piece of advice… find a quality writing group. Write. Submit. Learn. Repeat. Always write. Always. It’s the only way to get better and find your own voice.

What’s coming up next from you?

I’m really excited about my next project. It’s tentatively titled ‘Sugar Crash’ also known as ‘The Diabetes Book’. It’s the story of Darci, a single mom who doesn’t need anyone and can do it all. When her daughter Taylor is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, they’re forced to adjust to a new lifestyle and Darci has to learn that it’s okay to let others in. It’s a powerful and raw look at diabetes, but of course there’s a love interest and a few twists thrown in as well!

I’m so enthusiastic about this book because it’s based loosely on one of my dearest friends and her personal experience and I’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds to Team Diabetes in support of much needed diabetes research.

What’s your favourite Urban Word? Ever used it?

Hmm… I love all your urban words. BUT I really liked Vajazzle. That word made me giggle every time I read it. Also, I’m a huge fan of making up words that work. Bring em’ on, Natalie!

Would you share an excerpt from Nothing Stays In Vegas?

I would LOVE to! I thought I’d share something a little fun, and dive into a little bit of Chapter Six.

Leo took the key from my fingers and slid it into the slot on the door. I had a flash of something.

Hesitation? Uncertainty? I knew I was being very forward, brazen really. The total opposite from how I normally act. But when I looked into his dark eyes, I didn’t care.

We’d barely stepped inside, and Leo grabbed me and spun me so I was pressed against the door. And this time when his lips met mine, I was ready for the way my body would react to him.

At least I thought I was. His lips melted into mine the same way they had earlier, my body responded with a thrill and I pulled him closer, securing my hands around his waist.  As the kiss grew deeper, I needed more.

It wasn’t enough.

Everything I thought I knew about myself went out of the window and I bit down on his lip in what I hoped was an invitation for more. I thought my body might explode from the heat.

Leo kissed me deeper and this time I didn’t over think it. I let myself open up to each one of the sensations he stirred inside of me. As long as we were kissing, I didn’t think.

I couldn’t think.

It was as if all of my energy and focus was channeled into Leo. But when he broke the kiss, sucking on my lower lip as he pulled away, a million unwanted thoughts came crashing into my brain.

Should I be doing this? I didn’t even know this man. I was still legally married. Am I making a smart decision?

If my uncertainty showed on my face, he didn’t notice. His back was turned and he led me across the floor to one of the queen sized beds.

“This one’s yours,” he said. It wasn’t a question. 

I smiled, my concerns forgotten as I looked at the two beds. The one closest to the window was covered in clothing. Shoes, blouses, a dress and two purses lay on the comforter. It looked like that half of the room had been ransacked. Or, someone couldn’t decide what to wear. The bed we were standing in front of was freshly made from housekeeping. The novel I was reading earlier lay open on the pillow.

“Only you would bring a book to Vegas,” he said. He lifted it, marked the page with a napkin and placed it on the bedside table before turning back to me. He ran his thumb down the side of my face, until it touched the corner of my mouth. I closed my mind to everything except him. When he touched me, I no longer cared if I was making a smart decision, every nerve ending in my body sparked and reacted to him. That was all I needed.

I ran my hands down his chest, feeling his muscles through his shirt. His hands were on me as well. They moved down my bare arms and my skin tightened in response to his warm touch.

He didn’t kiss me, but instead looked into my eyes. Somehow the connection between us intensified with the anticipation. Feeling bold, my fingers found the buttons on his shirt and began to work them free. I took my time as I undid the first two, but my pace quickened when the fabric parted, exposing his bare chest. Impatient I yanked the fabric, popping the bottom buttons free. He still didn’t break eye contact with me, but I could see his lips turn up into a smile.

His hands came to rest on my upper arms, his thumbs worked slow circles on my skin.               

With a small smile of my own, I pushed my hands beneath the open fabric of his shirt and slid them up his chest. The feel of his smooth skin, chiseled from what? Time at the gym? Physical work?

It didn’t matter.

The feel of him under my fingers cranked up the level of my desire. I moved further up and over his shoulders, pushing the shirt down and then before I realized what I was doing, I took half a step forward and bent my head so my lips pressed onto his bare skin. With small kisses and nibbles, I worked my way from his neck down his torso. His grip on my arms tightened, and he let out a moan. When I got to his waist and his belt buckle I straightened up and looked straight into his eyes again.

“Jesus, Lexi,” he groaned and crushed me to him. His lips were no longer soft or slow, but full of heat and need. His hands released my arms and reached behind my neck, untying the halter. The soft fabric fluttered down, revealing my bare breasts. He stripped himself of his own ruined shirt before his hands found me again.

God, he was beautiful.

There was no time to study his perfect form, the touch of his hands on my chest distracted me from all thought as he slid them down my chest and between my breasts leaving a trail of heat as he went. Leo’s hands didn’t stop moving. In a quick motion, he unzipped the back of my dress and pushed it over my hips. It pooled to the floor and I stepped out of it.

“You’re gorgeous,” Leo said and he pulled back to look at me. I was thankful for the red satin panties set Nicole had urged me to buy instead of wearing my usual cotton. With my hair falling over my shoulder, I felt sexy and not the slightest bit insecure.

“Kiss me,” I whispered. I needed to feel his lips again. He obliged by pulling me towards him, but instead of kissing my mouth, his lips touched the sensitive spot on my neck, just below my jaw. I shivered and a moan escaped my lips. He used one hand to hold me to him while the other ran through my hair, gently tugging my head to the side, exposing the length of my neck. He nibbled and kissed his way down to the swell of my breasts. My body shuddered with anticipation and he stood up, meeting my gaze that I’m sure was clouded with lust.

“Your turn,” I said and I moved my hands to his belt buckle and slid the leather through. My fingers fumbled with the button but I managed to push it through and moved the zipper down. Before I could think twice, I plunged my hands into the fabric.  

Love it! Hot Hot HOT! I think you left my readers not just wanting, but dying, for MORE!

Thank you so much for swinging by my blog digs Elena. I can’t wait for your next book to come out. I’ll definitely be first in line to purchase. I wish you all the success in the world.

Enjoyed Elena so much you want more?! You can:

What about you; any questions for Elena? How does your writing process differ from hers?

Book Giveaway Details


How do you win?

  • The book giveaway is open all week; February 6-11, 2012 (until 11:59 pm AST).
  • You will earn one entry into the draw each time you comment on one of my blog posts this week.
  • Tweet about this post and earn an additional entry (be sure to put my twitter handle @nataliehartford in your tweet so I know).
  • On February 12, 2012, I will put all the names in a hat and hubby will draw the names of the winners.
  • Check back February 13, 2012 where I will announce the winners.

Please note: Elena will be on vacation when I make the draw so she will get in touch with winners upon her return February 25, 2012.

ROW80 – Round 1 – Check-in #10

Time for Sunday’s ROW80 progress update.

And let’s just say, I put play before words on the page this weekend. Hubby and I saw Jerry Seinfeld on Friday night (who was ahhhmazing…just saying!) and then we heard the camp road was plowed so we loaded snowmobiles and jet-setted to no-Internet land where we played the weekend away. I have limited experience on a sled and hubby was convinced with some training and a sled of my own, I’d love the outdoor sport and wow, was he right! I LOVED IT!!

What that meant for my writing weekend, nada on the numbers. It’s alright though because….well…my story lost a bit of its luster and I wasn’t sure why. So, while cruising around on the snow and enjoying the sun, I realized where the problem was; my main character. Ugh. She’s all wrong!!! I was trying too hard to make her NOT like another character I read in a book (talk about paranoid plagiarism) but now she’s nothing like I wanted.

Fab! Some time away gave me just the perspective I needed and I am ready for a character do-over this week!

Writing Goals:

  • Complete outline of WIP
  • Write 1750 words a week, on average 250 words a day (can be on WIP or other writings like flash fiction, character development, world building etc)
    225 words total for this week (I know….)
  • Finish James Scott Bell book (nearly done but stalled because bright, new shiny books arrived)
  • Read 2 other writing craft books
    1/2 way through  Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a ChickLit Novel

Social Media Goals:

  • Blog – post 4 times a week
    4 posts – total word count: 2341
  • Blog – post ROW80 progress reports twice a week (Sunday and Wednesday)
  • Tweet/Comment on at least 10 blogs a week
  • Comment on 1 new blog per week (ROW80 or otherwise)

Healthy Lifestyle Goals:

  • Cardio – 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday)
  • BowFlex – 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday)
    2 this week (and I worked my butt off at the camp – hubby can confirm!)
  • Maintain a daily food/migraine journal

The wins:

  • Rocked the writing realization.
  • Got a ton of reading in on my craft books.
  • Rocked the social media.
  • Given how sore I am tonight, I rocked my fitness fun.

Where to improve:

  • Gotta get the words on the page even on weeks when it’s sucky.

How are you making out with your ROW80 goals?

ROW80 – Round 4 – Check-in #4

It’s Sunday and it’s time to update you on my ROW80 progress. You can find a list of my goals here.

This week, I got some great feedback from a ton of you about your experiences plotting and getting starting on a WIP. I came away feeling more normal, relaxed, and a ton less pressure to jump in with both feet and be super fabulous!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and share your words of wisdom and experiences with me. You have no idea how much it meant to me. You guys rock – muah!

Since then, I realized that I am not ready to jump in on the plotting right away. I need to back up a few steps and get my feet under me a bit more. Plotting is for people who have a solid story idea that they are ready to run with. I don’t. After this week of pondering and brainstorming, I have 2 story ideas that are pulling at me strongly and I need to figure out which direction I want to take. They are entirely different genres and both would require a lot of work, obviously, but one would require ridiculously more work than the other. And just when I think I’ve committed to one and I am ready to rock, I waiver to the other. I am like a pre-teen schoolgirl torn between two boys. It’s awful!

The good thing! I’ve learned a lot from reading and following all of you! And I’ve learned there’s no need to rush the process. And writing, whatever it may be, is progress. I am taking the next week or two (or however long it takes) to brainstorm both potential ideas further in the hopes that one makes a definite bid for my attention.

And I decided never having read any writing craft books before (because I was one of those idiots who thought “who needs a craft book when you have oodles of talent?!?!?!”), I would stop doing the exercises in the books and just read a couple to get an overall impression of what’s to come. I want to get some big picture knowledge before I fire out of the gate.

Now that’s a mouthful! So how did I make out this week?

Work In Progress Goals:

  • If pre-planning counts, I definitely got my 5 hours in on my WIP outline:
    • Read 6 chapters and finished Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland….YEAHHHH!!!
    • Started chapter 1: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.
    • Did a review of 5 favorite movies/books to explore common themes that I like best (write what you’d like to read….thank you Angela Orlowski-Peart!!)
  • Had some great “cheering” emails with my ROW80 Sista – Nancy J. Nicholson who is ROCKING the ROW! Her encouragement and emails have been a life saver and she’s making magic happen on her own end which is a huge inspiration!
  • Downloaded all of Kait Nolan’s resources for writers (can’t wait to check em’ out!).

Blogging Goals:

  • Blogged 6 days (8 posts) this week including this post.
  • I read and commented on over 40 blogs (left my total count for the week at work).
  • I retweeted/tweeted on over 40 blog posts (left my total count for the week at work).
  • I reported on my ROW80 goals on schedule.

And….a little treat after reading through this entire post! Jenny Hansen has put together a little Rock The ROW Party – Photo Finalists and Party RECAP that is uberlicious! Go check it out and VOTE for your fav photo (yours truly is there…in pink hair NO less! Yes…this is shameless self-promotion…I’m not above that…)!

How is your ROW80 progress going thus far?

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