Writer’s Block: When your imaginary friends aren’t talking to you.
Writer’s block is no joking matter. We’ve all heard of it and most of us have experienced it at least once in our lives. My writer’s block lasted a couple of years and I worried I’d never write again. It was caused by stress. We lost our home to fire one January and my father died the next January, followed by the loss of my mom’s home due to hurricane flooding and then she fell and broke her hip. That was a really f-ed up couple of years and writing well, it took a backseat. My brain couldn’t even function.
Illness, stress, overloaded with work, family obligations or other things that stretch us too far, can impact our writing. Is this writer’s block? It’s probably a lot more than just writer’s block but for a creative who is unable to create whether it’s writing, painting, or crafting, that feeling of being stopped up and fuzzy, not ourselves is a very real problem. It’s how we express ourselves and when we’re dealing with extra stuff being able to express ourselves is often how we cope. Take away our best coping mechanism and well, shit happens. It’s like being on an infinite loop. We can’t create because we’re stressed, we want to create to relieve stress and become more stressed because we can’t create. Yeah, that’s not an eruption ready to explode.
This type of writer’s block may require more than a few simple steps. If you can’t solve this on your own by taking a break, changing your creative outlet, or asking others to take on some of the work, then you may need to seek professional assistance like a counselor or doctor. There is no shame in asking for help. If you need to see someone for a mental or physical health problem, please do so. I cannot say this enough, you cannot take care of others until you first take care of yourself.
If your writer’s block isn’t health related or due to stress, then it must be about the writing.
If you are just beginning your project and you are having trouble getting started. Have you really thought about your story? As a pantser much of my story is worked out in my head but each story is different. Some I start with a scene in my head, and I need to understand it. Some I have a character and I need to put them in a situation. Other stories I have pieces I need to string together, and some come to me whole cloth and just need to be stitched together. If you are a plotter or planner, perhaps you can’t get started because you’ve not planned enough. If you are a pantser or someone who visualizes their story, perhaps you’ve not thought about it enough and got a complete picture. What can you do to get excited about writing this story? Maybe it’s not the right time to write this story. Maybe you need some more research. Maybe you need a picture of your characters or your setting to jump start your story.
If you’re in the middle of your story and suddenly everything comes to a screeching stop, you may have written yourself into a hole you can’t dig out of. Back up. Read what you wrote before. Go back to the last place you felt was moving along well and read from there on. Usually, once you go back you can see where you’ve gone off the rails and get back on track. If not, ask what needs to happen in order to get to the ending you imagine. How will they have they reach their goal? Or if you want to keep them from achieving their goal, what needs to happen to keep them from getting what they want? Keep asking questions until you find the answers to set your story back on track.
If you are at the end and you’re stalled for how to bring it all to a close. Imagine the final scene. What do you want the reader to feel when they close this book? Are we going to have a happy ending? Or maybe, we’ll have an ambiguous ending. When you decide on the final page of the story. Write it backwards to where you are stuck and then edit. If you’re not sure how you want to end it, try a couple of different ways. Save the other endings for your newsletter or website as alternative endings.
I hope this helps. As we continue to plod our way through NaNoWriMo and other deadlines, remember to stay hydrated, take a few breaks and stretch not only your muscles but your mind as well, and keep on writing. Happy writing, y’all!
What inspires me? The short answer is everything. If we’re having a conversation and I suddenly get a weird expression on my face either you’ve said something to piss me off or inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere. Chrome Pink, my first published novel started with the motorcycle. My husband helped restore the bike for his boss that belonged to his niece’s husband who’d died of cancer. That coupled with my friend’s mother battling breast cancer started the idea. The character of Rae Lynne was my husband who I described during a writing class on characters when after the first day she said to change their sex or ethnicity but keep certain parts. I kept his attitude and mechanical ability. The story then evolved from news articles about sex trafficking and a song on the radio. Inspiration was everywhere and I just had to filter it out.
Getting inspired or feeding the muse is more about showing up ready to listen or opening yourself up to be inspired. Steven King says he doesn’t wait for inspiration he teaches it to show up every morning. Those who wait for inspiration before they write aren’t writers, King calls them waiters. No offense to Mr. King but training your muse to show up each morning takes time and dedication. It is also a luxury some of us don’t have with a 9 to 5 job or worse, a job where we work shifts and have to reinvent our muse every few weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great way for new and like me, slightly used authors to find a few minutes to dedicate to writing. The idea is to teach our muse to show up whenever we sit down to write.
NaNoWriMo is a great commitment because there are prizes at the end that make reaching the goal more appealing. It gives us an added incentive to write daily. For me, my first NaNoWriMo was to prove I could write to a deadline. Each subsequent NaNos I’ve done more for fun but also to remind myself to show up. To be a serious writer with plans of being published means you have to make it a priority and you have to make sacrifices. NaNoWriMo helps teach us how to do that. Inspiration plus perspiration creates success.
And we return to inspiration. How do we find inspiration for the next chapter, the blank page, a new character? For those of us who are pantsers it might be a lot of staring at the screen wondering what to write next but there are tricks of the trade you can develop with a little experience and experimentation. While I don’t like to outline, a list of ideas or sticky notes with scene suggestions can help with your inspiration is flagging. Skipping to the part you do know or for me, if I’m having trouble with a character’s point of view or understanding them, I’ll write a short story about their backstory. This is something you can later use on your blog or newsletter. Nothing has to be wasted.
NaNo is about showing up and writing, that is the main objective. NaNo and other writing challenges like Book in a Week teach us to make writing a priority. Maybe we can’t juggle everything between work, family and other obligations but you can choose to write instead of playing games on your phone or scrolling through cat photos on social media. Fatigue, sickness, a troubled mind, other obligations, all of these things can dampen our inspiration so developing a plan for when you have a few minutes you can dedicate to writing will allow you to bring the inspiration with you. As King and others have said, we have to train our muse to show up when we want to write. Here are some cool things I’ve heard about or tried:
Writing on my phone (Michael LaRonn). There are apps you can download but I just write in my pages. This is great when you’re at the doctor’s office or even in line at Walmart. Write a few lines of your story, an idea for a character or a snippet of dialogue so it’s not forgotten and time isn’t wasted.
Sticky notes (Kate Parker and Sarah Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes you can even have plot twists or turning points and even setting each in a different color, write them in one-liners just to give you an idea of where to go next.
Index cards (Sarra Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes this is a great way to keep track of what you want to happen in the book without a firm outline.
Journaling: keep a writing journal for inspiration, ideas, characters, etc. You can do this for each story or as a general idea book.
I take ideas from other authors and writing coaches I’ve taken classes from or spoken to and found ways to make them work for me. As a pantser I don’t want to do a lot of prewriting, but one technique Marni Graff taught me was stop in the middle of a chapter or scene and make notes about what comes next before closing the computer, so you know how to start without having to go back and read what you wrote previously. This will help you save time.
Another suggestion especially for mystery writers and this could also work for romance authors and suspense writers, write your ending first and work your way back to the beginning. I admit, this isn’t something that works for me though I fast draft to the end and often know the ending I’m planning as I start the book but as I write it may change or alter slightly.
So, what inspires me? Everything inspires me: other writers, talking about writing and books, watching something on television, having a conversation, going places, doing things, the news, research, the list goes on. If you are open to inspiration, it will be there, waiting for you. It’s up to you to invite it in. What inspires you?
Again, I paraphrase Neil Gaiman when I say, I’ve learned to write this novel. When I was writing Roxy’s Betrayal, I had to rely heavily on what I’d written in the previous book, Janie’s Secrets because they shared a parallel timeline. I had no idea how difficult this idea would be. First, I’m not a plotter/outliner. I write by the seat of my pants, also known as being a pantser. That is not to say that I don’t plan or research or have an idea of where I’m going with the story beforehand, I do. It is one of the things that insulted me about the craft book I purchased which said pantsers have no idea where they are going with their story.
Although I don’t outline my stories, I know a few things about my story and main characters before I start writing my first draft. I know some of my character’s backstory, I know or have an idea of how I want the plot to end or the climax of the story. Much of this I figure out in my fast draft. Which in truth is very much like an outline but in a story form. I call it my skeleton. I write the story as quickly as I can without much detail then I go back and add flesh, feeling, all that stuff that makes it come alive.
With most stories I start with a character or a scene, an idea that has come to me like a seedling. From there I ask questions, shed a little light on it. Some stories come to me whole, I just have to write them down, others I have to work at to find what makes all its pieces and parts fit together. Roxy took a little more work. Not only was I writing Roxanne’s story with a parallel timeline to Janie’s story. I had to figure out how she was going to meet and fall in love with Jorge, an accused murderer. Why they were trying to rescue Janie’s daughter and why they didn’t just ask for help.
I wrote several scenes as they came to me but had a difficult time bringing everything together. The bigger the series gets the more difficult it becomes to mesh each story into the next. I want to layer the family dynamics, their past hurts and future relationships, define their roles inside the family as well as give them a fun sexy romance with some suspense and drama.
I had Roxanne as part of Janie’s Secrets and there is even mention of her in Red Steel, but she was just an elusive idea not completely developed. Until I finished Janie’s Secrets, I really didn’t know who Roxanne was. As I started my fast draft for Roxy, I began to realize I’d misunderstood her. This is where backstory helps to flesh out the character. It is one of the great points in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. That without backstory there is no story.
Each novel requires a little different process. Now, if you are like the amazing Sarra Cannon, you may have discovered what works best for you to find your muse and productivity. Her methods change very little during the process of writing her novels. She has a master plan and is able to stick to it.
For me, I’ve been developing my plan as I go. Chrome Pink was written with everything thrown in and then whittled down. Titanium Blue was planned with sticky notes and written during my first NaNoWriMo, at least the first version. My middle son and his wife were great resources during this writing. White Gold was also done with sticky notes to help plan it. Evergreen Crystals was another difficult novel because I wanted to write a true romance with their happy ever after, but I couldn’t do it without killing people, so, I let my dark side out and had fun with it. I’m beginning to think I’m a little scary, I blame it on my children. Red Steel was a lot of research, but I actually carried around a small notebook and wrote down ideas, often texting my firefighter son about what this would look like if it exploded. I really want to go to some of their training exercises. Janie’s Secrets was a recycled story with a few additions. Now I’m working on the brothers’ stories. My problem is, I know Remy’s story but it’s not time to tell it yet. I know Seth’s story, but he needs seasoning. I know Trent’s story, but should he come next or should I work on Cole’s story. As I started working on Trent’s story, ideas for Cole came to me, I’m attempting to write both books in tandem but deciding which one will come first will be interesting. I don’t know if I want another parallel timeline, but I may cross timelines.
There are so many ways to tell a story so how can there be only one way to write them?
This is my third NaNoWriMo event. For those of you who don’t know what NaNo is, it is National Novel Writing Month challenge. The month of November celebrates the novel. Writers from all over the world get together via the internet and local groups, to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. (If you are a writer and you’ve not heard of NaNoWriMo go to https://nanowrimo.org and check out their website.)
In order to make the fifty thousand-word goal, writers need to compose 1667 words per day. After the first week of NaNo I have only 6013 which only averages out to 859 words per day, about half of my projected goal.
My first year of doing NaNo I wrote Titanium Blue before Thanksgiving. I tried NaNo, the first time, to prove I could do it. As a new writer who dreamed of being traditionally published, I needed to know I could produce work within a limited time frame. Since choosing to become an indie author, it is even more important to write, edit and publish quickly. My goal has been to publish at least three books a year. Since publishing my first novel, Chrome Pink, three years ago, I’ve published six books and I’m working on number 7. I’ve not quite reached my 3-book goal but two and half isn’t too bad.
For many of us this year has been exceptionally difficult. Red Steel came out just as the world was shutting down and Janie’s Secrets came out in the middle of the pandemic, I’m not sure if it was depression or just pure exhaustion that has made writing more difficult the past few months. Even though I might be failing at NaNo, I’m writing regularly and seeing results.
To my fellow writers who are doing NaNo whether you are on goal or not, you are winning because you are working. Each step forward is closer to the finish line.
I love our community Christmas parade. From the time I was in high school until my children were grown, there were very few parades I did not participate in. I have been a clown and a beauty queen. I have marched with the Aurora Woman’s Club, rode on floats with clubs and my church. I have led the parade and even acted as pooper scooper behind the horses (not my favorite thing to do). I have been on a float with Cub Scouts and marched along behind rescue big strong boys from frightening clowns. I love standing on the sidelines waving at friends and neighbors. Seeing old friends in the crowd and being reunited if only with a wave and a smile. I love the feeling of Christmas, unity and joy the fills the air. The excitement of the children as they rush forward to grab candy and gifts tossed from floats and cars. I love a parade but especially our hometown Christmas parade.
Christmas lights and decorations. I love when the town-works guys bring out the cherry picker and start hanging the snowflakes about town. They are so delicate and pretty. Maybe, if we lived someplace where we had snow on a regular basis, not every two or three years, the snowflake wouldn’t be such a wonderful thing. But here in the south where snow is a luxury that shuts down everything, the pretty little snowflake lights are wistful and fun. I also love to see Ms. Lib’s window displays. She has the best window displays for every season, but she goes all out at Christmas. Ms. Lib, a local hair stylist has a salon on Main Street. Her window displays are legendary. She also has lovely decorations in her yard. The library rivals Ms. Lib for window designs and the museum decorates the fossil park.
I love Christmas cards. I love giving them and receiving them. It is one of the reasons NaNo messes me up. I enjoyed doing NaNoWriMo this year but with it being in November, it makes me too tired to do some of the other things I enjoy doing for Christmas, like my large volume Christmas card/letter writing. I used to love to do a newsletter with highlights of what the kids and I have been up to but now that we’re up to twenty grandchildren I can’t keep up.
I don’t decorate a lot at home because of work and it seems there’s just no time anymore. With a fulltime job, chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group and trying to launch my writing career, something has to give, my poor house needs a friend. I do just what has to be done. Maybe a few days off after the new year will help. My favorite decorations are the snowflake Christmas lights my husband bought to go on our porch. I want to keep them up all year because they are so pretty. The first year, I think I convinced David to let them stay up to almost Easter, telling him the snowflakes could pass for flowers. I really liked those lights, especially coming home from work and the porch being lit up. I love putting the Christmas cards up on the doors, their varied pictures a kaleidoscope of Christmas. But when we put the Nut Crackers on the mantle, unwrapping each one and placing it just so, the love we feel because they were a gift from David’s sister to replace the ones he lost when our home was destroyed by fire. Somethings, no matter their price, have a value greater than money because the heart of the person who gave them. I have ornaments made by a child’s hands and collector’s items, the ones made by the children are more precious than anything money could buy.
Christmas Eve we’ll have a party with the whole Hollister family and a few extras thrown into the mix. Children will run around squealing and laughing, the adults move a little slower but laugh and sing and play. We exchange inexpensive gifts, sometimes gag gifts, sometimes stuff we’ve made, but always something from the heart. We eat, each year we do something different from quiches to soups to this year, we’ll have pizza. It’s all about being together.
Christmas morning, what children who will come and open gifts. My husband and I love filling the stockings. He buys a hundred dollars-worth of chocolate for me and the daughters-in-law. I have fun stuffing gifts into each one’s stocking, making their stocking as much delight as the rest of their gifts. We open gifts, have a big breakfast, usually it is French toast casserole, but we’ve had waffles and ice cream, and monkey bread. This year we’ll go to my uncle’s house for lunch and back home for sandwiches and a couple of games of cards (my husband and sons cheat).
What are some of your favorite things about the holidays? Do you celebrate Christmas or another holy day? What are some of your traditions?
Do you get discouraged by your word count? Do you have one week that is really fantastic and another that is just not something to be proud of? Yeah, well that’s me. Some days, some weeks I have so much going on at work, with my life, in my head that I don’t get the word count I’d hope for.
Doing NaNoWriMo this month, we feel a certain need to get at least 1667 words per day in order to make our 50,000 word goal by the end of November but some days I’m lucky to have five minutes to sit down and write. So what do you do? How do you keep up your word count? How do you keep from getting discouraged and just saying forget it?
Several years ago I started participating in a monthly word count challenge, Book in a Week, with my local RWA, the Heart of Carolina. At first I would get embarrassed adding my 200-300 words per day to their two to three thousand words per day word counts. When I expressed this embarrassment, one of my fellow writers told me to celebrate each new word. That has stayed with me. Sarra Cannon in her Heart Breathing YouTube videos talks often about our joy of writing and how important it is not to lose that. It is the love of writing, of telling a story that first brought us to this place, or at least it was for me.
Doing what we love is fun but it is still work. Some days, if you are busy with your other job, your family, other obligations, squeezing in time to write, especially before you’re published or making money with your writing, feels like a luxury you don’t always have time for. Our time is valuable and we only have 24 hours in a day. How much time can you devote to writing? How many minutes can you actually sit your butt in the chair and write? Do you have an hour, thirty minutes? I’ve been training myself over the past few years to write in 5 to 10 minute increments. It’s not always easy to get back in the swing of the story when you have to stop every few minutes and do something else, but carving out time throughout the day has helped me build my word count.
Whether you add five new words or five thousand, it is still progress. If you have five minutes two or three times a day to write a few words, you can accomplish more than you realize. I recently timed my writing and I did 361 words in 10 minutes, now I have not yet tested it to see if that is my average but I do know three hundred plus is possible. While that’s not a lot on it’s own, I remember when I could only do that many in a day. If I can write 300 words in ten minutes and I can do that three times a day for three days, that’s 900 words per day and 2700 for three.
Build up your writing skills by writing daily or as often as you can during a week. I truly believe you need at least three sessions a week to build up your word count. Like a baby just learning to walk, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be finishing a novel in one month the first time we try, but even if you do not win NaNoWriMo, how much will you have accomplished because you tried? What other benefits will you receive as a result of participating in NaNo?
My first NaNo taught me I could write on a schedule. It made me more accountable for my daily word count. It taught me what I could do if I made the effort to write daily. Now, like anything we try to do on a daily basis, sometimes I just cannot squeeze another minute out of the day, or I’m so tired I can’t think straight and need to take a break. But because I have tried to make writing a priority, I make a point to write at least three days a week for a couple of hours per day. Now, sometimes those hours are broken up into smaller increments but I’ve learned I can write 30 minutes in the morning before work and some mornings I can get an hour. Breaks and lunches allow another 10 minutes to an hour. After work I can usually squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour. No matter how you have to do it, if you want to write, you can do it but it takes effort and dedication on your part.
Word count, like weight and age, it’s just a number. Yes, we want to finish our books quickly and move onto the next. We want to win NaNoWriMo and see that winner’s sticker on our stuff but the true prize isn’t the number of words per day or winning NaNo. The true prize is doing what we love, finishing the book we dreamed of writing, and knowing with each day we can be better writers, faster writers and accomplish so much more because we tried.
Happy NaNoWriMo if you are doing it. Happy Writing!
I’m not sure what I expected this
week during the first week of NaNoWriMo. My only other experience with NaNo in
2015 was more harrowing. As an inexperienced writer who usually only made five-hundred
words per day, trying to triple my output to make my NaNo goal wasn’t easy. I
had to really push myself to write every day. It felt like a job, a burden and
when I finished, just before Thanksgiving that year, I was too exhausted to
even celebrate. This year is so much easier. As a more experienced writer who
writes nearly every day and averaging about two-thousand words a day, the difference
between this NaNo and the first are quite surprising.
I almost didn’t participate in NaNo
this year. After the mental and physical exhaustion of my first experience, I
wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through that again. The first NaNo was to
prove to myself I could write on a schedule and produce work. This NaNo I don’t
feel I have to prove anything. It is just for fun and to get the rough draft of
my next book done. I hope that through this NaNo, I can meet other writers,
share stories, be a part of the community of writers. I hope to offer support
and encouragement and learn new tricks and ideas about writing and publishing.
I have talked a lot about listening
to YouTube videos, reading blogs and listening to webinars on writing. As a
pantser, I have tried to find ways to prep my stories that don’t include the
soul-sucking outlines and planning guides many of the plotters seem to enjoy.
Truthfully, I thought I would enjoy that process as well and was surprised at
how imprisoning it felt for me. BUT, but, I have learned that I can use
plotting tools in my own way. A few years ago, I came to realize that my first
draft was my outline. As a pantser, my process is different than a plotter’s,
because I just sit down to write plotting and planning going back and adding
necessary information and events to support my current idea as I draft. When I
read back through my rough draft, I move things, delete, add, ask questions.
Sometimes in the rough draft if I don’t know an answer, I might leave a
question or suggestion and keep writing.
Before starting NaNo I tried
writing an outline but in truth it was a quick draft of my story ideas, with a
few questions, scene ideas and character notes. As I’m writing and I’m looking
at the outline. I use about half of what I have, add a lot more, rearrange some
and delete a few things. I am surprised at how much I did do in the outline.
So as I reflect on this first week
of NaNoWriMo, I feel good about my progress. I don’t feel stressed, though I do
have to push to find time to write daily. With writing as my second career, I still
have to work my day job, take care of my husband, myself and the house.
Thankfully my kids are grown, and my husband is fairly low maintenance. I have
connected with other writers and hope to attend a write-in this week.
My advice to other NaNo participants.
Do not make yourself crazy. Don’t let the fact that you only have 500, 5000, whatever
your word count is, make you feel bad in anyway. This program isn’t designed to
make you feel less than someone else or better than. It is not about killing yourself
to get your wordcount. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to CELEBRATE our love of
writing and to make it a priority. If you want to be a published author, you
have to have dedication. NaNo can teach you that. If you are struggling to
finish a project, NaNo can encourage you to finish. If you just want to prove
to yourself that you can have a career as a writer, then NaNo is a great
exercise for the real world. Make NaNo be the experience, the exercise (or exorcise)
you need it to be.
Words of Encouragement: Let your
words flow, tell the story that is inside of you, someone needs to read it.
Believe that you can do it and you will. Don’t try to make it pretty, just
write it, you can work on pretty later. You cannot fix a blank page, but you
can edit a bad page. Half the writing is in the editing.
It is so
nice to have author Maida Malby here at Creekside Café. Welcome Maida, have you
ever been to North Carolina before?
I have. The first time I came to the US was in 1994 as a participant in the YMCA
International Camp Counselors Program. I was assigned to the Sandy Ridge Girl
Scout Camp in Bennettsville, SC for two months. I remember going to Rockingham
first time you came to the US? Where are you from?
originally from the Philippines, now living in San Angelo, Texas.
lived in San Marcos, Texas many years ago. I loved it out there. I visited
Laredo and El Paso, and my parents lived in Houston. How did you end up in
husband is a retired US Air Force veteran. He got a job at the Randolph Air
Force Base as a civilian contractor that’s why we moved there from Colorado Springs.
Sherri: How has
your previous jobs or career influenced your writing?
most recent job before I became a writer was as a Public Affairs Specialist at
the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. I’m using my experiences there as
inspiration for my main characters’ backgrounds. For example, in Singapore
Fling, Maddie is a Public Relations Director.
must have been an interesting job, but I can imagine the headaches.
One of my
daughters-in-law was born in Thailand, her parents were refugees from Cambodia.
I’ve never been to Asia. It’s on my bucket list.
Give us a
little insight into you as a person and as a writer.
easy-going and I make friends easily. I’m a slow writer. I can only write two
books a year, one novel and one short story or novella. This is why I
us about your books.
Contemporary romance. Multicultural/interracial. International lovers.
characters are multi-racial and multicultural, why is that important to you?
find that couples like my husband and I (American and Filipina) are not
well-represented in romance. Since only a handful of authors are writing
Filipinas and other Southeast Asians as female main characters, I decided I
needed to be one of the few writers who tell our story and share it with the
think that’s wonderful. We need more diversity in romance. Do you write full
I write full time.
long have you been writing?
started writing in November 2016, so nearly three years now.
you plan to write any other genre in the future?
write short stories in other romance sub-genres using a pen name.
is your latest writing/publishing project?
Maida: I just finished Singapore Fling, Book 2 of my first series Carpe Diem Chronicles. It’s publishing on October 21. I also have a Hansel & Gretel retelling novelette publishing on Halloween. I’ll be writing Samui Heat during NaNoWriMo this year. I plan to publish it in April 2020.
look for me in NaNo, my handle is Pamlico Writer. This is only my second NaNo
event. I won the first one but I’m not sure about this year, November is such a
busy month for me. I’ll be working on Red Steel, the fifth book in my Leeward
writing. I cannot imagine not writing. What do you love about writing?
creativity. There’s something about the words adding up into a cohesive story
that is super fulfilling.
most jobs, there is the good and the bad, what do you despise about being a
Marketing! Having to convince people to
read the product of my blood, sweat, and tears is incredibly stressful.
suspected that answer. Marketing is one of the most difficult things we have to
do. We have to figure out what works and then take time away from writing our
books to promote and market them. That’s one of the reasons I started doing the
author interviews. Is that why you started doing book reviews?
Maida: I was
a reader first before I became a writer. Reviewing books, especially romance,
helps me improve my writing skills. I learn so much of what appeals and what
doesn’t, of what is missing in my work and what’s already there I can continue
to build on.
a bit of a foodie. I collect recipes and my favorite channel is the Food
Network. Do you have a favorite food or recipe?
Maida: Food is a huge part of my books. My current favorite is Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s Maddie’s favorite dish in Singapore Fling.
Chicken rice is Maddie’s
favorite dish in Singapore. Here’s what she has to say about it in Chapter Two:
From the first time she’d tasted this
particular meal—one of the country’s national dishes—Maddie was addicted. The
plain steamed chicken over rice looked simple. But the gingery, garlicky, oily,
fragrant goodness of the white chicken meat—even without the skin she had
removed from it—and the savory rice boiled in the same broth won her over. She
had already eaten the dish five times since she’d arrived in Singapore.
This recipe is my attempt to capture that deliciousness. It might not be the most authentic–different ingredients, the taste of the water, etc.–but if you make it with love, the meal is sure to satisfy.
– medium whole chicken (organic, if possible)
– Kosher salt
– 1 thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
– 3-4 stalks green onions, sliced
– 2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice
– several cloves of garlic
– vegetable oil
– soy sauce
– sesame oil
For the chicken:
1. Exfoliate the
chicken by rubbing salt all over until smooth. Rinse and pat dry.
2. Season the entire bird
inside and out with salt. This will also season the broth, so salt generously. Stuff
the cavity with sliced ginger and scallions.
3. Place in a big pot and
fill with water up to 1 inch above the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce to
a simmer immediately. Remove the scum as soon as it rises. Simmer for 20-25
minutes until the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh not touching
bone is 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Prepare an ice bath and place the chicken in to stop the cooking process and tighten the skin. Set aside.
For the rice:
1. Clean the rice until
the water is less cloudy (2-3 times). Soak the rice, then drain after 10
2. Sauté minced ginger and
garlic in vegetable oil or chicken fat. Add drained rice and fry for one minute.
Season with salt. Pour two cups of reserved broth and bring to a boil. Reduce
heat, cover tightly, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Keep covered and
let rest for 5-10 minutes.
If you have a rice
cooker, follow instructions p to he frying.
For the dipping sauces:
1. Combine Sriracha, lime
juice, sugar, salt, couple of tablespoons of broth, garlic, and ginger in a
blender. Give it a whirl.
2. Grate peeled ginger
and finely mince garlic. Combine with a dash of salt and vinegar. Cook in hot
oil for a few seconds.
3. Mix light soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil.
Ready to serve!
Spoon rice on a plate. Cut chicken into serving
pieces and place on top of the rice. Pour soy sauce mix over it. Garnish with
cucumber or parsley. Serve with soup and dipping sauces.
you have any other hobbies or interests?
and cooking and baking.
these show up in your writing?
much so. Samui Heat will have a chef hero- Craig Ryan. My short story 19th
Hole Fiesta, part of the San Antonio Romance Authors’ anthology Love
Fiesta Style, is a golf romance. I’m planning a spin-off series and one of
my main characters is Patrick O’Connor, a professional golfer. He appeared in New
York Engagement, 19th Hole Fiesta, and Singapore Fling.
do you feel are your greatest writing strengths and your weaknesses?
claim that I have a great sense of place. There’s balance in my books in terms
of humor and drama. As for weaknesses, I need to improve on utilizing the senses
of smell and taste. I’m pretty good with sight, sound, and feel. The other two
need to be amplified.
are your favorite authors/genres?
Roberts/J.D. Robb is my idol. For non-romance, I like Paulo Coelho.
no, our time has run out already. It has been lovely to have you here at
Creekside Café Maida. I wish you luck with your new novel, Singapore Fling.
enjoyed my chat with Maida Malby be sure to follow her on social media and
check out her books, the links are below.
I hope y’all will come back and join me at my Creekside Café.
One alluring French-Filipina beauty.
One sexy US Air Force officer. One torrid weekend affair.
Maddie Duvall should be
living it up at her challenging new job in glamorous Singapore. But two months
after her wild weekend with Aidan Ryan, she’s still yearning for him. She
craves the passion only he can ignite in her.
Aidan’s job takes him
around the world, yet he can’t get Maddie out of his mind. When he returns to his
assignment in Singapore, he seeks her out with a proposition she can’t turn
Intensely enamored with
one another, their relationship takes off. But when Aidan’s mission exposes
treachery by someone close to Maddie, lines blur and wires get crossed. Can
their growing love survive the intrigue?
is Book 2 of Carpe Diem Chronicles, a series of multicultural contemporary
romance novels. The stories celebrate the rich cultures of exotic Southeast
Asian islands through languages, food, and festivals.
Maida Malby writes, reads, reviews, and
lives Romance. Through her multicultural contemporary romance stories, she
takes readers on trips to her favorite places in the world and shares her
experiences of their rich cultural heritage.
She is a member of the
Romance Writers of America (RWA), San Antonio Romance Authors (SARA), Cultural,
Interracial, Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of the Romance Writers of
America (CIMRWA), and several romance book clubs. Her To-Be-Read Mountain and
reviews of romance novels are featured on her website http://www.maidamalby.com.
When not writing,
reading, or reviewing books, Maida consults her husband on word selection,
debates with her ten-year-old son regarding the Oxford comma, cooks the dishes
she features in her stories, procrastibakes using Baileys as her secret yummy
ingredient, and watches golf and food shows on TV.
For years I have suffered a debilitating disease of UNABLE to Plot. I’ve taken classes and courses, bought books and listened to other authors, but when it comes down to plotting and outlining, I freeze up. This year for NaNoWriMo, after listening to several YouTube videos and webinars, I decided to give it another try.
In the past when I thought of outlining my story I’d break
out in hives. I might get as far a A.2.b.3. before completely freaking out because nothing was
adding up or equaling out. It was inevitable. I couldn’t stand that it wasn’t the
way I’d always been taught it had to be. English teachers y’all have destroyed
my mojo. It is impossible to get the exact same number of bullet points per
letter for each topic, plot point, story beat. I CAN’T do it! It makes me nuts.
I know, some of you know I’m already nuts but this just adds to it.
I’d start to feel like I didn’t know what to do and wanted
I did it! I outlined my story for NaNoWriMo!
Oh-my-gosh, really? But I’m a pantser.
What am I doing plotting? Why am I even trying? What is this madness? It’s called NaNoWriMo, shhh.
Because I’m doing NaNo (National Novel Writing Month
Challenge) and I know in order to write faster, fifty thousand words in one
month, am I crazy, yes, I need to pull out all the tricks. I’ve worked on
character sheets, sticky note ideas and reminders, and I just finished
outlining my story.
Am I really outlining and planning my story? Huh, that’s not
how I write, is it?
Well, in truth, as a pantser, I usually just sit down at the
computer and write. The ideas just come to me as I’m writing, well sometimes,
and other times, I have to put in a place holder like “Something needs to
happen here,” or “make the character do X or Y.”
I’ve wrote scenes with complete details and felt I had them
just right and then the next scene might be “why would he do this?” While
outlining my story I’ve used a few of my “placeholder” tricks. It’s not a real
outline. It’s a barebones rough draft with a list of a few things I want included
in the story. I also have a few questions and challenges. My outline looks
nothing like what my English teacher told me an outline should be, but I think
it gives me an idea of where I want to go in the story without fencing me in.
One of the biggest differences between pansters and plotters
is y’all know where you want to go with the story and all the steps for how to
get there. Pantsers might know where we’re hoping to end up, but we have no
idea how we’re going to get there, and we may change our minds halfway through
the story. For us, writing the story is the journey, if we know too much it
ruins the fun.
With writing a series I’ve come to know my characters, the
storyline and how I want the overall series to end but I still come up with new
characters and new ideas that I want to incorporate into it. Some of the ideas
make it into the story, or I save for future books, others get edited out or
don’t even get written. I think of writing like a puzzle, I know one of my main
characters really well but one of them is still a mystery. I have a few facts
but I’m still getting to know him or her. I know my antagonists and my antihero
but am I going to allow him a point of view? While some of you may know your
character’s birth sign, color of underwear and if they like jazz, rock or
country. I’m lucky to remember their hair and eye color and if they have any
NaNo is about writing a rough draft and writing it quickly.
While I’ll write my outline and try to follow it as closely as I can, I also
know that as a panster I have to allow myself the freedom to spread my wings
and fly. Just as long as I fly in the right direction, it’s all good.
So those of you who are pantsers and want to try writing an
outline, why not just write what you want to happen in each chapter. A one- or
two-line synopsis of what happens or a question you need to answer. It doesn’t
have to be difficult. Use what works for you. Good luck and I’ll see you later.
If you’re NaNoing, I’m Pamlico Writer, I could use a buddy to help me through and I’d be happy to do the same for you.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss