Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Come With Me To HollyWorld!

Holly Jacobs, one of the nicest and most prolific writers I know, is letting us into her office. I love Holly. She’s one of those people who’s always willing to help out if she can. She’s just the kind of author I want to be when I grow up! LOL.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get a peek into her office. Shy person that I am, I asked, and guess what! Sweet Holly came through. 🙂

Me: Hey, Holly Jacobs! Would you share with us a little bit of the behind the scenes of your writing life?

Holly: Sure. What would you like to know?

Me: This might seem like a silly question, but do you write in your office?

 Holly: I used to write almost exclusively in my office.

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Holly cont: But as the kids got older and the house got quieter, I started writing in the backroom on the couch.  The dogs like it better.  Normally they’re right next to me as I write…they were cuddled in the recliner when my daughter took this picture!

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Me: Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

 Holly: Really, writing on the couch in front of the fireplace is pretty near perfect!

Me: Okay. Well, tell us about the best cool weird place you’ve ever written. Dungeon? Mountain peak? Bottom of the ocean floor?

 Holly: Uh, I don’t know if I have any of those.  But I’ve written poolside, at the beach, in a hotel, in a car, at a sporting event…  I’m not sure those are weird though.  Now I’ll be looking for someplace weird to write!  LOL

Me: Cool! Be sure and share it with us when you do.

Me: Do you have a ritual you follow before you write? Light a candle? Dance naked in the moonlight?

 Holly: I’m not a naked dancing in the moonlight type.  LOL.  I tend to get up very early and answer any email and visit my social media.  Then it’s breakfast, a walk with the dogs and then I write.

Me: Do you write every day?

 Holly: Yes.  Not as much on the weekend.

Me: What’s the atmosphere in your office?

Holly: Well, when these pictures were taken, I was just getting home from a trip, so the actual office was a bit chaotic.  But this time of year sitting on my couch, it’s peaceful. The house is quiet other than the crackling of the fire.  I have a slight Yankee Candle addiction, so frequently there’s a candle burning.  The dogs are snuggled close.  It’s darn near perfect.

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Me: Do you play music while you write? If so, how do you choose the music?

 Holly: Nope. I can write in the midst of family chaos, but I prefer the quiet.  I do tend to have songs that remind me of my books.  Sometimes I listen to those repeatedly as I mull.  For instance, August’s SuperRomance, Her Second-Chance Family, has a troubled teen, and Sister Hazel’s Concede was my go-to song.

Me: If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

 Holly: I pretty much have it.  When we moved here a decade ago, I went from a huge office, to this one which has two doors so it feels like a glorified hallway.  And I lost so many bookshelves.  My husband gave me such a lovely gift.  He had a carpenter come in and put in these beautiful floor to ceiling bookshelves on two of the walls.  It’s so amazing to have everything close at hand. And frankly, every time I see those shelves I realize how much this man gets me.  He’s such an awesome husband!

DJHollyMe: I’ve heard about Holly’s wonderful husband for years, but I’ve never met him. Naturally, I asked for his picture, so she sent me this from their recent trip to Disney World. Is that cute or what? 😀

Me: Tell me, Holly. How did you get started writing?

Holly: My youngest was getting to a school age and I realized that I might need a real grownup job.  I thought about all the things I might enjoy doing, and writing was the answer that kept buzzing around in the back of my mind.  But it was scary saying it.  It was such a long shot…such a dream.  Saying I want to write out loud was one of the bravest things I ever did.  And I was lucky my husband supported me from the get-go.

Me: You and your husband make an amazing team! I wish every writer had that kind of support!

Me: Are there any how-to books you recommend for writers?

 Holly: I loved Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird.

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 Hey, TD Hart–Holly has a guitar in her office, too. Wonder if she uses it like you do?

Me: What’s your process for starting a new book?

Holly: An idea starts nibbling at me and I start jotting notes and before I know it, that idea has become a story.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s like magic.  Or maybe like farming!  LOL  Yes, I mean, there’s this tiny kernel and it becomes something so much bigger.

Me: Did you struggle as a new writer or were you blessed with sales from the word go?

 Holly: I was lucky in that my early stuff sold.  I sold a lot of short stories, and then some books…and I’ve been writing steadily ever since.

Me: You write in more than one genres and under more than one name. Can you tell us a little about that?

 Holly: I write as Holly Jacobs and write, straight up romantic comedy, some sweet contemporary romance and family dramas.  Then I branched out a did a comedic mystery series with a splash of romance (Maid in LA Mysteries) and most recently I’m writing blends of women’s fiction and romance.  That’s what April’s Carry Her Heart is, and last year’s bestselling Just One Thing was.  I’m enjoying these stories that are a women’s journey…that has romance in it.

It might seem that I jump around a lot, but really whether it’s a comedy or a drama, a mystery or women’s fiction, all my books are about people…about love.

Me: And you do a wonderful job of it!  What advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

Holly: My favorite piece of advice is write something—anything—every day.  For me, making writing part of the rhythm of my daily life!

Me: Thank you so much for letting us visit you and your office, Holly! I can’t wait to read your next book.

Holly came to Oklahoma one year to speak at our writers’ retreat, and I enjoyed that retreat more than any other one I can remember!

Holly-&-Linda

This is Holly with Linda Trout, whose office you’ve already visited, at the retreat at Grand Lake. 🙂

You guys can get to know Holly better at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter @hollyjacobs1 .  And if you don’t read her already, check out her books. You’re going to love them!

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Jennifer Adolph in the Wood Shed!

I know some of the nicest people in the world. And I want you to know them, too! Meet my friend, T.D. Hart aka Jennifer Mathews Adolph. Click on her name and it’ll take you to her website, tdhart.blogspot.com.

black and white straightened (2)Photo taken by Lisa

She’s one of those people who just amazes me. She’s a large animal veterinarian (hard to imagine!) who retired and is now writing full time. She has three kiddos, one husband, rent houses she takes care of, she just sold one home and moved into another, and she’s still a prolific writer!

And even though she hasn’t published a book yet, it’s just a matter of moments before she does. How do I know?

Because I’ve read her work. And (in case you don’t quite trust my reading taste) she won first place in both categories she entered at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. contest last year.

three-of-usJennifer is the gorgeous blonde in the middle holding two (2!) first place certificates. Rhenna Morgan is the blonde on Jen’s left, and I’m not sure who the dorky photo-bomber on the right is. 😉

Me: So, Jen, where’s your favorite place to write?

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Jen: This is where I go every year–Longbeach, Washington–and where I hope to move when the kids graduate.

For me, writing is an immersive process. To write authentically, I need to slip into my character’s skin and see/feel/experience what she’s feeling, ask how she’ll respond to the situation I’ve put her in. For that, I need solitude.

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Me: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

Jen: Okay. The strangest place I’ve ever written is where I’m sitting this very minute–a plywood garden shed (not a wood shed!) in our backyard, surrounded by tools and paint cans and fertilizer. I’ve been spoiled up to this point, so I’m not complaining. But I’ll be glad when we get it cleaned out/insulated/painted/heated.

My old writing nook is now Chris’s home office, and that’s where my books are–Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, Lee Lofland’s Crime Writer’s Handbook, Strunk and White. When we get the shed redone I’ll bring them out here.

(Click on any of the titles and they’ll take where you can buy your own copy!)

Jen: I always keep a guitar in my writing room. There’s something magical about making music with your left hand that frees up the creative part of your mind. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad it works.

Me: I wonder if a kazoo would work? That’s about the only instrument I can play. So, do you only use your office for writing?

Jen: I’d like to tell you I only use my space for writing. Um…yes, that’s what I’m going to say (wink, wink.)

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Jen: This is our template for remodeling a small shed in our new backyard.

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Jen: This is the view was taken from a balcony at Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozark Mountains, where I just spent four days grinding through the next Sam Benning story.

Me: I’m surprised the outdoor gorgeousness doesn’t lure her away from her writing, but like I said, she’s dedicated! So, Jennifer, do you have a ritual you follow before you write? Put on music? Sacrifice small mammals?

Jen: LOL. I’ve never considered blood sacrifice. Seems appropriate given my subject matter.

I do light candles. Usually I start my morning clearing the wreckage left by my family, then have a quiet breakfast and take care of the dogs. When my mind is settled, I fire up the laptop and get right to work. Around noon I take a break, eat lunch, and work until it’s time to get the kids.

I keep track of my words/hours on an Excel spreadsheet, and try to hit self-imposed goals. I don’t always hit them, but find I do a better job when I measure my results.

About once a month I take off for writer’s retreats at the lake, where I write like crazy–cranking out huge sections the book. I gain momentum and always come home feeling like I’ve caught the thread of my story.

Did I mention there’s no internet at the lake?

At home, I’m most productive in the morning. At the lake, I write until I get sleepy, then wake up and write more. Some of my best scenes have come at two in the morning.

Me: Aw, man, I want to be you when I grow up! What advice do you have for other writers to help them in their journey?

Jen: For the newbie, I’d say, “Just start writing–with the understanding that it won’t be as good as you think (yet.) Then, when you’ve written enough to recognize some of your craft deficits, seek feedback from a professional or group of published writers, and listen to what they say. Recognize it’s going to take longer to get good than you’re hoping. And read everything in your genre.”

Jen: If you’ve been writing for several years and haven’t sold, I’d again try to get honest feedback. If you’ve been getting great reviews and won contests, but just haven’t attracted a traditional publisher, I’d say hire an editor in your genre and self-pub. Or try some other form of publishing–say, putting your work on your website a chapter at a time.

Me: I can’t thank you enough for letting us have this peek into your writing life. I feel like I’ve been a fly on your office wall.

As soon as your first book is published, I hope you’ll come back for another chat! This was fun!

Hey, all y’all, you can find TD/Jennifer on her website, on Facebook  and on Twitter @theladyvet. Be sure and tell her Susan says hi!

So . . . any questions for Jennifer? Why’d she give up the glamorous life of a veterinarian to be a writer? How long does she take to write a book?

All you have to do is ask!

 

 

 

 


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Best! One! Ever!

Did you miss me over the weekend? Probably not, unless I work with you (I missed part of Thursday and Friday) or you’re one of my pets. 🙂

I was in OKC at Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc’s annual conference. And I have to tell you, I had a ball!

This was the best conference ever!

Why? Well, to start with, the keynote speaker was Eloisa James.

Eloisa-James

Professor McGonagall aka Eloisa James

She spoke about writing and success and just how to do it. I wish someone had recorded everything she had to say, because it was good!

Rhonda-Penders

This is The Wild Rose Press publisher and my first editor, Rhonda Penders. We celebrated her birthday at the Buzz Session Friday night after the costume contest (I didn’t enter) and Famous Authors’ Dinner.

She’s wearing the book cover necklace I made for her. 🙂

rhonda's-husband,-scott Standing in the door is Rhonda’s husband checking out the session/bd party. Nice guy!

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Another buzz session pic.

famous-authorsThey showed a slide of all the attendees’ books published in 2013, whether purchased by a publisher or self-pubbed. I loved seeing my name up there! 🙂

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Smart Women Crew with Gloria Teague from The Ford.

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Marion, Linda, Gloria, Rhenna, Kathlyn and T. D. Hart.

TD Hart took 1st Place in two categories!

TD Hart took 1st Place in two categories!

First Place Winner, Rhenna Morgan!

First Place Winner, Rhenna Morgan!

And they gave me 1st Place in Romance. (Is that cool or what?)

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And they gave me a $50 check! Believe it or not! 🙂

 

 

 


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Imagination Station

Have I ever mentioned what a weird imagination I have? It’s s-t-r-a-n-g-e.

To start at the beginning of what I’m talking about, I’ll have to rewind a ways. A few years ago, I decided to write a book about a werewolf. (It’s called MAKE ME HOWL.) But I didn’t want a normal, doom and gloom, dark and terrible werewolf. I wanted a fun, cute, funny werewolf.

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So I did what every fiction writer has to do, no matter what genre she’s writing. I created my own world.

For a while I called it ChickWolf-Lit. Jazzy (my heroine) is a fashion consultant who also happens to be a werewolf. She has the gene, so she was born that way. (Her maternal grandmother was a werewolf, too.)

And since the time she was potty trained, she’s been able to keep from going “animal” most of the time. Even a full moon doesn’t bother her.

The only time she accidently goes “wild” is when she’s out of control. She can shift whenever she wants to, though.

She has a twin sister. The two of them have their own “twin speak” which is telepathic, but it gives Jazzy a grinding headache when they use it.

Here’s a little problem I have. My characters in my books are real to me. (I spend so much time with them, they’re like family.)

There’s one thing I discovered in my world: the gene that causes people to be shape shifters turns them into wolves.

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A few days ago I joined a paranormal group on Facebook. Most of them are writers, and let me tell you, every one has an imagination to match (or outshine) mine.

So I got to thinking . . . what if several shape shifting writers were in a room together. There would be women in pjs and furry slippers (those who don’t have day jobs) women in business suits (they have high powered jobs and write on the side) women dressed in filmy scarves in wild colors with pink hair (who think big-name authors should look like that) and the rest in jeans and t-shirts. (My uniform of choice.)

Can you see us on couches, in chairs, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall? And drinks? Yeah, we’d have them. Coffee, Diet Dr. Pepper, wine . . . everyone would bring their own poison. 🙂 (Jazzy and I are DDP girls.)

So all of us are sitting there together, and we get to talking about the shapes our characters change into. The Jazzy in me laughs hysterically.

“You guys must be writing cartoon shape shifters,” she says between gasps and giggles. “Because REAL shape shifters change into werewolves.”

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“Your kind of shape shifters come from a virus that results in a bite from an out-of-control werewolf who’s born with the gene. (My apologies to other shape shifting authors. Once my world is twirling, there’s no stopping it.) “So they have to be werewolves!”

“NO WAY!!!” The bejeweled, bangled, pajama-ed, scarved t-shirted, blue jeaned and pink haired women jump on me.

“I didn’t say that. Jazzy did!” I squeak, trying to be heard.

“Well, give her this from us!” Smack in my eye.

And the battle is on.

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LOL! This post has gone on much longer and gotten even weirder than I intended.

Does your mind ever get away from you like that? Mine does it all the time because I get to thinking how everyone imagines everything differently. The animals shifters change into, where they come from, how much control they have, everything.

That’s what makes reading so much fun!

BTW: After the battle? Do I imagine myself standing on the heap, hands joined over my head in triumph?

No. Way. (And it’s not pretty.)

Jazzy had a good time, though.


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Let’s Play a Game

A Smart Woman Can Get What She Wants for Mothe...

How about, “Where’s Susan?” 😉

Since it’s Saturday, I must be blogging over at the Smart Women Blog. I’m talking about the rules of writing.

Here’s a snippet–

When I think about the rules in writing, a little voice inside me goes, “Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!”  And to a degree, that’s true. There are very few hard and fast rules.

I’ll share the ones I’ve gathered along the way with you.

Want to read more? Check it out.

And please, let me know if that link doesn’t work. 🙂


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Never Retreat!

I’m away at a writers’ retreat this weekend. And, just as I suspected, we’re having crazy fun.

This is a fantastic group of women.

We’re not all the same age. (We range from 18 to MYOB.)

We’re not all the same religion.

We’re don’t all have the same hair color. (Some of us don’t even remember the original color. Others don’t want to.)

What we have in common is that we’re all writers. Romance writers. (The best kind is the HEA–happily ever after–kind.) We love a great story. And very few of us can tell you our names in less than a page-and-a-half.

Last night, we had a delicious meal, then came back to the suite to just chat, and ended up talking about our writing histories. (Go figure.) Roughly half of us are published. Some of us have even confessed for money.

The unpubbed women were so much fun to listen to as they talked about their WIPs. (Works In Progress.)

The one thing these women have in common, besides being writers?

They’re all so very passionate–

  • about telling a great story.
  • about learning whenever and whatever they can.
  • about supporting each other.

From the woman just beginning to our master, Rita winner (80 books and counting) we’re a lift each other up, cheer each other on, lend a hand when we can and cry with you if we can’t crew.

And just to be very honest, we never retreat.

We ATTACK!

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