Sunday, June 29, 2008

Technical difficulties...

Arg, spent the last 1 1/2 days trying to get my new website up and running. I think I finally did it. Yay! Check it out at and let me know what you think.

It was exciting week. My new book had a title change which I love--HAUNTING BEAUTY. I think it fits the book and it has a very evocative feel to it. I can't wait to see what they come up with for a cover.

BTW, running a new contest over there on Erin Quinn Books, so check it out. Not only am I giving away one of my previous titles, but also one of Kathryne Kennedy's wonderful ENCHANTING THE LADY. If you haven't read her yet, you're in for a treat. AND she has the next book in her series coming out soon so you won't have to wait for your next fix.

Now I need to get some writing. I left m hero in a real jam on Wednesday and poor fellow has been stuck there during all my technical difficulties. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The crazy month of June

June this time 14 years ago, I was in labor.

It doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed, but it's true. I spent the entire day trying to have my youngest child and my mother spent the entire day--which just happened to be her birthday--holding my hand.

My daughter teased us throughout the day and but decided in the end that she didn't want to share her birthday with anyone else and so she waited until the calendar page turned and was born on the 22nd. She's been pulling that kind of stuff ever since, ha ha.

So today my two daughters and I are taking my mother and father to the theater to see My Fair Lady and then to dinner. I'm sure it will be a much better birthday than the one she spent 14 years ago watching me sweat through labor. And then tomorrow my little baby turns 14.

Sheesh I feel old.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The worst reasons....

I've never been a big Danielle Steel fan and for the worst reason--one I can't believe I'm guilty of. I've never actually read one of her books, but I've heard they are all alike. This reasoning is, in fact, one of my pet peeves when I hear someone say it. How can you possibly pass judgement on a book or writer when you've never read them?

What prompts me to make this terrible confession now is a recent article from publishers lunch about Ms. Steel. The article is about a charitable mission Ms. Steel has been on to aide the homeless of our country. It touched my heart in many ways and made me stop and ask why I'd never thought I would enjoy her books. Anyone who can write with such honesty and heart about the suffering of people, anyone who could give so much to help ease their pain, has to be an amazing author. Shame on me for making assumptions and passing judgement.

In fact, Ms. Steel's effort has been done in a selfless manner since she began and her decision to come forth now is based on the need for more people to help--not for personal recognition.

It is part of my personal dream to reach a level of success where I can play a role in helping others like Danielle Steele and Brenda Novak have and I think it's inspiring that these women have used their own success to help out someone in need.

It's never too early or too late to help and I am determined to follow in these footsteps and stop thinking about helping others and start doing. Hope you'll join me. :-)

If you're interested in the article on Danielle Steel, you'll find it here:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Writer Being

I've been blogging a lot on writing and what it means to be a writer. Being a writer is unlike being an accountant or a business manager. Yes, continuous development is important in any career, but being a writer is all about the BEING. What you do is also what you are.

Writing is immersed in every moment of my day. No conversation I have is safe from a sudden zone out, where a word, a gesture or the slant of light across the floor might suddenly propel me into a revelation about my current story. And suddenly, though the phone is still pressed to my ear or my friend is still talking, I'm no longer there. I'm off in my own world being a writer.

Not too long ago I was sitting on a good friend's patio on a mild summer afternoon in San Diego. We were talking away and suddenly, a huge problem in my plot that had been tormenting me suddenly unlocked. I cut her off in the middle of a sentence--do you have something I can write on? For a few minutes I furiously scribbled down points that probably looked like gibberish to her. Finished, I apologized. She just laughed and said no need to apologize. After 20 years of friendship, she should have known to have paper and pen ready.

I am forever grateful to have friends who understand me.

The new book is shaping up and I can't wait to back to it. It's delaying work on my new Erin Quinn Books website, but I can't seem to step away long enough to work on that. Being a writer also means knowing not to stop when the muse is with you. :-)

Hey, if you're interested in some great writing tips on plotting, check out Connie Flynn's writing lesson over at the Much Cheaper Than Therapy Blog.

Reinventing change

When I first started my novel, BENEATH THE RUINS, it had a different title and a different focus than the novel I finished with. One of the reasons it changed so much was I'd read this article about reinventing yourself as a writer. In this article, different writers talked about hitting walls in their careers that they just couldn't seem to get over. Whether it was dwindling readership, losing an editor and not find another within the house to take you on, or just feeling stymied by the restraints of the genre they published in, each had a reason for scrapping the career they'd worked at building and starting over with a new name and a new attitude.

Whatever the initial reason each writer decided a reinvention was the way to go, they all took a step back, looked at what they were doing and made the conscience decision to change.

I remember clearly when that moment hit me. I was soaking in the tub, bubbles up to my chin, and the light went on. What I was writing was good. There was critical acclaim and awards to assure me of that--but was it great? Was it as good as it could be? Was the only difference between my books and everyone else's books, me?

I simmered on the questions for awhile, trying to find the answers within myself and no matter how I tried to deny it, the answers told the truth. It was time for me to make a major change. Up until this point, I'd viewed this kind of change with trepidation. If I started over, what would happen to my other books? The name I'd worked so hard to establish? How would I be ME if I became someone else?

And the big question, How could I be sure the new me wouldn't end up in the same place the old me was at?

Of course, I didn't know. I still don't. But I saw that I was reacting out of fear--like someone in a dead end job she hates but won't leave because she is afraid the next job will be worse. Fear loves failure and I knew that if I let fear make my decisions for me, I should set another place at the table for its best friend and be done with my dreams.

I pulled out my trusty spiral notebook and started making notes. I took a hard look at the story I was working on, stripped it down to my original idea. (If you've never heard of original idea as it pertains to your story, it's a concept wrapped around the question "what was the first idea that got you excited about the story?" What made you think, "I want to write this.") Author and speaker Bob Mayer does an amazing workshop on original idea and if you can't hear it in person, see if you can find a CD from one of the many conferences he does and listen to it.

Back to my story. Once I'd stripped it down, I asked myself how I could make it not just different, but mind blowing. I'd like to say the angel of creativity suddenly appeared and waved her wand over me, filling me with the warm light of knowing, but alas, it was a lot more of jotting down ideas and striking them out, brainstorming with people outside my usual sphere, and searching until I finally hit the idea that did fill me up with excitement.

Once revealed, this idea had me writing furiously in margins and on napkins and everywhere else I could find. My plot and motivation just poured out and for every "why does s/he do that?" I had an answer.

I wrote BENEATH THE RUINS in record time (for me--less than a year). I'm not one of those authors who can just churn out a book in a few months. (Wish I was *sigh*) During the entire process I knew that I was writing something that would take me to the next level in my career. I knew that I'd reinvented myself with this book and I embraced it. Change, though usually painful, is almost always the best thing we can do for ourselves.

Anyway, my point in all this rambling is that we, as writers, need to remember writing a book is a journey. (note, I say journey, not vacation, ha ha). On this journey, you need to be inspired by what you see and motivated to get to the next destination. If you're not, your reader probably won't be either. Your journey may take you to fleebag motels and crappy diners--it may take you to sky rises and champagne brunches. No two journeys are alike.

But if your journey is taking you somewhere you've already been, you need to reevaluate where you want to go and make a change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm a about you?

I live a busy life. Who doesn't? Whether you work in an office or a home, you're busy. (And I have utmost respect for those of you who have chosen to stay at home with kids. My personal opinion--it's the hardest, most rewarding, job there is. At work you get lunch breaks, alone time, conversations with other adults and monetary rewards. At home, it all comes from the heart and goes to the heart. Hats off to all of you). Okay, I needed to say that because so many times I hear other writers say, "I don't know how you do it all. You work, you write, you raise your family. I just stay at home with my kids."

And I think, "Hands down, I guarantee you're every bit as busy if not more."

So how do we do it all? I think the best advice I can give to anyone who is still in the "trying to be a writer" stage is this--Stop trying. Start being. And by that I don't mean as much physically as I do mentally. It's a shift in thinking, being a writer. It's an acceptance that this is what you are and what you will be.

When you start answering the question, "what do you do?" with, "I'm a writer," a strange thing starts to happen. You start to believe it. And once YOU start to believe it, you become determined to make sure others believe it too.

The first (and I might add most difficult) barrier is going to be your family. You have to convince them that writing is a priority in your life and that there will be times--on a regular basis--where their needs will come after you finish your allotted page count. How do you do it? You draw a line and you respect it. If you respect it, the others will respect it too (although it may be grudgingly) .

You might start with something like going to your local chapter RWA (sister's in crime, MWA, etc) meeting once a month. Once a month, without fail. Sounds easy, but I am forever hearing new writers tell me they want to come, but this or that is preventing it. Well, this or that will have to wait until the next night or be done the night before. Meeting commitments you make to yourself are a critical part of being a writer. You won't have a boss or a contracted deadline while you're writing your first book--probably longer. So you have to become that boss and make the deadline yourself.

Once you've accomplished this small feat, set a time--everyday--when you write. It needn't be hours long. Some people tell me it takes them an hour just to get into the story. I say, gee that's nice. Wish I had that luxury, but I don't. If I have an hour, I write an hour. That means I multi-task in the hours before. While I'm doing laundry, making dinner, etc, I'm thinking of my story. Driving is always a good time, although I admit it can be hazardous. I can't count the times I've gone from home to store and not remembered how I got there.

Whatever time you have, use it. You may only turn out a page, but a page a day is a manuscript in a year. And a completed manuscript is one step closer to being a published writer.

If you're at home when you write, find a place where you can close the door or train yourself to write in the midst of chaos. This is what I did for the first 3 books. It takes a lot of discipline, but it can be done.

Now I go to my office, close the door and light some scented oil. I write and my family knows if it smells good in there, stay out. :-) If you can get out of the house, go to a coffee shop or the library. One hour a day. You deserve one hour a day, don't you? Especially if that hour leads you to seeing your dreams come true...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My multiple personalities....

Adopting a pen name is lot like marrying it. No, you don't have to pick up your significant other's socks off the floor after the honeymoon is over, but you do have to move from managing one identity to two--in my case THREE identities.

I was born and raised Erin Roxanne Grady. At the time I was growing up, no one had ever heard the name Erin and I was teased relentlessly (Urine, was a favorite variation of the playground bullies). By kindergarten, I'd decided to be done with Erin and told everyone to call me Roxy. That didn't last though, because my parents wouldn't go for it and it only gave my brother fodder to torment me with. When I turned 20 I tried again and decided to change my name to Joey. I don't know why. I just did. I went by Joey for about 4 years. (I might add, that Joey was very slim and always felt glamorous. At the time I was a bartender and lived a very noir life. Whoever said it's all in a name had that right).

When I met my husband, I reverted back to Erin (partly because I'd just moved to California and in with my folks again and partly because it took a lot of energy to be Joey and with my move from Colorado to California, I wanted to make some changes). After a year or two of dating, I married Rick Alcaraz and became Erin Alcaraz. Erin Alcaraz had a respectable job at SDSU and has gone on to have a great career in Arizona at Intel. She's done awright for herself.

But then Erin Grady wanted to right a book and even through the years of name changing, Erin Grady always knew her name would be on a cover some day. It felt weird answering to Grady again after being Alcaraz for several years, but I made the transition okay. I've become used to the split personality.

When I sold my last book (and for those who aren't in this crazy profession, by sold I mean that an editor at a publishing house offered to buy the book and publish it) the discussion began about who I should be and once again, a new identity came into my life.

The name that will be on the cover of BENEATH THE RUINS is Erin Quinn. Why, you might ask? Well because BENEATH THE RUINS is a bigger (by that I don't mean longer, I just mean more complex) novel than I've ever written and my publisher felt that it needed to be launched--launched as something fresh and new. Since my other books (although award winners all) never hit any bestseller lists, the feeling was that it wouldn't hurt to make this change.

At first I had ambivalent feelings. I'd grown to like good ol' Erin Grady and I didn't want to see her go. But then the bright shiny idea of being someone new took root and I began to get on board with it. You see, ERIN QUINN can be whoever she wants and I've decided that she will be the best of all my identities. She's going to have the career success and acumen of Erin Alcaraz, she will have the energy and glamor of Joey Grady, and she will have the recognition and awards of Erin Grady. What's more, she'll have a new palette to work with! It's exciting.

So, look for great things from Erin Quinn. :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The new me....Erin Quinn

Adopting a pen name isn't just a matter of rearranging your name. A successful pen name will be with an author for life. In fact, in might even take her over eventually. For that reason I'm glad I kept my first name. I know many authors who've changed the whole thing and then friends are never quite sure what to call them. The author doesn't care--call me whichever, they usually say. But people like to know they are addressing you correctly and when you have multiple names, that can be a challenge.

On the flip side, a new identity can bring all kinds of new and exciting thing. Personally, I'm hoping Erin Quinn is a little taller than Erin Grady was. I'm hoping she is thinner too. And of course it goes without saying that I hope she's a helluva lot richer! LOL.