Last Day of FEARS Workshop

Today is the last day of my FEARS workshop.  Did you miss it?  No worries.  You can still check it out on the Forum.

You can continue to ask questions and I’ll ask them as they come through.

Hope to see you there,


Happy New Year! What’s new in the Garden?


Happy New Year, Gardeners!  It’s a great time to be in the Writer Zen Garden.

Inside this blog:

  1. Prompt Circles are back – next one is Jan 21st from 2-4 at Open Books
  2. Walking In This World online workshop, Jan 22nd through April 22nd
  3. F.E.A.R.S. Workshop – Finish, Edit, Analyze, Research and Submit, Feb 5th to Mar 4th
  4. Dialog – Who Says What To Whom, March 12th to March 25th
  5. A to Z Blog Challenge is coming in April
  6. Camp NaNoWriMo is coming in April

Check it out:

The Prompt Circles are back!  After a longer than expected hiatus, we’re excited to report that we are ready to start these up again.  Our venue is Open Books, an awesome place centrally located downtown near parking, transit, Metra, and those blue bicycle things.  Not that you’d want to bike in the dead of winter, but hey.  They’re there if you want ’em.  It’s on Saturday, January 21st from 2-4.

We have several online offerings, all of which are free but require a membership on the forum.  How do you get to the forum, you ask?  Visit here!

Did you know that the Writer Zen Garden has a calendar?  If you prefer getting your information visually, click over to Our Calendar and check it out.

On the Artist’s Way track: Walking In This World.  This is a 13-week workshop running from Sunday, Jan 22nd, through Saturday, April 22nd.  You will need a copy of the book by Julia Cameron, Walking In This World, which is available from your favorite bookseller or public library.  This is a participant-led workshop facilitated by A. Catherine Noon; if you’d like to lead a week’s discussion, please let me know.

The workshop will be conducted online through website; you will need a user account to participate. There is no cost to join.

On the Author track: F.E.A.R.S. Online Workshop – Finish, Edit, Analyze, Research, and Submit.  Join author Tina Holland for her popular F.E.A.R.S. workshop, where she will help you Finish your manuscript, Edit it, Analyze it for its best fit in the marketplace, Research homes for it – traditional publishing? digital-first/small press? indie? blog?, and Submit.

It will run for four weeks starting Sunday, February 5th and concluding Saturday, March 4th.

Tina is past President of RWA Online Chapter #136 and author of ten romance novels. She is a sought-after speaker at regional writing conferences and a founding Board Member of Writer Zen Garden. We are super stoked to have her present for us and for her to offer her popular workshop for free to WZG members.

You need to be a member of the Writer Zen Garden online forum.  Membership is free.

For more information about Tina Holland, please visit her website. While you’re there, check out her popular author interview series (and authors, sign up to be interviewed!).

On the Writer track:  Online workshop – Dialog, Who Says What to Whom, March 12th through March 25th.

Join A. Catherine Noon and Tina Holland for a free online two-week workshop on dialog. We will have examples, discuss proper punctuation, (where DOES that pesky comma go? or is it a period?), and have lots and lots of practice exercises. Think of it as the March boot camp to get in shape for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Blog Challenge.

You will need a free account on the Writer Zen Garden Forum.

April is a busy month in the Garden: We have not one but TWO web-based events for you.

April is the month for the international A to Z Blog Challenge! Find out more, and sign up on the main website.

We’re looking for Writer Zen Gardeners to participate on our blog this year, so if you’re interested, please contact your organizers A. Catherine Noon or Tina Holland.

Also, April is Camp NaNoWriMo!  From the folks that bring you National Novel Writing Month in November comes a fun event called Camp NaNoWriMo. You can set your own word count goal; it doesn’t have to be the full 50,000 like in November. Participants are arranged in cabins for mutual support and encouragement.

Find out more, and sign up, at the website.

If you haven’t joined the discussion on Facebook, you’re missing out.  Click over to the Writer Zen Garden Facebook Group and check it out.

Y is for Yoga

YogaSome of the benefits of Yoga are:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining balance.
  • Weight reduction.
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury

While I love Yoga…I really do, in this instance I’m using it as a metaphor for writing. Now how can you apply these wonderful benefits to your writing.

Increased Flexibility – Whether you are trying to finish a book or trying to find a home for a manuscript.  Its important to be flexible.  Life interrupts the writing process.  Sometimes your dream publisher doesn’t accept your manuscript.  It is important to be flexible, remember the important thing is to try again, to be stronger and not break.

Increased Muscle, strength and tone – Have you heard the phrase “Use it or Lose it”?  Writing frequently, dare I say daily, increases your muscles.  If you type on a keyboard, you will type faster due to muscle memory.  If your write daily in a journal, or on a manuscript, poetry, etc., your process is strengthened,  and the tone of your work improved.

Improved Respiration, energy and vitality – Just Breathe.  When you are blocked or your just not feeling it, take a break; A breath if you will, and work on another creative project.  Often times when I “scrapbook” or when I’m cooking, I get ideas for my story.  Writing without other creative outlets can drain your energy.  You need to fill your creative mind.  This will give you vitality, and passion for all your creative works.

Maintaining Balance – As with all things in life, writing is also a balancing act.  When you are an Aspiring Writer, you are balancing work, writing, and whatever life throws at  you.  These same things apply when your are published as well, and then you get to add in promotions, book signings, blog tours, etc.  It’s important to try and balance to the best of your abilities, and what is important to you.  I still work full time so my priorities are Family, Work, Writing.  I know, writing is in there last, but it is where it fits today in my life and I still manage to find balance.

Weight Reduction – Okay writing won’t make you thinner.   But you may need to think about making your book thinner before sending off for publication. 🙂  Basically, “Cut the Fat”.  You want your book to be a lean, mean, selling machine.   Not to say you should write short stories, but make sure your 155,000 word novel doesn’t have redundancies in it.  Be sure you are using strong vs. passive language, and it is the very best it can be before you publish.

Cardio and circulatory health – Go with the flow.  When life throws you an obstacle, handle it and then get back on track.  In my opinion – not all writers can deal with life crisis and write.   I’m one of those writers…life’s challenges often derail my writing.  However, some authors excel at it – Using their writing as a tool to deal with life’s issues, or utlizing it as a means of escape.  Whatever writer you are – Go with the flow.  There is no right or wrong answer to how, or when you write.

Improved athletic performance – Over time all writers seems to innately learn things about craft, genre, editing, publishing, and other business items.   Not all writers will be good at all things, and some writers can zero in on one thing.   We learn to spot passive voice, or what genre a book falls into.  We can craft perfect prose, or create a list of potential publishers with ease.  What we don’t know, we learn from others.  The point is…we improve over time and not just at putting words on a page. We become literary athletes and excel in our performance of specific tasks.

Protection from Injury – Remember that rejection letter, horrible review or jealous writer who made it personal?    Writing doesn’t protect you from these initial injuries,  but writing groups and fellow authors often support those who fall down.  I belong to three groups, and all are very supportive.  RWA – Romance Writer’s of America Online Chapter, F-M Word Weavers – A local writing group and this group Writer Zen Garden.  For any of my rejection letters, bad reviews or other slight I may have felt, there was a support group for me.  They helped heal my wounds, cherish my soul and free my creative spirit to move past the hurt.

Yep, I love Yoga, I think I’ll go do some poses to get some of the benefits.





S is for Sex Scenes and Story

As a writer of Erotic Romance- although I may have to rethink my branding, because what was Erotic ten years ago, can be considered main stream now, it’s important to keep sex scenes creative and fresh.

How do you do that?  One thing I always try and do is give my star couple their own thing.  By that I mean giving them an act you won’t find in another of my books.  I’ve written 10 books and it can get challenging, giving each couple their own fantasy or kink.

I’m sure as I write more I am likely to double-up…no pun intended.   I think the most difficult thing I worry about as a writer of romance is the idea that you could begin to be predictable.

Do Mystery writers worry about new ways of killing people?  Do action writers worry about fresh takes on fighting?  Maybe it isn’t just a romance thing.  I mean in a lot of ways the beginning is always the same.  Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, girl meets girl, etc.) and they live happily ever after (or happy for now).

Its the journey that changes with each story.   And maybe that is what readers really look for in a fresh take.

Well fellow readers, what do you think is most important in a story.  Does everything have to be new?  Are you annoyed when writers seem to repeat things from story to story?


M is for Man-titty

This week, I will be enjoying a bevy of man-titty at the Romantic Times Convention in Las Vegas,Nevada.

I recently read an article in the New York Times.  The article was a look into the romance industry regarding male romance cover models.

According the the article, having a man on the cover of your book is three times more likely to sell than a woman on the cover.  Of course it stands to reason (at least in other blogs I’ve read) that a topless man will sell even more.

The article doesn’t say whether couples sell well together, and whether said couples sell better clothed or nude.

I’ve always had couples on my books or in one case, two men and a woman.   And I prefer them partially clothed.  I think clothes tell a lot about what you are going to be reading. Gives you a sense of time, characters and heat level. I usually assume the less clothes, the hotter the book.

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of man-titty.  Down girls…down.  Let me clarify.  What I mean to say is… I’m confused by a single half-naked man on the cover.  I know.  Aren’t we all?

Obviously if I’m familiar with the author or a certain house imprint, I can make assumptions on what I’m buying.  No, I’m not talking about authors or imprints within a house that give you an idea of what to expect. I’m talking about that random shot, with nothing but the man-titty.


Let’s examine:


Okay – What is going on with this dude?  He seems young.  No tattoos, so I’m thinking the book isn’t about bikers or bad-boys.  No dog tags so not military.  No head, so no idea if he has long hair or short.  No background – so no idea if it is historical, contemporary or futuristic.  Do you understand my confusion?

When a man on a book cover has no shirt on, I have no idea what kind of book it is. Of course, this does cause me to occasionally pick up the book and look at the back.  Especially if he’s good looking, like our model above.  In the case of e-books, I’ll click on the blurb to find out more.

Now as I writer – I love to find pictures like this on the web, because it sparks my imagination and I can write a story.

So readers, do you have a story to tell about our hero above?





G is for Goals

20160402_175101As a writer, Its important to have goals.  Milestones that represent our accomplishments in the various avenues of our life.   Whether it is work, our health or travel planning.

Invariably when I set a goal – I break out my Franklin Planner and write tasks down to complete said goals.  If  I’m writing I’ll set so many words per day.  I have stickers, different colored pens, highlighters and flags to keep track of everything.  If I complete the task, I check it off.  If I miss I put a Red X through it.  Like its an epic fail.

I often wonder are the tasks as important as the Goal.  My argument would be, “Yes.”  Most tasks I assign myself are for some sort of Goal.  Whether that is completing a book, or planning a retreat.

I keep a seperate planner for all the Activity on my blog, and of course I have a schedule for the gym.  Not sure why I print and post that every month, but it makes me feel good. 🙂

I don’t tend to reward myself for the tasks, but aren’t they in, and of themselves, mini goals?  Shouldn’t I spend some time rewarding myself for even writing once during the week?

As I grow more as a writer, and person, I realize that these tasks are just as important as the goal they are propelling me towards.  Even if most days I’m more like the turtle in the race versus the hare.

Excuse me while I check this blog post of my task list.   Maybe I should invest in some gold stars. 🙂





A is for Artist’s Way…

Image Copyright 2016 by Darla M. Sands. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

By all accounts I’m a newbie to Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way and my status is “currently reading” on Goodreads. 🙂

That being said, I can at times be a bit of a zealot when I find something new and “shiny”. When I read a book that sparks my passion, or uncovers hidden truths about writing, craft, publishing or any non-fiction books sparking a “Right on…” sort of response.

My family is usually the first to witness this phenomenon when I buy them the books for Christmas. And then my friends.

My children received Sewing Books for Christmas, because I thought the knowledge was so wonderful.

My sister and best friend received calendars which held quotes from an author, whom I find enlightening.

In spite of my conversion tendencies, I tend to not follow my own convictions. Which brings me back to the Artist’s Way…and my lack of completion of the book. It seems a bit hypocritical for me to tout the wisdom of the book, without actually completing the work myself, doesn’t it. I like to think Ms. Cameron will forgive my error, and hopefully appreciates my “word-of-mouth,” recommendations.

This isn’t to say that I don’t finish things, I absolutely do. It seems to when it comes to taking on things that I perceive as “learning” I procrastinate. Much like a student writing a paper. Hmm, this seems to be a theme in my writing as well…but that’s a letter for another day.

Perhaps I should’ve said, “A is for Accountability”. ~Tina