On Happy Birthdays, Lovely Hobbits, Rabbit Holes, Recriminations, Validation, Balance, and Bullshit

In Writer on April 23, 2013 at 6:33 am
I love my birthday with the intensity of a Russian tortoise on a romaine rampage.

I love my birthday with the intensity of a Russian tortoise on a romaine rampage.

I told myself I would never write a book while teaching my intermediate pastry arts course at night ever again. The last time I did that this happened. It wasn’t pretty.

However…when I didn’t hit my wordcount for my WIP, I decided I would finish it during the ten-day spring break I’d have in the middle of my course. Because that’s what normal people do, right? Decide to write a book in ten days? Life never gets in the way.

Riiiiiiiight! But I still wanted to finish and polish the book by May 1st, so I had no choice but to keep writing while I was teaching – but that’s not the silly part.

Truth: Arthur Dimmesdale has nothing on me. I am harder on myself than anyone else would dare to be. I’ve been beating myself up for most of April because I didn’t get that book done fast enough. Clearly, I lack discipline.

I call bullshit.

Welcome to Willowdale, North Carolina, a small town where the folks are friendly, the romances are as sweet as the tea, and the biddies at the diner gobble up gossip like it’s peach cobbler. This may be their biggest scoop ever. When sexy Hollywood bad-boy Teague “T-Rex” Reynolds comes to this quiet Southern town, he needs a fake girlfriend to hide the secret that brought him there. School nurse Kate Riley takes the job, but she won’t fall for a movie star, no ma’am. That’s fine with Teague. He hung a closed sign on his heart years ago. Convincing the press they’re in love is one thing. Fooling each other they’re not is getting harder each day. Despite scandal, heartache, and misunderstandings galore, they might just find the sweet thrill of true love. Book one of The Willowdale Romances.

When sexy Hollywood bad-boy Teague “T-Rex” Reynolds comes to this quiet Southern town, he needs a fake girlfriend to hide the secret that brought him there. School nurse Kate Riley takes the job, but she won’t fall for a movie star, no ma’am. That’s fine with Teague. He hung a closed sign on his heart years ago.
Convincing the press they’re in love is one thing. Fooling each other they’re not is getting harder each day…

At my Western New York Romance Writers meeting last Saturday, Lisa Scott inspired the heck out of us by sharing her writing journey and offering great tips for weathering the tough road. She was awesome – witty, smart, approachable, savvy, gorgeous – and I am going to buy all of her books. In fact, I’m going to buy No Foolin’ TODAY because it is the Kindle Daily Deal, and it sounds like a fun read. However, one of the tips she suggested to increase productivity was this: write down everything you do during each 15 minute increment of one day to see how much time is wasted on Internet/telephone/navel gazing. Something deep inside me screamed HELL NO! AND I’M NOT GOING TO WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING I EAT, EITHER. (Hey, click the red box just below to read more!) But I thought it was my guilty lack of discipline speaking. On the way home, my rock’n’roll womens fiction-writing pal Jessica Topper mentioned she loved the idea of keeping track of time because she falls down rabbit holes on the Internet and doesn’t surface for hours. I told her those rabbit holes she explores are essential to her writing, my writing (she sends me links to extraordinary shit I would never find on my own), and her psyche. I have another writer friend, the sometimes inspirational always romantic and suspenseful Alison Stone, who also feels guilty about time spent clicking links…but I know news stories inspire book ideas for her.

Yes, the work must get done. We can’t spend all our time screwing around. There must be balance. Balance is my vision quest. I seek it daily, nearly every minute. In fact, I revere it so much I got a big ole tree tattooed on my left shoulder blade as a birthday present to myself – roots and branches, family and work, grounded and reaching for the sky. It’s a little bit tribal, a little bit floral, and a little bit Celtic, but don’t tell my mom because I plan to show it to her at Lori Foster’s Reader & Author Get Together in June.

But I don’t lack discipline, damn it. I bet you don’t lack whatever it is you self-flagellate for, either. Maybe it’s our process, a part of us. Maybe it’s just what we do, and we would be happier people if we accepted it, perhaps even celebrated it. Know yourself. Celebrate your weaknesses as well as your strengths.

In fact, one method of figuring out a character’s flaw is to exacerbate his or her greatest strength until it BECOMES a weakness. Take a superpower and turn it into kryptonite. I did this in my WIP – Jenna is passionate. She never quits. She always has an angle, an idea, a new way to get what she wants. Therefore, she digs herself deeper and deeper into a mess until she learns when to call it quits. However, her passion, enthusiasm and creative thinking are still huge strengths.

My class is finished. My book is done. My birthday happened in the middle of all that craziness. I love my birthday and usually celebrate for a month, so let’s party! In true Hobbit style, I want to GIVE a present on my birthday. Let’s celebrate our superpowers AND the kryptonite that balances out all that awesomeness and makes us tolerable to be around. I fell in love with a book last week – SULTRY WITH A TWIST – by Macy Beckett. She has a great voice – funny and smart. Her characters are unique, loveable, hilarious, sexy. She gives vivid descriptions that drop you right into the scene. It’s REAL. So I want to give it to somebody who might love it, too.

Do you have a superpower that becomes your kryptonite? To enter my contest for an E-COPY of SULTRY WITH A TWIST, leave me a comment. Any old thing will do if you don’t want to search your soul for your superpower. Or tweet me at @AmandaUsen with the hashtag #balance. Or like my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/amandausen. Entry constitutes proof that you are 18 and old enough to read about true love and life-changing sex by a lake. Winner will be chosen on April 28th and contacted by me!

Sultry With A Twist:

Nine years after June Augustine hightailed it out of Sultry Springs with her heart in pieces, one thing stands between her and her dream of opening an upscale martini bar: a bogus warrant from her tiny Texas hometown. Now she’s stuck in the sticks for a month of community service under the supervision of the devilishly sexy Luke Gallagher, her first love and ex-best friend.

If Texas wasn’t already hot enough, working side-by-side with June would make any man melt. Luke wants nothing more than to strip her down and throw her in the lake-the same lake where they were found buck naked and guilty as sin all those years ago. In their heads, they’re older and wise. But their hearts tell a different story…

If you’re like me, and you want it right now it’s ON SALE for 1.99 for a few more days on KINDLE and NOOK

So happy birthday to me and all April birthdays! I hope you’ll take a minute to enter my contest, check out NO FOOLIN’ and SULTRY WITH A TWIST, and celebrate something about yourself that makes you YOU! Happy day to YOU!

  1. First of all : wow. You amaze me Amanda, and huge congrats for your self-discipline and self-flagellation!! Secondly: Happy Happy Birthday!! 😀 Hope you had a lovely day and celebrated amidst the busy times.

    My superpower? Hm I have a few: like being able to read 500+ pages long books without breaking their spine. Oh you meant something else? Well the superpower that is at the same time my kryptonite is my procrastination. I leave everything until the very last minute and then I get stressed and run against the clock and trying to do the job/project before the whooshing deadline. Nothing managed to cure me of this, that’s how I studied for exams at law school as well, and of course the adrenaline rush boosts my energy and memory but I’m getting that closer to a heart attack… lol

    Wishing you a lovely year, hope it will be just as good or even better than the last was! 😀

  2. Hi, Stella! Thank you so much. 🙂 Procrastination is an excellent superpower. Being able to leave it to the last minute and still get it all done and be awesome (because you are!)? That is amazing! 😀 Power to the procrastinators!

  3. Happy Birthday to another April Baby. My super power is juggling 3 households in 3 different states and occasionally stay sane. I’ll be heading to WNY in a week or so to fix up my parents home. I had heard about writing down what’s happening so you can stay focused. Unfortunately I’m usually focused on other things so nothing gets written down. Congratulations on finishing your book while teaching your class!

  4. Happy birthday!! I am also a procrastinator(I filed for an extension on the taxes…) But I do get the important things done eventually. I am at a point in my life where I can do what I feel like doing or just do nothing. My favorite thing to do right now is READ! Or listen to books as I see. Thanks for doing your part to entertain me!!!

    • Mercy! You are so very welcome! I love to read, too. I bought myself Sultry With A Twist to celebrate last week and Fourth Grave Under My Feet to celebrate this week. Thank YOU for being a reader. 🙂

  5. The book sounds great, can’t wait to read it!!

  6. And I thought I was the only procrastinator (or my hubby & I together); but reading the earlier comments, I can see I’m not. Only the older I get, the less I tend to eventually get things done in time! At the moment, we are facing a move – we’ve known about it for more than a month; it has to happen in 7 weeks (1 of which we are committed to be out of pocket); we have not yet made arrangements with a mover; and I’m frantically trying to end my job in a week [with 3 weeks worth of work to do in the one week!]. I’ll be on that floor gibbering and snotting soon too — or lost in facebook or freecell 🙂 .

  7. Hmm..I think you know darn well you are going to get everything done when it needs to be done. SUPERPOWER! 😀

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