Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who Knew it's hard to be Lazy?!

This year's PJ Party T-shirt selection!!
Tonight, I'll have a big wedding to talk about, but this morning, for once in a very long time I'm looking at a whole day filled with nothing but FUN!!  All manuscripts and proposals are in, AAs and line edits are done.  The house is fairly clean.  Of course, there's still Mt. Laundry to summit, but it'll wait. 

So here I sit, contemplating one of the greatest gifts of all--time--and realizing it's actually a little daunting figuring out what to do.  When I'm in deadline peril, I can always think of a gazillion things I'd rather be doing.  Reading someone else's book, crafting, sewing, gardening, watching a movie, playing a video game (Fallout's my current fave!), lunching with family and friends.

While all of that does sound fun, as busy as the past few weeks have been, what sounds best of all is just, plain sitting!!  LOL!!

In other news . . .  The annual Romance Writer's of America (RWA) conference is fast approaching and as usual, I have NOTHING to wear.  I was supposed to have lost 200 lbs by now, but only managed 30.  Bleh.  Better than nothing, but left me in size limbo.

The one item I have found is the above T-shirt for me and my roomies, FAB authors Margaret Daley and Winnie Griggs, to wear to the PJ party.  I'm not sure how the tradition even started, but at least ten years ago, Margaret and I decided it might be fun to match.  We used to get actual PJs, but they've gotten REALLY hard to find.  When Winnie started rooming with us, we were gracious enough to include her in our tradition--a very high honor!!  LOL!!

Since I'm getting my nails done for the wedding, maybe I'll do more conference shopping, too?  Or should I take a nap?  Decisions, decisions . . .

What are you doing with your precious Saturday?



Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing tools, backups and whiskey...Oh my!

Happy Friday the 13th!  My first blog back in April was also on Friday the 13th and I discussed my Triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13).  I am happy to say, I've conquered that fear.  But there is a fear that still remains...the fear of losing my work in progress.

Many years ago, my laptop crashed and it cost me $800 and a bottle of whiskey to have the data recovered.  I met the man in a dark basement of his non-furnished house, in a remote town, an hour away.  I brought a friend for protection once I heard the words "bring whiskey".  

Times have changed and the way I go about writing has too.  My tools were once a notebook and pen.  I upgraded to a desktop, then to a laptop.  Now I have an entire tool bag to work with.

iPhone - I love smart phones for on the fly note taking, photos and minor digital recording. Last year I wrote my entire NaNoWriMo manuscript on my iPhone using two apps. Dragon Dictation (free) and My Writing Spot ($2.99). A 50,000 word rough draft was completed in 12 days. It's amazing what the proper tools can allow you to accomplish.

Kindle Fire - I recently eliminated stacks and stacks of research materials by utilizing the Adobe app (free) and the built in documents feature. I can grab it and go and even make edits if I need to with the QuickOffice app (free). I save a bundle on printing and paper costs, never mind the lack of clutter. I even receive most of my magazine subscriptions on it. Added bonus, it's very green!

Notebook and pen - I have notebooks of all sizes stashed everywhere. My bag, my truck, my exercise equipment, the nightstand.

Multicolored index cards - Each book gets its own color. I'm currently writing a series so this makes it super easy to keep track of what characters, locations, animals, etc. are in each book. When time permits, I transfer everything into a spreadsheet.

Laptop - My main writing source. This one stays home.

Netbook - My travel writing source. It's small and light, easily fits in my bag and the battery lasts an entire day without charging. I've written 4 manuscripts on mine.

USB drives - You can never have too many of these. BACK UP YOUR WORK! Either that or get the whiskey ready...for you...avoid the shady guy in the basement. I use mine to transfer work from my laptop to my netbook, as well as all those research photos I took with my iPhone.

iPod - I visualize everything as a movie. Similar to a soundtrack, a particular song helps me capture the mood as I write a scene.

Digital recorder - This is my favorite tool. I have the Sony UX512 and I never leave home without it. Since it's fully customizable, I have a folder for each book I'm working on. I can record story ideas into a specific folder at the touch of a button. I find it imperative for dialogue. I literally perform every word before it hits the page. I can record it, play it back and see how it sounds.  If it doesn't sound natural, out it goes. I even record my read-throughs after my edits are completed. Essentially, it's my own audiobook. It enables me to catch things I may have missed. It also makes for comical grocery shopping. I left my iPhone in the car a few weeks ago, but my recorder was in my bag. I had a story idea and I was afraid to lose it. I whipped out my recorder and in the middle of the toilet paper aisle I started talking into it. Oh, the looks I received could stop a clock! Being the ever loving trouble-maker than I am, I raised the recorder to my mouth and said, "we will need to amputate all limbs, stat". The gawkers couldn't get away from me fast enough. They either thought I was a deranged doctor or a serial killer. Probably the latter of the two.

Post it flags - Can't live without them. Perfect bookmarks.

Click Free backup drive - BACK UP YOUR WORK! Can't say it enough. The Click Free plugs in and back up your entire system. No hassle, no worries, no need to buy that bottle of whiskey.

Planner - I have a separate planner just for writing. This one is the size of an index card and goes everywhere with me.

I am constantly on the go.  My ideas usually strike at the most inopportune times so it's nice to have these items at my fingertips. Now, I don't carry everything with me all the time.  The laptop and the Click Free stay home, unless I'm running from a hurricane (I live in the south and these things do happen).  Everything else tucks nicely into my Dooney Florentine bag.  It's not the weak or meager.  Empty, the bag weighs 5 lbs and with all my daily crap, we're looking at 10-12 lbs.  A few months ago I pulled a muscle using the shoulder strap and it took 3 weeks to heal. But everything fits with room to spare. Injury be damned, it's my tool bag, my handbag, my everyday bag.

One last piece of advice when it comes to backing up your work.  I always email a copy to myself at the end of the day.  The email account has to be one that uses a cloud type of mailbox.  Yahoo, Gmail, etc. allow email and attachments to remain on their servers so in the event of a computer crash and the lack of a backup, you can easily retrieve your documents from any computer.  I use a separate email account that only I know about (to eliminate hackers and theft). There are many cloud services to choose from. Most of them are free.

And then there are some days when technology ticks me off and I just need to unplug for a while.  There's something to be said for the simplicity of an old fashioned notebook.

That's my writer's tool bag ... what's in yours?

Amanda Renée
Betting on Texas (March 2013)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spreading the Word

A flurry of activity kicks off the day a new book is released.  Especially when that new book is a Harlequin American Romance, like my June release, Rodeo Daughter.  By the time the book is available, I’ve spent more than a year writing and revising it with the help of my fabulous editor, Laura Barth, and  keeping my fingers crossed that the Art Department comes through with another terrific cover (for my first three books, they’ve hit three home runs).  Despite the efforts of so many people who come together to make each book perfect for our readers, Harlequin American Romances are only available in book stores for a short time.  So, I try to make the most of it. 

Long before the actual release date, I send out review copies and start bending the arms of my good friends, hoping they’ll let me kidnap their blog for a day.  But the fun really gets under way at the first book signing.  Here, I’m very lucky because Kaori Suzuki-Fischer, RWA’s 2011 Bookseller of the Year, is the New Business Manager at “my” Barnes & Noble, and she loves nothing better than filling the store with romance authors and their readers.  This time, the phenomenal Roxanne St. Claire (Barefoot in the Sand), Rachel Hauk (The Wedding Dress) and I teamed up to do exactly that. 

That’s me.

That’s Roxanne on the left, Rachel on the right.

Did you notice the bags of caramel corn I gave away to anyone who stopped at my table?

A family reunion in St. Augustine meant a chance to share Rodeo Daughter with some of my cousins and the only aunt I have left on my dad’s side of the family.  That’s Aunt Doris, off to the left.  She’s a great fan of the Oakridge Boys, and there are stories I could tell you about that, but they’ll have to wait for another day. 
From St. Augustine, hubby and I trekked up to Tallahassee where our son and his lovely bride make their home.  This time the trip, which normally takes about three hours, took quite a bit longer because I insisted we stop at every Wal-Mart and Target along the way so I could drop in and sign books.   Another book signing, this time at Books A Million, closed out the trip before we headed for home. 
Once we were back, I spent several days dropping in at book stores, Wal-Mart and Target department stores (pretty much wherever Rodeo Daughter was on sale in Central Florida).  But since I was on my home turf, so to speak, I found these drive-by book signings a tad on the expensive side. 

One problem with writing full time is that, strange as it might seem, I don’t get out much.  When I do, I tend to take advantage of it.  A blue ray player, a new phone system, books by authors I’d been wanting to read, fishing gear and several full shopping carts later, I decided that drive-by book signings, as much fun as they are to do, might not be the healthiest choice I can make for my pocket book. 

Now that July is upon us and four more terrific Harlequin American Romances are available, my promotional efforts for Rodeo Daughter are winding down.  As with all Harlequin releases, Rodeo Daughter will always be available as an e-book.  If you’d like an autographed book mark, just email me at, and I’ll drop one in the mail to you (N. America addresses only, please).  In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work on my next book for Harlequin American Romance and looking forward to the release of Rancher’s Son in November.