AuThursday – Dana Ross

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DR author photoTell us a little about yourself and your background?

Like many writers, I was born into a family of bookworms. My maternal grandmother was a librarian for seventy-five years and she was a heavy influence on everything I read growing up. My father was a jeweler, and I grew up in the industry and was groomed to take over my family’s store. I worked under his wing for almost a decade, but after I left Maryland to attend the Gemological Institute of America and earn my Graduate Gemologist degree, I was encouraged to apply for a teaching position at the school. I relocated to California and worked as an instructor at G.I.A.’s Santa Monica campus.

Later, after marriage and kids and moving to Florida, I decided to try writing. After a few poor unstructured attempts, I joined a few critique groups, switched careers, attended grad school. There, I earned my MFA in creative writing. I still have a passion for gems and I try to infuse my writing with gemological factoids whenever possible.

How do you make time to write?

When my children were young, I wrote when they napped or attended school. I knew I had only a few precious hours to get words onto paper, so I made writing part of my daily routine—as much as brushing my teeth and flossing. My kids are almost grown now, but I still adhere to my writing schedule: Coffee first. Then treadmill (to fill my head with ideas/mentally flush out stories). Then I plant myself in my writing chair and work until my son comes home, hunger pangs beckon, or the dog whimpers for attention.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

“Ugh.” Unfortunately, yes. I’ve heard people say they don’t believe such a thing exists, but I suffer from it on occasion. Recently, I started working on two novels, one story I began while participating in NaNoWriMo, and one story that “came to me” out of the blue. I love both ideas, but I haven’t been able to commit fully to either, and until the “Eureka!” or “Aha!” moment comes to me, I can’t find the momentum to write. To help speed along the process, I play songs that remind me of my imagined chapters or work on character profile worksheets or try to write the synopsis of each book until the proverbial “block” has been lifted.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

Great question. My true love is YA because I love teen angst and quirky characters. The first manuscripts I wrote were YA stories, because writing is cathartic and through YA, I could deal with teen issues I, myself, went through, and issues my daughter experienced. That being said, my first published book is a contemporary romance with elements of suspense. It was a lot of fun to write outside my “regular” genre.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both.)

My recent book was published traditionally through The Wild Rose Press. I’d learned they had earned an award through Predators & Editors and heard great things about the company, so I queried them and they accepted my “baby.” TWRP really love their authors and go out of their way to teach us about the writing industry, which can be overwhelming at times.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I’m an intro/extrovert if there were such a thing. I love working and hanging out with fellow writers, but I’m also introverted at times. While crafting a novel, I’ll retreat into my writing cave and shun friends/society, and I can go days without contact from the outside world. Fortunately, I’m also a mom and the host of a local writers’ critique group, so I get pulled out of the proverbial cave and pushed back into society when my son is with me or when it’s time to moderate the writing group.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

That’s an easy answer. I stumbled upon this quote by Gloria Steinem and for years it has been my mantra: “Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

First, the obvious: write and read every day, even if it’s only a paragraph or a page. Second, read and write outside your comfort zone; our writer minds can get stagnant if we do the same thing every day. Third, read the craft books written by the masters. There are many but my favorites are Stephen King’s “On Writing,” Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style,” and Browne & King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.” Last, but not least, don’t give up. Your writing might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and writing is a glacial process, but if you write because you love what you do, stick to it, toughen your skin, and be patient. Your day will come, and there’s no greater feeling than having a complete stranger love your prose.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Thanks for asking, Tina. I’m constantly on social media, and I love to connect with readers and fellow writers. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and my (under construction) web page:

Website: https://danarossauthor.com

Twitter: @danarossauthor

Instagram: mommawriter (Dana Ross Author)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanaRossauthor

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Yes, thank you for offering. This excerpt comes from chapter two—a scene where my protagonist meets face-to-face with the story’s antagonist.

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There were three things I could not stand—cheap shoes, bad wine, and the man seated across the table from me. William Drummond was staring at me like a half-starved animal. Maybe his greedy gaze was due to my dress’s plunging neckline, but the man obviously had other things on his mind—complications that involved me. And like the pan-fried calamari appetizer slowly digesting in my belly, sharing company with the man who almost killed one of my girls did not sit well.

Nonetheless, I had problems. I had to at least hear him out.

I lifted my empty champagne flute and motioned for a refill.

Drummond obliged.

The bubbly was good and dry, one that cost a pretty penny, which the sockmuppet would probably write off and charge taxpayers. It was tempting to slug my drink down and ask for a third glass, but I refrained since I was dealing with someone less trustworthy than my dry cleaners. As Drummond refilled his glass, I remembered how easily he polished off drinks without showing a hint of an altered mind. In addition to the champagne, there was a glass of whiskey with melting ice cubes by his plate.

Bells in my head rang a warning.

He was slick. Just like that suit. Which was decent, though, probably an Italian label that cost more than my rent. He also sported a rose-gold designer watch—last year’s model—and diamond pavé cufflinks that practically blinded me with their shine. His nails were trimmed and glossy, like he’d had a recent manicure, and his jet-black hair shined like an asphalt lake.

His eyes were a forgettable brown, but they revealed intellect—correction, cunning intellect.

Drummond lifted his champagne glass and aimed the rim in my direction. “Let’s make a toast. To old times.”

I leaned forward and clinked his glass. “Old times.”

 

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Writer Wednesday – Solo Retreat

In the fall I take an annual writing retreat and I find that it replenishes my soul.  This past weekend I treated myself to a Solo Retreat.  I didn’t travel to an exotic location or rent a rustic cabin, or even leave my house.

DH was gone most of the day on Saturday with a flight student, so I had the house to myself.  I set some goals for myself, to do classwork and write. I was taking two classes simultaneously – The Artist’s Way at Writer Zen Garden and Writing and Resistance: Overcoming Our Blocks to Success by MM Pollard at RWA Online.

My Retreat went like this:

  1. Slept in – I’m retreating so working on my own timetable.
  2. Coffee – I’m a bear without my coffee.
  3. Morning Pages – It’s part of the Artist’s Way
  4. Class Work – Basically Log on and do homework. However long that took.
  5. Lunch – On my lunch break I watched the latest YouTube videos by First Draught and Jenna Moreci.   I find this a great way take a break and learn.
  6. Meditate – I used the 12-minute Focus Meditation on Calm.
  7. Write for 60 minutes – I’ve been using the help of the 90-day novel by Alan Watt to help flesh out my current WIP.
  8. Read for 30 minutes- Along with Artist’s Way for class.  I’m reading The Art of Working by Jeff Goins that I checked out from my Library.
  9. Write for 60 minutes
  10. Read for 30 minutes
  11. Repeated Steps 8 and 9 until DH came home and we had dinner.

I accomplished my goal and was able to enjoy my One Day Solo Retreat.

Can you do this?  Sure you can.  It might be easier for me because I live on a farm and don’t have a day job, but this is doable for anyone.

Some recommendations.   Pick some goals.  Are you burned out?  Maybe you need to build more Meditation and Yoga into your retreat than I did.  How about a luxurious bubble-bath or painting your toes, etc.

I often listen to Pandora on the farm.  I choose stations based on mood.  I recommend outdoor time if weather permits.  I avoided the snowy sub-zero temps…hence some meditation planned into my day.

Regarding Food – If you love to cook, incorporate this into your retreat.  Plan a favorite meal to prepare.  If you live in a large city consider delivery so you can enjoy the experience and maybe treat yourself.  I like to cook, but I wanted to keep the time to myself so I picked up some fancier microwavable meals.  I picked up beverages I like, chocolates, and some snacks I love.

If you have other passions like painting, drawing, knitting, scrapbooking, or other creative pursuits into your retreat…especially if you have more than one day.  This is a chance to fill your creative well.  Who knows, maybe while you are coloring in a color book…that writer’s block will finally release.

I would caution against spending the day binging TV shows or even reading for pleasure. Not because these things are bad, but because they distract you from yourself. If you want to watch that movie you’ve never seen, or read a book, do it in the evening or maybe only for a couple of hours.

Ultimately a Solo retreat is what you make it.

Happy Retreating!