Friday, January 28, 2011

Nourishing Our Own Love Story

My guest is bestselling author, Syrie James. After a successful career as a screenwriter, Syrie decided to follow her passion and write books. She writes both contemporary and historical fiction.

We all lead such busy lives today whether we work outside the home or not. Juggling family, work, writing, and time with our spouse isn't easy. How do we keep it fresh and the romance alive?

Syrie offers some suggestions she's utilized in her long marriage.

I have love on the brain. All the books I write are love stories, and there's a reason for it: I love writing about love. I know many of you share that same passion. But with Valentine's Day coming up, I'm reminded that the characters in our books shouldn't be the only ones experiencing romance and passion in their lives. We authors have to care for and nourish our own love stories and keep them alive and flourishing in the real world.

I know, I know. It's not easy to keep romance going when you're writing around the clock, doing Q&As and blogs to promote your new book, finishing the polish draft of your next book, updating your website, and sending out a reader newsletter—while at the same time juggling personal and family events. (That's a description of the last two months of my life.) Is there time for love and romance in this madness? There has to be! You must make time for it.

One of my favorite quotes is "Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be." (Robert Browning.) This perfectly describes my marriage. My husband Bill and I met in college when I was 19 years old and became engaged 3 weeks later. The attraction was so instantaneous and intense that I couldn't imagine living another day without him. I took 26 units my last quarter so I could graduate early (I know, insane), which lowered my perfect 4.0 GPA to something less because with all those classes, the best I could manage was B's. I didn't care; I was insanely happy; I was getting married to the love of my life!

I left behind friends and family to begin a new life with Bill in southern California—a life that was sometimes difficult and complicated but was always nurtured by our mutual love and respect for each other. We (literally) grew up together, navigating the challenges of building careers and a home while raising a family. Every day of the journey has been a great adventure.

I feel blessed that the adventure is still continuing, and gets better every day. My husband and I love each other dearly. We have two talented, terrific sons who recently married lovely young women who we adore, and we are fortunate to have them all living in our same neighborhood. We make time to get together for some kind of family event at least twice a month, sometimes every week. Bill and I just celebrated our 35th anniversary with a special dinner that our kids cooked themselves. With everyone crowded in the kitchen, chatting and teasing, it was an afternoon/evening to remember!

But Bill and I both work very hard, putting in long hours, and are often exhausted at the end of the day. (Sound familiar?) Are we doing all that we can and should to nurture our marriage? I'll say this: we really try!

Here are my suggestions for keeping the romance going in your relationship:
· Say "I love you" to your significant other every single day.
· Call each other in the middle of the day to say hi (even if it's just for two minutes.)
· Say "thank you" when your partner does nice something for you (even if it's just taking out the trash.)
· Find little ways to express your appreciation for each other. (Notes? Flowers? Make his favorite breakfast the night before and have it waiting in the fridge for him?)
· Make time to really talk and listen to each other. (That period of intense, initial communication and discovery between new lovers is something I find thrilling, and I put great emphasis on it in all my novels. I call it "falling in love through conversation." But the conversation has to continue! And I don't mean talking about the bills that are due or the latest problem with the house, the dog, or the kids. Share the ups and downs of your work days. Expose your innermost thoughts, worries, dreams, and frustrations. Discuss the movie you just saw or the book/article you just read. Gossip. Laugh. Flirt. Talking keeps you close.)
· Do something fun together on a regular basis. (What did you love doing when you first met? What activities do wish you had time for today? A movie, concert, or play? Hiking or sailing? Whatever. Just do it!)
· Go out to dinner, just the two of you, at least once a month. (The restaurant doesn't have to be expensive. It's the fun of being together, with someone else cooking and doing the dishes, that counts.)
· Do the grocery shopping together. (Bill and I have done this for 35 years straight. Even in the busiest week in the world, you have to buy groceries. It gives you time to chat while walking down the aisles. Together, you're less likely to forget something. And it's so nice to have a strong masculine companion to lift all those heavy bags into and out of the car!)
· Take at least one vacation a year that's just for the two of you. (One of our favorite vacations is our week at a Timeshare by the beach, where we do nothing but eat, read, play Scrabble, and take long walks by the sea. And with all that quiet and relaxation, there's time for … ahem.)
· Make time for YOU at least once a week. (I'm talking about personal, alone time. Take a bubble bath. Read a good book. Take a walk and appreciate the beauty of nature. When you feel relaxed and rejuvenated, you'll be a better and more responsive partner.)
· Have Date Night once a week. (Take-out dinner in front of the TV with a movie? Dinner for two with that all important time to talk?)
· Take a walk together around the block together at the end of your work day.
· Eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. (When you feel fit, you feel better about yourselves.)
· Make time for family. (A happy family helps make a happy marriage.)

This isn't a complete list (and I admit I'm a slacker on the "exercise regularly" part) but try it out and see if it works for you as well as it does for us.

What do YOU do to keep the romance going in your marriage? Please share your thoughts, ideas, and comments!


When Nicole Whitcomb's car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger. Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension. Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her— a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host's terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life.ExcerptReviews


Syrie James is the critically acclaimed and bestselling author of Nocturne, Dracula, My Love, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal) and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Great Group Read 2009, Women's National Book Association.) Recently hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as "the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings," Syrie's books have been translated into 15 languages. Syrie's next novel, a YA paranormal romance she co-wrote with her son Ryan, will be published by HarperTeen in early 2012.

Syrie is also a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, RWA, and the Jane Austen Society of North America. After a successful career in Hollywood in which she sold nineteen screenplays and teleplays in a variety of genres, Syrie followed her passion and wrote a novel. Syrie was thrilled when The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen sold at auction after a two-day bidding war to HarperCollins and became a bestseller.

Syrie's name (pronounced "Sear-ee"; rhymes with Dearie) was inspired by a character in a radio show her mother listened to as a little girl. Having no idea how to spell it, her mom made it up. Syrie enjoys writing both contemporary and historical fiction, preferring smart, independent heroines and heroes who are dashing, charismatic, intelligent, well-read, good-hearted, and highly accomplished.

Syrie writes full-time and maintains her own website. When she's not working, her favorite pursuits include spending time with her husband and family, reading, movies, the theater, traveling, great food, board games, photography, and the out of doors. One of her greatest challenges is finding time for all those things—but she's determined to achieve the perfect balance!

Syrie welcomes visitors and messages at her website where you will find TV interviews, reviews, and a list of her books. Follow her on Facebook, on Twitter @Syriejames, and at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

San Diego Noir: Interview with Lisa Brackmann

I’ve mentioned before I’m part of a large writing group and we have quite a few published authors covering multiple genres from literary to horror. We have some outstanding writers. I’m very proud of our group and the hard work our authors and editors do. We’ve been together about five years now and I talk to most of them on a daily basis. I’ve learned so much from them because we tend to share current publishing trends, news, and a plethora of information on writing.

Available for pre order
It’s also fun to keep track of some of their projects and how they get them. Lisa Brackmann recently participated in an anthology for a New York publisher, Akashic Books. Who, you ask? I hadn’t heard about them either. However, if you’re a mystery writer/reader you probably know of them. If you enjoy Noir stories you may have read some of their books. They have quite an impressive line up of authors.

They publish an award winning Book Noir Series centered in various cities around the world. I had heard of Brooklyn Noir but didn’t know the publisher—which is not unusual for me, as I tend to remember book titles or authors better than I do their publishers.

Akashic says of the series, “Following the stunning success of the summer '04 award-winning bestseller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books launches a groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book. ”

To date, they’ve published 42 books in the Book Noir Series and there are 12 more planned with 4 being released in 2011.

Being the curious type, I asked Lisa about her participation in the Book Noir Series.

Lisa, you debuted with Rock Paper Tiger in 2010. ROCK PAPER TIGER made Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2010 (that’s fiction and non-fiction) and is one of Amazon’s Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers. Still, you’re a debut author and it has to feel somewhat surreal to be involved with an anthology like this. How did it happen?

It happened thanks to editor Maryelizabeth Hart.  In addition to her own writing and reviewing, she’s the co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy, a truly wonderful independent bookstore in San Diego.

I did an event there for the release of my debut novel, ROCK PAPER TIGER and had a fantastic time. Maryelizabeth knew that I had a San Diego connection — I’m actually a San Diego native and was born and raised there — and wanted to know if I’d be interested in contributing. She’s really assembled an excellent, eclectic lineup, including such luminaries as T. Jefferson Parker and Don Winslow, and I was honored to be asked. And a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to deliver — I hadn’t written a short story since college!

Were you assigned a theme to write to?

In addition to putting together a diverse slate of authors, Maryelizabeth also wanted a collection of stories that do justice to the diversity and complexity that is the city of San Diego — it’s not all surfers and beaches. So though I wasn’t assigned any sort of topic or location, I wanted to make sure I didn’t just do another day at the beach.

Of course, what ended up happening is that the bulk of my story is set in Ocean Beach! But I also go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo.

What kind of research did you have to do?

I was getting pretty close to the deadline and quite honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to write about. I really didn’t know if I’d be able to come up with a story or not. I decided to give it my best shot and proceed with the research and hope that it inspired something.

Now that would add some pressure to a writer. But still, you grew up in San Diego so couldn’t you just create a story from your memories?

Though I’m from San Diego, I’ve lived up in Venice CA for a number of years. So my first order of business was to visit the locations I wanted to use. I went first to the San Diego Zoo. I’d worked there for a number of years – it was my summer and weekend job that basically put me through college — but it had changed so much that I knew I needed to go there if I wanted to do it right. I’m very much a writer who works off of a place—I’m inspired by settings and I like to bring them to life with little, visceral details.

I had a fantastic trip there. I was particularly fascinated by the new elephant mesa, which also features many local animals as well as a natural history lesson on extinct species and environmental challenges.

So now you had a clear vision of the setting?

But I still didn’t know what I wanted to use the setting for.

Yikes. How did you get your story?

I’d read an article about the same time about a sticker that was for sale in Ocean Beach, reflecting tensions between the local residents and a population of transients that many saw as a more dangerous element than the long-time hippies in VW vans that the area is known for. The sticker is a parody of signs at the San Diego Zoo. It says, “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums.” For whatever reason, that inspired me. And since the theme of this series is “noir,” that suggested a few other things. “Noir” to me means “A woman does a man wrong,” or conversely, “A man does a woman wrong.” So I put all those elements together, and voila, a story emerged!

When will it be out?

SAN DIEGO NOIR from Akashic Books will be out June 1st – just in time for beach reading!

Meanwhile you had also been finishing up your latest full-length novel. When will your new book out and can you tell us a little about it?

I’ve completed my second novel and hope to have more news about that soon. It’s another “existential thriller,” as I like to call ‘em, set in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, featuring another woman who accidentally gets in way over her head. Michelle is a different sort of woman from Ellie (the protagonist of ROCK PAPER TIGER). She’s fortyish, a recent widow, and somewhat of a social chameleon; she’s pretty confident and savvy. But she’s nowhere near equipped to deal with the trouble she gets into.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one. As soon as you have a release date I want to have you visit again. Thank you for sharing the information on your upcoming anthology, San Diego Noir to be released in June. I’m looking forward to that one too.


Lisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. She still takes pride in her karaoke-ready repertoire of bad pop hits and an embarrassing number of show tunes. A southern California native, she lives in Venice CA and spends a lot of time in Beijing, China. Her three cats wish she’d stay put.

Blog: Papertigertail

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Musings: Balancing Creativity

I’ve been writing on an intensive schedule since before November. The story is coming along good, but I hit a spot I need to do some thinking. I have my plot points clear in mind; the character arcs are there. I’m having fun with the adventure but I need to do some layering in a section. I’m letting it percolate in my mind for a while. This past week has been a much-needed break and a healthy step away from a long-term project.

So, instead of editing and layering my WIP I’m playing with another passion of mine, photography. I have a couple-hundred pictures I took for a wedding and for another function, both formal and candid, which need to be cropped and edited. I have other photo projects to do for various family members too. It’s a different creative process but it allows me to do something with hands while my ADD mind is thinking on another project. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures and I love the creative process of editing them. It’s fun and relaxing for me, especially when I can add some of my favorite music. I find I need that periodically.

I also need to finish filling my February and March Over Coffee calendar (I’m willing to entertain suggestions on authors to have here). So when my eyes start to cross because I’m doing some concentrated detail work, I take a break and work on the calendar. Or read books I need to write reviews for which currently stands at six. Meanwhile a section of my brain is busy at work with my story. I did mention my ADD brain, right? When it’s finished processing the hows, I’ll be going ah-ha and go back to my story with a fresh perspective. It’s all good.

  • How do you balance out your writing time? How do you relax so you come back to your project with a refreshed spirit and a mind ready to work?

  •  If you don’t write, how do you relax from your daily workday?