Welcome to Suzanne’s blog, the Chimes Café

Suzanne StenglAuthor Suzanne Stengl writes whimsical, heartwarming romance and cozy mysteries. When she needs a break from her keyboard, she swims lengths at the Y, skis at Sunshine Village and hikes in the Rockies. She’s also a pretty good line dancer . . . and a very poor euchre player.

Debra Dixon: Goal, Motivation & Conflict

Debra Dixon, author of GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT is coming to Calgary, Alberta, Canada on May 2, 2015 and I’m already signed up for the workshop.

Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation & ConflictThis is my underlined, stick-it-noted, well-read copy of her book.

It was back in 2002 when I first heard Debra Dixon speak. I still remember that workshop, presented by the Alberta Romance Writers Association, otherwise known as ARWA.

That Friday night when she arrived, we immediately learned something about setting.  

Alberta writers would never think of meeting someone outside the airport. You wait inside, right? That’s normal, isn’t it? It could be minus 30 out there. Who would ever wait outside at the airport?

Someone from Memphis, Tennessee.

Finding Deb Dixon at the airport on that Friday night was an example of romance writers creating a comedy of errors. But Jenn, diligently walking around with her sign, eventually found our speaker, and the Board took her out to dinner.

The next morning, I remember arriving about 8:30 to a room bubbling with conversation. The day was packed with information, much of the format was lecture and a good portion was “interactive”. We created the GMC chart for Sarah, the rebellious debutante in a Western. The trick with the exercise was to try it outside of our usual genre.  

The GMC chart can be used to create a new story, to tweak an existing one, or to find out why you’re stalled. And it’s also useful for that query letter or editor interview. I believe GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT is one of the most important books you will ever put in your writing library.  

We had such a good time that day and I can still remember going out for dinner after the workshop.

Trish and I walked into Madison’s at 5:15. It was a Saturday night. The maitre d’ looked a little worried when we said we had about 10 to 15 people coming over.  And no, we didn’t have a reservation.

But she quickly sorted things out and found us a long table where we could all sit together. I told her we were the ARWA group.  

“ARWA?” The maitre d’ clearly had not heard of us.

I spelled it out  for her.

The waiter also looked a little confused. Trish told him, “We’re writers.” And then she quickly added, “But we have money!”

The service was excellent, the food was high cal and the talk was flowing. I was still trying to come up with my Dominant Impression for my heroine. So was Donna Wickens. We were making notes on the napkins. The waiter brought more napkins.  

I love these post workshop debriefings. The chairs around Deb Dixon kept getting new people in them as writers came to her with their specific questions. This lady is like the energizer bunny. She just doesn’t stop. Finally at 9 pm, twelve hours after our official workshop start, we called it a day.

And now the Calgary Association of the RWA is presenting a Deb Dixon workshop. I have a chance to hear her speak again, to reinforce what I know and to fill in the blanks for what I don’t know. And, besides that, I get to spend some quality time with writers.

Here are the details.

Date: Saturday, May 2, 2015
9 am: Registration and light continental breakfast
10 am: Workshop starts
Noon: Buffet lunch
5 pm: Workshop ends

Buy your ticket here. Tickets will be on sale until April 24th.

If you’re a writer and you live in or near Calgary, I hope you will join me at the workshop.

One more thing:

Register by March 31st and your name will go in a draw for a 25-page critique by Deb Dixon.
Good luck!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick's DayMay the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

—traditional Irish blessing

Image from dreamstime.com #2930899

Brave little buds

brave little budsCalgary is at 51 degrees North with an elevation of 1,048 m (3,438 ft) so spring does not come early. Not usually.

But so far, March has been beautiful with temperatures up to 15 degrees Celsius! (That’s 59 Fahrenheit for our neighbours to the south.)

The weather predictions keep changing. A few days ago, they were saying snow on the weekend, but it looks like we may miss that. Although it will drop below freezing again.

These little buds don’t seem to care. I hope they survive the next few weeks. I think it’s a long way until spring, with a lot of snowy weather yet to come and there’s not a robin in sight.

Fourth Blogiversary

cupcake and four candles for the fourth blogiversaryI’ve been blogging weekly since March 5, 2011 and this is my 210th post. That’s four years of Tuesday Café blog posts.

My very first post was on a Saturday, but the second one was on a Tuesday. That’s why I started calling my blog Tuesday Café. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but I wanted a name—something other than “Suzanne’s Blog”—and there you have it.

Now I’ve decided I’m not going to be as structured. I’ll probably still blog weekly, but it doesn’t have to be on a Tuesday. And I’m renaming the blog, The Chimes Café—a name I got from a café in one of my Story Worlds.

Four years ago, I was only beginning this writing journey. I’ve learned a bit since then and I want to share some of that with you now.

Ten Things I’ve Learned Along The Way

1. Be committedjust type
It’s not gonna happen magically. There are no elves that sit down at my keyboard and do it while I sleep. I need to show up. Ninety percent of anything is showing up. We’ve all heard the “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” rule. So set some kind of schedule and stick to it.

2. Be realistic
I can’t commit to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s hard to commit to 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. Some weeks it’s just not going to happen. But that’s no reason to throw in the towel. I will keep coming back, until the current book is done. And then I will start the next one.

3. Be prepared
I know for sure that writing “The End” is only the beginning. Then there’s the editing, the proofing, the formatting, the cover choices, the quest for reviews. All of it takes longer than you thought it would.

4. Stay hydrateddrink lots of water
Having water bottles in the middle of the hall reminds me to take sips all day long.

stay flexible5. Stay flexible
Do a cobra stretch every hour to avoid Hunched-Over-Keyboard Syndrome.

6. Treat yourself
Have a cupcake. Have a cupcake with a candle on it. Celebrate something. Every one thousand words needs a cupcake.delicious treats

7. Have a writing buddy
Report your word count daily. This does not have to be elaborate. Keep it simple. Something like this:

Subject line: report
Body of email: 129 words

long walks needed8. Go for long walks, alone
Give the muse a break.
Breathe in the fresh air.
If it’s raining, carry an umbrella.
If the sidewalks are icy where you live, go skiing.

9. Have funtry sky diving
Sure, writing is a business, but it needs to be fun if you’re going to stay in it for the long haul. If you don’t enjoy those long, lonely hours at the keyboard, do something else. Take up knitting, or learn French, or try skydiving.

Begin!10. Begin
It takes a long time to learn the Craft, and you’ll always be learning it. Part of the learning is the apprenticeship. You learn by doing.

Many writers think they need to read one more craft book, need to take one more course. But reading craft books does not equal writing. You’re already good enough. Start writing. Practice. It’s not set in stone. It can always be edited later.

Do you have any writing tips you’d like to pass along?
What do you think of The Chimes Café for a blog name?
Do you like cupcakes? With candles?
Do you let your candles burn all the way down to the icing?

Cupcake from iStockphoto.com #000012620129
keyboard from iStockphoto.com #000007155263
water bottle from iStockphoto.com #000007155263
yoga cobra from bigstockphoto.com #7947064
lots of cupcakes from photos.com #114302447
long walk from photos.com #137398544
skydiving from iStockphoto.com #000016403632
pen from iStockphoto.com #000014549265

Cuenca to Vilcabamba

For my blog post this week, I want to return to Ecuador. Last time, I told you about The Eleven Hour Bus Trip. Now it is time to leave Cuenca and go to Vilcabamba.

For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

The bus ride from Cuenca to Vilcabamba was a little better because I got the front seat, right by the door to the driver’s cabin. There was a blue curtain across the door, but I kept pulling it back whenever people got on or off.
Besides the driver, there was one other ‘helper’ up there, and sometimes there were two helpers. Keeping my eyes on the horizon was good—I was not as nauseated. The helper seemed a little nervous about me being able to see him. I figured out that half the reason the bus wound so much was because the driver was avoiding potholes, like Hans Solo avoiding asteroids. At one point, one of the helpers moved the curtain over a bit more to block my view, but Rolf could still see the driver, who was eating fried chicken—with both hands—while one of the helpers was reaching across and steering.
This trip was only five hours long. There were no bathroom breaks and my bladder had lost all tone by the time we arrived in Loja. We had a bit of food at the bus station and waited for the connecting bus to Vilcabamba. This last leg of the journey only took an hour and a half.

breakfast in Vilcabamba

Suzanne and Rolf in Vilcabamba

Our hotel is owned and run by a French couple. Everything works and is ultra clean. We look out on a garden and there is a hammock on our porch. Breakfast is served on the table outside our door—juice, tea/coffee, egg, fruit salad and homemade multigrain bread.
 breakfast in VilcabambaI think I’m going to like it here . . .