Sunday, November 6, 2011

Please Welcome Author Shea McMaster!

I recently asked Shea to write a post on how to break writer's block and here's what she had to say.

How to Break Writer’s Block

A hammer usually works.

The kind of hammers I use are a bit different than what you find in the hardware section of the local store. In some ways these hammers are soft. Others are very blunt, a few are rapier sharp. Some hit harder than others. Some have curly hair, some straight. What am I talking about? My critique partners. My girls. Posse. Actually, we have another name for ourselves, but it doesn’t pass the PG-13 rating system. Nor do many of our discussions.

We sit down to lunch on a semi-regular basis and talk about our writing. If someone needs help breaking a block, the technique of choice is brainstorming, and that’s when the hammers come out. In our group everyone knows to keep an open mind and let the suggestions roll. Sometimes, when things are going well, the meeting carries over to a coffee house where we sit and talk, often until closing time. Since many of us do hand crafts at the same time, we also call it Knit and Crit. Or Second Tuesday where we discuss matters of craft. Writing craft.

Sound simple? Sound fun and effective? Actually, it’s terrifying when you’re the focus.

And as tough as being the focus can be, I’ve had great breakthroughs when things click. What it boils down to is concentrated brainstorming. Tossing out ideas, exploring options, accepting, rejecting or laughing over the suggestions has a way of blasting through whatever is holding back the flow. Especially when someone suggests all your story needs is a succubus or incubus. Like that works in most situations. Might as well throw in a zombie or two and you have a whole new storyline.

Even harder to bear, but in many ways more fulfilling, is moving out of the coffee shops and taking a road trip with two writer friends critiquing your ears off. Especially a trip of five hours. One way. If you’re the driver, you can’t go to sleep and tune your partners out. There is always the option of leaving them at the next gas station, but seriously, it’s not my style. And there are few gas stations along the Alaskan highways, especially in late November when there’s snow and ice on the ground. (Besides, once at our destination I got to take pictures of them while they drank tequila in a bar with local fishermen. It was worth the trip. One had a naughty tiara on her head.)

A road trip is particularly effective for brainstorming when people are jazzed and feeling creative. In fact, I have a specific example. I have one science fiction/futuristic story I’ve started five times. Five. It still has weak spots, but somewhere along that long road trip, two friends did help me find the perfect beginning. Somewhere in the dump is a paper placemat with the suggestions written in orange crayon when we stopped for lunch. Should have kept that placemat. Fortunately I have a pretty good memory.

The problem with brainstorming with hammers is the intensity. It can come close to feeling like an intervention. Or a lynching, with you as the lynchee. The only thing you can do is open your mind and consider the scenarios being tossed (hurled) at you.

On the flip side, one must return the brainstorming favor. Polite society says we must share the limelight from time to time, so you can’t always be the prima donna, although you really do deserve the attention. You have to give back, which oddly enough, will help kick loose even more ideas for your own writing. Amazing!

The give and take of a good critique group is what helped mold me as a writer. And continues to mold me. In fact, I’m a lovely shade of green. Almost ready for my zombie debut.

Okay, enough joking. Recently I had the very fortunate experience of once more having the attention of two writers and, while knitting and crocheting, they helped me finalize a few plot twists of my latest WIP. It was exhilarating. They know my writing well enough they were able to challenge me to write a different kind of heroine. Darn them. I like my heroines, but I suppose they have to have more variations than hair and eye color.

So, if you don’t yet belong to a group of writers with hammers, what can you do? Stay tuned to the tour to find out!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of the block breaking strategies that work for you. Post them in the comments.

Thank you so much for having me!
Shea McMaster
Traditional Romance for Modern Women

Rachel Dahlrumple
A Novel of Romantic Suspense.
Her husband's death is just the beginning of her marital woes.

Also Available From Shea
Borealis II: A Space Anthology – Bleu Lies ~ebook
Six Foot Hero ~ebook

Author Bio:

The softer, sweeter side of Morgan O’Reilly, Shea McMaster lives for traditional romance.

Born in New Orleans, raised in California, Shea/Morgan got moved to Alaska in 1977, where she attended high school before running back to California for college. Alas, once back home she met and fell in love with her own forever true hero, a born and raised Alaska man. Since then she’s had a love-hate relationship with America’s largest state.

With her one and only son half way through college, and mostly out of the house, Shea is fortunate to spend her days engaged in daydreaming and turning those dreams into romantic novels and novellas featuring damsels in distress rescued by their own brains and hunky heroes. /
Buy Link:


Her husband's death is just the beginning of her marital woes.
Rachel's humiliation over the discovery of her late husband's affairs turns to fear when one of his mistresses sends her a poisoned bouquet. But finding the source of the killer flowers is only one step on her path to solving the mystery her husband left behind.

Deputy Dan Weston is with Rachel when the bouquet arrives, and he's at her side as she deals with so many of the secrets that come to light after her husband's death. Dan has carried a torch for Rachel since puberty and he's not going to let her dead husband's vindictive girlfriends or his psychotic mother come between them now. But that means finding out who is sending snakes and poisoned posies before one kills Rachel.


Deputy Dan inhaled and cleared his throat. “Rachel… Your husband…Burt is… dead.”

“Oh.” Staring at Dan, I blinked. I sensed more than heard Cyndi speaking, as her hands clutched mine. I couldn’t hear over the bells of Notre Dame roaring in my ears, as if I stood in the belfry with a dozen different bells of all sizes swinging chaotically. No tune, just great ponderous, vibrating booms and spastic little tinkles filling in the spaces. I almost put my hands over my ears to block out the sound, only nothing could ever be loud enough to drown out just one thought.

Burt’s dead.

Burt. Dead.

Damn. I didn’t get to kick his ass out. I’d’ve killed him for that if I could.

Wait. He was already dead.


I inhaled deeply as I searched for something to say. “Well then, there are plans to adjust…”

“Rachel, you need to know…to understand…” Pity filled Dan’s eyes. Cyndi shoved a tissue wad into my hand, then used another to dab at her eyes.

“I understand,” I said. “He’s not coming home. I get it. That’s fine. The party can still go on. It’s not like he does much to help out.”


marybelle said...

A fabulous post I love the insight.


Shea said...

Thank you, Marybelle. Later in the blog tour I get more specific about critique groups. I hope you follow along :)

You're my first entry for the drawing at the end!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting Shea today! And folks, remember to leave a comment and be entered to win a custom tote bag from Shea.

Shea said...

Absolutely, Thank You Tory! And big congratulations on your nomination!


Boone Brux said...

Gee, your critique partners sounds like a fabulous group of people, especially those two that held you hostage in the car.

You'll warm up to the idea that demons solve all plot problems:)

Pauline Trent said...

Wish I had a crit group like that. Oh wait...I did and I moved. What was I thinking???? Great post.

Shea said...

Boone, yes, my crit partners are the best! Even when trapped in a car.

Ah, Pauline, you have to come back and take advantage of us. We're so there for you.


Tam Linsey said...

Did someone say road trip? If only Pauline were close enough to get to in a weekend :)

Shea said...

Tam, wouldn't that be fun?? We may have to find a way to squeeze in a mini retreat. I need the production time!

Thanks for dropping in :)


Maxine Mansfield said...

Shea, I just want you to know that I love being one of your critque partners. I Always love all your plotts and All your characters. I am Allways positive as I Gently prod you in the right directions. Aren't you lucky to have me? !!! :)

Shea said...

Maxine, ah, forgive me while I cough here for a minute... *cough**cough**cough*
There, had something in my throat. Ah yes, you've been there from practically the start of the madness, even caused some of it yourself! LOL. Darling, I love having you there to, um, voice your opinion. Yeah, that's it. Voice your opinions so passionately. Okay, I'd better stop now, or those who really know us might have heart attacks!!!

Anonymous said...

Hammerheads? Is that what she called us? There are a few rapier shaped scars in my hide that prove a critique partner is the best operation a writer can find for writers block - in writing or in life. Thanks for a great post.

kimmyl said...

Fantastic review! This sounds like an amazing book.

Shea said...

Hammer heads? Nah. Just great crit partners, DeNise!

Shea said...

Kimmyl, I think it's an amazing book, does that count? LOL.

I hope you enjoy it. It was a fun one to write.

Jae said...

Ah, you all wax eloquently...and so politely!
I'm impressed (with the restraint: o)
Great post, Shea. Good Crit Partners rock, for sure!
May the Readers rise up to meet you - good luck!
--- Jae Awkins

Shea said...

Thanks Jae! Glad you stopped by :)

desitheblonde said...

love the blurb and the cover do you by chance have book mark of the book yet i would love to read and blog on it

Nancy Bristow said...

I'm a regular reader/member here on Debbie/Tory's blog. I found the post interesting and intrigued enough by Shea's "Rachel Dahlrumple" blurb/excerpt to add it to my TBB. Can you tell me the heat level?

I'm an addicted reader and read just about ALL genres of romance - most with a good amount of heat - with some political thrillers thrown in occasionally. Since one of my favorites is romance-suspense, I tend to check out new-to-me authors that write it.

Does a crit group also act as beta readers? Are there "author only" members of a crit group?

I'm curious because I roughly read a book a day and as selective as I am there are still books that afterwards I say, WTF? and where in the hell were a favorite author's beta readers, crit group or just another set of eyeballs before it was published? Seriously. Fortunately this doesn't happen often but enough to make me wonder about the process.

My thinking is that surely if what I see clearly as glaring misstep(s), somebody else also had to have seen the same prior publishing and did they agree or just not want to offend the author?

I don't know whether or not you can answer the questions, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.

Obviously with my reading habit, I'm more than fond of many authors and know that we need each other.

Jennifer said...

Sounds to me like critique partners are critical to your writing process and that you truly appreciate their efforts. I hope other authors are as lucky as you and find such a committed group. I look forward to reading Rachel Dahlrumple and further works or yours. Thanks for brightening my day.

Shea said...

Desi, I don't yet have bookmarks for this book. Which was bad thinking on my part, I could have given away hundreds the last couple weeks when I was on vacation in Mexico. As it was I gave away the rest of the bookmarks for "Til Death Undo Us" and all the business cards I'd taken along. Stay tuned, or join my page, and when I have bookmarks made you'll hear about it. Not sure I'll have time this week to mess around with it. But who knows?

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy Rachel :)

Shea said...

Nancy, huge list there! I'll do my best.

Yes, my crit partner are my beta readers, but they are so much more. They're there from first concept to finished product, and each one offers unique insights. I can't write without them. And yes, all of my local partners are members of the Alaska RWA chapter.

The heat level is medium-ish. Not as hot as the books I write under the pen name Morgan Q. O'Reilly, but still spicy. Lots of sexual tension.

I am also a rabid reader. I'm on track for 200 books read this year. My list can be found on the Morgan Q O'Reilly page on GoodReads.

I'm so happy you're willing to try new to you authors. I'd love to hear what you think of Rachel. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

Shea said...

Jennifer, Thank YOU for brightening my day!

Read on!

Shea said...

Thanks to Tory for hosting my blog today and helping me launch my tour.

Tomorrow the tour continues at Megan Johns Invites:

Pass it on and be sure to stop by!


Tory Richards said...

Thank you Shea and it was my pleasure hosting you!

BlackWolf said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I really LOVE Shea's work!!! Molly(at)reviewsbymolly(dot)com