Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

I’m joining Writer Unboxed

NEWS on typewriter keyboard

About three years ago—wow, time flies—I wrote a guest post about Scrivener for the Writer Unboxed (WU) website. In case you haven’t heard of it, Writer Unboxed has a regular spot on the Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers” list.

Well, I chatted with cofounder Therese Walsh a couple of weeks ago at the WD conference, and we got to talking and…

I’m excited to announce that starting September 16th, I’ll become a quarterly contributor to the site, writing about—what else?—Scrivener. :-)

I’ll be sure to let you know when my first post comes out. Meanwhile, if you’ve never visited, you might want to check out all of the WU greatness.

By the way, at Kiss and Thrill this week I wrote (and posted lots of pictures) about some of the reasons I’m loving summer. Check it out and feel free to share what you like about the hot season. Enjoy the rest of yours!

New York-New York: Back-to-back conferences in Manhattan

times square

At the end of July and early August, I spent two consecutive weekends in New York City, mingling with my kind—aka writers, you know, the ones who understand why I stare at the wall and call it “working”—exploring the busy streets on foot, attending workshops, and giving my own presentations (on Scrivener and self-publishing).

The first weekend, I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual national conference. Imagine 2000 writers and industry professionals, 99% of them women, talking plot, characterization, self-publishing, industry trends, writer’s block, query letters, and work-life balance.

The fun goes from sunup till midnight for four straight days. Once conference starts, you could easily never leave the hotel. After you’ve faced the mad crush of Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, and Broadway—think facing off at the line of scrimmage—you might not want to. 😉

[click an image to enlarge]

Gwen and Keely with plaques

Can you tell I woke early and spent the morning on a train? Keely Thrall and I won signed quotes from Nora Roberts at the Golden Network retreat on Wednesday.

central park west

Running down Central Park West before the conference starts on Thursday.

fruit stand

A fruit stand we found on 8th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen on the way back from dinner. I loaded up on snacks.

Hudson River

Running north on the Hudson River Friday morning.

Kiss and Thrill friends

All but one of us from kissandthrill.com managed to attend RWA this year. It was great to catch up with each other in person.

Highline Trail

The Highline Trail (an old elevated railway turned multi-use path).

Hudson River and Highline Trail

View of the Hudson from the Highline Trail.

Funny ad on building

This ad made me laugh on my run to the Hudson River. You can just see the USS Intrepid at the bottom right of the picture.

The following weekend, I returned for the annual Writer’s Digest (WD) conference, an event for all types of writers in both fiction and nonfiction. In my unscientific visual survey, the 800 or so writers, agents, and editors in attendance appeared to be split roughly 50/50 between women and men. That definitely affects the atmosphere (not better or worse, just different).

Since WD is affiliated with a magazine rather than a membership organization, most people didn’t know each other—and many of them seemed to be earlier in their writing career—but everyone was friendly and excited. I met three people in the first hour, just standing in line to register (wrong line, oops) and sitting on the hotel’s mezzanine. Along with the workshops and keynote speakers, the pitch slam—like speed dating with agents and editors—was a huge draw.

It was also nice being in Midtown East, which despite boasting Grand Central Station, the United Nations, Park Ave, Madison Ave, and the Chrysler Building, was far less crowded than the west side.

Roosevelt Hotel lobby

The lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel from the mezzanine level.

grand central exterior

I stumbled upon Grand Central Station while walking down Park Ave on my way home from dinner the first night.

Chrysler building and Grand Central Station

The Chrysler Building at sunset, towering over Grand Central Station.

Inside Grand Central

Inside Grand Central. There’s even an Apple Store.

Ceiling inside Grand Central Station

Part of the ceiling inside Grand Central Station. Zodiac signs in the stars.

Freedom Tower

On Saturday morning I ran down Park Avenue–which was closed to cars for the morning–to the Brooklyn Bridge, then veered west to find the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial.

WTC memorial

World Trade Center Memorial, north pool. I was surprised how small the footprints of the WTC buildings were.

Storm trooper in doorway

The “guy” loitering near the door of this restaurant on Park Ave looked a bit out of place…

Patience the lion at NY Library

Hanging with Patience the lion outside the NY Public Library on 5th Ave.

Chrysler Building at night

The Chrysler Building at night from 5th Ave.

East River

Running on the East River on Sunday morning.

Back-to-back weekends in Manhattan was definitely exhausting, but I squeezed as much as possible out of both the conferences and the city. I had a fantastic time, reconnected with old friends, made new friends, learned lots, and came home motivated and inspired to get back to writing in my quiet little suburb.

Luck or passion?

follow your passion sign

 

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ~ Seneca

When we follow our passion, we’re much more likely to meet the luck that makes something really cool happen. ~ Gwen Hernandez, on the Behind the Prose podcast

In 2010, as a newbie writer looking for blog content, I started writing about my favorite software: Scrivener. (Did anyone doubt? 😉 )

It began with how-to posts mainly for my writer friends, who were the only people following me back then. Initially, I had no expectations other than picking up a few new blog followers and plumping up my website’s content.

But a lot more people than I expected were interested in what I had to say. (Awesome David at L&L promoting my posts helped immensely!)

In 2011, I started teaching online courses. By 2012 I had signed a contract to write Scrivener For Dummies. Soon thereafter, I was taking on private training clients and giving in-person workshops for writing groups and conferences. Not bad for a side interest spurred by my other passion: writing romantic suspense.

Getting the book deal was lucky—a crazy confluence of events that you can read about here—but I wouldn’t even have appeared on my publisher’s radar if I hadn’t continued to learn about Scrivener and grow my platform through new posts and online classes.

I would not have been positioned for that luck to strike.

The point of this post is not to point out my good fortune at finding work I love—though I’m pretty damn happy about it—but rather to illustrate an idea.

When you follow your passion, cool things happen.

That’s a recurring theme I’ve noticed in interviews with people who have changed their lives by listening to the little voice inside their head begging them to spread the joy of fitness, take up knitting, become a farmer, or whatever.

Most of them did not set out to start a business or change career paths. They sort of fell into it. Their enthusiasm for the work of their heart put them in the right place, with the right skill set or knowledge, to take advantage when an opportunity appeared.

All they had to do was step through the open door.

Do you spend time on at least one thing that you’re passionate about? If not, why not? What’s one step you could take today to start yourself on that journey?

Really, there’s no downside to doing what you love. Even if you never move beyond part-timer, hobbyist, or fanatic, you’ll be a happier person for following your heart. And what’s cooler than that?

Quiet on the set: My day as an extra for Russian Doll

Gwen with Suzanne Brockmann

With Suzanne Brockmann (squee!)

Last week, I was in a movie. Or at least my elbow was.

As an introvert, fading into the background is easy for me. As an extra on the set of the indie film Russian Doll, it was my job. The extras were even called “Background”—as in, “Okay, call in the background”—because it was our role to provide atmosphere and a sense that the world was real.

This particular gig was unpaid, but I participated for two main reasons.

First, one of my favorite authors ever—Suzanne Brockmann—is the executive producer. I’ve been reading her books pretty much since the day I found romantic suspense (circa 2008), and her blend of military action, hot romance, and wide-ranging diversity quickly put her at the top of my reading list.

I actually got to meet Suz and her husband Ed Gaffney last year when they came to talk to my local writing chapter about the process involved in their last film (The Perfect Wedding), but it was nice to spend more time chatting while on set. They’re super nice people, and everyone appreciated how much Ed went out of his way to explain what was going on during the filming process.

Second, curiosity is half the reason I write. I’ve always loved taking field trips and getting the inside view of how a place/group/factory/profession works. With Russian Doll filming in the Boston area, this was my chance for the inside scoop on filmmaking.

Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden, Concord MA

The Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden in Concord where part of the movie takes place

So how was it?

Fascinating!

Extra work can be slow. There’s a lot of sitting around waiting to be needed. But that was fine. I chatted with some of the others in the lobby of the theater where we were working. I had expected many of them to be writers—and/or readers who were fans of Suz or Ed—but those I spoke to were locals who saw an article about the film in the Boston Globe.

Extras on set of Russian Doll

Waiting for the next take

The really interesting part came when we were needed on scene. It’s amazing how few people can provide the appearance of a packed house. As long as the camera angle is right, 20 people can look like 100 or more. I was totally mesmerized by the director of cinematography. She would calmly take Ed’s vision for a scene and figure out how to make it happen, adding her own ideas along the way.

In fact, that was something Ed talked about at the meeting last year that really came to life for me on the set. When you write a book, you might get feedback from early readers and revision notes from your editors, but in the end the book is your book. The way you want it. The reader brings her own worldview to the story, but basically that’s it.

Not so with film.

The screenplay is just a starting point. From there, everyone involved puts their own mark on it. The director has his vision for how to frame each scene, the cinematographer has her own way of bringing that vision to life, the actors choose how to play their characters, and so on. The final product is truly a collaboration.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events or have any idea what each of the crew members’ titles were. Grip? Gaffer? Rigger? Best boy? No clue. But I had fun watching them set up for each scene using the fog—not to make it look foggy, but to soften the lighting and provide a noir look to match the film’s tone—hold up giant styrofoam boards to reflect light, cover equipment with dark blankets to prevent it from showing in the scene, take sound readings, take light readings…

Crew on the set of Russian Doll

Crew prepping for the next take

We did several takes for each scene, and it’s surprising how much time is required just to reset after each run, get the camera ready, and get everyone on the same page again.

In the beginning, we—pretending to be an audience watching a play—had to respond to things happening on the theater’s stage. Except the play wasn’t actually running. So Ed, his assistant director, and Suz and Ed’s son Jason—one of the actors, along with his sister who has a starring role—mimed different scenarios for us. We laughed, we gasped, we appeared concerned.

Finally, toward the end of the day, we got some real action. Actors on stage, actors in the audience to respond to events on the stage, and several takes as we reacted to what was happening around us.

I’m already excited for the movie to be commercially available—probably near the end of 2016, if all goes as planned—so I can watch the 30 seconds or so that it took most of the day to film. It’ll be interesting to see how everything comes together in the finished product.

And I can’t wait to spot my elbow in the scene as the detectives race by my seat! 😉

Fall Scrivener online courses – Register now!

 

ScrivClassPromo

As promised, registration is now open for the fall round of Scrivener online courses. Sign up today!

– Scrivener I: The Basics and Beyond, September 14-30, 2015
– Scrivener II: Intermediate and Advanced Concepts, October 19-November 4, 2015
– Scrivener Master Course: Compile, Dec 7-16, 2015

For more information and registration, check out the Scrivener Courses page.

Sightseeing in the suburbs: Thoreau-ly interesting

front of thoreau farm house

Thoreau Farm

Living in the Boston suburbs is cool because I’m close to the town of Concord—location of “the shot heard round the world” in 1775—which boasts the homes and gravesites of Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, and Emerson.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

I plan to see all the authors’ homes while we’re here, but last weekend I visited Thoreau Farm. I had hiked around Walden Pond a couple of months ago—and visited the family gravesite last summer—so I wanted to finish the Thoreau “experience.”

walden pond

Walden Pond

Thanks to a very enthusiastic and friendly docent, I learned a lot.

Thoreau spent only eight months in the home of his birth, but Thoreau Farm is still significant because he was inspired by his mother’s stories of the place, and he returned often to walk the lands. It’s also the only Thoreau home open to the public, so there’s that. 😉

Thoreau Farm is not a typical restored homestead, but rather a place to learn more about the man, his life, his contemporaries, and why he’s important.

thoreau farm west side

Thoreau Farm-west side with kitchen gardens

You might be surprised by some of the people who were inspired by Thoreau, in person or in writing, whether with regard to the environment, or transcendentalism, or his thoughts on civil disobedience.

A few names you might recognize: Mahatma (Mohandas Karamchand) Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Muir, and Jack Kerouac. Not a bad legacy, eh?

Thoreau family portraits

Thoreau family portraits upstairs at Thoreau Farm

Some fun facts:

– Thoreau (along with his brother and two sisters) never married, though he and his brother both offered for the same woman. Her father turned them both down, deeming the family unsuitable for his daughter.

– He was born David Henry Thoreau, but switched his first and middle names after graduating from Harvard. Without a legal name change, of course.

– His careful observations about the weather and timing of various plants and crops have provided valuable historical data for the area with which to compare modern conditions.

– You can rent the upstairs room in the Thoreau house for a writing retreat.

thoreau farm writing desk

Be inspired by Thoreau

Quotes:

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Walden (so far). [I’m reading in e-book, so I can’t offer page numbers, but all are from “Economy.”]

– “The great part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.”

– “I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”

– “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”

– “…the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.”

If you travel to Boston, be sure to step off The Freedom Trail for a day or two and make your way to the suburbs!

freedom trail marker

7 reasons I read Kipling while brushing my teeth

drawing of Rudyard Kipling

I was drawn to the work of Rudyard Kipling after finding a reference to his poem “Tommy” in Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War.

I wasn’t familiar with the poem—which inspired the title of the movie The Thin Red Line—so I searched it out. Now, I’m working my way through Rudyard Kipling Complete Verse (Anchor Books, 1989), one poem per day, while flossing and brushing my teeth.

Much of his work was written in the late 1800s, and is set in—or influenced by—his time in India, which means I don’t understand every line. But I enjoy trying to figure out the gist of each poem.

Once I’ve read it through, I go to The New Readers’ Guide to the works of Rudyard Kipling, hosted by The Kipling Society, to get more info on the context and definitions of foreign, archaic, or slang words that aren’t footnoted in the text.

Understanding what was going on in the author’s world enriches my reading experience.

Here are seven of the reasons I read Kipling–and will eventually read other poets–while thwarting cavities.

1. Reading before bed is relaxing, but not if I get sucked in and stay up all night to finish the book—a common problem because I have no willpower to resist a good story. With poetry, it’s much easier to read one poem and close the book.

2. I hope that reading poetry will introduce me to new themes, as well as influence my more lyrical side.

3. Reading outside my genre, length, and style can only expand my skills as a writer, and the references upon which I can draw.

4. Poetry stretches your brain. Instead of speeding through the prose with a movie running in my head like I do with a novel or memoir, I’m forced to slow down and ponder each word. It’s like savoring a gourmet dessert rather than inhaling a plate of sugar cookies. Both are enjoyable, but in different ways.

5. By exploring the context of each poem, I’m also expanding my knowledge of history and the author’s life. Not all authors’ works are so intensely influenced by their personal experiences, but Kipling seemed to view his life and everything around him as fodder for his art.

6. I’m inspired by the wide variety of themes and moods one author can produce. Kipling wrote satire, humor, lighthearted verse, dark tales, and diatribes.

7. I like knowing things. Period. I want to learn as much as I can about art, history, literature, science…

Probably one of the reasons I’m driven to write is because I love the research. I’m curious at heart. What’s it like to be firefighter, sculptor, pilot, accountant, billionaire’s daughter, or pararescueman? My inquiring mind wants to know.

And I love the connections my brain starts to make when I expand my horizons, just like the connections that brought me to read Kipling while brushing my teeth.

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