My Ivory Tower

My name is Karin Huxman and I write romance for New Concepts Publishing. You can find my author page at I write a mix of time travel, contemporary, paranormal, and sf/fantasy and love every minute of it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My NaNo Month

I finished my NaNoWriMo novel yesterday, it came in well over the 50k minimum. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But don't ask me what it's about. All I'll be able to tell you is that it is a meandering tale of love and murder set in Colorado. You'd think after writing the thing I'd have a better handle on the story, would be able to be a little more concise, or at least coherent, about it. However it really and truly is the roughest draft I've ever written. It is a skeleton of a story waiting to be fleshed out in every way. However, it is written. Yeah me!

Those of you who know me or follow my blog also know that I've been pretty well blocked for a couple of years. It got to the point where I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish a novel length work. After all, I had three nicely formed ideas on paper for novels but just couldn't seem to settle down and work on one. And to tell the truth, I've always avoided these contests, motivational things. Why? Because I didn't think a real writer should need this kind of external motivation to sit down and do what she wanted to do. So you have to understand that my frustration level, even panic level, must have been pretty high to actually take on NaNo.

But it has been a blessing. Every morning since the first of November I've gotten up an hour earlier than I had to or wanted to. I've enjoyed the sunrise and written words upon words on a story that had been kind of fermenting, waiting for me to give it life. So the life I gave it is a bit unformed and creaky, but hey, that's what revising is for.

I learned a few things over the past thirty days.

- I can finish a novel again. Sure I'm multi-published but haven't released anything recently, see that blocked comment above.

- Getting up early to write only works if you have the right motivation. NaNoWriNo worked for me.

- Writing with the sunrise can be a very meditative experience.

- I can compile all my little Facebook one liners on the sunrise and see if I can find a poem in them.

- Coffee tastes better at 5:30 am.

- Morning is my most productive writing time, but not writing in the a.m. is no reason not to write later in the day. I found I could do that too.

- Excuses not to write are for wimps. Okay, that's a little harsh but I'm feeling pumped. These words will no doubt come back to bite me in the butt.

- Next year if I do NaNo, I'll do some character and plot prep work.

- Now that I'm writing again, I can justify some new tech toys. Must make my list.

- On the other hand, all you really need is a pen and paper.

- Getting back into the habit of writing every day is a blessing. Knowing I was going to write this blog today is helping a little with the let down feeling I always get after finishing a first draft.

So where do I go from here? Revising this work, naturally. But I'm going to let it sit for a while, gel if you will. I have several biographical profiles to work on, thanks Mur, and tomorrow is the first day of December. Jay actually brought the boxes of Christmas decorations home from the storage shed yesterday. Since last year I was still recuperating from that darned broken ankle, I'm looking forward to doing more decorating, baking, shopping, and just plain celebrating than I was able to last year. Oh, and this house could definitely use some dusting. Really.

I'll be writing, too. It's my passion. If I don't do it daily I feel less whole. It's a good thing to know about yourself.

The link to NaNoWriMo is for those of you interested. They also do a script writing month, called Script Frenzy, in the spring.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Contemplating Murder and Scrubbing Toilets

So I've been doing NaNoWriMo this month, just sitting down every single day and pounding out words for this novel I had in mind. It's been great, liberating, that I've been given this permission to just write and not edit. And the midpoint, time wise, passed yesterday, though I reached my midpoint, word count wise, a day early. Mid point through a novel. Something about that realization made me pause. Even worse, it made my fingers pause on the keyboard.

Oh no!

It made me think about my characters and plot and whether or not I'm writing anything good at all. And of course this happens at a critical juncture. My heroine is about to stumble onto another murdered co-worker. She's sitting in this beautiful summer glade, her horse munching grass, the dog gambolling (I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence) in the nearby creek, and a murderer in the forest. All of a sudden all I can think about is I have to clean a toilet before my daughter-in-law and her mother stop by later today.


The scene is crystal clear in my head and for the life of me I could not get my fingers to translate it into words. I stared at the screen, I sipped at my coffee, I tapped my fingers. This was not what I signed up for. Total stoppage of wordage. Shoot.

I reminded myself of what I've often told other writers, to whit (I've always wanted to use that phrase), be kind to yourself, take a step back, breath. But could I take my own advice? I can be pretty arrogant where my writing is concerned, when I'm not sure that it's all a bunch of crap. This is the schizophrenia of a writer.

The cat launched herself from the floor to the back of my chair to the printer. I took it as a sign. I saved my work, only three piddly pages, and hied myself (another delightfully underused phrase) off to the shower. I dressed and ate breakfast. I DID NOT scrub the toilet.

Sometimes food helps. I sat back down at the computer and forced myself to put the scene on paper. There is absolutely nothing pretty about it except that it's there and it got my daily word count where it needs to be.

I'm hoping that this little roadblock is the last one I face as I hit the downhill track on NaNoWriMo. But I do have a life away from my computer. It keeps me busy with family and work and doctor appointments, and Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and Christmas less than a month after that! I could really procrastinate myself into scrubbing, cleaning, and not murder at all.

The thing is, even when I'm not writing it, the story is with me. At odd minutes of the day I'll get an idea for a scene, or a witty piece of dialogue. I'm waiting for my muse to tell me who the murderer is because I'm going to have to rewrite this puppy at some point and lay in some clues and red herrings, but that's for next month. This month I'm getting the bones down and hoping to stay on track.

Now, where is that scrub brush? And let's not even think about the kitchen!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Whining no more!

Whining can be a habit, don't you think? You get into a down kind of mind set and really talk yourself into believing that all is not right with the world. It's a pretty pathetic way to live, if you ask me.

I've been whining about being blocked for over a year now. It's been pretty comfortable to whine rather than to write, even though stories and ideas have been so stuffed in my head it's amazing no one has seen them run out of my ears in big globs. Ew! That wasn't a pretty picture. And neither was the whining pleasant on the ears.

So I've done something I really had no interest in doing before. I've joined NaNoWrMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. This is a self challenge to write a complete first draft of a novel of not less than 50,000 words during the month of November. No editing, not much pondering, just writing. Oh, and no whining. You can read all of the information on this at It is international in scope but also small town because you can align yourself with a home "region" of writers that live near you. They even host local "write ins" around the region where in the writers get together and simply...write. Refreshing. I'm sure a lot of coffee drinking and chit chat goes on, too. I'll be attending my first write in on Thursday so I'm not really sure of the protocol.

So what new, dare I say novel, idea for a story am I working on? Hmm... I always hate to talk to much about an idea before I have it fleshed out, and this one is barely skeletal. Let's just say remote lab... and murder most foul! Yep, can you tell I'm having fun with this already? I haven't felt this excited about writing a story in a while. It has become fun again. I guess I just needed the right motivation. And to decide to stop whining! I'll keep you posted.

PS - For those of you wondering about my ankle situation. If you recall, I broke it rather violently last fall and spent a year recuperating and getting stronger. Last month I went under the knife again and had seven of the nine screws removed, two are in for the long haul, and the metal plate came out, too. I'm 4 weeks post op and can walk the dog around the block with my trusty cane - as long as there is no ice!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guest Blogger - Karen Steele

This particular blog is probably only relevant to Romance Writers of America members who are trying to make up their minds about who to vote for in the election. Karen Steele is a member of Romance Writers for Change who wanted to offer some of her views, I wanted to offer her space. Here she is:

Why am I running for a seat on the RWA Board of Directors?
By Karen Steele

When I first started talking to some friends about whether I should run for office as an RWA director, they began showering me with comments and suggestions.The things they brought up were as varied as they were entertaining. Well they entertained me, but then that's why they're my friends. The conversations went something like this.

"You'll have less time to write. You'd need to get up before the kids do to get anything done." "Then I'll just have to write smarter. Getting up early or staying up late isn’t anything new - I think I can handle the absence of sunlight with my coffee."

"You're going to have to bury yourself in bylaws, policy, and committee work. Why do you want to do that?"
"I've spent the last 3 years as a chapter officer loving almost every minute of bylaws, policy, and committee work." I do love the blank stare that often generates.

"Are you positive you want to run for the RWA board? I'm pretty sure they don't even have a cover model competition at their conference."
"Yes I'm sure, and no, they don't." (This friend, who has never been to an RWA national conference, went on to say she thinks it would really liven up the Golden Heart / Rita ceremony if we could just throw in some cover models. I suggested she write a letter to the event organizers and maybe try to get to a conference herself sometime in the future.)

"You won't be able to serve on your chapter board anymore."
I paused on this one. I do love my chapters, and working with the chapter board is something I've enjoyed. "I'll still be in the chapters though. And you don't have to serve on a board to be an active part of a chapter.""Ah-ha. So if you don't have to be on the board to be an active member, why are you running for the board?"

I was starting to think maybe my friends didn't know me very well by now. So I called my best writer friend, the one who's known me since before I even joined RWA."I'm thinking about running for the board of RWA" I told her."Good. I think you'll do a great job. Now tell me why."

It's a good thing only one person brought up the cover model thing, or this post might have gone down an entirely different thematic road. But that "why" question was becoming my running-for-office theme. With each person I talked to, I became even more convinced that running for a seat on the board was the right thing for me to be doing now.

So, why? For starters, I love RWA. I know I’d still be writing if I had never joined, but I wouldn’t be writing as well. I might still be published, but I don’t think my work would be as polished and professional. If you want to become a comedian, I’m pretty sure you don’t sit in your bedroom telling jokes to no one besides yourself for five years. You head out to the comedy clubs, and learn from the pros. Then you get on stage, and see if anyone laughs.
No one laughs when I get on stage, or if they do it’s probably not for the right reasons. So I stick to writing.

When I joined my first RWA chapters I looked at the authors around me. I saw people like me, just getting started. And there were members who had just sold a first book, who were celebrating their twentieth sale, some that were bleeding over a rejection and others celebrating finding an agent. But no matter where they were in their career, they were all focused on becoming the best writer they could be. And they were all there with their advice, support, cheers, and tissues when they were needed.

The chapters I belong to range in size from several dozen to several hundred members. Each chapter has its own sense of spirit, but they all share one common, unifying theme. We support each other and know that as each member grows and succeeds, our chapter grows and flourishes with her (or him). And the chapter board members each work as hard as any volunteer can to make sure their chapters and members keep moving forward together towards success.

Over the past few years it seems this sense of unification has not flourished on a national level. We've seen publisher controversy, eligible vs. recognized disarray, contest confusion, even a complete kerfuffle over something that's meant to be as positive as an awards ceremony.
Except for that last one (I'm still trying to figure out how that one happened myself) some of the most strident disputes have been over issues that build walls between members. Writers have been divided, pushing the membership into labeled groups instead of joining them into a unified organization.

Now I'm not looking to lead a round of Kumbaya around a council campfire. If you’d ever heard me sing – and you probably haven’t, because I don’t sing - you’d know that would probably lead to me drinking alone at the bar when everything was said and done. But I am interested in finding ways to bring the spirit of the membership back to where it started. When those 37 original members formed RWA nearly 30 years ago, I don’t think they felt a need to divide the membership based on where each member was in their career. They just wanted to become successful writers, and to support their fellow writers while they reached for their own success.
It takes a completely different level of leadership to educate and advocate for 10,000 writers than it does for 37. With the growth of membership came a lot of good things. But if it came with the loss of unity, I think we need to ask ourselves if all the growth has come in positive directions.

I don’t have an agenda, or a pet cause. I’m pro-writer, no matter if you are writing with your toes or with a keyboard, published on printed paper or digitally. I truly believe that just as there is no single "right" way to write, there is no single "right" way to publish. I wish to work with the board on educating members to the new choices and challenges that open to them every year, and promoting membership development as RWA continues to grow into an organization that serves and advocates for every one of its members.

And that is why I am running for a seat on the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors.
I encourage you to email me at if you have any questions.
You can see more information on me at my website,, and complete information on all the candidates at

Biography :Karen Steele is currently running for a seat on the RWA Board of Directors as Region 3 Director. She lives with her husband and two children in Florida. Under the name Ember Case, she writes for Samhain Publishing.

Karen joined RWA in 2006. She has served the Passionate Ink chapter as Treasurer, Website Administrator, Contest Coordinator, and on numerous committees. She is also a member of ESPAN, the newly formed YARWA, and the First Coast Romance Writers. An active member of Romance Writers of America, she has previously served as contest judge and conference volunteer.

Karen is also a graphic artist, and has been a small business owner for over 15 years. To learn more about her writing, visit or

Monday, August 17, 2009

Annual "books I've read" post

A year ago I started keeping track of all the books I read in a year. So from August to July I keep track of the titles and authors that I read. If you scroll down a bit you'll find last year's post. The total for this year was 105, the exact same as last year. This surprised me. I really thought I'd read more over the past 12 months because I was laid up with my famous broken and dislocated ankle for what seemed like forever.

Anyway, here's this year's breakdown, in a quasi scientific manner:

- 16 of the 105 were non fiction. Since I'm generally a fiction reader, this seems like a large number until you understand that I was doing research for a non fiction children's book this year as well as facilitating a book group at the library where I work (I try to alternate fiction and NF).

- Last year's most read author was Nora Roberts. This year Nora tied with Jim Butcher with 9 each. Laurie R. King was very close with 8 titles read. I discovered Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series last year (one of the perks of my profession) and had to catch up with the hero and cast of characters. Ditto with Laurie R. King, she writes the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, which I adore.

- Though I often "graze" on poetry, I only read one collection all the way through. It was Billy Collins collection called Ballistics. I highly recommend anything Billy Collins writes. His poetry is very accessible, often lyrical, and always enjoyable and thought provoking.

- The most unusual book I read this year was Daily Log of a WW II B24 Pilot. It was my uncle Bob's log of his life during the waning years of WW II, lovingly transcribed and published by my Aunt Ruth. It really gave me a feel for the time, the physical and mental tests these young men were put through, and their deep love of country and family. Very appropriate when you live in a military town and are constantly reminded of the sacrifices made today.

- Other favorites that I read included Robert Crais, Laurell K. Hamilton, Eloisa James, and of course many many more.

How about you? Can you recommend any good reads to this book junkie?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'm editing my pirate story today, the story that my agent and I decided I should rename though I will always think of it as my pirate story.

In this case, editing means cutting. Not just a few words here and there but pages of text. My purpose: to reshape the story to get rid of anything that doesn't move the romance forward. That means that my suspense element, which has unfortunately garnered the tag of "too coincidental" by all editors who commented on it, has got to go. I'm hoping for a tighter story that really focuses on my hero and heroine without too many distractions.

I enjoyed writing the suspense element into the story, but I guess I lost track of the romance when I did so. Romantic suspence is a sub genre that I love reading and had hoped to write. But I guess this won't be my break out novel. I can live with that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time Raiders Series coming!

A new sf romance series is coming in August 2009, Time Raiders. Go to to read about it. The series, published by Harlequin's Nocturne line, came about from a discussion on the RomVets list (all of us are either still active duty or military veterans who also write romance) as a way to promote the authors on the list and military women. Lindsay McKenna's The Seeker is the first offering, followed by Cindy Dees book The Slayer, then books by P.C. Cast and Merline Lovelace. It's an exciting collaboration from world class authors and a publisher who knows how to promote romance. We're hoping the first four books will do so well that the publisher will want more, and give more authors a chance to work on the series.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

Have you read a poem today? The Poet Laureate of the Pikes Peak Region has instituted a program called Poetry While You Wait to celebrate National Poetry Month. To view the poems online, go to: . The vision behind the program is to give people waiting in doctor's offices, bus stops, car repair places, and etc. a choice of poetry as reading material as an alternative to the over thumbed through and months out of date magazines that are usually the only offerings. And to make poetry a part of every day life.

As one of the poets chosen to participate in this project I've had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Anstett, current Pikes Peak Poet Laureate, as well as many other poets writing in the Pikes Peak region. We've gotten together to practise reading our poems aloud and supported each other during the video taping of our read-alouds for the Pikes Peak Library District's t.v. channel and audio sessions with KRCC, our local NPR station. In addition we've had opportunities to perform our poetry live to several different audiences.

I've written and published poetry for years but never took the step of performing them in public. This has been an eye opening experience for me. I hope this program continues for many years.

So, April is National Poetry Month...have you read a poem today? Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

New directions

It's almost spring and it seems like a good time to try something new. I have been given an opportunity to work on children's non fiction, quite a change for me. But my MFA is in writing for children and I really needed to feel like I'm producing, so when the chance came, I took it.

Not just non fiction, though, biography. A little intimidating but I'm enjoying the research, the putting words on the page, the editing down my original to read well on a 4/5 grade reading level. It's a challenge that came my way almost by accident (thanks Joyce and Muriel) and made me realize the power of networking.

I've also taken a chance with poetry this spring. The Poet Laureate of the Pikes Peak region sent out a call for poems about Colorado, and the Front Range in particular, for a booklet/series that will be made available for free in public places. Places like bus stops, doctors offices, you name it. I loved the idea of making poetry accessible so I sent in four poems. One of them was chosen so now I'll get to read my words on the radio and have them printed for all to see. Very exciting.

So I guess I'm celebrating the season by taking some chances and trying something new. How about you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Revision isn't for Wimps!

I had a depressing rejection a few weeks ago and my agent and I decided to set aside that project and move on to something else. Not being a drama queen, though I was tempted to weep wail and gnash my teeth, I had a couple of quiet days then put the whole manuscript, all my research for it, even everything I'd done for the follow on books, in a box and set it aside.

I really tried to move on to something else. We went on a trip. You know, life goes on. But that doggone story just wouldn't let me forget it. So I thought about all the comments I'd had on it. Mostly they ran towards, "Love your characters. The plot was contrived." Ouch! I don't see how, really. But when more than one professional editor says that, it's time to re-examine the prose.

So that's what I'm going to do. I decided it's time to put on my big girl panties, stop whining about it, and revise the sucker.

The story was originally a straight from the heart romance. I got sidetracked when I tried to make it into a romantic suspense. So my goal is to basically gut everything that doesn't advance the romance and see what I've got left. It might be crap. It might be worth working on. All I know is that I won't know until I do it.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Winter blahs!

You'd think that being laid up with a broken ankle would have been good incentive to get writing. Alas, it was more of a distraction than motivation. Yes, I had lots of on-my-caboose time in which to write, just couldn't get my mojo going. And today I heard from my agent with yet another rejection of my pirate romance. Sigh... After discussion with her, I've decided to set that story aside and focus on something else for a while. My skin just isn't quite as thick as it used to be and this rejection really stung. But I'm a big girl and will just have to figure out how to soldier on.

One way I'm going to try to combat my emotional downturn is by returning to my writing group, Pikes Peak Romance Writers. I didn't attend many meetings in 2008 for various reasons, but I'm going to make a real effort to reconnect with these other writers. Maybe some of their enthusiasm will rub off on me.

Happy New Year!