IWSG, Romantic Comedy, Writing

Smoochy Face: Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted not to answer this month’s question. Instead, Simon the Cat pops by for a visit and I’m sharing some thoughts on writing romantic comedies. Check it out below.

I felt something heavy land on my shoulder. Turning my head, I saw a large menacing-looking gray cat staring at my computer.

“You weigh a ton, Simon. Get off me.” I tried to shoo him off, but he dug his claws in. “Ouch! that hurts!”

“Toughen up, lady,” he said. “No pain, no gain.”

“What exactly am I gaining by having you claw me to death?”

He leaned forward and peered at my screen. “I’m going to criticize your book.”

“How exactly is that helpful?”

“You want to know if your writing is bad, right?” he asked as he leaped onto the table.

“Uh, sure, but in a constructive way.” I rubbed my shoulder and winced. Antiseptic was going to be needed for these scratches.

He pawed at the screen. “Ooh. This is gross. They’re smooching.” Then he lowered his paw and pressed the delete button.

“Simon, stop!” I pulled him off the table and into my lap. “I spent all morning working on that.”

“Nobody wants to read about people kissing, lady,” he said, squirming in my arms. “Get back to writing about dead bodies.”

Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies

So, yeah, last month I decided to start writing romantic comedies. I certainly didn’t see that coming! I was about a quarter of the way through writing book #5 (Shooting by the Sea) in my Mollie McGhie Cozy Mystery series when I opened up a new Scrivener file and began typing away at a smoochy face book in my new Smitten with Travel series.

All I knew when I started was that I wanted it to be about travel, food, and, of course, happily ever afters. Then I got in the zone and the words started flowing out, characters made their presence known, and I giggled to myself as I created some truly goofy (and hopefully humorous) scenes. Drooling cats are funny, right?

Then I did something crazy—or at least crazy for me—I put the first book in the series, Smitten with Ravioli up for pre-order with a July release date. I haven’t even finished writing it yet! I know people do this all the time, my release date is far enough out, and I’m about halfway done writing it, so it should be fine (she says to herself in a reassuring tone while scarfing down cookies). Plus, I’m finding it highly motivational to have a release date looming over me.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about writing romantic comedies that have struck me over the past month:

1 – It’s much easier to skip around from chapter to chapter.

When I write cozy mysteries, it’s a very linear process. I do a rough outline, then write each chapter in order. But when it comes to romantic comedy, I find that I’ve been hopping around all over the place. In fact, I’ve already written the epilogue with their happily ever after scene. {Spoiler alert: they get married.}

With cozies, I think a structured approach works much better for me because I need to make sure I plant all the clues and red herrings in such a way that Mollie can solve the mystery.

It might also have to do with the fact that there are more characters to worry about in my cozies—I usually have five suspects, plus Mollie, her hubby, and the other recurring characters. With my romantic comedy, there are two main characters—the heroine and hero. Sure, there are other supporting characters, but the story focuses primarily on the two lovebirds.

2 – Cozy mystery readers may not like romantic comedies.

Because this is a new genre, I debated about whether to write my romantic comedies under a pen name. As you can see from the cover above, I decided not to. It seems like way too much work and additional expense to have a pen name. Plus, because my romantic comedies are “clean” (i.e., plenty of sizzle, but no sex) and cozy mysteries are “clean” by default, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about alienating any current readers since I won’t be publishing “steamy” books.

But I have to accept the fact that this new series may not be of interest to my current readers and that I’ll have to build up an audience who enjoys romantic comedies.

3 – What’s funny to one person may not be funny to another.

I’ve been reading / watching a lot of romantic comedies lately. Sometimes, I laugh out loud. Sometimes, I smile quietly. Sometimes, I don’t get the joke. Then I hear from other people that the joke I didn’t get had them rolling on the floor in hysterics.

People tell me that my cozy mysteries make them laugh, sometimes out loud. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to try my hand at writing romantic comedies. But what if I’m not funny enough? Or not funny at all? Has everyone been lying to me? Do they yawn when they read my cozies? Do they not get my jokes?

Can you tell I’m a little insecure about this? When I do start to panic, I try to remind myself that what’s funny to one person may not be funny to another. Then I have some chocolate. That always seems to help.

Want to know more about Smitten with Ravioli? Click HERE. I’ve been playing around with blurb and trying out different things such as first person vs. third person (the book is written in first person present) and how to position it (or not) in terms of heat level, so if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

By the way, for all you Mollie McGhie fans, don’t worry, I’ll get back to Shooting by the Sea once Smitten with Ravioli is finished. Mollie still has a lot of murders to solve.

What about you? Has a single photo or piece of art inspired a story? Do you like romantic comedies? What makes you laugh?

Crazy Cat Lady, IWSG, Writing

Simon the Time Traveling Cat's Writing Advice

I have an imaginary gray cat named Simon who has the ability to travel through time. He’s a pretty grumpy cat who is always complaining about not getting enough saucers of full-fat milk in his life, having his naps interrupted, and the “stupid” books I write. Simon pops up quite frequently in vignettes that I often include in my monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) posts.

Until recently, I wrote my IWSG posts on The Cynical Sailor, a blog I started in 2013 when my husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand. Now that I have this author blog, I’ve realized that my IWSG posts are a better fit over here. But I don’t want lose sight of all of the Simon-related posts that I’ve written over on The Cynical Sailor, so I’ve created an index of them here.

As I’ve pulled this index together, it’s been fascinating to see how my writing journey has evolved over time. Have a look at the list below and check out the posts. They’re good for a few giggles and you might find some useful writing advice along the way.

An Index of Simon the Time Traveling Posts on The Cynical Sailor Blog

The Time Traveling Cat (March 2017) – Simon makes his first appearance on the blog while I answer the question, “Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it?”

How’d You Get So Full of Yourself? (April 2017) – I make cookies and have a chat with Simon about how I worry that people are going to think I’m full of myself because of all the promotion I’m doing about my upcoming release.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Plays Monopoly (June 2017) – Simon complains about not getting to be the top hat in Monopoly while I answer the question, “Did you ever say I quit? What made you come back to writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Goes for a Walk (July 2017) – Simon is less than impressed when I buy a leash and harness for him, and I answer the question, “What’s one valuable lesson you’ve learned since writing?”

Interstellar Voyages with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Sept 2017) – Simon uses his time traveling powers to take us to another universe where I answer the question, “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets a Visitor (Oct 2017) – Simon is rude to a visiting cat and I answer the question, “Have you ever slipped any of your own personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Coughs Up a Hairball (Nov 2017) – I explain to Simon what beta readers are when I answer the question, “Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo project?” (Note: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a month-long event where participants from around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during November.)

Waking Up with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Dec 2017) – Simon and I travel back to January 1st to answer the question, “As you look back at 2017, with all of its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Takes a Nap (Jan 2018) – Simon gets grumpy when I try to move him from his favorite napping spot while I answer the question, “What steps have you taken, or do you plan to take, to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets Evicted (Feb 2018) – Simon knocks stuff off the table (very annoying) while I while I answer the question, “What do you love the most about the genre you write in?”

Celebrating with Star Trek & Dead Lizards (March 2018) – Simon tries to convince me that leaving dead lizards on my pillow is how he pays rent while I answer the question, “How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal / finish a story?”

Why Don’t Cats Sweat? (May 2018) – I complain about the heat in Florida to Simon and answer the question, “It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Dubious Advice (June 2018) – When I try to answer the question, “What’s harder for you to come up with – book titles or character names?” Simon suggests that I name all characters after him. Silly cat.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Freaks Out (July 2018) – The 4th of July fireworks scare Simon while I answer the question, “What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?”

Simon the Cat Travels through Time (Aug 2018) – Simon uses his powers to take us back to ancient Egypt. He likes it back then because cats were worshiped. While we’re there, I answer the question, “What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?”

Simon Goes Nuts for Catnip (Sept 2018) – Simon gets high on catnip while I answer the question, “What publishing path are you considering / did you take and why?” Wide, self-published

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Life Gets Disrupted (Oct 2018) – Simon freaks out when I serve him a new brand of cat food and I answer the question, “How do major life changes affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?”

Stop Being So Nosy! (Jan 2019) – Simon tries to find out how much money I make from writing when I answer the question, “What are your favorite and least favorite questions that people ask you about writing?”

What Cats Think about Heroes & Villains (March 2019) – Simon takes over the blog from me and answers the question, “What perspective do you like to write from the best – the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)?” It probably won’t surprise you, but Simon thinks all books should be written from a cat’s perspective.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat vs. Dewey Decimal the Talking Chameleon (June 2019) – I tell Simon all about the talking chameleon I have planned for my next cozy mystery series. He’s not impressed.

Release of Poisoned by the Pier & Character Traits (July 2019) – Simon hacks up a hairball on my keyboard while I answer the question, “What personal trait(s) have you written into your characters?”

How to Read without Opposable Thumbs (Oct 2019) – Simon and I chat about whether you can be a writer if you’re not also a reader while Simon shows me how he reads without opposable thumbs.

If you’ve had enough of Simon, here are some other writing-related posts from The Cynical Sailor you might be interested in.

Read an excerpt from Mrs. Moto’s diary – Mrs. Moto’s Murder Meows & Bodies in the Boatyard (Nov 2018). If you’re not familiar with Mrs. Moto, she’s the feline star of my Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery series.

Finding Time in My Busy Day (Sept 2016) – I share the results of an MIT study which compared how writers and cats spend their days. No surprise – cats take more naps.

About the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

If you’re not familiar with the IWSG, it’s an online support group founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers with different levels of experience from folks who are just daydreaming about writing to those who have published bestselling books.

I’ve made wonderful connections with fellow writers through the IWSG and the support and encouragement I’ve received from the community are a huge part of why I’m now a published author.

Want to get involved in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG)? Just hop on over HERE to sign-up. We’d love to have you on board!

IWSG, Writing

My Writerly Journey | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher, coach, spouse, friend, parent? Did you just “know” suddenly that you wanted to write?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can find out how I answered the question below.

It seems like a lot of folks were born with the writing bug. Me, not so much. All I was born with was a birthmark on my arm. Sure, it’s a pretty cool birthmark (if you squint just right in really poor light after a few vodka shots, it kind of looks like Elvis), but it’s not quite as cool as coming out of the womb ready to write the next Great American Novel.

I didn’t start any form of creative writing until 2013. That’s when I launced The Cynical Sailor, a blog originally dedicated to documenting the transition from moving out of a normal dwelling on land and onto our sailboat in New Zealand. Sure, there was a lot of boring boat stuff on there, but I also took the opportunity to inject some humor into writing about our adventures and misadventures. And, to my surprise, people responded positively to my wacky sense of humor.

I began to “fictionalize” some of my blog posts, even writing little Nancy Drew stories about how I was trying to investigate and track down the mysterious leak on our boat. That led me to taking my fan fiction to the next level by writing a full-blown Nancy Drew series of posts about “The Case of the Missing Anchor” as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in 2016.

People began to urge me to write a cozy mystery of my own. And by “people,” I mean my mom. And you can’t say no to your mom, can you?

So, with massive support from followers of The Cynical Sailor and members of the IWSG, I got cracking and started seriously writing. I cranked out a 50,000 word draft of what would later become Murder at the Marina during National Novel Writing Month in November 2016.

I also decided to try my hand at writing a fantasy short story which I submitted to the IWSG anthology contest. To my utter surprise, it was accepted. It was such a thrill to see my words in print! I think that’s the point when my writing journey kicked into high gear.

So, I guess I can’t point to one exact thing that started my writing journey, but rather people who supported me along at various points from the original followers of my Cynical Sailor blog, the people behind the IWSG anthology contest, my writing buddies, my family and friends, and everyone who reads my books and continues to encourage me to keep writing.

PS If you’re wondering where Simon the Cat is today, he’s too busy napping in a sunny spot by the window to be bothered with the blog today. He promises that he’ll be back soon.

What about you? What inspired you to start writing? If you’re not a writer and have another creative pursuit, what inspired you to start that?

Dead in the Dinghy is now available! Get your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

Ebook available at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Also available in PAPERBACK and LARGE PRINT.

Find out more HERE.

IWSG, Writing

Imagining My Future Writing Self | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can find out how I answered the question below.

Simon the cat getting ready to lay waste to the Christmas tree.

Simon the Cat Demands His Breakfast with Very Sharp Claws

Note: If you’re new to my IWSG posts, I often write stories about my imaginary cat, Simon, to answer the monthly questions. He’s rather a grumpy cat who loves full-fat milk, bashing my writing, and making a general nuisance of himself. The complete opposite of Mrs. Moto from my Mollie McGhie mysteries.

“Wake up, lady,” a low voice growled.

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head. “Leave me alone, Simon. I’m trying to sleep.” A paw snaked underneath my blanket, its sharp claws fully extended. “Ouch! That hurt.”

As I sat up in bed, my large gray cat glared at me. “Stop being so lazy and feed me breakfast.”

“You know, you’re much more pleasant in my dreams.” I stretched my arms over my head. “It was such a nice dream, too.”

“What did you dream about?” Simon asked as he rolled over on his back.

“My future writer self,” I said, as I rubbed his belly. “I’m doing really well in the future. I’ve written in some other genres like sci-fi and sweet romance. Plus, I have several cozy mystery series published including one with a talking chameleon who lives in a library in North Dakota.”

“Whoever heard of a talking chameleon? That’s a stupid idea, lady. Chameleons don’t talk. “

“And cats do?”

“Well, duh. You can hear me, can’t you?” Simon crawled onto my lap and kneaded my legs. “What are your other series about? Me?”

“You? No way,” I said. “Who would want to read about you?”

“You really aren’t very bright, are you? There’s people reading about me right now.”

I chewed on my lip. “Well, that’s different. This is a blog post, not a book.” Before he could interrupt with another smart aleck response, I added, “The other idea I have is a side series of novellas about a fortune teller who lives on Destiny Key.”

“Your new book is set there, isn’t it?” Simon asked.

“It is. Mollie and Scooter sail there during the Coconut Cove regatta.” I furrowed my brow. “How did you know that? Have you been reading my books?”

“Only when I have insomnia.” Simon yawned. “They’re so boring that they put me right to sleep.”

I lay back down and pulled the covers up to my chin. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go back to sleep and dream about my future writer self and my future cat. He’s really sweet.”

“Future cat?” Simon jabbed my face with this paw, then sat back on his haunches. “Oh, I get it. You’re going to travel into the future, use their cloning machine and come back with a dozen more Simons.”

“That sounds like a nightmare.” I grabbed a pad from my bedside table. “Note to self,” I said as I scribbled on the paper. “Do not engage in time travel. One Simon is plenty.”

What about you? When you dream about your future, what do you envision?

Dead in the Dinghy will be released on December 13th! Pre-order your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Find out more HERE.