Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Know Thyself

Good old Socrates had it right. "Know Thyself." Those two simple words are probably the best advice any writer can follow.

Whether you realize it or not, when you start out on the road of fiction writing, you're in for a journey of self-discovery. The path can be a bumpy one, filled with surprises, bitter disappointments, intense joys. For most of us, it's a voyage we wouldn't trade for anything.

We start out with nothing more than the burning desire to write. As we pursue our dreams and learn our craft better, we get to know ourselves better as well -- what advice works best for us and what doesn't, how we handle rejection and success, how we can hone our processes, our style, our voice. With every new book we take on, we discover more about ourselves.

I've had to learn to accept some things about myself. I don't like rules. I don't do well with fixed schedules. I know that I write to feed my passion to create. I've learned that my favorite stories are suspense and mystery, and that I love an author with a smart-alec voice.

Most important of all, I’ve learned that no matter what the ups and downs of this pursuit might be, writing makes me happy.

* * *

We had a lot of fun coming up with the name for our group. Our creative bunch of writers suggested some great ideas. We had no less than three votes and a lot of lively discussion about it. And now here we are - Petit Fours and Hot Tamales... and everything in between.

What I like best about our name is that it symbolizes the endless spectrum of possibilities in our genre of romance.

In my writing, I started out as a petit four - sweet, sentimental, traditional. But as I mentioned, over the last few years, I’ve swung more toward darker romantic suspense. Spicy, but probably not quite enough to call a hot tamale.

Right now, I’d say I’m an "everything in between." Gooey dark chocolate with a touch of cayenne.

* * *

So which are you? Petit Four? Hot Tamale? Or something in between?

How well do you know yourself as a writer? What have you learned about yourself so far on your journey? Have you discovered more about your strengths and special gifts? Have you switched the subgenre you write?

Have you known from the beginning who you are as a writer? Or have you grown into something different from what you set out to be?

What are you like as a reader? Do you stick to one subgenre, such as women’s fiction or romantic suspense? Or do you prefer a smorgasbord? Maybe a particular Harlequin line?

I can't wait to read your answers. Like I said, PFHT members -- and our readers -- are lively, creative group.

As you ponder your answers and look out on the coming year, remember, no matter how well you know yourself, there’s always more to learn.

Happy writing, happy discovering.


Dianna Love said...

Linsey -

I love the title of this blog site, too. That's what came to mind to me first - that this would be a blog filled with a wide spectrum of topics.

I'm definitely more Hot Tamale as I write dark thrillers. I love to read practically anything - but suspense/thrillers with a happy ending are on the top of my list.

Cyrano said...

I thought we'd never end up naming our blog, but we finally did it and the name suits our diverse group.
I believe I'd have to say my writing is spicy, actually down right flaming hot right now. I'm writing Erotic romance for the very first time in my life.
It took a lot to break out of my comedic comfort zone. I like a story that gets you to laugh as well as cry, but it's got to be steamy. I don't close the door on my love scenes, I fling it wide open for the world to see...and hear.
It's difficult to switch gears sometimes, but I'm glad I did. Monique the blue skinned Methras demon and the tall, dark and gorgeous Bureau of Demon Crimes agent she loves are the most fun I've had writing yet!
Keep writing.
Have a nice day,

Tammy Schubert said...


I enjoyed your post.

As a writer, you do learn a lot about yourself. I'm learning that I'm a procrastinator who must learn to let go of the whole perfectionism thing in order to let the words flow. My world has expanded to include people and things I would have never encountered on my own. A happy ending is a definite must for me. There are so many other things I can list, but I could go on for a long time.

You might be surprised to know that I plan to branch out and try my hand at a Blaze. It's a big leap from Western historicals, which I plan to keep writing. I'm sure that experience will expand my horizons even more.

Happy writing!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Linsey,

I too started out as a Petit Four. My first story had NO sex in it. In fact, the agent that picked it up asked me if I was against sex because every time my characters got 'close' to even an intense kiss, someone interrupted them. I love that kind of thing...

Right now, my stories lean more towards the Hot Tamales side, but I am working on a YA that I'm putting in the everything else in-between.

I love the last line where you said "no matter how well you know yourself, there's always more to learn." Definitely puts it into perspective....

Also, Tammy, YAY!!! I'm thrilled for the Blaze idea. That's what I'm working on now, too... Good luck with that!!!!

Tami Brothers

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Well, I've written everything from a western historical to the paranormal that I've just started. I either a dark chocolate truffle with a hint of cayenne, like you, or I'm a food item with multiple personalities. If it's the latter, at least I'm heartened by the fact that I'll get to know all of them.

Thanks for the post,

Linsey Lanier said...

Well, I know who the early risers are. And look at all the Hot Tamales!

Dianna, so glad to have you as a reader on our blog. Suspense thrillers are my favorite, too and a happy ending is a definite must. For a taste of what Dianna means, check out her website:

Tamara, your new project sounds really good. I wish you success with it. Having fun is important. If we aren’t having fun, why are we doing this?

Tammy S, I am surprised that you’re going for Blaze, but that sounds like a good decision. I have a good feeling about it. IMO, letting go and letting the words flow is where creativity happens. Sounds like you’re becoming a Hot Tamale, too.

Tammy B, I had to laugh when I read what the agent said. I think we all start out a little inhibited in that area. It’s something we have to, uh, “warm up” to. :) I’m sure your effervescent style makes all your books fun to read.

Sally, I tend to be eclectic, too. When I read a different subgenre, I just have to try my hand at it. It’s part of how I discover what works for me, I guess. But take heart, somewhere in there, is your unique voice, no matter what subgenre you’re tackling at the moment.

Thanks everyone for the comments!


Anna Steffl said...

I wanna be a hot tamale, but I think I'm something more like a pulled pork sandwich :) Tangy, but not really spicy. Hopefully a little meaty. Dang, I just need to get rid of those gristly, convoluted sentences.

I tend to read the petit four romances. But, I've read a couple tamales and really enjoyed them. Variety IS the spice of life.

Nice thought-provoking post!

Darcy said...

Linsey -

I couldn't agree more! Writing for me has been as much an inward journey as outward. Learning both my strengths and weakness, how to capitalize on the first, overcome the latter. One very pleasant surprise has been finding such a supportive network of women who not only share my goal, but have so many of the same quirks and idiosyncrasies. :) Finally! I've met people who understand me, where I'm going and why I want to go there. :) That confirmed for me that I was a writer, almost as much as getting my first request!

As for writing - I'm definitely a petit four (even considered inspirational once upon a time), working on a long contemp/woman's fiction. But I have a historical burning to get I guess I need to spice things up because all my favorite historicals are definitely hot tamales!


Debbie Kaufman said...

I think that anyone looking at my bookshelf would think that I have Multiple Personality Disorder. I can read the sweet side but, I prefer darker suspense. I have everything from Louis L'amour westerns to Mae Nunn's Love Inspired and on to a lot of favorite paranormal authors. If Hot Tamale refers to the dark side I'm there. As to the sexual content...well, I just skim what is too graphic for my comfort level.

Linsey Lanier said...

Debbie, don't feel bad. As a writer, I think multiple personality disorder is a definite plus! When we write, we are constantly taking on the different personalities of our characters, after all. And I've always heard the wider you read, the better you write.

That inner journey Darcy mentioned is exactly what I was trying to convey with this piece. It's not just categorizing yourself in a general way, but knowing who you are specifically – your strengths, your weaknesses, your likes, your dislikes. It's what keeps you grounded. It's what keeps you going when the road gets rough -- when your inner critic raises its ugly head, when you get a rejection letter, when you feel like giving up. You can't give up, because deep down, you know "this is me."


Susan said...

Linsey, great post. I'm like Anna I would like to be a Hot Tamale-in real life though! I'm a middle of the road headed toward hotter but will never be hot, hot, hot.

Ana Aragón said...

Hey, Linsey,

I enjoyed your post and definitely agree that writing is as much internal growth as growth as a writer.

I'm the hot tamale, and proud of it! This is why it took me so long to commit to writing romance... after all, my mom is still around. But, gol-darn-it, she read my first story and said she didn't even gloss over the racy parts!

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

My favorite reading is historicals, even though I don't write them.

Thanks for the great post!


Linsey Lanier said...

Thanks again, everyone for your wonderful comments. This was a lot of fun.

A Hot Tamale in real life, Susan? Hmmm. I'll have to share that idea with my husband. He loves Mexican food.

Ana, glad your mom approves of your stories. You are definitely a Hot Tamale!

Until next time...


Cinthia Hamer said...

Sorry to be late with this.

Linsey, I loved the post!

I think I have more Hot Tamale in me than Petit Four. I've never really been interested in the "sweet" romances, except a very select few of the sweet, traditional style Regencies.

My writing, though, is somewhere in between. I don't slam the bedroom door closed, but I don't have the reader standing at the edge of the bed, either.

I'm pretty confident that I know myself--as a writer--pretty well by now, but it's been a long, long process. There's been heartache as well as joy along the way.

Linsey Lanier said...


Better late than never. Thanks for commenting.

That's interesting. I had you pegged for a Petit Four. Live and learn.

Here's to more joy and less heartache in all of our futures.