Write it in Spain this summer

As you probably know, I’m teaching the Kick Start Your Novel class this summer in Spain.

The organizers have put out this press release about the event. I’m not sure how sweet and innocent I look, but I can assure you, sweet and/or innocent I am not.

This is going to be a rockin’ good time, and you will assemble the skeleton of your new novel before we’re finished.

Come join us.

Kick Start Your Novel in Paradise

New workshop in Moorish Spain will push writers to the next level

She may look sweet and innocent, but don’t let that fool you. Elizabeth Engstrom has a reputation for forcing writers past their preconceived limits.

Engstrom has over a dozen novels and 250 published stories, articles, and essays to her credit. Among her best-known works are Lizzie Borden and Candyland, which is now a movie starring Gary Busey. She has teamed up with Writers & Publishers International (WPI) to offer her Kick Start Your Novel workshop one last time.

Running from June 19th to 25th, Kick Start Your Novel in Spain is the ultimate summer vacation for any serious writer of fiction who is willing to work hard and keep an open mind. Attendees will dramatically improve their writing skills while enjoying the colorful history, food, and culture of southern Spain.

“Not every writer can teach. I know what people need to learn, and I give them this information without subscribing to a formula,” Engstrom says. “I’ve been teaching a long time, and my students get published.”

Those students include Naseem Rakha, whose best-selling novel The Crying Tree got its start in one of Engstrom’s Kick Start Your Novel workshops. Engstrom has taught writing classes in Italy, Ireland, Alaska and the Caribbean, and has been running The Ghost Story Weekend in Oregon for almost 30 years.

“Liz is more than a teacher. She is a mentor, a friend, a coach and an encourager,” says #1 NYT bestselling author Susan Wiggs. “Her teaching becomes part of the blood and bone of a writer’s art.”

Kick Start Your Novel is not for the faint of heart, Engstrom adds.

“My students start off kicking and screaming and resisting, but by the end of the workshop it’s a big love fest,” she says, explaining that the course teaches a completely different way to write. “When you write hot and urgent on the spot, something magic happens.”

Part of that magic lies in the setting itself. Located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain in Andalucía, Málaga has been featured in many novels and stories. The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, this region has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Orson Wells was so mesmerized by Málaga that he insisted his ashes be buried there.

Málaga’s exquisite beauty and literary history have resulted in a thriving community of artists and writers. With its rich historic and cultural past, miles of beaches, and stunning mountain villages, this Spanish paradise is guaranteed to inspire.

Writers are encouraged to reserve their spot with a deposit, as there is limited space available and the workshop will sell out quickly.

For more information, please contact:

In North America                                                     In Europe

           

J.H. Moncrieff, Publicist                                         Tausha Johnson, Program Director

jh@jhmoncrieff.com                                              info@workshopwriters.com

+1-204-453-8215                                                    +34 682798328

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Psychology Today

I’m honored that the amazing Dr. Katherine Ramsland blogged about my new book in her Psychology Today column.

sex scene book cover

The book is available in paperback, audio and as an e-book.

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Kick Start Your Novel in Spain!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be teaching my favorite and most popular 5-day workshop in beautiful Spain next summer.

You’ll find all the details here. Space is very limited.

Come join us and get that novel going in the right direction.

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Meat and Cancer

Yesterday the World Health Organization released a study that said that processed meat is a carcinogen. They base this not-so-startling finding on over 800 studies.

Of course PETA was ecstatic, and the meat industry dismissive. But what confounds me is the reaction of my friends.

One says 800 studies are not enough. We need more. In other words, you can have my bacon when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. In fact, another friend actually said that.

Another said, since she was already smoking, she might as well pile on the sausage. I have another friend who said that every one she knows who has quit smoking has died of cancer, so she is not quitting.

I am astonished and dismayed by this very small, simple, unscientific survey of those I interact with on Facebook.

Those who have had cancer know that it isn’t funny, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. It takes a terrible toll on general health, finances, and families. It burdens our health care systems and makes our health insurance premiums go up. It causes excruciating pain, and horrific treatments that can be worse than the actual disease. Just listen to the drug commercials on the nightly news. Listen to the side effects they’re required to list.

And you think it’s fine to risk all of that because you want bacon? Are you insane? Have you ever talked with someone who has endured the treatments for colo-rectal cancer? Being so dismissive of this finding is an insult to everyone who has ever battled cancer.

So next to the “pray for Jennifer’s healing” post with a photo of a bald teenager fighting to graduate high school, and a call for a congressional inquiry into crumb rubber on soccer fields, is a friend of mine posting photos of plates of bacon and saying “yumm…”

We’ve all done stupid things in our lives, things that we should have known better to do. I baked myself in the sun in my teens and twenties, and am reaping the melanoma harvest of those stupid decisions. They say that God looks out for drunks and fools, and I think that’s true. But once you know that what you’re doing is likely to turn out horribly wrong for you ten, twenty years down the line, don’t you think you might forfeit a little sympathy when that time comes?

You risk not seeing your kids grow up. Never meeting your grandchildren or great grandchildren. We all die, but we don’t have to welcome the early onset of a horrible disease. For ham.

I am shocked and saddened.

If you don’t like the WHO’s 800 studies, do your own research. There is plenty of information out there.

Don’t be a fool. Make the right decision for your health, for your family, for the environment.

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Clean and Sober

Today I reach a milestone: I have been clean and sober for 35 years. I have lived more than half my life with a spiritual program that keeps me without drugs or alcohol—one day at a time.

I find it inconceivable that it has been 35 years since I had a beer or smoked a joint. Inconceivable!  (And yes, I know what that means.)

It is easier for me to believe that I got drunk last week and have been lying about it.

But it’s true. 35 years.

These have been monumental years. Years of amazing accomplishments, personal and spiritual growth.

As with everyone my age, big events have taken place. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, creative accolades, cancers. Huge events. Emotional events. Certainly events worth drinking over, either in grief or in celebration.

truth and loveLife is not easy. But sobriety is its own reward.

All of these major life events are the stuff of the human experience, and I have been fortunate enough to be present and clear-headed for it all.

I think that’s our reason for being: to experience the human condition in all its intricacies.  Booze and drugs gloss over those intricacies, dull those edges, flatten out those highs and lows, fill in the cracks wherein we might mine for the gold placed precisely there for precisely us.

Drinking and drugging is a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of personality.

I am beyond fortunate. I am one of the very fortunate ones who have been able to get sober and stay sober. God willing, I will die sober. But I am in the minority. Drug and alcohol addiction is so sneaky, so calmly patient and doggedly persistent, that when we falter, it is there, waiting with a “fix” to whatever transient problem catches us at a weak moment.

But those aren’t fixes. They’re insulators. They’re a horror show in a bottle. They’re death by slow torture, and they take all our loved ones down with us.

I may be 35 years clean and sober, but I am only one drink away from disaster, and I think about that every single day.

Today I will go to a meeting and share my experience, strength and hope: If I can do it, you can do it. And that is absolutely true.

And then I will go about my life, living in gratitude. I am not only grateful for everything that I’ve been given in life, but grateful for every mind-altering substance I ingested that brought me to my knees and introduced me to the spiritual program that gives me solid tools for living.

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About Audio Books

I have come slowly to audio books.

While I love to listen to music on my iPod while doing this or that — pulling weeds, washing dishes, puttering around — I have always thought that reading should be a quiet activity, a reward for having pulled weeds, done the dishes and done all the necessary puttering.

But I’m changing my mind about that.

Lizard Wine Audio cover

Several of my books are now available in the audio format, and I have discovered that I enjoy listening to audio books. My favorite way to listen, of course, is still sitting quietly–so I knit and listen. But I can also listen while pulling weeds, doing the dishes and puttering.

Lizard Wine is now available as an audio book, narrated by the astonishing Voice of America, Jim Tedder. This is one of my perennial bestselling thrillers, and Jim brings a very nice depth of emotion to the narration. You can download a sample and then decide whether or not you are interested in listening to more.

Baggage Check, my latest thriller, is also available, narrated by Roger Wood.

baggage check audio cover

Lizzie Borden, of course, is also available as an audio book. As is my very first book, When Darkness Loves Us.

Lizzie audio cover

Sadly to say, my time to read for pleasure has shrunk in the past few years, but with audio books, I can “read” while driving, and while I’m doing almost anything else.

And, like browsing in a bookstore, I can “sample” a book before I buy or borrow.

Audio books have changed the way I read. I’m sorry that my life has come to this type of multi-tasking, but that is the current state of affairs. Maybe some day I will have a hammock and the type of leisure time to while away the day with superb fiction, but that isn’t my world today.

The point is, whether I have headphones or a tablet or paper book in my lap, whether I’m listening or reading, I’m still engaging with wonderful literature.

And that is my lifeblood.

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How to Write a Sizzling Sex Scene

From my new book, now available for the Kindle, the Nook, and other electronic readers.

I decided to write this small book right after I got yet another call from a writer’s conference director asking me if I would come give my sex talk at her conference.

My sex talk.

For years, I’ve been teaching weekend workshops on writing erotica for women (and one memorable one for men—more on that later) and giving short conference-sized workshops on how to write well-crafted sex scenes. Sex scenes are crucial to good fiction; they’re excellent opportunities to reveal character, and there’s a simple structure to it. These classes are wildly popular, and they have made me an “in demand” instructor at writer’s conferences and conventions all over the world.

sex scene book cover

In fact, occasionally I will walk down the hall at a writer’s conference and hear furtive whispers: “There goes the sex writer.”

Sex writer! As if I were a pornographer. I could be insulted, but I’m not; I’m amused.

The classroom is packed with expectant faces. What is she going to do? (What do they think? Unbutton my blouse?) What is she going to say? (What do they think? Run down a list of dirty words?)

I talk about writing. I talk about the sexual nature of their fictional characters. I talk about the three-act structure of a scene, and the three-act structure of a sex scene. I talk about practicing writing. I talk about vocabulary and what to call body parts. I talk about the difference between pornography and erotica. I talk about revealing character to the reader, and revealing character at a most vulnerable moment.

Those in the audience, they hear me—they’re taking notes—but I know they’re not thinking of their fictional characters. They’re thinking of themselves. This is what makes these classes so popular. I don’t use any dirty words. I don’t name any body parts. I talk about writing, but they’re all thinking of themselves. They think of themselves as fictional characters and they look at their sexuality. My class gives them permission to do that. And it’s fun, because they can ask thinly veiled questions: “My character has this problem…” And we pretend she’s talking about her character. I make light of it, and I can do that without insulting her, because we’re not talking about her, we’re talking about a character in her novel. She can laugh and learn and everybody else laughs and learns.

Sex is, after all, pretty funny.

Occasionally, it gets a little heavy, a little dicey, and I am always the first to hold up my hand and claim that I am not a therapist; I am a writer. This class (or seminar) is not about pain or healing your sexual issues. We’re talking about fiction here. And even that gets a laugh.

Then I give them an assignment and ten minutes to practice what they’ve learned in the past hour. After ten minutes, I open the microphone and they line up to read the portion of a sex scene they’ve written.

It’s hilarious. It’s moving. It’s astonishing. They have no problem saying those words, naming those body parts.

And we all go home thinking of ourselves and our sexual nature in a little different way. Certainly none of us ever looks at our fictional characters in the same way again; most of us look at our spousal units in a very good way later that evening.

I think that’s the real reason these classes are so popular. Even though I don’t talk dirty, I don’t tell smutty jokes, I don’t demonstrate anything vulgar on stage, everybody in the audience employs their largest sexual organ—their brain—for the hour and a half (or weekend) we’re together, and they learn a little bit about human nature. Their nature. Which is what writing is all about: Fearless, relentless introspection.

Of course the writer in me is always worried that I’ll drop dead some day soon and be remembered for giving the sex talk instead of the short stories, essays and novels that I so agonize over.

But in the meantime, I’ll go to another writer’s conference and give my “sex talk” and laugh and have fun, learn a little, teach a little, and best of all, spend time with other writers.

And now there’s a book.

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