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Monday, August 29, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: M.J.Scott

I'm very excited to be introducing first-time visitor, M.J.Scott, to my blog. She writes fantasy romance, a genre I love!

She's a fellow RWAustralia member and in her pre-publishing days used to frequent the same contest circuits I did. Her work has finalled or won awards in the RWAustralia Emerald Award, RWAustralia Valerie Parv Award and the RWNew Zealand Clendon. She's also been a two-time finalist in the RWA® Golden Heart Award.

M.J. lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she enjoys yarn and fabric crafting, cat butlering, and dark chocolate (a lady after my own heart!).

We know of your contest successes, but can you tell us something a little more personal about yourself?
Hmmm. I’m a lifelong bookworm and story nerd. I like yarn.

And handbags. And chocolate covered pretzels but thankfully I can’t get those here in Australia.

I drink too much coke zero and am learning to take better photos. 

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I wrote my first stories when I was about eight or so and wrote on and off all through school.  I came back to writing seriously around 2001 and it took nine years to get published. 

Wow, nine years. Sounds familiar :-). Perseverance is key.
So, what do you think it is about our genre that readers find so fascinating?
For me (so hopefully for other readers), the attraction of fantasy is the ability to step into another world entirely and follow characters who can do wonderful things around while they save the world (or whatever it is they need to do). It lets you recapture that childlike wonder and belief that all sorts of things are possible. And fantasy tends to deal with timeless themes like honour and loyalty and facing your fears, so that’s also part of the appeal. 

This response makes me wonder which authors are your 'must-reads'. I suspect we'd share a love for some of the same, M.J.

Are you a pantster, scener, or plotter? Is it your characters or plot that influence you most? What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
I’m a pantser.  Which is not the most efficient way to write a book.

I can plot out a bit ahead when I get stuck (if you can call ‘banging your head against the desk until you figure out the obvious’ plotting) but generally when I start a book I know very little about what’s going to happen.

The first scene comes to me and I may have an idea of the last scene and then I run after the story from then on trying to get from A to B. When I get stuck, I write out of order then have to figure out how to put the bits together.

I write short first drafts with lots of talking heads (long bits of dialogue) and notes to myself. Then I have to expand everything out and fix the plot in revisions. 

Go, pantsters and head banging, works for me, too!

On a more serious note, tell us about your latest release. (I LOVE the cover, by the way, it's awesome!)
SHADOW KIN is my first book and the first book in the Half-Light City Series.  It’s dark fantasy about a half-Fae assassin who botches her latest assignment and consequently her whole world gets turned upside down.

Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, rules by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely…

Born a wraith, Lily is a shadow who slips between worlds. Brought up by a Blood Lord and raised to be his assassin, she is little more than a slave.

But when Lily meets her match in target Simon DuCaine, the unlikely bond that develops between them threatens to disrupt an already stretched peace in a city on the verge of being torn apart...

Here's the link to read an excerpt from her novel.

Can you share a few fun facts about the geographic locations where your novel takes place?
SHADOW KIN takes place in a largely nameless city in a world that isn’t quite ours, though it has some similarities.

In my head, the City is quite a lot like parts of London (where I lived for a bit) but not entirely. The technology is stuck at an early Victorian type level because there are treaties rationing the use of iron and silver, which makes for some interesting consequences.

Which book that you’ve read has made a lasting impression on you? And why?
I love SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley. I’ve re-read it a lot. I just love the worldbuilding, which is brilliant, and the story which is dark and funny and scary and romantic. I love books where the worlds feel solid and McKinley’s worlds always feel fathoms deep. 

The young, mad torti-cat...
Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write?
I have a mad young tortoiseshell cat who thinks I should spend more time playing with her and less time at the keyboard. I need to find her a feline pal!

I wonder if there's a link between fantasy authors and them being owned by cats? Hmm...

So, what’s next for you? What are you working on?
Book 2 comes out in June 2012 so I’ve been editing that and working on book 3 and trying to ignore all the other ideas.

You can check out Book 2's blurb on M.J.'s website. It's been fantastic having you here, thanks for visiting, M.J.!

If you'd like to know more about M.J.Scott then check out her website and blog.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TOPIC: Writing Terms (part 3)

This is part 3 in my series on writing terms, with particular attention to terms used by published authors and publishers.

The Call – receiving a phone call or email from an editor asking to buy your book
advance – a percentage of the money paid to the author by a publisher prior to publication of the book; advances are paid against future royalties, and are paid back to the publisher once the book starts earning royalties
royalties - the percentage of the cover price of a book paid to the author; only paid after the book has earned out and are usually paid on a monthly or quarterly basis
cover quote – quote provided by an author or reviewer that appears on the cover of a book
back cover blurb – the brief outline of the story on the back cover of a book
cover copy – the front, back and inner cover content sent to an author by an editor, usually to check for errors
proposal – a short summary of a book not yet written
outline – a list of short sentences that describe the major ideas in a book synopsis - a summary of a story told in present tense which can be anything from a page to multiple pages long
vanity publishing – a form of publishing where the author pays to have their work published
traditional publishing – work printed in book format by a publisher
e-publishing – electronic publishing
self publishing – a type of publishing where the author publishes their own work
deadline – due date of a contracted piece of work
galley – initial typeset of a manuscript sent to the author for checking before it’s printed
line or copy edits – errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage that need to be corrected by the author
beta reader – someone who reads the author’s work with a view to spotting errors or making suggestions for improving the work

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who's That Girl? interview with Chris Weston

This wonderful woman is a fellow-RWNZ Clendon Award winner who loves going to conferences!

Name? Chris Weston.

Where are you? I live in the foothills of the beautiful Dandenong Ranges just out of Melbourne with the hubby, the last of 4 children (who refuses to leave home), a very blonde dog and an aging cat.

How many years have you been a member of RWAustralia? Best I can recall, I joined the year Penny Jordan spoke in Melbourne at the Carlton Crest hotel. 

What genre/s do you write? I'm still trying to work out which category is the right fit - with the occasional dabble at single title contemporary. 

Who are your favourite authors? Jennifer Cruisie, Suzanne Enoch, Janny Wurts, Dick Francis.

What inspired you to write romance? I've always written romance - I was the kid in the back row in Science writing angst-ridden teenage love stories instead of paying attention to photosynthesis. My early writing memory was rewriting episodes of Rin Tin Tin - adding the required handsome cavalry soldier and a romance, of course.

Who's your dream agent and/or dream publisher? The one who loves my book enough to buy/represent it. 

What's the best thing about going to conference? Spending three entire days with people who TOTALLY understand what you do and why you love it so much. 

And lastly, finish these statements...
My greatest strength as a writer is...
I really want to pass on this one but one of my CP's has this really big whip, so I'll say that it's my dialogue and my humour (which just as often wreaks havoc with the tension).
A sexy hero needs... the right woman to bring him to his knees.
My latest WIP (work in progress) is about... a prince and, of all things, a secret baby. I didn't think I would ever write a secret baby book.
When I write I like to... play country and western music far too loudly - preferably Toby Keith, Tim McGraw or Lady Antebellum.
My best writing milestone to date is... I have two. Finishing my first book - I don't think people celebrate this milestone properly. How many people do you know (not counting writing friends) who have said 'I'd love to write a book one day' and have actually done it? The second is probably finishing the book that won RWNZ's Clendon Award. I felt that my writing took a big leap forward with that book.

Chris, thanks for strapping into my blog hotseat and answering my questions! :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

VALE: Sandra Hyatt & Nora Hansen-Hill

Those who attended the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference were shocked and saddened to hear that two of their own passed away this weekend - Sandra Hyatt, who died in hospital on August 21st; and Nora Hansen-Hill, who'd been fighting illness for some time.

Sandra had "...an undetected cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which would have been present since birth... the AVM caused a bleed in her brain. Its location and severity made it inoperable." (quotes from a statement issued by Abby Gaines, RWNZ resident to its members 22nd August)

Nora wrote SF/F/paranormal/horror novels under the name of N.D.Hansen-Hill, and romantic prose as Melody Knight.


Sandra Hyatt (1965-2011)

Nora Hansen-Hill (d.2011)
Both Sandra and Nora will be missed by many.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

TOPIC: Writing Terms (part 2)

This is part 2 in my series on writing terms.

category romance – typically the Harlequin M&B romance lines ie. medical, Sexy, Blaze, Desire, Intrigue etc.
protagonist – the most important character in a book
antagonist – the major character in a book whose values or behaviour are in conflict with those of the protagonist or hero
hero – main male character in the story
heroine – main female character in the story
secondary characters – minor characters in a story
premise – the problem that’s the basic idea of the story
turning point – an incident that marks the growth or a new stage in a character’s life
Black Moment – a defining moment or realisation of a character in the book
partial (request) – usually 3 chapters and a synopsis requested by the editor or agent
full request – the entire manuscript is requested by the editor or agent
query letter – a short letter pitching a book to an editor or agent to see if they’re interested in reading a manuscript; usually contains an introduction, a short summary of the book, and the author’s credits
solicited manuscript – a manuscript an agent or editor has asked to see
unsolicited manuscript – a manuscript an agent or editor hasn’t asked to see
simultaneous submission – to send out the same manuscript to more than one publishing house or literary agency
multiple submission – to send out different manuscripts to the same publishing house or literary agency
slush pile – a term used for unsolicited manuscripts received by a publishing house
voice – a term used to describe the tone or style of the author in a their work
imprint – a division within a publishing house that deals with a specific category of books

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Who's That Girl? with Charlie Kramer

Charlie Kramer lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner. She has worked in the building and facilities management industries for a number of years as both a General Manager, private contractor and author of specialised technical manuals.

Charlie is also an award winning speech writer and published short story author. Today she enjoys writing romantic comedy screen plays and novels.

In her spare time, Charlie enjoys creative cooking and watching chick flicks. Her ultimate dream; to write a one woman stage play.

Charlie, thanks for joining me here today!

Name? Charlie Kramer.

Where do you live? I live in a seaside suburb in Melbourne. It’s a charming little suburb with period homes and so full of character. I love meandering around the streets and in the ambience or strolling along the waterfront. We’re also fortunate enough to have an array of great seaside restaurants.

How long have you been a member of Romance Writers of Australia? It’s a year now since I joined the Romance Writers of Australia. It really is a pleasure to be a part of something so great and in an environment where writers support writers with both their knowledge and their friendship.

I’m really looking forward to the conference in August where I can meet some of the members that I have gotten to know on line. 

What genres do you write in? I write romantic comedy (novels and screenplays). I get a lot of pleasure out of writing rom coms because for me they deliver not only the love, but also the fun and laughter in the hero and heroine’s relationship along with the sticky moments.

I also dabble in the odd category romance and I would like to write a post world war II drama. 

What’s your current writing project? I am currently rewriting and polishing two manuscripts. My romantic comedy CLARITY & CORSETS (Book 2 in the Quotable Women series) and BETRAYED a category romance that has been on the boil for quite a while now.

Have you entered any writing competitions?  Have you found them to be helpful? In 2010 I entered the Page International Screen Writing Awards.  I tend to enter my screen plays in contests rather than my novels. The feedback from the judges I find incredibly insightful and constructive. There is always something to learn and a different person’s view is always helpful.

Competitions also give a writer feedback from professionals they are unlikely to know. I consider that to be a bonus because they are fresh eyes on your work and have a different interest than readers.

Apple, PC, Longhand, other? I will have to admit to being a really big Toshiba Satellite laptop fan (I’m on my 3rd now). I write straight into the laptop but only after months of scribbling notes and getting to know my characters. If I decide to spend a day writing in a cafĂ©, park or library I have a miniature laptop that fits right into my already bulging handbag.

I stopped editing on the laptop a couple of years ago. I have an overzealous internal editor who would just not stop editing as I was writing. So I started making a habit of only editing on printed copies of my manuscripts. I found peace. 

Name your 5 top authors you like to meet, have lunch with and ask questions of about writing? Lynne Graham, D.D. Scott, JD Robb, James Patterson and Corrine Grant.

The first romance novel I read as a teenager was written by Lynne Graham.  I’m a big fan even today and still read her books.  She’s an amazing writer and her novels, whilst all category romances, differ and have such an emotional punch.  Not to mention that her heroes are to die for.

I love romantic comedy because the genre combines the two things I love – romance and comedy.  Not only do you get the emotional punch but you get the added bonus of some laughter mixed in with the love.

D.D. Scott is my favourite rom Com author and I have been fortunate enough to ask DD questions via email instead of lunch.  It is such a thrill to communicate with authors I love.

I enjoy reading murder mysteries. JD Robb and James Patterson are the two authors I read in this genre.  I find their stories compelling. The tension and pace of their books keep me turning page after page until I’ve reached the end and then I’m usually looking for more.

At a recent writers festival I attended a session on comedy writing. Corrine Grant was on the panel of three speakers that day. The discussion was lively and interactive. Fortunately I got a copy of Corrine’s memoir and thoroughly enjoyed the read. She’s jumped to #1 on my favourite Aussie author list. I’m praying Corrine’s writes another book or two or three...

Do you have a routine or things you do to keep motivated when writing?
I found it hard in the beginning to find a balance between writing and other things happening in life.
Now that I write full time I maintain office hours.

I usually write Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm. LOL I’m rethinking my writing hours as I’m finding that marketing myself as an author is just as or if not more time consuming than writing a novel.

I have a sign on my desk that simply says “The only way to reach your goals is to never ever give up.” 

Name one hobby you love doing and would be unlikely to ever give up - Mmm….writing pretty much tops the list here. I grow my own herbs and love cooking with the herbs I’ve grown and fresh produce. The other love of my life is going to the theatre and seeing a live production on stage.

And lastly, finish these statements...
The actor I would most like to see play one of my heroes is...Clive Owen.
My favourite childhood toy was... “Bierre” an inflatable blow up rabbit and a miniature organ with coloured keys.
The best thing about writing is...that I get to indulge in my passion every single day.
Two things I would pack if I were going to an isolated holiday destination -  a sat. nav. because I am a terrible navigator and need GPS just to find my way around a shopping centre and Tony, my partner. LOL, Tony wouldn’t come unless I had packed the sat nav first.
Three goals I’ve set myself for this year:
•    Self-publish two novels. 
•    Write two novels.
•    Set up my author platform and blogs
Six months in and I have achieved all of my goals with the exception of self- publishing the second novel. My second novel will is scheduled for publication in December 2011.

Charlie has a website, her Charlie Kramer blog and Quotable Women blog and her Twitter tag is charliekramer36.

Monday, August 15, 2011

TOPIC: Life on the flip-side...

This article was published in the WRITERS' LIFE column of the August 2011 edition of  the RWAustralia Hearts Talk magazine.

With conference fast approaching, part of the fun of attending one is meeting the authors and listening to their stories of ‘life after getting the CALL’. I took it all in with keen anticipation, dreaming of the day I walked in their shoes, but it wasn’t until I stepped over the threshold that I really understood what they were talking about.

Simple fact is getting the call really does change your life in many, many ways. Some good, some unexpected.

What initially caught me by surprise after getting that email was the speed with which everything happened. I had a week to accept the offer.

Having done the research yonks ago I was already in the process of submitting queries, so contacting my top list of I’d-kill-to-be-represented-by-these-agents was a matter of whipping off a few emails alerting them to the book deal on offer.

I can’t stress enough if you’re submitting work to editors, and intend being represented by an agent then make the time to find out about whom you’d like to represent you. Leaving it to the last minute is stress you don’t need.

Why? Well, that seven days will be manic (particularly if you’re working across time zones). Let me repeat that.

The.Week.Will.Be.MANIC.

Organise representation, scheduling phone calls, e-mails to’ing and fro’ing from your agent and editor, and then sealing the deal with the publisher. Be prepared for a week of little sleep.

And if this isn’t excitement enough for you, the prospect of embarking on two new professional relationships – with your agent and editor - is a feeling you won’t ever forget.

Another thing, if you end up with a multiple book deal offer, like I did (ie. a series), have a short outline of your books ready to send your agent/editor. Think back cover blurbs. With only a week to negotiate the deal, and most of that taken up arranging representation by an agent, I ended up writing two extra blurbs in less than twenty-four hours. Not recommended.

Once the initial chaos of representation and the deal is over, the decision of deadlines needs to be made. These dates go in your contract. I knew what I could produce word count-wise and thought I’d factored in things like family, work, the publishing process, health-issues, unexpected interruptions etc.

Remember all those sessions at conference where you heard authors say ‘be disciplined, produce a daily word, write even though you don’t feel like it’? Engrave those words on your forehead or pin them up in your office at eye level. You no longer have the luxury of time or procrastination once you have a legally binding deadline.

Producing my first and second contracted books has been a huge learning experience but the one thing I now understand is that it takes more time than you think to juggle everything.

It’s life vs. the publishing process (sending in a synopsis & sample chapters, author bio/photo, acknowledgements page, revisions, copy edits, cover copies, galleys, marketing and promotion etc., beginning the next book and repeating that process).

It all takes time away from writing your next book. Next contract (yes, being optimistic here!), I’m adding another two months minimum to the deadline.

One of the true eye-openers of being under contract is the precious amount of time I have for reading for pleasure. Pre-call I read 3-4 books a week, now I’m lucky to read a book a month.

Another lesson I learned – it’s easy to get tied up writing your own stories and end up feeling ‘stale’. Reading for pleasure is a must, even when I’m writing. I need it. It’s like a respite or recharging of the batteries.

It’s been an amazing journey so far, a lot of exciting firsts – getting The Call, receiving the first cover, being hit by the realisation that my book is really going to be in print, finding out who’s going to write the cover-quotes of my book, and meeting fair dinkum deadlines.

I have a quote on the wall in my office that says, “When I’m writing I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” (Anne Sexton). It’s so true. I’m almost a year into my journey and while I’ve yet to experience the joy of seeing my first book on the shelves, I wouldn’t give up or swap what I’m doing for anything.

Yes, the learning curves have been steep, and I know I’m still wearing L-plates having just crossed over the unpubbed-pubbed line, but I love my ‘new career’ - the learning, the passion of creating, the pressure and stress, the satisfaction of meeting goals, they’re all part of the life I’ve chosen for myself.

It’s a delicate balance between portraying the joys and the reality of being published. I don’t want to discourage anybody or put anyone off achieving their dream, but I hope that by sharing some of my journey with you, yours will be that little bit more informed.

See you on the flip-side!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Interview with...Anna Campbell

This is an interview I conducted with Anna Campbell for the RWNZ Heart to Heart magazine (October 2009 issue).
 

ANNA CAMPBELL
Australian author, two times RITA nominee & two times R*BY finalist, Anna Campbell is best known for her passionate, character driven historical romances. Her stunning debut novel, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, was winner of Best First Historical Romance in the Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Awards in 2007 and since then her books have continued to enthrall and thrill readers.
Before succumbing to the call as a romance author, Anna tried her hand at retail, hospitality, marketing, working in an art gallery, technical writing and working at a charity as a sub-titler for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Anna takes time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions…

Whenever you’ve spoken in workshops or talked to writers your love of the historical romance genre is evident. What’s the most enjoyable part about writing historical romances for you? Developing the characters, researching the time period etc?
Kylie, how interesting that my enthusiasm is so obvious. I was a reader WAAAAY before I was a writer and I still read stacks, although sadly not as much as I like. Dang deadlines!

Hmm, I love research but it’s easy for that to become a black hole. You dive in and you may never come out, let alone write the book. So these days, I read a couple of books and then look up specifics as I’m going.

As one very wise writer said, “I hate writing but I love having written.” First drafts are really tough for me, but I’ve learned to love the revision process, that act of freeing the angel from the marble as Michelangelo said on the coffee cup I’m currently holding. Although I’m not sure anyone would call my stories angels!

I also love starting a story when anything is possible and it’s all exciting. Of course, the best bit is when you’re in the zone and it’s like taking dictation but sadly entering that ecstatic state seems to be outside my control.

The writing process fascinates many of us. Do you have a daily/weekly writing routine or are you more flexible in your approach? And are you a plotter or panster?
I’d love to be really businesslike and organised. But sadly, I ain’t! I tend to work to a daily page count and mostly I achieve it. But closer to a deadline, I’m working really long hours and it also depends on what else I’m doing. I do a lot of promo.

I’m definitely a pantser although I wish I was a plotter. I think it’s a much more efficient way of working. I need to tell myself the story before I know what story I’m telling if that makes sense.

As a self-confessed contest junkie ☺, what role do you think they played in your pre-pubbed preparation as a writer? What have been some other significant milestones in your journey to publication and now that you’re published?
Wow, what great questions, Kylie! Actually it took me a huge chunk of time to get published. I finished my first historical romance between high school and uni and then it was twenty-seven years between then and when I sold to Avon. In all that time, contests kept me going. The fact that someone other than my best friend (and actually my best friend wasn’t that enthusiastic!) liked my writing gave me hope.

I think contests have a whole stack of benefits for unpublished writers. They help you develop a thick skin, they teach you to trust yourself (judges give you such a wide variety of comments, you need to learn what to keep and what to discard), they get you submitting professional-standard work to deadline, and they’re great for networking. I got my agent through contests and I’m still in touch with a lot of my judges. A list of contest wins and placings are also great for the query letter. It makes the agent/editor think, “Hey, this person clearly stands out from the crowd.” It gets your foot in the door and then it’s up to the work to speak for itself, but the foot in the door part is hard enough!

Oh, milestones! Too many to count – one of the side effects of writing for so long. A few that spring to mind include my first RWOz contest (First Kiss) which I entered with much trepidation. Imagine my excitement when I came third. My first RWOz conference. I’ve since become a conference junkie. Meeting my wonderful critique partner at that conference. Annie West’s advice and encouragement went a long way towards helping me to write a saleable manuscript. Winning the last Emma Darcy award in 2005. The double Golden Heart final in 2006 the first time I entered the contest. Selling (obviously!). The double RITA final in 2008 – now that really was a dream come true! Both R*BY finals.

When I read UNTOUCHED, I loved the emotional intensity of the attraction between Matthew & Grace and watching their relationship unfold; Matthew’s hard, cynical, guarded facade develop into a gentle yet fierce protectiveness, Grace’s fears evolving into strength and courage to fight for him, for them.
What sort of prepatory work do you do on your characters before you start the first draft? How deep do you go?
Thanks, Kylie. I loved those two characters – and seriously I was fending off marriage proposals for Matthew. He’s a character readers really seem to have taken to in a big way (which made me very happy!). Most people wanted him to bring his dog too!

I tend to operate very much out of my subconscious with my characters. I don’t do any of the organised things like charts or interviews!

What generally happens at the start of a story is that I get two characters, a situation and an opening scene. And the characters talk to me (yes, I know this sounds crazy). Usually that’s while I’m working on another manuscript so these people set up residence at the back of my brain and sort of stew for a while until I start their story. Then they develop with the story – often completely against what I think I’ve got when I start.

For example, Matthew was meant to be an uber alpha, and a cranky one at that. I mean, if anyone had a right to be cranky, it was him, right? But he turned up as a knight in shining armour when I started to write the story and any attempt to change him just made him go quiet on me. Eventually I just gave up and let him have his way!
Once I’ve got my first draft, I use the editing process to layer and layer and go as deeply as I can.

When you were learning the craft was there any particular technique you had trouble with eg. GMC, dialogue, POV, sexual tension etc? What do you see as your strengths and areas for improvement? Have these changed over time?
In my unpublished days, I spent a lot of time writing for Mills & Boon and getting rejected with the dreaded ‘lacks emotional punch’ letter. Looking back, they were completely right. Writing emotion was the last thing I learned and I think it was the thing that turned me from an almost there to someone who would sell.

Dialogue is something that’s always come easily to me. In fact, the dialogue never changes very much from first draft to final version whereas nearly everything else does. I think because I’ve read voraciously since I was a kid, and I’ve read thousands of romances, the shape of a romance story is imprinted on my bones. So that story arc is something that comes with the first draft too. Mind you, I never think writers are the best people to describe their strengths and weaknesses!

Once you’ve finished writing, what’s your editing process? Do you have a critique partner/group/sounding board of some sort? How do you know when your book is ready for submission?
Um, the answer to the last part of that question is easy – deadlines! Once I finish a first draft, if possible I like to take short break from the manuscript so I’ve got some distance from it when I return. Then because I write long, I usually spend a while cutting the undergrowth from the manuscript and doing a general polish. Then I send it to my critique partner Annie West. I use her comments for a really in-depth edit. After that, if I’ve got time, I’ll send it to someone else to read. Lately that’s been Christine Wells who writes fantastic Regency historical romance. By then, it’s usually time to send it in!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Oh, now that’s a hard one. I’ve heard so many great speakers and pieces of advice over the years. One that really resonated with me after the fact was from wonderful Robyn Donald. I remember her saying “The people who fail are the people who give up.” Now that seems obvious until you’re so close to publishing, you can taste it and still it doesn’t happen. That’s when it gets really tough to hang in there. Another was from a Donald Maas workshop, “Make it worse.” Another great one is Jenny Crusie’s “Protect the work.”

Your website is amazing. Is it an essential tool to an author’s self-promotion in today’s publishing world? What other promotional opportunities do you utilise?
Thanks for the compliments on the website. I knew the feeling I wanted but the credit for the look goes to Paula Roe who designed it. I wanted something moody and almost gothic in style to match the tone of the books and Paula did that in spades.

Promotion is one of those things you could do thirty-six hours in every twenty-four and every time you turn around, there’s more. But you have to write the books, that comes first. A good book beats any other sort of promotion you can do!

Having said that, I enjoy promotion – I love meeting readers and talking about romance (not just stuff I’ve written!). I absolutely think a website is essential. Before I put mine together, I spent a lot of time web surfing and working out what I liked and what I didn’t. Things I didn’t like included sites that were never updated. I’d feel cheated if I went to someone’s site and they hadn’t bothered putting anything new up there since 1998!

I liked websites that had added extras, insights into the author’s life or photos or short stories and articles. It’s just my opinion, but I think at the very least on an author website you need a bio, information about the books, what’s coming up, and contact details. After that, the sky’s the limit!

I do a lot of blogging. That’s something else I thought about when starting out, and I realised my life wasn’t nearly exciting enough to support a daily blog. So joining the Romance Bandits was a blessing. The blog is made up of 20 Golden Heart finalists from 2006, both published and unpublished, and they’re a great group, funny, smart, knowledgeable and really positive. Not to mention you get cross promotion from nineteen other writers! I guest on a lot of other sites too, some regularly (I do a monthly book review on Romance Novel TV, and a monthly spot on Tote Bags’n’Blogs), some only when I have a book out.

Otherwise I write articles, I write short stories, I donate books (the best marketing you can do is getting your book into someone’s hands, I think), I do Facebook and Myspace, charity auctions, anything to get my name out there as someone people might consider reading. I’ve done quite a lot of media too – the HarperCollins people in Sydney are great at promoting their authors.

Something that has been a major stretch for me has been learning to hold my own as a public speaker. It certainly didn’t come easily but it’s a skill you really need to develop. I’ve done panels and workshops at conferences and writing festivals, I’ve done library talks and talks to groups like Rotary.

Most writers have a signature style eg.smart sassy heroines, sweeping saga driven plots or edgy intense heroes – what is your trademark style, how would you like readers to recognise you?
I love Stephanie Laurens’s description of my style. When she read CLAIMING THE COURTESAN for a quote, she called it ‘Regency noir’.

CAPTIVE OF SIN is due for release in the US in November ‘09 and Australia/NZ in January ‘10. Tell us a little bit about it and what’s next for you?
CAPTIVE OF SIN is a marriage of convenience story with a twist. Here’s the blurb:

He pledged his honor to keep her safe . . .
Returning home to Cornwall after unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger, and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He’s dismayed to discover that she’s none other than Lady Charis Weston, England’s wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat.
She promised to show him how to love—and desire--again  . . .
Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She’s grateful for his help, but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

I’ve just finished my fifth manuscript, as yet without an official title. It’s another Regency noir (now, there’s a surprise) and is predicated on the theme of “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.” It should be out sometime in mid-2010.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Anna.
Thanks for interviewing me, Kylie. They were great questions!

You can learn more about Anna & her books on her website.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

REVIEW: Want to read a post-apocalyptic romance?

I've always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories. In fact instead of playing the usual games with friends as a kid, like 'cowboys and indians' or chasies, we'd roam the post-apocalyptic wasteland of our backyard and the banks of the local creek - goodies vs.baddies, of course - but we'd be fighting not only the villains but mutated animals and dodging 'hot-spots' affected by radiation.

So, to see such books now being published I'm devouring them as eagerly as I played those games as a kid.

The Dark Ages Dawning series, written by Ellen Connor (the writing duo of Ann Aguirre & Carrie Lofty) is a new series for me and one I'm thoroughly enjoying.

NIGHTFALL
Their instincts will save them.
Their passion will transform them.

Growing up with an unstable, often absent father who preached about the end of the world, Jenna never thought, in her wildest nightmares, that his predictions would come true. Or that he would have a plan in place to save her–one that includes the strong, stoic man who kidnaps and takes her to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest.
The mysterious ex-Marine named Mason owes a life-debt to Jenna’s father. Skilled and steadfast, he’s ready for the Change, but Jenna proves tough to convince. Until the power grid collapses and the mutant dogs attack–vicious things that reek of nature gone wrong.
When five strangers appear, desperate to escape the bloodthirsty packs, Jenna defies her protector and rescues them. As technology fails and the old world falls away, Jenna changes too, forever altered by supernatural forces. To fight for their future, she and Mason must learn to trust their instinctive passion–a flame that will see them through the bitter winter, the endless nights, and the violence of a new Dark Age.

What do I love about this first book in the series? Where do I start? There's a lot I really liked about it. The world-building, the main characters, the secondary characters, the story arcs hinting at what's to come in the next two books in the series (which I'm now hanging out for, BTW!!!).

No spoilers given, I'll stick to generalisations, so you can safely read what I have to say next. :-)

The hero, John Mason, is a tough-as-nails ex-marine/survivalist who owes a life debt to the heroine's father. He honours a promise to keep Jenna Barclay safe after the world succumbs to a prophesied change. So from the outset the hero and heroine are on very uneasy footing and this is part of the whole fascination I have for the story.

I love the process of watching these two learning to trust each other, first through necessity and then because they recognise the attraction they have for one another. Neither accept it easily, even though you can feel the need they have for one another.

As a reader you want them to get together but the whole establishing a relationship and learning about them as individuals is a very satisfying experience. So you know they earn each others trust and respect through the journey by the time they do get together.

The prophesied change and world-building is riveting too. The old world and technology slowly disappears and the characters have to come to terms with that as well as the new world order of mutated animals and supernatural powers.

This isn't so fantastic that you know it's far-fetched or impossible, the exact opposite actually. There's enough realism woven into it that you think it could happen. It was done so well I was definitely able to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in the story rather than analyse it (as I would a writer reading another writer).

The secondary characters are great too and when I read the blurbs for the other books in the series I realised they get their own stories and because of the connection and empathy I had for them I immediately went out and pre-ordered them. LOL

So, if you're looking for a solid, satisfying post-apocalyptic adventure/romance with great characters and a strong storyline then get thee to a bookstore and buy this series. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Other books in this series:

MIDNIGHT
Their desire destroys her defenses.
Their love gives him a reason to live.

Three years of wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland has stripped Dr. Chris Welsh of humanity and hope. He’s a dangerous man now, full of dark energy and yen for violence. A harrowing loss drove him from his home, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. Grim and sardonic, he never found anything worth sticking around for–until now.
Rosa Cortez runs Valle de Bravo, a haven of civilization amid the chaos of the Change. Soldiers take their orders directly from her–the iron hand within a velvet glove. The last thing she needs is a feral loner upsetting the town’s tentative balance. However, for the good of her people, she lets the sexy doctor stay. He evokes a delicious new longing, but she won’t submit to any man.
Tension rises as bloodthirsty raiders strike again and again, bent on possessing Valle and its resources. Together Chris and Rosa battle hellhounds and dust pirates while also fighting desperate attraction. To save them, love must overcome the pain of the past–and build a future in this brutal Dark Age…

DAYBREAK
Their mission was to save the world.
Their destiny is to fall in love.

It’s been twelve years since the Change, and Penelope Sheehan is one of the few still practicing magic for the good of humanity in this dark, dangerous world. Determined to infiltrate the notorious O’Malley organization, she poses as an abducted girl–until a furious lion thwarts her mission. When the beast turns into a devastatingly handsome man, she recognizes in him the troubled boy she once knew.
Since becoming a skinwalker, Tru Daugherty has allowed his animal nature to take over. Aloof and cynical, he takes no interest in making the world a better place. He’s a creature of instinct and impulse, living only to satisfy his senses–ignoring the scarred heart nobody has ever reached. He’s also the best man to help Pen bring down the O’Malley crime ring.
Fighting alongside the last holdouts of humanity, they unleash a passion that tempts them to risk everything for love. But if they succeed, Tru and Pen hold the power to brighten the Dark Age for all time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Cheryl Wright

Cheryl Wright is an award-winning Australian author, freelance journalist, and editor. In addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the Writer2Writer website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for writers. She also owns Resources4Writers.com

She is widely published, including novels, short stories, non-fiction books, poetry, and magazine features. Her work has also been published in anthologies and other collections.

In addition, she dabbles in website design and other creative endeavours. Cheryl presents workshops at schools, libraries, and writer’s conferences, and teaches writing online when time permits.

Hi, Cheryl, it's good to have you here, can you tell us a little about yourself? On a personal level, I’ve been married for 36 years to my own special hero, and have three of my six grandchildren living with me.  I’m often time-deprived because of that, and have to work around school hours etc.

It’s amazing what you can do when you have to.

On a writing level, I have one novel published, and around fifteen non-fiction books. (I have lost track. ☺) I’ve had short stories published (including one in the now defunct Arabella Romance Magazine), articles published in several magazines (was a regular columnist for two), and my work has appeared in several anthologies, including one as the lead story. 

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published? I started writing when I was about nine years old, after a hippy substitute teacher came to my school.  He introduced me to poetry, then later short stories.  It was the beginning of my love of the written word.

At the age of eleven I was editor of my high school newsletter.  Everything just grew from there.

After bringing up a young family and finally having some ‘me’ time, I began to take my writing seriously.  In 2003 – about thirty years after my first foray into writing - my first professional publication happened.  In the period of one year I had a magazine column accepted, a short story published in Arabella Romance Magazine, an article on a writing website, and my first novel accepted for publication. 

What sparks your creativity? Anything and everything.  I’ve written short stories after going to the supermarket where a robbery occurred, watched a woman sitting impatiently in her car, and even just closing my eyes and seeing a scene play out in my head. 

What do you think it is about your genre that readers find so fascinating? I mainly write romantic suspense.  It is a very intriguing genre for me.  I love learning about how crime works, forensics, etc.  Going by the number of popular crime shows such as CSI, Law & Order, The Mentalist, etc, that are running on the television, other people find them fascinating too.

In regard to novels, I think it’s the excitement factor, as well as being able to root for the heroine.  Finding out how she’ll get out of the curly situation she’s found herself in. 

Are you a pantster, scener, or plotter? Is it your characters or plot that influence you most? Pantser.  I’m definitely a pantser.  Sometimes that’s good, but I often write myself into a corner.

My characters always influence the story.  Plot is important of course, but as a pantser I always let my characters decide which way to turn next. 

What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book? I start off with the smallest gem of an idea.  Usually it’s a first paragraph or a premise.  Once I’ve written that first paragraph I’ll work on a brief outline of one or two pages.

Sometimes I’ll write the last chapter or epilogue, other times I won’t.

That’s it.  As a pantser, I can’t write a plot, otherwise the story is written as far as my muse is concerned.

Sometimes I write the novel from start to finish in chronological order, but other times a scene will be aching to be told, so I’ll write it then slot it in where it belongs.

Can you tell us about your latest release? SAVING EMMA is a romantic suspense, and is a ‘woman in jeopardy’ story.  Her husband has been murdered and the murderers are looking for something, but she doesn’t know what.

Along with her four year old daughter, Sally, Emma Larkin flees her Melbourne home where she meets Gary Bedford.

Unknown to her, Gary is an uncover cop.  He sets the wheels in motion to protect Emma and Sally.

Emma Larkin is running for her life--nowhere is safe. Stalked by her husband's killers, desperate to protect her young daughter, Emma must find what the killers are looking for before she becomes their next victim.

When undercover cop Gary Bedford planned a relaxing break, he hadn’t counted on bumping into Emma. Now he can't resist the temptation to discover all her secrets...

But should Emma trust her life and heart to Gary Bedford?And can they solve the mystery surrounding her husband’s death -- and uncover his deadly secret?   

What is it about your characters that made you want to tell their stories? I’m one of those inquisitive types. ☺

I like to know what makes people tick, and why they do the things they do.  Emma and Gary are no different.

Emma was acting strangely when Gary first met her, and he needed to know why.  Once he found out the truth, he set the wheels in motion to keep Emma and her four-year-old daughter, Sally, safe.

Can you share a few fun facts about the geographic locations where your novel takes place? I tend to write about places I’ve been to in the past, or have been recommended by other people.

Before embarking on a new novel, I usually revisit them to get a feel for the place as it is today.  The other reason for visiting again is to absorb the atmosphere and observe the people. That means the novel will reflect the setting better.

One of my novels is set is Maldon in country Victoria, and like my other settings, I visited there.  I booked a room and stayed for a few days.

I immediately embarked on a tour of the town.  I’d been told it was Olde Worlde but didn’t expect it to be so quaint.

I fell in love with it immediately.  The town is heritage listed, and it was like stepping back in time.  It even has an old fashioned lolly shop, like the sort you’d encounter at Sovereign Hill. Of course that was included in my book.

In addition, the motel I stayed in was furnished with antiques, and I made sure they featured as well. 

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing the book? The easiest is writing the first few pages, and creating the characters.  The hardest part for me is always the ‘hump’.  The so-called sagging middle.

Maybe it’s psychological, but I always worry about keeping the middle interesting for readers. 

What’s the worst writing mistake that taught you a valuable lesson? Believing I knew it all and didn’t need to learn how to write.  Yep, I was raw and new.

What’s the most unusual place you have visited? A tip in Rosedale (Gippsland) that had previously been known as a tourist attraction.

Which book that you’ve read has made a lasting impression on you? And why? “How to Create Fictional Characters” by Jean Saunders, published in 1992.  It showed me I was doing it all wrong.

I still have the book, and occasionally lend it out, but always know who has it!

Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write? I’m a cat person and have had as many as three cats at any given time. My cat Shadow always sat next to my chair keeping me company.  When he died a few years ago, Fluffy, a tortoise-shell, quickly took over.

If she’s not under my desk, she’s either sitting on my diary or jumping on my keyboard!

If you weren’t doing what you do today, what other job would you have? I spent six years as a debt collector, but found that very stressful.  Then I became an account manager for an international insurance company.  If I hadn’t become a professional writer, I’m sure I’d still be doing that job. 

Are there any particular settings or sorts of characters you’d like to use in a future book? I’ve already written the first paragraph of two romantic suspense novels.  Surprisingly, both are set outside, and in country areas.

Both are women being pursued by killers. My heroines are generally kick-ass heroines (can I say that here?☺) so they’re not meek and mild wallflowers.  In some cases, they protect the hero. 

What’s next for you? What are you working on? I’m currently working on a romantic suspense that began with the snippet mentioned above where the woman sat impatiently in her car.

When that’s done, I’ll finish a contemporary romance that is three chapters written. 

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you’d like to share with unpublished authors? Don’t give up.  Never.  Ever.  It will take time, it will be frustrating, very frustrating sometimes.  People will discourage you, and sent negative vibes your way.

But don’t ever let go of your dreams.  Without them, you have nothing.

If you'd like to know more about Cheryl, check out her website.

Some of Cheryl's other books:


Saturday, August 6, 2011

TOPIC: Writing Terms (part 1)

Ever attended a writers’ conference and been bamboozled by a host of acronyms or writing terms you’ve heard of but never quite understood? Here’s a few you might hear bandied about…

GMC – goal, motivation, conflict, used in reference to the characters in the story. Often referred to as what the character wants, why the character wants it and what’s stopping them attaining it.
HEA – happily ever after
HFN – happy for now
HMB – Harlequin Mills & Boon
ms. or mss. – manuscript or manuscripts
UF – urban fantasy genre
PR – paranormal romance genre
SFR – science fiction romance genre
rom.sus. – romantic suspense genre
FR – fantasy romance genre
EF – epic fantasy genre
DUF – dark urban fantasy genre
ST – single title (approx.80 000 words or more)
QL – query letter
FK – first kiss
POD – print on demand
POV – point of view
WIP – work in progress

Have I missed any? Feel free to add them in as a comment! :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Who's That Girl? interview with LaVerne Clark

We have a run on Kiwi's (New Zealanders) this month, folks!

Name? LaVerne Clark.

Where do you live? Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand.

How long have you been a member of our organisation? I’ve been a member of RWNZ for about twelve years now. I’ve always written, but never took myself seriously until my children came along and time for myself became precious. Writing is my escape and what I do to relax, but it can be so excruciating at times!

What genre/s do you write in? I write Romantic Suspense but one WIP has insisted it is a Paranormal. I’ve set it aside for the moment, but the story keeps percolating away.

What's your current writing project? I’m writing a suspense set in Auckland, NZ called “A Klaus to Kill”.

My publisher had put the call out for Christmas stories and I was excitedly writing for this, but unfortunately, I got ill for a month and missed the deadline. The story still excites me though, so I’ll submit to my editor when it’s finished and cross fingers she likes it.

Have you entered any writing competitions? Have you found them to be helpful? I’ve only ever entered two writing competitions before. I’m shy like that. The first was a short story through RWNZ. This taught me a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses were and that to write romance, you actually needed to have romance in it ; ) Who knew?

The second was a competition through The Wild Rose Press to write a novella-length suspense story that had to include a blue diamond. I was gobsmacked when they offered me a contract for this story and squealed like a little girl when I heard a week later I’d actually won the competition!

So yeah – I’ve definitely found writing competitions hugely helpful : )

Apple, PC, longhand or other? I LOVE my laptop. Paper just gets lost or squiggled on around here.

Name your top 5 authors you like to meet, have lunch with and ask questions of about writing. Ohhh – wouldn’t that be wonderful?! Diana Gabaldon; Jodi Picoult; Nora Roberts; LaVyrle Spencer; Nalini Singh – Nalini, will you be around the Top of the South anytime soon? ; )

Do you have any routines or things you do to keep motivated when writing? I’m the world’s worst procrastinator and easily distracted. I love to write, but I dread it too!

The key for me is to make sure the internet isn’t on and to get writing straight after a shower. The steam helps unclog those brain pores I think!
 
Name one hobby you love doing and would be unlikely to ever give up (writing not included). Indoor netball. Our team loses badly every week, but we have so much fun doing it!

And lastly, finish these statements...
The actor I would most like to see play one of my heroes is...
Sigh...can’t go past Gerard Butler.
My favourite childhood toy was...a thing called a Gonk. It was my first toy memory and had a cardboard tube for the middle, wrapped in wool with big fluffy ears. Weird huh? I still don’t know what it was meant to be – but I loved it.
The best thing about writing is...writing that first meeting scene. I love writing sexual tension.
Two things I would pack if I were going to an isolated holiday destination...30+ sun block (I have extremely fair skin) and my e-reader.
Three goals I've set myself for this year...finish and submit my current WIP to my editor, wrestle my paranormal WIP to the ground until it surrenders to my will, organise my time more efficiently and write something every day – even if it’s just a blog post. All writing is valuable.

It was a pleasure having you visit, LaVerne!
Thanks Kylie! That was fun : )

LaVerne has a blog and is on Facebook if you'd like to know more about her.

Shannon Curtis giveaway winner!

The winner of the pdf copy of VIPER'S KISS is...

Na
Na said...
Who left the comment: A quirky trait that I would love in a hero, is a man who can cook! Heroes are already extraordinary men with their protective nature, their strength and bravery but not often are their everyday, normal doings lauded. It would definitely make the hero more sensitive and tender with some scenes of him doing domestic duties. To add the quirk factor to it, he could be a cute klutz about it, buying cookbooks, putting on glasses as he squints at the TV cooking channel etc. :)

Email Shannon at this address - contactme (at) shannoncurtis (dot) com - and she'll arrange to get your prize to you. Congratulations and happy reading!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Release Day - BLOOD CURSED

BLOOD CURSED is Aussie UF/fantasy romance author, Erica Hayes' latest release. It hits shelves today!!!

Happy Release Day, Erica!

Enter the fierce, fantastical world of the Shadowfae, where blood is a drug, magic is a crime, and love is the most dangerous weapon of all...
 
To a vampire, nothing is sweeter than bloodfairy essence -- and Ember is the most sought-after fairy on the underworld circuit. Selling her blood to the highest bidder -- and robbing her clients in the process -- Ember has unwittingly become a target of dark and dangerous forces. Her enemies are everywhere. And if she hopes to survive, she needs protection...

Diamond is a glassfairy who, for better or worse, knows his way around the vampire underworld. Smooth as silk and tougher than trolls, Diamond is Ember’s only chance to keep her magical blood inside her body, where it belongs. But he also poses a threat to Ember, a strange kind of danger she’s never experienced before: She’s falling in love with him... 

Monday, August 1, 2011

August is conference month...woohoo!

With the southern hemisphere romance writing community gearing up for their annual conferences, August is a chocka-block month.

The Romance Writers of Australia are celebrating their 20th anniversary and holding their conference at the Hilton on the Park in Melbourne, Vic.

And the Romance Writers of New Zealand are descending on the Crowne Plaza in Auckland.

I'll be attending both conferences then spending an extra week visiting friends in New Zealand. Posts on this blog may vary somewhat in the coming weeks but there will still be posts on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

To kick this month off, some funnies...