Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting the Word Out

As soon as I signed on the dotted line of my first contract, I got myself a web-site.

I do most of my promotion on-line. When I have a new release coming out, I'll schedule a blog tour so I can pop in and visit a bunch of places. This time around (I have a new book coming out in November), I'm also going to make better use of the open promo days on the groups I belong to. With my first book, I was still a little green around the gills and didn't set up a blog tour. With my second, I visited about ten other sites, and I did see an increase in my sales. So far I have about five visits set up for November. (If anyone knows of - or has a connection to - a good spot to visit, let me know!)

I also have a Facebook account and a fan page, but I will be the first to admit, I don't use those to their fullest potental. To be honest, there just aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with everything.(And hold down a full-time non-writing job.)

As for off-line, I do order bookmarks for each book and send them to conferences which have put out a call for goodies. (Although I must admit, I was dismayed after a conference my local RWA chapter hosted to see all of the goodies - bookmarks, pens, pencils, etc. - that were left over after the conference. It made me wonder what actually happens to all of those bookmarks I've sent out over the years.)

I've never done a book signing at a bookstore, but I have done several craft sales sponsored by churches, schools, libraries, etc. To be honest, I haven't sold a lot of books through this type of venue, but I bit the bullet and signed on for a show at the local high school just before Thanksgiving. Hopefully lots of people will want to buy books for Christmas gifts!

What I would really like to do is find a way to trace which PR methods I've used are actually the most effective. I'm not sure if there's a way to do that in a concrete way. And I wish promo didn't take so much time away from writing. But that's the way it goes, I guess. It's all connected.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Promotion Trail

I started on the promotion trail (in hopeful anticipation!) over a year ago, well before I had my first acceptance. The main thing, I decided, was to get my name 'out there' and build up a network of contacts. So I joined various yahoo groups and gradually got to know other writers. I started a facebook page using my pen-name and created a (very basic) web-site.
Last October (yes, we're coming up to the first anniversary) I joined this blog which in turn has led to contact with writers who have visited us as our 'Friday Friends'. I've recently joined another blog, and have also 'guested' on several blogs.
So that's the 'name-game'. What about actually promoting my book? I don't yet have a cover to advertise my book, so it's low-key promotion at present. Once release date comes closer, then it'll get serious.
But what method(s) is/are the most effective? Blog tours, advertising banners, promotional materials such as bookmarks - who knows? Maybe you have to try them all, without ever knowing which, if any, will generate the most sales of your book.
I read recently that the best marketing tool that money can't buy is word of mouth - and all my friends and acquaintances in various parts of the world will definitely be getting that 'word of mouth' from me in the not-too-distant future. If they like my book, maybe they'll tell their friends, who'll tell their friends ... and so on. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting the Message Across

I post to lots of other groups. Here you can also post blurbs and/or extracts. I am not sure how useful it is. There are so many others doing the same thing. Local newspapers are useful if you can get them to put something in about you. Anyone who contacts me via my website I put in my contact list and send out a bulletin when anything is happening. If you can give a talk to a group it does mean you might sell some books, always make sure you have some books with you to sell!

It is very difficult these days to promote yourself but you have to keep at good being a shrinking violet these days, although that would, I confess, be my preferred option.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shouting from the Rooftops

How do I--will I-- promote my work?
With a website. With this blog. With my daughter's (and her friends') help, with the expanding and evolving social media sites.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Friend: Vonnie Davis!

I love Aretha Franklin’s song, Respect. Perhaps, because as an unpublished writer, I get so little respect. “Oh, you write? Are you published?” When I reply that I’m not, the inquiring person smirks or raises his or her eyebrows or simpers, “Oh, really….” In some cases, the person does all three. Every time that happens, I squirm and simmer.

Being published does not make one a writer. If you write, either by putting pen to paper or kissing the computer keys with your fingertips, you are a writer, a storyteller, a conduit of information and an artist of words. Take pride in your craft.

Does a student need to be graduated before his or her instructor is called a teacher? Does a politician need to pass a bill before he or she is truly a politician? In like manner, a writer does not need to publish before he or she is a writer.

What makes us writers? For many of us, writing is something we need to do. The process beguiles us, compels us, niggles at our guts and invades our dreams. Quite simply, we enjoy it. Granted, writing frays our nerves at times when we can’t find the right words to convey what is playing out in our minds or when our characters suddenly behave contrary to how we’d envisioned. But the creative energy that dwells within our souls hungers to produce characters, to design worlds and to craft stories. In so doing, we write.

Last night I had the pleasure of e-mailing my 83,000+ word contemporary romance manuscript to my agent. I’d e-mailed her a query and first chapter in July. She responded with a contract of representation. I am entering the next phase of my life as a writer. No, I am not published, but have no doubt about it, I am a writer—and damned proud of it.

Write on!! Vonnie Davis

You may visit me at my blog:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Staying Connected

When I decided I was going to get "serious" about my writing, the first thing I did was join a local RWA chapter. My chapter, Chicago-North RWA, has been instrumental on my road to becoming a published author. I cannot express enough gratitude to the wonderful ladies and gentlemen of C-N throughout the years who have offered support, encouragement, and advice. I firmly believe if I'd never joined this group, I wouldn't be a published author today. We have an out-of-this-world critiquing program, and each new book I start comes to the chapter for a critique. With this process, each and every new book gets off on the right foot.

And, if you're going to belong to a local RWA chapter, you need to belong to the National organization. Through this I've learned of contests and conferences which have given me other outlets to have my work critiqued and learn about craft. The RWR comes each month and contains articles and other information.

When I became a published author, I joined several loops, which I use mostly for promotion, but also to keep in touch with other authors. Unfortunately, these days a busy schedule doesn't permit me to spend as much time visiting these loops as I'd like, but I still keep my "membership".

Staying connected is key in this business, as is finding those who will support and encourage. I don't know what I'd do without my fellow Chicago-Northers.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What do I join?

I finally joined the Romantic Novelists' Association for the first time this year. I could have joined (as a full member) over forty years ago when my first novel was published but at the time didn't see any real advantages of joining. With a full-time job and a young family, I couldn't have gone to any of their meetings or conferences. Even now, I feel more like a nominal member because my membership consists solely of receiving the RNA magazine three times a year. Maybe if I had more time, I would be more pro-active.
Apart from that, the only things I have joined are several yahoo groups. I don't contribute as much as I feel as I should, but then if I contributed regularly to them all, I wouldn't have any time to do my own writing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What do I join

I belong to countless groups via the internet. Quite often you see useful tips and information and it can let you know about any new publishers.It also gives you the advantage of being able to publicise your latest novel.

For many years I have been a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, they have an online group which can be very useful. If you have a query people will often try to solve it for you. They produce a thrice yearly magazine which is interesting. It's good to see pictures of fellow writers in there. This means you can recognise people if you go to a meeting.

I find the Romantic Novelists very kind and supportive, they were wonderful to me when I lost my husband. You can't buy friendship like that. Also they are supportive of new writers and you never get any jealousy or nastiness. Everyone is happy when someone achieves success. I really like that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What do I join?

I am a member of RWA. I am also a member of RWA-affiliated Midwest Fiction Writers (based in Minneapolis), and From the Heart Romance Writers, an online group.

I am also a member of the Jackpine Writers, a local group that supports regional writers and poets by publishing The Talking Stick, an annual book of creative non-fiction, short stories, and poetry. I have served on the editorial board for two issues. This was where I was first published, discounting a self-published cookbook and innumerable essays in my CSA newsletters.

Have these associations benefited my career? I feel most everything I read about the craft of writing and the publishing industry helps in some way. Knowing others are going through the same ups and downs that I experience makes me believe I, too, can succeed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blog Hopping

When I first started out, I tried to visit every blog that came over a post in one of my loops. I wanted to support other authors, but in a selfish way, I wanted to get my name out there, too. I figured if I was posting all over the place, people would start to recognize my name, and I thought if I posted a comment on an interview another author had given, they might be kind enough to post one on mine.

Unfortunately, I found that wasn't usually the case. In fact, I did a blog tour earlier this year to promote WILD WEDDING WEEKEND, and got very few "outside" commenters. I got lots of people from my local RWA chapter and people from my two regular blogs, but not too much other traffic in most cases (not all, but most). It was a little disappointing, especially since I made it a point to post to my loops that I was guest blogging or being interviewed on a given day.

Now, in the interest of time, I find that I am simply not able to post on every single link that comes through. I'd neer get any writing done or have much of a life. So I pick and choose. If it's someone who's hosted me in the past, I go right to it. I also look at the topic titles in the subject line, and that helps decide me, too.

I do have blogs I check on a daily basis, and I always leave a comment if there's a new post. These blogs are the ones who were kind enough to host me this past Spring on my blog tour. (And of course I check in with the blogs I participate in - here at Heroines with Hearts and at the Acme Authors Link.)

Nine Naughty Novelists

Sharon Donovan Wednesday Spotlight

Dayana Knight Author Spotlight

Emma Lai Writes

Terry’s Place

Double M

KMN Books

Elaine Cantrell's Blog

Joanna Aislinn’s Blog

Tess Quinn: Writers on Writing

Just Write with Anne Marie Novark

Rachel Brimble’s Blog

Also, if I see these folks 'visiting' anywhere else, I try to pop in and at least 'wave hello'. I also have links on my web-site to any blog interview or guest post I've done.

In this way, I feel like I'm building a few strong releationships, rather than running myself ragged trying to build a million weak ones.

Until next time,

Happy Writing (or blog hopping)!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blogs and websites

I don’t visit any blogs regularly, apart from Margaret’s Lark Journals, and also the recently created blog (linked to the Classic Romance Revival yahoo group) which I have just joined.

My main writing contacts are through various yahoo groups which I have joined. Of course, there’s a lot of promo in these groups, but I do try to visit some of the blogs where people I have got to know are being interviewed or are blogging. I also try to leave a comment on these. As Margaret has said, you have to support your friends and hope that they will also support you.

Topics that come up on the yahoo groups are sometimes interesting; others don’t interest me at all. For example I’m not into Regency stories, since a lot of them tend to be ‘modern stories in costume’ and paranormal/fantasy doesn’t do anything for me either, so I don’t follow (or contribute to) the discussions about these.

I don’t visit any websites regularly either. If I have time, I look at the websites of some of the authors on the yahoo groups, some of which are very impressive – especially compared with my own feeble effort. But I can’t afford a professional web-designer at present!

Last but not least, I enjoy our blog because it makes me think about topics I might otherwise not think about, and examine, sometimes clarify, my own attitudes and thoughts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Visiting Blogs

Margaret is away this week, visiting cousins in Wales, and has no access to a computer so she sent me her blog to post for her:

I try to visit the blogs of my friends on Facebook, and to leave a comment. I also try to support my companions on and of course here at Heroines with Hearts.

If you support your friends, they will come and support you. It’s important to do this and also you can see some very good blogs and this can give you ideas for your own.

Visiting sites for help with writing? I don’t tend to do this. Neither do I read help guides on writing. This is just my quirk and I know people who find these kinds of things extremely helpful, but I have been ploughing my own furrow for too long to change now. I don’t like to be influenced by anyone’s ideas on what I should and should not be doing. Writing is a pleasure, too much studying about “how to write” can make it a pain. However, that is just my personal preference.

Visiting authors’ websites can be very rewarding. I like to know what makes writers tick and what inspires a person to be a writer. It’s good too, to compare websites. Some are really good and others leave something to be desired. I am very fortunate, my website is designed by a professional web person. I love what she did for me and I treasure her expertise.

The most important thing though – whether looking at blogs or searching for advice, is not to forget who you are. Never lose your individuality. You need to stand out from the crowd not be part of it!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Favorite blogs (other than this one)

I regularly read Larry Brook's
I repeatedly visit Romance U.
I scan sites that sound interesting, or I see mentioned as having useful information. I don't have a lot of spare time to browse. Much information is repetitious, and I can only assimilate so much at any one time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


“Lucky is the writer who loves to revise; blessed is the writer who knows how.”
Stephanie Greene

My editor at The Wild Rose Press uses the above quote on the bottom of all her e-mails.

I have to say, I don't mind revisions. It gives me the chance to delve deeper into my story and into my characters. And as I progress with my writing and learn something new with each manuscript I complete, the revisions have become less and less. The first manuscript I submitted went through some major revisions before being contracted. Nothing that changed the overall storyline, but things that strengthened and added depth to it. The second had its fair share of revisions, mostly because I had to add many, many words to it to bring it up to the required word count for a print publication. (Guidelines at my publisher had changed since the first one.) My third manuscript needed hardly any revisions. Just a tweak here and there. I was thrilled to receive this e-mail from my editor: Not a lot of changes. It looked good this time all the way through. Mainly just a few word choice things and a few thoughts about minor changes.

The minor changes really were minor: I think there were about five of them total. I was really proud of myself. I'd learned a lot from the previous suggestions my editor had made on my manuscripts and, more important, had learned to apply them to new works. Now, when I write, I can hear my editor's "voice" in my head and it prompts me to dig deeper the first time around. In this way, I decreased the turnaround time on my upcoming release by a lot. The fewer revisions needed, the quicker it gets approved and slotted for release.

Edits are similiar. The more experience I get, the easier it is to spot issues and mistakes. I tend to make edits in a series of rounds: first round will check for overuse of certain words, second round will check for cliches, third round will really look at word choice, etc. Narrowing down and looking for one particular thing at a time seems to make the process more streamlined.

Overall I tend to edit and revise as I go. Usually I need to reread a couple pages of where I left off before beginning writing on any given day. It puts me in the mood. Gets me back into the story. This, however, inevitably leads to some editing and revising. When I've completed a manuscript, I let it sit for a couple of days, and then do a read-through and make any revisions that seem necessary. After that I do several more read-throughs to focus on specific editing concerns. I also make use of my local RWA chapter. We do critiquing sessions at each meeting, and I always bring first chapters in to be critiqued. Starting off on the right foot is so important.

Once submitted, my editor will sometimes offer suggestions for further revisions, and then of course, I go a few more rounds of spelling check-type edits once we hit the pre-galley stage. Eventually, I just need to let go and give the final approval on my galley. (Of course once the book is in print, I usually find SOMEthing I want to change...but isn't that the way it always goes?)

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (or revising!)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I tend to edit a lot as I write. Sometimes I write a scene or a chapter quickly but know it needs more work, so once it’s written I’ll go back and rephrase things, find better words, change sentences around etc. I’m aware of my bad habits (thanks to my CPs!) and try to avoid them.
Once the whole story is written, I then go back, and do some drastic editing, either deleting irrelevancies or adding more explanation or layering in extra information (which I may not actually have known when I wrote the early chapters!).
The final edit is a search for the repeated words and phrases I have a habit of using, and generally tightening up the narrative and/or dialogue.
I write what, to me, sounds right, regardless of all the so-called rules. Editors are all different – some may dislike adverbs, others may dislike synonyms for ‘said’, etc etc. You can’t please ‘em all as far as the ‘technicalities’ go and I don’t think that editors want or need a technically perfect MS. They want a damn good story which keeps the readers reading, and they want strong realistic characters. As long as the grammar is reasonable okay and the story flows, the main criteria is the story itself, not all the rules that all the ‘How to Write’ pundits tell us we must stick to!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Editing Process

I am in awe of all Ana' efforts. I confess I don't do anywhere near that much editing.

I edit on a daily basis, editing what I did the previous day. This way it keeps the story and characters fresh in my mind. When the novel is finished I leave it for a couple of days and then return. I read and edit as I go along.

There are many excellent "professional" editors out there who have helped me on the way. I don't see myself as an "Editor" The senior editor at Whiskey Creek Press, is a marvel, Marsha Briscoe really knows her job and she misses nothing. I do, I am too rapt up in character and story, the technicalities quite often pass me by.

Perhaps there is no right or wrong way to edit. We are after all individuals, we all work differently. That's why our stories are different!

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Editing Process

I try to write a coherent first draft. Then I start back at the beginning and read through looking for plot holes and character corrections. I insert more deep POV, which tends to elude me at first.
I go through again searching for repeated phrases, and eliminating unnecessary 'that's and 'which's. I read out loud for cadence, for back loading, using as many Margie Lawson's power tips as I can remember.
Then I share with my CP, and with my FTHRW crit group. They'll find things I've missed, or question things that I'll decide to defend or change.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Friends with Lindsay Townsend

Our Friday Friend this week is LINDSAY TOWNSEND who was born in Yorkshire, England and still lives there. Lindsay studied medieval history at university, worked briefly in a library and married a librarian. She then began to write full-time. She has had 3 ancient world romances published by Siren Bookstrand, and 3 medieval romances published by Kensington Zebra. A fourth one has just been accepted.

HWH: Welcome to Heroines with Hearts, Lindsay. Let’s start at the beginning – tell us first when and why you started to write.
LINDSAY: I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, but started writing with publication in mind during the 1980s. It was poems at first and short stories, then my first novel, ‘Bronze Lightning.’

HWH: How easy or difficult was it to get your first book published?
LINDSAY: Hard. I wrote ‘Bronze Lightning’ and ‘Blue Gold’, both long books, without a contract, but managed to attract an agent and a London publisher. They decided that historicals weren’t selling, but how about using a modern setting? That book was to be ‘Voices in the Dark’, set in Italy, which came out in 1995, followed by ‘Night of the Storm’, set in the Greek Islands, the next year.

HWH: Some writers work from a detailed synopsis, others let the characters take them. What’s your method?
LINDSAY: I always use a working synopsis of several pages, but I find myself diverging from it if a better idea turns up during the writing.

HWH: How long does it take you to write a novel and how much editing do you do after your first draft?
LINDSAY: The Kensington medievals take a year because, although I do some pretty detailed research into the period, the plots are reasonably straightforward. The earlier romantic thriller/whodunits took longer because they had more complex plots and I needed to travel for the location research. As for editing – it’s a constant process of re-reading and checking back. My husband, who writes himself, is my next reader/critic, then off it goes to the publisher.

HWH: You’ve written a lot of historical romances. Have you always been interested in history and what’s your favourite period? Also, what kind of research do you do?
LINDSAY: I took a degree in medieval history and also have a fascination with the ancient Mediterranean world, so yes, history has always been a passion of mine. I like to research the detail and feel of living in a particular period, with the sometimes very strange attitudes and beliefs of the time. On top of that comes research into costume, locations, travel and communication problems and so on. It can be difficult for modern readers to appreciate how long it could take to travel anywhere or get anything done in the Middle Ages, how risky it could be to engage in a sexual relationship in an age of poor contraception, high childbirth mortality and fear of punishment (in this life or – worse – in the next), and even how far down an eleventh-century knight’s to-do list you have to go before you come to buffing up, nose-hair grooming and choice of moisturiser.

HWH: In what ways do you promote your books?
LINDSAY: On my main blog, Lindsay’s Book Chat (, at any number of online groups, with paid banners on historical romance websites, membership of sites like Authors Den and interviews like this.

HWH: What do you think are the essential ingredients of a good romance novel?
LINDSAY: Love, pace, colour, character, atmosphere and more love.

HWH: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received or read?
LINDSAY: The best writing advice was from a non-fiction book on writing by the romantic suspense author Phyllis Whitney. She said about research 'write about what you know, and if you don't know, find out'.

HWH: Please tell us about your latest release.
LINDSAY: My latest release is a third 'Knight' book for Kensington Zebra.

A KNIGHT'S ENCHANTMENT takes place during the turbulent reign of King John and features a young knight, Hugh, making his way through jousting, and an alchemist, Joanna. Both have relatives who are imprisoned by the corrupt bishop Thomas and they eventually join forces to free them. At first, they mistrust each other, especially when Hugh kidnaps Joanna and steals her away.

Here's an excerpt from the novel, showing a kiss with a difference:

A new look of challenge burst into Hugh's handsome, saturnine face. "May I claim a kiss, in fellowship and peace?"
“Of course, my knight.” Chaste embraces and kisses were part of the courtly game that she had instigated. And she could, after all, tease him: an added bonus.
A single kiss, she thought, kissing her fingers and extending her hand. “Here is your kiss. You need but claim it.”
“Before Beowulf does? Away, hound!” Hugh clicked his fingers and the dog approaching her padded back and jumped onto the bed, sprawling as his master rose. Joanna’s heartbeat accelerated as Hugh closed on her, her hand raising in a half-gesture of defense.
“Fear not.” He smiled down at her, touching the tips of his hand lightly against hers, trailing his fingers into the soft shadowed hollow of her palm. “A single kiss, ’tis all, and from you, Lady, enough.”
His large, battle-hardened hand drew up and down her narrow fingers, smoothing and caressing, his touch tingling her from her hands to her feet. He was smiling, his mouth curved and generous, his blue eyes soft as the down of ducklings. His fingers swept over hers again, swirling, tickling, making her whole spine prickle with delight.
“All this from a kiss?” he said softly, as she swayed a little on her feet. “How would we be if you allowed more, eh?”
Still smiling at her he lifted his hand away from hers, leaving it hanging in the air between them like the sacred promise of a saint, painted on a church-wall. He withdrew as deftly as a herald, backing from the chamber without colliding once with chest or stools or earthenware vessels, his eyes never leaving hers.

HWH: Thanks for visiting us today, Lindsay, and we wish you every success with A Knight’s Enchantment, and of course with all your future books.
LINDSAY: Thanks again, Paula, for having me at Heroines with Hearts!

Please visit Lindsay’s blog at, where you can find details of her books, plus reviews and buy links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and many other traditional and ebook stores.
Lindsay’s ancient world romances, published by Siren Bookstrand are:
Flavia’s Secret, set in Roman Britain and Roman Bath
Bronze Lightning, set in ancient Krete, Egypt and Britain
Blue Gold, set in ancient Egypt.
Medieval historical romances published by Kensington Zebra are:
A Knight’s Vow
A Knight’s Captive
A Knight’s Enchantment
The fourth ‘Knight’ is due out in 2011.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hot Night

As a reader, I know I like the steamier love scenes. The fade-to-black scenarios or behind-closed-doors type of books don't appeal to me. And erotica is a little too graphic for my taste. So, I fall somewhere in the middle as a reader.

As a writer, I write "spicy" romance. That's how The Wild Rose Press categorizes my books. But writing love scenes can be a bit intimidating. It's no fun to have them sounding clinical.

One thing that helps is my RWA chapter. We have a great critiquing program. Several times a year, we have 'hot night' when we get to bring in a sex scene (sweet, sensual, spicy, hot - whatever goes) and get feedback.

Here are some things I've learned over the years:

*The scene needs to move the story forward. The charcters should be in a different place (emotionally) at the end of the scene. The scene should be part of the romance between the hero and heroine, not sex for the sake of sex.

*Any dialogue should be unique to the charcters. Try to stay away from generic 'moans and groans'.

*A love scene is a great place to get all of the senses involved: tell what the characters are seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and hearing.

*This is definitely the type of scene to show not tell. Show the emotion. We want to feel the same things!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Love Scenes

When I wrote my early novels, a chaste kiss was all that was allowed! By the time I came back back to writing fiction again, the whole world had changed and it took me a while to get used to writing love scenes. My very first effort was described by a friend as 'a bit like a 1940's movie where the action moves away from the couple to a curtain wafting in the breeze.'
Gradually I got a bit more daring (and less inhibited)- I think 'Jed and Abbey' from 'The West Wing' helped me there!
But I still don't like (and wouldn't write) graphic descriptions, use of the coarser words for the male and female anatomy, or 'one-nights stands'/'sex for the sake of it' scenes.
I prefer my sex scenes to be part of a loving relationship, the culmination of a long foreplay where the hero and heoine have been falling in love with each other. That, to me, is the essence of a romance novel.