Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How Thick Is Your Skin?

Jennifer is discovering what it takes to critique, and be critiqued...

Being part of a critique group is not for the faint of heart. Or, to put it in a positive light, being part of a critique group helps you develop very thick skin.

My experiences with critique partners have been in a one-on-one setting, and usually separated by distance, interacting mostly via computer. When one person hates your writing, you can blush, cry and rage in private, then put on a brave face, make their suggested changes (or not), and respond to their issues. Even if you’re meeting with them in person, it’s only one person that you’re dealing with, so it’s manageable.

But a critique group often makes me feel as if I’m getting up in front of a firing squad. Don’t get me wrong, the ladies are very kind. They are encouraging. They even start with everything they like about my writing. But at some point, they have to get to the negatives. Honestly, there’s no point in being part of a critique group if they’re not going to point out the negatives (even if my ego would prefer that to be the case).

And they’re usually right. I may not agree with everything they say, but I can usually see the wisdom in a lot of it.

But I had two recent experiences with them that made me shake my head and caused me to give myself a pep talk. The first was our last critique group meeting. Usually, at least two of the three other women agree in their assessments of my writing (and everyone else’s, for that matter). I go with my gut, but I listen extra carefully when there’s a majority about anything. This time, though, no one was in agreement on anything. What one liked, the others didn’t and vice versa. At the end of each person’s critique of my WIP, they looked at each other and then at me and said, “This time, you need to go with your gut.”

Or as I like to say, stand at the top of the stairs, throw all the pages down them, and do what the face-up pages say. It was hard, because I had to set aside my ego and decide which suggestions to follow, making sure not to only follow the good comments (in theory, that would be one way of absorbing the changes, but it wouldn’t make for a very good story). I also had to trust myself, never an easy thing for me. But I used discipline and made the changes I thought made sense, took a deep breath, and ignored everything else. Hopefully, my decisions were wise.

The second experience was also with one of these critique partners in the group. She’s in the process of rereleasing one of her older books and has a new cover design. She sent it to us to look at and said there was something that bothered her but she wanted to see if we noticed it. Well, I looked at the cover and I saw something that bothered me right away. Except, since she didn’t specify what bothered her, I wasn’t sure if I was pointing out something she hadn’t noticed, or really liked or if I was creating more problems than I was solving. My brain started spinning through all different scenarios and consequences until finally I yelled at myself.

There comes a time where you have to just say what you feel. If someone is asking you, they have to understand that they might not like what you’re going to tell them. And they’re going to have to deal with it. It’s how we develop that thick skin.

So I pointed out my issue, and it coincided with hers.

Some skin thickening, not much skin piercing, and hopefully, some better writing along the way!

Monday, September 29, 2014

I love all things old, but...

Ana writes about reluctant progress.

I love all things old: my grandmother's long-gone house in East Orange, NJ, (three stories, high ceilings, grand staircase).  My parent's dining room furniture (also gone. Didn't have place to put it or money to move cross-country.) Historical romances. My old computers.

I have two of them. XP laptop (failing) and ancient mac desktop (unstoppable). Uploading anything, yahoo grouping, self-publishing, and designing websites is impossible using an operating system that the I-world views like spats and buggy whips.

Did I mention that I hate throwing anything away that still has an ounce of life? My mom's Scottish ancestry dominated her nature. Nothing was tossed until it was in shreds. Leftovers were consumed to the last morsel. I have a 2004 car and a 1993 work truck. I keep them serviced and am shooting for 200,000 miles on each one.

I hate that computer upgrades are often more sales driven than improvement. I worry about privacy--the more we do online, the more our data is mined for marketing and security scrutiny.

But here I go, buying a Mac airbook that will be obsolete before it arrives. At least I get free shipping.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mickie Sherwood!

Ana welcomes Mickie Sherwood, today's Friday Friend:

Where's Your Website?

You've just signed your first book contract. Your publisher lets you know that you need a web presence. A promo hook, if you will. Huh? A website? Yes, a website. So, now, what do you do?

You haven't had your first round of edits, yet. The first sale of your new novel is months away. But, still—you need a way to make the announcement to the world. After agonizing over it, you narrow down your options to two. Hire someone or put your own creativity to work. TIP: Either way, you make the best decision for you.
Because you want to flaunt your creativity, (or maybe due to a lack of disposable funds), you choose the DIY method. There is nothing wrong with that. I'm here to support your decision. Now, here comes the part where you put a lot of thought into just what that web presence will initially look like. I say initially because as your confidence in your newfound adventure of writing grows, your website needs will change. Until then, here's a place to start.
My suggestions:
1.     Choose a name for your site. Whether it's your author name or some catchy phrase is up to you.
2.     Whatever name you choose, register it with a domain name registration company.
3.     Now, explore the Internet for platforms best suited for your venture. Do you want to pay for a hosting company, and someone to build your site? Or will you take on the challenge and tackle the job?
4.     DIY website platforms are available—free. (Well, you should know. Actually, nothing is free. Read the Terms and Conditions, and all the other small print.)   :)
5.      I have tried the following three platforms and found them easy enough to navigate, even for a novice webmistress. (This list is in no particular order.)
A. Wix.com
B. Webs.com
C. Blogger.com

Should you choose the DIY route; the experience will give you another sense of accomplishment. I urge you to do your research. I, also, wish you great success.

Now, enjoy this snippet from my newest romantic release.

Cherished Moments

Tagline: Kissed, Loved, Lied, Left
Genre: Sweet Romantic Suspense
Price: $2.99

Senator Jordan Dupré is reluctant to revisit her past. That thought crumbles at the sight of Deacon Burke. His commanding presence and charming smile transports her back to her youth. Back then, she kissed, loved, lied, and left him—taking a life-changing secret with her.

Scorned by Jordan’s dishonesty, Deke swears he never wants to see her lying face again. However, his heart knows better, and he never stops thinking of her. When Jordan’s husband is killed, Deke is summoned to the Senator’s aid, by an unlikely source—Unfortunately, he brings a secret of his own.

Will secrets from their past reignite their cherished moments?

Scene: It's Deke to the rescue after Jordan's horrifying experience.
…Even in the moonlight, his athleticism was obvious.
Her timing was impeccable. She flung the door open at the same time he approached it.
Bringing in a gust of wind, Deke threw his arms around her, locking out the world. Jordan doubted that any harm could come to her while wrapped in the security of his embrace. Hearing his heartbeat thunder, she snuggled deeper into his chest. Seemingly, of their own volition, her arm encircled his waist.
She stood perfectly still, basking in the feeling of contentment flowing throughout her.
"I was so worried about you.” In the darkness, he gazed into the shimmering light of her eyes. “I’m so glad you’re safe. I'm going to kiss you."
From the sounds of it, she knew Deke meant business. His was a declarative statement to which she had no objections. Her anticipation heightened. Breathy wisps of air caressed her skin, a prelude to his lips getting closer. At last, the jolt that started with the touch of his lips. The kiss intensified with the tilt of his head, and exploded into ecstasy over her body.

Buy links:

Find me at:

Mickie Sherwood is an author and a novice photographer. Using her
backyard as the backdrop for her inspiration, she loves taking pictures of
nature. Her love of photography incites her creativity for writing. Spending
time with her family and cruise vacations, also stokes her imagination.
With all of her interest combined, fascinating characters and intriguing
circumstances can develop.

Mickie also enjoys a good laugh. Revel in the humorous stories she
shares about life, at her blog—Mickie's Mutterings.
Thanks, Ana, for this opportunity to introduce your visitors to my sweet romance. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ten! (Count 'em!)

Debra inks a new contract with Wild Rose.

Tacked to one of the bulletin boards on my computer desk is a postcard from fellow Wild Rose author, Donna Michaels. I grabbed it from a goodie table once, and tacked it up as inspiration and a goal to work toward. The card featured her book covers. At the time, ten were represented on the card. She's penned far more by now. But I always looked to that card with a 'wouldn't it be great if I had ten books to put on a postcard?' thought in mind.

I am proud to say that as of late last week I can now create a postcard with ten covers representing ten of my own titles! (Go ahead and take a moment to Happy Dance with me...)

I got the official notice on Thursday...some awesome news at the end of a not-so-awesome long, long day so it was doubly exciting...and then signed and sent the contract on Saturday. Now I can add One Great Night (coming soon) to all of my e-mails, blogs, etc. And I might just make that postcard to celebrate! Why not?! Having written, and what's more SOLD, ten stories is no small accomplishment. Heck, maybe even chocolate and champagne are in order. (Let's take another moment to toast...)

I've started to imagine the postcard in my head. I'll group my stories: three from The Corral Series, three holiday novellas, two stand alone full-lengths, a short story free read (Yes, I'm counting this as part of the ten. It had an official contract and is listed on my author/buy page at TWRP so it counts!) and the latest, One Great Night, another stand alone, but in novella format. Kind of fun, don't you think?

Soon, edits will arrive and away we go!

And I found out this week TWRP just made a deal with a Japanese company to start printing our books in other languages (How fun is that?!) and that TWRP will soon have pre-ordering of their new titles available at Amazon and other on-line book sellers.

So all of this, plus the fact that I actually wrote about 350 words of something new this week, brings back the rush of excitement involved in being an author. It takes away the second-guessing of "Do I really want to do this anymore?" Yep. I do.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Early bird or night owl?

Paula’s favourite time to write.
I’ve always been a night owl. As a child, I snuggled down under the covers with a flashlight, reading long after my parents thought I was asleep. As a teenager, I switched off my light when I heard them coming up to bed, and switched it on again once they closed their bedroom door, and then continued to write my latest cheesy romance story for my friends to read on the school bus the next day.
My inner clock had to adjust once I had my babies. Bed after the 10 o’clock feed, in the hope of 4 hours sleep before the next feed. Waking groggily at 6 am when toddlers were awake and rarin’ to start their day.
The evening became my friend. The time when the children were in bed, and I finally had some ‘me’ time. That was when I wrote my early novels.
Then, when the children were older, I was working again. Up early (groggily again!) to get them ready for nursery or school, and then on to my full-time teaching job. Some people envy teachers’ hours of work, without thinking of the hours they have to spend in their supposedly free time in the evenings and holidays. They seem to forget that lessons have to be prepared, worksheets designed, work marked, exams set and then graded (etc etc etc) in the evenings.
Even so, there were times when I stayed up late, again for ‘me’ time after the children were in bed, and the school work done, and wrote stories or articles.
I often regretted it the next morning, when I had to get up early! Morning was (is!) not my best time. A colleague once said, “Don’t ask Paula anything before 10.30 if you want a sensible answer.”
With retirement came freedom! But old habits die hard. I have discovered my ‘muse' tends to kick me about 9pm. I can write emails and letters during the daytime. I can compose blogs, and critique my CPs work. But my mind won’t cope with my own story writing until the evening, even when I'm actually looking forward to continuing the story from where I finished the previous evening.
If I could discipline myself to get into creative mode earlier in the day, I’d probably finish my stories much sooner. But my whole life seems to have been geared up to ‘me’ time in the evenings – which is why I often stay up late. No way could I get up early to write, or allocate mornings or afternoons, or ‘office hours’, as I know some people do. Maybe the only plus side of this is that I do write something every day. Sometimes 100 words, sometimes 2 or 3 thousand.
Do you have a favourite time to write? And if you do, what happens if you try to make yourself write at other times?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Clubs

Jennifer talks about presenting to a book club...

Last night, I attended a book club as the guest author. A friend of my mom’s heard that I’d given a talk to a Jewish women’s group about my books and wanted me to come to her book club and give the same talk.

I spoke with her ahead of time and suggested she read The Seduction of Esther, which was my newest book at the time, but she said she wanted the group to read A Heart of Little Faith.

I was a little nervous about that because the book club is made up of a bunch of teachers, and as my first book, it has things in it I wish I could fix, but she really wanted to read it, so I said, “Of course.” Since that book is being re-released, I made sure they knew to buy it early.

Armed with the speech I thought they wanted me to give, postcards and a pen, I went over and met a lovely bunch of women who have been meeting as a book club once a month for 37 YEARS!

They asked me a ton of questions, everything from my writing process to what I liked best or least about the book to what I read. It was a great experience. They didn’t have me make my speech, which is good because I don’t think a speech works in a book-club environment. They also served a ton of food, which is always nice, especially for an author who puts a lot of food in her books!

I still have a hard time imagining my books as a book club selection—they don’t have questions in the back and they are definitely predictable (the happily ever after, and all), although several of them thought I was going to go in one direction when I went in a completely different one—but this is my second book club discussion, so I’m getting used to it. I think the appeal is being able to meet with the author.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fingers crossed

Ana talks about her daughter's experience at IFP Film Week.

My daughter just attended IFP's Independent Film Week as a finalist in the webseries category. Representatives from film festivals and production companies made appointments to meet with her. She was greeted and feted, wined and dined, exhilarated and exhausted.

As soon as the hoopla ended, she sent thank you notes to everyone who met with her. Now she is preparing to send content to the people who requested it.

We talked this weekend about what she should say in her cover letter and what she should expect next. I was struck by the fact that I (her untheatrical, unpublished mother) could offer some advice that I had gleaned from reading blogs (including this one), taking workshops, visiting websites, and participating in online romance writing groups.

The process of pitching novels, getting requests, sending content, waiting for responses, hoping for
The Call seems to be exactly the same for books as entertainment.

When my WIP is polished, I will mail my query letter pitch, hope for a full or partial request, send the manuscript with a cover letter, wait for a reply, hope for The Call.

Amazing (to me) similarities.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Are You Connected?

More often than not Debra skips her local RWA chapter meetings.

I used to be a staunch regular. I never missed a meeting of my local RWA chapter unless I was out of town or had a school conflict. But over the past couple of years, my attendance has gone from regular to sporadic to not at all.

There are always those members in a chapter who are 'inactive'. They belong, but they never come to meetings. I always told myself I would never become one of those. But times change. I've changed.

It's not that I don't like the people in my chapter. They are all lovely, talented, hard-working authors. I honestly feel I would not be published if it weren't for my local RWA chapter. I just feel that I'm not in the same place as many of them anymore. Most of the regular attendees at our meetings are in the pre-published stage. It's not that our published authors are snobs, it's just they have different needs than those not published yet. Most of the hopefully soon-to-be-published writers in my group are 'on their way up' so to say. They're looking for that New York contract.

I've learned that I'm not. I am extremely content writing for a small press as a hobby. At this point, I don't even consider my writing as a second career. I've reshuffled my priorities. And I'm okay with that. And I need my sleep. Our meetings are on Monday nights twice a month and I've discovered that starting the week by getting to bed late is not the way to a happy, non-crabby me.

I still keep up with the goings on of our chapter through e-mails, newsletters, and on-line groups. I attended our bi-annual writers' conference. I've made good friends through my chapter, and we still stay in touch and blog together even if we don't see each other in person as often as we used to.

I have other connections to the writing world as well: this blog, another blog, my publisher's on-line group (Although these days I find I'm deleting far more messages than I'm reading.) So I don't feel totally disconnected. Just a bit more on the out-skirts...but it's by choice, so it's fine.

How do you connect with other writers? Do you belong to a writers' group? I know some of you have talked about critique groups and/or partners. Do you agree when people say writing is primarily a solitary venture? Or on you the side of 'writers don't write in a vacuum'? Do you think of your writing as a career or more of a hobby?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How does time pass in your novels?

Paula looks at the problems of time lapses

I’m thinking of time lapses between significant event A and significant event B (or in some cases between Y and Z!). Often you can jump straight from one to the other, with a minimum of words e.g. “By the following morning” or “A week later, she was no nearer to understanding why…” etc. Or you can summarize the ‘in-between’ events with a paragraph which, of course, should be relevant to the story in some way, and not a list of unconnected and/or mundane events! I’ve read some stories (and I’m sure you have too) where the author has taken three or four pages, or more, to tell us everything the heroine did, from a shopping trip to baking a cake, none of which have any relevance to the story or do anything to move the story forward.

However there are times when story line doesn’t lend itself easily to the usual time lapse ‘techniques’ – and I’ve reached one of those times in my current ‘work-in-progress’. I need to get from Monday evening to Friday, but it’s one of those weeks when my gut instinct is telling me I can’t make a simple transition. The heroine finds herself working alongside the hero, and neither I (nor, hopefully, my readers) want them to go a whole week without seeing some kind of interaction. So it’s not one of those times when I can simply say, ‘By the end of the week, she…’ I have to find a way to move the story forward during this period, but not with a ‘big bang crisis’. That comes on Friday – and it HAS to be Friday. It can’t come any earlier, because of what I already know is going to happen at the weekend! Once I get to Friday, I know I’ll be rolling again, but in the meantime, I have to get through the week! And I shall do it – somehow!

I’m reminded of other times when I’ve had this problem. Remember my Nile boatman who sang Elvis songs? He was the result of a ‘time-filler’ when it didn’t feel right just to say, ‘They went across the Nile by motorboat’. I rely a lot on my ‘not feeling right’ instincts! In this case, I needed the hero and heroine to interact during their Nile crossing, and suddenly, as they walked along to where the motorboats were moored, my boatman invented himself! Even I thought to myself, ‘Where on earth did he come from?’ In fact, he went on to play quite a big role in the rest of the story.

Another ‘filler’ came in ‘Irish Inheritance’ when Jenna goes with her friend Charlotte (nicknamed Charley) to a hotel to discuss a themed event the manager there wanted to hold. In truth, I only introduced this ‘change of scenery’ for some variety from them sitting at home, because while they were there, Jenna had an important call from her agent. A small sideline of this scene was Charley meeting the assistant manager, who later became her boyfriend. I had no plans at that time to write another story about Charley –that came much later, but in one sense, this scene was the background to my new story.

There have been occasions when I’ve written time-fillers, and then deleted them. It was a case of having to write them to find out for myself what happened. Sometimes I’ve cut them completely, sometimes I’ve found a way to condense them, but sometimes they have provided me with a real ‘yesss!’ moment when the characters tell me something new, or there’s a development I didn’t expect.

I’ll wait and see what happens as I write about Monday to Friday in my current story!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Do You Promote Your Book?

Jennifer talks about her promotional activities...

Miriam’s Surrender released last week and now I’m in the throes of promotion. Actually, I should have been promoting prior to the release, and I did, but I had some family things going on at the same time and, well, there’s only one of me and only 24 hours in the day, so, promotion frenzy continues.

Most of what I did involves appearing on people’s blogs, in the hopes that their readers, who aren’t my readers, will see my book, or read my blog post or interview and want to buy my book. It’s a fun way to meet other people. I’ve furiously answered a myriad of questions about myself, talked about why I wrote the book, and sent lots and lots of info about it.

I worked with my graphics designer to design book postcards—on one side, there is information on the book and on the other side, there is a recipe that goes with the story. Last time, when I wrote The Seduction of Esther, there was a recipe for hamentaschen (Purim cookies); this time, there is a recipe for Matzah Brei (Passover egg dish). My thought is that if someone collects all of them, they’ll have a cute little cookbook by the end of the series! I send them to everyone I know.

Additionally, I’m working with Goddess Fish Promotions on a blog and review tour, once a week for three months. Last time I did a tour that was every day for a month and it was overwhelming. I’m hoping this will be more manageable and also result in sales. Goddess Fish is associated with LASR (Long & Short Reviews), which usually generates some sales for me, anyway.

Finally, I’m trying something new, which so far, is not particularly successful, but hopefully will be in the long run. Before I was a writer, I was in public relations and I worked on many publicity campaigns for a variety of clients. The goal was long-term exposure. So, I’m trying some of my skills out on myself, and sending information out to publications, not only about my book, but on larger issues, like diversity in romance. Hopefully someone will be inspired to write about the issue either now or in the future and will think of me. We’ll see.

Well, those are my strategies. What are yours?