Thursday, December 29, 2016

Z is for Zoomed

Debra wonders where the year went.

Wasn't it just summer? Or at the very least Halloween? Or by golly just the first day of Christmas vacation. The year 2016 has flown by with amazing quickness. We're literally days away from a new year.

It's always interesting to look back and see what has happened in a year. Good things. Bad things. Ordinary-everyday-things. All those things that make the world go round. Did I accomplish enough? Did I leave time for all of the important things in life? Did I have my priorities in order?

I've never been one for making resolutions, but it's always fun to look ahead to a brand new year and all of the limitless possibilities it holds. To think about how I'll do things differently in the coming year as opposed to how I did them in the previous one.

So here's to 2017 and the great adventure that lies ahead! Cheers.


Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Zap - there goes another sentence!

Paula is on a word-cutting marathon.   

I finally reached the end of the first draft of Irish Deceptions two days before Christmas and did a quick word count. Nearly 100K words, about 10K more than I was aiming for, but I wasn’t too worried. I’m very aware that I tend to over-write in a first draft, and that my characters sometimes talk too much!

A preliminary ‘quick’ edit of the whole thing brought the total down by about 800 words, but there was still a long way to go. Time to concentrate on each chapter in turn, and see what could be cut.

My main ‘rule of thumb’ is: how necessary is this speech/description/action? Does it add something to the story and/or to the reader’s understanding of the character? Is it repeating something that has already been said? Does it contain a lot of unnecessary detail?

With this in mind, I was able to either cut some of the dialogue in Chapter 1, or condense it. That’s probably the hardest part of editing, knowing what to cut and what to leave in and I’ll admit I tend to rely on my ‘gut instinct’ rather than on any writing ‘rules’. This brought the total wordage down from 4602 to 4396 – just over 200 words cut, mainly (in this particular chapter) by deleting unnecessary details.

The next step was what I call ‘tidying’ up – looking more at the ‘technicalities’ and dealing with unwieldy sentences, both in narrative and dialogue, by careful rephrasing. I also look carefully at dialogue, and try to lose some of the unnecessary words there like ‘Well’ and ‘Okay’. Doing this helps me to tighten up my writing, and I managed to lose another 150 words.

The third stage is to putting the chapter through Autocrit. One useful facility is the analysis of sentence length, and I check out any sentences longer than 30 words to see if I can split them or shorten them. Autocrit also highlights over-used and redundant words, ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words, and unnecessary filler words like ‘then’ and ‘just’.

Last but not least, I read the chapter aloud, which is the best way of spotting ‘clunky’ sentences or dialogue that doesn’t sound right.

So yes, I’m been zapping a lot of words and sentences, and doing a lot of rewriting, with the result that after 6 or 7 hours work, I reduced the first chapter from 4602 words to 4108. Now I have to do the same with the next 24 chapters!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Z Is For Zip Line

Jennifer talks about challenging herself…

Over the summer, my husband, one of my daughters and I went on an obstacle course and zip line. I have never been so scared in my life. Even though I was attached to a harness, I was convinced I was going to die pretty much the entire time. Although my husband and daughter cheered me on, and were proud that I completed it, I vowed never to go on it again.

At the end of the obstacle course, there was a zip line. I’ve got to admit, it was pretty lame. It was short and boring, but after what I’d just been through, it was perfect. I actually enjoyed that part and it was a relief after the struggle I’d just been through.

My husband and daughter are already making plans to do the obstacle course again. I, most definitely, am not. However, as 2016 ends and I start to look ahead to 2017, the obstacle course and zip line pose a good analogy for my writing life.

2016 was a struggle for many reasons, but writing-wise, there were many ups and downs. Granted, it wasn’t as awful as the obstacle course, but there were many times when I was ready to give up. And then I simplified, readjusted my focus, got rid of some stressful activities that were hampering my ability to write. It wasn’t as easy to do as the zip line, and in fact, I’m still working on it, but compared to earlier in the year, it’s significantly easier.

Looking ahead to 2017, I hope for the zip line—smooth, easy and fun. But I’ve made it through the obstacle course, and while I never want to go through that again, I recognize it’s not impossible and there is, eventually, an end.

Wishing everyone a 2017 filled with love, laughter, health and zip lines!

Monday, December 26, 2016


Ana's muses on 4 am inspiration.

Lately, as I write scenes, I seem to push ahead of my main characters. I reveal too much too fast, (I think) because having plotted, I know where they are going.

I stopped last night when my hero blurted out an apology to the heroine in a hospital stairwell. His confession reverberated off the smooth stone walls. It was dramatic. But I sensed it was too soon and stopped writing. Uncertain, I decided to sleep on it.

Here's what I think this morning: They are still getting to know each other. Circling warily.

She's camped out in the ICU as her father recovers from trauma surgery. She wants him to recover fully, but knows when he does, he'll be whisked back to prison. She'll go back to regular visitations, only seeing him for an hour every two weeks.

The hero has been ordered to assess how soon her father can be transferred back to prison. But he's secretly stalling. He owes the heroine an apology, and letting her spend more time with her father is how he's decided to ease his conscience. He can't tell her what he's doing.

I shouldn't rush their growing attraction.
Thank you, 4 am inspiration.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Y is for Year in Review

Debra reflects on her writing year.

In many ways, 2016 has been a successful writing year for me.

*I released four (out of the five) novellas in my Holidays at The Corral series. And although none flew off the shelves, it was nice having a release every few months or so.

*In the spring, I participated in the BadRedHead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge which had me create a Twitter account (Which I need to be better at using.) and to rethink how I use my Facebook page (I still need to work on that.) among other things.

*Valentine's Day at The Corral took third place in the IDA short contemporary category.

*This Feels Like Home was part of Amazon's July romance sale, which increased sales on that title greatly. (Still not enough by any stretch of the imagine to consider it to be 'making a living' with my writing, but it was nice to see bigger numbers in sales, at least for that title.)

*A Christmas to Remember was offered for free this past weekend as part of The Wild Rose Press's tenth anniversary celebration. (Always good for publicity.)

*And just this week I launched my crazy #sellathousand challenge for New Year's Eve at The Corral.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*As always, I've enjoyed blogging here at HWH to share tidbits, insights, posts, encouragement, and excitement with my fellow bloggers. I am most grateful to have you all in my life.

When I look at that list, I feel pretty good. :)

However, the latter part of the year, as I've mentioned before, has been a bit frustrating in the 'getting something written' area of life, but I have high hopes that will turn around soon. It's been really nice this week delving back into 'writing life' as I've worked on getting my challenge ready. And while it hasn't (yet) nudged me enough to sit down and work on a WIP, like I said, in this season of hope and miracles, anything is possible!

As we head into the last week of the year (WHERE did the time go?!) I look forward to ushering out the old and welcoming the new with a bright new outlook.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Y is for Yippee!

Paula has finished her first draft – nearly!   

There have been times when I thought I would never finish this story. Some chapters seemed agonisingly slow to write. I always make a note of when I start and finish a chapter, and was quite surprised to discover that many of them only took me about two weeks (plus or minus a couple of days). I could have sworn some of them took far longer than this, but at least the later chapters have only taken about a week each.

I started this story back in January, originally set it ‘somewhere’ in North West England, and wrote five chapters. However, after a discussion with my publisher, I made the decision in early April to ‘move’ it to Ireland as the fourth stand-alone novel in my Mist Na Mara series. It took some mental adjustment and quite a lot of rewriting to make that move from a seaside town in England to Clifden in the west of Ireland, and also to link it to the Mist Na Mara Arts Centre which has featured in my other Irish books.

After I’d made the changes, I continued the story. Inevitably, because of the change of setting, it took a different course from the one I originally envisaged, and also produced several twists that I didn’t expect. Maybe by now I should be used to the characters doing things ‘their’ way since this is invariably what happens when I’m writing a first draft.

Last night, I got within a hair’s breadth of finishing the final chapter. I knew where I wanted to go with it, but it proved slightly more complex to get there than I anticipated (that’s the story of my life – and my novels!). Hopefully tonight I will finish the final scene of Irish Deceptions and be able to write The End.

But, of course, it isn’t the end. For one thing, it’s about 10K words more than I really want it to be. I aim for between 80 and 90K, but this is nearer to 100K. However, I’m well aware that I tend to overwrite scenes in the first draft, and also my characters often talk too much, so I’ll be able to shorten some of those scenes. I also have copious notes of what I need to change, add or delete in the earlier chapters.

Next I’ll embark on the process of checking for factual and continuity errors, and for plot and character development, followed by tweaking and polishing and, of course, watching out for the words and phrases I know I overuse. Last but not least comes the task of going through with a fine tooth comb searching for missed words, incorrect spelling, punctuation errors, and typos.

There is still a lot of work to do, but completing a first draft is always a big milestone. It’s the point at which I breathe a huge sigh of relief – and then settle down to the editing – which I actually enjoy more than the original writing!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Y Is For Yelling

Jennifer talks about the written word…

When my kids text me in all capital letters, I ask them why they’re yelling at me. Usually, they’re not, but they’re too lazy to turn off the “caps lock.” Sometimes they’re trying to make a point. Most times, they don’t know why I’m objecting to the way they’re texting.

When I receive emails from various people, I often wonder if they mean to sound the way I’m interpreting their messages. It’s not the words I don’t understand, but the way they are using the words and the tone that appears to come across the computer screen.

As writers, we’re expected to be word experts. We are supposed to convey emotions through what we write. We try to “show” and not “tell.” It’s a constant battle, and one that requires many rounds of editing until I think I get it right.

Yet in casual written messages—emails, texts, social media posts—I am sometimes misunderstood. So what is the difference? Am I putting less thought into the messages I send to people I care about than the words I write for the general public?  Am I reading too much into the messages I receive? And how do we fix it?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Y do I volunteer?

Ana muses about volunteering in writers groups

I live in a rural area where most out-in-the-open writers look down on romances. Don't get me wrong. They are lovely people who write passionate poems and short stories about lakes and bears, farming and fishing, freezing winters and chemotherapy.
I volunteer as a acquiring editor for their annual anthology. I proofread the layout. I buy several copies. Sometimes I enter.
I'm sure there are a few romance writers hiding in the woods, but they seem to be traumatized. I haven't been able to lure any out into the sun to form an in-person group.

So I joined From the Heart Romance Writers, an online RWA group. I signed up eagerly for their critique loop, and then lurked until I worked up the courage to critique some subs. I offered feedback for others and slowly learned what POV meant. Finally I subbed a WIP chapter. And another.

To my surprise, a year later I was asked to moderate the critique loop. I agreed. (I'm still the loop moderator, and I still critique every sub. I can see how much my writing skills have improved, and I still get great feedback on my chapters. It's a win-win.)

I was added to the board of directors loop. When term limits mandated that new volunteers should step up, I offered to serve as secretary. I shouldn't have been surprised when the position ran unopposed. Getting volunteers is hard.

I served as secretary for two years, and then RWA revised their By-laws so chapter term limits rebooted. I served as secretary again. Then the chapter needed someone to run for President.  I raised my pinkie. The gavel fell.

2017 will be my second term as President. I ran again after extracting promises from the current board to serve a second term with me. On December 31, 2017, I 'll be term limited out. I'll still help with the Pages of the Heart contest. I'll still play in the crit loop in exchange for free line editing and deep POV advice.

I've made lifelong friends online. As far as I can tell, I've banked up more good karma than bad. I can foresee a day when I'll be too engrossed in deadlines to have time to volunteer a lot. This will be okay, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

X is for eXtremely Crazy

Debra has a crazy goal to garner sales for her new release.

It's here! The fifth and final installment in the Holidays at The Corral series hit cyber shelves today. New Year's Eve at The Corral is the shortest of all the books. I definitely planned it that way, and while it would seem that a short book would sell well because of its price (99 cents regular price, on sale at TWRP for 50 cents through Friday), my editor mentioned that books of that length don't really sell well. Plus, I'm not that great at marketing. I used to do blog tours for each of my books, but busy life (and a touch of laziness I'll admit) got me out of that habit.

But I wanted to come up with SOMEthing to help sell these books. So, I came up with a really crazy goal of trying to sell 1,000 copies of this book, using mostly word of mouth. The challenge (as I'm calling it) will officially kick off in January. I'm still figuring out a few details and logistics: how to use Rafflecopter as I've never done it before, finding blogs who will let me guest and post about my promotion, setting up a Facebook event, etc. School is out in two days for Christmas break. I'll be tackling those issues then.

In the mean time, here's the basic idea of what I have planned.


The Challenge:

When I submitted this story, my editor told me books of this length don't sell well. My immediate thought was how fun it would be to prove her wrong. (In the best way possible!)

Almost immediately an idea began to form. As crazy as it sounds, I decided to challenge myself to sell a thousand copies of this book. Why a thousand, you ask? Simply because a hundred didn't seem like enough (LOL).
For less than the cost of a cup of coffee (and I'm not even talking about one of those fancy frou frou ones) you can help me win this personal challenge. All you have to do is buy a copy of the book. (Passing word of the challenge along to your reader friends would be appreciated, too.)

You might be thinking: What's in this for me? Well, I'll tell you...First, you get to read a great story! You also have the chance to win a some prizes. (And who doesn't love prizes?) If you buy a copy of the book, if you tell a friend (or two or three or know, like those old commercials: And she told two friends and she told two friends and so on and so on...), if you Tweet about the challenge or post about it on Facebook, or if you leave a comment here, you can earn Rafflecopter entry points. The winner of the Rafflecopter drawing will get a paperback set (autographed of course!) of the original Corral series: This Time for Always, This Can't Be Love, and This Feels Like Home (If you're outside the continental U S of A the set will be digital.) AND digital copies (in the format of your choice) of the first four books in the Holidays at The Corral series (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, and Halloween).

So, what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy of New Year's Eve at The Corral!
B & N:

Happy Reading and many, many thanks for participating in my challenge!

P.S. If you can't wait to find out if you've won copies of the holiday books, they are on sale for $0.99 each for the month of January 2017.

So, what do you think? Am I crazy?!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

X is for eXhaustion

Paula’s brain hurts! 

Some people think it’s easy to write a novel. They think you sit down at the computer or with your laptop or with pen and paper, and the words pour forth.


I can’t find an authoritative source for this statement, but here is one version of it: There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein and bleed. Substitute computer for typewriter and you have the modern version.

Maybe that is somewhat extreme, but I don’t know any writer who thinks writing is ‘easy’. Except, maybe, for one writer who claims she writes 8-10K words each evening – although I do wonder if that is physically possible (and if it is, what the quality of writing is like.)

Far more realistic, to my mind, is the comment by one writer: Writing is like giving yourself difficult homework every day of the year.

There may be times when the words DO flow, but far more often writing is a struggle – and requires your brain to work overtime. It might be a relatively simple thing, like trying to find the right word to convey the exact meaning you want. Or it can be (and often is) something more complex, like working out your characters’ inner emotions/goals/motivation. Several of my novels have had an element of intrigue – and sorting that out is rather like trying to wind slippery spaghetti around a fork, thinking you’ve succeeded and then realising half a dozen strands have slipped off the fork and onto your lap.

Thinking out all the twists and turns while you plot your story (or in my case, write the first draft) is hard work! It’s often mentally exhausting – so much so that your brain seems to ache as it goes around in circles. At times I find myself wondering why I do it. Why don’t I find something less taxing to do? The reason, of course, is the sense of achievement when the story is finally written, polished, and edited. It’s only too easy then to forget all the brainwork and exhaustion – until you start to write the next book!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

X Is For eXcitement

Jennifer is excited about possibilities…

Okay, first of all, I know how to spell. But when it comes to the letter X, I have to be a little creative, so I hope you’ll indulge me. J

Thanks to some reorganizing of my life, and some good news, I’m finally feeling hopeful again about writing. The reorganizing involved dropping activities that were stressing me out and killing my soul. By doing that, I’ve gotten more time to write and have reinvigorated my creative juices. The good news was a recent contest that I finaled in. It’s given me a much-needed boost to keep going.

So what does that all mean? It means I’m writing and enjoying myself. I’m submitting and not getting discouraged or losing hope. I’m supporting my writer friends and critique partners, knowing we’re all in the same boat, even if sometimes that boat is a dinghy and other times a yacht. I have a plan for who to submit what to when. And I’m sticking with it.

So, yeah, I’m excited. 2017 is going to be great!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holding on to the letter X

Ana muses on the letter X

Stick-on arrows compete with X for noting where to sign.
Bulls' eyes say just as well 'Aim here.'
<> has slipped into the electronic vernacular. 
But I still sign gift cards with xoxoxox.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

W is for When

Debra wonders when she'll get motivated to write again.

It's been over three months since I've written anything (aside from my weekly blog posts and newsletters for school). On August 27 I wrote 515 words. My previous 'entry' on my 'how many words' list was a month prior to that. I wrote 57 words on July 27. Before that it was 120 words on July 21. I'm pretty sure, other than edits, I didn't write much of anything else over the beginning part of the summer either.

To say that I'm in a writing slump might just be the understatement of the year.

Since being published in 2008, I've had at least one release every year. In 2016 I'll have four. However, if something doesn't change (and soon) that number is going to be a big, fat ZERO for 2017.

The problem is I'm just not motivated. I just don't care. At the moment, I have no interest in writing. I have several ideas for books I want to write. Several WIP that are languishing on my thumb drives and computer. But there is no desire to do anything about them. I even had some free time the other night (and how often does THAT happen?), but instead of sitting down at the computer, I kind of wandered around the house wondering what I should do.

I'm pretty sure I've been in a writing slump before. But this one seems to be a mega, uber slump.

Last year at this time I was on a major roll and was in the processing of cranking out the four novellas which were released this year.

Maybe I burned myself out a little bit. Maybe my writing hobby was just a passing phase and I'm done with it. I really hope it's not the latter. When I'm in the mood, I really do enjoy writing and seeing my characters and stories come to life on the page.

Hopefully someday (SOON) that drive and desire will come back and I'll happily click away at my keyboard again.

In the meantime, I need to put together a publicity campaign for my NYE story which is coming out next week. (Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?) I have the idea all ready to go,I just need to implement it, but too often I find myself falling into the 'not motivated' category for this too. Ay yi yi...what is wrong with me?!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

W is for Why I Write

Paula explains when and why she started to write.  

Some people say, “I decided to write when …” or “I became a writer when …"

When I see comments like this, I’m very aware that I never ‘decided’ to write, and I never ‘became’ a writer. I’ve always been a writer, at least from the time I learnt to write. Before that I created stories in my mind, inventing adventures for my dolls and Teddy bear. It was a natural progression to write some of those stories and when I was about eight, my class teacher wrote on my report card, “She writes very good stories.”

Maybe I was blessed with an over-active imagination, or maybe, as an only child, creating and writing stories was my way of not being ‘alone’.

I was also a voracious reader and, inspired by Enid Blyton (a prolific children’s author in the UK at the time), I wrote dozens of ‘spin-offs’ from her stories, before progressing to stories about my own characters. I still remember a lot of my first full-length 'novel' (probably about 50K words) which I wrote when I was 10 or 11, about a group of children who converted an old barn into a theatre and produced their own plays in order to convince their parents they were serious about acting. I was stagestruck even then!

Once I reached my teens, I discovered romance, and wrote (very cheesy!) romance stories for my friends to read each morning on the school bus. I also wrote detailed diaries, first about the teachers I had a crush on, and then, of course, about boys. Wish I still had those diaries – they would probably be hilarious to read now!

When and why did you start writing stories?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

W Is For Work-In-Progress

Jennifer is almost finished…

I’m a few thousand words from writing “The End” on one of my manuscripts. It’s been slow going. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, so that I have a goal and so that I stay in the habit of writing regularly. I don’t edit as I go, although I do go back after a certain number of pages and re-read and edit at that time. But I write regardless of the quality of words, just to get them on the page.

The problem is life gets in the way. I’ve been trying to de-stress my life and reorganize my priorities. In the long run, it will result in a happier me with more writing time. Currently, it results in more writing time, but also more stress—change is hard, for me as well as for others affected by my actions. So I often get to my writing time still reeling from what’s going on elsewhere.

The outside world certainly doesn’t help. Politics and people’s reactions and the media all infringe on my writing time as well. As does social media. What used to be a nice break has turned into one of stress. I can’t abandon it, as I use it for marketing and networking, but I’m trying to put limits on how and when I involve myself in it.

So the WIP is getting there. Slowly. It will require lots of editing, as my notes I leave myself as I go—fix this, add this, etc.—grow longer. It’s by no means done. But it’s a start. And just by having something complete encourages me to take the next step and improve it.

And now, back to writing!