Saturday, July 14, 2018

In the throes of Summer

Ana's summer is probably as busy as yours.

I took cell phone photos of the three ice-cream pails of just-picked-by-me raspberries and my grandkids sliding down the big slide yesterday at the county fair, but Blogger says they are not formatted for uploading. So word pictures will have to suffice until I figure that out.

I asked for, and was granted, an extension on book 2. I'm not a fast writer, and I over-estimated how many chapters I could write last winter. Writing in summer is more challenging with work, gardening and grandkid sleep-overs. I'm half way through the story. The heroine and side-kick are entering a seedy bar in search of the injured and missing hero.

I had fun this past week helping with a short film shoot. The ten-year-old granddaughter is the protagonist. She goes exploring and is frightened by an alien hiding in an abandoned house. She runs home and returns with her skeptical older sister and squirt-gun-toting younger brother. They track down the alien, who checks them out and zooms away.

My film-producer daughter brought home her camera gear, including a film drone. (The drone has crashed into tree tops twice on homing mode. Obviously, it's a city, not a country, drone. More online tutorials will be downloaded.)

The short film footage is now in Rachel's editing computer. She'll add CGI images (shimmery light?) to show the alien being. It will be fun to see the final footage. If it's good enough, she'll color correct and sound design, and who knows where it will end up. The footage Rachel shot with the ten-year granddaughter (when Brandi was five) was just released as a music video for a New York City band.




Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Month of History

Debra spent June immersed in early U.S. history.

My hubby and I love to travel. Usually our one big trip a year is a cruise over spring break for our anniversary. Summers used to be filled with long weekend trips with our parents and and another with the hubby's sister and family. But, as our parents have gotten older and unable to walk around as well as they used to, and as our niece and nephew have gotten older and it's no longer 'cool' to hang with your older relatives, those smaller trips had stopped.

This summer, things changed a bit. At the beginning of June we took a week-long road trip with a friend out to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. While we spent the majority of our week in Williamsburg immersed in 18th century history, we did take a side trip to Yorktown and Jamestown, which gave us a peek into 17th century history. Every little part of the trip was wonderfully awesome. There is no possible way to pick a favorite thing, although I have to say their Nation Builder program topped the list. My favorite to listen to was Thomas Jefferson. He talked about the importance of education and how the most important thing we can teach our children is history. My paraphrase of both speeches he gave is along the lines of: You have to know where you've been to see where you're going.

Governor's Palace - Colonial Williamsburg

Old Capitol at Night - Colonial Williamsburg

Young Thomas Jefferson - Colonial Williamsburg

The Church at Jamestown Settlement

Artillery Demonstration at the Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown

Last spring we purchased a travel trailer, so we've been taking quite a few weekend jaunts recently. Last weekend we took a short trip out to Galena, IL (home of President/General Ulysses S. Grant) and walked around taking in the sites of 19th century history.


On July 1, I officially took over as President of our local Historical Society. I'm looking forward to leading the Society in its new direction of programming and education.

Our Newly Restored Original 1896 One-room School

Interior of Central School

Me (Playing "Schoolmarm" at a Laura Ingalls Book Discussion in the Schoolhouse)

So, yessire, it's been a history kind of summer so far. And I love it! (And what a perfect lead up to the Fourth of July here in the States!) #historyisfun

Until next time,

Happy Reading (and traveling)!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tying up the Loose Ends


Paula’s new novel, Irish Shadows, is released today.

There were times last year, during the upheaval of changing publishers, when I wondered if I’d ever finish it. I started it in March 2017 but had no real motivation to continue it for about three months. In August, I began again, with some new ideas about the problems I was going to throw at my characters.

The ‘blurb’ sums up these problems:
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship, and both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.
Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son. Rose also discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?

As you can see, the characters have quite a lot to deal with in addition to their relationship issues, but I enjoy playing with different strands and trying to interweave them. My big problem came when I was nearing the end of the story, and needed to untangle all those strands and tie everything up so that there were no ‘loose ends’. I knew (roughly!) how each strand was going to be resolved, but didn’t know when or in what order.

I eventually made a list of the resolutions of each sub-plot, made some vague notes about possible events leading to these resolutions – and then worked backwards, which is something I’ve never done before. Doing that helped me to decide, for example, that event A needed to happen before event B, and that C, D, and E might work better as D, E, and C!

Long discussions with my brain-storming partner over several pub lunches helped, too, although I do wonder what the couple at the next table must have thought if they’d overheard our conversation about how long a body in a shallow grave would take to decompose! I do hope they weren’t the same couple who overheard us a couple of years ago (when I was writing ‘Irish Secrets’) discussing the best place to hide stolen goods.

Anyway, I finally managed to work out the order of events (although, of course, the characters did decide to deviate from my basic outline a few times!), until all the loose ends were tidily and happily resolved.

Irish Shadows will be available for a few more days at the introductory price of 99c/99p.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stiletto Contest

Jennifer is a finalist in a writing contest...

This weekend I found out that my book, In the Moment, is a finalist in the Stiletto Contest, sponsored by the Contemporary Romance Writers (an online chapter of the RWA). I was thrilled, to say the least. It’s my favorite book and it’s only the second time I’ve ever finaled in a contest before. As a bonus, the graphic they give the finalists is pretty!



But what I found most interesting is the score sheet they returned to me for the book that didn’t final. For whatever reason, the contests I’ve entered in the past have never returned those before and I was curious to see what the judges said.

There were three of them. One was unpublished, the other two were published in romance. They were all members of RWA. They were to rate the book on a scale of 1 to 5 in a variety of different categories. They could use decimals if they wanted, and they were encouraged to leave comments.

Contests are subjective, and these comments and ratings were too. While there was some agreement in certain areas, for the most part, the three judges differed significantly in areas such as conflict, POV and voice. I respect the time they took to read my book (as well as many others), and their opinions, even though I disagree with many of them. But there were a few things they pointed out that are good for me to be aware of in the future.

All in all, it’s exciting. I’m thrilled to have even been a finalist with one book—it was a much needed boost.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Children's rhymes aren't always warm and fuzzy

Ana's historical WIP heroine just got a job playing piano for riverboat passengers. Her new partner Tess suggests they perform old favorites so the deck passengers can sing along. Research yielded this ditty, entitled 'Miss Susie.'

The steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to Heaven and
The steamboat went to–

–Hello operator,
Give me number nine.
and if you disconnect me
I’ll chop off your be–

--’hind the heavy icebox
there was a piece of glass,
Miss Susie sat upon it
and hurt her big fat

Ask me no more questions,
Tell me no more lies.
The cows are in the pasture
making pies for

Flies are in the kitchen,
Bees are in the park.
Boys and girls are busy
kissing in the dark.

This reminded me of another rhyme that girls used to sing when jumping rope. 'Bill and Sarah, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.'

Pretty bawdy stuff for kids, my heroine thinks. But she's from a rich family and knows her father didn't invest in her classical music education so she could become a vaudeville act. 
She and Tess are due to start entertaining in fifteen minutes. 
Will she?




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Sabbatical

Debra is re-prioritizing her life.

Over the last few months, heck...probably the last few years, I've been debating and debating about what I wanted to do with my writing career. I really love my small press, but was wondering if maybe it was time to branch out a bit. I had an iron in the fire that didn't amount to anything. Recently I've had a huge upswing in auditions for getting my books into audio. (Three are on the market now.) A contest caught my eye, as one of the final judges was an editor at Harlequin, and I figured that would be a good way to possibly get my work in front of her. It would require shortening a mss, but a couple beta readers (Thanks, Paula!) had encouraged that, so it was definitely something to consider. But as I read further through the contest final judges, another name jumped out from another publisher. One I've been really, really interested in. Problem with this one was I'd already been rejected by them for the mss I thought of entering. Did I try a different, albeit incomplete, one and hope that if it caught her eye I'd have it done by fall when the finalists were announced? The deadline is fast approaching, and I still have yet to make a decision.

Probably because I think what I've decided overall is to take a sabbatical from my writing. It's going on the back burner for now.

Oh, I'll still do some publicizing of books I already have out there. And with finalized audio books coming at me left and right these days, I'll be spending time getting together some publicity and campaigns for those. But I'm not going to make writing a huge priority. If the muse happens to strike, my fingers will hit the keyboard and knock out whatever pages I can, but I'm not going to force myself to write every day. And I'll still post and follow and like on Twitter. And of course here at Heroines with Hearts. (Although I am thinking of switching my Facebook account over to my real name instead of my author one, if that's even possible to do.)

I have other things going on in my life right now that I want to focus on. Effective July 1 I will be the president of my local historical society, and I am so excited about that! Oh boy do I have plans! I've written up my five-year plan already and have started outlining and gathering materials for a series of monthly programs I want to develop. I am definitely going to be a hands-on president. So that's where my focus is going to be for the time being.

Writing has always been a hobby for me, not generating anything I can call income in any sense of the word. I thought maybe it was time to go after writing in a more career-minded way, but I've found that my mind is less and less focused on writing and more and more focused on other things. New directions. New opportunities.

I still consider myself to be a writer and always will. But for the time being...I'm going to be a writer who's not writing. Will I come back to it? Hopefully. I still have lots of ideas in my head for stories, books, and series, and I really, really hope that someday they'll see the light of day in published form. But my instinct at the moment is to set that aside and do other things.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Comma Splices


Paula looks at comma splices.  

Recently, I’ve read a couple of books with dozens (if not hundreds!) of what I call ‘run-on sentences’, which are also referred to as ‘comma splices’. Basically, this is when two independent sentences are ‘connected’ with a comma.

For example: Paula loves Ireland, she has been there many times.

I hope that, like me, you are cringing, because all my instincts say this is incorrect – and this is confirmed by every grammar guide.

Independent sentences like this should not have a comma between them. They should have either a full stop (period), or a conjunction, or even a semi-colon. NOT a comma!

One source I checked suggested that comma splices were a common error made by ‘inexperienced writers’. However, the novels I read were not written by newbie writers who hadn’t had their work checked by an editor before self-publishing. Both had independent publishers – and therefore, one assumes, competent editors. But both novels contained not just single comma splices. Often they had three or more independent clauses with only commas between them e.g.
Charlie gazed in admiration at Jane, he was looking forward to dinner with her, they had not been out together for weeks, who knew when they would again.

I’ve adapted this rather than quoted it directly – but it’s an example of what occurs frequently in both novels. And, apart from the comma splices, shouldn’t the final ‘independent sentence’ have a question mark at the end anyway?

This leads me to wonder
(a) whether the authors are totally ignorant of basic grammar rules.
(b) whether these novels have actually received any editing (despite one of them being with a fairly high profile publisher)
(c) perhaps more worrying in my opinion, whether today’s editors are ignoring a fundamental grammar error.

What do you think?

P.S. I’m happy to report that most novels I have read recently do not contain this error!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Self-Publishing Adventure

Jennifer is self-publishing one of her backlist books...

When my previous publisher, Rebel Ink Press, let me know they were closing their doors in June, I wasn't surprised. However, I was conflicted about what to do with the four books on my backlist that I had with them. So after taking a breath, I decided to try self-publishing one of my titles

I've heard a lot about self-publishing but didn't quite know how it worked. So before I did anything, I talked to people who did it, and did it well. And what I learned is that while you have to pay money for editing, covers, etc., the percentage of royalties you make is significantly higher than the percentage you make with a traditional publisher. That's not to say I don't want to publish with a publisher. I do. I'm very happy with my current publisher. But some of the backlist books whose rights I now have back are not going to go anywhere and I don't want them to languish in the ether.

Self-publishing is a growing industry and hybrid authors (those who do a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing) are on the rise. The stigma around self-publishing is gone, especially if you self-publish well. 

I’m starting small, only working with one of those books—A Heart of Little Faith. The first thing I did was to give it to an editor. No matter how many times it’s been looked at, it can always benefit from someone other than me looking at it. A writer friend I know is also a freelance editor. She edited the entire manuscript and oh boy, there were a lot of changes she recommended. I took a deep breath and made them, and wow, the book is SO much better. 

Then I sent the manuscript to a copy editor. Because again, I always miss the little things and those are the things that end up embarrassing me (Random Reader: Did you know you spelled that word wrong?). I know someone who is phenomenal at copyediting and she found lots of things that would have been embarrassing if they had been published. 

Whenever a book is re-published, it needs a new cover. So I hired a cover artist, who designed a beautiful cover.

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Little-Faith-Jennifer-Wilck-ebook/dp/B07D3BNZG9

One of my critique partners does all her own formatting and works with Amazon, so she handled formatting and gave me explicit and easy instructions on how to put it up on the site. It's there now and available for pre-order. It will be released officially on June 1. Since this is an experiment for me, I'm only publishing this book for Kindle. I'm curious to see what happens. I know how much I spent and I’ll see how much I make in sales. If it works, I’ll self publish the others. If not, I’ll hold onto the rights for a while and see what, if any, other options I have. 

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 14, 2018

My mission, should I choose to accept it

Ana muses about a writing challenge.

Last week, the plot of my next chapter requires the hero to battered, put aboard a steam freighter, and expected to die of his injuries. Naturally, being the hero, he lives, but wakes with amnesia. My original draft of this chapter was in a secondary character's POV. Reasonably well-written with dialogue reveals of the hero's situation and condition.

First feedback from a round one crit partner was thumb's down. "Too telling. Try from his POV."

Hmmm. How to write a scene from an unconscious character's POV? Guess he can't be unconscious.
Here's what I have now. What do you think?

The man awoke to drumbeat throbs in his head. He tried to fill his lungs.
Pain stabbed his ribs. 
With an effort that almost left him spent, he forced one eye to open a crack. The other stayed shut.
Somewhere behind him, a hissing lantern cast a faint light. 
He lay prone on a floor, hands crossed on his chest like a corpse. Stacks of burlap sacks towered above him. He swiped his parched tongue over his lips and loosened a chunk of crusted blood. A gash oozed, refreshing the sickening taste of metal coating his mouth.
Feet shuffled past his head, followed by a heavy thump. 
He tried to cry for help, but all that came out was a barely-audible groan.  
“Think he’s stopped breathing?” a man whispered.
“I hope so,” a second replied. “I’ll check.”
Did they mean him? His heart raced with desperation. He’d heard of people who appeared dead and were buried alive. 
A floorboard creaked. Grunts sounded near his ears. Something thin and sharp-edged touched his lower lip. A piece of glass or broken mirror.
Summoning his last ounce of strength, he exhaled and prayed his breath would fog the glass.
“Sonofabitch,” the second man exclaimed. “He’s still alive. He must have medicine man blood in his veins.”
“You still wanna dump him overboard?” the first man asked.
“Can’t until he’s dead. Damn. How am I going to explain this to the captain?”


Monday, April 30, 2018

Murphy's Law or Fate?

Debra's writing has taken an unexpected turn.

Not to get too religious here, but I'm a big believer in letting God lead me in the direction He wants me to go. When I got a rejection on the mss I'd submitted to a new publisher, I took that as a sign that I wasn't supposed to make a huge career change from teacher to full-time author. Yes, yes...I also know the old adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket, but like I said, I'm a big believer in signs. And I figured He was sending me one. Not to mention that things in my day job were looking up. (The school year got off to a rough start, but the kiddos and I had finally reached an understanding, and I was enjoying being in the classroom again. For a while there...mid-life crisis perhaps?...I really was contemplating getting out.) To me, that was another sign to stay put.

As I was cleaning out my inbox and deleting old e-mails, I came across the one I'd gotten from Wild Rose about getting my books into audio. I'd re-upped all of the contracts necessary to start the projects, but to be honest, with the keep-to-the-path-you're-on signs I seemed to be getting, and a bit of laziness thrown in to boot, I'd kind of lost interest in the idea. So, I deleted that e-mail.

Wouldn't you know it? A day or two later, our marketing rep contacted me and said she was going through old e-mails/files and saw I'd re-upped all of my contracts, and unless I had any questions or special requirements for narrators, she would mark those books as ready for audio auditions. I told her to go ahead, honestly thinking those auditions were hard to come by and it probably wouldn't amount to anything in the long run.

By know I really should know better than to tempt fate, right?

In the next few days I was inundated with auditions for my books. There were coming in two and three in a day. And then things really got rolling.

As it stands right now, here's what's going on:

I have one book (New Year's Eve at The Corral) almost ready to be released. There was just one small correction in one chapter.

(I wanted to attach the 'retail sample' audio clip here, but in reading directions in how to do that in blogger, it seemed WAY too complicated, so I'm not even going to attempt it right now! LOL)







I have another book (Wild Wedding Weekend) mid-production with the narrator sending me chapters to approve as she gets them done.

I've approved chapter samples for two stories (One Great Night and Valentine's Day at The Corral.)

And, I've heard and approved auditions for six other stories, which should mean that contracts have been offered and I'll be getting chapter samples on those soon.

Which means that all of my stories except for my original Corral trilogy (Which I haven't re-upped the contracts for...long story...yet) and An Unexpected Blessing are the only titles not at some stage in the audio process at the moment.

Keep in mind that all of this started on April 5. Less than a month ago.

So in addition to being excited about getting my stories...especially the older ones...out there in a new format and giving them new life, here's what I've taken away from this whole thing.

Apparently God wants me to be multi-dimensional in my life's pursuits.

And I'm getting more excited about my writing again...even though with the school year quickly winding down (which involves more projects, special nights, and field trips than imaginable) I really don't have time to write these days...and am looking forward to sitting down with my laptop once summer comes and figuring out what the heck to do with my completed mss that needs some work and the mss I started for NaNoWriMo...which is a GIANT mess...and (hopefully) getting that sucker finished. Where they'll go once they are fixed/finished is anyone's guess at this point.

But I'll be keeping my heart and mind open for signs from above, and what is meant to happen with them will happen. He always lets me know...in His own time.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adverbs or No Adverbs?


Paula looks at adverbs in our writing.  

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs,’ said Stephen King.

In one sense, I agree with him. Adverbs can often lead to lazy writing. Recently I read a novel (by a best-selling author) which was littered with adverbs, especially after dialogue tags. On one Kindle page alone, there was: said truculently, said coldly, retorted sarcastically, said wearily, reiterated sullenly, said dourly - and when I got to 'she ejaculated hoarsely’ I nearly splurted my coffee in the middle of Starbucks!

Yes, there are times when we should avoid adverbs, especially when they are redundant (‘she whispered quietly’) or when the adverb can be replaced by a stronger verb (‘he raced down the street’ instead of ‘he walked quickly’). With dialogue, it is usually better to show (with a simple action/gesture) how a character is feeling, rather than giving readers a plethora of adverbs to tell them how someone said something.

However, this doesn’t mean that ALL adverbs have to be deleted! Sometimes an effort to do that can lead to ‘clunky’ writing, especially if the writer is simply substituting an adverbial phrase in place of the adverb. Isn’t it better to say ‘He stroked her cheek tenderly’ instead of ‘He stroked her cheek in a tender manner’ (or any other verbose description of what ‘tenderly’ means)?

Do a search of your latest chapter for ‘ly’ words, and you’ll probably (there’s one!) be surprised by how often you use words ending in ‘ly’. But then consider how the sentences containing each of those words could be rewritten. Could I have removed ‘probably’ from the above sentence? Yes, but then I’d be assuming that you WILL be surprised or, worse still, insinuating that you have used millions of adverbs! Omitting that adverb would change the whole meaning of the sentence – and that can be true in our fiction writing, too.

I do think we need to be aware of not overusing adverbs, but at the same time, not go overboard trying to find other words. Sometimes a simple adverb is the best word to use.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Workshop

Jennifer attended a writing workshop...

I went to my first writing workshop in a long time. It was a master class, taught by a respected romance writer and the topic was using verbs to plot your story. 

Now, I’ve gotten into a rut with my writing. Yeah, I write daily. And yeah, I’m publishing books steadily now. But I’m having a harder and harder time getting what I want on the page. The techniques that used to work for me don’t and I’m beginning to see the necessity of plotting, which is terrifying for a pantser.

So I decided that taking a class offered by my local writer’s group was a good idea. No matter how talented you are, you can always stand to learn, polish, become better. The fee was reasonable, I’d heard great things about the instructor—like, really great things—and it was a weekend where I was completely free.

I went.

The morning session was instruction and exercises. The afternoon was taking what we learned in the morning and applying it to our own story. It was suggested that we bring an idea for a story or an early-stage manuscript to work on. Since I’ve just started a new manuscript, the timing was perfect. 

Basically, the idea of the workshop was to come up with strong, specific verbs to describe our character. Verbs lead to action. Action makes a compelling story. So, for example, if my hero is hiding from his past, his overarching verb would be hide. Every scene he is in would be either described with a synonym for hide or it’s opposite—a synonym for reveal—as his arc progresses. Once you know the action for each scene, it’s easy to flesh out the rest of it—description, motive, backstory, etc.

And in theory, it is. Unfortunately for me, in practice, it was difficult. I kept shying away from verbs and using adjectives or nouns. It’s not that I don’t know what a verb is, but this was a totally new concept for me and I’ve always been more attracted to the why than the what or the how. Plus, it’s plotting and I can’t do that. So while I could totally see what he wanted me to do, there was a huge disconnect in my brain when it came to actually doing it.

Ultimately, I don’t think this method is going to work for me. It might be helpful for me to come up with stronger verbs when I’m writing, because word choice is essential, but no matter how many times I tried it, it didn’t feel natural. Even the workshop leader said if it doesn’t feel natural, don’t do it, which I appreciated. Every writer is different and writing isn’t something that everyone can do the exact same way.

But it was another tool to add to my toolbox, and it was good to make a conscious effort to get out of my rut. Education is always beneficial, and reminding myself that I’m never too old to learn can only help me.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Blog Tours?


Paula’s thoughts on her week’s blog tour.
At the end of last year, I paid a ‘blog tour organiser’ to set up a tour for me. It seemed like a good way to promote my re-published Irish novels in the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. I had detailed instructions from the organiser about what she wanted, and I duly forwarded to her five different blogs and also excerpts which illustrated the blog topic, together with bio, links, covers, and other photos. She then sent me the list of blogs where my posts would appear.
All well and good – or so I thought. To begin with all seemed to go well – my first blog appeared last Monday, I advertised it in various places, and received quite a lot of comments (including those from HWH members – thank you, all!)
Tuesday’s blog appeared – and again I advertised it, but this time in some different FB groups, so as not to promote to the same people. After several hours, I realised there was a small problem – no comments appeared. Neither the usual one I write thanking the blog host, nor any others, although I know for certain that there should have been at least two other comments, and there may have been more. Yes, the message popped up that comments would be posted ‘after approval’ but it would seem this blog host didn’t bother to ‘approve’ any comments (as evidenced by other posts on the site, which also had no comments).
Wednesday – I waited all day for my blog to appear on the third site. It didn’t – until later on Thursday! This meant that I needed to advertise two blogs on the same day – not an ideal situation. Hardly surprising, therefore, that no comments have been made on either of these blogs. Oh, and neither of these blog hosts used the photos of Ireland which I had carefully selected to accompany my blog, either.
Friday – well, we’ll wait and see. The blog post is there, and I’ve advertised it in various groups…

My conclusions at the end of this week:
1. Five consecutive days of blogging is counter-productive. Yes, people visited my first one, but after that, nothing. Were my blogs too boring to comment on? I hope not, because I worked hard on creating completely different topics for each day.
2. In this case, the blog tour organiser formed the contact with the hosts, and I had no contact with them at all (and in fact only one of them actually responded to my thanks to her). The others simply posted what the organiser sent them.
3. Last but not least: effect on sales? As far as I can see at the moment, not a single sale!

So what would I do in future?
1. I would set up my own blog tour, with requests to friends with blogs. This way, a more personal contact is made, and also the blogs will probably follow a different format, rather than all being presented in the same way.
2. I would space out my blogs. Five in one week is too much. People don’t have the time to visit the same person’s blogs every day. One a week (or two, at the most) is enough.

Having said all that, I am seriously beginning to question the value of blogging. Personally, I think it has had its day. It’s nearly ten years since we first set up this blog, and although it is good to ‘chat among ourselves’, how many other comments do we get? Nowhere near as many as we did in the early days. And, if we’re being really honest, how many other blogs do we visit and leave a comment? I know I used to visit (and comment on) a lot more than I do now.

Apologies if this sounds very negative, but this week has been a real disappointment for me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I'm An Author!

Jennifer finally believes in her career...

I have decided that I must be a real author.

I know, this sounds crazy, so let me explain. I’ve been writing professionally for twelve years. I have a long way to go to before I can completely support myself doing this, but I make money off of my books, people buy them and even enjoy them. It’s something I love doing.

But no matter how many books I publish, how many readers tell me they like what I write, I’m filled with doubt. I think that’s normal—at least I hope it is.

In order to achieve my goals, I set to-do lists. They include things from my real life as well as my author life, and I know the importance of sticking to the list to make sure I’m productive. Without an office and a boss making sure I hit my targets, it’s too easy to get distracted. So I do my best to stay on task.

Until Friday. This past Friday, we were hit with a Nor’easter that knocked out our power. Without power, our basement flooded. Temperatures in the house went down to 46 degrees. We moved into my parents’ house a town away, but went back and forth, trying to protect our things, deal with the insurance company, get our stuff, etc. During that time, the things I needed to get done for my upcoming book launch didn’t happen. The writing and editing I intended to do didn’t happen either. And I stressed.

Now, some would say that’s a natural reaction to what was going on, and I agree. Of course the situation was stressful. Even though we were all safe, had a warm place to be, and didn’t lose anything that can’t be easily replaced, it’s stressful. I’m not saying I shouldn’t have felt it. But this was the first time I stressed over my writing career.

Which means, in a very roundabout way, that I’m a real author. Because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have even thought about it. So while I definitely need to work on ways to manage my stress, the good thing I’m taking away from this is I’ve got enough of a career to worry about. Yay!


By the way, my upcoming book that I’m now woefully behind on marketing  is available for preorder here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Kind of Vacation

Ana muses about her recent mini-vacation.

Two weeks ago, my hubby drove to a farming conference in Tennessee, a major expedition from winter in northern Minnesota. I stayed home and tended the cows, six water-pipes-will-burst-if-they-go-out heaters, and two spoiled house cats. I was on vacation.

Don't misunderstand. I love the man. I enjoy cooking his breakfast and don't mind bunching his socks. But not having to share the television remote was sheer bliss.

I turned the channel to Hallmark and indulged in their Valentine's Day movie marathon. Romance stories about professional women clashing with fairly good looking ex-boyfriends and sparring with really good looking career-focused men.

One was set in a California winery. Another in a Montana ski resort town. A third in a bed and breakfast in Vermont. An in-debt-with-time-running-out Wyoming ranch. Sumptuous locations.

All the secondary characters were there. The best friend confidant who tells her what she doesn't want to hear: that the hero who pisses her off is her perfect partner. The supportive and long-suffering parents. The long-distance boss who doesn't care how much she wants to come back to the city. Complete the assignment or look for another job. The crabby/nosy neighbor who finds fault at every turn.

Immersed in a romance atmosphere, free of distractions, I worked on my WIP, book 2 of the Prairie Hearts series. If I'd gone someplace sunny and warm, I probably wouldn't have written a word.

I'll take holed up alone any day, but don't tell my hubby. He's still apologizing for leaving me with all the chores.





Monday, February 19, 2018

The Power of a Writer

Debra thinks about what amazing power writers hold.

This weekend I hosted a children's book discussion at our Historical Society based on the book Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. As the kids and I were chatting about the book, we turned to the author notes at the back of the edition I had. A quote from Ms. MacLachlan stood out as she responded to the question of 'What is the best thing about being a writer?'

"For me the most rewarding thing about writing is making things come out the way I want them to; making sense of the things that were in my life when I was a child as well as the things that I care about now that I am an adult. As a writer I have the power to set things down and make them right, that same power that I don't always have in life."

Her response really struck a chord with me. The power writers have at their fingertips is really amazing. We have infinitely more control over the lives of our fictional characters than we do over our own. Even over simple things like the weather: if my story calls for a sunny day at the beach...wa la...the sun pours down, heating the grains of sand and sparking over the water. If the angst and turmoil and tension of a scene needs to be back lit by a thunderstorm...boom!...thunder shakes the earth and lightning forks through the sky lighting it with a brilliant flash.

We control our characters' emotions and reactions. We give them backgrounds and backstory. And especially in romance, we give them a happily ever after. Guaranteeing that after all of the angst and turmoil and bad things that have happened in the past, they are going to be happy. Everything is going to work out in the best way possible. Not to sound blasphemous, but it's a little like playing God.

You have only to turn on the news. Or look on Facebook. Or open an on-line search engine and read the heart-breaking headlines there each and every day to know this doesn't happen in real life.

But not only do we have the power to control our characters and stories, we also have the power to make our readers feel good after a crap day...or a crap week...or a crap year. To let them immerse themselves in a story with a good ending. To know for certain, that no matter what the characters are going through and how long it takes them to get there or what bad needs to be overcome, it will all be overcome. To lose themselves in fiction for a while to take the edge off of reality.

It's a daunting responsibility to think that as much joy as we get out of our writing (most days, right?!) how much more joy we can bring to those who read our stories. Not to mention in a world that more and more often feels like it's falling apart, being able to control anything is truly a miracle.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Writing a Synopsis

Paula agonises over her synopsis!  

I read somewhere that the synopsis is probably ‘the most despised document you might be asked to prepare’ – and, having spent hours trying to write the synopsis of my recently completed novel, I agree with that!

My previous publisher only required a basic ‘blurb’ when I submitted a novel to her, so I was well out of practice in writing a synopsis.

Of course, I knew the basic advice about synopses – characters, core conflict, how the characters deal with it, how the conflict is resolved and how the characters have changed as a result.

All well and good, but what happens if you have several sub-plots which add to and/or further complicate the core conflict? Or which hinder or contribute to the resolution of the conflict?

I think this novel had more sub-plots than I’ve ever used before. Sometimes they form separate strands (for a while, at least!),but then they become interwoven and often somewhat tangled!

I started by writing a basic plot summary. Maybe that is similar to what I might have written beforehand if I was a ‘plotter’ – but, being a ‘pantser’, this was the first time I had done it. It was, inevitably, far too detailed, with too many names and too much irrelevant information. 

But, having done that, I could then see (a) what had to be deleted, (b) what could be condensed and (c) what needed to be taken out of the ‘linear’ outline of the story and combined, so that the synopsis didn’t jump from one thing to another.

So, after tearing my hair out a few times, I finally managed to compose a synopsis, which I hope reflects the most important parts of my story, as well as the emotional journey of the two main characters.

I’d be interested to know how you approach synopsis writing!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Editing, Editing & More Editing

Jennifer gives an update...

I’ve been buried in my editing cave for the past several weeks, and I’m just now coming up for air. What have I been working on? Glad you asked! J

For the past few years, I’ve been working on a new series that I hope to start pitching in the near future. So I was editing books one and two to try to get them into shape. I’m hoping I was successful. I still have book 3 to revise—and it needs some serious revisions—and book four to write. This is a series I work on in my spare time (ha!), so it’s taken a while to get up and running.


I finally received my galleys for Five Minutes to Love from my editor, so I spent a week scouring the manuscript for misspelled words, additional or missing words (like a double “is,” for example), spacing issues or punctuation mistakes. My eyes are buggy, but I think I caught everything. Next step is to make sure they corrected all the errors and then I will have a release date. In the meantime, Addicted to Love, the first book in this series, is on sale this month for 99 cents. So it's a great time to pick it up!

I’ve also been re-editing my first book, A Heart of Little Faith. The publisher who had it is getting out of the business this summer, so I took my rights back and will try my hand at self-publishing that title (and maybe one other). I’m curious to see how it compares to other means of publishing, and I like the idea of being a hybrid author. So I sent the manuscript out to an editor, she has come back with fantastic changes, and I’m slowly going through them, making the book stronger. Next step will be copyedits.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve been up to lately. Hoping to have some news soon!


Oh, and happy birthday to Debra! J