Monday, April 11, 2016

Ella Carey and Aspiring to be Better

Please welcome Ella Carey back to the blog today!
When you have the urge to write…

What a wonderful blog you have here Jemi! Thank you for having me here today. (Thanks so much, Ella!! ~ Jemi)

I think that Musings of an Aspiring Writer is a splendid title. Because every writer is always aspiring to do better- we aspire all the time. What I want to share with you today, if I may, are some of the best tips I was given before I was published.

Before I was published, I worked every day- I wrote. I kept writing novels, so I just pretended I was like any other author and got on with it- published or not. I’m doing exactly the same job now I’m published as I was before, albeit with wonderful support and editors- it’s still me and my imagination for most of the time! 

So-  here goes:

  1. Set up a really strong writing routine. And stick to it. You need to be disciplined in this game. Before you are published. By the time you are accepted for publication, you are professional, can meet deadlines and will always be on time with your revisions. So, set up a timetable, don’t wait for the muse to strike, just write!
  2. One piece of advice that I am just so glad I followed is do not send out submissions to publishers until you know your work is ready. Trash the manuscripts you are not sure of, and wait to submit until you just know you have the right piece of work.
  3. Do sign up for online courses- make sure they are reputable before you pay, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need to learn. Writing is a craft and you will gain enormously from studying it. You’ll always pick up something from writing courses. Just take what resonates with you, and keep writing and developing your voice.
  4. Do join a professional organisation, your local writer’s center, or such. Do meet other authors and talk to them. There is something incredibly special about the bonds you will make with real writer friends. It is perhaps they alone who will understand how hard this career is, and how success comes in one big sugar lump- you get published! You just have to keep going in the meantime, there aren’t really incremental steps, and those writer friends will make all the difference.
  5. Ignore the voice that tells you that you’ll never get there, that getting published is like winning the lottery, all of that jazz. Because, you know what- someone has to get there, and that someone may as well be you! Ignore the people who tell you that it’s too hard as well. Just smile politely and continue to write! 
  6. You need the most enormous amount of self belief. You just have to believe in what you write. Stay focussed, like you would in any other job and do your apprenticeship.
  7. And here’s the final thing. No matter how much talent you have, no matter how hard you work, it takes the average writer several years to get a publishing contract, several years of hard work, of producing a major work every year, until you finally get there.

So- do not give up!!
Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second home. She has been studying French since the age of five, and she has degrees in music and English. Her debut novel, The Paris Time Capsule, has captured global attention and her second novel, The House By The Lake, will be released on March 29th, 2016. She lives with her two children and a pair of Italian greyhounds in Hobart.

Ella Carey on the web:

Facebook        Twitter        Author Page    Website

The House by the Lake

Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna retrieve it.
Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.
Alternating between 1930s Europe and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a family caught in the tumult of history.
Buy Links:     
Amazon Kindle          Amazon Paperback        Audio CD

Amazon UK              Book Depository

Thanks so much, Ella! That's terrific advice. Approaching the job as a professional helps at all points of the journey.
I'm working on that self-belief, but it can sure be tough!!

How about you? How are you aspiring to improve? 

Monday, April 4, 2016


Spring in Northern Ontario is a mysterious thing.
A week before this, the crocuses were free of snow and blooming nicely.
We'll see what happens next!

We've got some serious medical issues with a few family members taking up a lot of our time and energy right now, so I may not be out and about as often as I'd like.

At times like this, I'm glad I write romance - all HEAs are very welcome right now! :)

How's spring treating you so far?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Jacqui Jacoby -- Writing, Submitting, Hoping

Please welcome Jacqui Jacoby back to the blog today!
The letters started coming across the Internet about a week ago. Someone in one of my writer’s loops was depressed. After almost a year of waiting to hear back from an editor who had her manuscript, she received the package in the mail with a form letter rejection. “But I spoke to her,” this writer said. “She said I had passed the first level and it looked good. Now they won’t even tell me why I was rejected.” 
She wasn’t alone. For days the letters arrived in my mailbox. Someone else had a manuscript sitting at Dorchester. It had been two years and she was still waiting. Another had one with an agent. It was almost a year now and she still had no idea where she stood. Letter after letter. Same story, different editors, different agents. Same despair. 
I read each one, feeling their hurt. We have these groups for moral support, to turn to when we need a lift. On those days, though, I read the letters and wondered why we put ourselves through this. What keeps us going? 
It’s not that none of us are talented. It’s not that we don’t put in the time creating characters and worlds and situations. We breathe life into these people, bringing them from our imagination to the printed page. We sweat blood and tears, giving up time with our families, time with our friends, time with the laundry that piles up because an idea just popped into our head and we have to write it now. 
It’s an old joke in my critique group. Burger King is hiring. Burger King is always hiring ... even when publishing houses are turning us down and making us doubt our chances. And for a lot of us, Burger King is paying more than we are currently making in our writing career. 
My own agent DIED, sending me from “almost there” back to square one in the time it takes to place a phone call. Not that I hold it against them. I personally think they had their own problems at the time and I came out ahead in the deal. 
But I have fifty-seven rejections on that same manuscript they loved. This is the same manuscript I was told “would create a whole new sub-genre of kick-butt heroines.” The same manuscript a producer considered for a movie. 
Fifty-seven rejections at the last count. And I stopped counting five years ago, even though I keep sending it out. 
My husband is a civil engineer. In the twenty-two years we’ve been together he has changed jobs four times. Me? I’m still tapping out the words on the computer. 
He doesn’t get it. He’s tried, but the whole idea of resubmitting is so alien to him, he just scratches his head and gives me that blank stare. When he wanted a change, he changed. When he didn’t like the work environment, he went somewhere else. 
When it doesn’t work out for a writer, we read the rejection (maybe), we sigh hard (usually) and then we send it out the door again (always). 
I asked Sue Grafton once what was the one thing she could recommend to a newbie. She didn’t even bat an eye. “When you get that manuscript back in the mail, you send it right back out. Period. No questions asked. No time wasted.” 
But it’s hard. So very hard to keep going to the mailbox and finding those letters of “No Thank You.” 
When do we stop? When do we finally say “Enough. It’s time to try something else,”? 
I have a theory on this. 
Because if we stop submitting, it’s over. 
Yes, there is a chance we can spend our whole lives writing with only our critique group telling us how much they loved our book. There is a chance we will never be standing in an airport concession stand and overhear someone telling their friend she just has to buy this book, our book, because this writer is so damn good the friend won’t be able to put it down until the planes wheels touch the pavement at their destination. 
There is a chance we will write faithfully every day of our lives and read every writers book, every writers magazine, enter every contest, and never get the call that takes us from a wanna-be to author. 
How close are we to getting published? All the way across town? Or right at the door? One phone call away? 
It doesn’t matter. Because the truth of the matter is, no matter how close or how far, if we stop, the chances are over. 
With no book sitting on an agents desk, she won’t be calling us. With no entry in our favorite contest, there won’t be any of our work to be judged, to final, to make it to the winner’s circle on an editor’s desk. 
We submit because we hope. 
If a publishing house is looking for a new book, we want it to be ours. And that is only going to happen if they have the book in the first place. 
Sometimes it will be our friends who get the call. And we will cheer with them even as we silently think “How did they do it? Where do I find that secret that made the difference?” 
We find it in ourselves. In the knowledge that we are doing everything we can. In Chapter One of his book, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, Jack M. Bickham sums it up perfectly. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” 
We are writers and we will continue to write. We will get up every morning, face our computers even when our jobs, our families or some everyday occurrence tries to call us away. We will put our words to the page, put the page in the envelope and the envelope in the mail. 

And we will hope. Always. Period. No questions asked.
Jacqui Jacoby on the web:

           Blog                       Twitter        Facebook

Google + Jacqui Jacoby          Instagram: JacquiJaxJacob      Pinterest: Jacqui Jacoby

Dead Men Seal the Deal
Too-playful-for-his-own-good, Jason Sullivan keeps himself busy working his job, hitting the gym, and dating the right girl for the right amount of time. He loves romance. He loves treating a woman right. Until he has a chance encounter with Taylor Grant. Taylor escaped Georgia to flee a broken relationship. Her convictions to stay single, stay away from men and give up sex altogether will be challenged when the mischievous Jason gets her in his cross hairs. 

Jason’s seductions are not only in his romances, but also in his job. When a meeting with a new client brings Jason's human past forefront, secrets and regrets come crashing down around him. He will turn not only to the new lady in his life, but to his ‘brothers’—Travis, Ian, Quinn and Evan—who will unite as an unstoppable force that not even one greedy, vindictive hag can expect.

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle     
Amazon Paperback     iBooks     B&N     Kobo     inktera     Scribd

Love it and totally agree, Jacqui! Writers write. That totally sums it up!
How about you? Where do you stand on the Hope Journey?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Why Romance?

I was asked the other day (by another writer) why I bother to write Romance.


I usually ignore dismissive attitudes. Life is short and precious, and I don't like to waste any of it on ugly feelings.

This time, however, it was a direct question and merited a response.

Life can be very, very hard. To prove it, spend about ten minutes on local or national news broadcasts. The world can be full of pain, hatred, cruelty, and prejudice. As a teacher, I see the up close and personal results of some of these and I can't always make it better. That's hard.

Personally, I need something else in my fiction. We all have different ways of coping, and reading & writing help me cope with the ugliness that exists. I read a lot of genres (always have), but I've settled on writing Romance.

For me, Romance is about a lot of things.
  • Happiness
  • Self-awareness and self-belief
  • Striving for positive change
  • Trust
  • Love
  • Family
  • Honesty
  • Learning how to cope with setbacks
  • Risk-taking

And a whole lot more. But, most of all (for me), Romance is about Hope.

Hope can change a day around, change an attitude, change a future, and, yes, it can change the world. Hope is sometimes all a person has.

Romance offers that Hope. It reminds us that, with some hard work, we can achieve a Happy Ending.

So, no, I won't apologize for bothering to write Romance, or for reading it.

I won't apologize for enjoying reading and writing all kinds of other genres either. Every book I read (and every story I write) offers something different. Each one changes me a little bit, hopefully for the better.

I hope all writers and readers love the best parts of their genres the way I love the Hope that Romance brings to me.

How about you? What's the best part of your favourite genre? 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Description Woes

As some of you've heard before, I don't include a lot of description in my stories.

I'm not an especially visual person. I'm not able to see a movie in my brain of the action in my story. I'm not able to visualize faces of the characters.

I can see snippets of the setting, although sometimes its more of a map that a 3D visual. I get some scattered images of the places as well. Not many, though.

This is probably connected to the fact, that in real life, I have an incredibly difficult time recognizing people if I haven't seen them in a while. I always tell my students that they'll have to approach me in the future with their names because after a year or two, I won't have a chance of recognizing them, unless I recognize the voice. I will remember them, just not recognize them.

I know that when I say the word cat to a room full of people, some will see a cat in their head, others will hear the meow, some will see the word spelled out in front of them, a few will smell the kitty litter or the cat, another couple will have their hearts warm up because of the love they feel for their pet (or shrivel in fear if they've been attacked), and still more will feel the fur against their arm.

Our brains are fascinating and unique.

So, while I wish I could do the whole visual thing, I've learned to live with it.

It's probably why I skim over descriptive passages in writing (both mine and that of others). I can imagine that once I publish, some of the negative reviews will focus on that. Readers who crave description will give my stories a pass.

But, I can't bring myself to care what style and/or colour of shirt my heroine is wearing or what the room looks like. If it's not somehow relevant to the plot, I don't notice it.

For me, the story is about the emotion. That, I can describe pretty well.

What about you? Are you a visual person? Do you include a lot of description in your writing?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Simmering Time

I've just finished up revising a draft of a story that I think has the potential I want. It's not there yet, but it's SO much closer than it was.

It was fun going through this draft with notes from some crit buddies with specific goals in mind.

It was also fun coming across some lines/sections that made me smile. It's great when you come across something you'd forgotten about and you're able to think -- hey, that's pretty good stuff you've got there!

Now, I'll let this simmer for a bit while I do the same for another story.

How about you? Do you need that simmering time, or are you able to look at a story right away after you've done one round of revising/editing?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rachael Thomas & The Dreaded Synopsis

Please welcome Rachael Thomas back to the blog today!

Synopsis. It’s a word which can strike fear into just about every writer’s heart. How do you put everything from your story into between two and five pages? You don’t.

Wikipedia’s definition is a brief summary of the major parts of a subject or written work or story. It goes on to say ‘condensation of a work’.

What to include in a synopsis

The purpose of a synopsis is to show how your story is to go from the beginning to the end and the emotional journey or arc of your characters. It needs to show the voice or style of your book and be in the third person.
The first thing you need to do is introduce your characters and their main conflict. Then you need to show all the plot points they will encounter, their emotional journey and how they will reach their happy ever after.

Think of it in parts. I usually use five.
1. Introduce your hero.
2. Introduce your heroine.
3. Set out the story opening.
4. Show the emotional journey the characters are to go on and the main plot points which occur during that journey.
5. Set out the black moment and how this leads to the happy ever after.

What not to put in a synopsis

The synopsis is not a place to info dump the entire back story. Any important elements about a character’s past should be included in their introduction. Neither do you need every plot twist and turn or to introduce of every minor character. The synopsis is not the place to raise questions like will they ever reach their happy ever after? Keep your cliff-hangers for the story itself.

How long should a synopsis be?

The answer to this is a long as it needs to be. Check your submission details for this information, but once you have your synopsis you can either enlarge it or cut it back to suit a particular submission.

Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web:
Website         Blog        Facebook                Twitter              Goodreads

New Year at the Boss’s Bidding
Moretti's by midnight 

Jilted bride Tilly Rogers hopes her luck is changing when she's offered a prestigious catering contract for billionaire businessman Xavier Moretti's New Year's Eve party. But then she ends up snowbound alone with her boss…and at his bidding! 

It's the end of the year and the end of Tilly's contract, which leaves Xavier free to seduce her at his will. Hardly shy of a challenge, this notorious playboy makes it his resolution to have virgin Tilly crumbling by his experienced touch. 

Before the snow settles, Xavier is determined to have Tilly under a brand-new set of tantalizing terms!

Read an Excerpt

Amazon Kindle      
Amazon Paperback      B&N      Harlequin US

Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win signed copies of New Year at the Boss’s Bidding.
Thanks, Rachael!

What about you? Do you love or hate the synopsis? Any more tips to add?