Monday, May 16, 2016

Misha Gericke & Writing Advice

Please welcome my good blog buddy Misha Gericke to the blog today!
***
About writing advice…

I like sharing writing advice, especially with new writers who are still finding their way. But when I know the writer asking for advice is very new, the best thing I (and any other experienced writer) can do for them is not to tell them how to write. 

Yes, I know. It’s so very tempting to want to make things easier for the new kid. I mean, we’re all a nice bunch of people. And we all remember (and still experience) the pain of having to find our way through our writing. 

But here’s the thing. “How do I write?” has about a million very complicated answers—all of which contradicting others in at least one way. The reason is simple. If a new writer asks “How do I write?” your answer will invariably be about how you write. 

So the safest answer to “How do I write?” would be: “I haven’t the foggiest.” 

As such, I have taken to advising new writers along the following lines: 

Find out what works for you. If plotting bores you, don’t plot. If pantsing gets you stuck and you hate that feeling, don’t pants. If you find yourself feeling trapped because you just want to get to the scene that inspired you, don’t write the story chronologically. If you feel writing chronologically helps you stay focused, then do it. If you feel like you keep killing your story because you’re editing too much too soon, find a way to prevent yourself from editing until the draft is done. Like… Whatever, man. 

There is no right or wrong way to write a book. The right way for each writer is whatever way that gets the project done. If that means that writer needs to stand on their head as they write, then so be it. 

But I think it’s absolutely wrong of writers (no matter how well-meaning they are) to act as if their way is the only one to succeed. So let’s see about stopping that trend, shall we? 


What’s the weirdest part to your writing method? (Mine is to write all rough drafts by pen.) 

***
About the Book

First, do no harm.” Blake Ryan swore that oath to become a doctor. Ironic, given that he spent most of his thousand year life sucking souls out of other immortals.

Things are different now. Using regular shots of morphine to keep his inner monster at bay, Ryan has led a quiet life since the Second World War. His thrills now come from saving lives, not taking them.

Until a plane crash brings Aleria into his hospital. Her life is vibrant. Crack to predators like him. She’s the exact sort of person they would hunt, and thanks to a severe case of amnesia, she’s all but defenseless.

Leaving Aleria vulnerable isn’t an option, but protecting her means unleashing his own inner monster. Which is a problem, because his inner monster wants her dead most of all.


About the Author

Misha Gerrick lives near Cape Town, South Africa, and can usually be found staring at her surroundings while figuring out her next book.

If you’d like to see what Misha’s up to at the moment, you can find her on these social networks:



Excerpt

This had to be what dying felt like. Floating outside my body, waiting for that final link to my life to be severed, only vaguely aware of indescribable pain. More screams than I could count rose up around me. Hundreds of footsteps beat against tiles. I couldn’t open my eyes if I wanted to. Not when it was easier to listen and wait. People shouted for a doctor or an IV, or a thousand other things that made no sense. I listened to all the chaos, trying to untangle it in my thoughts.

Soon, I could go. The peace around me was so relaxing, completely out of place in the clamor I heard. I wanted it. To rest forever in that peace. Why not? There was a very good reason, but I couldn’t call it to mind.

A numb buzz shot through my body and shattered my serenity.

It happened again. Only this time was more of a sharp pulse. The third time jolted like lightning. The fourth…Hell. Suddenly, the screams were coming from me. My heart’s relentless thundering added to my torment.

Pain.

Everywhere.

My chest burned like fire. It hurt to breathe. Cold air drove down my throat and into my lungs, amplifying the inferno in my chest. My skin felt scorched. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t right.

I had to see. I had to understand why pain dominated my existence like this. My eyes were fused shut. My breaths grew shallow, trying
to draw air when there was none. I tried to clench my teeth. I bit hard plastic. A pipe. Cold air suddenly forced back into my lungs, out of time with my own breathing. This was wrong. It wasn’t safe. I had to see. The best I got was a little fluttering of my lashes.

A high-pitched beep shot through my head. It repeated again and again. I wanted to reach over and slam my fist into its source. My arm wouldn’t lift. Something kept it trapped. A scream rose up from the depths of my soul, but the pipe jammed inside my throat stifled the sound. I only managed a whimper, trying my best not to gag. More air blasted into my lungs against my will. What was going on? I was trapped in my own body, but why?

I needed to move. I had to move. Now. Before… Even… Even though… Panic gripped me. The beeps increased at a frenetic pace. I needed to move. To be gone. Didn’t matter where. Just not here. Not defenseless. Not trapped.

The air sucked out of my lungs. I gasped, choking on nothing, strangled by invisible fingers. I tried to convulse my body. To twist myself free of what’s holding me.

Nothing.

The air rushed back in a cold flood. Seconds later it left, only to return in the same amount of time.

There was a rhythm to the air. In… out... in… out… The breaths were slow—sleep-like. I concentrated on this rhythm, striving to clear my head. If I wanted out, I needed to think. Calmly. Clearly. Eventually, those irritating beeps slowed. I tried to focus past the sound.

Voices buzzed about me, adding to my need to see, to do something to protect myself. No one seemed to pay attention to me. Good. I could use that to my advantage. 

I centered my every thought on moving my little finger. It finally jerked, but collided against something solid. So the thing trapping my arm was physical and too heavy for me to lift. It was better to be trapped than paralyzed. With luck I could escape my restraints. I tried my other hand, but it was cemented stuck as well. Right leg. Left leg. Damn it! Both trapped. I had to move!

No.

No, I needed to stay calm. I tried to make larger movements, biting the pipe in my mouth against the urge to scream in pain. There was no wiggle room.

Fearing that I might be blindfolded, I focused on blinking. It worked. My eyes opened and the blur faded, revealing ceiling tiles. Why would there be tiles? Where was the canvas of hospital tents? The distant sounds of bombs dropping? The power of their explosions rushing through my blood?

No. That wasn’t right. I wasn’t there.

Where was I, then?

***
Can't wait Misha!!!

What about you? What's your favourite (or least favourite) piece of writing advice?
I always roll my eyes when I read the "Thou Must" lists. I've never followed a regular pattern in anything else in life, why should writing be any different?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rachael Thomas & Backstory

Please welcome Rachael Thomas back to the blog today!
***
Digging Deep Into Your Characters Backstory.

One of the first things to ask yourself when creating your characters is what’s their backstory? What happened to them before they arrived on your page? You need to know all there is to know about them in as much detail as you can. Why? Your character’s past will have shaped the person they are now as you begin to write. It will determine how they react to situation that will arise within your story and also the person they will be as you write the final chapter.

Each and every one of us will have experienced situations through our lives which have changed who we are and it needs to be the same for your characters. These can be good or bad experiences, but both will have an effect on your character.

Maybe your character is afraid of heights, the dark or thunder storms. What you need to know as the writer and creator of that character is, why? You need to delve deep into their past and find out everything. Once you are armed with this information you know exactly how your character will react when confronted with going to the top of one of the city’s tallest buildings, or being lost in the woods on a dark night when not even the moon is shining. By knowing every little detail about that past experience your character will react in a way that is real and convincing to the reader. They will come alive on the page.

As your character progresses through your story he or she will come up against things which challenge them. They will face fears which will have held them back and this in turn will change them, allowing them to grow and change as they progress through the story, so that by the end they have faced and conquered fears and become a stronger, better person.

It will be the same with good events in their lives. Your character may associate certain places with good memories or people they’ve loved or shared happy times with. Events in your story which threaten such memories, people or places they associate with happy times, it will give your character room to grow and show the reader who they are now.

So, you have your hero and heroine, you’ve named them, but how do you find out all this information to create their backstory?

For me it is a gradual process and one I do in the planning stage of my books. I have sheets with questions that are designed to create more questions and yet more questions. Gradually their past begins to show itself. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but in order to create real and believable characters you must know who they were before they appeared on your page.

However, it is important to remember the backstory isn’t the main story. It mustn’t be allowed to overpower the story you want to write. Neither must it be dumped on the reader in big doses. It should be weaved into the main story, giving the reader tantalising insights into what made the characters they are now.

Happy Writing!
***
Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web:
Website         Blog         Facebook           Twitter          Goodreads

The Sheikh’s Last Mistress Promoted to Princess! 

Destiny Richards knows she is playing with fire when she accepts charismatic Sheikh Zafir Al Asmari's job offer, but it seems like a fair price to pay to start her life over again. Until the temperature reaches the boiling point and Destiny finds herself spending one out-of-this-world night with the sheikh!  When powerful Zafir seduces English rose Destiny, he never anticipates she'll hold the title of his Last Mistress. But their scorching affair has shocking repercussions. Now, before their nine months are up, Zafir must convince Destiny to make their arrangement more permanent!

Read Reader Reviews 

Buy Links:
Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback     M&B UK
     M&B Aust     Harlequin US     B&N

 Goodreads Giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sheikh's Last Mistress by Rachael Thomas

The Sheikh's Last Mistress

by Rachael Thomas

Giveaway ends May 31, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

***
Thanks Rachael!
The first novel I wrote had a prologue AND at least twenty pages of backstory before the story finally started!! Boy, I've learned a lot since then!

How about you? Any more hints for backstory? Any horror stories like mine?

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


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. 
Never. 
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:

Website
           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.

Bother?

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?