Monday, September 14, 2015

Rachael Thomas & The Dilemma of Deadlines

Please welcome Rachael Thomas to the blog today!


The Dilemma of Deadlines
As a published writer, deadlines become part of the routine, but learning to work to deadlines is something that I tried to do even as I worked on my first manuscript. Why put that sort of pressure on yourself if you haven’t reached your dream of becoming a published writer yet? Because without deadlines to keep me focused, I would have been in danger of missing my goal. 
I was a member of Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme for seven years before I finally achieved my goal of publication. On this scheme I was able to submit one full manuscript for critique each year and the deadline for this submission was the end of August. With enrolment onto the scheme opening at the beginning of the year, this gave me my ‘final’ deadline. Into the eight months leading up to that deadline I set myself ‘mini’ deadlines, such as, to be half way through the story by a certain time. Then I calculated how many words I would need to write each day or week to achieve first the mini deadline, then the final deadline. 
I firmly believe that the sooner you condition yourself to working to deadlines, the easier everything will be when you achieve your dream of publication. Once you get over the excitement of having a book published, deadlines will become a normal part of your writing calendar and if you don’t meet them, you will be letting down a lot of people waiting on your book to fill their schedule.
My tips for working to deadlines.

  1. Make them achievable. It’s no good setting yourself a target of two thousand words a day if your daily life is not going to allow you to reach that target and believe me, when I say that continually not meeting your daily target will make you miserable and knock you right off course.
  2. Don’t become distracted. Your writing is important, so give yourself the time you deserve in which to write. Carve out a set time each day or week for that purpose, even if it’s as little as half an hour a day. The words you write in that half an hour will soon build up.
  3. Don’t be intimidated. You’ve worked hard for weeks or months and the final deadline is in sight and it’s very easy to become intimidated by it. That is the point when anything, and I mean anything, usually becomes more appealing than writing, no matter how much you want to meet your deadline. This is the point I tell myself I will write for just ten minutes then go and tackle the ironing or mop the floor, but usually find that the enforced ten minutes is enough to stem the need to be a domestic goddess and focus on my story.
  4. Enjoy writing. Whatever scheduling you decide to use to reach your final deadline, always make it realistic and ensure it doesn’t put so much pressure on you that you lose the fun and enjoyment of writing. After all, that’s why we do it.
Rachael Thomas Bio
I grew up in the Midlands, but when I moved to Wales, over twenty years ago, I found a place to finally put down roots. I married into a farming family and embarked on a massive learning curve which also saw me learning Welsh when my two children were small.
Writing is something I have always wanted to do and I can still remember the thrill of one of my short stories being held up as an example to the class when I was about nine. It wasn’t until my own children were in school that I seriously started to pursue my dream. I joined a local writing group which met every Monday afternoon and being with like-minded people was the boost I needed.

Reading romance had always been my first love, and just about every short story I wrote was romance, so I decided to write my first book. During that process I also attended my first weekend writing course with Kate Walker and joined the RNA’s fabulous New Writers’ Scheme. A short time later I joined Romance Writers of Australia and learnt a lot from entering their competitions. I sought out courses and you can imagine my joy when I discovered Sharon Kendrick’s course in beautiful Tuscany.

Behind the Scandalous Façade, my So You Think You Can Write entry, is my thirteenth book and although only eight have those magic words ‘the end’ written on them the others are definitely part of the learning process I have enjoyed over the last six years.

I love escaping to distant shores with my characters, entering their glamorous world and feeling all the emotions they experience as they discover their love for one another. A love so strong it will overcome all obstacles eventually, leading to that promised happy ever after.

Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web:
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One Night To Wife

A souvenir from her Greek affair! 

Mogul Nikos Petrakis is on the verge of a deal that will make him even more powerful. He doesn't need any distraction—especially not a sexy redhead whose curves beg to be touched! But now that she's carrying his heir, Nikos is forced to make a decision.

It's time to make Serena his wife!

When one night…leads to pregnancy!

Amazon Kindle

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Harlequin US

Three months ago, journalist Serena James had her heart broken by a man she'll never forget, especially not the fury in his eyes the night they parted. Now she's back in Santorini to tell him that their summer fling had unexpected repercussions…
Great advice! It's amazing how appealing cleaning the bathroom can be when we're trying to avoid a tough scene!! Any more deadline tips to share???

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Twittequette Rant

Today I'm over at From The Write Angle, ranting talking about some Twittequette Tips regarding DMs on Twitter. I hope you'll pop on over and join the conversation!

I don't rant very often, but this topic is one of my personal pet peeves.

Make me feel better about the rant, what's one thing that drives you batty and you'd like to rant about?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Home Run Books

Last day of August - how did that happen?????

I've spent part of my summer organizing my classroom library in my new classroom. So much fun! I've got a lot of books - I've had my students do a math activity every year estimating how many books are in my library. Conservative estimates put it over well over 5000 books. It's a very crowded room.

I've got the books organized into buckets - divided into fiction & nonfiction, then by topic, genre, reading level within the genre, authors and more. I always have a few students who volunteer to help me keep it organized over the year. Couldn't do it without them!

One of the best parts of my job (special education resource teacher) is helping kids find those 'home run' books - books that turn them into readers. I love 'touring' new kids around my library and showing them possibilities. I generally send them away with a handful for them to try out. Often, we'll read the first bits together and see which ones excite them.

Once they know how to find books that are at their level and are about things they're interested in, they dive right in. Then, before long, they start expanding those tastes and trying new things. Having the power to choose and the time to explore is often a key to reading success.

Do you remember one of your 'home run' books? One of the first books that turned you into a reader? I think one of my first was the Encyclopedia Brown series, then Nancy Drew & the Boys. I still like mysteries now!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wrong Story

Summers are generally a time when I can really dig in and savour my writing time. I usually have full hours at a time that I can devote to my craft and my stories. This summer, however, has been extraordinarily full with far too many things to count. Which I though explained why my writing was going so slowly.

Apparently not.

Today, I decided to put aside the rewrite I've been struggling with and work on a different story that's been marinating for a while - a NaNo draft from last year. A story that is set in the same world as the Struggling Story. One that should happen after Struggling Story.

Apparently not.

I pulled up the story, and, as per my usual method lately, thought through the story without actually looking at more than scene titles, then wrote the first chapter out.

The first 3k flew out of my fingers. Not slowly, not grudgingly, not painfully.

So, instead of my crazy life killing my creativity, I've realized I've simply been working on the wrong story.

Struggling Story will go back in the stew pot and simmer for a while longer while my subconscious works away with it, and I'll focus on this draft that feels right.

How about you? Ever realize you're working on the wrong story?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eliza Redgold & Critique Partners

Please welcome Eliza Redgold to the blog today!


I’ve been asked to write about my writing craft on my journey to publication and whether I work with a critique partner. I sure do! In fact, I’ve invited her to share this post!

Eliza Redgold: 
I have two critiquing processes. I’m part of a critique group with four other writers. We meet monthly
(with tea and cakes) to read and review a couple of chapters of each of our current works in progress. The Wordwrights group includes Janet Woods, Deb Bennetto, Karen Saayman and Carol Hoggart. They’re all very different writers. Janet is a multi-published and well-known English saga writer, Karen writes suspense, Deb writes romance and Carol is currently working on historical fiction (along with her PhD).  They saw the manuscript for NAKED in various stages of undress. I always appreciate their feedback, even when it is tough love.

I also have the most amazing critique partner, romance author Jenny Schwartz. We met at an authors’ lunch and I knew we’d be friends when she laughed at a rather risqué joke I made. Jenny reads the full manuscript when it’s done. She’s got an enviable eye for detail and plots brilliantly, but what I appreciate most is that she’s a woman of integrity. She has values she lives and writes by.  My characters are always better people but the time Jenny has finished with them!

Having someone else read your work is only part of the journey. For me, reading other writers’ work and thinking about it deeply helps to hone the craft. Most importantly, it offers friendship and company along the way. Ain’t that what it’s all about?

Jenny Schwartz:
Eliza’s jokes are funny. People at our favourite beach café must wonder what the heck we’re talking about, we’re laughing so much. Sorry, guys, it’s work. We swear, it’s work! But writing – or rather, talking about writing and the fast-changing world of publishing – is fun when you’re chatting with a kindred soul.

I can’t tell you how much Eliza has improved my writing, especially my plotting. I now have an invisible Eliza who bursts out of the cupboard in my study to haunt me when I fall into plotting errors. I have entire (imaginary) conversations with her before, grumbling and muttering, I take her advice and my plot problems miraculously solve themselves.
That’s how important a good critique partner is – they show you your weaknesses and your strengths and help you to work on both. 

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. She writes historical fiction (St Martin’s Press) and romance (Harlequin).

“NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva” will be released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in July 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin (MIRA) Australia and Escape Publishing. They include Black Diamonds, Hide and Seek and Wild Flower (2015 release). Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical (London) for two upcoming Victorian historical romances. Look out for them! She is represented by Joelle Delbourgo Associates US.

Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

By day a mild-mannered university lecturer with a PhD, by night she is a wild-mannered writer of historical fiction and romances. “Writing makes me braver. It has inspired adventures (and misadventures!) in travel, nature, art, literature and even gastronomy. I hope my books will inspire you too! They’re for people who love a good story, but want to discover new things. They also feature adventurous heroines who are prepared to take risks in life and love. Though in life and in love, of course, things never go quite as planned …”

Eliza Redgold on the web:
Website             Facebook      Twitter      Author Page

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva
We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry,Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Read Reader Reviews

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A Kindle copy giveaway of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva to one commenter!
Thanks Eliza!!
I totally agree - critique partners are worth their weight in gold and chocolate! How about you? Want to give them a shout out in the comments?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Verbs

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about verbs and their power in the querying process.

Verbs are equally powerful in our stories. We did exactly 2 creative writing activities when I was in school. Both of these Grade 6 assignments without any teaching about what worked and didn't work in fiction. (Yes, that means I did exactly 0 creative writing in school from kindergarten until my final year of university.)

We did diagram far too many sentences, so I least I knew my parts of speech. And I knew what nouns and verbs were. I also knew that all the sentences we diagrammed were chock full of adverbs and adjectives (the better to diagram with, my dear). Therefore, my 2 assignments were equally full of adverbs and adjectives.

Which meant weak verbs.


Anyway, over at From the Write Angle, I've included the first few verbs of the query I used several years ago (haven't queried since, still working on improving the craft!).

Thought I'd try the same here, using the story I'm currently revising. First few verbs:


(Past tense verbs sound odd when strung together!)
Putting the list together makes me think I need another round of revising/editing here. While the verbs aren't bad, they don't give a great sense of the story. Hmmm, off to do some thinking!

What about you? Willing to share your first couple of verbs?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jacqui Jacoby & Research

Please welcome Jacqui Jacoby to the blog today!


Research, the Sauce of the Story

I have a movie I like a lot.  It came out in 2009, a sequel to its predecessor.  But in this movie one of the characters, of Mexican heritage, says while in a fight scene “Tabasco sauce? Who else but us would think up that stuff?”(paraphrase)
Love the director.  Love the actors.  
However, a quick Google search of twenty seconds reveals:

“Tabasco Sauce was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a Maryland-born former banker who moved to Louisiana around 1840.”**

Love the movie still, but that line always annoys me.  And someone should have checked it.
Research is what we do to give depth to the books we are writing.  We may know the hero’s hair is blond and his eyes are brown, but it takes more to make him come alive and bounce off the page.
He needs hobbies, he needs a job.  Somewhere along the line before he hit page one, he was born, giving him two parents, maybe a sibling.  Did he get his love Golden Retrievers from that his family had?  
How about, how does he like his coffee?
I always need to know how my characters like their coffee. I think it gives them personality.  The tough hero? Black?  Or three sugars and cream? Very telling.
In 1986 I was at UCLA using The Young Library catalog card system to check out every fact I had to check.  That library had a lot floors and a dime for every copy at one of the strategically placed photocopy machines.  
Now we have Google and I hear a browser history of where we go on our research trips. In writing DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME, I was all over the board.  I had a large cast of characters with varying skills and interests.  One day I literally had to find a wedding dress for the heroine,  the Italian pronunciation of “My Beautiful”, learn how to make how to make a Sapphire Martini, build a detonator to explode the gas line and find the best method used to  cut a man’s throat--is it right to left if you come up behind or left to right?
(I’ve often wondered what my NSA guy is thinking as he reads my latest list of searches)
Print what you find online and put it in a note book under the proper heading.  Photocopy what you get out of books.  It you watch it, and I do use movies to get the feel of something (i.e. Young Guns for a western) take notes of what stands out.  Write everything down that is important to your novel.  Make sure you have a method to retrieve the information you locate because I can promise you, when you get to page 300 in the book after five months of work, you might not remember how that gun operated.
Fiction is our imagination coming to life on the page.  Though the story is made up, a lot of what we put into won’t be.  Look hard for that one piece of fact that will blend into the worlds we build … and stay away from Tabasco Sauce.

** June 23, 2015, from Sauce
Award-winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. She is the owner of Body Count Productions, Inc, which keeps her career moving. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years, she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings the strength she learned from the discipline to her characters. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction.

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With a Vengeance


Dead Men Play The Game
Magic Man

Dead Men Seal the Deal

Dead Men Feel the Heat

Dead Men Heal Slowly
DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME: For a hundred years Ian Stuart has fought against the monster controlling his life, living as a human among humans with his four friends: Travis, Jason, Quinn and Evan. He wanted his personal loneliness to go away. Detective Ashley Barrow is working the worst murder case in Davenport, Oregon's history. She wants a drink, she wants some quiet and she walks in to sit on the stool in Ian Stuart’s pub.
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Thanks Jacqui! Research is SO important because of those little details that irk. I've used my Twitter buddies multiple times to check facts on regional details too (especially vocabulary!).
How about you? Any incorrect facts in movies or books that bug you?