Posted in Family life, First Friday Five, For Writers, Lists, parenting, tween

First Friday Five: Writing Tween Girls

You can get Valentine’s tips anywhere, so rather than celebrating romance with my First Friday Five, I’m sharing

Five flaws an editor would point out you wrote a tween girl as they actually are.

  1. “This character is inconsistent. One minute she’s likable, the next she’s bat-shit crazy.”
  2. “Your character needs a clear goal, not the vague desire the world is against her.”
  3. “She lacks proper motivation.”
  4. “The conflict is too scatter-shot. Focus. Giving a more concrete goal and motivation will help.”
  5. “I found three variations on “eyeroll” and counted 812 incidents in the manuscript. Avoid repetition.”

Let your inner editor free in the comment section. I’d love to know what you think.

Posted in Books, For Writers, Writing

Tamara Hughes’ Writing Process.

I’m turning my blog over to Tamara Hughes today to give her a place to share her writing process.

onceuponamasqueradeTamara Hughes is the author of Once Upon a Masquerade, a Victorian murder mystery romance set in New York City. She lives in Minnesota with her two kids and hubby. When she’s not reading or writing romance, she’s watching romantic movies and TV shows, playing poker, or cooking. (Oh, and spending time with her family. Yes, that too. Ha.)  Visit Tamara at  www.tamarahughes.com

“Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Lola! I love talking about romance books and writing so this should be a lot of fun!

1)     What am I working on? – I’ve recently signed a contract with Entangled Publishing for a three book series with a pirate theme. While the first one is done, I’m working away on the second story and having a great time. Argh. Pirates be so much fun.

This story, tentatively titled Beauty’s Curse, involves a brooding pirate who plays the violin and his attempts to protect a woman who’s nice as can be but a whole lot of trouble. Bad luck seems to follow her wherever she goes.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre? I like unique settings for my historicals (this one begins on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean and ends in the Bahamas). I also loved heroines who are imperfect. Usually they’re a bit clumsy or silly, maybe gullible. I suppose I just relate better to these types of women. Overall, my stories are fast-paced adventures.

 While my paranormal romances aren’t published yet, they all have very unique paranormal people in them. I try to come up with twists on what’s out there or something altogether new.

3)     Why do I write what I do? I love exploring ideas I’m not already familiar with. Historicals have built-in elements I can play with. For any given time or place, there are different rules of etiquette, interesting clothing, and the way a man and woman interact with one another… It’s almost like a dance. I find it very interesting. Men of the past were also more protective and chivalrous, which is so romantic.

 As for my paranormals, I think my reasoning is the same. I can make up a new species of being and explore who they are and what makes them special. Do they interact with humans? And if so, how does that dynamic work? I love thinking through all of this stuff.

4)     How does your writing process work? My process seems to change with each book, but as it stands right now, I start out with a basic premise or idea. I open a new document and I play with where this story could go. When I feel like I have enough to build on, I cast my characters. Basically, I Google images and try to imagine what these people might look like. Then I create a character sketch for each main character. This is a list of questions that range from what their internal and external issues are to what they like to eat and what type of clothes they like to wear.

 From there I attempt to plot the book in an outline form, incorporating the external plot, resolving internal issues, and of course the progression of the relationship. Once this is done, I attempt to write the book. Lately, I’ve been writing a “solid” first draft, meaning not junk. I really think through the scenes as I write them and try to make the wording fairly good. I have my critique partners read the chapters as I write them to let me know if I’m going in a good direction. When the first draft is done, or mostly done, I start at the beginning and edit through. I begin with my critique partners’ suggestions and any big changes I feel are needed, and work my way into the minor things like searching for overused words or phrases. Finally, I do one big read-through before I hand the manuscript to my editor.

Thanks for stopping by!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Masquerade-Entangled-Scandalous-ebook/dp/B00HP1JZNU/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/once-upon-a-masquerade-tamara-hughes/1117987586

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search/Query?q=Once+Upon+a+Masquerade

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/once-upon-a-masquerade/id792453836?mt=11

Posted in Bad Traveler, Blog Hop, Books, For Writers, On Writing, Winter Fairy, Writing

My Writing Process.

The lovely Lynn Crandell

invited me to discuss my writing process. You can find her at http://thewritewaycafe.blogspot.com/.

1) What am I working on? I’ve been doing some rewrites on a first person New Adult before sending it to the agent who expressed an interest. No names or details yet, but I’m excited for this manuscript to emerge from its chrysalis. I’m plotting a follow-up to my forthcoming release. And Bad Traveler will be available soon from Decadent Publishing. I’ve gone through several rounds of edits, but am pleased with the final product.

Winterfairycover2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? A fellow writer once described my work as “sophisticated.” The word applies to my first release, Winter Fairy, but I also try to blend highbrow and lowbrow culture and humor. Also, I’m inclined to give at least one if not both of my main characters an unusual job or hobby. I have so much fun doing research. Did you know there are professional pet food tasters?

3. Why do I write what I write? People are fascinating, especially when they interact. When I sat down to write my first book, I knew relationships would be at the core. In my first two published works, the romantic relationship takes the lead, but I’m still experimenting with genre. I love an optimistic ending. I hope my readers do too. When life seems overwhelming (the cat’s sick, the toilet flooded and the hubs has to work late again), laughter and hope between the pages of a book can be a lifeline to sanity.

4. How does my writing process work? Slowly. My process evolves with every IMG_0477book. In my first manuscript, I struggled with character consistency. I’ve tried fill-in-the-blank sheets for characterization, but this last time I tried using a bubble-idea chart. I love the organic nature of it. I identify the GMC for major plot points before I begin writing, but I allow fluidity in how I get there. I also tend to hand write my first drafts. The motion of the pen on paper helps me focus. It probably slows me down because of the duplicate writing time, but I find I don’t obsess over the little squiggly lines on the computer screen.

Want to read the results?  Winter Fairy is available now at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble , Google Books and more.

Sign up for my newsletter or follow this blog to find out the release date for Bad Traveler.

I have tagged three wonderful writers, Jenna Jaxon, Karen Y. Bynum and Tamara Hughes to continue the fun. Since Tamara does not have a blog (yet), I’m hosting her answers next Monday. See you then!

Posted in Conference, For Writers, On Writing, Reading, South, Writing

RWA13

RWA13 in Atlanta was a wonderful experience.  I find I learn so much in the company of other writers, and not just in the formal workshops.  In case you couldn’t attend, here are 13 things  I learned at RWA13.

1.  Romance readers are generous and passionate about good books.  I worked as Cashier at the Literacy Signing.  One woman drove across two states to get to the signing.  She had more books than she could hold and her husband rounded to the closest hundred to benefit literacy programs.  I don’t know her name, but she is why we write.

2.  The publishing industry is in flux.  As more authors take charge of their own career, publishing houses and agents need authors more than authors need the traditional publishing world.  It’s a scary but exciting time.  As the author you are more empowered if you take the time to figure out what you and your rights are worth.  (Discussion with Dorien Kelly and Courney Milan)

3. Independent press does not necessarily mean small press. (Indie press panel)

4. A great hook taps into the reader’s curiosity and gets at a deep emotional response (from Elizabeth Boyle)

5. Publishing a book is not a solitary activity.  It takes a team. (from Simone Elkeles)

6. Don’t be afraid to ask a question of authority. The powers that be may not want to answer the question, but you’ll never get an answer unless you try.

7. Interested in trying a stand up desk?  Before you spend $1,500 on a fancy work station, try the ironing board.  I always wondered what those things were for…..  (from Bruce Kelly, CIH,CSP)

8. A workshop on finances may not sound exciting, but Laura Alford, Diane Kelly and Donna MacMeans made taxes and record keeping a conference highlight.

9. Michael Hauge is an amazing public speaker.   The goal of any story-teller is to solicit an emotional response in the reader.

10. If there is an open chair at your lunch table, you might make a new friend.

11. The best presenters were the most prepared and organized speakers.

12. We need more euphemisms for “lady parts.”  (Stephanie Doyle, Elizabeth Hoyt and Molly O’Keefe)

13. When you get over two thousand writers in one place, the energy is amazing.  I’m fortunate to be part of this terrific writing community and I can’t wait until San Antonio #RWA14

Did you go to the conference?  What stood out for you?

Posted in Conference, Food, For Writers, South

Atlanta bound

I love Atlanta.  In a matter of days, the Romance Writers of America national conference will take over part of downtown and I’ll be there.   To celebrate here are five things I love about the town I once called home.

1. Excellent BBQ – leading to the lesson the scarier the building, the better the Q.

2. Pandas at Zoo Atlanta – cute overload.

3. The Georgia Aquarium – to see a whale shark swimming overhead is simply amazing.

4. Terrific people who keep up a smile in spite of high heat.

5. People watching in Olympic Park.

And one thing I don’t miss about Atlanta – the traffic!

I’ll be a cashier at the Readers for Life literacy signing open to the public Weds. July 17th from 5:30-7:30.  Stop by and say Hi.

Posted in Family life, For Writers, Writing

taking risks

With the stop of his foot and shake of his head, the five-year old boy let it be known that under no circumstances would he climb up a flight of steps and plunge into the unknown.  His sister was insane and his mom utterly misguided in her coos of “it will be fun. I promise.”  How would she know? Her swimsuit wasn’t even wet.  He narrowed his eyes but they persisted. There was only one way to stop the harassment.  Grudgingly, he climbed the steps.  The lifeguard instructed him how to sit, feet first, flowered swim trunks resting against the slide.  His sister nudged his back, repeating his mother’s foolish words. 

 Then the world went crazy.  At speeds previously unattainable on a slide he flew around the curve going down, down, down until a wall of water slowed his progress.  Mommy stood at the bottom, camera almost blocking the huge smile on her face.  He offered a quick glance.  She wanted a high-five, but he had only one thing on his mind.  Again.

A recent trip to the self-proclaimed “Water Park Capital of the U.S.” (in other words, Wisconsin Dells) got me thinking about risk.  My children approach risk in different ways.  My son sometimes needs encouragement to stretch beyond his comfort zone.  Usually, he needs someone he trusts to go first, to prove to him it is safe.  When possible, he wants to be with someone (usually me) when he encounters the unfamiliar.

My daughter, age 9, is bolder.  Some of it may be age, but I suspect her temperament also plays a role.  She likes encountering the new and unfamiliar, but rather than jumping in immediately, she assesses the risk first.  Sometimes she talks me through her mental process, weighing the potential dangers against potential thrills.  She decided the nearly vertical water slide was too “intense” for her at this age, but it looked fun for others.  When I told her one water slide for two was entirely in the dark, she grabbed my hand, pulling me forward as she shouted “Let’s go.”

I’d been hesitant to go the two person tube slide.  I’m not crazy about enclosed spaces, but for her, I took the risk.  We gasped in surprise and laughed our way to the bottom where we spoke the same word.  “Again?”

We may motivate ourselves in different ways, but ultimately, I’m glad we all took some risks.  Many of my favorite memories and experience came only after stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Writing is a risky endeavor.  I put my heart and mind into a story.  I give myself a nudge at the top of the slide each and every time I hit send on a manuscript.  It would be easy to become afraid, to consider each rejection a mouthful of water or painful chlorine eyes.  Instead, I smile and say “Again.”  Or better yet, I look around and plot my next adventure.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker?  I’d love to know about a time a risk paid off for you.

Posted in Crimson Romance, Family life, For Writers, Giveaway, South

How do you say it?

According to my husband, I mispronounce “Caramel” and “Crayon.”  Thanks to Joshua Katz, Department of Statistics, NC State University, I’m vindicated.

I love maps as a visual way to display information. This set of maps, devoted to the way Americans stubbornly refuse to speak the same language, is fascinating.  I found them at Business Insider. If you haven’t seen them yet, grab a soda, pop or coke and have fun clicking through our linguistic diversity.

Thinking of fun, have you stopped by the Crimson Romance A Year in Love Anniversary blog hop?  From now through June 25th, you can enter to win one of two $50 gift cards on my site and other participating authors.

Seven of us even co-wrote a short story for you that starts here. You’re welcome.

Posted in Career Day, For Writers, Writing

Career Day

My daughter’s school included me as a Career Day presenter and what a wonderful opportunity it was.  A romance writer may not seem the most logical choice to talk to third, fourth, and fifth graders, but I spoke to three standing-room-only crowds of children curious about books.  What a rush.

The school requested we bring tools of trade, wear our uniform and discuss what skills we learned in school that help in our profession.  I wore shoes today, so I wasn’t in uniform, but I brought my trusty lap-top and a fine selection of books.

I asked the children what they thought I did.  In all three presentations, they guessed I researched and wrote.  Then I told them how much I edit.  I held up pages bleeding red ink.   I saw lots of wide eyes.   Hopefully, they will remember to edit their own work.  I mentioned querying, the act of hearing no many times before hearing yes.

We discussed the skills a writer needs.  In every group, several students said writers have to be creative.  I disagree to a certain extent.  I think it is more important to have a curious mind.  The writer’s creativity comes through in different ways to answer the questions of why, what if and why not.

I was surprised to learn that by fifth grade the students are learning about the author’s voice, but diagraming sentences is not part of the curriculum.  They knew about plot and conflict, but not traditional grammar.   I strongly suspect the future will hold many jobs for editors willing to whip young writers into shape.

The number of students who liked to write in their spare time encouraged me.  Some were on their fourth or fifth book already. Others worried about writer’s block.  A few wondered if I had free books to pass out to the class.

All in all, I enjoyed answering the variety of questions they posed.  For all of the gloom and doom that future generations won’t want to read, the enthusiastic children brought me hope.  I already have ideas how I can improve my presentation if I’m invited back again and I hope I will.  I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many creative and curious minds.   To the kids I say, keep up the good work, be persistent and I can’t wait to put your books on my reading list.

Posted in Conference, For Writers, Giveaway, Winter Fairy, Writing

What’s your Swag?

I consider myself a connoisseur of swag.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t love free? As a reader, getting a free book makes my day and I can’t remember the last time I bought a pen.

All of this has made me a bit picky.  If you offer me a cheap ball point stick pen with a cap, I won’t pick it up. If you offer me a smooth writing gel pen, I’ll look at your logo every time I need to scribble out a shopping list or sign something for my kids’ school.  At some point, I’ll pause say “this is good” and check out your website or product.  I will develop a favorable opinion of you and your brand.

As a newbie author with only Winter Fairy to my name, I cannot afford to spend a lot of money.  I’m not a New York Time’s best seller like Cathy Maxwell, who gives out the best swag.  Between kitchen utensils and a tote bag, Cathy is on my mind everyday.  That cheap stick pen from an aspiring author or  multi-published author? It’s in the trash heap.

So how do you find good swag? Here are some questions I used to evaluate potential giveaways:

1.     Is it memorable?  To me – this is the big one.

2.    It is useful?  You want your giveaway to be used, not languish in a drawer.

3.     Is the quality acceptable?  I have yet to find a seller of promotional items unwilling to send a sample item. If you don’t like the quality, don’t buy it., even if the cost is low.

4.     Does the item fit logically with my brand?  I considered Emery boards at one point, but none of my books are set in nail salons. Likewise, a jar opener in the shape of a cowboy boot would be out of place for my midwestern books, but perfect for someone who sets their books in Texas.

5.    Is the item affordable?  Remember to add artwork and shipping costs.

6.     Where will I store this item?  500 bookmarks don’t take up much space.  A box of 500 water bottles will.

7.      Where will I distribute this item?

8.     What is my branding goal?

At this point, I don’t know whether my sticky flags have led anyone to purchase my book.  I am certain they are being used by the recipients and developing my brand.  As more books come out, I’ll expand my swag options and when I reach Cathy Maxwell’s level of success, y’all will come running for what ever I’m giving for free.

So tell me, what’s the best swag you’ve received?