Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Dreaded Research

Jennifer is starting a new series...

Research.

It’s the reason I don’t write historical romance, even though that’s my favorite genre to read. The research scares me. While I’m an intelligent human being, the amount of research necessary to accurately portray the appropriate time period, while also keeping the language accessible so as not to pull the reader out of the story, is daunting. And then there are the reviewers, who will be quick to point out that a certain cravat knot wasn’t fashionable or known for another two years after the time in which the story is written. Writers need thick skins, but I just can’t do it.

So I stick with contemporary romances, ostensibly to avoid some of that research. Except when I can’t.

I’m in the very early stages of writing a new series. One of the books in the series has the hero as the CEO of a cyber security firm and the heroine one of the computer programmers.

Have I mentioned I’m an English major? There’s a reason why I avoided math and science in college.

In order to correctly portray them, make their job sound legitimate and provide the secondary plot that runs through the book, I need to know a lot more about cyber security than “they work with computers.” Luckily for me, a girl I went to high school with works in that very field. Thanks to Facebook, we’ve kept in touch for years and she has generously agreed to answer my questions. So as I go through my first round of my own edits, I’m making notes about all the things I don’t know about cyber security and will put them into a hopefully coherent list of questions for her.


And then I’ll translate all of that and weave it into my manuscript in the hopes of making that part of the book realistic. Of course, all mistakes will be my own.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stormy Hawkins' Debut

Ana stands on a hard-to-reach plateau and marvels at the view. 


Twelve years ago, the idea that I needed to write a book bubbled up. The urge had been simmering for years in the recesses of my mind, but I spent every waking hour of my day either building my soup business or caring for my family. I barely had time to read, let alone write.

The urge grew more insistent. I decided I had to tag it 'important.' I took a community ed class. Ordered books. Enrolled in an online course and spent a year writing Stormy Hawkins. Sent the manuscript off to agents, sure it was ready to be published.
The form-letter rejections were blunt.

Bruised, I read more romance books, signed up for another course, and embarked on a second story. When I thought it was ready, I sent it off to publishers, stamped, self-addressed envelopes enclosed. Most never responded. Several sent back form rejection letters.

I looked around my rural community, hoping to find a supportive writing group, but romance was looked down upon. Memoirs, poetry, short stories--only those were good. If there was a romance writer out there, she was in hiding.

So I wrote essays about living on a farm and gardening columns for a local newspaper and regional magazine. I studied how-to-write-a-novel books in private and finally discovered romance writing groups on the Internet. I joined and eagerly embraced--and tried to radiate back--the warmth and generosity that I found. I joined this blog. The discipline of writing was joyful. But, despite my efforts to master the art of telling a story, I couldn't seem to get it right. Some contest feedback was encouraging; more was harshly critical. I gave up in defeat multiple times. Maybe I didn't have what it took to be a writer.

Then my primary online chapter, From the Heart Romance Writers, appeared to be low on contest entries. To support the chapter, I dusted off and re-polished the first three chapters of Stormy Hawkins. To my surprise, the entry finaled in the unpublished historical category. Then in the final round, to my complete shock, the entry won. Two publishers requested full manuscripts.

Nine months later, Stormy Hawkins is about to be released by SoulMate Publishing.
It's available for preorder now at Amazon. http://amzn.to/2wXgykQ
Free read in Kindle Unlimited.


Blade Masters has finally spotted his ideal Dakota Territory ranch, where he can live alone, forget his cheating ex-fiancée, and bury the shards of his shattered heart. All he needs to do is sweet-talk the ailing owner, and his spitfire daughter, into retiring.

If she weren’t desperate, Stormy would never hire a cowhand. She’s learned the hard way that she’s happier working her family’s ranch alone. But, the greedy banker who holds their mortgage just demanded payment in full—or her hand in marriage.

Will this handsome drifter protect her? Or does he have designs of his own?




Monday, September 4, 2017

The Editing Process

Debra is deep into edits, revisions, and rewrites.

It's been a long time since I've been so immersed in the editing process. I guess that's what happens when you haven't been writing for a long time...no words on the page equals nothing to edit. LOL

But over the summer I really dug in and committed myself to finishing the first draft of my current mss. About midway through August I got to what, then, was THE END. It felt great. After a long dry spell, to have actually completed an entire full-length (65K) word mss was nothing short of miraculous.

I really thought I'd set the mss aside for a bit, what with heading back to work I really didn't feel like I'd have time to work on it. And as I mentioned in last month's post, I was still trying to figure out what to do with it. Where I was going to submit it. Then along came my local RWA chapter's 90 Words in 90 Days Challenge. #CN90wordsfor90days For me the Challenge is doing just what it was intended to do: get my butt in a chair with my fingers on a keyboard or with pen in hand each and every day.

With the long weekend (It's the Labor Day Holiday here in the States.), no major plans, and allergies that are keeping my indoors a good deal of the time, I cranked out over 100 pages of edits since Friday night. I got to the end of the mss yesterday afternoon. I edit in hard copy, printing out a copy of the mss and putting it in a binder, always with sticky notes, highlighter, and scratch paper close at hand.

Now, most of my pages look like this:


I'm in the process of transferring all of my written notes to the computer. Along the way I'm still employing plenty of sticky notes to mark sections needing a tweak or some added research. Last night I was so pumped up and motivated to keep moving that I got through about 80 pages of transfers. Sometimes it goes quickly. Other times trying to decipher the notes written any which way in the margins is quite difficult. And, once I've added lines to various pages, the page numbers no longer match those on the computer doc, so finding my place each time isn't always easy.

I also have notes, scribbled on anything I can find lying around when an idea strikes, tucked into the front and back pockets of the binder. I'm trying to keep everything in one place.


One thing I've discovered is I need to replace the notepad next to my bed. I used the last sheet of one a couple of weeks ago and could only find a tiny pad (like we're talking two inches by three inches) in the drawer the other night. Which, I've used several times when I was desperate to not forget something that popped into my head.

I've found several places where there are some fairly major gaps in the story. This is what happens when you're a pantster and, to top it off, don't always write chronologically. So, I definitely will be doing more writing to add to the story. I've also found places where the characters' actions and reactions aren't quite 'right' for a particular scene or moment, again due that whole writing-out-of-order thing I do.

All in all, I'm having a blast with this. It's really, really nice to feel like a writer again. And for the moment, I'm keeping up with work, other projects, and writing. Hopefully that will last. I'd like to say my goal is to have this done, polished, and submitted before the end of the year. That seems like almost too much time, but I really want to make sure this one shines, so I'm going to take my time with it and not rush to get it done. Which, at this point, is really hard to have the patience to do sometimes. I keep envisioning it all done and on the shelves. Whether that's cyber or real is still yet to be known.

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or Writing or Editing),

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Importance of Support

My guest today is Carol Warham, whose debut novel was published earlier this month. She explains how important 'SUPPORT' has been to her:

I have recently had the pleasure of ‘appearing’ on a few blogs, answering questions about myself and my first novel RESOLUTIONS. Most of the questions have centred around where the idea came from and how it developed. This would be followed by a discussion about my ‘journey’ to publication.

It occurred to me that one of the main things a writer, or would-be author, really needs never entered into the questions, or not as fully as I felt it should. One of the things I recognised as most important to me was support. The support of family and friends is, of course, important and probably taken for granted at times. When we are tapping away at the keyboard late at night or at any odd times of the day, we quite possibly are forgetting those around us.

However for me the main support has come from other writers. The writing groups on social media have been invaluable. Many writers have been generous with their advice, information and suggestions. Others have supported by hosting me on their blogs and offering reviews. It is hard to describe how much this means to a new author, it has been overwhelming. You are bolstered up by a whole community, including other new writers and some very well-known ones. It is a delight to belong to such a caring and supportive group of people.

I am especially indebted to those I’m proud to call my special friends. These are the writers that I now know personally, and am able to meet up with on occasions.

They have been there for me every step of the way. They have never grumbled when I’ve distracted them from their own writing and deadlines. Every time I have sought advice, on any subject, it has been freely given. My grammar and punctuation have been corrected, and suggestions have been made to overcome lengthy sentences and ‘clunky’ passages.

Sometimes I’ve been given a kick up the proverbial, when suddenly the ironing or even cleaning the windows has looked so much more interesting than sitting at a key board.
I have been encouraged and praised during those times when I felt the whole book was totally rubbish and I was a failure as a writer. Believe me, those times came frequently. If it wasn’t for my friends, the manuscript would have been in the virtual bin many times.

Carol with Paula and Awen at 'Costa Coffee'
When I’ve been stuck as to which way to go or what was needed in taking the story forward, the suggestions have flowed into my inbox. At other times we’ve discussed them over endless cups of coffee or Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip lunches.

Without this community and certainly without my friends I would never have been in the happy position of having my first novel published, by Tirgearr.

So, would you please join me in a round of applause or raising a glass to Paula and Awen.

P.S from Paula: Coincidentally, Facebook has just informed me that it is four years today since Carol and I first became 'friends' - which is an example of how an online connection with a 'stranger' can become a very special friendship in 'real life'.   


RESOLUTIONS was published by Tirgearr Publishing on 9th August 2017. It is available as an e-book through AmazonKoboSmashwords and Nook.


Carly Mitchell returns to the small town of Yeardon in Yorkshire almost a year after running away on her wedding day. Now she wants to try to make amends with Steve, his family, and the townspeople who had prepared a huge party to celebrate her New Year’s Eve wedding.
She intends to stay only for a few days at the Resolution Hotel, owned by Steve’s parents. However, her plans change when Steve’s father is taken ill, and she feels obliged to step in and help with running the hotel. This also means having to deal with Steve’s antagonism since he has never forgiven her for humiliating him.
A further complication comes in the form of Ben Thornton, the local doctor, to whom Carly feels an immediate attraction. They enjoy getting to know each other and falling in love, until a famous model from Ben’s past arrives in the town, and stays at the hotel.
Steve attempts to get his revenge on Carly by driving a wedge between her and Ben, and by threatening to reveal what he knows about Ben’s troubled past unless Carly leaves town.

The resolution lies in Carly’s hands as she struggles between wanting to flee from the town again and wanting to stay with the man she has grown to love.

Carol's contact details:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In the Moment

Jennifer talks about her next release...

I’m nine days away from my next book release, which is exciting and stressful at the same time. Exciting because, hey, it’s a book release! Stressful because I have a lot going on in my life and this is one more thing to add to the to-do list. But it’s a good problem to have and I’m not complaining.

The book, In the Moment, is special to me, because it was inspired by a beautiful house I toured a town over from me. I love touring old houses. I love the architecture, the lifestyle and thinking about the people who lived there. When I saw that a Victorian mansion was for sale, and that there was an open house, my girls and I jumped at the chance to see it. We wandered through every floor except for the basement, a converted wine cellar which was blocked off because apparently a deer had gotten inside through the outside entrance—wonder if she preferred white or red? The main floor had gorgeous moldings, wainscoting, fireplaces, floors and stained glass windows. The kitchen and powder room had been modernized and our jaws dropped as we wandered from room to room. The two upper floors were bedrooms. While the second floor had also been renovated—while keeping the charm and look of the time period—the third floor had not, and you could see the original wood planked floors in the servants’ quarters. It was a fascinating history lesson.

Since I didn’t have a spare couple of million dollars lying around to purchase and continue the updates, I decided to write about the house instead. It is now the main setting of In the Moment and I enjoyed revisiting the house through pictures as I wrote. And I worked really hard on the cover with the cover artist—I wanted to convey the tone of the book and include the house—I think she did a great job!


The book releases September 1, but is available for pre-order now. Here’s the blurb:

Cassie Edwards, a former foster child, purchases an 1870s Victorian mansion, the one home from her childhood where she felt like part of a family. She’s spending her summer lovingly restoring it, with dreams of one day raising a family of her own here. Rayne Tucket, a photojournalist, is haunted by the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, a death he thinks is his fault. He survives day to day. Forever is not in his vocabulary. Swearing off photography, he answers an ad for a handyman—mindless, no emotion involved. As the two of them renovate her house, can Cassie show Rayne that love is strong enough to heal all wounds?

And here’s a brief excerpt: The intimate closeness made her stomach flutter. The proximity of their bodies, the rush of the water, and his feathering touch on her lips made her dizzy. She gripped his arms for support. He grasped her waist, staring deep in her eyes.
He was going to kiss her. She knew it. His pupils dilated. Time slowed. The rushing water pounded around her. She opened her mouth, as much to drink in air as to get ready to kiss him back. His eyes narrowed, focused on her lips. She leaned toward him. Their wet bodies pressed against each other. Her breasts tingled, and her stomach heated at the contact. She wanted this to go on forever, but at the same time, she wanted him to hurry up and kiss her so their lips could finally meet. At the last possible second, he pushed away.
She stood there, confused and aching.
“I’m not the staying kind, Cassie.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“A woman like you needs a man who’ll stay forever. My time here has an expiration date.”

She ducked under the water. When she came up, she pushed her hair out of her face. “I know you’re leaving. You don’t have to, though.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Why?”

“Because I have a promise to keep.”
“What kind of promise?”

“The unbreakable kind.”
Here are buy links:


Please let me know what you think!




Monday, August 14, 2017

Ana's Editing Progress

Ana muses on her editing progress.

I'm going through Stormy Hawkins for the fourth, and, I'm told, final time. And, I'm still finding things to change.

I've fixed all the formatting things: Oxford commas, two hypens instead of an em-dash. I learned that 'blonde' is used only to refer to a blond-haired woman.

This morning, I re-read my first sex scene to be sure that what I changed last night still makes sense. (The sentence where they roll over so she's on top got edited out somehow in the first three rounds of edits.)

Now I'm checking a later love scene that ends with misunderstanding. I realized, in last night's read-through, that I could bolster the scene's twist by adding in a reference to a pivotal scene at the story's midpoint, a recollection of dialogue between the heroine and a minor character that propelled the heroine into chasing after the hero she's just rejected.

This addition never occurred to me before, but I feel 99% certain I need to add it. This means I will have to do another read-through, but that's the way it goes. The SoulMate editor says what I send back is IT.

So I have a question for you more experienced authors: Does the debate to tweak things ever end?


Monday, August 7, 2017

Roadblocks and Detours

Debra is facing a dilemma.

Believe it or not, this is the last week of summer vacation for me. I'm really trying to figure out where the time went. I mean, wasn't it just June for Pete's sake? I feel like I've had a fairly successful writing summer in that I made quite a bit of progress on my WIP and I've been trying to get myself out there more by making regular use of my Twitter account, visiting other blogs, and even put my Fourth of July book on sale for the month.

However, as everyone knows, the writing road is not always a straight one. It's often filled with roadblocks and detours. And I had plenty of those this summer, too.

I started really getting serious about my writing in the middle of June. Before that there had been a long, long, dry, dry spell. I'm talking like time measured in almost a year, not months. But I started grooving again and was really pleased with the progress I was making on my WIP. I wasn't necessarily aiming for a particular word count each day, just making sure that I sat down and wrote something. Most days, I was recording anywhere from 500 to 2,000 words. Not too shabby. I was pretty pleased and well on my way toward meeting my goal of finishing this story over the summer.

And then, BAM. Roadblock. In the middle of July I got sick. Bronchitis, laryngitis, and pink eye. Fever. Chills. Hacking cough. You name it. In the middle of summer!! It was awful. I was totally down for the count. I literally laid on the couch for ten days, not having the energy or motivation to do anything else except watch tv. (I had a mega "The Office" marathon. I think I watched three or four entire seasons.)

But eventually I started feeling better and got back into a normal routine...although believe it or not, I still have a lingering cough and a slightly scratchy voice...and was once again making progress. I'd lost a bit of momentum, but still felt I could meet my goal of finishing my 65,000 word story. From there I planned to print it out so I could do several rounds of edits, send it to a couple beta readers to gather their opinions and insights, and then send off a query to a new (for me) publisher.

Then, just when I thought I was on the right path again...FORK IN THE ROAD. I was aiming for a 65,000 word novel. I've been so used to writing novellas, that writing a full-length was a bit of a challenge for me this time around. It was going to be stretching it to reach that 65K, but I was confident I could do it. And then I looked at the submission guidelines for the publisher I was considering. Turns out they want novels 85,000 to 100,000. (Now, yes, granted, this is my fault for not checking sooner. Although I swear I did check once upon a time and it said 65,000. But maybe I was just thinking of my current publisher. Who knows?) To say I was discouraged was an understatement. I lost any and all motivation to write and let the mss sit once again. Eventually (about a week later) I got over myself and sat down to finish the darn story.

Anyway, now I'm faced with a dilemma, and I'm not sure which direction to go. My story is for all intents and purposed finished. There's a beginning, a middle, and a happily-ever-after ending. It's at 63,000. There are a few scenes I'd like to add to here and there, which will bring me to what I thought was the magic number of 65K. I can still follow those first two steps. Polish it up. Get a few beta opinions. And then submit it to my current publisher (that I really, really love...don't get me wrong.)

But I'd envisioned something a bit different for this one. Stepping out of my comfort zone and putting myself and my story out there. Just to see what happens. But to do that, I'm going to need to add at least 20,000 words to my story. That is A LOT of words. I mean, it's an entire novella. This wouldn't simply involve adding or extending scenes, this is adding a whole ton of content. Not just extending the story, but going back to various places in the middle and creating new scenes, chapters, and interactions.

I don't know if I have it in me. I know I won't have the time to write like I have been. Like I said, I'm back to school next week. I'd love to think that since I'm back in a writing routine, I'll at least be able to clock something each night. My writers' group is doing this great challenge, too, which is wonderful motivation. It's the 90 words for 90 days challenge. (#CN90wordsfor90days) Starting August 1 and going through October 31, the idea is to write at least 90 words everyday. There's a chance for a prize at the end for those who accomplish it. It's definitely helping me to stay motivated at the moment, let me tell you. I'm I'm still averaging about 1200 words per day at this point, so the 90 I can do standing on my head...most days.

But, like I said, I'm stuck trying to figure out which direction to take with this book now. If I go one way, it's super exciting to think I might be close to finishing it. If I go another way, it's super daunting to think about creating so much more plot. At this point I don't need to rush...even though summer is over, I can take my time in attempting those additional 20,000 words. But come December it will be a year since I've had a release. And who knows how long the process will take, if I even would get a contract from this new publisher, to get this book in print.

I'm stuck. I honestly don't know what to do. Any thoughts? Advise? Sarcastic comments? Smart aleck remarks? Any and all would be appreciated.

For now, I'm going to get out my lap top and clock those 90 words right now.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com