Monday, September 23, 2013

Refill that well and dive in head first!

Well, I survived the manuscript submission last month – huge fun writing about a ferocious January snow storm in Colorado during one of the hottest UK summers in years! And now I’m deep into edits, also with a deadline, but there was a halcyon week of blissful nothingness somewhere in between which gave me time to recharge my batteries and, to use a phrase I’ve heard many times, refill the well.  Being kind to yourself doesn’t always come easily and it took a few days to break the habit of switching on my laptop before breakfast, but eventually the very thought of pressing that button made me feel ill. The obsessive checking of iPhone and Kindle fire waned too, so hurrah and hooray I am NOT addicted to social media (even in a stalking capacity) after all! And do you know what? Putting all the wretched charging cables for that lot in a drawer for a week was hugely liberating, I shall do it more often.

And I left the building every day. Oh yes, I did. I got dressed and went places. I breathed fresh air, blinked in the sunlight and talked to people. I did! And even better I was inspired by the things I saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt; a tonic for the mind as well as the body.

So read on if you’re interested in some of the things I got up to in that week and the thought processes they set off. And watch out for them in future books!

I visited a large romantic house on the grounds of an ancient monastery with a real life well that is fed from an underground spring. A stream flows out from the well (you can just see it in the top right hand corner of the photograph below) and then on into a trout-filled river, but at first glance it looks like the stream is feeding into a pond. Then you notice the water is flowing backwards which comes as a great surprise. Like a cunning plot twist at the end of a book, a reminder that things are often not as them seem … 

There was also a gallery showing thirty-eight rare, hand-painted illustrations of Winnie-the Pooh and his friends. They’d never been seen in the UK before, and were created for the books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.  Who doesn’t love a cosy bed time story? And a small child clutching a favourite toy?

I stood in the rain at a country show  and watched a breathtaking display by an equestrian stunt team called The Devil's Horsemen .Men and women riders, seemingly fearless, utterly nubile and incredibly fit. It wasn’t until I got home I realised how many films and advertisements I’d seen these people and horses in. I wonder if I can get away with a Cossack at some point…Here’s a youtube link if you want to see them in action the week before I saw them.

Anyway, there’s no denying being one of The Devil’s Horsemen is a very interesting job. It could take you onto film sets all over the world, or get you hired for an extravagant event by someone very wealthy and or/famous, all sorts of possibilities. Protagonists need jobs and interests  and people do get very attached to their horses. And then there are vets and landowners and farriers …
Shortly before seeing the horses, a woman was beating her Chihuahua puppy for peeing on her foot and was being berated by a bystander for doing so. An ugly scene ensued! Could this be the seed for a life-altering inciting incident from which a high concept proposal could grow? I think it could be, or the starting point for one at least. The kids kept talking about the dog pee woman for days.

I gawped at vintage cars and Victorian gardens at Beaulieu in the New Forest and there was a miniature caravan made for a prince and princess to play in, secret doors and ghosts in the mansion house. During a private tour I got to sit on Lord Montague’s sofa … Different worlds, eh? There was even a real life tale of love lost and an illegitimate heir, the lord and his secretary. She was the inspiration for this:

And then she was lost at sea … Really!

I did so many other wonderful things, too many to fit in here without this post turning into a great big advert for the south coast of England, but it did chuck a good few buckets of inspiration into the barely damp well of my imagination. I also now know that a few days isn’t enough to refuel the writing engine, in my case I need at least a week so I’m almost there on the work/life balance!

Right, I must slink back to my cell and get on with those edits, but all is not lost as I go to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands before Christmas. Miles and miles of blue sea and golden sand dunes are waiting for me and my camera. I've never felt the yearning to write a sheikh, but then again do deserts and sand necessarily need to have a man in flowing robes with a camel? Methinks maybe not … I’ll keep you posted!

What's your favorite way to fill the well?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ready, Set….Write by Jennifer Faye

Umm…not so fast. At least not for me.

In two weeks, SNOWBOUND WITH THE SOLDIER is going to be available online and on store shelves. I'm busy getting ready to for a blog tour to celebrate my second release. And today I received my AA’s (author alliterations) for SAFE IN THE TYCOON’S ARMS. It will be available March 2014. :-) 

But aside from all of that, I’m starting to write my fourth book. And with this book, I’m really starting to take comfort in my writing process.

I think everyone has a process and they’re all different. For some it might just be sitting down at their pc and letting the words flow. I’m not one of those people. I tried in the beginning. And I ended up rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Well, you get the picture.

I knew there had to be a more efficient way of completing a book. So I took a bunch of online classes. I listened and learned what worked for my mind. Some by trial and error. And at last, I have found my process. It is a hybrid between pantser and plotter.

Step #1 write the complete synopsis

I know, I used the “s” word. :-) But a synopsis can be your friend. It helps me to know where I’m going. And it gives me ideas about the pacing I’ll need so I’m not too short and not too longwinded. And when my characters stray from the synopsis, which they always do, it leads me back home.

And did I mention, if you publish the traditional route, your editor will probably want to see it up front.

Step #2 wait for editor feedback

I don’t know about you but revisions can make my stomach lurch and quiver. I try to avoid them at all costs. So far I haven’t succeeded. But I’ve always believed in reaching for lofty goals. ;-) 

So my theory is this: It’s easier to fix a 5-page synopsis than a 200-page book. So I wait and welcome my editor’s feedback.

Step #3 implement editor’s comments

I don’t know about other people’s experience but so far I’ve been very fortunate with my editors as they are great with feedback and brainstorming. My books are always stronger thanks to them.

Step #4 set up an Excel spreadsheet

This is what keeps me in line and tells me just how hard I have to work to reach my deadline on time. Did I happen to mention that I love #’s and spreadsheets???

Step #5 start writing/research

This is where I am now with my current book. Some research I do ahead of time and most I do as I write because it isn’t until then that I realize what details I will need.

Step #6 keep writing…it’ll sound so much better after you type “The End”. ;-)

Jennifer Faye’s second release, SNOWBOUND WITH THE SOLDIER, is available for Pre-Order now! at Amazon & B&N. She’d love to hear from you via Twitter, her website, or Facebook.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Q&A with Tracey Rogers, author of Daring to Wish.

Please welcome a wonderful lady and very special friend of mine, Tracey Rogers, to the HPT hotseat. I met Tracey when she was a fellow New Voices contestant back in 2011. She has since signed a two-book deal with Beachwalk Press. Today is the release of the first of those two books, Daring to Wish, as well as the launch of her book tour. I'm so thrilled she's here. 

Q) Tell us something about yourself, Tracey.  
A) I live in Staffordshire with my husband and three children. I have a fear of celery (I don’t know why either) and I love to read contemporary and paranormal romance. I have always loved writing and got back into it when I had to quit work and studies because of health problems (Fibromyalgia). I became a frequent visitor of my local library and one day noticed a poster promoting the New Voices writing competition and decided to give it a go. It was the best decision ever! Not only was it a great way to get feedback, but it was a wonderful introduction into the writing community who are so supportive. I found some amazing friends because of that competition.

To be more exciting I could tell you about my super powers, but then my secret identity could be revealed and that’s against the rules.

Q) Tell us something about Daring to Wish.
A) Daring to Wish is my first release with Beachwalk Press. The story asks the question – what happens when you dare to wish? Do you really get what you need in life? In an effort to regain her independence and break out of her shell, shy Eve Ward writes a daring wish list. Adrenaline junkie Lucas Riley becomes Eve's "victim" in a kiss-a-stranger dare, and she thinks he's perfect for her one-night-with-a-stranger wish. When she starts to earn many more ticks on the list she starts to wonder if he’s too good to be true.

Q) How did you decide what should be on the list?
A) I’d just found out I wouldn’t be able to do a skydive, which I’d always dreamed of doing, so I began thinking of things I’d wish I’d done and those nagging ‘what if’ questions arose. In the end I decided I wouldn’t change anything about my life, or I wouldn’t have the friends and family I have now. So I started to think ‘what if’ someone didn’t have friends and family, and their life was a complete blank canvas. Then the idea of the story came alive. I thought of all the things you could do if you wanted to experience life to the full and have fun doing it.

Q) I love Eve. She’s the perfect balance of vulnerability and strength. That’s not easy to achieve. How did you do it? 
A) Eve made me do it. She starts off very vulnerable and lacking in confidence, but I think she was always strong, but didn’t know how to show it. As soon as I introduced her to Lucas she soon found her confidence so gradually I had to let her take over. And thank you, I love Eve too.

Q) What you’ve produced with Lucas, our hero, is a skilful blend of dangerous and sweet. What inspired you to write him?
A) Oh well I knew Lucas needed to be that bit special to tempt Eve into going through with her dares. He’s a bad boy trying to be good. I thought it would be fun pairing Eve with someone at a completely different crossroads in his life. But because of Eve’s past she deserved someone with a sweet side. So when I pictured ‘that bit special’ I saw in my head a combination of Brad Pitt, Josh Holloway and Matt McConaughey. Who wouldn’t be tempted by any of them?

Q) Do you ever get inspiration from real people for your characters? 
A) I’m more of a listener than a talker and I love to people watch, so I do find real people and their personality traits and experiences very inspiring.

Q) I adored the humour in your writing. I laughed out loud several times. I take it that’s a natural part of your voice? 
A) Thank you! I try to be serious, I really do. But sometimes I can’t help myself. If you ask me to tell a joke a tumbleweed will come drifting by before can I think of one. But I do have a sense of humour and once I start giggling I can’t stop.

Q) Why be an author? And why romance?
A) I want a reason to keep writing and being an author is a dream job. I love romance. When I was young and the Christmas chocolate tin was handed around, I used to save the shiny wrappers and make wedding dresses for my dolls out of them. In my world I want to be rescued by my hero, or even rescue him!

Q) How, when and where do you write? 
A) I write in my living room during school hours, my bum shape in the sofa proves it. Although I’m more creative at night, as soon as my head touches my pillow.

Q) What’s your greatest strength as a writer?
A) Having the strength to say I’m still working on that answer! Writing is a learning experience and I want to keep improving.

Q) And what evokes you to bang your head against your desk?
A) Being OCD about writing in sequence. If I’m stuck on a scene I stay stuck even if I know exactly how the next scene works out. I can’t move on and then go back. I’m like an ant that’s just lost its group. I waste so much time this way and it doesn’t help with the frown lines.

Q) Have you learned anything from your first experience working with an editing team? 
A) I have even more respect for editors now, they are such busy people. I discovered I have a habit of using unnecessary words and also I learned that you have to be prepared to give up part of your voice at times. What sounds good to you might not sound as good to others, but some scenes can work better than you’d hoped. You have to store up every scrap of advice you can.

Q) Are there any words that mean something special to you? These can be from a book, a quote, song lyrics or movie lines for example. 
A) Okay here’s my best Yoda voice: “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” Sorry couldn’t resist.

Honestly, special words for me are the song lyrics of The Scientist by Coldplay. Each line sounds simple and innocent until you put them together. To me the song is about loss, and it’s a reminder that you can’t go back, so make the most of what and who you have now.

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh, take me back to the start

Q) What are you most looking forwards to about being a published author? 
A) Having the proof that it really did happen!

Q) And what scares you the most about it? 
A) Letting people see what goes on inside my head.

Q) What do you hope for in your writing career? 
A) I owe a lot to books and authors, and if I can make someone feel the same emotions that I have, then I will have achieved everything I hope for. I want to take readers on a journey.

Q) What’s next for Ms Rogers? 
A) My second book, Best Fake Day will be released in December.

Thank you so much for inviting me here!

It was an absolute pleasure, Tracey. I wish you SO much success with your writing career – you totally deserve it. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adventures in Outlining, Part II, by Natalie Charles

Remember when I said I was a pantser who wanted to give outlining a shot? These days, I'm a pantser who must outline to maintain her sanity and keep her word count goals on track.

I was a victim of Second Book Syndrome, during which I was nearly paralyzed by self-doubt. For that book (The Burden of Desire), I pantsed the way I always do, but then when I got stuck, I found I couldn't get unstuck quickly. I never want to be in that position again, and so I'm working with an outline for book three.

I started off by writing a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the book, which came out to about five single-spaced pages. It’s not a detailed outline by any means, but it loosely sets forth the story, character developments, and major plot points. I then began writing without referring much to this outline. When I get lost, my synopsis is there to remind me where I'm going. As a bonus, it was useful when creating a proposal to send to my editor.

Thing is, I'm still pantsing around. I can't help it. My characters will do or say something, and that action or statement will illuminate an entirely new path I hadn't anticipated. Those kinds of surprises excite me and keep me writing, so I embrace them. Also, these developments end up feeling organic to the plot in a way that some of my initial outlining plans don't. I inevitably learn about my characters as I write, and some of the outlining plans fail because I didn't know my characters well enough at the outset. It's fine with me when characters direct the plot. At least the plot is moving

This is the part where I look into the computer screen and say: Pantsers, it's okay to outline. Really. You're not going to lose that seat-of-your-pants thrill that you get from writing. What you're going to reduce is the wasted time that comes from having a great idea at the outset and then writing yourself into a corner. It's much easier to solve plot problems up-front than to face the excruciating prospect of chopping off a chapter or two. I treat my outline as a safety net. I know it's there when I need it, but otherwise it's really just an exercise to get my thoughts straight before I began to write. I don't adhere to it rigidly. In fact, some parts of my outline are still a little murky. Okay, okay…a lot murky.

But hey, I'm a pantser at heart. Murky is kind of my thing.