Biding His Thyme, book four in my Fancy Free series, is out later today at Ellora’s Cave. My heroine is called Sorrel Thyme, and she lives in a cult. The rest of the people who live in the cult call Sorrel “Bitter” since that is the literal meaning of her name. Sorrel hates it, and I’m pretty sure if her mother was still around, the rest of the Children of Nature inhabitants wouldn’t be quite as mean. Sorrel just ignores the nickname, although it hurts being called Bitter instead of Sorrel.
Naming characters in a book takes almost as much time as naming a child in real life. I scan my baby naming book and try out several names before deciding on the perfect one. There are many pitfalls when it comes to picking a name. Check out my article on Naming Characters, which explains some of them.
When it came to Sorrel Thyme, I deliberately picked a name that would get her teased. Her surname also connects nicely with her occupation. She works with herbs and flowers making beauty products and a special potion called the Dream Cream. Her name and nickname become part of her characterization.
How do/did you go about picking names for your children/characters? Did you find it stressful? (I sure find picking names stressful!)
Born in the Children of Nature cult, Sorrel “Bitter” Thyme is destined to spend the rest of her life there, but not if she has her way. She’s perfected the dream cream that enhances orgasmic pleasure in those who use it. Now she must approach Fancy Free management with her invention while making sure the cult leader doesn’t learn of her idea and steal Sorrel’s chance of escape.
Jake Ramsey, a Special Air Services soldier on sick leave, agrees to go undercover in the cult to help local police close a case against the leader. Sorrel is his inside contact, a woman who is constantly ridiculed by the other cult members.
The partnership works well and kisses meant to cement their cover take on new possibilities. Jake uncovers secrets, and their loving heats up, passion coalescing into more than friendship. Then Sorrel is tossed into danger. What began as a favor is now deadly serious—-a game Jake must win to keep Sorrel safe.
Before I get to the tips – a promotional interlude for Feeling the Buzz, my new release, due out from Ellora’s Cave on 21 September.
Wayne wants Jen. Sebastian wants Wayne. Jen doesn’t want any man since her boyfriend ditched her by text minutes before her party. It’s going to take a lot of laughter, fun and hot seduction before the three can decide exactly what they want and how to get it.
One of the first things a writer should do (and that includes both aspiring and published writers) is read and read widely across several genres. This is a basic tip, and yet I’m constantly surprised to hear of writers who seldom pick up a book. Reading books helps a writer learn and internalize patterns of dialogue, plot and characterization. With each book a reader learns what works for them and what doesn’t.
This year, I’ve started to listen to audio books. Listening, rather than reading, has opened new doors for me. Not only have I discovered some memorable authors, but I’ve found that listening has helped me with my writing. Hearing the way a writer uses dialogue or winds in a description or other backstory seems to leap out at me more than if I’m reading a physical page.
So this is tip one – As well as reading, try listening to an audio book to aid in the writer learning process.
One of the hints that came out during his talk was to take your printed manuscript, toss all the pages in the air then pick up the out of order pages and check through each one. Add tension to every page. Cut the backstory to bare bones, the boring coffee/shower/kitchen scenes, tighten the dialogue and make every page pop with tension.
I, along with everyone else, was horrified at the idea of a jumbled mess of manuscript, but on Twitter a couple of weeks ago someone suggested using an online random number picker and choose pages randomly to cut and dissect. Good idea? I thought so because seeing your words out of order really helps the eye pick up on things you might not otherwise see.
Tip two – use an online random number picker to help with the editing process.
Our puppy is a feisty one, and this is what we call her ‘Evil Bella’ face. It makes us laugh when she wrinkles up her little nose and bares her teeth. Sometimes a small growl accompanies her grimace, but she never bites. It’s sort of a ‘I’m pissed off and don’t mess with me’ expression. She makes this face when she gets tired of training or if we ask her to ‘High Five’ one time too many.
Classic Romance Plots
This year I’ve been concentrating on writing contemporary and historical romances. So far I’ve written a marriage of convenience, reunited lovers, a one-night stand and a woman in jeopardy/pretend relationship plot.
It’s almost time for me to start planning another story, and I’m thinking I’d like to do a revenge plot or a bad boy/good girl one. Hmm, or maybe a plot where the hero and heroine are stranded together.
My favorite plots are reunited lovers, friends-to-lovers and marriage of convenience. I’m not as fond of secret babies and amnesia plots, but I know they’re popular with readers.
What type of plot is your favorite to read? To write?
And finally, for all you writers out there – have you heard about SmartEdit?
I’ve been using SmartEdit to help fine tune my manuscripts and get rid of those pesky adverbs, overused words and phrases plus cliches. One thing I really like about it is you can print out a report of the problem areas and work through your manuscript at leisure. The basic version of SmartEdit is free to download, and I believe there’s an advanced version on the way.
On the day we visited Nuku’alofa in Tonga it was pouring with rain. I took this photo of a hibiscus flower during our exploration of the town.
I have some awesome links to share with you today.
Maria Zannini has a wonderful post about confidence and insecurities. She offers some strategies to improve confidence.
For those of you who are entering the world of self-publishing Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has a post about Vetting an Independent Editor. She mentions things to look for and when to exercise caution.
And finally, Brenda Novak’s annual Online auction has started. All the funds raised go to Diabetes Research. Check out the items for booklovers and authors available here.
Now I’d like you to put on your reader hats. When it comes to promo items—all the things like bookmarks, trading cards, buttons, excerpt booklets and other nifty things available at conferences and book signings—which ones do you actually keep and use? Which ones do you like?
And my next question—if you have an e-book reader, do you still collect author autographs or promo items? Are you aware of Kindlegraph?
Parts 3 – 5 will be available on Wed, Thu and Fri.
I hope you’ll check out my publishing journey at Novelspot.
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If you’re a published author, your books have probably been pirated. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is placed squarely on the author, and it’s soul-destroying having to send out take-down after take-down notice only to have books go up again in a matter of days. This year I’ve been using MUSO, a paid service, to help fight pirates. With some success, I might add. Author Joan Reeves has a post that covers the basics about MUSO. Learn about MUSO here.
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I suspect you’ve heard about Google before. I have, but I’ve never really utilized the free tools Google provides such as spread sheets and forms. Author Brinda Berry tells us about several uses for writers. Google is Your Easy Button.
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Author Roni Loren has a great post about the problems writers might face with their manuscripts and the perfect writer craft book to help cure the problem. Writer woes range from hooks to characterization to plotting. Have a problem? Maybe this post will set you in the right direction. Twelve writer woes and how to cure them.
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On 31 March from 7 – 9 pm EST, I’ll be teaching an online class at Marketing for Romance Writers on Organizing a Blog tour. If you have a book coming out, and you’re not sure how to tackle a blog tour, I hope to offer answers. The class is free and takes place on the MFRW Yahoo loop. Join today so you don’t miss out. The members of this loop share all sorts of information about marketing and promo for romance writers. Join the loop here.
Note – we have a class on Triberr coming up on April 27 too.
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I’m off to do some editing plus planning for the manuscript I intend to attack during Savvy Authors’ April Bootcamp.
NOTE: THIS IS A STICKY POST. PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE MOST CURRENT POST.
I’m taking part in the Mistletoe Madness Blog hop. The hop is a huge one, involving oodles of authors, and goes from 16 – 23 Dec. Plenty of time for you to explore new-to-you author websites.
What am I giving away? How do you enter?
I’m going to pick four names from all the people who answer my question below. International entries are welcome. The books I’ll be giving away are:
1 x Lessons in Seduction by Sandra Hyatt (This is my friend Sandra’s last book. Sadly, she passed away earlier in the year.)
1 x Reclaiming His Pregnant Widow by Tessa Radley (Another NZ writer friend. These ones are autographed)
1 x Summer in the City of Sails by Shelley Munro
1 x Sex Idol by Shelley Munro
A few months ago I wrote this post on heroines for Savvy Authors. I’m going to reprint it below, but as a quick aside, if you’re a writer, either pre-published or a more experienced one, do go and check out Savvy Authors. You can join for free or if you’d like to take advantage of more of their resources go for the premium membership of $30. They run workshops, have chats and agent/editor pitches and are an excellent community. I highly recommend them for writers at all stages of their career. Right! Back to business. Heroines. One of my heroines wrote me a letter, and this is what she said…
I realize your job isn’t the easiest one. You sit in front of a computer hour after hour, day after day creating me, along with my hero and the cast of characters who populate your stories. You spin a plot as you write the first draft, then you spend even longer polishing the story until it’s ready for submission to publishers. Without you, I wouldn’t exist.
Mostly, you do a great job, but I’d like to remind you of a few things pertaining to writing a good heroine:
1. I know popular opinion says heroines are slender and pretty, but how about making me stand out from the crowd? Make me sexy–sure. I like sexy as much as the next girl, but I can be sexy and an average size. Give me a few curves. Don’t you know I enjoy food? Oh, and if you give me curves, don’t go on and on about my size. I’m happy this way, really I am.
2. Don’t make me go down to the basement when there is a killer on the loose. Credit me with a little common sense and help me do something intelligent. I don’t want readers to snigger at me and call me Too Stupid To Live. I deserve more than that, don’t you think?
3. Don’t foist a stereotype on me. I’m not a hooker with a big heart. I’m not an ice princess. I’m not a geeky librarian. I’m a combination of a lot of different things. Give me individuality.
4. I like alpha men–really, I do, but give me a spine so I can stand up to them. Readers don’t like wimps who can’t handle their man. Let me best him now and then. It’s good for his ego if he doesn’t get his own way all the time.
5. I’m not perfect. I know that, but do you realize it too? Give me some flaws and balance them with some of the good stuff. Make me human because readers will like me better that way.
6. Give me a snarky voice. I’m cool with that, but don’t make me snark all the way through the book. Readers won’t like me if I do that. They might call me a bitch, you know, and wonder what the hero sees in me.
7. Likewise, if my hero is going to be a bastard, let him fall off his high horse at some stage. Make him see the error of his ways or at least let me use my knee in his private parts. It might hurt him, but it would make me feel better after all the verbal abuse.
8. If you want me to behave badly, give me proper motivation. Dig into my past history, exploit my emotional baggage and make the readers want to cheer for me. Believe me, I’ll forgive you if I end up with Mr. Spunky plus a diamond ring on my finger.
9. Match my personality with my actions. Make me act consistently…unless you have a damn good reason to make me look stupid.
10. And finally, if you’re into kink and want to paint me the same way—authors look away if you’re easily offended—if you’re gonna make me have anal sex, please, please, please give me lots of lube.
Now dear visitor, you’re welcome to add your fifty cents to the above letter, but what I’d really like to know is this…
If a hero wrote a letter to you what would he say? Finish this sentence and go into a draw to win one of the above books. Dear Author, you do a good job with me but remember that a hero…….
With summer almost here in New Zealand hubby decided it was time to get Bella’s swimming pool out for those warmer days when she needs a swim to cool down. She had a ball tonight chasing the bubbles while he was filling it with the hose. I was cooking dinner and turned around to find puppy Bella sitting on the mat outside the kitchen, water dripping off her onto the carpet. Cue one screechy cook! I shouted and waggled my finger. Hubby has also put new sand in Bella’s sandpit so that should keep her busy and out of mischief for a few days.
This year I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk. It’s true that my jaunts overseas didn’t help much, interupting my flow. This week it finally feels as if I’m back in my groove. I’m working on something new and added 2100 words today.
I have a release date for Christmas is Coming. Look for my new contemporary on 9 December from Ellora’s Cave.
Last week on the Marketing for Romance Writers Yahoo list we had a special guest telling us about author signatures and critiquing the signatures of a few brave volunteers. I volunteered my signature. This is the one I’ve been using recently:
Some writers include details of their recent releases, their blog, Twitter and Facebook links in their signatures. My personal preference is to keep things brief. There’s nothing worse than scrolling through heaps of signature when I’m trying to read my email. I’d be interested to hear how you do your email signatures and what your preferences are – long or short?
One good suggestion was to use WiseStamp to do email signatures. I thought this looked promising, and I intend to explore it more this weekend. It’s on my to-do list!
How is your writing going? What is your preference for email signatures? Do you change your email signatures on a regular basis?
I’ve been working on polishing a manuscript for the last two weeks. While my favorite part of writing is working on the first draft, I’ve come to enjoy the editing/polishing stage too. There’s the fine-tuning, the cutting and rewriting, and the smoothing of rough spots. It’s very rewarding.
Here are six things I checked with my current manuscript:
1. Timeline. I did a timeline and added a few days here and there to make sure my plot works properly. It’s very easy to make it appear as if a plot occurs during a compressed time period. Make sure your plot works with the time you’ve allocated your characters.
2. Overused words. During the draft stage I just write without much censoring. I tend to overuse words such as so, that, just, all to mention a few. Different manuscripts have different overused words, which means I need to keep on my toes!
3. Plot strands all tied up. In this particular story, I’d left a couple of subplots dangling, and I fixed them so my readers weren’t left dangling.
4. Check for echoes i.e. the same word used several times on the same page or in the same paragraph and also for overused body language. In my first draft my characters laugh, smile and grin a lot. It’s something I always need to work on during my edit/polish stage.
5. The opening chapter – I check I’ve opened my story in the right place and that I haven’t used too much back story at the beginning. If the story makes sense without a snippet of back story, then I hit delete.
6. Exposition – I trim the narrative and look for places where I can add dialogue instead. This helps quicken the pace.
The last thing I do before I hit send on any manuscript is a spell check. I’ll check on my spelling throughout the polishing process, but I always do a final spell check.
What do you check during a final edit/polish of a manuscript?
Recently someone told me the hero in my story wasn’t heroic and didn’t behave like a hero. He was unsympathetic. Instead of panicking or becoming defensive, I took another look at my hero and, to my horror, found the criticism was justified. While I still liked my character, I definitely needed to do something to make him more likeable to readers.
Most of us want to read about characters that have the qualities we see in our friends and family—the same qualities we like to think we possess. We want to connect with characters and be able to relate to them.
So how do we do this?
In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says we should start showing the reader that our character has heroic qualities right from the first page of our book. Even if our character is an average person, in an ordinary job, we need to demonstrate a special quality in them. At the start of a book, it will most likely be something small. They might help an elderly woman cross the road or rescue the next-door neighbor’s cat from a tree, but it will make us, the reader, sit up and pay attention. This is a character we would like as a friend, and we want to follow them through the course of the book, during the ups and downs, to the happy ending.
In my case, I looked at my character’s interactions with other characters. My hero snapped and snarled quite a bit, so I softened his language and the way he interacted with the other characters. I added some extra scenes, which I hope show my hero in a favorable light. I also looked at the inner conflict and checked I’d done everything I needed to in this area.
Fixing unsympathetic characters isn’t easy, and I hope I’ve managed to get the job done. I’m awaiting the verdict at present.
Do you have any hints for changing unsympathetic characters to ones that readers will love? And do you agree with Donald Maass—that we should see the hero/heroine doing something heroic almost as soon as we meet them in the story?
Writer’s block happens when a writer can’t write. The ideas won’t come and nothing seems to work when the writer tries to get rid of the block. They just can’t seem to write. Writer’s block can go on for days, months or years.
Procrastination is where the writer puts off writing and does everything in their power to escape adding words to their story. Even the housework looks attractive compared to the idea of sitting their butt on a chair and putting hand to keyboard. The reasons can be many and varied, but the end result is the same—the writing doesn’t happen.
Personally, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I might come to a stop in my writing and not be sure what to write next, but that’s because I’m a pantser. Usually all this means is I need to deepen my character conflict, or I need to go for a walk and think about my plot.
I think it’s important to look at the reasons behind the lack of writing. Is it because you’re physically or mentally tired and need to take a break? Have you made a wrong turn in your writing and your instincts are shouting at you to take another direction, but you’re ignoring them? Be honest with yourself about the lack of writing progress because only then will you be able to move forward.
Procrastination, now that’s another story. Today I needed to work on some edits. I’m dragging my feet a little on these edits. Every half an hour or so, I checked my email. I decided I needed a cup of tea, and the puppy needed a cuddle. Oh, and then it was time for lunch. And so my day continued.
It’s obvious I needed some strategies to get writing again. Here are some you can use.
1. Do timed writing sessions.
Set your oven timer or egg timer for half an hour. Sit down and write until the timer goes off. Repeat throughout the day until your target number of words is completed.
2. Do timed writing sessions with other writers.
Call a friend and do a time writing session at the same time as them. If you belong to a group like Savvy Authors or Romance Divas pop into their chat rooms and do some sprint writing with other writers.
3. Give yourself a deadline/target.
Then sit down and write. Kick your deadline’s butt. I try to write 2000 words most days. If I’m having a tough time keeping my butt in my seat, I’ll break down my target words into 500 word blocks.
4. Earn a treat.
Make a deal with yourself. If you sit down and write the required number of words within a specified time, you’ll receive a treat. The treat can be something like watching a movie or taking time out to read a book.
5. Try working on a new scene that comes later in the book.
Sometimes we need a change of pace to get the words flowing.
6. Just do it.
Sometimes, we need to grit it out and force ourselves to write. The output mightn’t be the greatest, but remember that at least we’re putting words to paper. We can always fix them later during the polishing stage.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Are you guilty of procrastinating when it comes to your writing? How do you get past the procrastination to actually write?