Saturday, September 29, 2012

Have You Seen My Inspiration?

by Amanda Forester

It is a basic premise that to create a novel, one needs something to write.  To have something to write, one needs inspiration.  To have inspiration one needs...

Yeah, that part gets me too.  I'm in the process of writing my next novel and some days I sit in front of the computer and my fingers fly, the ideas are unstoppable, and I can hardly keep up with my own brilliance.  And then there's the other 363 days of the year.

I often struggle to find inspiration for my writing.  Generally I just stare at the blinking cursor until something comes to me or it's time to go to bed.  This approach may not be particularly helpful for you, or frankly for me, so here are some other ways to find inspiration:


Listen to music.
Get inspired by beauty.
Find a picture of your hero.
Chocolate.
Get some exercise.
Take a break.
More chocolate.

I recently saw an interview with Japanese inventor, Yoshiro Nakamatsu, who reports he gets his best ideas while underwater. He says the lack of oxygen to the brain improves his creativity and he develops his best ideas in the few seconds before a person would pass out.  The closest I ever want to come to that plan is plotting my book while taking a shower.  Creativity good, drowning not so much.

So where do you find inspiration?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Karma's Karma Or What Comes Around Goes Around



On a recent visit to Boise I decided to see a few of my favorite people and escape my three teenagers. Naturally I went to Humpin' Hannah's—after all, there aren't many places my kids can't follow me. Thank God my kids are still under age and Karma cards. Well, here's what happened... 
I swung the door open to my favorite bar in Boise, Idaho, Humpin’ Hanna’s. My eyes went right to Karma Kincaid, manning—or is it womanning the bar.
Karma looked toward me and her face broke into a grin. “Hey, Robin! When did you get back in town?” She slid under the pass-through and gave me a big hug.
“Yesterday. It’s great to be back. I’m supposed to meet Jessie and Fisher here.”
Karma’s eyebrows rose. “What for?”
I tossed my bag on polished mahogany and claimed a stool while she scooted back behind the bar. “I’m here to interview them. My book, Call Me Wild, came out August 7th and I thought it might be fun to get their take on having their entire romance in print.”
“Hmm.” Karma wiped down the already clean bar.
“Hmm? Is there a problem, Karma?”
She shrugged and flipped her blonde curls over her shoulder. “I don’t know what you’re doing interviewing them. I’m the one who set them up. If it wasn’t for me, Jessie would still think Fisher was a stalker, and she still wouldn’t believe in love.”
“Really?”
Karma gave me her don’t-you-know-anything look, rolled her eyes for punctuation and planted her hands on her hips. “Yeah, really. Didn’t you even read the book?”
“I wrote the book.”
“Then why are you asking me instead of interviewing me? I’ll bet you twenty bucks that I’m way more interesting.”
“You’re on.” We shook hands and then Karma leaned toward me, placed her elbows on the bar and held her chin in her hand.
“So? Are you going to ask me questions?”
“And lose twenty bucks because I’m a good interviewer? I don’t think so.”
She smiled. “Ooh, so you’re gonna make me do all the work. Okay, that’s not a problem. I have plenty to say.”
“I’m waiting with bated breath.”
She poured me a snakebite and slid it down the bar toward me, stopping right before it hit my open hand. It didn’t even splash over the side. “Wow, Karma, you’re a beer slinging goddess.”
“That’s only one of my many talents.”
I took a sip of the snakebite and signed. “What are some of your other talents?”
“Matchmaking to name one. I fixed my bartender up with my college roommate; they’ve been married for a few years and have a little baby girl. I’m the godmother.”
“And you think you fixed up Fisher and Jessie?”
“I know I did.”
“But they had literally been running into each other all week, and Fisher had even asked her out more than once.”
“Sure, the first and second time she said no, after that, she thought he was a stalker. As if.” She laughed. “My brother, Fisher is a lot of things, but definitely not a stalker. It took me about five minutes to realize she really had the hots for him—no matter how clueless she was about it. But really, what do you expect? Jessie didn’t believe in love. All I did was make sure they both ended up in a place where she would have to deal with Fisher—at least for a little while.”
“Isn’t that a little conniving?”
“I was being helpful…”
“Okay, sure. So helpful that Jessie ended up having to tow her car back to Boise and Fisher ended up with a concussion.”
“Neither of which were my fault. Besides, haven’t you ever heard the term ‘All’s well that ends well’?”
“Sure, That’s from a Shakespearean tragic comedy or is it a comic tragedy?
 “I like to think of it as comedic romance.”
“No, that’s what I write.”
“Yeah, and how would you have gotten them together if I wasn’t around?”
“I would have figured something out.”
Karma poured herself a seltzer. “Sure you would. That’s why Jessie ended up in my bar talking my ear off about this hot blond dude who was a bum, and lived with his mother. Once she said his name was Fisher, and described my brother perfectly, what option did I have? It was all I could do not bust out laughing or do a Tebow—you know, stop, drop, and kneel. It’s not often I have one of my brothers at my mercy.”
I quirked a brow.
Karma shrugged. “Okay, not often enough.”
The doors swung open and Jessie and Fisher walked in. I pasted on a big smile. “Hi guys, we were just talking about you.”
Fisher put his arm around Jessie and gave Karma a if-you-said-anything-embarrassing-I’m-gonna-kill-you look.
Jessie elbowed him in the ribs. “Stop giving Karma silent threats. She gave up meddling, remember?”
 “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Yeah, Fisher,” Karma cut in. “I’m a proud member of MA—Meddlers Anonymous, it’s Gramps you gotta worry about. After all, he’s the one trying to figure out how to get you and Ben to make him a great-grandbaby already. Not to mention his problem with Trapper’s marital status.”
Jessie caught the beer Karma slid toward her and shot Fisher a worried glance. “What about your marital status, Karma? Isn’t Gramps trying to get you to settle down too?”
If I’m not mistaken, Karma blanched. “Heck no.” She waved the thought away. “He’d like to keep me his little girl forever.”
Fisher caught the beer Karma shot him. “Thanks, and yeah, we’ve all been protecting Karma’s virtue since day one.”
Karma didn’t look too happy about it. “See what I have to put up with—times four. Ben’s just as bad as any one of my brothers. I’ve been trying to marry them all off just so they’d leave me the heck alone.”
Jessie leaned back against Fisher—those two were so tight, if you stuck a piece of coal between them, it’d be a diamond in no time.
I sat forward on my stool. “So Karma, how’s that working out for you?”
Karma blew her hair out of her eyes. “Not real well, thanks for your concern.” She smiled at me and then turned her attention back to Jessie. “Hey, have you heard from your best friend Andrew lately? Is he coming for a visit any time soon?”
“I just talked to him yesterday. He’s working hard, you know writing for that soap opera of his. I wish he’d go back to writing his screenplays.”
I took a sip of my snakebite. “Hmm… maybe you should turn the tables and dare him to come out here on his next hiatus to write then next award-winning screenplay he’s always talked about. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?”
Fisher’s eyebrows rose. “You’re not thinking of Karma and Andrew are you?
I shook my head. “Why would I think that?”
“Don’t.”
Oh, wow. Fisher looked hotter than usual when he was a little peeved. Jessie is one lucky girl. “What do you want me to do? Karma’s the only single woman he knows in Boise.”
“He’s not dating my sister.”
Jessie stepped out of Fisher's arms. “What’s wrong with Andrew? He’s my best friend. I’d trust him with my life. I think he and Karma would make a great couple.”
Fisher’s eyes went wide and ever muscle in his neck delineated.  
I nodded in agreement. “And you gotta admit, Karma’s a beautiful woman. Plus, we both know Andrew is straight.”
Karma laughed, took a twenty out of the till and passed it over to me. “Okay, game over. You win. Now tell Fisher what you were doing.”
“Me?” I shot him an innocent grin. “I wasn’t doing anything. But I think I’ve gotten all I need for the interview. Thanks everyone.”
I stuffed the twenty in my bra, hugged Fisher and Jessie on my way out and shot Karma a wink. Yeah, she was going to have a lot of fun cooling off her brother.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pitch Contest!

by Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager, 

Sourcebooks Casablanca

It’s one of those months when I don’t want to read my own writing—I want to read YOURS! Voila—time for a pitch session!

These are the IRON-CLAD rules!

1)      ONLY single-title romance 85,000 to 100,000 words or commercial women’s fiction
2)      Erotic romance, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, contemporary romance
3)      Here’s the format:
a.       Title
b.      Subgenre
c.       50 word pitch
d.      1-2 sentences on each of the next 2 books in the series
e.      Author sales history (title, publisher, # of copies sold to readers, or that you’re a debut)

I can’t wait! This is my absolute favorite part of my job!

Remember our editorial criteria:
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*author has a career arc—in other words, if readers love this book, what are we giving them next, and next, and next…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Casting my Characters in the Fall

For some reason I've received a lot of questions this week asking do I use people from my day job in my books? Do I kill off former bosses? My staff kept asking if some day they'd get to be heroes or perhaps victims? And would they recognize themselves?

No. No. No. And another no just to be sure. Then they ask again. So I reply that my books start with a character's voice and often with a season. The voice probably comes from years of running the high school theater and then later working several years in live theater and six more in the opera (where I was a computer tech, but I heard a lot of magnificent voices). I'm also a movie buff which doesn't hurt.

Voice tells you me so much about a character. Beyond accent, there is region, and beyond region there is pacing. My characters tend to think quickly and speak abruptly... Of course, I'm currently writing military romantic suspense so that makes some sense.

But also season. Book two of my Night Stalkers, "I Own the Dawn," is fresh out and I'm proofing the final galleys on book three "Wait Until Dark" due out in February. And the books are set mid-summer and mid-winter respectively. I find that shapes the characters and the actions.

I'm becoming fascinated with how we fit into the seasons here in the Rose City of Oregon. My wife and I take long walks year round. In winter, we are among the few and brave, it is a wet land here in the Pacific NW. In the spring, everyone is too excited by the return of sun, or too wound up by the overlong continued rains of a late season, to have a pace at all. Crowds and characters jitter about in the spring.

In summer there is a strange stop-start rhythm. People flow forward with a mad rush of the need to be intensely active for all of the extended daylight, which runs from 5am to past 9pm at mid-summer. Only to be balked by the heat, suddenly languid, but without that easy pace of tropical environs.

But it is fall now in the Pacific Northwest. The International Rose Test Garden in Portland is proudly displaying its final splashes of color for the season, still shocking with their vibrancy in the shorter daylight hours. The air is fresh with overnight drizzles. And it is the only time of year when people move and behave at a predictable pace.

Fall is when people mosey. They relish the last of the sun; still warm enough for sidewalk cafes, as long as you're wearing a light sweater. Still warm enough to justify a scoop of gelato on your way home. It's my favorite time to walk through the city. The summer run and stop is over. The tourists are gone. The neighborhood settles.

The seasons are where I find my character's pace. Kee (book #2) can only exist in the summer's heat. Connie (book #3) is as cool and steady as the winter snows she must travel through. And I find my characters on the street as well. An overheard turn of phrase, a hand gesture, a pose of attitude. I drink them in as I wander through the city and I bring them to the page.

My coworkers? Sorry, not so much folks. The workaday world doesn't have that fire of who we are. Day jobs are when we fit into the molds of others, of our employers. It is the unguarded expression, the bright laughter, and the dancing leaves of fall where my characters come to life.

Always my favorite time of year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Evolving as an author


I think I've noticed something. Because I've been reading more and more over the years, I think I'm getting sexier. LOL I mean...smarter!

My vocabulary has grown. What used to feel like "formal" dialog, now sounds natural to my inner author's ear. Maybe too it has something to do with having a smart critique partner who writes historicals. She adds an explanation with every new word I learn, and it sticks.

Other parts of my writing have changed too. When I first began publishing in 2004, I was writing romantic suspense. That's because everyone in my critique group was writing suspense. Eventually I found my own voice in romantic comedy but carried the rules of suspense with me.

Also back then, erotic romance was selling like candy to epubs. I wanted to get published, so I heated up the sexual component. *Funny aside...my husband gave me a year to get published. I told him what he could do with his year, then I went after the goal like a mad woman on a mission. One year to the weekend later, I received my first contract offer. (Insert raspberry here.)

So, getting back to evolution, as a result of that dare a higher heat level became part of my repertoire.
I had to get used to holding my head up in public, but now I forget some readers might be shocked by a sex scene. Well, I'm evolving again...Trying to write sex without crossing into crude territory.

I still have no idea where a comma goes, but that may come with future evolutions. At least my spelling and grammar have improved, not that either is perfect. Hey, we have to give editors something to do.

I wonder what I'll be writing in ten years. Maybe Vampires and Werewolves will have gone out of style and I'll learn how to write something else. The only thing I can't imagine doing is giving up on romance altogether. It's the part of any story I look forward to, and if it's missing, believe me, I notice.  


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spring!

One day is was storms the next 29 deg C (84F) and sunny. Such is Perth weather. My blueberry and lemon trees are flowering, and the strawberry patch is fruiting. Spring has arrived!
my mini potted lemon

With the change in season I’ve realised it’s also time for me to clean up my writing area. For three years the wall and notice board have been covered in notes about goblins, but this year the fairies have invaded. When I look at the wall there are notes about future heroes, about Annwyn and a heroine that is proving very tight lipped. Now that the page proofs are done on the last Shadowlands book there is no need for me to hang onto the notes (or at least keep them stuck to the wall).

There’s things like ‘Brac died before Fane’ (crucial not to forget that one!).

‘Goblin with a scar on his face’.

And my personal favourite ‘Meryn’s nightmares come true’.

Alongside them I now have fairy related things like ‘Verden=Johnny Depp in Chocolat’ and ‘when did Jacqui eat the fairy food?’ and ‘How many should die from plague?’.

On one hand it’s sad to end a series, but on the other I know that my Celtic heroes all got their HEA and there are new worlds to create and new adventures to have.

Spring is also time for me to corral my new ideas into something workable as I get quite a bit of plotting done over the long summer holidays (December and January in Australia). Come the new year I’ll have lots of stories to write and new goals to set :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I say cowboy, you say...


I did a little survey and asked people to tell me the first word or short phrase that came to their mind when I said COWBOY!

Some of them said things I expected. Other’s came up with whole new thoughts. So I said cowboy, they said... 


 Sexy;  Attitude with sex appeal
Future Husband
Boots
Wranglers; butts, drives me nuts
 
Horses
Quiet Strength
Stetson
Ranch
 
 
Cowboy Up!
 
Sam Elliott
Belt Buckles
Cowgirls
Chivalry 
Carolyn Brown...she writes about them!; Stories
(Love those two answers)

Other answers included HOT!; strong hands, soft heart; hunk; Tombstone; football (I do believe that came from a guy and he was talking about Dallas Cowboys); rugged; hubba; ride 'em; sexonastick-one word!; western; cowgirl; hard headed, hard to get to know; naked; hot and bothered; independent; charming; and Todd Morgan (who happens to be my son-in-law). My favorite so far has been--It isn't a word but a VISION I get when I read the word.
So I say cowboy, you say...
 
To those who say, your name will be put into the famous Stetson and one lucky winner will be drawn at the end of the day for a signed copy of One Hot Cowboy Wedding! 
 
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wildlife and Small Towns + Giveaway by C.H. Admirand


I live in the wilds of northern New Jersey. We’ve lived here for 30 years, and although we thought about moving once or twice, the neighborhood kept us here. Lindy’s Lake is a small community where everyone knows everyone else’s business—at least we did while our kids were still in school—once they go off to college things change…but the one thing that we love the most aside from our Lakestyle cottage is the wildlife, flora, and fauna that are a part of the community.

In the years we’ve lived here we made the house our home by planting gardens, laying a bluestone patio, and building an arbor outside and painting and refurbishing the inside. In all the time we've lived here, we've only had bears visit the outside of the chainlink fence that surrounds the back half of our property...that is until the other night.

We were babysitting our darling grandbaby overnight since his mommy and daddy both had closing shifts at work. I had our grandson in my arms when I heard the distinctive sound of twigs snapping that got increasingly louder. From the sound, I knew it was bigger than a raccoon, possum, cat, or dog…coyotes, though in the neighborhood, rarely come close to our backyard. 

The wisteria was dark, but I could hear what I knew was a bear climbing up to the top of the arbor, breaking the tiny slats that supported the crossbeams. I had Jack on one hip, the dog whining at my side and a flashlight in my hand, but the wisteria was too thick to see anything…but I could hear him. When I called my husband, he came in and did see when the bear’s foot broke through some of the tangled vines breaking even more of them. From the deep growl, we could tell he wasn’t happy about something, and that’s when I remembered the two new cakes of suet we’d put out for our feathered friends: Blueberry Blast and Berry Treat. He was working hard to unhook the feeder.

You see not only the Nuthatches, Chickadees, House Finches, Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers enjoy the berry blast suet we put out...the bears do too! We've had to stop feeding the birds once or twice but haven’t had a problem like this before. Here’s a picture of the broken slats on the ground…


 The hole in the middle of the wisteria (and missing slats) where his paw went through as he snatched the suet feeder…


And the suet feeder where the bear left it…on top of the arbor! He only managed to pry one side off.


But bears aren’t the only problem we had this week…the other is our darling little black lab mix that we rescued in January. Jameson is trouble…adorably cute, but trouble just the same. Earlier this summer our oldest son designed and let me help him build a stream and pond—and in a moment of puppy exuberance…apparently he wasn’t just digging in the stream…he was chasing a toad…all of our hard word went down the drain—er pond.

Here's the puppy...


And the toad...
 
 

We now have a leak and I’ve had to pull out all of the stones we filled the stream bed with. It was a daunting task, fitting stones together and then adding the pretty round river rocks to finish the job, and now...well see for yourself, it’s just the liner while we try to pinpoint the source of the leak.




Soooo remember when you’re thinking of moving to a small town or community that there are other creatures that you will be sharing your space with. Getting along with them and living in harmony isn’t difficult, but it can be a challenge.

To celebrate life in a small town, I’m giving away a signed ARC for my November release, A WEDDING IN APPLE GROVE (Small Town USA Book #1).

Leave a comment here on the blog and I’ll draw a name at random tonight. Do you share your yard with wildlife, or do you live in a citified area? Have you ever had a run in with a wild creature that you were unprepared for?

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Fresh Start for Fall & a Giveaway! by Sara Humphreys

Like many of  you, I am a mom with kids who are starting a new school year. Our four sons are growing up faster than I care to admit and this year is a big year for all of us. My oldest boy is a senior in high school and has started the daunting college admissions process. Our second boy is a freshman in high school and he's tackling that scary freshman year with a brave smile--even though I know the kid is freaking out on the inside. Our twins have started sixth grade which means--middle school. I don't know about you guys, but I think middle school is the absolute worst. At that age they're all emotionally handicapped and full of burgeoning hormones--a recipe for drama. Oy.

Needless to say, the boys all have a big year ahead. A transitional year. As fate would have it, it's a transitional year for me as well.

I resigned from my full-time job over the summer.  I now have the luxury of being able to work from home, which allows me to have much more time for my children, focus on my writing and building my speaker training company. (I also train executives on public speaking skills with Taney Speaker Training.) This week was our first full week with the new schedule and I have to admit that I'm loving it but it's not without it's challenges.

Best parts: Our  home is calmer and I feel much more engaged with my boys. I get to write, write and write!

Worst part: The unexpected last-minute things that throw a monkey wrench into my writing time.

The pros far outweigh the cons and as long as I keep to my time management, everything will be fine.

So to celebrate my new found freedom to follow my passion, I'm going to giveaway a signed arc of my November release, Untamed (Amoveo Legend #3).

Leave a comment here on the blog telling us about a fresh start you've made and I'll select one comment at random to win! I'll announce the winner here on Saturday!



HER WORST NIGHTMARE IS COMING TRUE...
Layla Nickelsen has spent years hiding from her Amoveo mate and guarding a devastating secret. But Layla's worst fear is realized when the man who haunts her dreams shows up in person ...
HE HAS FINALLY FOUND HER...
William Fleury is as stoic as they come, until he finds Layla and his feelings overwhelm him. She won't let him get close, but then an unknown enemy erupts in violence and threatens everything Layla holds dear...



Untamed will be released 11/6/12 but some early reviews are in and so far we're off to a great start!


"The characters are well-developed, the twists and turns of the plot are well-crafted, and the situations are alternately funny, action-packed, and sensual. " - Fresh Fiction

"An excellent paranormal romance with awesome world building and strong leads. " - The Romance Reviews

"Compelling... Deft world-building and sensuous love scenes make this paranormal romantic thriller an enjoyable journey. " - Publishers Weekly



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Popular Publicity and Marketing Myths (+ a Giveaway, of course!)



by Danielle Jackson, Senior Publicist, Sourcebooks

Over the last few months, I’ve been invited to speak at various writers conferences—RT Booklovers Convention, Chicago-North’s Spring Fling, RWA National Conference, Evanston Writers Workshop—about publicity and marketing of books in today’s ever-changing publishing climate. It’s always hard for me to prepare for these things, because everyone involved is at a different stage in their publishing journey! But I have noticed some similar questions/ideas come up at almost every event, and I thought I’d share them here today.

1. I have to do all kinds of social media to be successful. I don’t believe this… with so many different ways to connect (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs, Websites, Four Square, Apps, Reddit, Google+… among others), social media can become very overwhelming. My advice to authors is to find one or two that you like and can handle, and stick with those. Can you reach more people if you do more? Perhaps, but only if you keep it consistently updated and you make an effort to engage with your audience. You can link your accounts, so when one updates so does the other, but that can be tricky—especially on something like Twitter where you’re limited to a specific amount of characters. How do you decide what’s best for you? Try them out. Google how-to guides, look at what fellow authors are doing, explore! That’s the only way you’ll find what you’re comfortable with (not just me telling you to do something).  

ABOVE ALL—you should have a well-designed website that serves as a hub for all of your activity!

2. What’s the secret formula to making it big? Guess what? There isn’t one! Ask any bestseller out there and you’ll get a variety of answers, but a few things come up: hard work, perseverance, and most importantly, a GREAT book that you’re proud to share with the world.

Robyn Carr told us at the RWA National Conference Awards Luncheon that it took her 29 years before she hit it big. Twenty. Nine. Years. Think about that for a while.

3. So, you like, read all day, right? I wish. My answer to this question used to be, “I’m not an editor!” but then I learned about what editors do—they don’t read all day either. Do I love the fact that my job is always different, I get to work with a fabulous team of people, represent a great company and help out with fulfilling the dreams of people who go from aspiring to published? Yes, yes I do. And when I did get a few minutes to read through the first chapter of one of your books during work hours, that’s just an added bonus. Otherwise, I like, read all night.

4. Do I REALLY have to promote? Short answer: YES. At many other presentations (ones that I try to sneak into under the radar), I hear it iterated that publishers don’t do much to support authors, and they expect authors to do everything on their own. Sourcebooks is a little bit different—we have two puiblicists dedicated to promoting our romance novels, and we expect our authors to collaborate with us on getting the word out about their books. We can’t do everything—you can’t do everything… so let’s work together to do an awesome job for your book’s success.

5. I know I shouldn’t, but that negative review was just plain mean—I have to say something. NO, actually you don’t. And you definitely shouldn’t. There’s been a lot of controversy around the blogosphere, on various online retailer sites, and in the media about the author/reader/reviewer relationship. Authors behaving badly (or their friends… or significant others… or avid fans) does not make for good PR. The old adage that any PR is good PR only works when you let it happen that way. Stirring the pot or feeding the flame because of one person’s less than stellar review is NOT OK. Obviously you don’t have control over everything—which can be uncomfortable—but you do have control over yourself. Think before you hit sent/press save/upload a comment!

So there you have it! Some recurring topics of discussion that have come up in recent months. AUTHORS: What’s something you’ve heard and want to chat about in the comments today? READERS: what kind of interaction are you looking for from authors—great books first and foremost, yes, but how else do you want to connect with them?

GIVEAWAY: Answer my question and I’ll giveaway 2 fabulous Georgette Heyer surprise book bundle to random commenters. And for funsies—Sourcebooks authors, this one is open to you too :-) 1 bundle for an author, and 1 bundle for a reader.