Friday, 27 September 2013

NaNoWriMo's On Its Way!

NaNo season is creeping up on us.

For the past three years, I have taken part of that wild and wacky writing marathon called National Novel Writing Month. Thirty writing filled days of November – where I post my word counts on Facebook (or rather my words-to-date because it sounds better) and encourage my fellow Nanoists to keep up.

This year will be more challenging than previous ones, as my writing time has temporarily dropped to a bare minimum and the novel I'm planning to write is not (yet) a romance. So in October, I plan to battle the evil plot dragon and wrestle some sort of outline for my story. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up with the rest of my NaNo pals and have another completed first draft to edit.

Are you taking part in NaNo this year? If so, what kind of story are you writing?

Dawn Torraville-Cairns
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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Peek Behind The Covers

by Deborah Hale

I’ve been hard at work on Art Fact Sheets recently for the book I just turned in. AFS are questionnaires that
authors fill out with to help the publisher’s art department come up with a cover that will suit the story and attract readers.  They used to be paper forms authors filled out and mailed in.  Now they’re drop-down menus on a special website with lists of popular story themes like “Marriage of Convenience”, “Fictitious FiancĂ©” and “Kidnapped Bride” from which to choose.

There is a page to give general information about the story – theme, setting, time of year.  There is a page for a very short synopsis and some questions about the message of the book, the significance of the title and any interesting visual elements.  There are pages to describe the characters both physically and by personality traits.  Finally there are pages to describe scenes in the story that might make for a compelling cover – giving the setting, weather and time of day, what the characters are wearing and what they’re doing in the scene.

After all the this input, my covers hardly ever look the way I think they might, or the way
I might create them if I had any skill in art/design.  Yet almost always, the art department manages to capture the mood of the story and create a cover that’s beyond my expectations.  So I’m doing my part, trying to give them as much information as I can to help them work their cover magic. 

I love the cover for my next Love Inspired Historical® release, The Duke’s Marriage Mission! The story
takes place at the duke’s country house which is a former abbey, modeled after Forde Abbey in the UK.  One special feature of the house is the cloisters (a walkway with a roof supported by pillars) from the original abbey which has been enclosed with walls and windows.  Several key scenes between the hero and heroine take place in the cloisters, so I thought it would make an interesting background for a cover scene.  I’m so glad the art department agreed! J

Readers, what aspects of a cover make you pick up a book and consider buying it?  Is it the appearance of the characters?  Do certain colors attract you?  Do you have a favorite book cover?  What is it about that particular cover that wowed you?

Deborah Hale

Monday, 23 September 2013

Why do we write & why it’s key to promote!

As authors we write because we love to but we all have different reasons. Some write because it’s their job, some a passion, some a hobby and some because if they didn’t write they’d go crazy. I might be that crazy person because writing helps to keep me sane. I write across multiple genres and I love it. There had been a time authors had to stick to one genre – one pen name – one website - but even that’s changing.

Readers want a good story and the brand that used to define readers is even starting to blur. At one time a romance author couldn’t write young adult or vice versa. That’s no longer the case and when you add in the New Adult genre the brand gets blurred even again. What does that tell you? Readers will be loyal if you write a good story so stay true to yourself. Some authors excel at writing for what’s hot in the market. Other’s follow their passion and write the story they have to tell. There is no right or wrong – do what works for you.

So you’ve written your story now what?
If you’re an Indie author (or a hybrid – one who sells some books with a publisher and one who also self-publishes) you have to invest in a few key things:
  • Pay for a good editor – they are worth their weight in gold
  • Pay for a graphic designer – your cover sells your book so invest in getting it right
  • Pay for formatter – if you’re not computer smart (like me) pay for someone to format your book so you can add it to Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, iBookstore, Kobo.
  • Set your marketing budget

Why you need to market your book?

You are a small fish in a big ocean:
Did you know there are over 1.5 million books on Amazon and every day that goes up by 2,000? That’s big competition. Also Amazon added the 100 year-old expired copyrighted books which means the 30 to 90 rankings are getting skewed.

Tricks: Does FREE work?
For authors in Amazon’s KDP Select program sometimes it sometimes takes up to two days for Amazon’s algorithms to capture all the FREE downloads but for many authors giving away their books for FREE works. Why?

FREE is a great way to promote a new release especially if you have a series. FREE usually bumps up other books in your series. FREE doesn’t cost anything and it’s a great way to get your name discovered by new readers.

Box sets: A great collaborative approach
Why are so many authors working together to showcase their stories? Why not? This is a great collaborative approach to marketing and when authors work together that means they’re not alone in the ocean. Five authors in a box set – 5 website – 5 blogs – 5 facebooks feeds – 5 tweets – you get the impression.

Theme writing – holidays, Halloween, Valentine, Christmas, etc
Many authors target their books with a specific theme and it’s a great way to grab a reader who loves for example Halloween. Keep in mind that usually after the holiday is over it’s a lot harder to market your books but don’t let that deter you. This is a great opportunity if you’re used to writing long novels to try your hand at a different length and target a holiday to gain new readers.

Mermen aren't real. That's what biologist Jamie Winters thinks until a gorgeous Greek god enters her life and drowns her, forcing her to rapture into a Siren. Used to logic, she can't quite come to terms with Seth Cutter's magical undersea realm or the fact that he's a macho Titan.
Being a Siren causes Jamie's hormones to go into overdrive, which isn't good when she realizes that's exactly what Seth was hoping for. Sure, the sex is out of this world, but she's not about to change her character.
As Prince of the North Seas, Seth is used to having his commands followed. A decade of exile on land was easier than having to deal with the sexy-as-sin Siren who tips the scales of his existence and doesn't listen to one word he says.

They must overcome their prejudices to recover stolen relics that are key to the undersea kingdom, stop a deadly plague and destroy an underwater diva who wants to rule the roost. Are they two souls destined for each other or will the Fates decide otherwise? Seth knows firsthand, Fate can be a bitch.

Renee Field writes romance, erotic and also writes young adult under the pen name Renee Pace. Renee is also the founder of, Inc – a site geared to highlight Indie authors. Renee is currently finishing up a paranormal young adult novel to be released next month, and working on a sexy erotic story for a Halloween theme highlight on Kindle.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Hunky Heroes and Vile Villians

I’m working on a workshop for our next education session for the group with Julia Phillips Smith on writing hunky heroes and vile villains.  It’s been torture, really, having to meet with Julia and discuss our favorite alpha heroes and our favorite beta heroes. Such a chore! Not really. Who knew work could be so fun? And speaking of fun, villains are a favorite of mine, too and can be a lot more fun to write than the  good guys.

A good hero can make or break a book in our genre. To be honest, what I loved about Twilight wasn’t the vampire thing or the main character, it was Edward. He made the book for me, so what was it about him that I like and that so many others who read it and loved him found so swoonworthy?

For me it was how he whispered, how he had a hint of danger, how he protected and rescued Bella, how he was drawn to her though he didn’t want to be. All of those things made him irresistible for me. And for me, none of them were there in the rest of the books. Edward wasn’t the same after Twilight, so my love for him faded with my interest in the series.

But that’s just me.

In my first and so far only book, though the sequel is in production right now, Speak of the Devil, I tried to create that same swoonworthy hero. I tried to make Luc mysterious and dangerous. I tried to make him protective and all that, I mean he is a guardian angel after all. But on the other hand, I don’t like my leading ladies to be damsels in distress, so they had to take turns on the rescuing side of things. But he whispered some and was definitely drawn to her, but maintaining that in the second book is a challenge. And what about villains? The best villains don’t believe they’re villains, right? They believe their cause is just. I realized that my villain was mainly behind the scenes in Speak of the Devil, so I brought him out front and center for book two, The Devil Made Me!  I wanted a good, nasty villain but one you might almost root for if things were slightly different. One you could almost see his point. Since I didn’t have one really in the first book, I went all out and picked Lucifer, the devil, as my villain, and boy was he fun to write. 

So what do you look for in your heroes? Your villains? Are you an alpha male lover or do you prefer the beta males? Who’s your book boyfriend? Who are your favorite heroes and villains and why?

Shawna Romkey, Author of  Speak of the Devil
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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Living the Dream

Author Pamela Callow recently blogged about the ups and downs of the writer's journey - and what it means to her when the writer is "living the dream". It's not what you think! CLICK on the link below to check it out.

Wake Me Up When It's All Over 

By Pamela Callow

Facebook: PamelaCallowAuthor  
Twitter: @PamelaCallow

Available Now:
Book #3 of the Kate Lange Thriller Series

Monday, 16 September 2013

WOTS goin' on: Word on the Street September 22nd

Hello Book Lovers!

Word on the Street is happening in Halifax this upcoming Sunday on the Halifax Waterfront (fingers crossed for good weather!). Your friendly group of local romance writers - the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada - will be there, so please drop by and say hello. Our booth will be in the Queen's Landing area not far from the main entrance. Many of our published authors and aspiring authors will be there, so if you want to chat about romance, whether it's writing it, reading it or whatever, you've found your people.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Flawed Characters

One of my favorite television shows premiered this week, and I was chomping at the bit to watch it. How was it? Awful. Okay, well maybe not totally awful. The episode was actually good. The problem I had was with the hero. He’s a criminal. Like killing people and selling guns criminal. So he has some slight flaws... LOL. It would be easy for me to dislike this character because of said flaws, but I don’t—or didn’t. For me, this character was redeemable. He was a tough guy with a soft spot for his mother and his high school sweetheart and his criminal ‘brothers’. It was his love for these women and friends, and the way that he treated them that made me love this character and want to root for him, despite the awful things he did. Then the director went and made him have an affair while his wife was in jail for helping him. Did I mention she’d only been in jail for a few days and the ‘other woman’ was a prostitute?!

The reason I bring this up is because this episode really got me thinking about books and writing and the qualities that make heroes and heroines lovable. The best books are the ones with characters who have serious flaws, but they also have qualities about them that make you overlook their faults. They are redeemable. We continue to read a book and root for characters because of those few, or many, characteristics that make us hope they’ll be better. They make us want to take a journey with them to redemption, or to stand by witness them overcome obstacles that will make them change for the better. The problem with my fave television show is that he is no longer redeemable for me. And because of this, I have little interest in watching the show anymore. Then again, maybe I’m just angry at the direction the story is taking J and I’ll forgive him eventually.

As I write this, I am trying to think of examples of books where characters are seriously flawed, but we still love them. My first example: Gone With the Wind. Even at the end of the book/movie, I still rooted for Scarlett despite how awful she could be. And I like to think that if their story continued she would eventually become a better person and they would find their way back to each other. Rhett couldn’t give a damn, but Sara could (that’s me!). Another example: 50 Shades of Grey. Christian Grey was a bit of a jerk for most of the books, and yet we knew his back story and couldn’t help but hope that Anastasia would be the one to help him change.

The next time you read a book, think about this. What are the hero’s or heroine’s flaws? Why is it about them that make you want to continue on their journey with them? The ones we all love aren’t perfect, just like us. 

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Fiction, the Good Lie – No. 2: Effective Dialogue

by Magi Nams

"I've found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how their communicating but it tells you a great deal – by dialect and tone, content and circumstance – about the quality of the character." (E.O. Wilson)

"Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start." (P.G. Wodehouse)

            For winter 2012/13, Donna Morrissey was Writer in Residence with the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library here in northern Nova Scotia. Needless to say, I scrambled to enroll in her free classes offered through the library and was both inspired and challenged by them. Donna is an internationally acclaimed Newfoundland novelist who paints rich stories using vivid imagery and dialogue. I'm going to pass on a few tips I learned from her workshop on writing dialogue.
First off, dialogue in a novel isn't anything like everyday conversation, which is often a casual back and forth without a defined purpose other than sharing. Donna stressed that effective fictional dialogue "moves the story forward." It may 1) advance the plot, 2) introduce characters, 3) show emotion, 4) create mood, or 5) incorporate research. We've all heard that showing is better than telling, and one way to show is through characters' dialogue.   
Conflict – either internal or external, positive or negative – is the essence of good fiction. Donna told us, "Conflict indicates a change is about to happen," and challenged us to create conflict through dialogue in a number of exercises. She cautioned us to avoid dialogue pitfalls like goofy tags, using characters' names too often in conversation, having talking heads (make characters do something, not just talk), stilted conversation, dumping backstory, and explaining the plot (if a character has to explain the plot, the writer is not doing his/her job). She encouraged us to "spit it all out, then work on deepening it…Spontaneity is vital."
All of the dialogue writing exercises were timed, usually five minutes, which forced us to jump right in and spit it out. For one exercise, we wrote a brief scene in which one person overhears a conversation between two other people. Here's what I wrote:

Mandy slipped the egg basket off her arm and, hearing her mother's voice, leaned her head to the keyhole.
"You don't think she suspects? You don't think she knows?"
"How could she know? She's six years old." That was her father.
"What about all the trips to the hospital? All the visits to the doctor?"
"She's a child, Jenny. She goes where we tell her. Does what we tell her."
"You always make it seem like a game. It's not a game."
"What would you have me do? Tell her the doctors don't know what's wrong with her? That she might die?"
"No! No. I don't know. I just want the nightmare to go away. I just want my baby girl."
"You have your baby girl. Love her, Jenny. Smile at her. Hug her. And just remember, the doctors don't know. What they don't know may not be all bad."

In any piece of fiction, dialogue can do a lot of heavy lifting if it's genuine, uncluttered, and vivid. It can plunge the reader into the essence of your story and take them on an exciting emotional ride from your first page to your last. Let the characters speak! 

Writing as Jenny Winter, Magi is crafting effective dialogue in her first contemporary romance A Look Across the Sand, which features a wildlife photographer heroine and rancher hero. Magi also writes nature/travel non-fiction. Check it out at her blog

Monday, 9 September 2013

Fall into Comfort Food with Donna Alward

by Donna Alward

One of the things I love most about fall (besides the smell of fresh looseleaf and pencils, but that’s another blog) is the return to comfort food after a summer of grilling. It’s the perfect time to make a lot of dishes too because fresh veggies are still available and a lot of tree fruit is in season (my berries and rhubarb are already frozen or made into jam). This year I even canned tomatoes from our new garden, pickled jalapeno peppers and diced green and red pepper and froze them. I can’t wait to expand our garden next year!

I thought I’d share two of my favourite recipes today – one uses fresh root veggies and red wine (of course!) and the other is perfect for those fresh apples that are in season. Both of these recipes disappear in a big hurry in my house!

Best Beef Stew and Dumplings
1 cup flour
½ tsp celery salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 lbs stewing beef
 ¼ cup oil (I use olive, veg oil can also be used)
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp marjoram
¼ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
3 cups hot water
2 OXO beef bouillon cubes
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce (I double this)
 1/8 cup chopped parsley
½ cup red wine
Vegetables: carrots, potatoes, celery, turnip, cabbage

Mix flour, celery salt, salt and pepper together. Dredge meat in flour mixture and brown in the oil. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add other spices, oxo and water, Worcestershire sauce and red wine and let simmer an hour and a half. Add vegetables of your choice and simmer until cooked through.  If the meat has left brown bits on the bottom, don’t worry – the simmering in the liquid will soften it and it adds a lovely flavour as well as helping to thicken it.

Dumplings: mix 2 tbsp of shortening into 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp parsley. Add milk and stir, then drop by spoonfuls on boiling stew. Cover tightly and cook for 12 minutes.

Shenandoah Valley Apple Cake

1 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 ¼ tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups diced apples
1 cup chopped nuts
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

Beat oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl at medium speed (about 3 min). Sift together in a separate bowl – flour, salt, soda, spices. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet, beating well after each additions. Stir in apples, then nuts. Pour into a greased and floured 13x9 pan, bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done (mine took between 50 and 55 minutes).

For topping combine ½ cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar (packed) and ¼ cup milk in a saucepan. Cook over med heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Boil 3 minutes, pour on cake at once and let cool.

You can eat it once it's cool, but truthfully it's better on the second day after the sauce has soaked in....mmmmm!

And if those recipes sound good, you can check out my Recipe Corner on my website!  I have lots of recipes there and a few knitting patterns as well. 

Twitter: @DonnaAlward
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Friday, 6 September 2013

Daily Words and Other Things

CLICK on the link below to find out how Victoria's trip to Atlanta for the RWA national convention turned out:

Victoria lives on the island of Newfoundland, and is fiercely proud of her home. She can imagine no better setting for her works, and hopes that her readers will one day come to witness Newfoundland and Labrador's rustic beauty for themselves.

Visit her site or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Back to the Boards

by Taryn Blackthorne

There’s something about September. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher in my dreaded day job or maybe it’s because I’ve just always been prone to think of the end of summer as an END, but I always liked the feel of gearing up to go again that comes when the school year starts.

It’s the same with my writing. All the grand plans of summer inevitably slip into the best of intentions and I wind up hating myself for not meeting goals I’ve set or feeling guilty taking time away from my family for writing work. And it is work! I love it, it’s something that has always been there for me. The fact that it requires long hours staring at a blinking cursor or with a pen hovering over the pages in my notebook for so long they get dried out waiting for the words to come has never bothered me. Stories have always been my love.

Maybe that’s why I love September so much. People regroup after being out and about, away on vacations and travelling. They’ve been to weddings or funerals, had first loves or first dates, or one-last-times and never-seen-before experiences. Getting together with friends has always been a time filled with people telling their stories.

If you like story structures, September has always been like the hero coming back from the cave and sharing his adventures with the next generation. It’s just these days, I tend to be the world-weary traveller sharing my stories rather than the young buck ready to listen to old timer stories and head off on my own adventure. I guess that’s okay. It’s the cycle of things. And let’s face it, what greater compliment could there be than inspiring another writer to go sit alone with a dried out pen or blinking computer screen and write their tales?

So settle down with your notebooks, be they electric or paper. September is here, stories are beginning to unfold. Back to the boards, my fellow world-spinners, tally ho!!!

Taryn's birth as a Pen Monkey... She hooked her fifth grade teacher with a cliff hanger ending to a chapter and was thus sentenced to her 6th grade teacher because 'she wanted the writers'. It was the first time she had a moniker that didn't involve 'fat kid' and she embraced it for all she was worth. She swore vengeance by pen, absorbed novels like others did candy bars, and waited for the day when she'd moved from writer to author.

You can find her at: Website