Friday, 31 January 2014

Getting to Know...Tara MacDonald

Today's spotlight is on Tara MacDonald, business woman and romance writer.

1.  What genre(s) to you write and what attracts you to that genre?

I have always read fantasy as a young adult and some science fiction plus horror.  I fell in love with historical and contemporary romance through authors such as Johanna Lindsay and Nora Roberts.  So, I write fantasy, paranormal and contemporary romance.  All very separate genres but they speak to me.

2. What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?

My writing strength: I don't know that yet.  Currently,  I'm working with a proofreader and I feel my strength is my ability to adapt to revisions and suggestions.  I believe that with my marketing degree and current MBA studying what sets me apart from other authors is that at this age, 38, I don't have a family of my own yet so I embrace all my projects with determination and passion unfettered by interference.

3.  What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?

My writing kryptonite is a lull in my daily action.  When I need downtime I get it.

4.  Do you work with critique partners?

I did with the NJRWA (another RWA chapter) work with two critique partners before their schedules became so hectic they couldn't keep up.  Right now I've hired outside people to help polish my manuscripts.

5.  Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?

Inspiration for new ideas – people watching.  That's the only reason I set foot in a mall is to absorb life around me as it passes by.  And, for outdoor meditation I travel to the beach twice a week with my dogs.

6.  What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?

The piece of advice through RWAC has been with a HQN editor's visit where, after hearing my pitch, told me to keep going even though what I was doing didn't fit her category.

7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

 I'm working on finishing up my four year project – an epic fantasy romance.  Then, in a few weeks I'm revisiting my contemporary romance to get it ready to pitch at RT 2014.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

6 Questions With ... Lilly Cain

How long have you been writing?
It seems as though I have always been writing. I used to love creative writing in school, even writing papers for my two sisters who seemed to be more interested in math. I’ve been writing romance for 9 years, but you have to throw about 3 of them out during the time I was getting marriage therapy/separation/divorce. You can’t write romance or erotica when all you really want to write about is murder and mayhem. :)

Have you always written erotic romance?
No, actually I began writing paranormal romance about eight years ago, but as time went on the romances in my stories became hotter until I found myself on the edge of erotic romance. Then I said heck, why not? And jumped right in. ;) But it has always been paranormal and sci-fi that interested me because the genres’ opened up such a wealth of possibilities.

Do you ever find your characters surprising you?
Yes, occasionally. And when that happens I sit down and read everything I have written so far and see if the changes are what the characters really want or if I simply had too much coffee that day. If it turns out that the characters are demanding a plot change, well, I am an accommodating woman. ;)

How do you come up with a physical description for your characters?
It all depends. Obviously I write about features that attract me – tall men, strong hands, bright eyes, and other things. ;) But for my non-human characters there are important considerations. Since I write romance these characters have to be compatible to humans – bipedal at least, LOL. And they still have to be attractive. For Alien Revealed there had to be enough to show that the Inarrii were very different from humans. Exotic certainly, but in a sensual way. Other differences are internal, including strong psychic abilities.

So tell us a little bit about who Lilly Cain is when she's not writing.
When I am not writing, I spend my time with my family—I have two daughters.  I am a single mom, so I work hard writing and more recently, freelance editing. When playtime rolls around I like to relax by a campfire, roast marshmallows and sip vodka loaded lemonade, LOL. I have a cat; she’s evil but her nefarious deeds have slowed down to trying to sleep on my laptop and attack my toes when they are under the covers more than anything else.

What are you writing now?
I am working on a science fiction series under another name, Anne Rose, because it won’t be erotic. But as Lilly I am working on a HOT fireman novella, Slow Burn.


Monday, 27 January 2014

All about me (Paula, that is)

Today’s my day to talk about myself. Prepare yourselves for unbridled honesty (and maybe more information than you really wanted to know…).

I wouldn’t make a good serial killer or spy. I can’t keep a secret. So here goes:

1.     What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
I write primarily fantasy romance with a little short contemporary thrown in, just to keep things from getting too dull. I love writing fantasy. I love the world building, and I especially like that my main characters can blow things up or disembowel enemies without it coming across to readers as sociopathic.

2.     What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?
I don’t think I have any writing strengths. I’m a red-hot, steaming ball of suck.  Although maybe I’m a little dramatic….

3.     What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?
Description and detail. I work really, really hard to get enough of those in. I often turn in my manuscripts with word counts that are too short because during revisions, stuff is going to get added. I know it and my editor knows it. We’re good.

4.     Do you work with critique partners? Not for years. I have a few people whose opinions I trust, but for the most part, I prefer to work alone. I’m a slow writer and a compulsive self-editor. My editor is my first reader.

5.     Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
They’re all in my head. Sometimes a phrase from a song will stick with me, but chances are good I’ve misunderstood the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll say, “I want to write something just like that.” Then, when I go to write it, I start adding other things. My favourite thing to do is ask “what if” questions. “What if the world really is flat? What if the sky really is falling?”

6.     What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
There are so many…. I hope they’ve all stuck with me. This is a great group. I think it’s really important to listen to readers. If you’re in a critique group, listen to your partners. They’re your first readers. You don’t have to incorporate everything they suggest, but sometimes, just the fact they’ve picked up on a section of your story is a good indication that it’s not working the way you want it to. Now that I’m published, I listen to reviews. I really don’t mind a negative review as long as it’s well thought out and constructive. I ignore anything that simply indicates the reader/reviewer didn’t care for my writing style. There’s nothing I can do about that. So I guess the piece of advice that has stuck with me the most is to listen.

7.     Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’ve got a number of things on the go at the moment. 2014 is going to be a busy year for me. I have a short contemporary romance I’m finishing right now (and which I’m supposed to be working on because it’s due in a few days). I just turned in a novella prequel to my Demon Outlaws books (called The Demon Lord). It will come out in April. My third Demon Outlaws book (Demon Creed) releases in May, so I’ve got revisions on that. I have a paranormal western romance (it’s a cowboys and aliens story!) releasing in November, and a series of fantasy romance novellas currently in the works that are due for edits shortly.

Getting to Know: Kelly Boyce

What's it like to be a romance writer? If you're curious about that, or our chapter, this is the place to be. We're continuing with our series "getting to know you", which introduces our RWAC members. We talk about our writing strengths, our personal writing challenges, and how we keep going. We're kicking off this week with Kelly Boyce. 

What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?

I write mostly historical but also contemporary, but if I had to pick one, it would go to historical. I’ve always been a history buff and I like meshing romance with the different time periods. It’s as close as I can get to a time machine so far. I haven’t given up on the actual time machine yet, but I skipped Physics in high school so I’m a bit behind the learning curve on that one.

What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?

Wow. Strength….does perseverance count? I imagine different readers would pick out different things. For me, I find dialogue comes fairly easy, whether male or female. I also like writing humor into the story while still maintaining the emotional element of the romance. I’ve been told I have a strong voice, although whether that pertains to my writing or because I was yelling at the time is hard to say.

What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?

Probably setting description. I struggle with that one. You want to paint a picture without it sounding like a paint by number and sometimes coming up with a fresh description that doesn’t make me sound like an idiot is a Herculean feat. When I read a passage by another author that makes the setting come alive with nothing more than a turn of the phrase, I weep with envy. True story.

Do you work with critique partners?

The awesome Pam Callow and I have been critique partners for years now. We started off meeting every two weeks to review our manuscripts as they were being written then after we both published it evolved to where we hit up the other one if we’re struggling with something or need a fresh pair of eyes, etc. Then if deadlines permit, we’ll do a read through of the full manuscript before it gets sent to an editor.  It’s a fluid thing and we change it up as we need to depending on what’s going on in our careers at the time.

Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?

This is where I justify my Pinterest addiction. Between the historical costumes, pictures of faraway places, photos, paintings, characters – it’s a cornucopia of ideas. I’m very visual, so seeing a picture of setting or a character is enough to get my brain running down the ‘what if’ track.  I also get inspiration from movies or books, sometimes news articles. Something will catch me and my imagination will take it in another direction and once again I’m muttering to myself, “I wonder what would happen if…”  I talk to myself a lot.

What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?

Treat your writing like a job. Show up every day and put in the time. The book isn’t going to write itself. Even when it’s hard, keep at it. That’s where the learning happens. Don’t give up. Learn and hone your craft. Write every day.  Someone also said, “Suck it up.” Actually that might have been me.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m currently writing A SCANDALOUS PASSION which is Book 2 in the SINS & SCANDALS SERIES. This book picks up about six month after AN INVITATION TO SCANDAL (Book 1) ends and is Spencer’s story. It’s set for a May 2014 release.  After that, it’s onto Book 3, A SINFUL TEMPTATION and then what I hope will be a Christmas novella starring one of the secondary characters from An Invitation to Scandal. Somewhere in there I’ll be doing galleys for my two 2014 Harlequin Historical releases and the first of those, SALVATION IN THE RANCHER’S ARMS, will be released in August 2014.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

7 Questions With ... Heidi Hamburg

by Heidi Hamburg

Today we're getting to know a little more about historical author Heidi Hamburg.

1) What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
For the past few years I’ve been writing historical romance, set in the Regency period. This may have something to do with the way I came to romance.

Years ago I had a winter when the only thing I read for fun was British-set murder mysteries.
Author Heidi Hamburg
I gobbled all the usual suspects, Christie, Allingham, Marsh, Sayers, Heyer, etc. And then I ran out of books. I lived in a small Arctic town, Frobisher Bay, with a very small library. (Now Frob is a city, Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. The resources are broader, and ebooks are very popular. But then book, orders came in once a year, on sealift. That library and my friends’ books were the only source- no ebooks yet. I soon discovered that Georgette Heyer had written another kind of book. Gorgeous books, set in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, an absolute delight to read. Romance!

Agatha Christie had been up to the same thing- half a dozen contemporary romances, that, like Jane Austen’s contemporary romances, read like historical romances now. I was hooked, and love them still, as I do so many of the writers of the past twenty years or so who have managed to emulate the originals so well. May I someday be one of them.

2) What’s your writing strength? What do you think separates you from other authors?
I think, and have been told quite often, that my world-building is very strong, that readers feel they are a part of the time and place where the story is set.

I don’t really subscribe to the advice that you must write very dark or very funny or very emotionally charged. I want it all. I like to have a chapter of absolute misery leavened by a good belly-laugh a few pages later. Hey, it worked for Shakespeare. And it works just fine for some of my favourite historical authors. Let’s hope it works for me.

3) What’s your writing kryptonite? What is always tough for you to tackle?
I hate hurting the characters I like. I always have to grit my teeth and just do it. I know perfectly well that if they don’t have obstacles to overcome they won’t grow, like pampered children who never hear “no”. I know that, I believe that, but I still hate it.

4) Do you work with critique partners?
My critique partner and I go in fits and starts, sometimes giving each other big chunks of work to deal with, and then having longish periods of nothing. I also have a couple of beta readers who only look at finished things. One of them never reads romance. She is very strong on story and style, with none of the expectations a romance reader might have. I like that separation.

5) Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
I have no idea- they just come, and flutter around until I do something about them. Often they come as I write, before I even know I need them. Sometimes they arrive in the shower, and I need to scribble fast, damp and towel-bedecked, or the best ones might escape.

6) What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
Never give up!

7) Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
Oddly, it isn’t romance. A long time ago my grandfather’s friend was lost in the woods for two days during hunting season. I have thought about his experience often over the years. Before Christmas I wrote a short story about a man who is lost, but this is not my grandfather’s friend’s story. The central character has aspects of seven different men. Some are alive and some are gone, but all of them loved that patch of central Nova Scotia woods, no matter how cruel it can be.

Since I wrote it I’ve decided that I want to expand it, so that’s the next project. The camp in the story is based on the one below.

Monday, 20 January 2014

When It's Important

The other day I was interviewed and one of the questions I was asked is what is your advice for new writers.  As always I say read, read, read, write, write, write, and if something is important enough to you, never give up on it.    

This had me thinking of my daughter.  Christmas 2013 I gave her a pair of diamond stud earrings, something she always wanted.  She treasured those earrings, but one morning she woke up and one was missing.  She’d been out to the clubs the night before with friends, during horrible monsoon weather.

Figuring she lost them at some point through the night, she called a cab, grabbed her friend, and retraced her steps from the night before.  Her friend kept telling her she was crazy.  No way would she ever find her earring in the city, especially after the heavy rains from the night before.

My daughter didn’t give up.  She searched the sidewalks, the puddles, and every nook and cranny in the pavement.  And guess what?  Yup, she found it.  Her friend was astounded.  So was I.  I mean what were the odds?  We’re talking a needled in a haystack here, or worse, considering the rain that soaked the city.  

Even though her friend went along to humor her, and never for a minute believed my daughter would have any luck finding that small, stud earring, my daughter refused to give up, because that earring was so important to her, and in the end she found her diamond.

So if you’re a new writer and the task before you seems insurmountable, just remember, if it’s important enough, and you never give up on it, you just might find what you’re diamond too!  

Cathryn Fox

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 Is going to be so Awesome because I have a Plan(ner)

Every year I start the search for a calendar/planner that suits my needs. Last year I put together one I was fairly happy with. I purchased a cover, bought a calendar from Staples online and added a notebook:

But I couldn’t add any additional pages. And it was black and white. Dull. Uninspiring.

I don’t even know what made me take a look on Pinterest but I did a search for planners and 320,546, 645 (approximately) pins came up.

OMG! Planner Heaven.

(All of you recovering Scrap Bookers might want to look away now.)

There is a whole world out there of Printables that I didn’t even know existed. Lots of teachers, homeschoolers, mommy bloggers created Printables and binders for every necessary task a person could want. There are Printables for children’s chores, reading logs, goals, exercise, drinking water. There are even Printables for housework. With check marks and lists and schedules. I always wondered why housework and I just never seemed to mesh and now I know why: I needed a schedule and a check list to keep me on task! Do you know when I clean my bathroom? When I walk in and think “man, this needs to be cleaned.” Then sometime within the next couple (or 6) days I clean it.

This is just a sprinkling of what is available for free, to buy as a download from Etsy or in other DIY shops that I’ve pinned:

I use the Arc Notebooks from Staples for other things, so decided to use one for my planner. You can add, change and rearrange the pages. The pages available are fairly standard, businessy (yes, that’s a word) type pages. And I wanted colour. And pretty designs.

The one drawback is that the Arc doesn’t use three-hole punch pages. You have to buy a special punch from Staples if you want to design and print out your own pages for an Arc. And it’s not inexpensive. You can use a regular binder and three-hole punch instead if you want.

A search of dozens of blogs and sites and I couldn’t find something that really spoke to me. Daily to do lists with 10-15 items on it? Whoa! Unless I’m putting on things like “brush teeth” and “eat lunch” that’s about 5-10 things more than I plan to do in the run of a day. (And probably explains why my bathroom always needs to be cleaned) Anyway, I ended up having to create my own pages. With far fewer items. But it took me ages. So, do yourself a favour, find ones already designed. Even if you have to buy them at Etsy. You will save a lot of aggravation, paper and printer cartridges. And Time. Which you can then use to clean your bathrooms. 

I designed pages for my “Goals” notebook. No New Years is complete without another commitment to lose weight and write more:

And calendar pages for the Planner:

Here’s a link to my Noteworthy Pinterest board if you want to see more:

What about you? Are you a planner? A goal setter? Or do you just wing it?  If you use a planner or calendar, what kind do you use?

Hope you all have a very Happy New Year filled with friends, family and good fortune.