Sunday, April 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
I was born and raised in Lancashire and after leaving school I undertook a variety of jobs – from office work to teaching in Further Education, from managing a Training & Advice Centre to being an outreach worker for Women’s Aid. So, it’s fair to say my working life has given me the chance to get to know all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds; a definite asset for anyone looking to write for a living.
Amidst all of this, I was also raising a family, whilst at the same time working towards a BA (Hons) in Women’s Studies. The latter being something that finally encouraged me to take my writing aspirations more seriously and as such, I then went on to obtain a MA in Television & Radio Scriptwriting. Fortunately, this led to my being chosen by the BBC for their New Writers’ Initiative – a break that culminated in the opportunity to work on their continuing drama series, Doctors.
Even so, this still didn’t stop me continuing to dabble in the world of prose and testing the waters with a bit of poetry and a few short stories, I was lucky enough to garner a modicum of success through publication, allowing me the confidence to put a future in scriptwriting to one side, in favour of a career as a full-time novelist. So, after successfully graduating from the London School of Journalism’s Novel Writing Course I now write contemporary women’s fiction and because in my view you can’t put a price on laughter, it tends to have a very humorous slant.
Are Reviews Really All That Important?
There’s been a lot of discussion around reviews of late, particular those left on on-line book stores. People seem to be wondering if the vast majority are, indeed, worth the paper (or in this instance, the screen) they’re written on? They ask if they’re genuine? Or just written by an author’s family and friends? And there’s even some suggestion that alleged readers have reviewed books without actually doing any reading – and all for a fee!
Naturally, this raises the question as to whether or not such reviews are actually all that important? However, in my experience as both an author and a reader, my response is that yes, I think they are.
Firstly, as an author I wouldn’t dream of paying someone for a good review and I very much doubt any of my peers would either. Not only is this bad form, it’s a sign that we might not have sufficient confidence to let our work speak for itself; which then beggars the question, if this is the case, why we’d be putting it out there for people to read in the first place?
Secondly, as professional writers we’re not doing what we do purely for family and friends; we’re pouring everything we have into our latest magnum opus for you, the book reading public. So as such, it’s your opinions we want to read about on these sites, not those of our loved ones. So like me, I don’t think the majority of authors would waste their time cooking the books, so to speak, as it doesn’t serve any purpose. Furthermore, we also know the importance of ‘word of mouth’ when it comes to recommending one book over another and these online review sites do operate as a virtual ‘word of mouth’ system. Of course, this means any negative reviews also get their fair share of attention, but as with every other profession we have to take the rough with the smooth.
Now let’s look at it from a reader’s point of view. As readers, do we really want to fork out our hard-earned cash on a book that sounds ok, but it’s written by an Author we’ve never come across before? Especially in these financially strapped times of ours? Of course, if we stick with the authors we know and love, we could simply be denying ourselves the opportunity to broaden our reading experiences; but still, we don’t want to waste our money, time and effort just to end up ploughing through something we’re not quite enjoying…
Then again and on a positive note, at least a physical book can enhance the look of a bookcase, so it’s not a complete waste of money. But do we really want a list of titles clogging up our e-readers because it turns out what we’ve just bought isn’t particularly our thing? No siree… no matter how cheap a download, we still want to enjoy what we read!
Of course, that’s when these on-line reviews sites come into their own. We get to see who thought what and why, good and bad; and like all of you, I know I’m intelligent enough to decipher what’s genuine and what’s not. And let’s face it, even a negative review can simply be a troll with an agenda…
Either way, having read what other readers have to say on a particular book, at least we get to make a more informed choice over our reading material.
Suzie's latest release is 'Going Underground'
At 8 ¾ months pregnant, Tracey Parkes has everything she wants in life. A nice house, even if it is a bit on the small side, a long awaited baby on the way and a reliable husband to boot...
Well, as reliable as a husband can be when he’s keeping a long held secret – a secret she’s desperate to uncover.
But with Jonathan continuing to keep schtum over the whole thing, Tracey is forced to turn to his past for answers. And it’s the unfortunate death of his old friend Malcolm that provides her with just the opportunity she’s been waiting for – an opportunity she soon wishes she hadn’t taken.
Of course, the last thing Tracey expects is to find both herself and her humongous belly squashed into the back of a classic, little Mini – all in a desperate attempt to catch up with three men on two vintage scooters. But with Jonathan seemingly hell bent on facing up to a past he’s spent years trying to forget, what choice does the mother-to-be have?
“Did you know,” asked Megan. “That the name ‘Louise’ actually means ‘famous battle maid’?”
All very interesting, considered Tracey, at the same time wondering what on earth the girl was going on about. But a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice.
“And everyone knows that grief can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, don’t they?” she continued.
Yep, now I’m completely lost, the mother-to-be couldn’t help but tell herself – unable to quite connect the two statements in relation to each other, let alone with a request to drive both her and Andrea down to Brighton.
“And should one particular famous battle maid feel the grief stricken need, the last thing I want is my Ace Face in a position where he has no choice but to oblige, isn’t it?”
“Right…” said Tracey and in realising this was all somehow part of Megan’s decision making process, she found herself slowly nodding in agreement – despite not having a clue as to what it was that she was actually agreeing with.
In fact, none of what this young woman was saying was making any sense whatsoever and she began to wonder if this had been such a good idea after all.
She looked to Andrea for some assistance.
“So, does that mean you will drive us to Brighton then?” Andrea duly obliged.
“Yes,” came Megan’s simple reply. “Of course it does.”
Tracey shook her head, by now completely baffled.
“Louise is Malc’s girlfriend,” whispered Andrea, by way of an explanation. “The plan is for her to meet up with the boys when it comes to them scattering his ashes.”
Not that Tracey gave one iota who planned to be present, as long as by then Jonathan wasn’t amongst them.
“You two load your bags up,” Megan instructed, whilst pointing in the general direction of the garage. “I’ll go and let mum and dad know where I’m off and then I’ll grab my toothbrush.”
Tracey watched her happily head off back inside the house, at the same time speculating over whether or not she’d inadvertently entered some sort of twilight zone – a feeling that only got worse when Andrea proceeded to lift the up and over garage doors, revealing what had been hidden within.
She looked from what she saw to Andrea and back again.
“You’ve got to be kidding?” she said. “Someone please tell me this isn’t happening.”
Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend today, Suzie, and wishing you every success with 'Going Underground' and your future writing career.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
So why did I choose Xenon? It’s a colourless, odourless, inert gas, used in arc lamps, and sometimes as a general anaesthetic.
What has this to do with writing? As I read the definition of Xenon, it occurred to me that sometimes our writing can be like this – colourless, odourless and inert. Happily it does sometimes light up like an arc lamp, other times it seems so dull that it’s sending you to sleep, never mind your readers.
So how do we get our writing out of the ‘Xenon’ mode?
Colourful instead of colourless: this doesn’t just mean describing the colour of the sea, or the heroine’s hair, or the hero’s eyes, of course. Nor does it mean pages of purple prose. ‘Colourful’ means capturing the reader by making our characters and the whole world in which they live come alive. Create ‘real’ characters with whom the reader can empathise and show their surroundings through their eyes. Make them jump out of the pages and into the imagination of the reader in full technicolour, not just in black and white.
Aromatic instead of odourless: the sense of smell is important – new mown grass, a rose, woodsmoke, freshness of the air after rain … etc. This leads us on to the other senses: sight, sound, touch and taste. All important in evoking emotions in our readers. Again, show them through a character’s perception. Don’t tell the reader the tree had a gnarled truck; have your heroine running her hand along its rough bark. Put the senses within an action, not outside of it. But don’t overdo it. Less is more!
Animated instead of inert: an inert gas does not react with other substances and does not undergo any chemical reactions. That’s the last thing we want in our stories! Our characters need to react with each other, of course, and they also need to undergo some kind of ‘growth’ during the story, whether it’s overcoming a fear or flaw, learning something about themselves, or dealing with a personal conflict.
We need always to concentrate on the ‘arc-light’ capability of Xenon and not its anaesthetic qualities, by keeping our writing dazzlingly bright and not soporific! A Xenon Ion Drive engine can be used to propel spacecraft on deep space missions by firing a beam of energetic xenon ions – so let’s do the same, and reach for the stars!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
I would love to make my living as a romance writer, but until that glorious day, I work as a Biodynamic gardener. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, raspberries, zucchini, winter squash, cucumbers, okra, sweet corn, tomatillos, melons, etc., I raise for my CSA's members need cross pollination. Most fruit and nut trees need insects for pollination. Cross pollination also produces seed for the following season, and creates the hybrid varieties that are productive in my chilly Zone 3 climate. Wild bees and honeybees from our hives pollinate my veggie and fruit crops.
Agricultural practices that threaten honeybees should be questioned. Five years ago, the drug giant Bayer introduced a line of nicotianimide pesticides for Monsanto's GM field corn. The GM drug is applied to the seed, and is so powerful, dust from the planter that drifts onto bordering weeds kills bees gathering nectar from the flowers of the weeds months later. Scientists at the U of Pennsylvania determined recently the pesticides were causing colony collapse disorder.
Monsanto and Bayer claim their proprietary seed/drug patents are in jeopardy if independent safety tests are conducted, so they are allowed to do their own testing. They are also allowed to release the drugs for use before testing data is reviewed. Most consumers are unaware of these practices. There is no way to put the genie back into the bottle. Cross pollination between GM and wild plants is occurring.
Consumers should be aware of what technology is doing / can do, and then choose to buy, or not buy, foods and food products with genetic mutations and designer drugs.
Xenogamy. This word is going to stick with me.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
This happened to me with my second book. It started as "Winner Takes All" and even won a contest under that title. When it got contracted, there was already another book with that title at my publisher. So then I came up with "Playing For Keeps". Wouldn't you know it? As soon as my editor and I decided on that, someone just squeaked in ahead of us with the same title. Finally, based on a game show in the story called Win a Wild Wedding Weekend, she suggested Wild Wedding Weekend, and it turned out to be perfect! Now, I can't imagine it under any other title.
Other than that, I've been lucky with my chosen titles, as I've gotten to keep all of them. Some publishers rarely keep the title a mss was submitted under.
Of course another thing to be careful with when picking a title is whether there's something else out there with the same title. (Titles aren't copyrighted, so it can happen.) I learned this the hard way with This Can't Be Love and A Christmas to Remember. My Google search on these titles comes up with several hits each day, most of which have nothing to do with my book.
Sometimes titles are chosen based on a series they are part of. My first was This Time for Always followed by the second installment This Can't Be Love. "This Feels Like Home", which will complete the trilogy, is currently undergoing some fairly major rewrites. As you can see, I've gone with the theme of starting each title with "This". That coupled with similar fonts for the titles helps to tie the stories together in a visual way and provide recognition for readers.
So, how about you? What tales of titles can you share?
Until next time,
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
What did you come up with? Have your who, when, where and what results sparked an idea in your mind? Can you already think of a ‘what if?’ resulting from this?
If so, the 5th W is Why? Why not start writing your story?
By the way, my results were:
Hero’s a singer, heroine’s an animal vet, a secondary character is a grandmother, it’s set in the 2nd World War in a mountain area, and the problem is a family feud. Hmm, my mind is already working on the what ifs!
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Melanie Babcot fought hard to escape the horrors of her youth and vowed to remain single and free, so when paid to protect Prince Liam from insurgents why did her personal pledge fly out the window?
The rebels had found the fourth and youngest son of Jean-Phillipe Gasquet, ruler of the tiny kingdom adjacent to the Swiss border. When had they discovered his whereabouts?
With a reluctant sigh, he faced the truth of it. They hadn’t ‘found’ him at all. They’d followed him.
Amazon USA http://www.amazon.com/From-Now-Until-Forever-ebook/dp/B006GYAV44/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322854797&sr=1-1-spell
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Now-Until-Forever-ebook/dp/B006GYAV44/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322854884&sr=8-1-spell
B & N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/sherry-gloag-from-now-until-forever?keyword=sherry+gloag+from+now+until+forever&store=book
His Chosen Bride
Prince Henri Gasquet is happy to let his father, the king, choose his bride for him until he meets Monica Latimer.
Monica Latimer is not prepared to risk letting any man close enough to learn about her Gift. A gift that normally has men running for the hills when they find out about it.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
But back to vampires. I love vampires. I always have, even before they became as popular as they are now. Linda Lael Miller has a fabulous vampire trilogy. And I will be the first to admit that I am one of those middle-aged women who are in love with Stephenie Meyer's Edward. Having the oh-so-charming Rob Pattinson play him in the movies is an added bonus.
And then there's the Sookie Stackhouse series. For me, it's Eric Northman all the way. I'll take him over vampire Bill any day, er night. This carries over into "True Blood", the HBO adaptation of the books. Just when I thought Eric couldn't get any yummier, along comes Alexander Skarsgard.
Logically, it doesn't make sense for a vampire to be a desirable hero. They're technically dead, yet practically immortal (Which kind of wrecks the whole growing old together thing). They're blood thirsty. And they're dangerous. Instinct would have us running from them, rather than into their arms.
Yet, vampires are sexy. Maybe it's the danger that makes them that way. Many are torn and conflicted about the life they live, so we see a little bit of the redeemable side to them. They are passionate. When their silent hearts come 'alive' with love for the heroine, it's truly a romantic moment.
Whether the traditional vampire who only wakes up at night, or the new breed of vampire who sparkles in the sunlight, there's just something about them. Something, for me, that's appealing.
Until next time,
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Authors have ‘voices’ that are as different as musical instruments – one may be a flute, another a bassoon. Even an individual author can have several voices – you write a letter to your lawyer in a different voice from a letter to your lover (at least, I hope you do!). In the same way, your ‘voice’ in a blog like this is different from your voice in a romance novel, and your voice in a romance novel is different from your voice in a crime novel.
Would-be writers sometimes ask how they can ‘find’ their voice, or even how do they know if they’ve found it. Some beginners think they have to ‘sound’ like a writer, so they may think they have to write long sentences with flowery or 'literary' descriptions. In doing so, they’re in danger of losing their own natural ‘voice’.
I’ve also seen advice about studying other writers’ styles in order to ‘find’ your own voice, and I always cringe at that advice. A writer’s voice isn’t something that can be learned (or copied) from others. It's already there within your writing, it’s YOU. The secret is to relax and let it flow.
That’s not to say it can’t be improved, by learning about the technicalities of grammar and sentence construction, of course. It’s also said that the more you write, the stronger your voice becomes. Basically, however, your ‘voice’ is how YOU write. I like to think of it as writing from the heart, from the hidden depths of the inner ‘you’. One piece of advice I like is 'Write from the heart, edit from the head.'
In a website about writing for children (Write4kids), I found this paragraph, which I think applies to all books, not just children’s books:
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Close, but no cigar.
Then my eye spied victress: A woman who defeats an opponent. This word isn't used very often. I went on a hunt.
We use heiress but not huntress. Actress but not doctress. Baroness but not conductress. Why don't we use ambassadress? Aviatress? Adulteress? Why have some words that denote 'woman who does ....' fallen into disuse, and others stuck?
Will women reclaim these words in the future? Will we be happy with gender neutral descriptors: doctor, lawyer, banker, president?
What would an alternative universe be like if women had held power in the past and men were struggling for equality? Would they want to be doctresses?
Friday, April 6, 2012
It is my pleasure to welcome fellow Chicago-North member and fellow Wild Rose Press author Isabella Macotte to Heroines with Hearts today.
Isabella Macotte grew up in Chicago and now lives in the Midwest. Ever since she can remember, she was reading. Not just fiction but everything she could get her hands on. Science, romance, history and paranormal. Especially paranormal...anything scary, creepy, or gory, she loves it. From light paranormal elements to terrifying monsters, she'll make up a story to amaze or scare you.
Isabella Macotte writes the kind of romance she loves to read: a story with delicious dialogue, seductive encounters, a dash of the paranormal, and an irresistible hero you will never forget.
Passionate about books, Isabella keeps busy reading, writing and working in a library. But if a few moments remain at the end of the day, she spends them with a wonderful family and sweet bichon pup named Daisy.
Tell us about The Heart Gem.
The Heart Gem is my current release. A historical romance novel set in England, the story incorporates paranormal elements, a heroine who plans to be a businesswoman, and a sexy hero who needs to wed to leave the Fae world behind. I really love stories with a paranormal twist and hope readers do too.
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
Just let the story flow. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Get the story out and let the characters come to life. Later, go back to edit and shape the story. Very structured and methodical in the writing process, I’m working on letting the creative right side of my brain take over.
What are you currently working on?
I’m keeping very busy writing Book 2 of The Artifacts of Love series, The Heart Compass. This is Malone and Tilda’s story, two characters introduced in The Heart Gem. I’ve also completed a young adult novel, The Monster Mirror.
Where can we find you and your books?
Please stop by my website at www.isabellamacotte.com
I’d love to hear from you!
We'd love to read the blurb and an excerpt from The Heart Gem.
In 1885, a proper Victorian woman's place was in the home. Convention never appealed to Hallie Pinefoy.
But plans for financial independence through a successful doll-making venture have one impediment. She's inherited a curiosity shop and a handsome business partner who's proving to be a delicious distraction.
When Bremen Tyler inherits a shop in coastal England, he breaks from the mystical Ancestral clan to live a normal life. The only way to guarantee a permanent break is to marry his Heart Match, a perfect soul mate. Bremen recognizes the captivating Hallie as his true love, but she isn't cooperating with his courtship.
If he can retrieve the stolen Heart Gem, an Artifact of Love, he can use it to prove their match. The surface of the Gem reflects the essence of a couple's future life, but the risks are great. More importantly, will Hallie realize true love doesn't need proof?
Hallie’s bottom shifted from Bremen’s lap onto the cold stone garden bench. Why was he stopping just when the moment was getting interesting? Then she heard the footsteps in the distance, rustling along the garden path. Her head still blissfully dazed, Bremen’s possessive hands moved to straighten the aquamarine gown’s bodice, which had drawn away completely from her breasts.
Clay’s face was an angry red, even in the dark night. She jumped at the intrusion and attempted to yank her hand out of Bremen’s, but his firm palm held on without releasing.
“Bremen Tyler, how dare you encroach on our relationship? Hallie and I have a long-established agreement among our families. You must honor this arrangement and withdraw your presence.” The shrillness of Clay’s voice reverberated through the grounds.
“I haven’t been informed of a promise or understanding. In fact, I have heard from the lady she is uncommitted. A state I’m determined to reverse.” Bremen’s deep voice was low and controlled.
“She would be committed to me if it were not for you. You are confusing her; she loves me but you are filling her head with promises and nonsense.”
“I have given Hallie neither false promises nor nonsense. She knows my true feelings.”
“She also knows my feelings and has said she will consider my offer.”
“If Hallie tells me it is you she wants, I’ll say no other word.”
“Hallie, tell him you will marry me. I believe my request was clear at supper,” Clay demanded.
“My love, make your wishes known, and we will visit the reverend directly,” Bremen countered.
Both men stared, waiting for a decision.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
They fall in love when they hadn't planned on doing so.
The past gets in the way of the love they're discovering.
Things change and will never be the same again.
They change and grow and discover throughout the course of the story.
As a writer it's a challenge to present these ups and downs in a way that makes the reader think the hero and heroine can't ever be together, and then to, of course, provide the happy ending. These turning-the-world-upside-down moments are the ones we crave in a romance.
Upside down craziness isn't always as sought after in real life. It tends to make things difficult, and there are no magical 'happily ever after' words to wrap things up and make everything all right. I wish I had as much control of real life as I do of fiction!
Until next time,
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Sunday, April 1, 2012
One could argue that money is power, since money gives power. But some people seek money for its own sake. To buy fancy things. To feel secure.
Sex can be a tool for power, but it sure seems like a primal need. A prime directive to perpetuate the species.
Some people love power. They enjoy competition. I like to think of this as a testosterone condition, but women can be power-hungry.
As romance writers, we focus on love. A hero or heroine’s quest to find their true love and live happily ever after.
Love isn’t power. It isn’t sex. And it isn’t money.
It is feeling like you and your true love complete each other. You fit together, complement each other. Together, you feel whole.
It is feeling recognized, understood and valued. You see things in your love that few others see, and they in you. You feel safe, and can reveal sides of yourself you’ve held in check. You can let yourself go all the way.
It is feeling you would do anything, could sacrifice everything for this one person. They are that special to you.
Love can come in a first-minute flash. It can dawn slowly.
It can happen when you are sixteen and when you are 90. It can happen more than once.
But we romance writers usually stick to one at a time.