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Category Archives: Writing Tips

How To Publish and Keep Control

IMG_2433_editedSo you write a book, and it takes you a year, and you think the next step is handing it to a publisher. That’s what I thought seven years ago. And then came revision, character arcs, economy of words, and a host of other writing no-no’s and must-do’s.

For five of my six years to publication, traditional publishing was absolutely the way I wanted to go. The marvellous books I’d read were published by the big houses, and I longed to follow that tradition.

Throughout all the conferences, workshops, online searches, critique groups (even one I started myself), and connections with writers, I dreamed of finding a publisher. I pitched, queried, rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned something else. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in General, Writing Tips

 

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How Can You Justify Spending Money on a Writing Conference?

Last Friday I braved the drive to Ajax along the busy 401 past Toronto to attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference.

Should I go or should I give pass it by? I wondered. Especially since last year I paid my money but spent the weekend in the hospital. Nevertheless I signed up. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision the whole three hours and twenty-five minutes that it took me to drive the normally hour and a half route. Grrr. But I went and I met my friend, Sally, and we carried on.  Here are some of the things I learned in the full sessions and workshops I chose:

  1. Character, plot, setting. You can’t have one without the others. Of course we knew that but being reminded of the intricacies of each is always good.
  2. Authenticity. People want to know that the author knows what she is talking about.
  3. Whether to wiki or not depends on how crucial to the story the detail is. If it’s really important, go further than Wikipedia.
  4. Regarding research, you need to know ten times more about your subject than you actually use in fiction.
  5. Put setting details sparingly throughout the novel and not all at once.
  6. Pace revelation of detail throughout the book and only as needed to drive the plot or character development.
  7. Writing a good pitch before you start writing helps the writer consolidate just what the book is about. It’s also useful for that elevator pitch.
  8. Make sure the stakes are crucial. Why would anyone care about what is happening to your characters?
  9. For writers to write about what hurts allows readers into the story in an engaging way which captivates them.
  10. When you decide to write you are joining the human condition.

Of course meeting other attendees and reconnecting with those I’ve met before is always a terrific experience and luckily a lot of that happened. I connected with Terry Fallis who gave me great cover quote for The Loyalist’s Wife last year. He was the final speaker and once again connected on a professional level and on a more personal level with everyone there. The lunch speaker was Wayson Choy whom I had never met before. That afternoon I came upon him by himself in the anteroom and had a chance to express my appreciation for his knowledgeable and empathetic remarks to the crowd. Both of these writers have not let their great successes ruin them. They are most generous to those of us who haven’t scaled the heights yet.

While the conference did cost me quite a lot for its length I found it absolutely worthwhile. And the fact that every time we sat down again in the large hall my name was up on the screens overhead as one of the authors who published a book in the last year, well, that just was the icing on the cake. Oh. And a number of people knew my name when I introduced myself. That was fabulous. All in all the Ontario Writers Conference 2014 was a great break from editing and revision and gives me new energy to forge ahead on The Loyalist’s Luck.

 

Coming May 14, 2014!

The Loyalist’s Luck Cover Reveal

book two in The Loyalist Trilogy, coming in September, 2014

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
 

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7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

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A Big Job Well Done!

Today I feel like the spider who has finally completed this huge undertaking. You know what I mean.

We all have those large tasks which seem to take forever and which gnaw at our innards until we finish them. Writing a book is such a task. Oh, sure, it’s a rewarding job overall, especially when it’s finally published, but many days the hill seems just too high.

Last week I neared the summit of another book project, or at least one of several hills. And I felt like the industrious spider at left who toiled and spun until this fabulous web was done. What was my milestone?

I finished the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck!

Just like the spider and her web, though, I still have lots of holes to fill before the final draft gets sent. So I got to thinking about other ways to brighten a writer’s day because finishing a draft takes months and months and we need more high points along the way.

7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

  1. Finish a chapter on your work in progress.
  2. Find an amazing bit of research.
  3. Write a wonderful sentence.
  4. Read another great comment about your first book.
  5. Check your book sales and find they’ve doubled from last month.
  6. Speak at an event and sell lots of books.
  7. Finish writing your first draft of a new project. (This is so rewarding it bears repeating.)

Coming Soon!  Book Two in the Loyalist series:  The Loyalist’s Luck

John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

Watch for the cover reveal for The Loyalist’s Luck, coming very soon! And if you haven’t read the first in the series, here are links where you may purchase it.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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Writing Wisdom from Marta Merajver

Come visit my stellar writing friend, Marta Merajver, on her site today. You’ll find me there, too!

 

Sign up for my email list to receive my quarterly newsletter, the next issue of which will be in February!

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

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Here is a painting which hangs in my office just waiting for me to take a break and sit at the table. I run my fingers over the crisp cloth and smile expectantly as I wait for the server to appear. Ah, a cool beverage, perhaps with a couple of berries or cherries or even mint leaves to garnish it.

Oh, but it’s not reality, you say, only a painting. That makes me wonder about just what the painter saw. Was the reality exactly like this? Or did the painter create his/her own idea of the truth?

Perhaps this started as a camera photo from which some clever person painted what hangs in my office. Were  young lovers sitting at the table, or an old man alone with his thoughts? Was there only one door and one building and the steps simple and square?

What we see here is the result of what our minds and our talents can do, whether with paints or words. The pink pops of flowers, maybe bougainvillea, might have been a broken down string of parched ivy. We don’t know.

We do this in writing, don’t we? Historical fiction is an excellent example. We strip out most of the story we remember and just use parts. Our rendition will not be the truth as far as reporting a certain incident but it will shine with its own truth in the context of our story. My great great great great grandfather is listed as having fought with Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Further research shows this may or may not be true. For The Loyalist’s Wife I have chosen to make it true. Of course nothing else about John Garner in the novel is true but the details of that war are.

A good rule to use in historical fiction is to stick to the actual events as much as possible but weave fictional characters into them in a compelling way. John and Lucy are part of the mass movement of loyalist settlers who fought for the British King and ultimately lost. They represent all the real people who may have had similar experiences but are themselves creations of my imagination.

I have added details to round out the picture, just as the painter who created my painting could have done. How have you used truth and fiction in your writing?

Sign up for my email list to receive my quarterly newsletter, the next issue of which will be February!

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.inddPurchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

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Dogs, People and Guests

Once again the lovely, the intrepid, the unique Jessica Aspen is guest posting on my blog. She has written several books and does an amazing job of getting them out for the world to see. Because she writes in paranormal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but even an historical fiction devotee like me loved her books. They are shorter than HF but very satisfying. Check out the links below for more about this hard working writer.

As happy as I am to have Jessica here, I was a little worried when I read her title. Oh, no! Was this going to be about cleaning house? Rest easy, it’s not. And those of you who love pets will appreciate her lead-in. Enough talking from me.

Here’s Jessica!

Picking Up After Ourselves

10-22-2013 7-18-45 PM_editedI walk my dog nearly every day. Right now my usual walking trail has been flooded out, and so has the sign that says: “Please pick up after your dog.”

The post is held up only by a bundle of roots. The trash can and all the bags are gone, but the sentiment remains. We are expected to clean up after ourselves and our pooches even if the trail is gone. Even if there is no place to deposit the results. Even if we don’t want to clean up the mess.

Dogs don’t care what they do or where they do it. Okay, they have their own doggie rules and requirements but they do not coincide with our ideas of where it’s appropriate to do your business. So we pick up after them. It’s part of dog ownership. It’s part of dog life. We’d prefer they were like cats and use the litter box (or better yet, the potty) but they don’t. So we carry our little plastic bags and pick up after them so that the trails and parks do not become a health hazard.

It’s polite, and it’s the law, even if sometimes it’s inconvenient and we do it all as a matter of course. No stress, no whining, no yelling.

But what happens when I make a mistake?IMG_6120-1

Do I matter of factly clean it up with little to no emotion?

No! If I make a mistake there can be big time stress. Lots of whining. And hopefully no yelling.

I wail and whine and worry. I look at the horror of my mistake and wonder: What will people think? Will anyone notice? How can I hide it?

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we deal with those mistakes that defines who we are. Okay, that sounds pretentious. (And it’s likely a quote from someone famous; remind me to look it up sometime.) But in every cliché there is a silver lining of truth. In real life we all make mistakes and if we get upset and don’t deal with them that can become a handicap.

Luckily, as a writer, I’ve learned that almost everything can be fixed. I have a handy tool in my computer. I can cut, paste, copy and erase. I can find a back-up file and reload the lost document. It’s all good. I can pick up after myself by picking myself up and starting over.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes… starting over.

Sometimes the only fix is to pull on the big boots and get to shoveling. Clean it all out. And lay down a fresh foundation. So pull out your baggies and clean up after yourselves. No mistakes are bad, they all teach us something and they are almost all fixable in some way.

How do you deal with mistakes in your life? Does it depend on the size of it? Big mistakes don’t go away any sooner than little mistakes, sometimes they simply need more shoveling. How big is your shovel?

10-22-2013 7-28-38 PM_editedBio:

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.

 

Author web links: (web, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads, etc)

 

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Jessica Aspen’s non-spammy, new release email please go to: http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…

 

Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.

Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.

As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…

 

Available now on Amazon.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Authors, General, Writing Tips

 

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Blog Tour and FAQ’s I Get as a Published Author

This week and next you can find me on a Historical Fiction blog tour.This means people read my book and review it and/or interview me and/or ask me to write a guest post. Please join me each day. The schedule is below.

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FAQ’s For This Author

1.  How long did it take you to write The Loyalist’s Wife?

The first draft took me a year with lots of research, learning, and time off for downsizing to a condo. Then I wanted help with the next steps and found writing workshops, conferences, and other writers with whom to share critiques. That stage lasted almost five years with lots of twists and wrong turns in the journey. I needed time and experience to develop the ability to choose my own style and my own path.

2.  What is the attraction of historical fiction?

For me historical fiction has an extra layer to it. The plot can have not only the protagonist and antagonist and their various raisons d’être, but also the grounding feature of actual people and events. This makes the story very real for me and I do love learning about history against the backdrop of a really great story.

3What types of books do you like to read?

Ah, that’s a good one. I always answer historical fiction but if someone I trust suggests a great book, that title will find its way into my TBR pile. My sister has pointed me to wonderful stories such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. Now that I think of it, they each have an historical quality to them, too!

4.  Does your reading influence your writing?

Absolutely! At times I forgo reading books similar to mine so that I won’t find those stories or characters poking their heads up in my own work. That being said I find I am a more discerning reader now that I’m writing novels myself as I can see the novelist’s plan and structure behind the story. And I love, just love, to find a tightly written bit which jumps out to my writer’s mind. I just want to e-mail that writer and applaud him or her.

5.  Are conferences and workshops important to a writer?

You hear all the time that writing is a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. In this Internet world opportunities are there for grabbing but you have to reach out. I’ve flown across the country on more than one occasion to find what I need. One of the best conferences was in Vancouver about three years ago where I got turned on to social media as a way to learn more and to find an audience. Pitch conferences are eye-opening and every writer should take that plunge. Just now I’m planning how to get to the Historical Novel Society conference in England next September. It will be amazing, truly amazing!

6.  How much do you think about your reader when you are writing?

In the beginning I didn’t think much about my readers. I just knew what I loved as a lifelong HF reader and that style came naturally to me. A lot of people talk about identifying your audience which is a great idea and very necessary. I know exactly the type of person who likes my work and I now write for them. It helps that I write in a genre which I personally adore reading.

7.  If you had known when you started what the journey would be, would you have set out to write, publish and sell books?

That question has had different answers over the six years it took me to publish The Loyalist’s Wife but now the answer is definitely I would do this again; in fact, I am working on the second book of The Loyalist Trilogy!

8.  What is your daily writing regimen?

I always work best in the morning and that’s how I wrote the first book. Three hours of losing myself in words and wonderful concentration and the afternoon was free. Now I’ve trained myself to write my three pages whenever I have a couple of hours in the day. I never write at night but I often think about my writing and read writing magazines, both of which things give me ideas for the next day. To get myself started each day, I write notes and questions at the end of the previous day’s writing. These provide the key to getting my brain back in gear on a new day.

9.  How do you pick which writing help books to use and which to pass by?

Over the last few years I’ve bought a lot of writing books and gleaned amazing things from each one. I should confess, however, that I am under no compulsion to finish reading them! Some I do, some I don’t. As far as how to pick them, I just go for those that promise to show me something I need to know at that particular time. I’ve done posts on many books which I’ll link here. The bottom line for me is that books can help enormously but ultimately a writer has to sift through all the how-to information and just write, write, write. One of my writing friends told me that. Pretty sage advice. And knowing how hard it is to write, we must beware of using the how-to books as crutches and excuses not to put fingers on keyboard and glide off down the hill, hanging on for the ride of our life.

10.  Is self publishing for everyone?

This is a thorny question in some circles but I can only talk about my own case. I never wanted to self publish. I wanted to have an agent and a publisher. When I started to query and to listen to the state of the publishing world, eventually I changed my mind and took control of my book again. The numbers here in Canada were not favorable for my HF books. Besides, I’m a control freak. After much dithering and dickering I set up my own publishing company and took the plunge. I’ve never regretted that move. I had my manuscript professionally edited twice, my book interior designed by an amazing detail person in Paris, France, and my cover and actual printing done in Victoria, B.C. For the second book, I’m using the same people so that shows how happy I am with my choices. Of course if a famous publisher decides to pick up my work, I’ll have to rethink the whole subject again!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, October 7
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 8
Review at West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, October 9
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, October 10
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, October 11
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook

Monday, October 14
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, October 15
Review at A Bookish Affair
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, October 17
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, October 18
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, October 21
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Find The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

on Amazon and in many other fine bookstores.

 

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