Ann B Harrison on Writing

Posted on behalf on Ann B Harrison

My fifteentCoastal_3_finalh book was release the other day and as I looked back over the last five years, I gave myself a pat on the back for being so determined to succeed and sticking to my guns even when the chips were against me.

When I started writing, I struggled with setting, characterization, POV (I still have days when this confuses me) and dangling modifiers. I took the comments and vivid colors slashed across my manuscript from my editor as part of the learning process and tried to do what they said. No point in being precious about it, they after all, are the experts and I was merely beginning.

I ran the gambit of publisher verses self publishing and after trying both, I find I’m  happier being my own publisher. Not saying I’ll never dip my toes in the publishers pond again, just not at this moment.

One of the comments I get often is, ‘You’re so lucky, being able to write fulltime.’Grady_CVR_LRG

Yep, I am. But that took a lot of work, a lot of early morning starts and late nights. You see, when I first started writing, I was working the same as anyone else. I did family day care from home which was a bonus. But along with that came the longer hours because I mainly cared for kids that came from mining families and they worked long shifts.

I would have a house full of joyous or screaming toddlers, depending on the moods and who got the swing first, babies who needed to be handled more than the others and parents coming and going at all hours. To top it off, I worked three nights a week at the local supermarket and every Saturday. Sunday was my only day off.

I was a busy person, no doubt about it. But you know what? My first two years writing, I managed to get twelve books out. Six with a publisher followed by six I self published. And if you’re thinking that many books a year can’t be good, two of them were ARRA finalists. Not bad for a beginner.

So, here’s the thing and the reason for this blog post. The ‘You’re so lucky’ bit. We are all pushed for time. I was and you probably are too. But if you have the dream, you have to feed it to keep it alive. You would be amazed how many words I wrote while those little darlings were having their afternoon nap. I generally bash out around one thousand words an hour. (My typewriter skills were learnt early on J). I would get up that little bit earlier so I could do a couple of pages before the kids arrived. Last thing at night I would knock over another couple of pages and Sunday – well, after family that was when things got hectic.

Hidden_CVR_LRGIf you have the dream, you’ll find the time and if you’re a procrastinator, you don’t have the want enough as far as I’m concerned. Someone once told me that all excuses are equal. It took me some time before I took that on board, but they were right. An excuse is just that, regardless of how good you try to make it.

The other thing I get asked about is writers block. Slap! Slap!

No such thing! Get over it people. Your brain works 24/7. It never sleeps so how is it possible to have writers block? The truth of the matter (IMHO) is you don’t like what your brain is coming up with. It hasn’t gone on holiday. Your muse isn’t missing. You just aren’t listening. Do you think that Nora Roberts gives into writers block? Hell no. Her famous saying is ‘You can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page.’ If you worked in the supermarket, would you tell customers to go away and come back later because you didn’t have your checkout chick skills happening right now? No! You would do your job.

Some days I struggle getting my characters to talk to me but I push ahead anyway. I might write crap and it feels like pulling teeth to get those words on the page but I do it. Just try it and see. When you go back and look at it a week later, you might surprise yourself. I’ve written some great pages this way.

Excuse me while I go and get lucky some more with my characters because I haven’t finished my word target for the day and this blog doesn’t count toward it. See you after my 2k is done and dusted!

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A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY

In this day and age most of us have some sort of technology at our fingertips. Be it mobile phones with Internet access, computers, e-readers, laptops or ipads. And then there is the social media available. Facebook, twitter, You-tube, Goodreads and a host of other platforms for us to indulge in. So what happens when we find ourselves without this technology?

A couple of months ago I spent five days at Eden Health Retreat in the Currumbin Valley near Queensland’s Gold Coast. Eden is known as a place to nurture your mind, body and spirit, away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and our reliance on technology. There is no mobile service or Internet and you are encouraged to leave your laptop at home. Now for those who are desperate, there is a landline and computer available at the office. There are also several locations on top of mountains that you just might get your phone to work, but I couldn’t be bothered going to all that trouble.

I decided to embrace the whole experience and it did me wonders. I got right into Qi gong and the many activities and challenges. The food was delicious and of course healthy, but what I liked best was the way everyone spoke and connected with each other.

How often do you take a train or bus and see other passengers’ texting or playing on their phones, or reading from their devices. No one talks anymore. I’m astounded when I go out to dinner with my husband to a nice restaurant and see people sitting opposite each other but not talking. They’re busy on their phones. What happened to the art of conversation? Who are you missing out on meeting because your eyes are glued to a device instead of the world around you?

Having said this, I love where technology has taken us, and the fact it has opened up a huge world for me as a writer. I use social media frequently and the Internet is invaluable for my research. But I think the occasional break is good for the soul and it worries me that future generations may lose the art of face–to-face communication.

It is almost Christmas so I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday with those you love around you. Good food, good wine and good company. Put your phones away and enjoy each other. Smile at a stranger, wish someone a good day and most of all cherish your loved ones. Have a little break from technology.

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Layering

Posted on behalf on Kariss Stone

Layering

There’s nothing like adding those extra layers of pasta, mince and cheese on a lasagne to make it chunkier and more hunger-fulfilling.

Lasagne photo

 

 

Or layering a sandwich with all sorts of salad ingredients to make it tastier.

Subway

 

Or going to the hairdressers to get your hair layered, to give it more bounce around your face.

Layered hair wig

 

Or layering on a collage artwork by sticking all sorts of different materials over the coat of paint.

And the list can go on.

Now I’m no cook or hairdresser or artist, and unfortunately I can’t afford to eat Subway every day, so what am I getting at here?

Okay, so as we are all writers and readers, if you haven’t guessed it, the layering I’m talking about is layering of your novel, from first draft to published draft. Layering to add more to the story. Bringing in emotion in the areas of your story that require it, setting the scene, engaging your readers.

 

 

Now every writer approaches a story they write from scratch very differently. If you’re like me, the very first draft is just whatever comes into your head and it can read pretty woefully. But then you do a second draft, third draft etc until you hopefully have a story that only needs minor touch ups or edits from a publisher.

I find layering of a novel quite interesting, and thought I’d use something out of my current WIP to illustrate my point. So first you lay down the slab of your story (in my case a very bad slab!)

First draft

He brings the cocktails over to the lounge area and hands her the strawberry Daiquiri, before sitting next to her. He turns her way and looks at her like so many other times he’s looked at her, when they’d been together, that he likes her, likes her company. The attraction is still there.

Second draft

He brings the cocktails over to the lounge area and hands her the strawberry Daiquiri, his fingers brushing hers, Turning her way, he looks at her with desire in his eyes, reminding her of those other times he’s looked at her like that, when they’d been together. The attraction is still there.

Rewrites made:

  • Adding ‘his fingers brushing hers’ which uses the sense of touch
  • ‘He turns her way and looks at her’ to ‘Turning her way, he looks at her’
  • Adding ‘with desire in his eyes, reminding her of…’ Now we’re starting to add in a layer of emotion. We know how he feels about her.
  • Changing ‘like so many other times he’s looked at her, when they’d been together, that he liked her, likes her company’

 

To

 

‘reminding her of those other times he’s looked at her like that, when they’d been together. The attraction is still there.

Which cuts down on some unnecessary words, but of course there’s still work to be done on this particular sentence.

Equally:

  • Deleting ‘he likes her’, to cut down on the ‘telling’ aspect, and because it’s not necessary. The reader knows he’s attracted to her because of the last sentence.

 

Fourth draft

With a satisfied look on his face like he’s pleased she acquiesced to having cocktails at midday, he brings the cocktails over to the lounge area and hands her the strawberry Daiquiri. His fingers brush over hers as he does, the sudden touch of warmth on her cool hands is very welcoming. Then he sits next to her and turns her way. There’s desire in his eyes. Desire, still, for her.

Rewrites made:

  • Adding ‘with a satisfied look on his face like he’s pleased she acquiesced to having cocktails at midday’ which once again brings in a layering of emotion, and we also know what time of the day it is.
  • Adding ‘the sudden touch of warmth on her cool hands is very welcoming’ so it becomes more than just fingers brushing, we know his fingers are warm, and her hands are cold and she likes him touching her. Brings the reader more into the scene.
  • Rewriting the last couple of sentences to improve the pace, shows his desire, rather than just telling the reader he desires her.

 

And so it goes on – where in future drafts you can bring in a bit more of the setting, add more physical reactions and/or internal thoughts, and/or more emotion, and make other changes if necessary, until you get the final draft.

 

Final draft

With a satisfied look on his face, as if pleased she acquiesced to having cocktails at midday, he brings the glasses over to the lounge area. Okay, you got me with the cocktails mate. I just hope that lasagne won’t take too long to cook. I shouldn’t be drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

When he hands her the Strawberry Daiquiri as he sits down, his fingers deliberately brush over hers and his eyes pin her in place. Well, the intensity in his dark gaze, and the sudden touch of his warm fingers on her cool hands causes her breath to catch in her throat. The action is so unexpected, yet so thrilling. Turning her way, his lips are curved in that sexy, knowing smile she loves, his eyes sparking desire the way they always have. Desire for her. Even after all this time.

 

© Kariss Stone

 

You know I think that’s one of the most satisfying things about writing, getting to the finished product, seeing how your story has developed through layering and other writing techniques.

 

Now I’d better get back to that several-layered lasagne my beautiful partner has made, oh, and then I’d better go and start practicing what I preach! J

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is #Nanowrimo good or bad?

With November first looming there’s been a lot of talk about National Novel Writing Month in the twitterspheare. (As there is every year.)

Is Nano good, is it bad?

Do you do it, do you not do it?

Why it’s the enemy of writers everywhere.

Why it’s the godsend of all authors.

Every other person has an opinion on poor old Nanowrimo and all that backward and forward makes my head spin!
People on the pro-nano team say that writing alongside so many other enthusiastic peeps provides wonderful motivation for the worst procrastinator, not to mention a sense of camaraderie  between participants who are all slogging away to reach the grand total of 50, 000 words in just 30 days (that’s roughly 1700 words per day). The Nano website sends daily emails on motivation, craft, and author success stories as well as providing forums and a handy dandy graph that tracks your progress — all pluses if you’re pro-nano.

 

The anti-nano team, however, say that anything written with that much haste can’t be good. That nano isn’t about quality, it’s about quantity. That 50k of utter drivel is worse than no words at all.  And what’s with 50K anyway? The average novel length is 70-100k not 50. Most major publishers do not accept works under 70,000 words unless they’re children’s stories.  Many naysayers also say that winning nano is no achievement. Just getting that draft out there isn’t the end of the line, so why celebrate prematurely? They also think that nano does more to discourage rather than encourage; that writers who set out to win nano and don’t make the 50 then give up and walk away with their spirits crushed. Or if they do win nano, they wind up with a piece of writing that’s an utter mess and completely ‘unsellable’.

 

I think there are a good points in both sides of the argument. Yes, 50K does not a novel make. Yes, first drafts are unsellable whether they’re written over the course of one month or one year. All first drafts need work to be a beautiful story. They need revision and editing and polishing. Yes, I think nano provides wonderful support and encouragement to what is otherwise a very lonesome and often hard journey.  I also think that the type of writers who naturally draft slowly and do less revision, don’t really understand the other type of writers — those that naturally draft quickly, whether it’s national novel writing month or not and as such probably revise much more deeply than the slow drafters. Nor do they understand those writers who draft 50K of great writing. Fast. Here’s the thing…

We’re all different.

No two writers draft or write in the same way.

 

We all thrive off different process and maybe, just maybe, we should revel in that. Cause isn’t it amazing?!

different

So whether you’ll be nanoing or not this year, enjoy November and enjoy your first draft process. It’s an amazing accomplishment no matter how you do it.

Do you Nano?

Stacey Nash (3)Stacey Nash writes adventure filled stories for Young Adults in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. She enjoy reading and writing books that have a lot of adventure, a good dose of danger, a smattering of romance and plenty of KISSING!
Her debut novel, FORGET ME NOT, is available now and it’s the first book in a four book series. Book 2, REMEMBER ME was drafted during Nanowrimo 2012! (and revised during 2013)

To talk about books or anything else, catch Stacey at one of these places; website, twitter, facebook, or instagram.

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News ~ Release Day S.E Gilchrist

WhenStarsCollide_Final-compressedHappy Release Day S.E Gilchrist with her third full-length novel in her bestselling erotic SF series mixes one sexy spy, a soldier looking for salvation and an unlikely mission to save the world.

Reece, contortionist bubble dancer and part-time spy, has one goal – a safe haven and independent life far from the war.  But her plans go awry and her future becomes dangerously uncertain when she is falsely accused of the murders of her friend and a Darkon traitor. Now her new list of goals includes payback.

In her way is Ulrac, a banished Darkon patroller responsible for incarcerating females for barbaric ‘treatments’ and ‘research’ on the planet Isla. He’s determined to use the capture of the spy and her intel to win the approval of his father – a hard-line Traditionalist with his own agenda – and help him overthrow the current ruler of Darkos.

But the war of the Seven Galaxies has reached a critical stage, and personal plans and goals suddenly hold very little meaning. The enemy is poised to unleash a terrible weapon and no one stands between him and total domination of all the universes.

No one – except Reece and Ulrac.

All Romance eBooks, iBooks, Amazon.com, Booktopia, amazon.co.uk, Google Play, Kobo, JB-HiFi Now, Amazon Aus

Congratulations S.E

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News ~ Release Day Téa Cooper

JazzBaby_Final_smallESTHappy release day for Téa Cooper with her 1920 Historical ‘Jazz Baby’

In the gritty underbelly of 1920s Sydney, a fresh-faced country girl is about to arrive in the big, dark city – and risk everything in the pursuit of her dreams.

Sydney is no place for the fainthearted – five shillings for a twist of snow, a woman for not much more, and a bullet if you look sideways at the wrong person.

Dolly Bowman is ready and willing to take on all the brash, bustling city has to offer. After all it is the 1920s, a time for a girl to become a woman and fulfil her dreams. Turning her back on her childhood, she takes up a position working as a housemaid while she searches for her future.

World War I flying ace Jack Dalton knows he’s luckier than most. He’s survived the war with barely a scratch, a couple of astute business decisions have paid off, and he’s set for the high life.

But a glimpse of a girl that he had forgotten, from a place he’s tried to escape suddenly sets all his plans awry. Try as he might he can’t shake the past, and money isn’t enough to pay the debts he’s incurred.

Available for purchase from:

All Romance Books, iTunes, Amazon.com, Booktopia, Amazon UK, Google Play, Kobo,  Nook, JB HiFi eBooks, Big W eBooks,  Amazon Aus

Congratulations Téa.

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News – Release Date for Stacey Nash

Wednesday 1st October 2014 is release day for member, Stacey Nash, next book in her Collective series, Remember Me.

remember me

Blurb:
An exciting new adventure from Stacey Nash, set in the world of The Collective.
When all is lost, she must remember…

Anamae Gilbert managed to thwart The Collective and rescue her father, even though his mind is now a shell. Determined to stop Councilor Manvyke hurting her family again, she’s training to become an active resistance member and falling hard for resistance fighter Jax Belfry. But things never sail along smoothly – Manvyke wants retribution and Anamae’s name is high on his list.

After a blow to the head, she awakes in an unfamiliar location unable to remember the last few weeks. She can’t believe the fascinating new technology she’s seeing. She’s the new kid at school, and although weapons training comes with ease, something feels off. Why does the other new kid’s smile make her heart ache?
And why does her gut tell her to run?

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon AU | iBooks | Googleplay | Barnes & Noble | Kobo.
Congratulations Stacey.

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Excavating your Emotions in your Writing

I recently read an article on….What will be the 100 most important objects of the next 100 years? For some reason it made me wonder what someone would make of my life should I or rather the remains of my house be excavated in 100 years time. What would these futuristic people make of me? Of how I lived?

SomersbyFalls01They certainly would know nothing of my hopes or my dreams. My grief. My happiness. My despair. My contentment with the little things in life. The beauty I found in nature.

How I worried over my children as I watched them grow and reach adulthood. How I hoped they would find their happiness within themselves as strong and fulfilled adults. How I looked at my bank balance or rather my mortgage and wanted to tear out my hair!

They wouldn’t hear the laughter shared within these walls; or the tears. They wouldn’t know the friends who had filled my life with their love and support. Or the four-legged members of my family with their mischief and companionship.
All that would be left would be a shell. And probably a broken shell at that.
Perhaps remnants of my books would remain and they would shake their heads over the wide variety of my taste in reading. Perhaps they’d stare at the numbers of broken crockery and attempt to piece together my collection of china teacups and saucers. There certainly won’t be an insane shoe collection for my shoe shopping is always kept to the bare minimum. And…what would they think of my love of crime shows and mysteries?
Would they unearth on what will be then, antiquated USB sticks, my notes on unfinished stories, the countless reams of research I’ve saved and filed away – just in case. What will they make of these stories? Will they hear my voice within those words? What if in each book I write and finish, I can capture just a little bit of myself and preserve it for all time?
I never thought before that when I write a story perhaps I’m revealing – me. But when I sat down and considered what I’ve already written I’ve come to the conclusion; yes I do.
In Legend Beyond the Stars I knowingly explored the lengths a race would go to survive; even at the cost of others’ lives. But in that book, the next one, Star Pirate’s Justice and also in my next release, When Stars Collide, I also explored the effects on the survivors. How they reacted at the time. How they coped. How their past shaped their actions in the future. Whether they grew stronger from their experiences or whether it scarred them so badly they gave into despair or the hunger for revenge. WhenStarsCollide_Final-compressed
I guess I like probing at the darkness within a person’s soul, seeing what makes them tick, examining the twists and turns of personality. But in all of my books, there is one common thread; my main characters find either happiness or peace.
And they all learn to hope.
So tell me – what would the people of the future learn about your past? What would you like people to learn or take from your stories?

(also posted on my website: S. E. Gilchrist)

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News ~ Release Date for Téa Cooper

Great news from Téa Cooper with the release date of 22nd October 2014 for Jazz Baby her historical romance set in the 1920’s.

JazzBaby_Final_smallESTBlurb:

In the gritty underbelly of 1920s Sydney, a fresh-faced country girl is about to arrive in the big, dark city – and risk everything in the pursuit of her dreams.

Sydney is no place for the fainthearted—five shillings for a twist of snow, a woman for not much more, and a bullet if you look sideways at the wrong person.

Dolly Bowman is ready and willing to take on all the brash, bustling city has to offer. After all it is the 1920s, a time for a girl to become a woman and fulfil her dreams. Turning her back on her childhood, she takes up a position working as a housemaid while she searches for her future.

World War I flying ace Jack Dalton knows he’s luckier than most. He’s survived the war with barely a scratch, a couple of astute business decisions have paid off, and he’s set for the high life. But a glimpse of a girl that he had forgotten, from a place he’s tried to escape suddenly sets all his plans awry. Try as he might he can’t shake the past, and money isn’t enough to pay the debts he’s incurred.

Congratulations Téa sounds like a great read.

Pre-order your copy from Escape Publishing today

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Researching for Your Genre

Writing historical romance is not all about the romance in the story but also about getting the historical facts right. To this end it means researching. Just as well I love research. I’ve been known to put too much time on research. My excuse is that I have to know which king or queen was sitting on the throne (the royal throne not the loo) at the time.

What political were affair were operating at the time, if there were any wars taking place and with which country.

I like to know if it was a wet summer or a dry winter. How farmers and crops survived if the weather was against them and how did the farmers live if their crops failed.

What fashion was in vogue? Did the women wear pantaloons?  (Some didn’t in the Regency era.) What did it cost for a length of ribbon? What was the cost of an opera gown? How many dresses did one need? What was the difference between an in house morning dress and a promenade dress you would wear for a stroll in the park?

Here’s an example of what women wore during the Regency era.

The Layers of Women’s clothing:

1321928645242_8493648Undergarments: The first was the chemise, or shift, this was a thin garment with tight, short sleeves with a low neckline when worn under evening wear, it was made of white cotton and usually finished with a plain hem. The chemise was shorter than the dress. The chemise was meant to protect the outer clothes from perspiration more often than not they were washed more frequently than outer clothes.

The next layer was the corset or a pair of stays. If you were of a slight figure you could get away with not needing to wear a corset. The corset was made of steel or iron which was covered with padding.

Drawers were not often worn during this time it wasn’t until it was reported that Princess Charlotte wore drawers that it became popular and this use in the upper class of women.

Stocking were made of silk or knitted and held up by garters below the knee.

Outer Garments:

1810 v3 Ackermann's Fashion Plate 10 - Evening or FullThe petticoat is the first layer for the outer garment. (All though today the petticoat is classed as an undergarment during the Regency era it was considered as part of the outer layers.) This could have a scooped neck line and was sleeveless It was fitted at the back with hooks and eyes, buttons or tape. This garment was worn between the corset and outer layer of clothing.

Over the petticoat came the gown. This empire gown was very fashionable during this time. It was not unknown for women to have three to four changes of clothing during one day. The morning dress was worn inside the house were high necked and long sleeved. Generally these grown were devoid of any decorations.

Promenade or walking gowns were worn when one went for a stroll during the morning or afternoon. Over these a woman would wear a spencers of a (a short high waisted jacket) a long hooded cloak would be worn over this or one would wear a pelisses (a long coat). If a woman went riding she would of course wear a riding habit. Gloves and a bonnet were always worn when outdoors.

Evening gowns were often elaborately   decorated with lace, ribbons and netting. Young ladies were encouraged to wear pastel colours. These dresses had a low cut bodice and were short sleeved.

Slippers made of silk, velvet or leather were worn during both day and evening. Half kid boots were ankle length boots made of leather for outdoor or silk/stain for evening wear.

Food and Entertaining

Food was a large part of the Regency era. Sometimes it depended on whether the family had guest for supper. For a family meal it would be a simple of two three course meal. If there were guest it could be up to five or more dishes. Nothing was wasted; any leftovers would be use for lunch the next day or a simple family meal the following night by the family.

Illustration 52

September family meal could consist of:

First course:

Roast sucking-pig, tomato sauce and brain sauce: small boiled leg of mutton, caper sauce, turnips and carrots.

Second course:

Damson tart, boiled batter pudding

 A dinner for eight persons could consist of:

First Course:

Flemish Soup, Turbot, garnished with Fried Smelts, Red Mullet and Italian Sauce

Entrées

Tendrons de Veau and Truffles, Lamb Cutlets and Sauce Piquante

Second Course:

Loin of Veal á la Béchamel, Roast Haunch of Venison, Braised Ham, Grouse Pie, Vegetables

Third Course:

Roast Hare, Plum Tart, Whipped Cream, Punch Jelly, Compôte od Damsons, Marrow Pudding

Desserts and Ices

The evening would end with entertainment from one of the ladies playing the pianoforte and at times singing.

All these things mattered even if you don’t use it in your story.

Research is a part of all genres of writing. What sort of information and where do you source the information from for your writing?

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