Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know, I know -- much about this day is overblown and commercialized. I mean, why can't we celebrate our love for others with cards and flowers and kind words and yummy dinners and decadent chocolate the other 364 days of the year (oh wait -- I definitely do the chocolate thing more than once a year!)?

Valentine's Day is still a great day for romance, though, so here are a few memorable movie kisses to warm your heart and remind you why love stories are such wonderful things...

Friday, February 13, 2009

And This Weekend I'd Like To...

"Easy reading is damned hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

The beginning of a 4-day weekend ~ what a glorious thing!

Writing goals for this weekend:

1. Finish edits for One Night in Napa.

2. Finish reading through Summer's Song for the umpteenth time.

3. Write a query letter and synopsis for the above and send it off.

4. Write 2 reviews for The Long and the Short of It.

Whew! Think I can do it??

((And a shout-out to my sister, who's celebrating her birthday today!))

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret

"What we do not see, what most of us never suspect of existing, is the silent but irresistible power which comes to the rescue of those who fight on in the face of discouragement." ~Napoleon Hill

I was talking to a fellow writer in my local RWA chapter last night, and the topic of revising came up. Turns out she spent all of January rewriting a book for her publisher, Harlequin. Now, she's multi-published with them, so when I found out that her editor had asked her to rewrite nearly this whole story before they would accept it, I was shocked.

I mean, I sort of thought that once you've established your name with a major publisher, you can pretty much write the story you want and they'll take it.


She said the new story is a totally different book. It has the same first and last chapters as the original, but that's it. Then, once she sent that one in, she got the edits for another book she'd proposed. This one had fewer requests, but it had them in tricky one-liners, like "Don't let the secondary characters take over," "The hero and heroine are apart for 50 pages. Please address," and "Please take out X amount of scenes with the villain." Those aren't necessarily things you can fix in an hour or two.

And I said, "Wow, that's the dirty little secret about publishing that no one tells you when you're unpublished, huh?" You're led to believe that once you write a book, if a publisher/editor likes it, they'll take it, tweak some sentences here and there, and that's the end of the story. You don't realize that it might just be the beginning, and that you might be asked to substantially revise portions of the book -- even the portions you love and agonized over.

She said, "It's a good thing unpublished writers don't know that! If they knew it got harder instead of easier, they'd probably get so discouraged they'd stop trying altogether." Pause. "Then, of course, they wouldn't be any kind of competition for us, so maybe we should tell them..."

LOL. She's funny that way.

It's an interesting thing to realize, though -- you may be a terrific writer, you may be on the NY Times best-seller list, you may have an agent...but you may still have to do major revisions of a book before your editor will agree to contract it.

Don't be discouraged. Just be aware.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Shelley Munro

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday...are you getting ready for Valentine's Day?? My featured author today is Shelley Munro. Enjoy!
Hi, Shelley! Can you tell us a little about your background?

My name is Shelley Munro. I live in New Zealand with my husband and a bossy wee dog called Scotty. My favorite hobby is travel, and luckily, my husband shares my love of exploring the world. We’ve visited lots of different countries and continents including Africa, Europe, Asia, America and Central America. I enjoy reading, all sorts of books and genres, and of course, writing. When I’m not writing I enjoy walking, running and cycling.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I’ve always read a lot and the desire to write followed quite naturally. I wanted to write romance, inspired by New Zealand writers Robyn Donald, Daphne Claire and Susan Napier. Although I started writing a couple of times, I never finished anything. Then I discovered boys and that was it for a while. I found one I really liked and married him. We decided we’d go to Britain on a year long working holiday. We enjoyed the travel so much our trip lengthened into six years. Eventually we returned to New Zealand, and I started thinking about writing again.
I remember waking up one morning and thinking if I wanted to write a book and sell it, I should start straightaway or I’d run out of time. I think the stars were in alignment that week because I came across an advertisement with details of an Auckland University course on writing romance. I enrolled straight away. One of our local ladies’ magazines mentioned Romance Writers of New Zealand. I sent off my check to join the group and started my writing journey.

Exciting! So tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

I’m currently working on stories in my Middlemarch Mates series, stories about black leopard shifters who live in the small New Zealand town of Middlemarch. Cat Burglar, book six came out on 31 Dec 2008 and Leticia’s Lovers is due out in 2009. Cat Burglar features two new characters and introduces the local cops. Leticia’s Lovers features Leticia, with brief appearances from her brother Lucas and his partner Saul introduced in an earlier Middlemarch Mates book called Stray Cat Strut. I’m working on book eight and intend to introduce some new characters to the town. Of course, there will be cameo visits from some of the old characters as well. They give me problems if I try to leave them out!

How do you go about developing your characters?

Generally I start off with an idea for a scene or a snippet of conversation or a line of dialogue. If it’s a new book I’ll mull it over in my head, pulling the idea this way and that until my characters take on substance and become real to me. Sometimes I’ll take months to think about things, and other characters come together more quickly. I’ll think about possible conflicts and flesh out a background for my character. I don’t plot as a rule, but once I have all my main character conflicts sorted out, I can start writing.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

They should read widely across all the genres and look at the way other writers do things. If a book works for you, great. Once you’ve finished reading it, go back and work out why you enjoyed the book so much. If you hated a particular book, look closer to see which things didn’t work for you. Use all the books you read as text books.

The other thing I’d suggest is to get into the habit of writing every day. It will stand you in great stead for later when you’re published.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

It’s always difficult to face rejection, which comes with the territory. Writing is a solitary profession. A writer needs to sit in front of a computer and write. It’s not always easy to forgo family, friends and special interests to write.

One of the most rewarding things about writing is the contact with readers. I treasure the notes and emails I’ve received from readers.

Thanks for a great interview today, Shelley! Anything else you’d like to mention?

You can find me at my website or my blog
I also have a monthly newsletter that you can join from my website. Members of my newsletter receive special excerpts, have the chance to enter member-only contests and hear all my news first. A sign-up form is on the sidebar of my blog. And finally, I have a MySpace page at

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Nervous

"The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it." ~Elizabeth Drew

I mentioned yesterday that I'll be presenting a workshop at the CTRWA's Fiction Fest 2009 Conference in May - I had agreed to do one after one of the officers sent out a plea back in January. And if you read yesterday's blog post, you know I rarely turn down a chance at promotion or networking).

Anyway, I finally saw the offical schedule for the conference - and now I'm nervous. See, most conferences I've been to (not that many, but still) have a variety of workshops to choose from each session. You know, like 3 or 4 at least. I was even a little worried that no one would come to mine (it's called "Cutting Deadwood: Tightening and Trimming Your Writing").

Now I find out that there are 4 separate sessions, and only 2 workshops each session. Yikes! That means that everyone who goes will be choosing between mine and only one other "(The Author/Agent Relationship"). These two are during the last session of the day, so I suppose a few people might skip out early. And the other workshop is being given by a NY Times best-selling author and her agent, so I'd think that's a pretty big draw. But what if a few people stick around and decide to give mine a try?


Monday, February 09, 2009

Take That Step out the Door and Network!

"All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words." ~Amy Lowell

So...the signing at Borders...

There were 13 authors, some big name, some (like moi) not. Varying genres. Most of us brought gift baskets to give away, which we did every half-hour to customers who filled out entry cards and hung around to hear some of us read from our books. We had probably 6-8 people who stayed a couple of hours, and then probably 15-20 more browsers.

I sold 2 books, certainly not great, but average for most who were there, with the exception of Kristan Higgins, who's a pretty big new name. But even she sold maybe 10 at the most.

Better than the sales, though, was the chance to network with other authors. Kristan, especially, was great fun to chat with (really, she's hilarious - I can't wait to read her books). She also gave me a lot of good advice and said the #1 reason that manuscripts get rejected is because of length. If you're pitching a single title, it has to be 90K words. 100K is better.

She's also the president of the CTRWA and presenting a workshop at the Fiction Fest 2009 Conference (I'll be there too - more on this tomorrow), and spending 3+ hours sitting next to her at a signing, I gotta believe, might be a nice connection at some point down the road. At the very least, we had fun:

Hubby and I also stayed over at a local B&B afterwards, and when the owner found out I'd been in town for a book signing, she gushed and pulled out her checkbook so that she could buy a signed copy of both of mine, for their library! (Another reason to always carry a few extra in the trunk of your car) She also took bookmarks and excerpt booklets to put in every guest room, because "Guests love when they hear that an author stayed here!"

So, as I've said here many times before, if you have the chance to do any kind of public appearance with your books, or even have the chance to talk about them with someone new, DO SO! You never know who you'll meet and what doors it might open for you down the road.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Book Signing Update

Had a great time at yesterday's Border's Romance and Chocolate Event - come back here tomorrow for a rundown of all the details, OK?

Teaser 'til tomorrow: didn't sell a lot, but had a chance to do some great networking, which definitely made the day worthwhile. And I got to sit next to best-selling author and recent RITA winner Kristan Higgins!