Michille: Procrasti Nation

Spring1I live there. In Procrasti Nation. Actually, I live at the place pictured to the left. That is a picture of the first day of Spring. So I had most of yesterday off, all of today, and part of tomorrow due to all that white stuff (15+ inches and some heavy snow showers still to come tonight). Did I write? No, I did not. I read. I did the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, the mini, sudoku, and 4 levels of KenKen. I shoveled. I made chili (I always do on snow days). I inventoried the freezers (we have an embarrassing number of refrigerators and freezers and an even more embarrassing amount of food in them – someone should shoot me if I buy any meat for the next 3 months [except the hog I just ordered – we’re low on pork and they only slaughter once a year]). I read some more. In case any of you didn’t notice, I will point out to you that I had most of yesterday and all of today off from my day job but nowhere in the list of activities is the word ‘write’ except in the rhetorical question. Continue reading

Elizabeth: It’s All About the Words

In recent weeks I’ve been powering my way through the piles of books I’ve accumulated that have been languishing in my library, waiting to be read.  I have writing to do and stories to tell, but I’m also trying to follow the advice that writers need to “read widely.”  Also, my towering TBR piles (yes, there are multiple piles) have become ungainly.  It’s either get reading or build a fort out of them or something.

Some of the books, like the Daisy Dalrymple mystery stories by Carola Dunn, were definite winners that left me wondering why I hadn’t read them sooner.  Others (that will remain nameless), often freebies that I found on Amazon or via sites like Goodreads, had me wondering how they got published and whether there were editors involved (I’m guessing no for that last question in at least a few cases).

While a strong plot/story-line is critical if a book is going to work for me, word choice and word usage can really tip the scales.

The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries are set in the 1920s in Britain. The Honorable Miss Dalrymple is a “modern” woman, working as a freelance writer for Town & County magazine and encountering dead bodies on a periodic basis (22 times so far).  The author does not include swaths of description or hit the reader over the head with characters spouting facts to set the scene or the time-period. Instead, with the sparse use of period-specific word choices and a few tidbits here and there, the scene and mood are set and the story is off and running.  The portable typewriter, cocktails, bobbed hair, and mentions of the lack of men-of-a-certain-age due to the war, tell us where and when we are in a much more entertaining way than cold facts would.

As I continue to work on my Regency story, I’m spending a lot of time with word choice and conversational styles, in a way to make it feel historically accurate and to make sure there aren’t things that would jar readers.  That means, among other things, spending time making sure the words I choose to use were actually in use during the Regency.  Fortunately, Google is a great help with that since the last thing I want is to use words that are too contemporary and risk being slammed as writing “a contemporary story in Regency clothing.”

Word choice can be problematic, even if it isn’t related to the time period.  The author of the last contemporary romance I read consistently made word choices that gave me pause when I hit them.  Whether it was the constant use of “she cried” or “she yelped” when plain old “she said” would have been more appropriate, or the rampant use of “galloped” (the people galloped and the puppy even galloped, when I actually envisioned it “gamboling”), the choice of words lessened the enjoyment of an already weak story.

As a writer, word choice is kind of a no-win situation.  Just as in character naming, you can be historically accurate, but you can’t really please everyone.    The words that irritate me when I encounter them might go unnoticed by another reader and vice versa.

So, do you have any trigger words that bug you when you come across them in a story, or is it just me?

Jeanne: Getting to Know You

StilettosRecently here at Eight Ladies Writing, we talked about our cold start processes–how each of the Ladies gets herself going again on an existing project when she hasn’t written in a while. Michaeline wrote about what I’d call a “fresh start” process–how she gets started on a new project.

In mid-February I started work on the third book in my Touched by a Demon trilogy, The Demon Wore Stilettos. I’ve been looking forward to this one, because the she-demon Lilith, who has been a minor character in the previous two books, finally gets to take center stage.

I’ve had this book in the back of my mind for a while, so I knew the general premise: Megan Kincaid, a recent MFA graduate, sells her soul to Satan in exchange for making the New York Times bestseller list. Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal – Nancy Hunter, Author Website

Last week, I was lamenting my sad lack of progress on my website. This week, I’m singing a different tune.

That’s right. I did it. I completed my author website. You can see it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post, after I’ve shared some details about creating the site and a few caveats to know before visiting it. Or you can skip straight to the link and come back here after that. (Go ahead, you know you want to do it! It’s definitely what I would do.)

The Look and Feel of the Site

To set up my website, I used a WordPress template built by a company call Author Cats. I’m giving it a try, and might decide at some future time that it’s not the right template for me, so I can’t tell other authors whether it would be right for them. I do think there are some interesting things, to consider. The look of the template is built on an underlying philosophy that is particularly geared to self-publishing writers, but is something to consider for traditionally-published writers as well.

If you’ve done any research on self-publishing, you know how important the author newsletter and the email mailing list used to distribute it is to a writer. It’s one of the few things an author really owns. You don’t own your Facebook or Twitter account. You don’t own your Amazon or Kobo or iBooks account. You can’t force good reviews on Goodreads or count on BookBub ads. But you can connect with readers who would want your books by collecting the email addresses of those who are interested, and then reaching out to them regularly. That’s why you’ll notice that there are two to three places to sign up for my newsletter on every page of my website. And the landing page (where the newsletter sign-up occurs) does not have a menu bar (visitors have to back click to leave the page).

That’s what the site will hopefully do for me, the author. What I hope it will do for visitors is provide a clean, easy-to-navigate place to learn a little bit about me, try a sample of of my work, and effortlessly contact or follow me if that’s their thing.

Placeholder Information

As with many things in life, including me, my website is a work in process. Where appropriate, I’ve made it clear that the Harrow’s Finest Five series will be available in the fall of 2018, the freebie meet cute stories that subscribers get for signing up for my newsletter won’t be sent until May 2018, and the excerpts for kickoff novella and novel 1 will also be unavailable until May. There really is a good reason for this: I want to present the best-possible versions of my books and the excerpts that represent them, which precipitates a good, thorough editing process with an amazing editor. This is happening as we speak, but I want have ‘final’ drafts for another month or so.

I have included placeholder book descriptions on the excerpt pages, in the interest of having something to share about the upcoming books with site visitors. But this, too, will change after I’ve worked with my editor on the book descriptions.

Room to Grow

Some of the self-publishing-specific functionality of the template I’m using is the ability to quickly and easily embed buy links to outside sites that are connected directly to images and text on my website. Changing and updating these links, for instance if I start in Kindle Select and go wide later, is also easy peasy. Easy is important to me. You know how long it took me to get this site set up. When I need to make updates and add more fancy, book-centric bells and whistles, a Nancy-proof way to do so is essential. Otherwise, I’ll never do it.

Over the next several months to a year, I plan to launch websites for my other writing alter egos: Nancy J. Yeager for Women’s Fiction/Mainstream, and NJ Christensen for Mystery/Nordic Noir. (We can discuss the brilliance or idiocy of this plan in a future post.) I had hoped this template would provide an easy way to have multiple home pages that I could manage out of the same site, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case.

Max makes an appearance on my new website, but I hope you won’t see him! He’s on the 404 page.

There are no doubt good technical reasons for this, but sadly, it means I’ll probably have to build separate websites. But it does look like I’ll be able to manage the sites from one dashboard and easily embed links between them. Here’s hoping.

The Reveal

So now, here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for (or, at least, the moment I’ve been waiting for over the past several months). To visit my new website, click on this link to go to nancyhunterbooks.com! And if you’re so inclined, sign up for my newsletter while you’re there. I’ll talk more about that when we closer to the first issue in a few months.

Love the website? Hate it? Have deep thoughts to share? Let me know in the comments.

Justine: A Text Lesson in Hooking Your Readers

My critique partner, Jenn Windrow, now teaches a class called “How to Be a Hooker,” which shows writers how to write an exciting hook for your book…basically the first 50-150 words. Catch your reader in those first few words, and they will hopefully keep reading. The idea is to lead with a hook. Something that gets the reader thinking, asks a question, or presents a challenge that the reader wants to figure out.

Back in the fall, I entered a contest for the first 50 words put on by the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood and Jenn helped me polish my entry. Below is our text conversation where I gave her intros and she gave me feedback, and I think it’s very insightful. At the end of this post, you can read the final version. Continue reading

Michaeline: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A darling boy dressed as a leprechaun with a top hat, knee breeches and buckled shoes

St. Patrick’s Day is almost always on March 17, and it’s a great way to celebrate your story-telling! (Image via the Graphics Fairy)

Today is another special day for writers: St. Patrick’s Day! The Irish are well known for producing excellent writers who touch the heart and the funny bone. One of my favorites is Oscar Wilde. And romance readers will surely recognize Maeve Binchy’s name! Here are some other authors you can check out on Claddagh Design blog.

Irish folktales provide a lot of fodder for people who like their stories with a little supernatural twist. There are the frightening stories of the banshee, who predict death with their wails, or a wide assortment of seductive creatures (you can find some of them here on Private Island Party blog) such as selkies and Gancanagh (a beautiful, toxic man whose sweat is full of addicting aphrodisiacs).

You probably remember that one of my characters is Thomas O’Malley, a leprechaun who passes as a person of small stature. He borrows some of the newer traits attributed to leprechauns, but I found (in the Irish Mirror, so they would know, LOL!) that the leprechauns were not originally from Ireland, but rather, came from an underwater kingdom in the mid-Atlantic. How they evolved into rainbow-sheltering cobblers is just a testament to how we can take old stories and twist them to suit our needs. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

The clock may have sprung-forward this past Sunday, but the weather has definitely been wintery this week.  Luckily I took advantage of a break in the rain Sunday to get some much-needed yard work done.  Now I’m back to cuddling up in a cozy blanket and trying to make a dent in my TBR pile.

Yesterday I finished Death at Wentwater Court, a Daisy Dalrymple Mystery by Carola Dunn.  The story is set in 1923 England and is a fun, entertaining period-piece.  It was just the antidote I needed after exposure to too much current political news.  I liked the story so much that I went online and ordered the next in the series as soon as I finished reading reach “The End.”

While I’m waiting for my next Daisy Dalrymple fix I think I’ll take the opportunity to do a little writing of my own.  I have a scene in my Regency story that has been giving me fits, so I’m planning to do a little brainstorming and/or free-writing with today’s story prompt to get my creativity engaged.

Care to join me? Continue reading