Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading

Jilly: Did You Watch the Royal Wedding? Why?

I’m writing this post on Saturday morning. I plan to be finished around 11.30am UK time. Then I’ll grab a cup of coffee, fire up the BBC’s live streaming and watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry and become Duchess of Sussex.

According to the BBC television commentators, the global audience for Harry and Meghan’s happy day may be more than a billion people.

A billion? Why? Continue reading

Michille: Procrastibaking

procrastibakeI’ve written about procrastination before, but I stumbled on a New York Times article: Why Work When You Can Procrastibake? I do this on a fairly regular basis but I never knew it had a name. In fact, my husband, a college professor, is getting his second teaching award in 4 years and he firmly believes it’s because he feeds his kids the baked good that I procrastibake.

Julia Moskin defines procrastibaking as the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work and believes it to be a surprisingly common habit. Apparently, not all procrastibakers bake alike. Some make long, slow recipes that break up the entire day, returning to their work in between steps. Others whip up something quick to attempt to get the creative juices flowing. One person quoted in the article makes macarons because they can take several days. Jeez, I don’t kid myself with something that complicated. I usually do cookies, cakes, or brownies.

Procrastibaking is a thriving hashtag on Instagram so of course, I had to break and check Instagram. And it’s true. But, it’s not all good. Tim Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that procrastination is one of few situations in which people consistently make choices that are demonstrably bad. So I guess I can’t pass it off as being creative.

There was a quote from a romance writer, Mia Hopkins: “When I was schoolteacher, I used to procrastinate by reading and writing romances,” she said. “When I started writing romance full time, I had to find a new way to procrastinate.” Gotta love that.

What is your procrati-_________? Procratibaking, procrasticleaning, procrastisurfing (I’m also guilty of this)?

Michaeline: Money and Writing

She seems to have made art and commerce mix, but I’m not sure I can. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I ran across an article on Medium about how writers’ rates haven’t kept up with inflation at all. The writer mentioned that in Ring Lardner’s heyday, $1 a word was a fabulous rate. (Ring Lardner was a contemporary of Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway – so we’re talking the 1920s and 1930s, when the New Yorker magazine was in its infancy.)

I would link you, but Medium only gives a person three freebies, and then you start paying. Sorry, blog audience, but I’m saving my two remaining freebies for something new, so I can’t go back and check the facts.

And that totally outlines a few of the many problems of combining money and writing.

The readers like getting freebies, and will pay if the quality is good, but not too much. The publishers feel perpetually pinched, and are constantly scrambling to make up the revenue somewhere. Writers get stuck somewhere in the middle, trying to make a living. Traditionally, ads have been a way for print journalism to make up the difference, but then the print journalists are beholden to advertisers.

I remember in the 80s when some romance publishers began sticking advertisements in the middle of their category romances. Often, the ads were for more romance books. These were very safe and effective bets, and are the best kind of advertising: readers want to know where to get more, and publishers want to provide that service. But I think some of the advertisements were for cigarettes and other non-book items, and it was distinctly jarring to come across one in the midst of a passionate love scene. The end of page 103 would go, “He gently stroked her silken thigh, coming closer and –” INSERT Continue reading

Nancy: There Is No Light Without the Darkness

A few weeks ago, I went through a rough patch in my writing life. More accurately, I started going through the rough patch, because I haven’t yet climbed completely out of that hole of writerly despair. At least now I’m close enough to the surface to catch a glimpse of sunlight filtering down from above me.

There were reasons I fell into the hole, of course. I had too many deadlines on multiple projects converging at once. I was running a low-grade fever (precursor to a virus that towered a whole weekend and then some). I came to the realization that I couldn’t stay on course for meeting my publishing deadlines and at the same time attend an amazing writers’ conference being held in paradise this coming fall. I bailed on paradise because it was the right thing to do, but sometimes the right think sucks.

But there were deeper reasons, too. Poking a stick into a story idea that’s not baked enough yet. Coming to the point in one of my stories where I realized it’s all complete drivel (this happens at several points per story for me; YMMV). Falling into the pit of despair known as imposter syndrome. I knew talking to someone would help, but I wasn’t ready to share with other writers (which makes up about 90% of my circle of friends and acquaintances IRL) for fear of hearing well-meaning advice or platitudes, neither of which would have worked for me in that particular state. In fairness, my wonderful friends who also happen to be writers would have known not to do that, but I was stuck down in that hole, not seeing things all that clearly.

Which left me with the small number of non-writers in my life, and led to the realization that not only did I not want to discuss the trials and tribulations of the writing life with them in that moment, I didn’t want to discuss those harsh realities with them ever. I really had to ponder my own reaction. These are good eggs, kind people, of the loving and caring sort. Why did I recoil from sharing these truths with them? Maybe I was afraid – to paraphrase Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men – they couldn’t handle the truth, because most conversations with non-writers that touch on writing reveal a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to pursue the writing life. Continue reading

Jilly: Villainous Heroes

Have you ever waited impatiently for a book or series starring a character that you’d previously loathed?

I’ve read a couple of villain-turned hero stories and even blogged about one of them here a few years ago (Grace Burrowes’ 2014 historical The Traitor, starring the baddie from her previous book, The Captive), but I’ve never done the foot-tapping, finger-drumming, calendar-watching book launch thing for a very bad guy before.

It’s Ilona Andrews’ fault. I’ve squeed about their writing here before, once or twice 😉 , but their newest trick leaves me open-mouthed and thinking hard.

According to their blog (link here), the project started in 2015 as an April Fool. They put up a spoof cover and tongue-firmly-in-cheek blurb for a romance starring Hugh d’Ambray, the hard-as-nails enforcer for Roland, the grand antagonist of the bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. It began as a joke that prompted a deluge of requests that spawned an idea that became a book, and what looks like a whole new series, Iron and Magic.

I’d think it was another April Fool, except they’ve posted footage from the cover shoot, run a title contest, and best of all the blog post I linked to above contains a further link to a long excerpt. It’s really, really good and I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. Judging by the comments (more than 1,400 at the time of writing), I’m not alone.

I’ve read the excerpt a few times now, because I’m fascinated to understand how the authors have managed to establish empathy for such a dark character. It would be easier to understand if the character’s bad deeds were in the past, or somewhat diluted as backstory, or happened to a character we don’t care deeply about, but in Hugh’s case his murdering, torturing and various atrocities have been committed across multiple books, right in front of our eyes, against our heroine Kate Daniels and her community. He should be unforgiveable.

So how have they done it?

Spoilers below, so read the excerpt first if that’s your thing.

Continue reading

Michille: Recycled Novel in a Year

Start-Strong-Start-Simple-1Today (yesterday to readers of this post), I was noodling around looking for ideas for this blog post. I stumbled on a blog post from two years ago based on a series from one of my favorite blogs: Writers Write. Back in 2016, they were running a series called Write Your Novel in a Year (Anthony Ehlers is the blogger of this series, the link is for the 1st post – this is the last). He had a new post every week and at this time in 2015, they were up to week 14. Continue reading