Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blogging over at Musa today

Hello all.  I'm blogging on my publisher's website today about the Curse of the Sagging Middle.  Click here to find out if I'm talking about the uninspired middle part of a story or about my abs that are... ahem... not quite rock hard.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Outline: Organized Intentions

I have a real treat in store for you today!  Aretha C. Smith will be guest hosting today.  Her novel, Hearts of Time, is due to be published on April 17th by Rebel Ink Press and she's written a great article about outlining that's made me rethink the whole pantser thing... 

The power that comes with writing—especially writing fiction—is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about the craft itself. Creating characters and the worlds they exist in, and then infusing their lives with drama and conflict is something I derive great pleasure from. Years ago, when writing was merely something I did in my free time, even though I knew it was something I was meant to do, I didn’t take it seriously. I would sit down to write a story and simply write off the top of my head, without the slightest thought of using an outline. In hindsight, I am convinced this is the reason I kept spinning my wheels, starting stories and quickly losing interest in them. Although I had read plenty of reference books on writing fiction and the importance of writing from an outline, I was either too lazy or too stubborn to heed the advice. I thought writing outlines took up too much time and I wanted to get avoid wasting time and just get down to the story. Little did I know the disservice I was doing myself as a fledgling writer. But after spinning my wheels due to too many occurrences of writer’s block, the cold, hard reality that using an outline was a necessary element of writing fiction, finally hit me.

With that lessoned learned, when I sat down to write my upcoming release, Hearts of Time a few years ago, the first thing I did was to create an outline. I am aware that we are all different individuals and that some writers may have the ability to eschew using an outline and still be able to write incredibly well-thought out stories with strong plots that sizzle up the bestsellers lists. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. And as I set about getting my outline mapped out, I realized that it was not nearly as tedious a process as I’d imagined. I may or may not be the exception to the rule, but the outline I'd long spurned, proved to be the biggest catalyst for helping me get down to the business of writing my stories. Suddenly the process of story writing seemed far less intimidating. There was something about mapping out the plotlines in advance that proved almost more powerful than the process of creating the story itself. Knowing exactly where I planned to go with the story gave me a far better handle on the integrity of the characters themselves. The outline had suddenly become the most powerful tool I had as a writer. Knowing what would happen in chapter twelve when I hadn't even yet finished writing chapter three yet, was a major confidence booster.

Mind you, not to be misunderstood. As much as I sing the praises of outlines, they’re not necessarily always the “be all to end all”. Many times a character takes over a story, rendering portions of the outline useless. This leaves the earth shattering incident I’d planned for chapter twelve no longer feasible; the character now has other plans in mind, or has developed throughout the past nine chapters in such a way that the action I'd gleefully planned to have them do is now out of character. And let me just say that as a writer, I love when that happens. Even though it upsets the flow of my outline, the unplanned growth of a character is one of those intuitive aspects of writing fiction that leaves me clapping my hands in delight at having the privilege to be a part of such a process.

Still, the difference between having an outline and not having an outline is as different as night and day. I dreadfully recall those days when I wrote on the fly, some sort of writing Houdini, thinking I could perform the incredible feat of writing a story that flowed seamlessly from my mind to my fingers, thus spilling onto the keyboard and onto my computer screen as part of some miraculous act of writing magic. Quite honestly it was my overgrown ego more than anything that let me think this way. I’ve been greatly humbled since then, and my storytelling skills have become better for it.

The value of outlines cannot be overlooked; using them has changed my whole outlook as a writer. I actually finish stories now. Gone is the backlog of partially written stories languishing in limbo tucked hidden away in a forgotten computer file somewhere. And those that do languish do so out of deliberation; those stories are outlined and will soon be revisited. I'm a more organized writer now. I think I’d even go so far as to say writer's block has all but become a thing of the past since outlines became part of my writing reality.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming April 17th release, Hearts of Time, published by Rebel Ink Press!

Congratulations are in Order

A shout out goes out to Amalie Berlin, who won the drawing for the new copy of Three Weddings and a Baby by Fiona Harper.  Congratulations, Amalie.  I'll get the book out to you ASAP and I hope you love it as much as I did! :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WIN a Copy of Three Weddings and a Baby by Fiona Harper!

Hello my dearest lovelies.  
I'm very excited to be giving away a copy of Three Weddings and a Baby.  It's a truly fantastic read.  From the back cover copy:

When three is most definitely a crowd… Do you believe in love at first sight? Jennie Hunter and Alex Dangerfield did, and they married just a few weeks after they met! But when Alex disappeared on their wedding night Jennie was left alone – and angry – in her honeymoon suite. A month later, and Jennie has given up hope of ever seeing her runaway husband again. Then Alex returns – with his toddler in tow! Shocked to learn Alex has been married before, her first instinct is to run. Her second instinct – well, even a hard-headed businesswoman can’t turn away a tiny girl who needs a nappy-change and a husband with sheer panic in his eyes… Compared to umpteen clients, one small kid will be a doddle…right?

I must interject here, though.  As tantalizing as the blurb is, it's a little misleading.  Three Weddings and a Baby actually is much deeper than you might expect after reading the above.  There's some beautifully crafted character development and the characters are wonderfully sympathetic.

All you have to do to enter the drawing is to "follow" my blog.  Those of you who already follow me are already entered.  I'll pick one of my followers (hehe - I sound like a cult leader) at random next Wednesday the 25th.  Best of luck!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Before the Internet...

How the heck did writers get any writing done?

I've been doing some medical research for my latest project, The Karmic Connection, and I cannot imagine how long this would be taking if I couldn't do it online.  On an average day of writing, I'll bring up Google or Wikipedia many, many times to fact check something or get the ideas flowing.  Sometimes I'll get on Yahoo Answers or the story research board on the Absolute Write website.

A lot of what I do classifies as research: learning about things such as Quechuan wedding traditions, the protocol for administering first aid on an injured hiker, the history of a medieval church in Paris, what the inside of the Rainbow Room looks like.  So many questions come up.  What are some popular Estonian names for women?  How much does Restylane cost and what are the side effects?  How might the green room of a major television network be decorated?  What kind of incense is best for clarity?  What time does Chicago's O'Hare airport close?

Sometimes the Internet comes in handy while I'm brainstorming.  For example, I thought about giving one of my characters red hair with blonde streaky highlights, but I couldn't really picture how that would look and whether it would work.  One quick Google search and I had numerous examples.  And it did look good, I'm happy to report.

It would take eons to look everything up at the library, or to make phone calls to find the answers to my questions.  I have to say, I feel incredibly fortunate to be living in the Information Age!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A True Romantic Tragedy

In Fashioning a Romance, our hero, John Harrington has a PhD in medieval literature (well, actually it's a DPhil 'cause he's a Brit).  He wrote his dissertation on Pierre Abélard, the French philosopher, theologian and logician whose writing had an enormous impact on the course of medieval thought.  Despite Abélard's brilliance as a thinker and a philosopher, today he's remembered primarily for his own tragic love story.

As the story goes, Pierre Abélard met and fell madly in love with a young woman named Héloïse, and she with him.  When she fell pregnant, he begged her to marry him, but Héloïse initially refused.  To marry would destroy Pierre's career prospects.  Eventually she did agree to marry him, provided it was a secret marriage.  This secret didn't last long.

Héloïse escaped to the convent of Argenteuil in an effort to save Pierre's reputation, but her plan backfired.  Her uncle, under the mistaken impression that Pierre had sent Héloïse to the convent to save his own skin, "got medieval on his you-know-what", so to speak.  Mutilated and disgraced, Pierre was cast out of Paris and lived out the remainder of his life as a monk.  Héloïse devoted her life to the church and went on to become the abbess of the convent. 

Years later, Pierre and Héloïse began to correspond regularly - an impressive 113 of these love letters are still in existence.  Those letters, particularly the ones penned by Héloïse, are quite possibly the most romantic and certainly the oldest love letters in the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Taste of What's To Come...

Coming May 18, 2012 from Musa Publishing

Faced with a man so smooth he can charm the beard off a billy goat, will Caitlyn be able 
to stick to her strict No Players policy?

Fashioning a Romance

by Libby Mercer

Dedicated American fashion girl, Caitlyn Taylor, can't stand players and has successfully dodged them like enemy fire all her life.  And then she meets fun-loving British CEO, John Harrington.  Not only is he her boss's brother, he's the charismatic kind of womanizer that nightmares are made of.  Worse still: he's exactly Caitlyn's type.  As if his being the Superman of sex appeal wasn't enough, he's also got that quirky je ne sais quoi she adores.  Not that she's even considering falling prey to his methods.  No way.
John is utterly enthralled by the beautiful dressmaker and immediately sets out to win her heart, but to his dismay, she is impervious to his charms – even though there's no denying an extraordinary connection when they first meet.  The more Caitlyn resists, the more determined John is to break down the walls she's built up to keep him out.   Game on!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Musa Authors at the Love Romances Cafe

Hello all.

If you get a chance, I recommend swinging by the Love Romances Cafe where you'll find Musa authors answering all sorts of questions about the writing process.  It's really interesting to see how everyone's methods are different.  And some of the authors have posted some truly tantalizing excerpts from their new and/or upcoming novels.

Here's the link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/loveromancescafe

I've posted on there, and my yahoo screen name is Jazzy McJazzy.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Blog!

2011 was a rough year for me.  It was one setback after another, and at one point I was seriously considering trying my hand at writing country songs (no, not seriously).  But then on November 9th, I got an email that turned my world around.  Musa Publishing sent me a contract!  They wanted to publish my book!  Naturally I jumped at the chance.  Flash forward to the present, and all systems are go.  Four months from today I will be a published author.  Well... four months and fifteen days, to be precise.

I cannot even find the words to convey how excited I am about this.  (Um... should I be worried about that?  I am a writer, after all...  Only kidding.)  I wrote my first "book" at the age of seven, and I've been creating stories off and on ever since.  Needless to say, it's been a lifelong dream to have my fiction published, and now it's actually happening.  It's all still a bit surreal.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read.  All the best for the new year and fingers crossed that 2012 will be a banner year for all of us!