Category Archives: The Writing Life

Five Questions I Hate Answering As A New Writer

Today I have Jordanna East on the blog talking about the questions she hates answering as a new writer. I definitely have to agree with some of them.

Take it away, Jordanna!

How long have you been writing?

Dammit. When someone asks you how long you’ve been doing something, I swear they assume they’re talking to some kind of prodigy and expect you to reply that you have been exhibiting said skill since you were in diapers. If I don’t tell someone I’ve been writing since before I could wear Big Girl bloomers (That’s right, I reached back into the 1950’s and pulled out the word “bloomers.”) and use the Big Girl potty, they’re disappointed.

What have you written?

Dammit. “I’m still in the process of writing.” “It’s not finished.” “It’ll be out soon?” Before I can say any of this of course, the person has already walked away, having been disappointed that they didn’t just talk to an accomplished writer. Oh, and I’m usually left shouting after them, “Look for it in 2013!”

What’s your book about?

Dammit. I hate this question mainly because the people who seem to ask it aren’t readers themselves. They expect it to be a memoir of something awful that happened to me or a collection of horror stories from my many years as a server. No one ever expects it to be fiction. And when I start by saying it’s a psychological thriller, I’m met with a blank stare. I try to delve deeper and mention the female serial killer; she is the protagonist of the story, despite the fact that, you know, she kills people. That invites more funny faces. But I suppose showing even a modicum of interest is better than the aforementioned walking away in the middle of my telling a person that I’m not published “yet.”

Do you have an agent/publisher yet?

Dammit. No I don’t. And it IS for lack of trying. I intend to self-publish. Hence the lack of trying. I have done my research for over 6 months now and I’ve decided that self-publishing is for me. Not because I don’t think I can hack it or whatever, but because so many good books don’t get picked up by the publishing gods and end up becoming hits. Plus the money’s better. And I’m a control freak. But that’s another conversation.

Oh self-published, like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Dammit. Please, for the love of cute, tiny monkeys, do NOT construct a sentence that flows out of your face to compare me to Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if the technical answer to your question is “Yes.”

About Jordanna: Jordanna East is currently working on a full-length novel entitled Blood in the Paint. It’s a psychological thriller in which a seductive female serial killer and the ambitious young cop on to her are both seeing the same psychologist, who also has deadly ties to their pasts. She is also concurrently working on the prequel novella entitled Blood in the Past, which she plans to release in the Spring of 2013, followed by the novel in the summer. She’s married and living happily in Southern New Jersey with her husband and their slightly obsessive love of sports. Visit Jordanna at her blog, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @JordannaEast.

Me again! Thanks for visiting with me, Jordanna! I had to chuckle at some of these.

How about you? What do you hate getting asked about writing?

Until next time…

Cindy

The Dog Days of Summer Reading

For the next little while I’ll be having guests on the blog on Wednesdays! My first guest is Lisa Mondello. Read to the end to see how you can win a copy of her book The Marriage Contract!

But first Lisa’s bio:

Lisa Mondello is the bestselling author of 14 published books. Her first published book, the award winning ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU, was recently reissued as an ebook and has had over 350,000 downloads worldwide. In addition to publishing her Fate with a Helping Hand series, which includes THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT and THE KNIGHT AND MAGGIE’S BABY, she is releasing her popular TEXAS HEARTS Romance series as ebooks, which include HER HEART FOR THE ASKING, HIS HEART FOR THE TRUSTING and THE MORE I SEE. Her latest release is the thriller, Material Witness, under the pen name L.A. Mondello. She currently writes for Harlequin Books and is collaborating with a film producer/screenwriter on a screenplay.

She loves to hear from readers. You can email her at LisaMondello (@) aol (.) com, find her on her blog talking about writing, movies and music at http://www.lisamondello.blogspot.com or chat on Twitter at @LisaMondello.

Take it away Lisa.

I totally get where the term “the dog days of summer” comes from. Of course, I don’t think of it in terms of dogs lazily snoozing all day under a shade tree in the yard. I think of all the many readers, like myself, who look forward to summer when the warm weather of summer has us outside by the pool, at the beach, in the yard, or in my case, on the raft with my husband, pulling out a book and enjoying a great story.

I could read all year long, and I do, but there is just something about reading during the summer. Schools give out summer reading lists. Bookclubs post their Top Beach Reads. Readers stock up on books as if they’re suddenly going to stop selling them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You can stock up on any book you like at any time of the year. I just always find it funny that summer is the time of the year when most readers (and writers) stock up.

Having said all that, it got me wondering about what types of books people stock up on. I know for myself that my other big book buying stock up time is before Christmas. I stockpile Christmas stories of all types. I don’t care if the story is sweet, spicy, historical, western or a heavy romantic thriller. I just love Christmas stories. And I will read one after the other right through the holidays.

I took a look at what I bought this summer. I found that I have a hefty amount of romantic suspense sitting on my Kindle and Nook. (I have both since my daughter is also a voracious readers and this avoids a tug-o-war!) There are a few fantasy/paranormal romances and one romantic comedy that I’ve been meaning to get to. My daughter has loaded the readers with werewolf and vampire romances.

So what’s on your shelf/ereader for summer reading? Do you find that your summer purchases are different than what you buy throughout the year? Leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of The Marriage Contract.

Me again! Here’s a blurb about Lisa’s most recent release, Material Witness as L.A. Mondello

Who does she trust when she’s living the real life horror of one of her crime novels…

Bestselling crime novelist, Cassie Alvarez, aka Cassie Lang, had murder on her mind when she walked into Rory’s Bar under dressed and under cover to research her latest crime novel. Researching the cool, blue-eyed and dashingly handsome man at the end of the bar stirred her senses more than she wanted to admit. But was this man of leather armor all he appeared to be?

Playing White Knight to an innocent wasn’t how Detective Jake Santos planned to spend his time under cover. But there was no way “CJ” was what she claimed to be and that nagging tightness in Jake’s chest told him he’d better take her home to safety and leave it at that. Then the barroom exploded with gunfire, leaving a trail of dead that includes a notorious Providence crime boss and an undercover FBI agent. When Cassie’s name is leaked to the media as the only witness to the grisly murders, Cassie insists she only trusts Jake to protect her.

The FBI wants their star witness happy and will do anything to make sure Cassie testifies. But it is clear to Jake that the shooter isn’t the only person who wants Cassie dead. Not knowing who to trust, he vows to protect Cassie at all cost despite the fact that guarding the beautiful novelist is a serious distraction.

You can buy it on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Smashwords.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered to win The Marriage Contract.

Thanks for visiting with me Lisa!

Until next time…

Cindy

Social media for the writer

As a writer do you hate social media? Love it? Are you indifferent? No matter how you feel about it social media for writers is a necessary evil. Do you need ALL of them? No. Do you need some of them? Yes. Well, yes if you want to connect with readers and sell books. You can also connect with agents and editors. Not to mention other writers. It’s a digital age. Most of your potential readers are probably online. They probably have more than one social media account. Don’t you want to find them?

I have to admit when I first started on social media I stuck to Facebook. It seemed easier to follow than Twitter. You could do more with it too. Post photos, comment on friends’ status updates. Like companies and interact with them. I had a Twitter account but I hardly ever used it. My followers count stayed locked at 56 for the longest time and I couldn’t figure out why.

I figured out why. The trick with most social media is you have to be social. Since I was never on Twitter I didn’t get new followers. Because I wasn’t tweeting I didn’t have anyone retweeting or replying to me. Because I wasn’t there no one knew I was there so no one followed me.

I’ve tried some of the other social media sites as well. So far Twitter is favourite. It’s my favourite now because I learned how to read it and reply to people. There are tools out there that can help you organize your social media so you don’t waste time online. I use HootSuite to follow my Twitter streams and Facebook news feed. I can update my status and post tweets from there. I can even post updates on my author page from HootSuite.

To help other writers find their social media groove I’m teaching a workshop! Social Media for the Writer starts May 7! Hope to see you there.

See you on Twitter!

Until next time…

Cindy

Three truths, one lie – udpated

It’s an ice-breaker used in corporate classes. I’m sure it’s used other places as well. It’s a good way to learn a little about someone and get a conversation going. So I am going to tell you three truths about myself and one lie. Your job is to figure out which one is the lie.

1. Patrick Swayze kissed me. – Yes, he did when I was an extra in Youngblood, filmed in Toronto.

2. I talked TV writing with Dean Cain when he came into the bar I worked at – Nope. He did come into the bar I worked at but I wasn’t working that night.

3. I flew an AWACS flight simulator at the NATO base in Germany – Yes. My uncle was stationed in Germany in 1989 and took us to the base and I flew the simulator.

4. I was in a movie with Rob Lowe – Yes. I was an extra in Youngblood with him, Patrick Swayze and Cynthia Gibb.

So, which one is the lie?

Until next time…

Cindy

Writers should not…

I’m not talking about cheating the reader or being predictable or having clichéd characters. No, I’m talking about what writers shouldn’t do to other writers. Especially newbie writers who don’t know any better than to take what a published writer says as gospel. Me, I don’t care. I listen to advice, use what I want and toss the rest. But I’ve been writing for a long time, belong to writing groups that share information, done the research on agents and editors, taken the workshops (countless workshops).

A newbie writer is looking for guidance. A lot of new writers want to know the very basic information. The information those of us who have been doing this for a while take for granted. So you have to remember two things. There are no stupid questions. And you were a new writer once too.

I’ve had new writers ask me where to start. They have an idea or they have a character so what do they do now. This is the most common question I get asked. If a new writer asks you that keep in mind what a writer should not do.

Writers should not tell other writers how they SHOULD write. There is no wrong way or right way to write a book. It’s an individual process. What works for me might not work for you. I should not tell you that you should let the book simmer for a year or two. That you must have a detailed chapter by chapter outline. That you must have action on the first page (it’s a good idea but you don’t have to do it). You might be a pantser. A chapter by chapter outline wouldn’t work for you. I’ll admit, the more a book simmers for me the faster I can write it when I sit down to write. But I would never let it simmer for two years. And some readers and editors actually like books that start off slowly, building the suspense without hitting you over the head with the conflict.

Writers should not think that just because they are published they know everything about writing and getting published. Writers learn new things about writing every day. Published authors I know continue to take workshops to improve their craft. The only difference between me and a published author is they have a contract. If I got a contract tomorrow that doesn’t magically make me more knowledgeable or mean what I have to offer in the way of advice is any better than the published author who got their contract a year ago. Do published authors have more to teach us? You bet they do. They have insight into the part of the business the unpublished don’t. They know all about ARCs and proofs, deadlines. I listen intently when published authors speak. But I’ve also seen stories by a published author who didn’t know how to properly use a dialogue tag.

Be helpful. Be supportive. Writers should not tell a new author their story is boring or won’t sell. How do you know? What you find boring someone else might find enchanting. Yes, I’ve told authors their books might be hard sells because of the subject matter. But I would never tell them it would never sell.

I try to always preface my advice with – this is what works for me. The writer can pick and choose what they want to listen to.

If you’re a new writer I highly recommend joining a SUPPORTIVE group. One that won’t judge. That won’t tell you how writing must be done. Local is always best. Meeting face to face with other writers is a great experience. If you’re in the Guelph area (living or visiting) check out the local writing group Guelph Write Now.

What advice have you been given that totally didn’t work for you? What else should writers not do?

Until next time…

Cindy

NaNoWriMo Progress

As promised here’s the progress post. I wish I could say I had a stellar first day. Sadly, I did what I usually do, what I do best. Procrastinate. I had dinner with my writing group but got home in plenty of time to get lots of words in. But then I had to unwind, chat with the boyfriend, hug the cats.

I did get in 1688 words before going to bed. I forced myself to write to at least the minimum. I wanted to give up at 1029 words, rationalizing that it was good enough on the first day. It was ten to midnight, I was tired. I decided that if I let myself slack off on the first day it would set the tone for the rest of the month. So I pushed myself to get the rest of the words in.

On the way to work this morning I realized that what I wrote as one of the opening scenes would have to move to the middle of the book. It’s all good though. I came up with some other scenes, with the help of the boyfriend, that I can write today.

How did you do your first day?

Until next time…

Cindy

NaNoWriMo is here!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for NaNoWriMo madness. Last year, second year participating, first year won, I went to the kick off party. I didn’t go my first year. Didn’t go this year either. I hope that’s not a prediction of things to come. You know, like odd numbered Star Trek movies suck but the even numbered ones are great. Of course the reboot of the franchise was film number eleven and that sucker was awesome. So maybe that curse is broken. I have to work my fingers to the bone to make sure a similar curse doesn’t happen to me.

To prevent the curse I will have to be writing and plotting this week. I still don’t have a lot of scenes figured out (2) but other scenes are starting to come into focus. And I know where my characters live. I hadn’t realized how much research I would have to do for this one. Bright side, since I’m doing it now I won’t have to do a whole lot for the sequels. Most of the research will be done already.

I’ll be back later this week with progress reports. Yes, I’m being optimistic that I will have progress.

Are you ready to start that NaNo novel?

Until next time…

Cindy

Open mind – better writer

Are you open minded? Are you able to see the other side of arguments, not just your own? Are you open to new experiences? I’m a writer so I like to experience new things, keep an open mind about pretty much everything. I never know what I could use in a book some day. So I’m a big believer in also trying new writing experiences.

I love to write thrillers with serial killers. But that was all I had been doing for a while so I decided to try something completely different. Scripts. What I found was writing scripts helped me grasp some of those novel writing rules I’d been hearing about and thought I understood. But based on one rejection I clearly did not. It wasn’t until I started writing my first feature script that I truly “got” show, don’t tell because you have to show in screenplays. I’ll be dedicating an entire post to show, don’t tell later.

If novelists really want to learn show, don’t tell, keeping the writing active, story structure and dialogue I highly recommend studying movies. Those things are so much more clear in movies/screenplays. Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, though written for novelists, uses movie examples to illustrate her points. And she does it brilliantly.

I didn’t stop the new experiences with scripts. I moved onto something else completely different. Sci-Fi and horror short stories. Not a serial killer in sight. I discovered there were a lot of calls for submissions out there for short stories for anthologies. Why not try to break in that way while still honing my craft? Short stories are great, as are screenplays, to teach you to be economical with words. I’ve written about seven short stories so far, four of which have been submitted. I’ll keep writing them because they’re quicker than books and I have a finished product a lot sooner.

Writing in different mediums and different genres helps you grow as a writer. It may help you understand concepts better. Am I suggesting you write something you don’t like just because it’s different? No. You still need to like what you’re doing. Remember when you were younger and you refused to eat something because you said you didn’t like it? And your mother said, “You haven’t even tried it. How do you know you don’t like it?” Same concept applies. How will you know you don’t like writing screenplays if you don’t try? And don’t give up just because it’s hard.

A former critique partner wrote brilliant historicals. I loved them. She couldn’t sell them. She switched to contemporary settings with classic themes and sold her first book.

Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel or a script you still have to paint a picture with words. Personally, I would want every edge I could get. For me that means experimenting with different genres, mediums, structures, writing processes. You never know. You might find a new favourite genre to write. Or a new writing process that works better for you. If you keep an open mind about things in general, why not your writing too?

How open minded are you?

Until next time…

Cindy

How much NaNoWriMo prep do you do?

There’s only a week left of NaNoWriMo prep time. I know some writers use the whole month of October to figure out their story, make notes, do character sketches. Some figure out what they’re going to write October 31 and have no prep involved at all. Those lucky pantsers. Sadly, I’m a plantser, somewhere in the middle of a plotter and a pantser. So I need some sort of road map to my story.

Last year I was lucky. I knew well in advance (August I think) what I was going to write. Couldn’t wait to start the book actually, but I forced myself to wait until November. So for at least three months I had scenes, characters and dialogue running through my head. And it helped. I won NaNo last year.

This year I was a little nervous. As of this time last week I had just decided what I was going to work on. Not a lot of time for prep. Writing loops to the rescue! I belong to Candace Havens’ Write Workshop loop (check out her workshops page to sign up) and last week on the loop Jacqueline Corcoran started a two week free workshop that is a mish mash of everything. Awesome when you’re trying to figure out a book. Some of the exercises really helped me figure out my main character and the whole workshop has been fabulous so far. Over on the FF&P loop Elijana Kindel is giving a plotting workshop this week. It starts today and I can’t wait. Even though I had no plan until recently I’m feeling good about the story. And of course this year’s NaNo book is going to be the first book in a series.

So, how much NaNo prep do you do?

Until next time…

Cindy

It’s #NaNoWriMo prep time!

Autumn has descended. There’s a chill in the air, at least where I live there is. When I was younger I loved Fall because the air felt different. The air smelled different. I loved the sounds of fall. The darker days. The falling leavings. And of course, the candy for Hallowe’en.

Now, I love October because it’s the month before NaNoWriMo. The month where we prepare for that marathon of writing that takes place in November. Some NaNoers don’t know what they’ll write about until November 1. Some plan months in advance. I’m finally excited for NaNoWriMo because I just figured out what I’m going to write this year. Well, I figured it out on the weekend. I had 5 stories to choose from and couldn’t figure out which one to do. Then one of my critique partners, the lovely Beverley Bateman , posed a simple question that made everything so clear. Which one would be the most fun to write? Because NaNoWriMo is all about having fun while putting in those crazy hours to get a novel written.

The answer to her question hit me in the shower, where I do most of my best thinking. So this year’s NaNo book is going to be another urban fantasy. It’s also going to be something I haven’t written before. Last year the shapeshifter was new to me. This year it will be angels. I have some research to do in my very near future before I can start writing the story. I already have some plot points and scenes in mind that are going to make this year’s book just as much fun to write as last year’s book.

Status on last year’s book – still need 35,000 words to complete. I’ll work on that soon too.

Are you ready for NaNoWriMo?

Until next time…

Cindy