Today we’re welcoming my dear friend, and fabulous author, Leanne Shirtliffe to the blog! Her author bio tells you everything you need to know about her hilarious new book Mommyfesto. “Leanne is a humor writer whose motto is “If you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids.”” She’s a blast, and I’m thrilled to have her with us for a Five Things post today…
1) What’s your strongest/most productive writing habit? My most productive writing habit is that I’m deadline driven. When I set (or am given) a deadline, I meet it. Of course, being deadline driven is basically a polite way of saying that I’m a procrastinator who gets the job done—just barely, and with varying amounts of collateral damage depending on the project—by the time it’s due.
2) What is the very first romance novel that you read? I read lots of Danielle Steele paperbacks when I was a teenager, mostly when I was working in the field (my parents had a large wheat farm), waiting for the combine to come and dump the grain into the 5-ton trucks I drove. I doubt farm-girl-me was the reader that Danielle Steele had imagined when she was penning Fine Things or Thurston House, but her books got me through some long days.
3) If you could be a superhero, power would you choose and why? I would choose the power of having my children listen to me—wait for it—the FIRST TIME I said something. Can you imagine not repeating yourself? All the fights it would save? All that extra time you’d have?
4) If you were going to an island for a long time, name 5 things you would bring. Assuming survival gear is out, I’d happily pack the following:
- A lifetime supply of peanut butter
- The complete works of Shakespeare (I teach high school English in my spare time, so I can be a bit of a nerd.)
- Colin Firth (I should likely say “my husband,” but someone has to lead the search effort.)
5) What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? When I was 25, I accepted a job teaching high school at an international school in the Middle East. I moved to Bahrain as a single woman, and then proceeded to meet the man who’d become my husband (who also happened to have been born in the same Canadian city as me).
Leanne is giving away a copy of Mommyfesto to one (random) reader. To be entered to win a copy, just tell us in the comments below what five things YOU would wish to be marooned on a deserted island with!
When she’s not wrestling her kids for the Wii remote, you can usually find Leanne on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.
Today Rose Lerner has dropped by to share some interesting tidbits about herself with us. Rose is the author of several Regency romances. Her latest is True Pretenses, just out on the 13th, in which a philanthropist heiress agrees to marry a Jewish con artist to get her hands on her dowry. Fantastic!
1) Where is the most beautiful/romantic place you’ve ever been? When I traveled around Europe the summer after my study abroad, I went to St. Petersburg during the White Nights (when the sun never quite sets all night because it’s so far north). I saw the drawbridges across the Neva going up in the early morning, bathed in pale, pale light. I can’t even really explain how different the quality of the light was to anything I’ve ever seen anywhere else, but it was magical.
(Dostoevsky is one of my very favorite authors, too, and “White Nights” was one of his first books I ever read. It changed my life, and I thought it was just the most romantic thing ever. I don’t know if I would feel the same reading it now, but in high school I thrilled to every word.)
2) If you could be a superhero, what power would you choose and why? Telekinesis! Telekinesis is not only the coolest-looking superpower, but the most useful (after invulnerability/regeneration/never getting sick, which is my second choice). If I was watching TV I would never, ever have to get out from under the blankets to get the remote control or grab a snack! Heaven.
I don’t think I’d really want to be a superhero though. Too scary! I think I’d just want to be telekinetic.
3) Who is your favorite author? Ahhh! I can’t choose! Um. Probably Jeannie Lin (historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China, and now she’s doing steampunk too) or Cecilia Grant (Regency-set historicals). Both of them always leave me completely, 100% satisfied. To me their books are just note-perfect. Every word is perfectly placed and every story turn and twist feels right and inevitable. I love the kind of stories they tell, the way they create setting, their characters…everything.
4) What new to you authors are you crazy about? Well, I just read A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev and loved it madly. And I tried Molly O’Keefe’s RITA-winning book last year after RWA and then tore through most of her backlist. Oh, and I just read Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai which I really liked—it was sort of a Clueless set-up where their parents were married for five seconds a million years ago so technically they’re step-siblings, and he’s a bit of an uptight nerd and she’s…a GENIUS PHILANTHROPIST BILLIONAIRE PLAYGIRL! She totally has a little of the Tony Stark thing going on. She runs a restaurant/club empire and holds kinky orgies at her house, and her hapless ex-stepbrother has been having secret fantasies about them ever since he read about it in the tabloids! So awesome.
5) What are your top three favorite movies? Hmm. Well, here are three movies I could probably watch over and over and never get tired of: Rebecca (the Hitchcock version, I watch it at least a couple times a year, sometimes more, and I love every minute of it), Iron Man 2 (love everything about this movie, except for I feel like Rhodey’s arc is maybe a little rushed), and Fast Five (a.k.a the movie that took everything I loved about the Fast and Furious franchise, leveled it up, and added a heist). Honorable mention: The Quick and the Dead (the Sam Raimi one), Jane Eyre (the Fukunaga version from a few years ago), Dirty Dancing, and Star Trek IV: The One With The Whales.
You can find Rose at her website, Twitter, or on Tumblr!
Bestselling author Shana Galen is visiting the blog today. She writes fast-paced, adventurous Regency romances, the newest release being The Viscount of Vice. Welcome, Shana!
1) Did you have a nickname growing up? My real name is Shane, so my family often called me Shaney. In middle school, I wore pink all the time, and my friends called me Pinky. In high school, I turned Goth. That was the end of Pinky.
2) What’s your strongest/most productive writing habit? It’s definitely writing early and first thing in the morning. I can’t do this everyday because I have to get my daughter to school, but on Saturday mornings I go to Starbucks at 5:30 and work for 5 or 6 hours. I get so much done and then I have the rest of the day to relax.
3)If you were not writing, what job would you have? I’d be an animal cop. I would like to rescue abused and neglected animals and slap the bad owners with tickets, fines, and send them to jail.
4) If you could time travel, what time period would you most like to visit? I’d definitely visit the Regency. I write about it all the time and sometimes I feel like I live there in my head. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to meet some of the people who really lived then.
5) What is the most embarrassing song/app on your ipod. I have about a dozen songs from Barbie movies. My daughter loves them. Confession: they are pretty catchy. On any given day you might catch me with the sunroof open singing along to Princess and the Pop Star.
You can find Shana on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.
When I use the app MapMyWalk for my daily walk, I love it because it says I climbed stairs rather than walked my 2 miles. The reason being I live in a very steep neighborhood. And my daily haul is nearly all uphill. So, stair climbing it is.
And I realized as I was huffing and puffing up the first hill, that my walk was a lot like writing a book. One step at a time, one page at a time. Some days the writing is level and I churn right along. Other days it is like trying to hike up what is affectionately known in our ‘hood, as “Goat Hill.” Because only a mountain goat would want to climb it.
Yeah, there are writing days like that. Where you bang your head on the keyboard, furiously and laboriously write and then toss it all out a few hours later as crap.
Crap. Crap. Double crap.
As I get to the second hill, I curse my weight, burdening me down, slowing me down, but at the same time, know that every step is helping me along in leaving it behind. In writing, that extra weight, that burden can be an internal editor nagging that those pages are horrible, that idea is so flawed. That we should just turn around and give up.
But about the point where I get to the top of that hard, long hill, the Olympics break out over Puget Sound (on a sunny day) and I pause for the merest of moments to revel in the beauty. Listen to the birds. Then I turn the corner and continue onward in my daily exploration of my neighborhood and my latest project.
Writing, like my walk, is a daily reminder of all that is familiar and then totally surprising. Like the sudden appearance of daffodils poking out of the cold dirt. That house on the corner that I realize has been painted. The character moving through the scene just as I envisioned and then the hook that comes to me at the end of the scene that I’d never imagined.
When I walk, I do so without headphones, without my phone stuffed in one ear. I trod along alone, with my jangled mish-mash of thoughts for company. I let them be punctuated by the caws of the crows on the power lines, the rakish squawk of a Stellar’s jay, and the merry peeps of black-capped Chickadees in the bare branches. The unexpected barking of a dog might wrench me out of a bothersome, peevish reverie and thankfully send my ideas in a new direction.
And when I get home, invariably I grab up my notebook and pencil and dash off at least a page or so of notes. And the other day as I watched one of the neighborhood bald eagles high overhead and drifting by on a breeze that only those with wings would ever feel, I let go of all the things that left me grounded and stuck and soared a bit along with him.
Today we have bestselling Regency romance author Samantha Grace visiting. Her newest novel, One Rogue Too Many, first in a new series, just came out on January 7th. Welcome to the blog, Samantha!
1) Since romance authors always write about falling in love, when and how did you discover you were in love? I knew I was falling in love with my husband (boyfriend at the time) when he helped me find homes for a litter of kittens the stray I took in had. He made me laugh the whole time by joking and writing goofy signs to get everyone’s attention. Where we lived, the shelter didn’t take cats, so we sat outside a store in 90-degree weather to find them homes. The kitties had shade and water, but we didn’t. It wasn’t pretty! LOL. My husband was so sweet with the kitties. I think a man who loves cats is pretty awesome.
2) Did you have a nickname growing up? My friend’s obnoxious younger brother gave me the nickname Moose Wobbler when I broke my foot and was on crutches. All my friends jumped on board and started calling me Moose. I hated it! Looking back, it’s funny now. I was a 5’ 2”, 110-pound teen girl called Moose. I guess he was being ironic.
3) Where is the most beautiful/romantic place you’ve ever been? Without a doubt, it’s Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. I’ve always loved the outdoors and hiking, and there is a short hike to get to the falls. A beautiful mist rose from the base of the waterfall, and there were three rainbows. Locally it’s known as Mosi Oa Tunya, which means, “the smoke that thunders”. At the time, someone in the group said it meant “where angels live”. Either description fits.
4) What are your top three favorite movies? The Shawshank Redemption, Silver Linings Playbook, and Where the Heart Is.
5) What is the most embarrassing song/app on your iPod? I was a latecomer to Candy Crush. I’ve stopped playing it since level 107 became the bane of my existence. Unfortunately, I moved on to Pet Rescue and Farm Heroes. I never post anything to FB or ask friends for help, because I don’t like being manipulated by corporations. I refuse to pay anything or harass friends to play a silly game. All are great mindless activities when I need a mental break, though.
To connect with Samantha…
Samantha Grace Author | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest
Every New Year each of us makes resolutions about our writing. “I’ll write 5 pages every day.” “I’ll sell my first book.” “I’ll snag that great agent.” And while each of these is admirable and there is nothing wrong with them, I think they miss the point of what it takes to be a published author and to continue to be a selling author. Here is the resolution I propose: I want to become a better writer.
There isn’t a writer who would be unable to make this resolution. We all have areas in our writing that could stand some improvement. So if you were willing to make this resolution (and really who doesn’t want to improve their craft?) let’s look at the steps to make the next year your own personal Year of Craft:
1) Take a self inventory of your writing and decide what are your weak points. If you don’t know, ask your critique group or someone who has read your writing. Ferret out whatever it is that keeps your manuscript from making the leap from the slush pile to bestsellerdom, and then conquer it. Plotting your weak point? Emotional depth in your characters? Sagging middles? Pinpoint the problem (or problems) and get to work. Read how-to books, (Need some recommendations? Here are 21 fabulous, author-endorsed, awesome books on writing) take online classes, find authors who excel at your weakness and read them voraciously. The point is to learn how to overcome a weakness.
2) Discover your strengths. Find out what makes your storytelling unique and learn how to capitalize on this skill or skills. It may seem redundant or a waste of time to improve what you are good at, but what you are good at may be the skill that becomes the very foundation of your voice and work. Train like it is for the Olympics.
3) Resolve to finish a book. You will never sell a book if you don’t write it. Consider this: write one page a day and in a year your book will be done. One measly page. 250 words. They don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be great—that is what revisions are for. But a completed draft is a far sight closer to publishing than a pile of blank pages. Besides, writing is a craft, like any other art and it isn’t mastered the first time you type the words to the page. It is mastered through writing thousands and thousands of words. Through practice and study. Through writing touching scenes, and page turning hooks, and black moments. By shoring up weak plot points. By sometimes forging ahead without a solid path behind you. But finish the book. You will learn more finishing than you will ever learn starting project after project.
4) Master the craft of revisions. Learn to self-edit. Learn to craft your story, either with a finished draft or one page at a time—whatever works for you. Again, there are wonderful books on this subject, as well as online classes to help.
5) Find your people to get you through the dull days of winter, the bright promise of spring, the beckoning rays of summer and the cool breezes of fall. Join a critique group, attend a writer’s conference, take an online class, join a loop that encourages you. Find that monthly, weekly, daily motivation that keeps you writing the same story from “It was a dark and stormy night,” to “Happily Ever After.”
And the best way to keep any writing resolution? Keep writing. With every word you only get better.
USA bestselling Regency Romance author Deb Marlowe is here today. Welcome to the blog, Deb, and thanks for answering these five questions…
1) Do you celebrate when you finish a book and what you do? I know this is going to sound weird, but the first thing I do when I finish a book . . . I clean the refrigerator. What fun, right? But people—I live with boys! Most days I am the only thing standing between them and a microbial war zone. And when I’m in the last throes of a book, I abandon the fight. There’s just something about the end of a book, you have to surrender yourself to it—and that means letting the men in my life handle the home front. I usually write The End and look up to find chaos. So I pick up my trusty spray bottles and enter the fray… and I start with the fridge, move on to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Shrug. It’s not the champagne and chocolate most people expect, but it’s become my ritual.
2) What is the most embarrassing song/app on your iPod? Most embarrassing song—Pikagirl. I shamefacedly admit that I’ve heard this enough times in the car with Youngest that I know most of the words. I even get most of the Pokemon references. Hangs head.
3) If you could choose any 3 people in history to meet, who would they be? Ooh! First—my historical figure man crush—Giovanni Batista Belzoni—fascinating man! Second—Jane Austen. I think I’d like to bask in all that wit for a day. And third…? Today I think I’ll say Genghis Khan.
4) Where is the strangest place a story idea came to you from? An invitation to my High School Reunion. It immediately dragged forth thoughts of my unrequited high school crush. I then started thinking about how a Regency heroine would handle a similar situation. That started me off on a friends-to-lovers second chance romance that became my first book.
5) What is the very first romance novel that you read? The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was instantly hooked. I went on to read lots of historical romance, sharing them with my mom and my grandma. We devoured Jude Devereaux, Dorothy Garlock, Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood. For me, Romance has always been about female bonding.
Time spent organizing a project before you sit down to write is always time well spent. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your writing routine:
1) Organize the chapters of your novel into individual sections in a notebook and keep it on your desktop, so it is always within easy reach. Add chapter relevant research and notes to the notebook as you are writing your first draft. This also works very easily if you use the writing software, Scrivener. I find Scrivener’s Project Notes so handy for this type of story miscellaneous.
All the genius that is Scrivener.
2) Chart your chapters, tracking the scenes in each chapter. This makes a quick and handy reference when you need to remember what chapter a scene is in. I love that I can do this in Scrivener by just glancing over at the outline of scenes in the Binder section.
3) List all the characters, cities and places in your story, with a brief description of each. It works as a quick reference as to the hair/eye color of a character, as well as the spelling of a name when you are tired and can’t remember if a secondary character is Alaster or Alistar. Again, because I use Scrivener, I use the Project notes and keep one titled “Characters”. Or go old school and tack this and your scene chart up near your computer for quick reference.
I probably should have just titled this post, My LOVE of Scrivener and How It Saves My Writing Ass. You can find more about Scrivener at Literature & Latte.
New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries is visiting today, to play our Five Questions game.Her reworked Deborah Martin novel Silver Deceptions hits stores today, and the cover is just gorgeous! Welcome to the blog, Sabrina…
1) Did you have a nickname growing up? Sadly, yes. My dad called me Debbity-Dog. Deputy Dog was a favorite cartoon in our house.
2) Where is the most beautiful/romantic place you’ve ever been? The most beautiful was the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, where my family used to vacation. Mountains plus rainforest were the winning combo.
3) How do you pick the names of your Heroes/Heroines? I use a book called The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names. I just thumb through it until I find one I like.
4) Do you celebrate when you finish a book and what you do? I do celebrate. I eat pizza and do a jigsaw puzzle. And occasionally margaritas are involved.
5) Print or ebook? Both!
You can find Sabrina on her website, Facebook, or Twitter. Or check out Silver Deceptions here.
USA Today bestselling historical romance author Erica Monroe is here on the blog today! She writes dark, action-packed romances that take readers to the back alleys and dark street corners of Regency England. She’s here to share with us five things we probably don’t know about her…
1) Since romance authors always write about falling in love, when and how did you discover you were in love? I met my now-husband when we were both juniors in high school. We had similar social circles, but we had never really spent time together until he started to hang out with our mutual friend in the morning. There was something about him that drew me in. He was so quiet and unassuming, but when he’d smile it changed his entire face. I am a very outgoing person, and I made it my new mission to make him smile. But I didn’t really realize that I loved him until a few months into our relationship. We’d had a big fight, and not only did he apologize, but he made sure that all my anger was smoothed over. He was always doing things like that, making sure I was absolutely taken care of, going out of his way to do something special for us, etc. It was then that I understood that I’d found my soul mate (yes, even at sixteen!). We’ve been together now going on twelve years and we’ve been married seven.
2) If you could time travel, what time period would you most like to visit? I’d like to visit romantic era England in 1832, and I’d specifically like to go to London. I would track down all the various rookeries (ie, the poorer neighborhoods) that I write about. While I’ve been to a few, like Whitechapel when I went on a Jack the Ripper tour, I haven’t seen them with the eye of someone who has done research. I’d particularly like to see Spitalfields, the setting of my last novel, Secrets in Scarlet.
3) If you could be a superhero, whatpower would you choose and why? My favorite superhero is Batgirl/Oracle (for Barbara Gordon has been both of these heroes). Batgirl’s power is her eidetic memory, which would certainly be nice considering I’m incredibly scatterbrained. She has the ability to look at great amounts of information and find patterns in them. But if I couldn’t have her incredible analytic skills, I’d really like to be able to teleport places.
4) If you could have only 3 electrical appliances in your house, what would they be and why? The coffee maker, because I am very scary without coffee. The microwave, because while I do like to cook now I don’t think I could survive without the microwave. My laptop, so that I could still write!
5) Where do you go for inspiration when the creativity well is running a little dry? My tastes are pretty eclectic, and that is definitely reflected in how I brainstorm ideas. I watch a massive amount of television, from soap operas to crime shows, comic book-based shows, and sci-fi. I tend to create characters from certain archetypes that I like, and I adapt them to my version of late regency England. I also listen to music (Taylor Swift really helps me), or take a long walk with my dogs.
You can find Erica on her website, Twitter, Facebook (as a person or as a fan page), and on Pinterest! Thanks for visiting with us, Erica…