Tag Archives: newbie writers

Families… can’t live with them, don’t want to live without them

I’m fascinated by families and birth order. As an only child, I was the solitary kid in rooms always filled with adults. I think one of the reasons I’m such a good and thorough observer is because I was raised in that era where children were seen but never heard. I learned very early in life how to watch people without them noticing, how to gage emotions and reactions during situations, and most importantly, how to describe what I was seeing.From the time I knew I was the only kid in my family’s realm, I dreamed of having siblings. It didn’t matter to me if I was the oldest, youngest, or came somewhere in the middle of the food chain. I wanted other people like me around the house. Sadly, it didn’t happen.
My life long fascination with birth order and how siblings react and interact with one another is the reason I like writing about big families. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to invent the families I always wanted as my own. I would have liked nothing more while growing up than to have older brothers looking out for me and sisters guiding my way to adolescence.Families come with their own sets of rules on behavior and thinking and actions. Most of it is based on the shared history they have, and much of it is situational. When I start a new book series, the dynamics in the family come first. Is there a father figure present and if so, how does he rule? If no dad is around, how does the mother keep order, pay the bills, provide for her children? What roles do the oldest and youngest play in  his scheme? All these questions are thought out prior to my ever typing a word of the story. I need to know “my families” before I can write about them.I invent the parents I wished I’d had growing up, along with the support system siblings bring with it. Since I was a step-kid to two new “parents” when my parents both remarried, I know what it means to be the outsider in a group. Resentments abound, feelings of insecurity and of not measuring up run rampant, and you never really “feel” as if anyone is truly on your side. Of course, these feelings follow us into adulthood so when I write about siblings who are aging, I know I need to have them make decisions and run courses of actions with those childhood traumas and dramas in mind.

What about you? Come from a big family, or are you an only like me? Where is your birth order and did it play a role in making you the person you are? Or did it hamper your dreams and desires because things were “expected of you?”

 

Birth order, sibling dynamics, and families are truly fascinating to read – and write – about.

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Why every one of us needs an Editor

Yesterday I was a guest blogger on writer Brenna Zinn’s blog. I talked about my love of figure skating and how I used this in my first romance novel Skater’s Waltz.  I mentioned Dorothy Hamill’s name several times and each time I spelled it incorrectly. So dumb! I know how to spell her name as well as my own and mine is much harder! Spell check doesn’t do names and I just glazed over it every time I read it in proofing. My Dartmouth grad English major daughter was the one who clued me into this mistake. Thank God for her.

This got me to thinking about why it is so imperative that we have editors.

Spell check was one of the best inventions ever and one of the worst. It has made us a writing nation of people who don’t bother to learn how to spell correctly and who don’t truly check our work, thinking our laptop programs will do it all and we will look like geniuses.

Na-ah. Doesn’t work that way.

I recently read a novel by a very famous and much published author who I happen to love. She mentioned colored contact lenses in the narrative of her story and even named the manufacturer. The only problem was that manufacturer doesn’t make colored contacts and never has. I know this because this is what I do for a paying job right now: I am a contact lens technician, so when I say I walk the walk and talk the talk of lenses, you can bank on it. Her editors and fact checkers paid her a huge disservice by not validating her statement and I think more people than just me noticed it.

So, back to editing. I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. When I write something I need to read it very very very slowly to make sure I have all the names correct, the i’s doted and the facts perfect. I don’t want to look like an idiot in print ( or in real life).

Lesson learned. Thank you, wise and learned daughter. And my sincere apologies to the fabulous Dorothy Hamill.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Editors, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women

Delayed gratification…no, it’s not what you’re thinking!

I have a little over 1 month left to work at my paying day job. My last day is April 30 and to tell the truth, it can’t come soon enough. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good job with some wonderful people, and I will really miss them and my patients. But I need – NEED  – to get on with the next phase of my life before I go bonkers.

Now that my proverbial writing genie has been release from the bottle I am antsy. I have three more novels currently being written, 2 more planned out and ready to be written, three more and different novel outlines ready to go, an anthology piece I need to finish, plus my second and third books will be released this year. Whew!

I am so thrilled to be this busy if it has anything to do with my writing. I remind myself often that I need to sit back and relax a little and not stress too much about all the deadlines I have. Some are self imposed, others are external. But regardless, I know I need to take a breath and just enjoy the moment before me.

But something internally keeps pushing me to move, move now, and move fast to get all these projects done. I know I’m not dying so I’m not on a time line that way. It’s probably that I’ve been waiting so long for the opportunity to just write and not have to work at a job I don’t want, that I’m full of excess energy and want to get on with it. Right now.

When my daughter was younger, my husband taught her the theory of delayed gratification. She wanted to buy an American Girl doll but needed a few more dollars to do it. I just wanted to give them to her and have her buy the doll, but my husband felt we weren’t teaching her to value the doll as much if we did that. So, instead he devised a system for her to learn her times tables. She had to complete each number 1-12 ( You know: 12 x 3=?) in a certain time frame that he chose. When she could do that, she would “earn” the rest of the money. She thought it was a great idea because at the end she would have her doll. What she didn’t realize was first she had to learn all the times tables, then practice them so she knew them without thinking, and then she had to write them in the time frame my hubby devised. Only when she did all this would she get the money.

Needless to say, that doll didn’t arrive in our house for a while.

But it did teach my daughter about working for what she wanted and delaying the gratification of the prize until you completed your tasks. And it was a well taught, good lesson.

I need to start thinking that way too when it comes to all my writing  and my writing deadlines. Once I am not leaving the house each morning at 6:02 a.m. to get to work, I will have more time than I’ve ever had before to sit down and lay my fingers on the laptop. Five days per week, roughly 8 hours every day, and when I can on weekends. I’ve never had that much free, uninterrupted time before. I just need to remember that.

Okay, so here’s me taking a breath…letting it out…and realizing that I’m writing right at this moment!!

I guess the joke – as usual -is on me!

SKATER’S WALTZ available now in print and ebook:

amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Skaters-Waltz-Peggy-Jaeger/dp/1628308079/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1423442958&sr=8-1 

The WIld Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=1235

Barnes & Noble Nook;  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/skaters-waltz-peggy-jaeger/1121186583?ean=2940150216006

I-books: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/skaters-waltz/id965678244?mt=11

perf5.000x8.000.indd She’s won Olympic gold but can she win his heart?

Figure skater Tiffany Lennox is busy with rehearsals for an upcoming ice show when the only man she’s ever loved comes home after a two-year overseas stint. She needs him to see her for the woman she’s become and not the child he knew to ensure he stays home, this time, for good. With her.

For all his wanderlust and hunger for professional success, Cole Greer comes home wanting nothing more than to rest, relax and recover. He is delighted in being Tiffany’s hero and has a special place in his heart reserved for her. But faced with the oh-so-desirable woman she’s become, he starts questioning his determination to keep their relationship platonic.

When forced by the television network to go back on assignment, Cole – for the first time in his life – is torn between his career and his heart.

Skater’s Waltz Excerpt:

One delicate auburn eyebrow rose almost to her hairline. “Cocky self assurance has always been one of your greatest assets,” she commented dryly.

Cole laughed again and pulled her down into a headlock.

“Snot nosed princess,” he said, knuckle-rubbing her head.

He’d been wrestling with her since she was a child. He’d taught her every subtle move to get the high ground, and in that moment she used the knowledge to her advantage. In one slick move, her arm came out across his neck, forcing his hold to loosen. When it did, she pulled her hand back and pushed forward, expertly flipping him in the seat.

To recover his balance, Cole leaned back into the couch, grabbed what he hoped were her upper arms, and shoved. In a heartbeat, she was lying backward along the length of the couch with him spread out on top of her.

Both were laughing and wriggling, each trying to get the upper hand.

Tiffany squealed, trying to twist her hips out from beneath him. “Let me go!”

“Not a chance. I know how your devious little mind works, and I taught you how to do this. The minute I loosen up, you’ll hip check me over the back of the couch. No, thanks.”

Tiffany burst out laughing. “You rat. That was exactly what I was going to do.”

“You know retreat and surrender are inevitable, Tiff. I outweigh you, and I’ve got the distinct advantage of your injury in my favor. Give?”

“Okay, you win.” She went limp beneath him.

The corners of his eyes narrowed as he smiled down at her. “You must be maturing,” he said. “You never used to give up so easily.”

When he removed one hand from her arm, she reached up to trace the outline of one of his eyes. Her finger moved from the outer canthus to his cheek, smoothing the skin she touched. “You didn’t have these little lines when you left.”

Cole stared down at her face.

Her finger roamed down to the corners of his mouth, outlining them, then on to the small dent in the middle of his chin. An impish grin fanned across her face. “I remember being little and wondering if I smoothed this line away would I be able to see inside you, like it was a door or some kind of opening to your insides. Dumb, huh?”

“Sweet,” he said, softly. “Little girl sweet. Never dumb.”

Her eyes traveled up to his and locked there.

“When I got older I wondered what it would be like to kiss it.”

His breath hitched.

“Would it taste like soap, left over from shaving, or would it be all spiky and nubby because you missed a few hairs. Or would it taste uniquely like you do. I still wonder about that.”

“Tiffany.”

Knowing what he was about to do, and to whom, should have sent him jumping off the couch, running in the other direction. Instead, when his head came down to hers all Cole could think about was how much he wanted to taste her again, how he wanted to lose himself in her, and how both those feelings somehow seemed right, even though he knew they shouldn’t.

Her body tensed as he inched closer. When his lips finally captured hers, she turned fluid under his hands.

Her smooth, small body slackened beneath him as his lips gently moved across hers, tasting them, savoring them. Releasing his grip on her arms, he leaned on his elbows and ran his fingers into her hair, cupping her face while holding fistfuls of the glorious mane.

 

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Reviews and such….

I could never be an actress. Well…I could, since drama attaches itself to me like lice to a feral cat, but I wouldn’t want to be one for a simple reason: I hate being judged.

In the book world, this is called being reviewed.

Skater’s Waltz has been out for a little over a week now ( Yippie!) and I’ve gotten three legitimate reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Granted, they were all 5 stars ( what??!) but I’m Irish and therefore cynical,  so I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing for it, I’m waiting for it. There is a difference.

I have hopes the 1’s and 2’s don’t materialize – really strong hopes. But if they do, I already know how I’ll feel. I know how I’ll pretend I’m feeling, too. Not everyone is going to like your work. Hey, big budget mega star movies tank all the time. To the world I’ll say, sorry you didn’t like it; hope you find a new author that you do. Inside? Well, inside I’ll be slowly dying.

Why does the opinion of others matter so much? What is it about us humans that makes us want everyone to like us – and our work? I think part of my angst comes from being the child of divorced parents. No matter how many times you hear the divorce wasn’t you fault and had nothing to do with you, as a child you don’t believe it. I must have done something bad or mommy and daddy would still love one another and want to be together as a family.

I’m a psych major and this question still pains to to this day.

But, here’s the thing: all that to the side, I’ve gotten the book of my heart published, and I’m contracted for 4 more in the series. That alone makes every bad or unkind thing a total stranger says about my work null and void.

So, here’s to my one week book anniversary. And many happy more to come.

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Time and media…

It’s been almost a week since my book Skater’s Waltz went live into the reading stratosphere. And what a week it’s been.

I’m new to this whole world of publishing and marketing, and I’ve never been on social media so much. I can truly see how being on Twitter, FB and the rest can be an addictive process. I hear the “tweet” sound on my phone signaling another twitter message I’m mentioned in and I automatically grab my phone. I get “pinged” whenever  a new email arrives and “whistled at” when Facebook updates. All this audio is doing a number on my ears and my ego.

One thing I remember other authors saying at numerous conferences and during chats is that you can get carried away by your media sites if you don’t keep a lid on it, and believe me, this week I’ve found that to be true. As nice as it is to interact with folks on social media, it’s nicer still just to sit and write. That is, after all, what got me started on this path.

So, as I enter the second week of my book’s marketing plan – complete with interviews, a Twitter-purge,  blog posts, and GoodReads questions- I’m turning my phone down when I’m writing. I’ll check it periodically because there are some emails and texts I can’t ignore – like those from family – but for the rest, I’ll let the Twitter-verse and Facebook bloggers have their say and then respond at a later time.

Who new being social was so exhausting??!! But really uplifting as well.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Family Saga, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women

And the moment has arrived….

It’s release day!!! I’m sitting in my pajamas, a cup of congratulatory tea in my hand, looking at this:
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This is my dream board. I started it a few months back when I was hoping to have my first book published. That hope turned into reality today with the publication of Skater’s Waltz.

I’ve been told by a few people that dream boards are a waste of time, energy, and paper. Why, I’ve been asked, do you need to waste your time cutting out pictures and sayings of what you want? Why not just got for it and do what you need to do to make your dreams come through?  Those people are not really friends of mine. My friends applaud the way I put my internal dreams and hopes into a touchable, readable, living entity. They agree that when you dream it, think it, and speak it, every desire in your heart can come true. When you put your hopes into a tangible, cohesive layout, you can get a better feel, a much clearer view, of how you are going to achieve those goals and dreams.

My dream board is covered with positive affirmations of what I want my writing career to look like and be. It tells the story of how I see myself at this moment in time, and where I see my life leading me now that it is going through such a monumental change. When I look at it, I see the path I took to get here and the road I need to travel from this day on.

My dreams have become reality…yours can, too.

If you dream it, you can be it, do it, and have it.

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Feeling fretful…

With Skaters Waltz set to be released into the world in just a week I’m starting to feel a little fretful.

Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m scared sh**less!

I’ve only ever written for me. Just me. I’ve never had to contend with reviews – bad or great – before. I’ve just self edited and self flagellated my work. I can say anything I want to about my work because it’s mine. I really don’t think you can hurt your own feelings, can you? I think that’s written in some psych book somewhere, as a rule: You can’t truly  hurt your own feelings.

But other people. Well, other people can destroy you with just a few well placed words of derision and scorn. Other people can take what you’ve spent a life time working on, preparing for, and obsessing over, and in one fell swoop of a pen  ( or keyboard stroke) make it all  seem worthless and trite.

I never wanted to be an actress because I never wanted to stand in front of people, audition, and then have them tell me “no,” or that I wasn’t good enough. I am just not that strong internally.

So now, with a week left of my writing anonymity, I am a basket case.

My husband and daughter ask, “Why do you care what people think?”

My answers: because if they hate it, they won’t buy it. Because is they think it stinks, they won’t recommend it to friends. Because if it gets bad reviews, EVERYONE will know I’m not good enough.

Okay, so I just read that last part. Emotionally raw? Yes. Ridiculous to worry about? Maybe. Me in a nutshell? Absolutely.

I guess it’s too late now to worry about it. The book goes live on March 4. I took the day off from work – originally to celebrate. Now I think I’ll just stay in my pajamas and hide until the first reviews start to come in.

Good Lord: I actually signed up for this……

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Titles…

Someone asked me the other day how I come up with the titles to my stories and novels.  They are all different and don’t really follow a common thread. Book titles, I feel, are like your children’s names: you want them to be unique, but not so unique they become albatrosses or points of ridicule. I discovered through research  (okay, through Google!) there is an entire industry devoted just to this: how to pick the correct words to capture a reader from the get-go; the word combinations never to use in a title; the words that have the most impact on sales.

I know some writers who use song titles for their books and expound on them in the story.  I love this idea. I know another author who writes down every combination of a phrase based on what the book is about until the perfect title presents itself. I also love this idea.  Some experts say never to have more than one word or two at the most in the title so that it grabs the reader’s attention.  Long winded names can be turn offs to people glancing at the book rack in Barnes and Noble. The key, advertising executives always say, is “short, punchy, and memorable.”The original working titles for my favorite all time book, Gone With The Wind, were Tomorrow is another day and Ba! Ba! Black Sheep.

Now would GWTW have been such a mega hit if it had one of those titles? Who knows. I certainly don’t think the movie would have done as well with the sheep title, do you?

To Kill a Mockingbird was called Atticus before Harper Lee – thankfully – changed it.

And my favorite title change – more about why in a bit – was Pride and Prejudice. Austen originally called it First Impressions.

Now my titles are usually the first thing that pops into my head when I’m working a new plot through. I don’t try to be cute or fancy or erudite. I just “see” the title in my head, and that’s it for me. I’ve never had an editor or even a reader tell me the work was mis-named or would have been better suited to some other title. Maybe this is arrogant on my part, and okay, I’ll agree with that. They are, after all, MY titles. But again, just like when  you name a child, you want the title/name to be a reflection of your thought and love. You want it to be able to convey something of what the book is about when you are trying to capture a potential reader’s attention. Skater’s Waltz has two words and is actually a piece of music. There’s No place Like Home, has 5 and it’s a sentence in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. My third book, which I am thrilled to announce just went to contract, is First Impressions. See now why I like that Austen changed her title?

Titles are like names. They should be individual, coherent, and special. They should capture a reader’s attention and their desire to want to read more. Think of your favorite book titles. Do they fit in with this thought? I know mine do.

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Character flaws

Flaws. We all have them. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Let’s face it: no one is perfect. Our hopeful imaginations can believe we are, or someone else is, but in stark reality, we are all filled with little traits that bring us up short in the perfection department.

I’m loaded – LOADED – with flaws. That is one of the truest statements I have ever written. I don’t have enough free space on the blogosphere to list all my faults and flaws, so I won’t. But this got me to thinking about my characters and their flaws and imperfections. Have I given them enough? Too much? Ones that don’t ring true? My- egads!! – own??

So what is a flaw, really? It can be a physical imperfection, such as, “her snow white beautiful skin was flawed by the one huge wart across her nose;”,  a weakness, as in, “the plan to attack Gettysburg was flawed when the generals didn’t take into consideration the huge number of wounded they’d need to attend to;”  a shortcoming, “he’s a great teacher,  but he doesn’t think ahead.” It can even be a failure: “poor programming flawed the computer game leading to poor sales.”

CHARACTER FLAWS are by definition those flaws that are inherent in the characters you write, or they can be stated as flaws in a person’s makeup – or character, if you will. For my discussion here, I’m calling them those quirks, mannerisms,thoughts and actions that help make my imaginary characters feel more human and real. They are the internal facets of the character’s emotional, spiritual and thought-related makeup.

Perfection is boring. This is true; think about it. What drives a story, whether it is plot or character driven? Conflict. If your characters are perfect – never get mad, always have things work in their favor, everyone on the planet page likes them – then I’m sorry, your story will be snoresville. Big time. No conflict. But…what if your heroine is a sassy, sarcastic-yet-insanely-witty reporter who will do anything to land a story?  She doesn’t let anyone or anything stand in her way. Now, a mega-selling writer moves to her tiny town for peace and quiet and our lovely heroine makes it her unending goal to secure an interview with him. Her doggedness – which really borders on utterly annoying at times  – can be her grace and her flaw, especially since our hero writer wants nothing to do with people, reporters in particular. Our girl can’t give up. Won’t give up. Sees giving up as the end-all of weakness and defeat. She can’t lose out on this interview, she simply can’t. Humble and withdrawn she is not. She will never admit she can lose, it’s just not in her. Until….

Scenario two: our hero is a doctor. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was a teen. A crash he witnessed and lived through since he was sitting and sulking ( as a good little teen does )in the back seat. His parents couldn’t be saved due to the unpreparedness of the emergency team. He vows to never let another survivor go through what he went through and strives to become the best, most intense doctor he can, to the exclusion of everything else in his life.  He is focused, dedicated, arrogant, and unrelenting. Enter our heroine, a free spirited nurse who was raised on a commune, supports alternative methods of medicine, and believes in karma. His character flaw – he can’t ever relent in his pursuit of medical excellence and he spurns and vilifies anyone who doesn’t think the same way as he does, is in direct conflict to the nurse’s stop and let nature take it’s course approach to health care. Both are stubborn, dogged, and unwilling to change their views. Until…. you fill in the rest of the story your way.

One of my basic  flaws has to do with my being such a stubborn a** at times. I will fight to the death even when I KNOW I am wrong about something. It’s just not in me to give up…on anything. Yeah, it’s a real problem. It can be a blessing in disguise sometimes – some very few times! – but mostly it’s just annoying to those around me. I am up for growth, though. And stubborn though I am, I am willing to change.

Just not right now and not when I’m in the middle of an argument.

What flaws and faults have you given your characters and how have you helped them overcome them? Are they believable flaws? Do they serve a purpose to the character and the story? Do they inspire conflict? And if you want to go the physical route, what are their external flaws? Warts? Humps? Lumps and deficits?

Think about perfection. It’s a nice thought, but the reality is, perfection isn’t that great. It’s boring, uninspiring and a one-note. It’s like having nothing but vanilla ice cream the rest of your life. Delicious and lip-licking for a time, but after a while you want a little chocolate.

But flaws, well, that’a whole ‘nother story, isn’t it? And it’s a good story, too.

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I love a challenge…

I love a challenge. There’s just something about committing to it, planning for it, and then executing it.  The ultimate goal – completing the challenge – is a high like none other. I’ve done 2 half marathons and the only goal I had with the first was to finish it upright and not on an ambulance stretcher. The second marathon had the same primary goal – run across the finish line – but I’d vowed to shave some considerable time off of my finish. And I did.

And I love a writing challenge most of all.

My local RWA chapter has a writing challenge every summer. You pledge to write every day, no matter what, for a week at a time. Every day you enter your word count for that day and it is totaled at the end of the week. The prize: accomplishing your goal. No trophies, cash prizes, or fabulous trips abroad ( although, wouldn’t that be nice?!) No, just the internal knowledge that you set out to do something and you did.

I’m a huge lover of NANOWRIMO. I’ve done it for the past several years and to me this is the ultimate test of your writing commitment. In order to “win” you must complete 50,000 words of your WIP from 11/1 until 11/30. You track daily and at the end of the month you must have a minimum of 50,00 words committed. This is a wonderful way of getting that first draft on the page.

Currently, RWA is having a writing challenge. You promise to write 2000 words each month in your WIP and then enter the actual word count at the end of the month on the RWA site. This is another motivator to get those fingers flying across the keyboard and unleash your imagination. And I can do 2000 in one sitting, never mind an entire month so this will be not only a fun challenge for me, but a relatively facile one as well.

So, what motivates you? Do you like a challenge? Does the idea of throwing down the gauntlet and committing yourself to a worthy ambition appeal to you? Do you need that proverbial kick in the a** to get you started? If so, CHALLENGE yourself.

 

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