Summertime

This weekend marks the start of summer. ‘Tis the season of weddings (I’m sitting in the airport, on my way to Oklahoma for my nephew’s wedding, as I type this), vacations, no arguments with the kid about homework, warm and lazy afternoons spent reading by the neighborhood pool, firefly chasing, evenings on the patio drinking sangria with friends, and, hopefully, lots of writing as well.

Summer is also the season of writing conferences. I went to one a few weeks ago, hosted by my local Northeast Ohio RWA chapter. It was fun, informative, a bit exhausting. I consider it preparation for my first trip to the RWA National conference in July, which will, I expect, be like the NEORWA conference on steroids. Lots of steroids. I honestly can’t wait.

Because I’m too tired to keep writing–I had one of those nights where you wake up every 20 minutes because you’re neurotic about oversleeping–I will ask you: What’s your favorite part of summer? What are you most looking forward to this year? And if you’ve been to RWA Nationals, feel free to share some tips!

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Guest post – AE Jones: When the Beginning Isn’t the Beginning

Our guest today is award-winning paranormal romance author, AE Jones. AE Jones

When the Beginning Isn’t the Beginning

Writers have a number of commandments. Fundamental truths that apply to any type of writing genre or medium. The commandment I’m going to talk about today is this: a good beginning is imperative to the success of your story.

Does that seem a bit too obvious? Maybe so, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If the story does not capture a reader within the first couple of pages (some say the first couple of paragraphs) they will put the book back on the shelf in the library or bookstore. Now that digital sample chapters are one-click away for readers, this truth is even more the case. The beginning needs to draw the reader in.

But hand-in-hand with the whole ‘good beginning’ mantra is another truth: beginnings are very hard to write. Well that doesn’t seem fair now, does it? So how about if we delve into some of the reasons why beginnings are hard to write. Because when we understand the why, we can then learn how to fix it.

  • Backstory. Both a writer’s friend and enemy, backstory is necessary to establish the reason why the characters act the way they do. However, that doesn’t mean that the first chapter should be chock full of what they have done in the past. With backstory we often fall into the trap of telling rather than showing. And telling equates to passive writing, which is not what we want at the beginning of our stories. Often for many writers (myself included) that first draft of chapter one is really a character analysis. If that is the case, then move that chapter into a folder marked ‘characters’ and start again. This time don’t give the reader paragraphs of hearsay or what has happened in their childhood, instead tease the reader with hints of the character’s life through dialogue and action.
  • Starting at the wrong place. This one happens a lot. Some of this goes hand in hand with backstory since as authors we have a misplaced belief that everything needs to be explained up front when it can actually be layered into the story later. Often it’s a matter of finding when the writing starts to ‘click.’ No one is going to immediately write snappy, full-developed scenes when they first sit down and start a new story. But maybe after a few pages or chapters, the story finally comes alive and starts to flow. Don’t be surprised if that’s where your story truly begins.
  • Trying too hard. There is a lot of pressure to write the perfect first line, first paragraph, and first chapter. When sitting down in front of our computer and watching that blinking cursor flash on that empty page, we panic. To help with that panic tell yourself that the first words you write, heck the first couple pages you write are a warm up. They will be re-worked or discarded before you finally have the ‘right’ beginning for your story. If you keep that in mind, typing those first words isn’t as daunting a task.

What I find often happens is that as the story progresses and the characters come alive on the pages, the beginning no longer fits with the rest of tale. Don’t be afraid to go back and rework those first scenes so that they are now in line with where your story has evolved. Any way to make those pages memorable means that you have a better chance of a reader NOT putting your book down until they read ‘the end’. And that’s every writer’s wish. Another commandment, if you will.

AE Jones’ newest release is a box set of two novellas from her Mind Sweeper series:

novellas 3d boxset copyThe Fledgling – A Novella

Vampire Jean Luc Delacroix has been alive for nearly four hundred years. Alive, but not really living. This changes when he meets newly turned vampire, Talia. Feisty and beautiful, Talia is the first female Jean Luc has been attracted to in centuries. But when he finds out she is also a bounty hunter who is interfering with his investigation of a supernatural serial killer, he pushes her away for her and his own good.

Bitten and thrust into the supernatural world against her will, Talia wants nothing more than to do her job. She doesn’t have time to deal with an overbearing, ridiculously sexy vampire. But Jean Luc and Talia butt heads on their single-minded crusade to stop a murderer. And unless they can set aside their troubled pasts and learn to trust each other, they may never have an opportunity to explore their true feelings. Especially when they face off with the killer.

The Pursuit – A Novella

Thirty years after their initial meeting, Jean Luc Delacroix and Talia Walker once again cross paths. After seeing Talia again, Jean Luc’s feelings reignite. This time he will do whatever it takes to make her a permanent part of his life. Talia learned everything she knows about love—and about being a vampire—from Jean Luc. And when she comes face to face with Jean Luc again, she wonders if her continued independence is as important as being with the vampire she still loves.

Before either can acknowledge their feelings, they are embroiled in a deadly case of a vampire draining humans. In the midst of an investigation that threatens the very foundation of the vampire nation, can Jean Luc and Talia finally find the courage to follow their hearts? Or will the killer destroy them first?

Buy links:
Amazon
iTunes
Kobo

You can find out more about AE Jones here:
Website: aejonesauthor.com
Twitter: @aejonesauthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aejones.author1

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Plotting vs Pantsing: How Does Your Garden Grow?

So the other day I came across this quote, attributed to George R.R. Martin: “I’ve always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener.”

photo 2

I love this. Not only is it a different take on the whole plotter vs pantser debate (plotting a story vs flying by the seat of your pants), but it provides wonderful imagery to explore.  It is spring here, and plants are popping up all over the place. All the bulbs I planted last fall (except for the ones the chipmunks ate) are springing to life. I planted an assortment, so there was no telling whether a white or a yellow daffodil would come up, or a red or purple tulip.

 

photo 4

I definitely tend to the gardener side. My writing is a bit like my bed of bulbs. I know the story will have lots of daffodils, but many times their height, color, and style have yet to be determined until the story starts to flow. Other places will have herbs–their traits and purpose clear. Then there is the occasional ornamental shrub, which blooms for just a few days, overwhelming you with its glorious beauty and fragrance, before it turns green and a bit boring for the rest of the year.  Still other plants in my garden stay green all year–no flowers, no scent, no purpose except to occupy space and provide some color and contrast even on the drabbest of winter days.

photo 3

 

But even herbs and shrubs can surprise you, and there is always the bulb the chipmunk stole and buried in the middle of the lawn–writers and gardeners always need to be ready for a surprise.

photo 1

 

 

What type of writer are you?

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

IreAnne Chambers on Using Social Media, and a Giveaway!

IreAnne ChambersToday’s guest is my friend and NEORWA chaptermate, IreAnne Chambers.

Welcome, IreAnne! We are delighted to be your first foray into guest blogging!

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EXTRA!  EXTRA!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Getting the word out has come a long way since the early 1900s.  For a new author, finding a readership can be challenging.  Using all the social media available today may feel like these words are screaming out across the internet.  Many avenues are available, such as websites, social media, book trailers, author interviews, podcasts, book readings, to name a few.  All of these are created with the hope of attracting readers.

I have found the quest for readership both fun and sometimes a bit discouraging.  If you are an author reading this, no doubt you have too.  If you are a reader, maybe you didn’t know about all the places you may be able to connect with your favorite authors.  Below are some things I have tried and my experiences on my journey so far:

  1. Wattpad – This was the first place I went. I found it a great place to interact with other writers and readers.  It is also a way to get feedback on what you have written.  As it turns out, my first draft of my debut novel still gets votes and reads.  Yes, I actually posted my first draft and for now, it is still there.  I decided to leave it up until the final is published.
  2. Facebook – I love Facebook. There is no limit to the number of characters you can post in a comment.  You can post videos and pictures and I find it to be the most commonly used among authors.  The drawback with Facebook, as many of us know, is the lack of control on who we reach.  Facebook only allows us access to about 10% of friends.  So, I find myself reaching out to other forms of social media.
  3. Goodreads – My experience with Goodreads is really just limited to sharing what I like with others and sharing some reviews. You can choose to belong to different groups of interest as well.  I have found some “good reads” here.
  4. Website No. 1 – The design of my own website using WordPress. This first attempt at a website revealed the need for a more professional look.  More on this below.
  5. Twitter – Twitter is much different than the Facebook realm – trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Keeping tweets to only 140 characters is challenging.  Learning the significance of hashtags is also challenging.  I’m still learning those.  I found out the hard way you can only follow 2,000 people before Twitter doesn’t let you follow anyone else if you follow more people than follow you.  I tried to find help on Twitter.  Of course, there are no email contacts for exactly what I was looking for help on.  So, I tweeted and emailed different help contacts.  No one from Twitter responded.  A Facebook friend recommended Manage Flitter.  I tried the free version.  So far, this has been wonderful!  Manage Flitter helped me get my Twitter account under control and manage it.  I found out it is important to keep your follow/following ratio close and follow less people than follow you or Twitter will consider you a spammer.
  6. Google – I have been told this is the place to be for the future. I have a profile.  It seems similar to Facebook and for now I am just posting updates on blog posts.
  7. Website No. 2 – Adventures in Guernsey Interactive Blog Series. As noted above, I took on the challenge of designing my own website using WordPress.  This was a learning experience.  But, clearly, as time went on, I realized I needed a professional.  So, I hired one who helped me get the job done.  This, by far, is where I hope to interact the most with my readers.  Here is where I will feature new releases and book trailers as well as continue my current Adventures in Guernsey blog series.  I want to encourage readers to comment on what they think will happen in the next chapter of this series.  I want to incorporate some of the ideas and keep the story going.  I thought it might be a fun activity for readers to suggest what they think happens next and then see if it does.
  8. Guest Blog Posts – This is the newest addition to my quest. My first guest blog post is here at Heart-Shaped Glasses!  To celebrate, at the end of this blog I have a rafflecopter giveaway set up for a $25 Amazon gift card.  It will run through the weekend.

I have also joined Tsu and, as noted above, Google, but I have not been able to cultivate those yet.  There are so many ways to reach out and find people.  The question is, does it work?  I have had some tell me absolutely yes and others tell me no, not so much.  While I have a presence on the major social media networks, I am focusing on my Website, Twitter and Facebook for now.

So, what have I concluded?

  1. If you want to find readers, you need to write a good book. If you write a good book, readers will find you.
  2. It will rarely be an overnight success. Building a readership will take time, patience and perseverance.  Focus on writing and don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.
  3. There needs to be balance when it comes to social media. As authors, you need time to write that good book.  Find the balance that works for you.

So, my friends, if you are a reader, where do you like to connect with your favorite author?  Writers, what have you found to be the most successful way to connect with your readers?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

St. Patrick’s Day Redux

Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. My son and I went on a mini vacation and so missed all the craziness at home. There is always a huge parade in downtown Cleveland. People start drinking at 9 am, leading invariably to those same people throwing up in alleys before the parade starts. Good times.

I recently did an AncestryDNA test and discovered that I am 46% Irish. I always thought it was closer to 25%, all on my mother’s side, but it turns out my father had quite a bit of Irish as well. So this St. Patrick’s Day found me somewhat more reflective on all things Irish, including St. Patrick himself.

St. Patrick, Salisbury Cathedral, UK.   Source: Wikimedia Commons

Who was not Irish.

He was born in Britain to wealthy, Roman Christian parents circa 386, and reportedly died in Ireland on March 17 about 460. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, who enslaved him in Ireland for six years, which he spent tending sheep. After six years, he heard the voice of God in a dream, telling him to escape, so he did. (I can’t help but wonder why God had him wait so long, if it was this easy, but I digress.) He walked roughly 200 miles to the Irish coast and then somehow got to Britain and reunited with his family. Once he managed this feat, an angel came to him in a dream and told him to go back to Ireland, as a missionary. So he traveled to France and studied to become a priest, then returned to Ireland to join other missionaries. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland–it was already there.

Patrick weaved Irish traditions and stories into his Christian teachings, rather than attempting to eradicate them. The Celtic cross–an Irish symbol of the sun superimposed on a Christian cross–is an example.

Celtic cross. Source: Wikimedia Commons

St. Patrick’s Day was originally started 1,000 years ago as a religious holiday in Ireland, which included church followed by a family meal of cabbage and Irish bacon (corned beef definitely wasn’t on the menu).  Irish pubs were required to be closed on March 17 until the 1970s.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762, organized by Irish soldiers serving in the English army.  Over the years, St. Patrick’s Day became a way for ever-increasing numbers of Irish immigrants to connect with their heritage. In the mid-19th century, it became a way for Irish immigrants to protest their treatment by American society and to show their strength as a growing political machine.

Today, of course, parades and festivals take place in over 100 U.S. cities–there’s one in Dublin, Ireland now, too, which over a million people attend. There are over 34.7 million people of Irish descent living in the US, more than seven times the population of Ireland, and they are very, very proud of their heritage.

I will admit that I have spent my fair share of St. Patrick’s Days drinking beer–preferably not green–and singing Irish folk tunes at the top of my lungs. This year was much quieter–a pizza and a pint of Irish cider, but I did force my son to listen to the High Kings and the Chieftains for a while.

A belated St. Patrick’s Day to all, whether Irish in truth or in spirit.

Sources:
http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/who-was-saint-patrick
http://www.biography.com/people/st-patrick-9434729#missionary-work
http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day
http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/st-patricks-day-facts
http://www.history.com/news/st-patricks-day-myths-debunked

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Guest Post – Why I Like Gritty Heroines

My NEORWA Chapter sister, Becky Lower, is back at Heart-Shaped Glasses today to talk about her newest Cotillion Ball release, Expressly Yours, Samantha. Welcome, Becky!

*****

When I first began writing my Cotillion Ball Series, I envisioned lavish ballrooms in Nelower authorpicw York City filled with young ladies from the elite of New York society making their debuts, all dressed in elaborate white gowns. But the time frame for my series at times took me away from New York and high society.

America in the late 1850s and early 1860s was an exciting, tumultuous time. Tensions were rising between the North and South, which would explode into the Civil War in 1861. There was the westward expansion, with wagon trains leaving St. Louis and St. Joseph, MO every spring, en route to a better life. Gold had been found in California, and the Pony Express began operation.

It seemed natural to me that the two younger boys in my large New York family would want to get in on the action. So their books take place on the edge of the frontier, far away from the fancy ballrooms of New York City. And the women they fall in love with are as far removed from the debutantes as you can get. Not at all what I envisioned at first. But, both Temperance (Banking On Temperance) and Samantha (Expressly Yours, Samantha) have become my all-time favorite heroines. They each, in their own way, embody the spirit of early America. They aren’t afraid of hard work, they figure out a way to make their mark in the world, they fall in love, hard, with the right man. They wear homespun, not silk. They get exercise not by taking a turn around the park, but by chopping firewood and cleaning out barn stalls. And when life hands them a set of circumstances beyond their control, they rise to the challenge.

At a time when the law of the land was on the side of men, these gritty, strong and resilient women made their mark. Both of them value family above all, and would take any risks they had to in order to keep their loved ones safe. They may have lived far from the elegant ballrooms, been less privileged and dressed in more crude clothing, but their strength and backbone were essential to the shaping of America.

So, which do you prefer? The beautiful settings and gowns of a Cotillion or the gritty, rough life of a settler on the frontier?  I’m giving away an e-copy of Expressly Yours, Samantha to one lucky commenter.

roses2 Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com.

Author Links:
Website: www.beckylowerauthor.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/becky.lower
Twitter: http://twitter.com@BeckyLower1
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/authorbeckyl/
Blog: http://beckylowerauthor.blogspot.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6159227.Becky_Lower
Amazon page: http://amzn.to/1FOy3Sd

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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