Clear the Head, Fill the Page – Vacations Inspire Writing

I am heading off to the beach. So happy to say those words out loud, write them down, think of them. I am heading off to the beach. It says freedom, relaxation, sunshine, seagull cries, the crashing waves, someones music in the distance. It’s lying on a beach blanket letting your mind wander, drifting in and out of sleep. And thinking . . .

And when you clear your mind, new things can enter.

We have rented a house for two weeks where the family can get together in one of my favorite seaside towns on Cape Cod. The perfect all American small town feel for the Fourth of July complete with a small town parade, band concerts and fireworks, family events and plenty of ice cream shops for the daily dose of sweet creamy goodness.

But when I am not indulging in my ice cream cravings or need for sun and surf, I am looking forward to creating. I have one book ready to release, another I am about one third of the way through writing, and books three and four circling the back of my mind competing for attention and waiting for the light of day. . . or perhaps a rainy day. In two weeks when I return to my daily life I have a feeling I will also be full of character and plot ideas.

The main goal will be preparing for the book launch to have plans in place in case these last few queries don’t pan out. I have a good feeling about the story . . . hoping an agent takes a chance, but if not . . . Kindle, here I come!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My first experience with #PitMad -ness during March Madness and other thoughts for new authors

Keep writing….

I’m here because I am a writer. An author. A romantic that expresses myself by putting fingers to keyboard (no longer pen to paper) to tell stories. I have snippets of characters and scenes in my head and I string a story together that I need to get out. Many of you may be the same . . . but the business behind writing and getting a book out is a long winding road for many of us and the hoops to jump through can be unexpected.

My first book came out seven years ago and I realize now how far off I was on presenting it to the world. It was a contemporary romance but it was more women’s literature. Catagory was wrong, marketing was far too light as I had little money and I self published, and my personal platform was not built out. It was followed by a paranormal romance that was more on mark and did much better — perhaps it was the catagory, maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the marketing efforts or that my platform had increased . . . but it was better.

Fast forward a few years and I wrote a new book — this time I understand the categories, have the funds to support if I go through the self-publishing route, and I am more aware of having a platform. A few months ago I launched Twitter and Instagram accounts, began posting to my Facebook account again, and started blogging again . . . but I believed this book was different and I should try to find an agent. What a daunting task that is when you are a virtual unknown!

Any new writer starting out will tell you the same thing — you finish your book, polish it up, get through an editing process, and you feel you are ready to go get that literary agent, and then…what do you do? It’s not easy despite having a good manuscript. A few tips:

Build out your social platform. It was surprising to see how many times agents want to see your social platforms and number of followers. Spend the time to set up a writer/author specific page/handle, express your voice, and build your followers. Be nice, be authentic, and for heavens sake do not be overly anything (it is best to leave rants, political leanings, and anything too personal to your personal social channels)

Explore Manuscript Wish List. This helpful site lets you quickly search for agents that may be good targets for your book. Easy to navigate around and focus your search. This site is essential as you start to build your target agent list.

Write a Query Letter. I found this was nearly as difficult as writing the book! It should be a one page letter that hooks the agent that is looking at hundreds of these letters in a few moments. It needs to be personalized – which means you cannot just write a blind cover letter and send to 50 agents. Check out agents’ blogs for how THEY want to see the query. This is a great example:

Compose the Synopsis. I prefer the one page synopsis and what I found surprising is you need to give away your secrets. If you have twists and turns, a surprise ending, a big reveal — you need to include in your long synopsis so if requested as part of the query the agent can read to make sure the whole story hangs together. Again, one page like the query so be clear and succinct, have your hook, and pay attention to having this piece polished and ready to go.

Prepare your First Pages. Every query is different. Be ready with your First 10 pages, First 3 Chapters, First 10,000 words, etc. Have these documents ready by chapter and/or word count to include with the query. I made several word docs with BOOKTITLE F10P, BOOKTITLE F3C, etc so I could easily attach or upload. And be sure to send only what is being requested and in the format requested.

Participate in #PitMad. It’s March and all I hear in my house with a son who lives for basketball is March Madness. After just participating in my first #PitMad, I feel like THAT is the real madness! #PitMad not for the faint of heart – but what it does do is help refine and focus your: pitch, log line, hook — in 280 characters or less. Many include authors or books similar to your story to give agents a “feel” of your story. The Tweet is the essence of your story with certain hashtags. Be ready for #PitMad — it happens quarterly — but don’t be overly disappointed if you don’t get an agent like. Its competitive. What I learned late is there is a whole system of writers out there on Twitter that promise to share your pitches that day – be active ahead of #PitMad to secure this amplification and be ready to return the favor. On the day of – be active, be kind, and share and follow (but do not like – that’s only for agents) Be sure to give it a shot — even if only to refine your thoughts on how to hook an agent. More on #PitMad here (and be sure to read up on Pitch Wars as well!)

I’m including my three pitches below for Chasing Yesterday, my latest novel waiting for my dream agent. I’m busy incorporating the one that got the most shares into my query and start that process again. I’m not giving up . . . yet. I feel there is an agent out there for my book if they read the full manuscript. It’s just getting beyond those first 10 pages, 3 chapters, query letter . . . so I need to find my correct hook to go fishing….

SPARKS x ADDISON ALLEN-ish. A grieving widow is struggling w/ the death of her high school sweetheart. A meddlesome matchmaking angel is struggling to earn her halo. Can secrets and questions from their entwined past hold the key to both of their futures? #PitMad #A #WF #R #MR

PS I LOVE U+BEST OF ME. A young widow is stalked by a meddling angel who reveals hidden identities & crushed passions that finally make sense of Katie’s troubled marriage–she wed the wrong man. Katie now needs a nudge from beyond to find her stolen soulmate. #PitMad #A #WF #R #MR

CYRANO DE BERGERAC x SERENDIPITY. When her husband dies, Katie learns the man she loved since he was her HS secret admirer wasn’t her soulmate after all – from a wannabe angel with a secret. Can she reunite with who she always loved but never really met? #PitMad #A #WF #R  #MR

Would you want to read this book based on the above? This author hopes so!

Posted in Musings, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Venus Hides . . .

Venus hides in many ways, but in March it hides from view here in the northeast during the morning twilight hour. It will return in late April in the evening sky, a romantic bright evening star for lovers to gaze up to. It makes sense, April is the month for Venus, the beginning of Spring and fertility.

For me, however, I feel like Venus will forever remain hidden. Most people think of the planet when they hear Venus, however, my mind goes to the Roman goddess of love and beauty.

I think I was born a hopeless romantic. I came home from kindergarten announcing I picked the boy to be my husband someday. I kept the valentine from fourth grade that was delivered to my classroom from the fifth grade boy I had a crush on. Its still in a box of memories in the attic. And by sixth grade I had a bad case of puppy love complete with the whole downfall when he chose someone else and every song seemed to take on new meaning.

Elementary school was also when, as someone who loved to read and was interested in ancient history, I couldn’t get enough of the Greek and Roman Gods. The stories, the similarities, how the people built humor and humanity in to their Gods to make sense of their lives. They made them more real, and being more real, they were relatable and approachable to everyone. Maybe not everyone could relate to being born in the ocean, out of a clam shell, after your father, the god of the sky Caelus’ dismembered genitals were thrown into the ocean by his own son Saturn– but the Gods had human qualities good and bad. For example, like Venus, the Greek goddess Aphrodite was as complex as women are . . . she was sweet and golden and desirable, yet could be vengeful. Women turned to her for help with the love lives, finding love, or for fertility issues.

The Birth of Venus_Sandro Botticelli_from my trip to the Uffizi in Florence Italy

Is Venus still out there listening? Can you still make an offering? Should I gather incense, wine, mint, myrtle, and roses and ask for assistance in love . . . or at least get her son Cupid to stop following me around shooting silver arrows at any male and instead take a golden arrow from his quiver? Okay, maybe I just need to still get my hands on myrtle . . .

I want to be the song stuck in someone’s head. I want to be the kiss that someone can’t resist and doesn’t want to end. I want to be someone’s waking dream that they refuse to let go. And I want to be the storm in someone’s heart that engulfs with its strength, raw beauty, and unexpectedness that you don’t fight but instead give in, snug at home, warm and cozy, and enjoy.

As Venus hides, so does love. Spring is coming and with it Venus returns in April so this romantic will continue to hope….and write my own love stories. Because when you write you can guarantee a happy ever after ….

Posted in Musings, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Single Woman’s Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

It sucks.

Actually, it f’n sucks, drains you emotionally, makes you envious of your friends and family that are in relationships, makes you cranky and more snarky than normal, increases your feeling of loneliness, and Hallmark becomes the go-to channel for two hours of bliss with a romance crash to follow . . . yet we keep coming back for their sappy, predictable and unrealistic movies.

On the other hand, there’s chocolate and ice cream. And of course, wine. Since we don’t need to squeeze into a sexy dress for a special date night of dinner and champagne out at a overpriced restaurant with the prospects of looking good later when that dress comes off . . . we can even make it truffles. As many truffles as we want. With a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on the side.

People happily in relationships mistakenly think single girls have lives like the cast of Sex and the City. Hopefully I’m not ruining your view, but we don’t. Sometimes, maybe, but mostly not.

When single, I sit home alone (with my chocolate and ice cream). And even when I had a husband or boyfriend, I never seemed to rate high enough for anything special. No, not what you are thinking. I wasn’t looking for a horse and carriage ride, jewelry, being whisked away to a surprise weekend getaway (although I would not complain), or a dozens of red roses and balloons being delivered to work — I did receive red roses (no one ever got the blush pink ones I liked or peonies to be extra special) or I’d get the standard dinner out without much thought or reservation which means we had long waits. Thoughtful can be the most romantic. Just a card picked out with a meaningful verse and something handwritten inside would be special and romantic. Something simple to say they got me.

I’m lucky enough to say every year has not been a complete dud. I’ve had a few very sweet Valentine’s surprises over the years usually from men I was not dating. A surprise card in the mail, a box full of Chunky’s (yum!) left on my door step, a delivery of flowers to brighten my day. But there was one Valentine’s Day that will always be especially romantic and cherished . . . because it was a surprise and came from the heart of a man I was in head over heels in love with. He showed up unexpectedly at my house early that morning, got me to play hooky from work, and not only spent the day with me, but cooked the most delicious meal for me while I sat back and watched. Sexy.As.Hell. It was the only time a man ever planned, shopped for, and prepared a meal for me. But alas, that was a long time ago and he is off cooking for someone else.

So, what does a single, hopeless romantic do this month knowing that the big day for all those happy couples is just around the corner? Planning a Gal-entines Day activity with girlfriends is always fun but not this year with COVID. So, it looks like it will be stocking up on my favorite chocolates and ice-cream — and of course writing, which is very therapeutic.

Writing allows you to create characters and worlds. Writing gives you the opportunity to create a situation or challenge for your protagonist to smartly overcome. Writing presents a way for you to dream about the happily ever after you want for your characters . . . or kill off others if you want. It’s your story.

I’m querying the latest book I wrote – Chasing Yesterday – which is a women’s fiction love story with a touch of magic realism. And, I am jumping back in to finish a romcom that I started a while back and have finally figured out how to solve the twist. And I have a few other stories that are jockeying for position to get out of my brain and into my laptop. Come next weekend, I am sure I will be buried in my new protagonists love life …with a box of truffles to fuel my writing, a freezer well stocked with Ben & Jerry’s, and maybe a glass of red waiting for me when the writing is done.

Posted in Musings, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selecting a Novel Genre Swim Lane

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pick-a-swimlane.png

Pick a top-name NY Times bestselling writer and, chances are, you know their genre. Even if you don’t know the exact genre they are bucketed in, you know what to expect. Stephen King? We can guess what will be lurking in his books. Nicholas Sparks, someone is going to die and break your heart. Sophie Kinsella, fun rom-coms about falling in love. John Grisham, there will be a lawsuit and someone wrongly accused. Elin Hildebrand, romance beach reads set in my home state of Massachusetts. James Patterson, yup.

But . . . what about when you jump genres with your novels? Or, when your book doesn’t fit squarely in a one genre — which genre swim lane do you go with?

Part of being an author is building a brand. This is what the authors above have all done so well. You read a book, love it, and want more . . . of the same. Not the same story, obviously, and these writers deliver on writing enough books to keep us busy reading, but we know what we want to read and we will select an author based on previous books and wanting that same type of book journey. Brand is building expectations, incorporating the genre, story lines, personality, character-building worlds, and all the things that give us the reading experience we are seeking.

Brand goes beyond the book to your website, your social posts, your biography and book source profiles. Your personal brand as an author is linked to how you are discovered as an author, and how you find new readers of your work when they are searching books and categories or making a decision if they want to take a chance with a new or unknown author.

So, what happens when you cross genres? There are some who have done a a phenomenal job of that. Take Diana Gabaldon — she crossed what could have been just a romance (and I use the word “just” lightly here), with science fiction and history to present the Outlander series. This has been successful not only with the science fiction time travel aficionados who wouldn’t care about romance, to romance readers that wouldn’t pick up a science fiction book. And, you get some Scottish history at the same time.

The challenge for many writers starting out is deciding what to do when you write in different genres, or mix genres in one book. Personally, I write romance. My first novel, The Dating Intervention, was a contemporary romance but could also be considered women’s fiction with a strong story line of friendships after a divorce and different perspectives helping with that process. I had humor and heartbreak in one book because I felt like it was more real. But what catagory to push for my brand? I wasn’t quite sure. My second novel was a paranormal romance called Cursed. This was easier because I had the sub catagory of paranormal with witchcraft in the storyline, but it also included reincarnation.

My third novel . . . now that is my challenge and I could use some help. Its more of a Nicholas Sparks tragedy love story, but with a more romance-bent ending, and a ghost/spirit. (Think Clarence in Its a Wonderful Life — not haunting ghosts or romance novel fallen angels or angels as a main character) So, how do you take a contemporary love story romance with that extra element and slip it into a genre when it doesn’t neatly check a box? What brand to use? How to promote and not disappoint the reader? The other issue is knowing which agent to query since they require you to query based on genre. And you do NOT want to get that wrong.

I have had three beta readers so far. All gave fantastic feedback about loving the book but one said if it had been pegged as paranormal she would have declined but loved that element as it was introduced. The elements need to blend seamlessly to make it accepted. So, leave as a surprise? Raise to the higher genre and not mention or get more specific and go with a sub genre. The struggle to pick the right genre is real for many authors and I need to pick one soon because I expect it back from the proofreader this weekend!

How many other authors have had this challenge?

Pick a genre, any genre…

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

As a writer, do you forget what you’ve written?

IMG_7698It’s Saturday morning. And, as I typically do while the house is asleep, I drink coffee on the couch with my springer spaniel, Fenway, on his end and me on mine . . . and surf.  I start on Facebook, maybe jump to LinkedIn or Twitter, check my Etsy page, maybe take a look at other artists work and think about paintings I’d like to do if I had the time, update my art website or my mother’s real estate website . . . and then just surf around.  I find I get a lot of creative ideas during this time.

This morning during my quiet creative thought stream time, I went looking for a work in process (WIP) that I had . . . and I came across another, older WIP that I had almost forgotten about.  Why? I think it was an idea I might have had one Saturday morning and just started writing, then filed and never opened it again.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) I get ideas that I want to pursue on Saturday mornings and am not always able to follow through.  Other times I go in search of one of these ideas . . . and get sidetracked with another.


Violet was started, according to my file date, a few years ago.  I started reading the first paragraph and actually wondered, “did I write this?” It was such a fun feeling reading and enjoying the intro of the characters and wishing, when it ended, that I had written more.  I remembered the second scene more clearly as I read, and knew it was setting up something very clever that I had already figured out when I started writing the story . . . but its only fuzzy right now.  It will come back, I’m sure, and I have a feeling when it does I will pick this story up again. The problem is, I don’t remember now what I was originally looking for this morning.  Oh well.

I invite you to read the first 2,000 words . . . I’d love to hear if you think I should continue. Or if you ever find your own work and read it like it’s something new.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret to Balancing Writing and Family

see-sawWe all want to know the secret, as we hear cries from the next room of “what’s for dinner?” Or take a quick break and pass the unavoidable pile of laundry that seems to be multiplying in the baskets like rabbits in the spring.  We can find blogs that offer top five tips for family balance or three smart strategies to become an author and keep balance at home . . . but the secret is . . . there will not be balance.

Sure, we tell ourselves we can set aside time, but we know it doesn’t just turn on and off that easily.  We feel that our spouse is being supportive — and hopefully they are — but it doesn’t mean that they like the limited time for each other in today’s busy life being reduced and funneled into your laptop.  Or, you might say you’re going to take a weekend and really crank things out so it doesn’t interfere with the real life of running the house, or your full time job, or dealing with soccer games and hockey practice or homework time . . . but when do you really have a weekend you can carve out for yourself?

No, the answer really is this is not a 50/50 balancing act.  This is not finding that perfect in-the-air-balance on a seesaw with a friend, and there are going to be some cries for your attention.  And what are you going to do?  Pick your battles.  Yes, I am being brutally honest here — pick your battles, and pick them well.  If you are on a roll or in a complex scene in your book when you hear the call for food from one of your offspring . . . hell, leftovers work.  Or breakfast for dinner is always a hit.  If you are are knee deep in closing a big chapter and you’re working out a kink in the plot when your wife reminds you the grass needs cutting — guess what, well, okay maybe walking away here might help and it will all make sense after the lawn is cleaned up.  But if not – then plow through that plot kink and cut the grass tomorrow.

I was working full time when I was writing my first two novels.  I would write on weekends, or after the kids went to bed, but sometimes I’d have an idea during the day and I would come in the door, drop my coat and go write.  Dinner might have to be pizza those nights.  There were also long periods I was too busy, not in the mood, or had hit a wall where I didn’t write and those times I was as present as possible with my kids and explained so they understood the ebbs and flows of writing.  We all fell into a happy, healthy, rhythm of no rhythm!

Now, if your family starts surviving on cereal or your house takes on that overgrown and abandoned look then you’ve gone too far.  The important thing is to be upfront with your family.  Do not promise nothing is going to change – be honest with yourself and know that it will.   Balance is a range – it not taking on something as massive as writing a book without having a few disruptions or blips along the way.  The important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up if a few things slip. The creative process is not always an easy thing to harness, therefore, you may not be able to control your time as you predict.  Acknowledge it – and your family – and just do the best you can to finish your book!

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wine-fueled Fodder for Your Writing

Champagne & raspberries in Newport

Hanging out with your girlfriends – whether for wine on the porch, with bottled water on the grass at the soccer field, or making a whole weekend of it  –  offers fodder for writing.  The laughs, the stories, and the wicked secrets that come out after one too many glasses of wine . . .

I was just in Newport for a a girls weekend.  Rarely do we get to do this, and since it was to celebrate an upcoming birthday, it was all that much more special.  What was unexpected in getting six women together in a rented house – some of whom barely knew each other – was the bonding that took place over cheese and crackers and multiple bottles of prosecco. By the end of the first night we were laughing and sharing old stories and spicy tales like we had all been friends since childhood — and the writer in me was at conflict . . . do I use this material?

Well, of course I can’t, but some of it was gooood.  Real good.  Some of it was outright surprising — but what really got me was just how great friendships can be and how much they effect romantic decisions we make.

In many romance novels, you are reading from the point of view (POV) of the heroine and the main focus is how the relationship develops, is almost lost, then comes back strong ( think the standard romantic comedy structure: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end).  Sometimes you have both POVs — but rarely does the story focus as much on the influences of our friends, how much is really shared between women about our love life, the support given whether the guy deserves or not — or the lack of support given whether the guy deserves it or not.  Girlfriends are a part of our romantic lives in some way — even if just a voyeur of our single or more adventurous friends.

When I wrote The Dating Intervention  a few years ago, I thought a lot about how friendships impacted decisions, choices, what is shared and when, and how relationships work when a couple does get back together and elements of the break up have been shared.  To me, it just seems more real.

So, as for the fodder for writing from last weekend with my girlfriends . . . I think those stories and laughs will just stay safely buried in my memory with a smile . . . or modified and used in a way to “change the names to protect the innocent”.  The only ones who have anything to fear are those who cross me . . . and then they might be written into my next book any way I see fit.  🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating an iMovie Book Trailer – Cursed, a Paranormal Romance

One thing I love about going to the movies are the movie trailers. I am disappointed if I am not there in time to see them. I hold my candy in anticipation for the big event of the movie – but I lean back and get sneak peeks into movies that are in the works and decide which I might want to see.

It’s no wonder, then, why I was immediately attracted to book trailers. I had one professionally done for my book The Dating Intervention and the woman I worked with  – Lauren Barnak – did a wonderful job capturing what I had in mind. I wanted to produce one for my second novel, Cursed, but had not done one yet. I had made a promo loop in PowerPoint consisting of four slides that could be turned into a movie but it was blurry and not very professional. Cursed 500x750

Over the weekend I was playing on my Mac laptop that I use for work and found a way to make an iMovie. Not only that, but the Mac had great templates you can use to make a fairly professional video with little experience. If you are an author, have a Mac, and never gave making your own book trailer a whirl I would strongly suggest it! It’s fairly simple:

  • Find iMovie and open
  • Select movie or trailer templates
  • Click on each template to see design and hear preset music.
  • Import the photos you want to use into the photo library.
  • Simply plug in photos by selecting where along the story board you want to show each, and when the photo square is highlighted, select the photo above by clicking on it. The tempo/length of the view is preset against the music.
  • You can go in and manipulate the photos to change coloring to B&W or a bunch of other tones. You can also select how each photo is shown by selecting the crop button and moving the start and end of the spans.
  • Type in on the designated lines what you want to show on the screen as part of your storyboard.
  • Hit play and you have a movie trailer!

It worked, but wasn’t great the first time around. After changing the flow of pictures, and reducing text to quick readable bites, it became a good workable trailer that I am quite pleased with.  Check it out!

The question is: will it help get people interested in purchasing my book by seeing visuals? (Like the movie trailers in the theaters make you want to see a movie) I hope so, but would love to hear your feedback or other people’s experiences with creating or marketing with book trailers.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing on the Porch – Pantser vs. Planner

747main front porchI am lucky enough to be on a two week vacation in my favorite seaside village of Chatham, MA. Unfortunately I am in the second week of the vacation – but we have had glorious weather, numerous beach trips, family down for the Fourth of July, and now this week I am finding myself out on the front porch in the early mornings while the family is still asleep enjoying my coffee and quiet time to write.

The novel was at a tricky part when I last left it — way too many months ago — but now coming at it with a fresh eye, I was able to re-read and “fix” the first completed third and start writing the mid-section where the story takes hold.  I am what is called a Pantser – I write by the seat of my pants – no outline, no careful plotting and character builds, I just plow ahead and watch the story unfold in my mind and try to get my fingers to keep up on the keyboard.  And, sometimes inner movie goes dark and I take a break.  This is contrary to my general personality since I am more of a planner, organizer, Type A kind of gal – but creatively, this style of writing as my mind wanders works better for me and I get to be surprised by how the book ends as well!

The current novel is a contemporary romance called Matchless. What’s it about?  Well, the book blurb would be:  When a suitable date is needed for a big family event, and to avoid her grandmothers endless, horrid suggestions, Missy Bainbridge turns to online dating to quickly find a match. Without knowing how to attract a different sort of man then the free spirits she typically dates, she turns to the annoyingly stuffy businessman she shares her morning train commute with for guidance. What she doesn’t realize is she is helping him instead. 

I wonder how many writers find that the style in which they approach their writing mirrors their general personality or, like me, it goes in the complete opposite direction?

Posted in Musings, Writing | Leave a comment