DarkMoon_coverI’m over on Darkside Downunder today featured in their Magic Thursday blog talking about what I love about being creative and how it works for me in my writing and acting and how that affected how Dark Moon became a Paranormal Romance. I’d love you to visit and comment and let me know what in your life is magic for you.

DarkMoon_coverI’m over on Darksider Downunder talking about my latest novel, Dark Moon, my inspiration to write and how I get started with my books. I’d love for you to come and visit.

http://darksidedownunder.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/enchanted-orb-with-leisl-leighton.html

Comments are always welcome too. I’d love to hear about what inspires you to do what you love to do and how you always get started.

 

Earlier on this week, I wrote about the importance of having a tribe when you do something crazy like, ah…I don’t know…write. I wasn’t planning on writing anymore about it, but something happened this week to a friend of mine that just backs this up and I thought I’d share. It’s important to share. Without sharing, it’s even easier to feel like you’re even more alone, and when bad or difficult things happen,

Not all dreams are behind this door.

Not all dreams are behind this door.

when doors you really wanted to be open suddenly close, it makes it even harder to pick your splattered carcass off the floor, reform into a 3D emotionful being, and keep on keeping on (which, by the way, is the only way to succeed at this writing thing – but that’s another blog.)

What happened to my friend is something that’s happened to me multiple times, has happened to other writing friends of mine and is bound to happen to all of us again. In fact, despite the fact that I have been published, that doesn’t make me suddenly immune to all those ups and downs that go with writing – in many ways, it’s even worse now, because there is more to try to hold onto and the slope is just as slippery as ever.

Anyway, my friend’s latest work was rejected. It’s a brilliant historical YA novel set in Tasmania and has had much interest (as my writing group knew it would from the first moment she brought it to the group for critique, because she has an engaging, unique voice, fantastic characters, has done brilliant research and weaves it in in the best way so that you feel immersed in the time without feeling like you’re having a history lesson and the story is full of emotion and conflict.) However, it was rejected right at the last step of the process.

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via Huffingtonpost.com

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via Huffingtonpost.com

The editor loved it, there were other people at the publishing house who also loved it, but it was still a no because marketing just doesn’t have confidence in YA historical at the moment from a new author.

An absolute, total bummer. The worst thing ever, to know you’re so close and yet still so far. Particularly as there is nothing she can do about that. It wasn’t like they were saying her writing was bad – they loved it – it’s just that they don’t think there’s a market for it at the moment, so it was a ‘no’. A horrible, unfair, totally devastating no. A no that felt like a bullet to the heart. I felt so terribly bad for her, so desperately wanting to make it better in some way, even though I knew the only thing that could truly make it better, was for the answer to have been ‘yes’. Which, I can’t do anything about.

But just like when I got bad news in the past and shared it, when she wrote that awful email to us, her writing group, her tribe, we rallied around her, pointing out the positives of the letter she was sent and the phone conversation she’d had. There were many emails that day and in the days following and the emails went from desperately depressed and hopelessly disappointed, to, if not happy, encouraged and willing not to throw everything in, but try again in the near future, while talking options, plans, possibilities.

 

Frana, Marnie and me - members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

Frana, Marnie and me – members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

I know from personal experience how important this process is. When I first started writing, I tried to do it by myself. I honestly thought it was best. I wrote, I put my work out there, I got rejected and so I put that manuscript aside and wrote another one, starting the process all over again. I might still be doing that if not for a lucky meeting with

Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie – one of my favourite authors

Anne Gracie who explained the rejection letters I had been getting weren’t just rejection letters, but were asking me to work on certain things in the manuscripts and try again (I never saw them in this way, and just thought my manuscript had been rejected because it was crap and put it aside.) She encouraged me to join RWA, to get a critique partner, to sign up to a writing group, to go in contests, to improve, to network, to understand what I was doing on so many levels that I couldn’t possibly do by myself. RWA logo

Thankfully I was wearing my sensible pants that day and didn’t just listen to her advice, but actually followed through, because, not only did I learn things about my writing that I really needed to learn so that I could get better and get published, it led me to my tribe. Or tribes. The people who have lifted me up when I’ve been down, who’ve encouraged when I needed it the most, who kicked my arse when I needed it, who helped me see the strengths and faults in my work, who celebrated with me through the good news and even helped throw me a Release Day Party when I wouldn’t have thrown one myself. I couldn’t do without them. And this week, I know my friend couldn’t have done without us too.

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and founding member of one of my writing groups, Liz, at her house. 

 

I’m sure she, just like me, has wonderful, loving, supportive loved ones, family and friends, who would have been there to help buck her up in her time of need, but there is something a little different getting that same support and caring from others who share in your madness. Your tribe understands the exact nature of those highs and lows and they tend to know the exact right thing to say to help you out of the deepest crevice. I know my friend will make it out of her crevice and will strive onward and upward and will eventually reach her goals because I see her and her work in the way she can’t at the moment – as brilliant and true and worthy. And as one of her tribe, it is my job to make sure that one day soon, she not only remembers that, but she sees it and believes it too.

A writer needs a tribe. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has got one and they’ll tell you the same because it’s true.

The Melbourne based Destineers Tribe

The Melbourne based Destineers Tribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year I hang out for August for 2 reasons: 1) It is the time of the year we usually take a few days to go skiing with my family and 2) It is the RWAustralia conference. As a writer, I look forward to the RWA conference every year – it is a place to hang with other people who completely understand the madness that overcomes me and makes me want to write.

Frana, Marnie and me

Frana, Marnie and me

No, not just want. Need. It is a heat in my veins, a pressing in my brain, a twitchy feeling in my fingertips that makes me have to sit down at the keyboard and tippy-type the words that have been piling up in my mind to express the characters and stories that build and build there.

Only other writers truly understand this particular madness. Only they really know what I mean when I talk about the characters in my head as if they’re real people, talking to me, pressing me to tell their stories, not leaving me alone until I have. Only a fellow writer understands when I talk about pantsing, and the fact that I sit down to write something and yet the characters often take the words and turn them into something entirely unexpected, and joyful. They understand when I talk about my Muse. They know what I mean when I talk about Hero and Heroine’s journey, 3 act structure, GMC’s (Goals, Motivation and Conflict – c/o Debra Dixon), the black moment, POV, head jumping, character and story arcs and so on. They speak the same language. They have the same, or similar goals. They are my tribe.

My Destineers Melbourne Tribe

My Destineers Melbourne Tribe

Having a tribe is incredibly important when you are doing something as singular and lonely as writing. I didn’t realise this until I joined a writing group. I thought I could do it on my own. I was so very wrong. I am now a member of two writing groups who I discuss the trials and tribulations of being a writer with and help me with the ‘big stuff’ in my writing. I have critique partners who help me with more indepth critiques of my writing. And I have Romance Writers of Australia.

Alli, Alex and me

Alli, Alex and me

 

I have made some wonderful friends and great contacts through RWA and continue to meet more and more people every year at the conference – all these wonderful, lovely, mad people who are part of my tribe. It is a time for us to hang loose, have fun, get away from the normal every day stresses of our lives and just concentrate on learning and networking and thinking about our writing. It has become a must for me every year to save up the money and make sure I go. It helps to keep me sane. It helps to inspire me. It fills my well.

Helene, Jennifer and me

Helene, Jennifer and me

When people ask me about what advice I would give to someone starting out on the path I have journeyed down (a path of learning and discovery that never ends) the best advice I could give is to find your tribe – those who think and are driven by the same thing as you. I think this is true for any endeavour – it is made better by sharing it with others who have the same obsession/love as you. But with writing, because it can be so lonely, I think it is even more important. Whether it is a writing group that meets online or face to face, a critique partner or a larger organisation like RWAustralia, I think it is essential for writers to have their tribe.

Rachel Bailey and me

Rachel Bailey and me

 

 

I love finding a new author, which is why I love hosting other authors on my site. It gives me a chance to find out about other writers and their work, but also allows me to share them with other keen readers as well. I haven’t always read them yet when they guest here, but for most of them, I know I will. I hope you feel the same.

Today, I have Dani Kristoff talking about her new paranormal romance, The Sorcerer’s Spell, out soon with Harper Impulse. Dani hasn’t always written parnormal romance – but I’ll let her tell you more about that. Take it away Dani:

MAKING THE SWITCH

ThesorcerersspellcoverI’ve been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for quite a while. I was mostly published in shorter fiction but my longer works were straight genre too. Switching to romance, albeit paranormal romance, does have its share of challenges from my point of view.

I had always thought that my straight speculative fiction stories had good character development. I really did. That was until I tried writing romance and it’s different. There’s a depth there, a homage to the character’s thoughts and feelings, that I never felt that inclined to include in my straight genre. It would get in the way of the plot, wouldn’t it?

Now this might be just me, my own silly thoughts. Maybe I was slack in those days and didn’t know good character development from bad. But then again, maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s the demand of the genre. For example, maybe what the character goes through, what they think, feel and how they change in the course of the story is the important bit and the rest is window dressing.

Or maybe if I think another way, the course of the emotional transitions in romance are more important or at least equal to the plot. Oh dear, I make it sound so mathematical and I don’t mean to be.

Another way of thinking about it is thinking about audience. What does an audience expect from a paranormal romance? They want the character to be real, or as real as a character can be on the page. A real person then, would struggle with their conscience, their doubts, their beliefs, their leaps of logic. So for me, making the character real for the audience means I have to work a lot harder at this angle. I have to immerse myself until I see the key characters as real people, as real as my head allows.

I really don’t have too much problem with plot. I jam at lot into my paranormal romance, even though I include much more character than I’m used to. I work hard to work out what the character is thinking and feeling. It’s not always easy for me but I try and that for me is the hard part about making the switch. I’m lucky that I read in the genre and love it and that certainly helps.

My latest story is The Sorcerer’s Spell, out with HarperCollins Australia Impulse line. It’s about an average woman, a widower, who works in a child care centre and lives a lonely kind of existence because she still mourns for her husband and then one night she goes to bed dreaming of making love with her husband and is transferred into another woman’s body. One that is actively engaged in sexual activity. That’s when the fun begins.

The Sorcerer’s Spell Blurb

A sexy, body-switching urban fantasy. Annwyn goes to bed dreaming of making love with her dead husband and wakes up in the body of another woman, a woman who is having hot sex with Dane, a powerful sorcerer. Her body has been stolen by Nira, a sorceress, who feeds her magical power through sex, the kinkier the better. The curse she laid on Dane turns him into a werewolf every full moon. To complicate matters Dane’s werewolf friend Rolf, succumbs to Nira when she temporarily repossess her body, causing jealously and confusion. Time is running out, as soon Dane will be a werewolf forever unless he can break the curse. Rafael from the Collegium of Sorcerers is the only one Dane trusts to help them, but when a wider conspiracy is revealed, it’s up to Annwyn and her developing magical powers to save Dane before it’s too late. But can she seduce an unwilling werewolf to lure the sorceress into a final confrontation?

Author shot Dani KristoffAuthor Bio

Dani Kristoff is a Canberra-based author, who delights in reading and writing paranormal romance. She’s been writing since late 2000, which means 13 years, although she’s been concentrating her efforts on science fiction, fantasy and horror. She’s currently finishing up a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra. Her day job is in the public service. Her partner is also a writer and they get up to geekery where possible

http://www.harpercollins.com.au/books/Sorcerers-Spell-Dani-Kristoff/?isbn=9781460703199

@dani_kristoff

http://danikristoff.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/danikristoff

As a writer, I am often mystified and horrified by the way people mangle language. I receive emails from work and other places of business that are purporting to be professional and ask me to trust that they know what they are talking about, that are full of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes, not to mention incorrect use of words (there instead of their or they’re as just one example).

I spend so much time trying to craft language into engaging sentences that people will want to read, so it can be galling to see just how little people seem to care about such things these days. Although, I have to say, I am not a grammar, punctuation or spelling expert, although, being well read and well educated (I have a BA in English literature and a DipEd (Secondary) for English), I am aware of the basics and endeavour at all times to do my best to be faithful to what I’ve learned.

I know ‘voice’ can often influence the correct usage of English, so what I write isn’t always going to follow every rule, but in the main, I think I do a pretty decent job.

I often hear other writers expressing the same dilemma over the dilution of the English language and what this will mean to the skills that go into writing it. English is an ever-evolving language (you can now find all sorts of things in the dictionary that weren’t there even 10 years ago – Bootylicious for one!) and so things will change and language must evolve. But all the same, there are some basics that should be observed and it irritates me, particularly when it’s coming in a professional medium (like from work, or in an article I’ve read, or a review etc). However, I’ve often wondered if other people feel the same way.

I just came across this Weird Al Yankovic clip which suggests that, yes, there are others who feel exactly the same way. I just showed it to my boys and they had a laugh (and hopefully, got the point, too). I hope you enjoy. 

Weird Al Yankovic – Word Crimes

 

It’s been a few weeks since I blogged – some things have happened that I won’t go into here that just didn’t make me feel very bloggy. I just didn’t feel like I had much in the way of interesting stuff to say, even though I’ve had a number of ideas for blog articles coagulating in my old noggin for a while now. I still want to write those articles, but those thoughts got a little too sticky and I couldn’t muddle out of the mess they were in. I wasn’t inspired. I think one of the main problems is I need a little break.

Years ago, I heard one of my favourite writers, Anne Gracie (if you haven’t read her, you must. Even my best friend who never reads historical romance got hooked after reading The Perfect Rake and other books in the Merriweather sister series) say something very important about muses and wells. The feeding of the muse, the filling of the well. Prior to that, I’d never really given any thought to creativity and how it happened. Creativity had always just been such a part of me – it was just something that happened because I wanted it to. When I was in a play, I would think about being the character I was playing, and I would sink into their thoughts and feelings and become them. Working in Cabaret and Theatre Restaurant, I even got really good at swapping between characters and skits without much more than a few seconds to change costume. Thinking wasn’t really part of the process. When I get up onstage to sing, I feel the music, find the story in the lyric line and let my voice be a reflection of how that makes me feel. It’s just something my muse always allowed me to do. Same with when I played piano and wrote music. Things just came out.

When I began to write, it was very much the same thing. Creative writing for me was always the best thing at school – no real thought. An idea would just pop into my head and spill out on the page, and quite frankly, things haven’t really changed for me there.I sit down without any real idea about what I am writing today, maybe a vague notion of the character needing to do or say this or that, and then I just write and words come out and then suddenly there’s a scene. This is all happening for me at the moment, the same as usual. I’ve never, not even in bad times, had what people call ‘writer’s block’. If I sit down to write, words do come out. Sometimes they’re shitful – but I can fix shitful. I can’t fix a whole lot of blank page though. Which is what this blog has been a bit like lately.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my process, even though I can’t really explain it, but a while ago I was quite enthusiastic to come up with new blog entries and write them and get my thoughts out there on writing and anything else that took my fancy. It was kind of unstructured, but that’s part of my process I think. So, that’s all good. But lately, there’s been a whole lot of avoidance. A whole lot of opening of documents and staring at the blank page and then thinking – ‘I’ll come back to that later’. A whole pile of not even visiting my site because the post that’s been up there for a while was like a great big pointy finger accusing me of being a slacker.

However, I’ve come to realise over the last week or so, that the real problem is that I’m just tired. There’s been some real highs and some terrible lows in teh last year, and some big lows in the last month or so, and while I’m fine and I’ve dealt with it, it’s all left me feeling a bit drained, emotionally and physically. I’ve also got some big things coming up soon – so there’s a bit of tension about that as well adding to the mix.

Which brings me to why I am writing this post. As Anne Gracie said, it’s important to fill the well and feed the Muse, and I think I haven’t been doing that at all lately. I’ve been head down bum up trying to get on top of everything and haven’t taken time for myself, or even a holiday, to help keep my creativity flowing in all ways.

Luckily for me, I am taking time off from work for almost 3 weeks to go to the RWA conference in Sydney for 6 days, then am home for a few days before flying off to NZ for the RWNZ conference as the representative for RWAustralia, which I’m really excited about. Then when I get back from that, I’ve taken the rest of the week off just to recoup, spend some time doing some things for me and just get my mojo back. Might even take the boys skiing for a day or two, if the snow is still good.

Being surrounded by authors always makes me feel creatively inspired, so I think it will be just the ticket. And I’m looking forward to it so much, I wish it was tomorrow. But it’s only 2 1/2 weeks away – so not long to wait. After that, I hope to be inspired to write about those ideas that have been in my mind for some time.

What about you? Do you feed your Muse? What do you do to fill the well?

 

 

 

Killing Me Softly Cover2I just received this lovely email from a reader and I felt the need to share.

Dear Leisl,

You have done an intricate job in composing Killing Me Softly. I love how you brought those who suffered tragedy together to grow from each other’s weaknesses and unite.  Your words kept me wanting more. Wondering if Cat would ever push through, if Lexi would drop her barriers to Dameon’s love. You have strong characters with good souls. I look forward to reading more of your work when they come out.  Thank you for a wonderful read.

Thank you so much to the reader, Stephanie – you have made my day. I’m so glad you enjoyed Killing Me Softly. I really enjoyed writing it. I love Daemon and Alexi and their plights and it makes me so happy to hear when others connect with them too.

I was going to write a great and insightful piece on what I love about writing descriptions, but once again the brilliant Kristen Lamb has beaten me to it and has really hit the nail on the head.

I bow down in awe and wonder and freely put on my padawan hair tail once more – although, I don’t think I ever took it off, still being firmly in the learning process of this writing thing I do. I’m in the process of writing a new romantic suspense and re-editing Healer Moon and Seer’s Blood, so I will most definitely be keeping this in mind while doing that. No, ‘her black hair hung around her face’, or ‘she sat on the green chair in the corner’ for me. I will endeavour to be far more clever than that (note, I said endeavour. Perfection is a long long way away!)

I hope you enjoy her blog on descriptions as much as I did and get a huge amount out of it. If you get even a little inspiration and learn something, then my job here is done. :)

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via Huffingtonpost.com

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via Huffingtonpost.com

As a writer who has been at this thing for quite a few years now and only last year was published for the first time, I have to say I’m used to rejection. In actual fact, I was so used to rejection that when I was finally told ‘yes’ I had trouble hearing it. In some ways, I’m not sure, even with 2 books published, if I fully believe it. The rejection always felt so viceral, so real, where the ‘yes’ is surreal, like I’m living in a dream. A lovely dream full of faeries and blowsy clouds and fluffy unicorns that prance around me singing songs about how fabulous I am and what talent I have. That dream that even while you’re in it, you know it’s not real – but you want to stay there because it’s just so lovely.

Funnily enough, the fear of rejection doesn’t go away once you’ve had a little success/taken that step forward on the path you’ve worked hard to get on. In fact, I think it is almost worse. I get that sick feeling every time I open my email, or the phone rings at unexpected moments. I don’t tell anyone about this, because I know they wouldn’t understand. I’ve been accepted. I should be fine now. But that’s just not true.

The world is ever changing and I know that my circumstances can change with it at any moment. I desperately don’t want that rejection to happen to me, but I know that it could. It’s happened to plenty of others before me. In fact, I’ve just heard from a few author friends who have received a ‘no’ on manuscripts that were part of series that had already started being published. This isn’t a new story – in fact, it’s an old one. Life is unknowable and things are never secure.

But, do you know what, even though this is horribly scary and fills me a black nausea at the thought of it happening to me, I do take comfort from the fact I’ve learned about rejection through my years as an actor and performer and now as a writer:

Rejection is rarely truly about me.

Sure, I can take the rejection personally, but the person who is rejecting me for a part, or rejecting my manuscript, is not telling me I’m rubbish. They’re not telling me my work is rubbish. All they are saying is that at that time, for them, it doesn’t fit. It goes like this:

They don’t see me in the role. I’m a tall redhead and they were wanting a small blonde.

I’ve got a light lyric soprano voice and they were really wanting a husky, ballsy alto.

They’ve just picked up a bunch of novels with a similar story trope to mine, so they don’t think they can sell mine too.

My story doesn’t fit into any acceptable box re the marketing of genres, so they can’t buy it because they don’t know how to sell it.

And so on and so on. I can rail about it all I like, but if the person in charge doesn’t think they can ‘sell’ me in that role, or sell the novel to a publishing house/their publishers/marketers, then they can’t. And do you know what – they probably won’t be the best advocate for me and my work if they aren’t 110% about it.

Jennifer Crusie wrote a blog the other day about this and it matched perfectly with what I’d been thinking on this subject for some time, and with what was going on with some of my writer friends.

It’s hard, but that’s reality.

Not all dreams are behind this door.

Not all dreams are behind this door.

The other thing I keep trying to remind myself (and that I reminded my author friends who had just weathered hard rejections) is that there are so many options out there for a writer now. When one door closes, it doesn’t mean the end of the dream like it used to. There are other new publishing houses, many of them digital who are ready and willing and able to pick up and market something different or outside the norm. And there is self publishing. Sure, there’s a glut of people out there self-publishing what really should have been kept to themselves, but there is also a bunch of fantastic work out there that would never have seen the light of day through traditional publishing simply because it lay outside of what someone thought they could market and sell. These might never be out there but for rejection.

I also remind myself that rejection brings strength. Every time I was told no for an acting job or no for a novel, I learned something valuable from the experience. Once I’d got over the sting (despite knowing it wasn’t about me, it still felt stingy), I asked why it had happened, was there something I could do to change it, something I could work on, make stronger etc etc. And every time, I put my head down, worked harder and got better at what I did.

So, while I fear rejection just like everyone else does, I know there can be a good side too – and so, for now, while I’m waiting for that email or phone call, I will try to keep this in mind and keep chugging ahead. Because unless I want to curl up in a ball and give up on my dream, that’s the only choice I have.

What about you? What are your thoughts on rejection and how to deal with it?

Dark Moon
Dark Moon front cover
Killing Me Softly
Killing Me Softly front cover
Romance Writers of Australia
AusRom Today