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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
I’m posting today another one of the blogs that I wrote when I was doing my major promo for Dark Moon. I always love hearing about other people’s processes, and because of that I’ve had a number of guests share a little of their own on this blog. So I thought I’d share one of the blogs I wrote where I talk a little bit about that, and the surprise that came when I was writing Dark Moon. This appeared originally on the Darksiders Downunder on their Magic Thursday blog. I hope you enjoy it.
SURPRISE – I’M A WOLF!
One of the questions people ask when they find out I’m a writer is, ‘Do you plot out the story before you sit down to write?’ My answer is a profound ‘Noooo’. I am absolutely not a plotter. I usually have a scene or character in my head that keeps playing over in my dreams or speaking to me until I have to write it down. Sometimes those scenes grow into something and sometimes they don’t, but it is as much of a world of discovery for me as the writer as it is for a reader when they sit down to read and enjoy a book.
When I sat down to write Dark Moon, I had a scene playing in my head of two people meeting on a ski slope – one having smashed into the other and taken them for a tumbling toboggan-style ride until they stopped, arms and legs a tangle, bodies aligned in a more than friends kind of way. It was a scene that kept playing in my dreams, one of ice cold snow against heated skin and astoundingly blue eyes revealed with a sexy lift of goggles. It was a scene that would not leave me alone – so of course I had to write it down and see where it led me.
It had all the feel of a sexy contemporary romance and so I started writing it as such. But my characters and plot had other ideas.
My hero, Jason, kept on growling low in his throat and was given to animalistic actions, like being far too aware of scent and skin to skin contact. And then, astonishingly, he turned into a wolf.
I almost fell off my chair when this happened. It was so unexpected. Although, when I read back what I had written, I could see quite clearly that it wasn’t unexpected at all. The seeds of it had been playing throughout every scene. But if he was a wolf, what did this mean to my story and the other characters? My heroine? Was she a wolf too? Most definitely not. Skye had her own deep dark secret that turned my story from being a werewolf story into something quite different.
Skye was a bit more coy and reticent to show me her secret, unlike Jason. But I think that was partly because she really didn’t want to face it herself. But when the blue fire erupted from her fingertips in one scene, she could hide it no longer. She was a Witch. And her powers were exactly what Jason needed to save his people, if only he could persuade her to use them.
The simple scene had morphed into a story about an age old pact and an ancient curse. It was darker and full of a vibrant history that I’d had no idea about when I started. It certainly wasn’t the sexy contemporary story I’d had in mind to write – it was something far more involved and intricate, still incredibly sexy and sensual, but with a plot arc that would play out over a series, not just one book. The redrafting process made me focus on the story and journey my characters were trying to tell me from the start, but I was just too ignorant to see at first. And that’s how it became Dark Moon, the first in the Witch-Were Chronicles.
Non-writers often think I’m a little crazy when I tell them my characters tell me what to write, but I don’t think it’s crazy. It’s just my process and it’s one I’m glad I follow. I love the discovery, the wondering what comes next, the surprise of ‘hey, I’m a wolf’. And I wouldn’t write any other way.
I’m really excited to have long time journalist and new author (a fellow Destineer), Laura Greaves on my blog to talk about her new novel, Be My Baby, and the good and the bad of instant gratification.
Take it away, Laura.
Just a little patience
The wonderful Meryl Streep once said that instant gratification is not soon enough. As an incorrigibly impatient person, I can certainly relate.
I’m that girl who just can’t wait. The one who watches the pilot episode of a new TV series, then immediately Googles to find out what happens in the finale. If I ask my husband a question via text message and he doesn’t reply right away, I’m all, ‘WHAT CAN HE POSSIBLY BE DOING?’ And I regularly spoil my appetite with sugary treats because I simply can’t hold out until dinnertime (though, to be honest, I don’t feel particularly bad about that).
I even chose the ideal career for impatient people: I’ve been a journalist for the best part of 20 years. I started out on a daily newspaper, where the longest I had to wait between writing a story and seeing it in print was 24 hours. These days I work as a freelance magazine feature writer, and sometimes there’s a month or more between my submitting an article and it hitting newsstands. Even though that’s still no time at all, the waiting is awful.
It might seem strange, then, that I’m also an author. After all, guiding a novel from a spark of an idea to a published book requires patience. Lots and lots of patience, in my case. For various reasons (mostly my chronic procrastination), it took a whopping eleven years to finish writing my novel, Be My Baby, and see it published by Destiny Romance. Imagine the agony!
(The irony is that Destiny, being Penguin’s ‘digital-first’ imprint, is able to publish its titles within months of acquiring them; authors whose novels are published in traditional print editions often have to wait a year or more. Being published by Destiny is about as instant as literary gratification gets, but as Meryl so astutely said, it’s just not soon enough!)
But do you know what? There are advantages to having walked such a lo-o-o-o-ong road to publication. I grew and changed as a person in the years between starting and finishing Be My Baby; that meant the book changed and evolved, too. I’d like to think I made it a little better every time I returned to it with a slightly different worldview. By the time I finally wrote ‘The End’, I’d fine-tuned my concept and knew my characters so well that I was able to say exactly what I wanted to. I’m happy in the knowledge that I wrote the best book I possibly could.
And the thing is, while instant gratification is lovely, delayed gratification is so much sweeter. I love being a journalist, but seeing my name on the cover of a book – a book that I wrote! – trumps all my next-day newspaper and magazine bylines put together. I’m sure we’ve all read about some literary wunderkind who penned a bestseller in five minutes flat and felt a pang of envy, but some clever soul once said that good things come to those who wait. (Maybe that was Meryl, too.)
So has my journey to publication made me a more patient person? Absolutely. I’ve learned to appreciate having the opportunity to take the time to really do justice to my story and my characters. I’d encourage all authors, published or otherwise, to slow down and give their work the time and space it needs. The rewards, in my experience, are infinitely greater.
Now, I’m off to find out what happens in the next episode of Mad Men…
Ambitious Australian Anna Harding seems to have it all: a glamorous job as a gossip columnist, and a beautiful home in London that she shares with her gorgeous boyfriend, Finn Cassidy. Her only problem is her regular run-ins with their neighbor Luke, who is furious about Anna’s internet shopping constantly being delivered to his place by mistake.
When her flighty best friend Helena winds up pregnant, Anna agrees to be godmother – despite her aversion to children. But then Finn announces he’s moving to Belfast for a great job in television and Helena takes off to Scotland – leaving baby Ivy behind. Suddenly Anna’s perfect life is in pieces as she tries to juggle the baby, her job and a long-distance relationship.
Will Finn wake up to himself and return home or will he be swayed by the charms of his seductive producer? Will the irresponsible Helena finally sort herself out with the help of her eccentric great aunt? And will Anna’s life ever be the same, especially after Luke’s unexpected response to the chaos unleashed next door?
Nothing is certain in this entertaining and moving tale about the relationships that matter most.
Thanks for that Laura. I think the wait can be pretty special too. And thanks for guesting on my blog.
You can buy Be My Baby at:
iTunes Store: Search ‘Be My Baby’ in Books
The lovely Nicole Murphy who guested right here last week has me as a guest on her blog right now. I’m talking about my call story and Dark Moon and I’d love you to drop on by. Check it out her:
Hope to see you there.
Today it’s my pleasure to do a blog swap with fellow RWA author and paranormal romance lover, Nicole Murphy. While she is multi-published, I thought it would be interesting to hear a little about her call story with a twist. Take it away, Nicole.
My call story – I never got a phone call.
Whenever I read other people’s call stories, I have a moment of searing jealousy because I never actually got ‘the call’. I wasn’t delivered the news over the phone, but via email. And not because I was signing with an American publisher either. Nope, my publihser was here in Australia, and someone I knew from attending science fiction conventions.
This all happened way back in 2009. I’ve blogged about it here. The fact I didn’t get the phone call didn’t, I thought, take away anything from that moment.
Until earlier this year. The wonderful Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing had asked me to write her a science fiction romance. SF romance is selling well at the moment, and Kate (having read my urban fantasy romance Dream of Asarlai trilogy) thought I could do a good job of writing one. In one of those serendipitous moments, I’d actually just picked up an abandoned sf romance manuscript, having finally worked out what was wrong with it.
So I finished it, polished it and sent it to Kate, letting her know if she liked it, I had plans for a second book. Then January 6 I get an email from her – ‘Can I call you about the science fiction romance?’
Being a writer, and thus easily able to imagine the worst in a situation (because that’s what we do – make lives hell for our characters then have them work it out), I decided the reason Kate wanted to call me was that she hated the book, but because she had specifically asked me to write it she couldn’t tell me that via email.
I said sure and Kate called later that day. It just so happened that the moment she called, two of my friends arrived to pick me up for our annual two-week writing retreat.
I smiled grimly at them then shoed them away while I braced myself for Kate to deliver the bad news.
“First, I loved it,” she said. “Now, how many books were you planning on writing in this world?”
I was stunned. “I told you about the second.”
“Yes, right, but there’s other characters. Hera for example. And Plissa.”
My little writer brain started to whirr. “Oooh, Plissa would be interesting.”
‘That’s it then. Write that book and we’ll buy it. All three.”
I hung up the phone, kinda stumbled into the loungeroom where my friends were chatting to my husband and said, “I just sold a trilogy.”
Done. Just like that, the Jorda series existed. And I finally got to experience that moment of standing on the other end of a phone, listening to someone deliver you news you’re always dreamed of. Doesn’t matter that it wasn’t my first. I think when I sell my 50th book (please, let this keep going so I do that) I’ll be just as excited. I think the moment I’m no longer excited to hear I’ve sold a book is the day I should quit writing.
So that was the rest of this year sorted. I’ve been flat-chat ever since. The second book I’d planned wasn’t written, let alone the third book that didn’t exist even in potential until that conversation in January.
You can buy the Dream of Asarlai omnibus now from
Nicole Murphy is the author of the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, published by HarperCollins (re-launched as an electronic omnibus in April), and a couple dozen speculative fiction shorts. Her science fiction romance trilogy, the Jorda series, will be released by Escape Publishing in 2014/2015. As Elizabeth Dunk she’s published contemporary romance with Escape Publishing and in July will be releasing a collection of paranormal erotic novellas, also with Escape.
Thanks, Nicole, for dropping by. It’s always great when a fellow writer shares a little bit of their life with us. Good luck with the new releases when they come out, but in the meantime, everyone can get a taste by reading the Dream of Asarlai series.
I’m very excited to have Erica Hayes on my blog today. I met Erica through Romance Writers of Australia and have been working with her as a fellow contest manager for a few years now. She is one super switched on chick with a sassy sense of humour and a massive talent. She won the premier award the RWA has – the Valerie Parv Award – a number of years ago, a win that helped to launch her career and since then has become a successful paranormal author whose books can be found in all the major book retailers in Australia and oversees.
She has a new book out, Scorched, which she is here to tell us about, but first, given I’ve been asked alot lately about why I write paranormal and what I think makes up a paranormal story, I thought I’d ask to get her ideas on it.
So, over to Erica and her thoughts on the paranormal and paranormal creatures.
Hi everyone! Thanks so much to Leisl for hosting me on her blog today.
What makes a creature paranormal? Is it inhuman magical powers? The ability to cheat death? Strange eating habits? Sharp teeth? There’s such a range of paranormal fiction these days that it’s hard to tell.
Back in the day, there were vamps and weres, and that was about it. If it didn’t suck blood or do the funky furry thing, no one cared. Certainly romance readers didn’t care! Everyone loves a hot alpha vampire, right? The hotter the better. Orgasmic blood-sucking, improbably large man parts, endless hard-ons, whatever you like. Hell, the guy’s dead. No circulation! We’re just making this stuff up anyway, right, so let’s make it good.
My point: everyone’s favourite creatures weren’t just humans with added magic—they were something else. Something other.
But then we started to branch out. Demons, angels, dragons, coyote shifters, whatever monster floats your boat… but whatever the paranormalicality is, it has to be sexy. Zombies—the rotting, brain-munching kind—are out. Likewise the yukky kind of shapeshifter. Spiders and bugs are definitely no-go. (Unless you’re talking about villains. Then you can be as creepy as you like. Brr.)
But we’re also talking magical people. Witches, psychics, people who move things with their minds or cast hexes or bring other people back from the dead. Paranormal doesn’t have to be a creature feature anymore. No monsters required.
Even superheroes are cool again. The line between paranormal and contemporary is blurring—after all, what’s a rock star or an improbably young and sexy billionaire but a superhero of a different sort? He may not have magical powers, exactly—unless you count improbably large man parts and endless hard-ons… oh, wait…—but he sure as hell isn’t ordinary.
Maybe this is why I find the everyday kind of contemporary so uninspiring. The ones with normal people leading normal, boring little lives. Snore. For me, there’s no magic without a little fantasy. Sorry, but there it is. Enough with all this BDSM thing so we can pretend it’s dangerwous, too.
Danger, pfft. When’s the last time you got your leg chewed off and munched to bits by a horny rock star? Or accidentally came back from the dead and suffered in crippling bloodthirst FOR ALL ETERNITYYY from a hot night of whip-and-chain action?
Danger?? Please. Just give the dude fangs and be done. Fantasy, folks: you know you want some.
Thanks for that, Erica. I love your take on that and the way you pull no punches. I’m rather fond of the paranormal as well. Can’t wait to read your new book. Speaking of which, here is a little bit about it:
In a world where everyone wears a mask, you can’t trust anyone… not even yourself.
Verity Fortune was once Sapphire City’s top crime-fighter, wielding her powers of telekinesis to battle the city’s most despicable villains. Now, she’s consumed by a single burning desire: revenge. Against those who took away her mask, her memory, and nearly her life. Having escaped from the asylum they left her to rot in, Verity dons her mask once again and becomes the Seeker, a vigilante warrior for truth.
But when she unwittingly uncovers an evil conspiracy deep within her own family, she’s suddenly on the run, alone and hunted by those she thought were on her side…