Tips for Attending RWA’s National Conference

So I’m a wee bit embarrassed at how long it’s been since I posted on the blog.  I’ve been buried in a novella–you wouldn’t think a 30,000 word book would take me so long to write, but alas. I am easily distracted.

Lately, I have been distracted by anticipation. I have been getting ready for RWA’s Annual Conference in Orlando next week. Workshops have been chosen, hair done, toes polished, fancy dresses purchased, and culinary path through Epcot plotted–seriously, the food in France is to die for.

If you are a romance writer and you haven’t been to Nationals, you must try to go at some point. Although it’s absolutely exhausting for extroverts and introverts alike, the creative energy is incredible. There are workshops on just about every writing-related topic under the sun, and opportunities to meet and mingle with favorite authors. And let’s not forget the free books. There are opportunities to pitch your manuscripts to literary agents and editors from all the major romance publishers.

If you’re a first timer this year, I’d suggest you keep a few things in mind:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk. A lot.
  2. Go to the First Timers Orientation. I didn’t, but I probably should have.
  3. Use the RWA17 App on your phone. It will make it a lot easier to figure out what you’d like to attend and where you’re supposed to be at any given time.
  4. Remember that everyone is friendly! Although I know this is hard as hell for an introvert (like me), don’t be afraid to walk up to someone whose name you recognize and say hello. My first RWA National experience was in New York two years ago. When I was checking into the hotel, I spotted historical author Mia Marlowe standing at the desk beside me. I told her I loved her books and she stopped what she was doing (to the annoyance of the clerk checking her in) to give me a huge hug.
  5. Go to the book signings offered by publishers. You can meet your favorite authors, and they will give you a signed book for free. The most popular authors will have long lines, so while you wait for those lines to die down, visit the others. You may discover a new favorite and you just might make their day.
  6. When choosing between two workshops at the same time, go to the one that’s not recorded (there are a few), or to the one with conference presenters you’d like to talk to in person. Recordings of the entire conference will be available for sale, or afterwards you can choose individual workshop recordings to purchase and download on the RWA website.
  7. Remember to take breaks. It’s so much fun, but it can be exhausting for a writer who’s used to living in her own head. If you’re overwhelmed. go hide in a corner with a book, go back to your room, take a swim. Remember that workshops are recorded, so you won’t miss anything. No one will think any less of you, because many of us will be doing the exact same thing.
  8. If you have a manuscript ready to go, pitch! It’s terrifying, but it’s good. If you didn’t sign up for a pitch session ahead of time, fear not. Slots usually open up on pitch day, and you can grab one of them.
  9. Google “RWA First Time” for more articles on what to expect.
  10. And if you see me, say hi. I would love to meet you!

Cooking Up a Book

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately, as all my words have been going into a prequel novella I’m writing, featuring the parents of the hero in Stirring Up the Viscount. I’ve also been trying not to be a total slacker in my critique group, which is a bit easier said than done. And since Top Chef and Chopped are now on Hulu, I’ve been binge watching (and cooking) like a madwoman.

This weekend my in-laws are in town and we had friends over for dinner last night. I made an insanely good cherry pie bar thingy that I will probably never be able to duplicate because I veered so far from the original recipe (although I’m working on writing down the recipe so I can come close). I’d show you a picture, but I didn’t think to take one, and since the entire 9″x 13″ pan was consumed last night, there’s nothing left to photograph.

As I sit here reflecting on what to make for breakfast (this cinnamon scone bread is a distinct possibility), it occurs to me that cooking is a bit like writing. Some cooks use recipes, others do not, just as some writers plot and others fly by the seat of their pants. Even if you start with a recipe, sometimes, as with my cherry pie thingy, your imagination (or a desire not to use a full pound of butter) takes you on another course and you end up with a different product. Sometimes it’s better than the original, and sometimes not.

 

Things can go anywhere from slightly wrong (my baked beans last night were slightly undercooked because there wasn’t enough liquid in the pot) to disastrous (I made gluten free English muffins once–my son refers to them as “those hockey pucks Mom made”), like stories that veer off course. There are times when you can fix them, but other times you need to admit defeat and chuck the entire steaming mess into the trash.

Cooking involves tweaks along the way–a little more salt here, a splash of liquid there–just as a book does–a few lines of description here, tightening up language there. And the finished product, even if it looks luscious and is the most amazing thing you’ve ever created, won’t be loved by everyone.

I used to get pissed when my family didn’t like something I slaved over in the kitchen–usually at myself, but occasionally at them when they were so obviously wrong. 🙂 A critique partner’s negative comment or a bad review can get under my skin. As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning to accept this. Not everyone will love what you do. Sometimes even you hate what you create. It doesn’t mean that it’s not good, or that it won’t provide nourishment for body or soul.

But enough philosophizing. Time to make breakfast!

 

 

Over the Sea to Skye

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember my last post, in which I mused about which of several settings I should choose for the next book. Perhaps subconsciously influenced by this year’s RITA historical finalists–many of which seem to have involved dukes and Scotland–I did opt to send my duke to the Isle of Skye. In case you were wondering, it’s off the northwest coast of Scotland, very far away from the ballrooms of London:

One of the things I like best about setting my books in the Victorian era is that it is very easy to get my characters from one place to another, compared to the Regency period. Trains criss-crossed the country, allowing people to move with relative ease from London to Glasgow, Perth to Cornwall.

Unfortunately, trains did not get anywhere near Skye until 1897, so the other day I spent hours trying to figure out how my intrepid hero–a city boy who hates to travel–would journey from southern Scotland to Skye. The almighty Google revealed two guidebooks: Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, Ninth Edition (1851), and Anderson’s Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1850).

Although it was possible to take a steamer from Glasgow directly to Skye (a fact I discovered only after a day spent mapping the picturesque route, naturally), the guidebooks recommended the following route to Skye (in the summer, of course) for those who wanted to take in the scenery:

Loch Lomond. Photo by Patrick Mackie, via Wikimedia Commons.

Day 1:  Starting in Glasgow, he’ll board a steamer and sail up (down?) the River Clyde to Dumbarton, about 14 miles.  At this point, our traveler has two options: Either a brisk 5 mile walk north to the foot of Loch Lomond, then a steamer across the loch (another 14 miles) to Tarbet. This is followed by a 1.5 mile walk to the west to Arrochar, where an inn rests on the shore of Loch Long. Alternatively, he could board a steamer at Dumbarton and sail up Loch Long directly to Arrochar, a distance of about 25 miles.

Ben Arthur, or The Cobbler. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Day 2: Being a sensible sort, our hero will ask the innkeeper to pack a nice lunch for him (unlike when my friend Helen and I set off up a mountain in Keswick, England last fall, because we were so sure we’d be done well before lunch–we weren’t). He’ll then hike around the base of The Cobbler to Cairndow on Loch Fyne, a distance of 12 miles. From there, he could hop on a ferry across the loch to Inveraray (6-1/2 miles), or walk around the head of the loch (9 miles).

Inveraray Castle. Photo by DeFacto, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Our hero will spend the night at an inn in the shadow of Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyle. (Of the castle, Black’s guidebook notes, “in one of the rooms is some very beautiful tapestry, which the old lady who exhibits it, states to have been ‘made by the goblins, wha’ are a’ dead now.'”) On Day 3, our hero will continue his journey overland, perhaps carrying two meals this time and a couple of snacks, for this part of the journey begins with a 9 mile hike across rugged terrain to Cladich on Loch Awe.

Loch Awe. Photo by Chris Heaton, via Wikimedia Commons.

If he is anything like me and Helen, he’ll get lost and it will take six hours rather than three, so he’ll spend the night there. If not, he’ll walk for two hours or so along the banks of the loch to Dalmally and stay there instead.

On Day 4 (or 5), he’ll set out from Dalmally on the hardest part of the journey, a 24-mile walk to Oban. Being a pathetic city-dweller, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d have to stop somewhere along the way–fortunately there is an inn about halfway across in Taynuilt. It sits not far from the base of Ben Cruachan, the highest point in the County of Argyll.

Ben Cruachan. Photo by Grinner, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

From Oban on Day 6, 7, or possibly 8 (I admit I’ve lost track at this point), he’ll buy some fabulous Oban whisky and then board a steamer which will make its way up the coast, a trip that will take one or two days (possibly three, as getting through Kyle Rhea requires high tide) to Broadford on the Isle of Skye.

Broadford, Skye. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Easy peasy.

Nowadays, of course, you can travel by train nearly the entire way, then cross a bridge or hop on a ferry over the sea to Skye. I just might be inclined, however, to try to retrace the journey undertaken by thousands of adventurous Victorian tourists on my next trip across the Pond. Perhaps Helen would come with me, if I remember to bring snacks. And a good map. 🙂

Since I have mentioned my hike with Helen, I thought I’d share a couple of photos. I look far more exhausted, but in my defense I should like to point out that my picture was taken just after we hauled our middle-aged butts to the top of Walla Crag, while Helen’s was ever so kindly taken as we made our way down the other side.

Helen

Me.

Author Interview: Liz Talley

So one of the reasons I haven’t been doing much with the blog of late is because I’ve spent the last month hanging out at the Winter Writing Festival put on by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.  I’ve been getting tons of writing and editing done, and it’s great fun to hang out in the chat room with other writers.

One of the writers I met there is Liz Talley. I won copies of the first two books in her Morning Glory series, and they are adorable! I did no work the day I picked up the first one since I couldn’t stop reading. Liz has a new novella in the series–Prince Not Quite Charming–which released on Valentine’s Day.

Welcome to the blog, Liz, and congratulations on your first indie publishing venture!

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

I live in North Louisiana and I’ve been writing for eleven years.

What inspired you to write this book?

I often listen to country music and one day when I was singing along to Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here” I felt convicted that I needed to write a good ol’ boy with a big truck and a slightly over-inflated ego. Then give him a sharp city-slicker to deal with.

What does your writing process look like? 

I’m a hybrid writer who is much more organic than relying on a spreadsheet. I like an outline and that’s about it.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Laundry and baseball games 🙂

What are you working on now?

I’m writing on a stand-alone novel set in South Carolina involving three friends and a past mistake. I also have the last book in the Morning Glory series on the back burner and I’m also contemplating a Christmas novella – A Charming Christmas.

Who is your favorite literary hero? Heroine? Villain?

I’ll have to go with Jamie Fraser from Outlander for hero. Heroine – Bridget Jones. I think. There are so many, but I relate to her and she amuses me. But only in the first book. Not a fan of the waffling second and third ones.

How many books do you have under the proverbial bed? Will they ever see the light of day?

Two full-length Regency romances, including my Golden Heart finaling manuscript. Probably won’t ever make an appearance but that’s okay. They are very dear to me because they gave birth to what I am today.

Other than “butt in chair,” what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Protect your story. It’s yours. No one else’s so you own that and don’t change it for anyone unless he or she is a trusted editor who knows more than you do.

About Liz’s latest book:

A city girl can survive…

Or at least that’s what New Yorker Frances Genovese hopes when she agrees to stay in Morning Glory, Mississippi for a few weeks after her brother’s wedding. Though she may not know much about small-town living, she does know a thing or two about the new restaurant her brother’s building. But she didn’t bargain for a big country boy naysaying her vision. And she darn sure didn’t expect to be so attracted to the infuriating contractor. 

Clem Aiken knows two things: what it means to be a country boy and the target market for the new eatery. When he and Frances clash on her ideas, he figures there’s one thing to do – teach the sophisticated beauty what it’s like to live in a southern small town. Frances reluctantly gives Clem three days to change her mind about the restaurant design. After all, how hard can it be to bait a hook, fry chicken or go honky tonkin’?

Excerpt:

Someone cleared his throat, and she glanced up to find the man who’d poured a pitcher of water over her head a few nights ago. “You.”

“Me,” he said with a knowing grin.

“You’re Clemson Aiken?”

“At your service.” He executed a slight bow. “But call me Clem. And you’re welcome for saving your life the other night.”

Frances frowned, tapping her pen against the notepad. “Saving my life or trying to drown me?”

“You were on fire.” His brown eyes twinkled. She’d never seen eyes twinkle, but this guy had that going on. He was also tall. Six three. Or maybe six four. Tall drink of water with linebacker shoulders and a chiseled jaw. Her girl parts should be tingling, but the fact that he was a bit too full of himself put a stop to that. She’d heard the rumors about him. He was a ladies’ man, tipping girls into the back of his truck, romancing them with cheap wine and overpracticed lines. That was enough to put her off any twitch, tingle, or blip.

You can find Prince Not Quite So Charming at Amazon.

More About Liz:

A finalist in both RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA contests, Liz Talley loves staying home in her jammies writing emotional contemporary romance. Her first book starred a spinster librarian – Vegas Two Step – and debuted in June 2010. Since that time, Liz has published twenty-one more books with Harlequin, Berkeley and Montlake, reaching number one in kindle romance with her latest series. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty. You can visit Liz at www.liztalleybooks.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook to learn more about her upcoming books.

 

Winter Blog Hop! Day 2 – Anni Fife

Welcome to day 2 of the Winter Blog Hop! Today’s guest is Anni Fife. Anni writes seriously steamy romance for The Wild Rose Press.

Hop on over to Anni’s blog, where she’s giving us Dani’s Inside Track on Online Shopping–For Fashionistas Everywhere!  A marvelously fun post about that time of year when she’s looking for life-saving shopping bargains so she can buy her holiday splurge outfits and fabulous party get-ups. Not to mention that must-have little black dress. 😉

Check out Anni’s latest sexy release, Luke’s Redemption, available now.

Visit Anni’s website and join Anni’s Posse to get regular updates and Bonus Treats, or find her on FacebookTwitter, Amazon, or Goodreads

Winter Blog Hop! Day 1 – Peggy Jaeger

Welcome to my Winter Blog Hop! From now until December 25, I’ll be featuring a different romance author, everywhere along the spectrum from historical to paranormal to contemporary, many of whom will be offering a giveaway. Stop by every day to see who’s on deck.

Today’s visitor is fellow Wild Rose author Peggy Jaeger. Peggy was married at Christmas time, and she tells us all about it on her blog, www.peggyjaeger.com.

While you’re there, leave a comment to be entered in her giveaway, and be sure to check out Peggy’s new Christmas release, A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights.

Tomorrow’s guest will be Wild Rose author Anni Fife!

Winter Blog Hop Coming Soon!

Happy almost winter, everyone! In order to celebrate the December release of my next book, Tempting Mr. Jordan, I have invited some of my author friends to join me in an advent calendar-style blog hop. Every day from December 1-25 will feature a post from a different romance author. Most of them are offering giveaways, so check back here every day for a chance to win some great prizes, including a fabulous Maine-themed gift basket from me and Becky Lower, in honor of our Maine-set books coming out this month.

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Check out this talent!
December 1: Peggy Jaeger
December 2: Anni Fife
December 3: Cynthia Blackburn
December 4: Maggie Preston
December 5: Becky Lower
December 6: Landra Graf
December 7: Becky Lower, part two!
December 8: Miranda Liasson
December 9: Jennifer Shirk
December 10: Lori Sizemore
December 11: Judy Ann Davis
December 12: Hywela Lyn
December 13: Julie Jarnagin
December 14: Lynn Crain
December 15: Nina Croft
December 16: Tricia Schneider
December 17: Judy McDonough
December 18: Tara Harlow
December 19: Marin McGinnis
December 20: Anna Durand
December 21: Barbara Bettis
December 22: Tena Stetler
December 23: Clair Brett
December 24: Danielle Haas
December 25: Merry Christmas!

And now I have about 10,000 words to go to win NaNo and four days remaining (you do the math), so I’d better get back to work…

The Grammar Grump: Dialogue Tags

A few years ago, when the kid was smaller and far less lippy, he was obsessed with a series of children’s books. Wonderful books, with interesting story lines and well drawn characters, and there were at least fifty of them at the time. One Christmas, we got a few of them on tape and listened as we drove across the country to the grandparents’ house. Nearly every line of dialogue was followed  by a ‘said.’ When you read these books to yourself, you don’t notice them. But when they are read aloud, wow. It became a game as we all shouted ‘said!’ every 30 seconds as the book progressed.

wordle 2I was thinking of this today as I judged a contest entry. After nearly every line of dialogue, there was a dialogue tag–those words used to convey information about the speaker. But because this author had probably heard somewhere that using ‘said’ is boring, she used other words too, including: remarked, explained, asked, instructed, huffed, purred, challenged, inquired, sniffed, whispered, concurred, warned, murmured, intoned, and added. And all of those were in the first few pages. An occasional asked, explained, or whispered is fine, but one doesn’t speak and sniff at the same time–go ahead, try it. In addition, many of the tags were peppered with adverbs–softly whispered, quickly explained. I should add that this entry was otherwise quite well written, but the ridiculous dialogue tags and excessive adverbs may have ruined the author’s chance to final in the category.

So, how to fix this problem? I am not saying a writer should never use dialogue tags. They are essential to clarify who is speaking, especially if there are more than two people in a scene. But you don’t need them all the time. Try a line of dialogue followed, or preceded, by a character’s action or expression. For example:

“You must be joking.” Robert laughed at the thought.
Evelyn sneered. “You’ll see.”

When you do use a dialogue tag, keep it simple. As I noted above, I hadn’t realized the children’s book author used ‘said’ so often, because when I read her stories, ‘said’ faded into the background. It conveys the identity of the speaker without beating the reader over the head. If you want to show a speaker’s emotion, or expression, try it another way:

His smile faded. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care, my lord.” She shrugged and turned away.

Pick up a book by your favorite author. How do they use dialogue tags? You may be surprised when you look more closely. The following exchange is from Julia’s Quinn’s On the Way to the Wedding. The characters are discussing what it must feel like to know you’re in love:

She lifted her eyes to his, made breathless by the gravity of of her own revelations.”It’s too much,” she heard herself say. “It would be too much. I wouldn’t. . . I wouldn’t. . .”
Slowly, he shook his head. “You would have no choice. It would be beyond your control. It just . . . happens.”
Her mouth parted with surprise. “That’s what she said.”
“Who?”
And when she answered, her voice was strangely detached, as if the words were being drawn straight from her memory. “Hermione,” she said. “That’s what Hermione said about Mr. Edmonds.”
Gregory’s lips tightened at the corners. “Did she?”
Lucy slowly nodded. “Almost precisely. She said it just happens. In an instant.”

There are plenty of other posts out there that go into more detail, and even a few books. Some of the better blog posts are these:
http://www.writing-world.com/grammar/said.shtml
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-eliminate-adverbs
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-ii
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2012/06/using-dialogue-tags-and-punctuation.html
http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/12/04/another-take-on-dialogue-tags/

How do you feel about dialogue tags, as a reader or a writer?

 

 

 

Ah, Valentine’s Day…

‘Tis the season of love, and once again the snow is piled high and the skies are dreary and gray. In light of the ancient holiday of St. Valentine, I thought I would continue the practice I started last year (hey, now it’s a tradition, hurray!) of posting selections from Victorian Valentine’s Day verse books.  I suggest reading them aloud to your beloved while drinking champagne and slurping oysters.

These are from The Lady’s Own Fashionable Valentine Writer.

To a Frenchman:
For fashion and politeness, you may claim,
Respect from all who venerate their name,
Endowed with fertile genius you must find,
Nature has been to you a parent kind;
Careless and gay you pass life‘s hours away,
Happy you seem whate’er may cloud the day;
Monsieur, believe me, to you I incline,
And fain would have you for my Valentine,
Not doubting but in love you‘ll nobly shine.

To an Irishman (poor sod):
Indeed, friend Pat, I don’t to you incline,
Reject, I must, you for my Valentine;
l neither like shilelah, nor your bluster,
Sure you of brass a sample rich can muster;
Honor and you long since have left each other,
My Emerald lad, an ass is sure your brother,
At any rate with beasts, you nature share,
Next to your bulls I’d take you for a bear.

 

To a Welshman:
Where flows the Vye, where of’t its waters swell,
Enured to toil, the ancient Britons dwell;
Love o’er the world is known to hold great sway,
Cambria’s sons, well pleased, its calls obey;
Honest, but poor, they live in rural peace,
Making their rugged soil produce encrease,
A Valentine from such l’d gladly take,
Nor yield him up for any English rake.

To a German:
Great ugly beast! can any woman think,
Ever with such a bear her fate to link;
Rough in your manners, to tobacco prone,
Much good may do the wife you call your own;
At any rate, such state will ne’er be mine,
No Mynheer Von shall be my Valentine.

Ouch.

 

To Adam:
Abroad, at home, no matter when or where,
Delighted friends rejoice your voice to hear;
Among the throng there’s none to you incline,
More than the writer—your own Valentine.

To poor Benjamin:
Base wretch, begone! your mumming will not do,
Endless my mis’ry, should I wed with you;
Nature he made you of such vile complexion,
Juggler! you’re only fit to breed infection;
A cabbage stalk cut down to a mere stump,
Mounting upon your back a decent hump;
Indeed, indeed! you never shall be mine,
No, Mountebank!—I’m not your Valentine.

 

 

 

As I feel compelled to give the gentlemen equal time, the following verses are from Hymen’s Rhapsodies, or, Lover’s Themes, A Collection of Valentine Verses, Written Expressly for this Work, For Gentlemen, To Address Ladies in Sonnets, Superior to Any Other.  (The title is longer than some of the verses.)

To a Lady without Fortune:
I Ask not wealth—the rich, we see,
Oft wretched ‘midst their pelf:
Thy merit is enough for me;
A treasure in thy self. – –
Oh, had I bags of massy gold,
Those bags wou’d I resign, . . .
As mine, my charmer to behold,
And be her Valentine.

I had to look up pelf, which turns out to be a Middle English term for booty. No kidding. And just in case your lover happens to have some, there’s another verse for her:

To a Lady with a Fortune:
Do not suppose,
My metre flows,
‘Cause fortune is thy boast;
Ere this I knew,
I swear ’tis true,
Thou’st been my constant toast!
Oh, had I got Thy better lot
And thou wer’t poor like me !
I’d say, with pride,
None else beside
My Valentine should be.

To a Prude:
BE not fastidious, over nice,
Because the squeamish and precise,
May every chance decline;
And the capricious fair one may
Regret she did not love re-pay,
And choose her Valentine.
Be wise—for beauty soon will fade
You’ll find in me no gasconade,
Then love for love assign:
Be wise—for time is on the wing,
Nor will each February bring
A faithful Valentine.

Well, okay then.

 

 

Sorry, one more. I can’t help myself.

To a Lady of any Rank:
LIFE, they say, is but a span:
Let’s be happy while we can—
Life is short, then don’t decline
The offer of a Valentine.
There is danger in delay—
Therefore make your choice to-day:
Let me pray thee to be mine
Oh, my dear, sweet Valentine.
You’re not sure, my dearest dear,
Of a Valentine next year;
Pray then answer, by a line,
If you’ll be my Valentine.

Nothing says romance like knowing you’ll probably die tomorrow.

Happy Valentine’s Day, peeps.

**All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, from an 1876 collection of Valentines held by the British Library.  Click on images for more info.**

Musings on an Anniversary

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750This weekend marks a year since my first book was published. I actually almost missed it–I was sitting in a hockey rink (as usual) watching the kid practice, when I got that Facebook “you’ve got memories” reminder, and there it was. A year ago, I was giddy with excitement, celebrating with many friends, drinking champagne, basking in my accomplishment. This year I’m in my pajamas at 6:30 am, drinking tea, hoping the menfolk will sleep in long enough for me to get some work done on the third book without interruption.

So I thought that I’d throw out some of the lessons I’ve learned after a year in my tiny corner of the crazy publishing world.

  1. People are always impressed when you tell them you’ve written a book. It IS an impressive accomplishment to write a book, let alone publish one, whether you are traditionally, independently, or self-published. It’s okay to be proud of yourself.
  2. On the other hand, it’s not okay to rest on your laurels (unless of course you only intended to ever publish just one book). Just because you’ve been successful once doesn’t mean you’ll stay successful. Authors get dropped by publishers or agents, even in the middle of a series. This realization was a bit of a shocker for naive little me, although it shouldn’t have been. I suppose we as writers tend to believe that once we find that agent, that publisher, who loves us, they will always love us, no matter what we do. Nope. Keep learning, keep writing, pay attention to the market for which you write, and above all…
  3. Be nice. Don’t write a snarling one star review of someone else’s book. Don’t take someone down to build yourself up. Don’t be an arrogant shit to other writers, readers, or your editor. Most of the writers I know are the loveliest, kindest, funniest, wackiest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. But there are always a few out there who are not. Don’t be one.
  4. You’ll never be Nora Roberts, or Stephen King, or JK Rowling. Deal with it. Find your own success and your own happiness, and don’t try to be like anyone else.
  5. Not everyone will like what you write, including the people who know and love you. Some of them will be very excited to read your book, but then they will never say anything to you because they hated it and they are–see number 3–too nice to tell you so. That’s okay. But if you are a friend of a writer and you did like their book, please tell them, or write a nice review on Amazon or Goodreads, or both. Writers need to hear praise. It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but it’s true.
  6. There’s always more to learn. There’s a tendency to think that once you’ve published a book, you know everything you need to know as a writer. You don’t. Not even close.
  7. Hang out with writers. They are the only people who will truly understand your writer side. This is not to say you should only hang out with writers–goodness, no. But if you have an opportunity to go to a writers conference, or join a writers group, or just have coffee with a writer friend, you should take it.
  8. Write with writers. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor. But I have discovered lately that writing in the same room with other writers (even if it’s a virtual room) is a wonderful spur to productivity.
  9. Keep reading. My biggest mistake in the past year was to stop reading so much. I have always been a voracious reader, and have always considering reading to be my escape from the harsh realities of life. My happy place. But when I started writing, I thought that I shouldn’t read so much, and I certainly shouldn’t read many historicals. I found it distracting, I was afraid I’d inadvertently stick someone else’s words in my own work. Huge mistake. HUGE. Not reading stifled me in ways I didn’t realize until I started reading again. Don’t be afraid to read the kinds of books you write, and plenty of others besides.
  10. Keep writing. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about getting stuck in the middle of a book, consumed by doubt, yadda yadda. I don’t call this writer’s block, because I no longer think a writer ever gets blocked. There are always words to be written, and if a writer sits her ass down in the chair, she will write them. They might not be the words she wants to be writing, but those will come eventually. Just keep writing.

 

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