Sunday, November 22, 2015

Professional Jealousy

Romance authors are a tightly-knit group. At chapter meetings, we cheer each other's accomplishments, commiserate with each other if the news isn't so good, and pass out a lot of chocolate. On the national level, we get to know other authors who are enjoying the benefits of their hard work, and realize folks like Nora, Julia and Jayne Anne are really normal, down-to-earth types who have labored for years to get to the heights they're now at.

While I'm on the same page as my chapter mates with my pleasure in other people's success, I find myself occasionally wondering why one person is successful and another can't get any traction. I hold myself and my books up for comparison with others and find myself wishing that, for one moment, I could be in their shoes.

Most of you know by now that The Voice is one of my favorite shows. Not so much for the talent,  but because I love the interaction between the coaches. I always find some kernel of wisdom to take home.

This week, Pharell Williams told one of his team that if you wish to be like someone else who has made it in the industry, you'll always be second best. He said the only person you should compete with is yourself, and try to do better every week, every month, than you did before. Once again, Pharell's words resonated with me.

So, from here out, I will compete only with myself, and will continue to applaud the accomplishments and success of others. Thank you, Pharell, for once again reminding me of what is important.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

More Time In The Editing Cave

As most of you know, I've been editing and re-editing my manuscript The Forgotten Debutante. It's been going fairly well, but one scene, the Thanksgiving dinner, wasn't coming together as it should have. I had my two females, Saffron and Grace, discuss the menu, make certain the silver was polished and the tablecloth was clean. But then I glossed over the meal altogether. Left it on the proverbial table, as it were.

After thinking about it for a few days, I went back and added in one paragraph about the dinner, and thought I had it fixed. I just reread the section again and I realized my hero, Zeke, was jumping up and down trying to get my attention.

"I want to taste the pie, not just see it, Becky," Zeke yelled at me from across the table. "And what about the mashed potatoes and gravy? Did they just eat themselves?" When he picked up a dinner roll and lobbed it in my direction, I flung my hands in the air.

Okay, okay, Zeke, calm down. I went back to my paragraph about the dinner and added in some actual conversation, referred to the two available pies, and how Zeke could have a slice of both, etc, etc, etc. Finally, Zeke had a full belly and he quit yelling at me.

My dog, Mary, has lately been reacting the same as Zeke. She's decided she likes to cuddle, either with my sister on the couch, or with me in my chair. Since she's a puppy mill rescue dog, she never learned how to jump up on the furniture, so we need to pick her up each time. Picking her up is still a challenge, though, since she needs to be herded into her little bed (not the big one, mind you). But once she's in her safe place, she'll allow us to pick her up, and she'll loll for hours in one place or the other.

A few days ago, she sat quietly with Pat in the morning when I was working. Then, she got up for a potty break, came back in the house, and went to her little bed. I headed for my chair to check my emails. She got out of her bed, stared a hole through me until I looked up from the screen. When she had my full attention she gave a full body sigh, nodded her head in the direction of the bed and walked back to it, ready to be picked up. Thank goodness, there were no dinner rolls in the house.

So I missed Mary's cues, just as I had Zeke's. Time to pull my head away from the computer and pay attention to the folks that matter.

Hopefully, both Zeke and Mary have now been taken care of. I haven't heard either of them yelling at me today.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Editing Cave

For about the past month, I've been in editing mode. The ninth and final book in my Cotillion Ball series is due to the publisher in a matter of weeks, and i'm tediously going through my checklist as I hone my rough first draft into a final version.

I took a workshop last month through RWA and the instructor made a comment that a first draft can be so rough it can sand wood. But, with the proper editing, no one will know what the first version looked like. As the child of a homebuilder, I love the analogy.

Stephen King once said, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” I knew we were kindred spirits. 

For me, the first draft is merely the first step. Each time I go back through my manuscript, from start to finish on each occasion, I have a set order to my process. Six, seven, eight times through. It doesn't matter how many times I comb through it. Each time, I'm looking at some different aspect of my work. Finally, when I can read through it with my hands off the keyboard, I can send it off. 

As I write this, I'm about 2/3 of the way through the fifth draft of the story, making what I hope will be my final edits–adding in the missing words, tying up the loose story threads, adding description and texture to the story. I should be able to finish it up by next week, and then read through it once or twice more before I send it off. But if it takes more read-throughs before I can keep my hands off the keyboard, so be it. Some books are harder to write than others. 

Every author has a different approach to the creation of a story. Some write out of order, laying down scenes as they appear in the author's imagination and then piecing them together like a big jigsaw puzzle. I admire these writers, since I can't do it. Some use an outline and synopsis to make it clear to themselves which way the story should go. I use this linear approach, but don't make it so detailed the story and characters can't surprise me as I write. 

Whatever process one goes through to get to the final, shiny, polished story, it shouldn't be rushed. There are too many books out there with typos and poor grammar, in both the traditional press and self-published works. I want my manuscript to be as clean as it can be when I let it go. If all the niggling little things are done when it goes to my editor, she can concentrate on the story line and strengthen that, instead of worrying over too many commas and the difference between heard and herd. 

For everyone participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you take the month of December to turn your piece of sandpaper into a shiny, polished pearl before you send it off to an agent or publisher. Don't rush the process. The end result will be worth it. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Welcome Historical Author Marin McGinnis

I'm so pleased to be able to host today's guest, Marin McGinnis. Marin and I are chapter mates at NEORWA and we both write historical romances, so we always have a lot to say to one another, and there's never enough time at our meetings. So here's a chance for us all to get to know her a bit better. Marin writes for Wild Rose Press, and has just released her second book. Take it away, Marin!

Thank you for having me here today, Becky!

Tell me about your new release.
My second novel, Secret Promise, tells the story of Edward Mason (long lost brother of the heroine in my first book), and the sweetheart he left behind. It is reminiscent of the Odyssey, although it takes Edward a lot less time and fewer adventures to get back home to his lady love.

How does the release fit into your series, if it is a series?
Secret Promise is a sequel to Stirring Up the Viscount, and answers a few questions left open in that book.

What one thing do you hope readers enjoy in the particular offering?
I loved writing this book (except when I didn’t, somewhere in the middle!), and fell a little in love with my characters. Anna and Edward were childhood sweethearts, separated by circumstance (and perhaps just a wee bit of villainy), and through it all remained true to each other. I hope that readers will enjoy their story.

What do you have planned next?

I am currently working on a longer novel set exclusively in England in 1851, completely unrelated to the first two books. I do, however, have two more stories in the hopper featuring the Tenwick family from Stirring Up the Viscount, so we’ll see more from them eventually!


Falsely imprisoned as a blockade-runner during the American Civil War, Edward Mason yearns to go home. But when after seven years he finally returns to England, the life he expected is gone. His parents are dead, his home destroyed, his father’s legacy stolen, and his girl—his girl is now the single mother of a child Edward never knew.

Abandoned by the man she loved and disowned by her family, Anna Templeton has learned to stand on her own two feet and make a home for her son. Now the successful owner of The Silver Gull tavern, she's not about to put their happiness in the hands of the one man who let her down so badly.

Edward is determined to regain Anna’s love and be a father to his son. But when a series of suspicious accidents threaten him and those he loves, he must stop the man responsible, or lose everything.

Buy links:    The Wild Rose Press




“Good day, sir. What can I get you? We have a very good cottage pie today.”

Edward frowned. “Aren’t you a bit young to be working in a public house?”

“Oh, I don’t work here,” the boy said. “Me mam’s the owner, and Molly didn’t come to work today.”


“The barmaid, of course.” His tone held a hint of derision, as if he thought Edward an idiot for failing to know who Molly was.

“Of course.” Edward was amused. “Well, then, I suppose I shall have the cottage pie, and an ale. And perhaps I could have a word with your mother, when she has a moment?”

“What do you want her for?” The boy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“I used to live here, many years ago, and would like to speak to someone about…” Edward broke off as a woman emerged from the kitchen, carrying two plates piled with food. She had fiery red hair and a lithe figure, and moved easily through the tables. After setting one of the plates before a man sitting near the bar, she turned and scanned the room. Her gaze alit on the boy first, and she smiled. Then she spotted Edward. All color drained from her face, and the remaining plate slid from her hand, shattering on the stone floor.

“Mam!” The boy raced to the woman and clutched at her skirts, but Edward was unable to move.

“Anna,” he whispered.

About Marin:
Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she's not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in romantic tales of years gone by. She lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, son, and two standard poodles.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

To Self-Pub or Not? That Is The Question.

Like most authors today, I've considered self-publication. The control of the entire process, from editing to cover design, to price, to placement, has a certain appeal. And the increased royalties and accounting from Amazon certainly have an appeal. All my friends who have already taken the plunge assure me that, although it involves multiple steps, it's not hard to do. A piece of cake.

Yet, each time I seriously consider it, something always happens. As is the case with a lot of us aging boomers, computers are a friend and a foe. Just when I think things are going along fine, and that I can take on the challenge of self-publication, I have a day like yesterday.

I needed to print out, sign and scan a document, which I was to email back to complete my transaction. My computer and printer have worked together fine for the last six months, so I thought my simple task would be quick and easy. A piece of cake. Yet when it came time for my printer and computer to relate, they refused to talk to each other. It was as if they were two little school kids, pointing fingers at each other.

"It's the computer's fault!" yelled my printer, flashing lights and refusing to scan.

"No, it's not! The computer's fine. It's the printer who doesn't want to work!" The computer showed me a screen with a grin, evidence it was hooked up properly to the printer.

I could get nowhere, so I decided to just put the document in the mail instead. The old-fashioned way. The way I'm used to dealing with things.

So, if I were to take on the challenge of self-pubbing, what would happen to my book if, once again, my computer and printer act like spoiled children in the school yard? I don't know. But I don't think I can mail it in.

And the not knowing is what scares me into once again resisting the urge to take the next step. If anyone has any ideas on how to get beyond this, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Team Work, Dream Work

I'm so pleased to have not one, but two, guests on the blog today! I first met Cary and Deborah in 2013, at the RWA Conference in Anaheim. We were newly published and had a great time getting to know each other. Since then, we've each grown professionally. For Cary and Deborah, that means continuing to write complex time travel novels as a team, and following their own interests with books delving into science fiction and hot contemporary. Knowing how hard it is to write a book by yourself, I'm amazed that these two can write as a team without coming to blows constantly. Let's find out more about how they accomplish that goal. 

How Morgan and O’Neill created the Elizabethan Time Travel series
By Deborah O’Neill Cordes and Cary Morgan Frates

How many writing teams are there? We know of a few, but their rarity speaks to the difficulties of working together to create something as complicated as a novel, let alone multiple series. When we first began to work as a team, we had different styles and ways of approaching a scene. Our individual styles are still different, but we’ve learned to blend and edit our work so readers can’t tell who wrote what.
In addition to the blending of our writing styles we have to deal with the inherent complexity of time travel fiction. Our stories are woven with many threads, and in our Elizabethan series it’s particularly intricate because we have to contend with three separate eras––the present day, the World War II era, and the sixteenth century. They must be blended together on every level to make a cohesive whole.
To make things even more complicated, we wrote the prequel, Begun by Time, after the publication of The Thornless Rose. It came to us that readers would enjoy a firsthand account of the story of Catherine Hastings, Jonathan Brandon, and Arthur Howard in the 1940s.  How did Catherine and Jonathan fall in love? What happened after he vanished? How did Arthur help her move on with her life? We wove this together with the plot of The Thornless Rose, keeping in mind that continuity must be maintained with our work-in-progress sequel, Ever Crave the Rose.
Blimey! Burnouts are avoided by lots of chocolate and wine!

We work hard to create rich and memorable time travel stories, with characters who will not be easily forgotten. We hope you enjoy all of our time travel series: Elizabethan, Roman, and medieval Italian.  Thank you, and happy reading ~ Deborah and Cary, writing as Morgan O’Neill.

The Thornless Rose
An Elizabethan Time Travel Novel
Morgan O’Neill

Publisher: Entangled/Macmillan Select Historical
Publication Date: December 29, 2014
Genre: Historical/Time Travel Fiction

About the Book:
No one ever knew what really happened to Dr. Jonathan Brandon back in 1945. He simply disappeared from a London pub, leaving behind an unsolved mystery and his fiancĂ©e—Anne Howard’s grandmother. Seventy years later, Anne herself is haunted by the strange tale, along with inexplicable hallucinations straight out of Elizabethan England. Including a scarred, handsome man whose deep blue eyes seem to touch her very soul....

Anne wonders if there isn’t something more to the story. Is it even possible that Jonathan disappeared into England’s dark past? And why does Anne keep hearing him whisper her name? Because now she too feels the inexorable pull of the past, not to mention an undeniable attraction for a man she doesn’t even know.

It’s just a matter of time before Anne will step back into history, and face a destiny―and a love―beyond imagining...

Here's an Excerpt from The Thornless Rose, an Elizabethan Time Travel novel, by Morgan O'Neill.

In this scene, time travelers Anne Howard and Dr. Jonathan Brandon are thrown together for the first time. Prior to this, Anne has only seen Brandon in an old photograph.

The lights suddenly dimmed, the atmosphere in Westminster Abbey hushed, expectant. She halted in her tracks. Flickering candlelight and deep shadows, no tourists.
What the hell is going on?
“Anne! Anne!”
Stunned, she turned. A man in costume ran toward her.
“Go back,” he shouted, “back where it’s safe!”
She stood transfixed. As he came closer, she recognized him—his eyes, the scar.
He halted and pulled her tight against him. “I love you, Anne,” he whispered into her hair, “but you have to go with him. Save yourself.”
He stilled her confusion with a tender brush of his lips, and she responded instinctively, their kiss deepening as her body arched against his, her blood ablaze with sudden desire, until the rest of the world seemed very far away.
When he finally drew back, he stared into her eyes, and Anne’s heart seized when she saw his pain, the sheer desperation in his gaze.
The feeling was apparently mutual, because he pulled her close and swore under his breath, “Bloody hell, the bastard will pay for this.”
I don’t understand.
He opened his eyes and stared at something in the distance. “Anne, go now,” his voice cracked, “because I can face anything if I know you’re safe.”
His fingers gently cupped her chin, his touch unleashing more heat. He lifted her face for another kiss, and then—nothing. He was gone. She fought for control, her breathing erratic, her legs threatening to crumble. She touched her lips, still feeling his caress, his soft breath on her skin, but he was gone.

Begun by Time
The Prequel to The Thornless Rose
Author: Morgan O’Neill

Publisher: Entangled/Macmillan Select Historical
Publication Date: August 24, 2015
Genre: Historical/Time Travel Fiction

About the Book:
In 1945, a man disappeared into thin air...

In the final days of World War II, Catherine Hastings meets the man she wants to marry. Flight surgeon Jonathan Brandon isn
t just handsome—hes everything Catherine could hope for in her betrothed. But her dream of a happily ever after is shattered when Jonnie disappears shortly before their wedding...leaving Catherine bereft, broken-hearted, and with a lifetime of unanswered questions.

Arthur Howard is smitten with the lovely Catherine the moment he sees her. He
s certain hes found the woman he wants to marry. Yet behind Catherines sparkling green eyes is a haunted look—the look of a woman who has known loss. But can he love a woman who still grieves the loss of her fiancĂ©? Now Arthur wants answers about the man Catherine intended to marry.
But the truth about Jonnie’s disappearance is far stranger than fiction…