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Archive for June, 2015

Research is Important

Research is Important

I used to think that research would have to be the most boring aspect to writing. I remember actually making a similar comment at a book signing event I attended for another writer who wrote historical fiction. I was pretty smug in my assumption, but honestly, I had no idea what I was talking about. I’d just begun my writing journey, and I thought fiction writing, especially paranormal romance writing, wouldn’t require any research. I was wrong.

 

Not long into the process of writing my first published title, In The Spirit Of Love, I realized that I needed more information on a variety of subjects ranging from food to geography. Then I thought I should learn a little bit about the types of grand country estates that dot the English countryside, and period clothing. Oh, and I figured it might be a good idea to learn about some of the famous ghost stories surrounding those old English manor homes. One thing kept leading to another, and as I wound down the various paths of information, each new thing pointed to another interesting tid bit of information. I began making notes, book marking sites to return to, and generally getting right into the research behind the fiction story I was telling.

 

I had no idea I’d enjoy it so much! In fact, periodically I had to pull myself back into the business of actually writing the story. Now, I should probably have done all the research up front before even starting to write, but what did I know? I let the story tell me what areas to research. Each time I’d come up against a blank wall where I didn’t know something, I’d go off on a tangent and research it. That was actually fun, and it gave me some much needed breaks in my writing. In fact, some of my research became the germ of an idea for the story, or the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, which followed.

 

History speaks

History speaks

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the research part of writing, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. After all, I love learning new things, and the past has always fascinated me. It also made me yearn to visit the places I was researching. I came away with a deeper appreciation for people I hadn’t met and places I had never been. I developed a love of research I hadn’t expected.

 

After the small success of my first two books, I felt I was ready to tackle a much bigger project I’d been wanting to write for several years; a fact-based historical fiction novel entitled The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story (not yet published), about a woman who lived in Denmark’s mid-1800s. Going into the writing of this story I knew I was biting off a good, sizeable chunk. It was a daunting task, because the people and places actually existed. So, armed with my new love of research, I began reading anything and everything about the main protagonist, Louise Rasmussen, and her love interest, King Frederik VII. From my experience in writing the two In The Spirit Of books, I knew the internet and library were my closest friends and allies. I couldn’t actually go to Denmark (not on this writer’s budget), but I could research to my heart’s content, and I did. I also talked at length to my Danish-born mother about the small details of Danish life, and some of the locations I was writing about. I made copious notes and bookmarked many pages to refer to time and again. I created a story outline, arc, and character profiles based on the information I retrieved. I began to see the characters and story come alive in my mind as I wrote, and any areas I became stuck on, I researched some more. As with the first two books, the research for The King’s Consort lead me down paths I hadn’t considered before, and helped me create a fictional world to surround the very real characters and places I was writing about. I don’t know if I got everything just right, and I’m sure there are areas I could improve on, but I write with my gut instinct. I let the story unfold, assisted by the facts I uncovered. I felt as if I were placing flesh on old bones and giving sound to voices long silenced.

 

I recently read a Writer’s Digest article written by Scott Francis, wherein he discusses “How to Research Your Novel”. Scott gives some excellent advice to writers, and reminds us that fact-finding and verification make for a much more believable story.

 

At The Centre for Fiction, author Helen Benedict talks about the importance of writers doing their due diligence when it comes to blending fact and fiction. As Benedict claims, it’s imperative that the writer not “cheat” and try to fool the reader. That’s not to say that every novelist gets it right every time, but the goal is to get it as right as possible and check the facts.

 

Freelance fiction editor, Beth Hill, addresses this issue in her post, Details and Descriptions-Getting the Facts Right and gives some concrete suggestions about where writers should focus their efforts when researching for a story.

 

While I’m in the querying phase for The King’s Consort, which is akin to long, slow torture, I console myself with hours upon hours of research for my next historical fiction novel. It’s a huge project, but it excites and enchants me. It also scares me, but I’m going to go for it anyway. The research for this novel is just as deep, the characters are just as complex to learn and understand, and the work ahead is tremendous. Still, I’m once again enjoying the process of learning the who, how, what, and where of the story. When I finally begin writing the chapters, I know I’ll feel the familiar thrill of bringing the past to life again. It’s a challenge I simultaneously welcome and dread, precisely because it’s a challenge.

 

Storytelling

Storytelling

I’m not an expert. I’m not a historian. I’m not a scholar. I’m a writer and story-teller, and I just do the best I can with what I have. Because of my fascinating research, I’ve learned so much about subjects I had no idea would appeal to me. I’ve also promised myself I’ll some day visit the many places I’ve written about, walking through streets, halls, and gardens my characters, both real and fictional, have tread. For now though, I’ll content myself with my imagination and the dusty old facts I uncover. Such is the life of a writer.

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You Read It Here First

Molly Greene

Author, Molly Greene, does more than just write books; although to date she’s written seven! When starting her career in writing, she began blogging about her experiences and sharing what she was learning about the mechanics of blogging and self-publishing with other up-and-coming writers. This has garnered a substantial following for her books and her blog, but it hasn’t been an easy road. Her generosity in sharing what she’s learned has helped others, but of course it’s the books in her mystery series that hold the key to her heart. Read on to learn more about this fascinating writer, her work, and what drives her.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q How did your career in real estate prepare you for your writing life?

A I’m not sure it prepared me so much as it made me realize how badly I wanted to be done with having a…

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Warning!Tsunami Ahead

Warning!Tsunami Ahead

I couldn’t have been more pleased to have been asked by writer and blogger extraordinaire, Molly Greene, to do a second guest blog over at her writer’s blog! Go here for the original post over on Molly’s site!

 

 

When I first started writing, about five years ago now, I thought writing was the hard part. It was a challenge to craft a story from beginning to end, applying the necessary discipline to get the story written, and edit, edit, edit the finished product.

That first leap of faith

With only a Grade 10 education, writing a novel was a major undertaking, and a leap of faith, but I decided not to over-think my path. I just wanted to start writing a story that came to me and get it down in print. That’s it. I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband what I was doing, and when I finally did, I made light of it. It was just a fun hobby. At first I didn’t even admit to myself how much I wanted to become a published author.

That was waaay too scary.

It was also probably a very good plan for me, since it took the pressure off just getting started. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. It’s kind of like getting pregnant and thinking you know what life will be like after the baby is born. You have an idyllic view of the future, and that’s just as well. If prospective parents truly understood just how drastically their lives will change, no one would have children! Nature is kind and leaves the blinders on until it rips them off like a bandage to expose the reality underneath.

Learn to swim with the current

When I teach writing courses to beginner writers, I advise them not to think too far into the future. That way lies madness, fear, and self-doubt. Writing is supposed to be fun, cathartic even, so enjoy the journey for that aspect alone. Give yourself time to find your “voice,” and experiment to your heart’s content before worrying about all the how to’s to come. You just don’t need to go there yet.

Slowly, I began learning more about the business of writing, publishing, and marketing the finished product. Because of my background in real estate and mortgage sales, I knew the marketing and promotion iceberg was looming in the distance, so I started a slow, leisurely swim out to greet it. I use the internet for many, many things. It’s my best friend when it comes to discovering virtually anything I need to know. It’s proven to be the best research tool I could hope for, and when I find articles of interest, I create folders and bookmarks to house them so I can refer back to them. Perfect. I like simplicity.

Take on social media … slowly

Then I started hearing about how writers were using social media to connect with readers and other writers. Cool. I can do that. So I looked into Facebook. I’m no techie, but it was incredibly easy to set up a Facebook account, and I began “friending” family and friends who also use Facebook. I began to feel comfortable in using it on a personal level, and have become very proficient in using it as a marketing and promotion channel for all things book and writing related.

Then I read about other social media connectors, like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it. That terrified me. What the heck am I supposed to do with all this stuff? Why do I need it? What’s it going to do for me? I began to panic. I didn’t know what to do first, so I did what I always do; I researched the heck out of each of these platforms and chose a couple to begin getting familiar with. That eased the anxiety.

Choose a path and follow it

By this time I’d finished writing and editing my first book. Now what? Well, I went back to my most trusted friend, the internet, and researched “how to submit to literary agents.” I was thrilled by the amount of information there was on something I’d never heard of before; querying. I have a strong back ground in office administration (before the sales days), so writing a business letter, which is what a query letter is, was easy for me. I looked up examples of query letters online and set up a template to follow.

I was excited and nervous to begin this next step, but I’d made a decision to become traditionally published. That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of self, or indie, pubbing. I did and I do, but it sounded like a lot of work and I was too new to feel comfortable taking up those types of challenges. I figured I could get out there and find myself an agent and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, I’d land a publisher and my first book would appear on book shelves all over the world. Sigh. Yes, I was completely delusional. (It took another two years before I published my first book with a small traditional press, and learned even more along the way.)

Take one step at a time

Fantasies aside, I realized that I needed to take things one step at a time and not cross bridges I hadn’t come to yet (my father still tells me that all the time). So I took a deep breath and began sending out the query letters. I’d read that writers receive many rejection letters, but I was naïve enough to think I’d get maybe a few before I’d be swept up into the literary realms of success.

Wrong.

I received nothing but rejections, and eventually put that manuscript into the proverbial drawer. In the meantime, I began to write the next book. I’m not a particularly patient person, and I was beginning to understand that writing involves a lot of hurry-up and wait. I’m not great at waiting, so writing helped give me purpose. Turns out, that was a perfect way to get through that period.

I also started to hear about something called “blogging.” What the heck was blogging? I began reading many, many blogs on all kinds of topics, including writing. Wow! Here were all these writers who were a little further along the road than I was, and I could learn from them for FREE! I still didn’t want to blog, but I sure learned a lot from reading other writer’s blogs. Only when I felt ready did I step into the ring and start my own.

Let the journey evolve

There’s no doubt about it: writing has the learning curve of a tsunami. But the point to remember is that we don’t need to know everything all at once. In fact, I found it was better to allow the journey to evolve and focus on what’s right in front of me, rather than get caught up in what’s on the horizon. It lessens the panic and lets me swim with strong, confident strokes. It can seem completely overwhelming to realize that there’s so much out there to learn, that you want to simply give up and sink before you’ve even really started.

By learning from others (like Molly!), you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, which is a tremendous help. Bit by bit, you’ll feel comfortable sharing what you’ve learned along the way with others coming behind you, and that’s great too. I’ve said before that writers work in our own insular little writing caves. Stepping outside and facing the huge wave of what’s still to come can have you feeling like it’s all just too much. So, take a deep breath, start with slow, strong strokes, and just keep breathing. There is a shore out there, and if you don’t give up, you’ll be fine.

So what are you struggling with, and how do you handle it? Please leave a comment below or on Molly’s blog to share your thoughts. Thank you!

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PG Forte writes a great vampire story, complete with steamy sex and complex characters. Check out this interview for a look behind the scenes with this talented writer.

You Read It Here First

FallenEmbers cover art

Vampires and sex! What could be better for paranormal romance lovers? Author PG Forte certainly pushes the envelope and explores the dynamic, complicated lives of her vampire characters in her Children of the Night series. I wanted to delve into the world and mind of a writer who creates such complex characters and doesn’t shy away from writing outside the proverbial box. With open candour, PG provides answers that give readers insight and a behind-the-scene look into what goes into writing this kind of series, fitting in, and the benefits to not fitting in.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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QSo what’s a nice Catholic girl like you doing in a sexy vampire fantasy writing world like the ones you pen? What draws you in and holds you to this genre?

A LOL! Would you believe my daughter made me do it? No, seriously, she did. She was reading…

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This is another great, and really interesting interview featuring the author of “Be The Red Jacket In a Sea of Gray Suits”, Leanne Hoagland-Smith. What a pleasure it was to learn a little more about this gutsy, accomplished woman, her work, and her new book.

You Read It Here First

Leanne Hoagland Smith

Because of my own background in sales and marketing, when asked by Christina Hamlett to interview author Leanne Hoagland-Smith, I was intrigued. Once I delved into who Leanne is and what she’s accomplished thus far, I came away extremely impressed. With over 30 years in sales and a Masters in Science from Purdue University, Leanne knows what she’s talking about when coaching clients and writing this book. In addition to penning Be The Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, she’s the author of over 4000 articles, a weekly business columnist for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, and a contributor of various business journals.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q On the surface, your subject matter seems to be sales, but what would you say is the point you really want to get across to people who hire you or purchase your book?

A To stand…

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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