Monday 27 June 2016

The NOT Writing Habit and How to Break It

by Dee Scully

I gotta be honest. I’m struggling.

Image courtesy of Write NOW

For a while now I’ve had little to no time to write. At first it frustrated me, because of all people, I should be able to schedule time to write. I mean; I’ve blogged about goal setting and committing to those goals too many times to count and I truly believe in what I wrote, but…

Over the last few months, I’ve come to accept the lack of time as the norm and now, now that I actually have a few moments to write, I don’t even know where to begin.

Worse yet, is the fact that I’m actually a little afraid to open my work-in-progress (wip) and get stuck in and I don’t even know why!

What’s wrong with me? 
 I seem to have lost my mojo.

While trying to figure out why I can’t seem to get stuck back in to my wip, I’ve found ten tips that may help others find their lost mojo.

Image courtesy of Google Images
1. Write anything. Write a letter to a friend or to one of your characters. Write a hook to an upcoming chapter end. Write your train of thought. Just get writing. Once the proverbial writing ball is rolling, you’ll find it a lot easier to get stuck into your wip again.

2. Be honest with yourself. Why aren’t you picking up that pen or opening that laptop? Figure out what’s mentally barring you from writing and make the necessary changes to get yourself writing.

3. Review your writing goals. Be SMART about it—are your writing goals:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, AND Timely?  You might find that one of these was lacking and threw you off-track. Revise your goals with SMART in mind and it will be a lot easier to not only get stuck back in but to keep going in the first place.

4. Imagine your story. Find a comfortable place and let your mind roam around the crevices of your imagination. Really visualize your characters and your story. Feel what they feel. See what they see. Hear what they hear. Make your story real inside your mind and it will seep into your muscles and get those fingers tapping on the keys in no time.

5. Remember why you write. Is it your passion? Do you have stories that need to be told? Do you just like the freedom of putting your thoughts on paper? Has your reason for writing changed?

6. Think about the consequences. What would happen if you never wrote again? How would you feel? What would happen to your story, to your hopes of publication, to your self-esteem?

Image courtesy of Write NOW
7. Engage in story housecleaning. Get your house, or in this sense, story in order. Review your story outline. Revise your synopsis. Outline an upcoming chapter. Re-engage with your story by cleaning up the story basics.

8. Change where you write. Change is as good as a holiday. Ok, so that may not necessarily be true but it can sometimes be motivating. If you usually write at your desk, go to your kitchen table. Maybe go to a café or write at the park. Change your scenery and you just might change your perspective.

9. Connect with a writing friend. Write, email, text, call, do coffee with a writing friend and talk about your struggles. Getting it out in the open might be what you need to move past it and who better to discuss it with than someone who’s probably been in a similar position at some stage in their writing career.

10. Compliment yourself. Yes, you heard me. Compliment yourself. You are a writer. You create stories in your head and commit them to paper (often but not always) in order to share them with others. You are creative and hardworking and generous. Breathe that bit of honesty inside you and let it refresh your writer’s soul.

Funny…after writing this blog article (TIP #1) and being honest with myself (TIP #2), I realize that my writing goals weren’t completely SMART (TIP #3). So, I’ve sat myself down, revamped my goals and really visualized my story (TIP #4), which has reminded me of why I write (TIP #5) in the first place and what the consequences of not writing would be (TIP #6). I’ve engaged in a bit of story housecleaning (TIP # 7) to refocus and re-engage with my characters and story. I’ve changed up my writing space (TIP #8) and here I am…connecting and commiserating with you, my romance writing/reading friends (TIP #9).

Thank you for allowing me to share my frustration and struggles and for helping me to find my writing mojo again.

I love to love…finding inspiration in the world around me. The cockatoos that frequent my front yard inspire the characters that populate my books.

Image courtesy of Google Images
I love to laugh…at the things that I used to think were difficult. With time and experience, they don’t seem so large or painful.

I love to learn…from my friends. They have taught me so much! (LOL—yes, even some things that they shouldn’t have!)

What do you do when your mojo seems to be lost?  Do you have any tips or advice to share?

Until later...happy writing/reading!
Dee Scully
Historical Romance Author
Breathless Blogger

Twitter:  @DeeScullyAuthor

Monday 20 June 2016

Book Covers - Do They Really Sell Books?

By Cassandra Samuels

Greetings fair readers.

You walk into a bookshop filled with books of all sizes and colours. Then something catches your eye and you walk over and pick up the book. What was it about the cover that enticed you to pick it up? The colour, the font, the couple on the front?

Marketers and the Art departments of the big publishing companies spend a ton on getting their covers right. Their different lines might even have a certain look (think Harlequin Mills and Boon). Indie published authors also agonise over them with the cover artists of their choice. Some are even brave enough to do their own covers. Hence, there is a huge variety of covers and an even bigger divide between good covers and downright awful ones.

So, I went to the source. A graphic designer who specialises in book covers and our special guest today, Hang Le. She does some pretty amazing covers and was kind enough to answer some questions on this topic.

How did you become a cover designer? 


It actually happened by accident. I’ve always worked in the Arts, ranging from film and theatre to interior design. I was in an online reading group with Erin Noelle who knew of my art background. She asked for my opinion on her first book Metamorphosis and I ended up designing the entire cover. That was in the beginning of 2013 when self-publishing was still pretty new. From there, everything grew organically through word of mouth.

A Beautiful Funeral by Jamie McGuire
This is one of Hang's recent covers but, also her favourite kind to create – evocative and emotional.

Do you mostly do Romance book covers or other types of fiction too? 

The bulk of my designs are Romance but, I love branching out. I find inspiration in many different forms so I enjoy changing things up.

What is your favourite type of cover to do?

I’m not sure I have a favourite genre per se. Each genre has it’s own quirks and distinguishing charms but, it’s all about the process for me. I approach each cover the same no matter the genre. I don’t go into a design with a set image in mind. Each project is personalised and the fun (for me at least) is discovering the perfect image for that story.

The Veiled Heart by Elsa Holland 

Hang loved the challenge of creating this RWA award-winning cover that would appeal to all genres. 


What do you find the most challenging part of being a cover designer? 

Finding the ideal creative compromise. Getting myself and the client on the same page and speaking the same creative language. As a designer, I want a certain amount of freedom but, this always works better when it’s a collaboration with the client. I think anyone who works in the creative field experiences this.

How have covers changed since you started making them? 

I think covers are only getting better. In this saturated market, designers, authors, and publishers alike are having to step up their game. Think outside of the box and get more creative. The quality of covers are getting better as well. A lot of self-published covers have the same quality you would expect from a traditional publishing house. It’s actually quite exciting.

The Seduction of Lord Stone by Anna Campbell 

Hang said she loved putting a twist on a Classic Style for Anna's book.

Do you do paperback covers as well as e-book covers and is there a difference? 

Yes, I do both ebook and paperback. Honestly, I treat both the same. There’s always a chance that an e-book cover will turn into a print cover and every book should look good in thumbnail size.

And the big question. Do you think covers sell books or how important do you think a cover is in selling books at the moment? 

Absolutely! Covers are the first impression and your best marketing tool. Even in an over saturated market, you want a cover that will grab attention, something visually compelling that will help you stand out amongst the crowd.

The Bird and the stone by Amy Harmon
 She loves this cross-genre cover due to its boldness and simplicity. Giving just enough away to stir curiosity.

There is no doubt that getting a good cover is at the very least a major factor when creating or buying a book.

What makes you pick up a book?

Thank you to Hang Le for answering my questions. You can see more of Hang's work on her Pinterest Page or follow Hang on her Facebook page Designs by Hang Le.

Love to Love: My new camera which makes all my photos look amazing.

photo belongs to Cassandra Samuels

Love to Laugh: At my grandson who is now crawling and getting into mischief.

Love to Learn: About all aspects of this crazy book biz.

Monday 13 June 2016

From Little Things Big Things Grow

with guest blogger Amy Andrews.

Authors colour the world of their books with many seemingly inconsequential things. Tiny things that usually never have any impact on the story at all but can go on to have huge significance.

For example, red glass vases. In Holding Out For A Hero, I gave the heroine, Ella, a couple of vases that belonged to her estranged mother, the only things Ella had taken from the house after her mother's death. When I first wrote them they were merely a prop to decorate Ella's room. They could have been anything else - a lamp or a painting. But they quickly became a memento from the happier times in Ella's childhood, a connection to her mother. Then as the story evolved further, they became so much more, they were the catalyst for the wedge that is driven between Ella and Jake.

I didn't know any of this when I first wrote the vases into the story. It was just a little detail, not the linchpin of the big black moment. But things like that often aren't planned - well, they're not for me anyway. They evolve as the story evolves and can often take on a life of their own. I like to think that my muse knew all along, laying little breadcrumbs for me, waiting for me to finally make the connection.

It was the same with my rural/small town romance Some Girls Do which, btw, is perma-FREE!!

Amazon Aus:

Amazon US:

I found this image on Pinterest when I was searching (read procrastinating) another book.

I was really impressed with the handkerchief bustle. I'd not seen something like this before and I liked the gypsy feel of it. But I moved on through the rabbit hole that is Pinterest not really giving it much thought until I was half way through writing Some Girls Do and I knew I needed a handkerchief bustle.

You see, my heroine, Lacey, is a bit of a brat. She's young and reckless and wilful and all the things some reviewers have called her. But I don't apologise for that. She's grieving. Yes, she's making a hash of it but grief's like that sometimes. Messy and erratic. Anyway, all Lacey wants is to go home to Jumbuck Springs and be with her tribe - her brothers and the town she loves. But she knows she has to prove herself when she gets there. She knows she has one chance to show she's all grown up.

I didn't know when I made her a fashion design student that it would be the way Lacey was going to prove herself. It was just a tiny decision I made because I wanted her to be a bit arty and have to leave Jumbuck Springs to pursue it. I didn't know when I threw in an old school friend that was getting married as a secondary character that Lacey was going to save her wedding day. But when the scene came to me - when the skirt of the weddings dress is lying in hacked pieces at Lacey's feet - that handkerchief bustle I'd seen once many months before came back to me.

With less than 24 hours to the wedding, Lacey turns the savaged pieces into a handkerchief bustle, causes an absolute sensation in the district and a flurry of orders from other brides-to-be. A business is born and Lacey's place in Jumbuck Springs is secure.

None of these little decisions I made along the way seemed to be of any consequence until that scene. A little procrastination time on Pinterest seemed of little consequence until that scene. But all along my muse had been laying breadcrumbs because that scene is a turning point in Lacey's character and that damn bustle started it all even though it meant nothing at the time.

So what have I learned? Do not take minutiae for granted because from little things, big things can grow. Always trust that my muse will deliver. And Pinterest is the bomb.

Do you notice the minutiae in a novel only when it becomes significant? Are you a Pinterest tragic like me? If so, what are your favourite boards there?

I love to love: travel. I've just come back from exploring the Mediterranean where I totally confirmed something I've always suspected - I was a Roman goddess in a previous life!

I love to laugh: at myself! I don't think anyone should take themselves too seriously.

I love to learn: other people's stories. If you see me following you around Woolies with my shopping trolley I'm trying to figure out your story!

Monday 6 June 2016

What Do You Know?

with Sharon Burke

One of the first pieces of advice beginning writers receive is to write what they know.  At first glance, this idea sounds incredibly restrictive so I thought I’d explore it a little.

Author Nathan Englander believes “write what you know” is excellent advice, but sadly is often misunderstood. He argues it applies to emotions, not events. This makes sense to me as an aspiring romance author.  The characters in romantic novels experience wide ranging emotions with differing intensities: love, anger, jealousy, loss, happiness, fear, disgust. If you know what it feels like to be scared, then it should be easier to create plausible fear in your characters.

Marg Gilks an author of short stories and poetry argues “write what you know” applies to everything you feel, not just to emotions. “You know what your senses tell you, and other people share those sensations”.  I believe the best romantic novelists have an uncanny ability to take their readers on an emotional, highly sensory journey.  The romantic novels I enjoy the most capture my senses. I see and feel the sunlight and rain, hear the sounds of wind, running water and the tone of words spoken. I feel uncertainty, love, hope and turmoil just as the heroine and hero do.  I think this intensity of reader vicarious sensory experience makes romantic novels unique and special. The reader has the chance to develop a depth of empathy and connectedness that other genres struggle to match.

Fiction writers must be prepared to go beyond what they know. Valerie Parv stresses the importance of knowing your characters well and understanding their motivations. “You can’t write about real people unless you know them and understand why they do what they do.” She suggests many strategies to help with this including developing wide ranging interests, exploring both sides of a question and reading popular psychology books. I find popular psychology books tremendously helpful for “fleshing out” characters, and for matching their motivations and actions.

Finally, fiction writing by its very nature demands authors venture into the unknown.  The site states “We can’t limit ourselves to what we know. Instead, be open to what you want to know, what your characters know, and the great body of experiences some other writer before you has known.” I find this statement challenging, but tremendously exciting. Reading widely, and reflecting on ways in which romantic novels are constructed helps me to better understand the challenge of what I am attempting to do.

So where does that leave us?  I think we as romantic novelists utilise our sensory experiences and emotions within our writing. We should never be afraid to let our imaginations lead us on our writing journey. This is where some of the most fascinating parts of our profession lie. 

What do you think?  What does 'write what you know' mean to you?

I love to love…relationships as so important.
I love to laugh…the comedy in everyday life never ceases to amaze me.

I love to learn…life has so much to offer.