Monthly Archives: November 2012

My ‘Call Story’

I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about three years, and when I first started I kept hearing people talk about ‘Call Stories’ but I had no idea what they were. I soon discovered that The Call is when a publisher offers you a contract for your manuscript, even if it happens to be via email. By the time I’d finished my first manuscript I was hooked on writing and hoped that one day I’d be writing about my own Call Story.

Three manuscripts later that day arrived!

But let me backtrack a little…

Late in 2011 I started getting ideas for a new book which would be my third. I came up with the premise (an image-conscious young woman wakes on her birthday to find she’s a middle-aged housewife married to the also middle-aged high school nerd), and let it simmer for a while. Gradually, the character developed in my mind and I came up with the title, Fast Forward. I was also playing around with another couple of book ideas at the time and getting started on some major revisions for my first manuscript.

At the start of 2012 (New Years Day to be exact), I was staying with family and planning on taking a few days off to relax and read a few books, but my muse had other ideas.

Over breakfast, I flipped through one of my mother’s many home and lifestyle magazines and an advertisement caught my eye. It was for an interior design course and showed pictures of beautiful furniture and homewares. Before that day, I had decided that my main character would be involved in designing homewares, so on a whim I cut out the ad for inspiration. I still hadn’t decided yet which book idea I would pursue and was pondering my options as I flipped through the magazine. I asked myself, ‘Which book should I start next?’ (and by next I meant in another few weeks or so), and on the very next page in the magazine was an article titled: Fast Forward.

This magazine cut-out inspired me to start my book.

This magazine cut-out inspired me to start my book.

I had my answer.

And I cut out that title too. (I’m sure my mother didn’t mind me getting all scissor-happy with her magazines ;))

I took this as a sign, or more accurately; a direct kick-in-the-pants to get started on this story, so instead of curling up with a book I opened my laptop and began writing. The first few chapters flew from my fingers to the keyboard over the next three days.

For the rest of the month I worked on editing a different manuscript and put Fast Forward aside until February, at around the same time as I found myself a fantastic critique partner. She read my chapters and enjoyed them and spurred me on to write more. I didn’t work on it every day, but rarely a week went by when I didn’t add more to the story. I couldn’t believe how fun and fast this story was to write. Sometimes I’d stay up till 2 or 3am because I was enjoying myself so much (although I suffered the next day). Don’t get me wrong, parts of it were plain hard work – especially figuring out how to make a 300-ish page story take place over just one day in the character’s life (I constructed a timeline in fifteen-minute increments!).

By the time June came around I only had another 20,000 words to go, so I signed up for RWA’s 50k in 30 days challenge and vowed to finish it by the end of the month.

Half way through June I typed ‘The End’. Overall it took me about four months to write.

I sent the rest off to my critique partner who gave me some very helpful suggestions and I went straight to work editing it. I didn’t want to put it aside for a while like many authors (rightfully) recommend. My heart was still in this story and I wanted to work on it while it felt fresh.

I edited the first three chapters many more times until I was happy with the beginning, and did a final read through. I then entered online pitch contests and began the time-consuming process of researching agents, publishers, and sending out queries. All in all I got about twenty agent rejections and two editor rejections, but received feedback and took (most of it) on board, tweaking some parts of the manuscript.

Then I pitched it at the RWA conference on the Gold Coast in August, and while I was there, learned of Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint, Escape. At first I didn’t think my story would be suitable (for starters, my hero was a nerd!) and I went home and sent off my other submissions. After seeing Escape’s tweets on twitter, I decided I should check out their submission guidelines anyway and they seemed fairly open-minded about different genres and mixed genres as long as it had a significant romance and happy ending. Mine was a combination of women’s fiction, chick lit, hen lit, comedy, romance, futuristic, and paranormal (what was I thinking?!). In the end I decided on romantic comedy and sent off a partial submission, knowing I’d find out in two weeks if it wasn’t suitable.

Much to my surprise I got a full manuscript request less than two weeks later, and three weeks after that I got an offer of publication. 🙂

On that wonderful day I remembered I’d actually had a dream about Harlequin Escape the night before – talk about prophetic! I checked my email as usual first thing in the morning, but there was nothing interesting. I decided to sit outside in the sun for a while to soak up some vitamin D and brought my iPhone with me. My email made that sound telling me I had new email and I glanced at the screen expecting it to be yet another ‘20% off all dresses, today only!’ or a very tempting ‘Booktopia Clearance Sale!’. But it was from Escape.

I mentally prepared myself for another rejection. All I could see was a couple of lines of a message preview:

Thank you for submitting Fast Forward to Harlequin Escape. I am delig…’

Delig? Was that part of the word I thought it was? …Delighted?

Then I thought it might say: “I am delighted that you wrote this story but unfortunately it is not right for us.’

But I knew it wouldn’t. I knew what it was going to say and my hand shook as I pressed the screen to open the message.

‘I am delighted to accept it for publication.’

Here I am just about to sign my contract.

Here I am just about to sign my contract.

The shaking intensified and lots of ‘Ohmygod’s’ spewed repeatedly from my mouth. I’m sure my neighbours thought I was having a heart attack. It was a really humid day and my palms were so sweaty from heat and excitement I could barely scroll the screen down to read the rest of the message!

I had to keep the news fairly quiet at first so I just rang my parents (who sent me a huge bunch of flowers later that day), and then my critique partner (90% of our conversation was the word ‘exciting’), and spent the rest of the day with a permanent grin on my face and completely unable to do anything productive.

It still amazes me that it was only less than a year ago I started writing this story and now it’s about to be released. I love how fast digital publishing works and I’m looking forward to getting this story out into the big wide world of the internet! I’m also excited to be involved with Harlequin, a company who has such a strong foundation and worldwide brand.

To all the writers out there – keep writing, editing, polishing, and submitting, and embrace the digital age.

To all the readers – keep reading, reviewing, and telling your friends about great books.

Thanks for reading my call story! 🙂

…To celebrate this milestone I feel like being generous and giving away stuff! To win some goodies, keep an eye on the blog (or subscribe if you like) for a giveaway coming very soon…

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Past, Present, & Future with Helen Lacey

In celebration of the upcoming release of my debut novel, Fast Forward (see announcement here), welcome to the very first interview in my brand new blog segment: ‘Past, Present & Future’. Kicking things off is Harlequin romance author, Helen Lacey. Read on as I delve into her past, her present, and (bring out the crystal ball) her future!

PAST:

1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wrote my first book when I was seven years old, so I guess I’ve always known I would be a writer. It was a romance about two horses and was sixty four handwritten pages long.

2. What did you do before you became a writer?

Well, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. But a couple of years before I was published my husband and I had a sea change so that I could write full time. Before that I worked as a manager in a department store.

3. What is one of your most treasured memories from the past?

When I was thirteen I got my first horse. I had wanted my own pony since I was a small child and the day my parents bought me my very first horse, whose name was Oakie, I felt as though all of my dreams had come true.

PRESENT:

4. What’s your latest release about and/or what are you currently working on?

My latest book is my November release from Harlequin Special Edition called Marriage Under The Mistletoe. It’s a Christmas romance and was just so much fun to write. I have another release out in January called His-And-Hers Family and another book scheduled for the middle of 2013.

5. What’s a typical day like for you? (If there is such a thing!)

I write every day. I send my husband off to work around 6.30 am and then try to work on achieving 1500 words a day. Of course this depends on things such as edits and revisions or new releases etc. Around three every afternoon I head outside to spend a couple of hours with my animals, which include eight horse, three dogs, two cats, three birds and a house cow named Ginger.

6. Name three things you are grateful for in your life right now:

The wonderful life I share with my husband and family. That I have a career doing what I love. And most definitely my animals, as my pets, particularly my dogs and horses are a big part of who I am.

FUTURE:

7. If you could fast forward in time to any age or year for just one day, what would you choose & why? I’d go to the day that was meant to be my last day and work out which of my dreams/plans hadn’t been achieved and then come back to the now and make sure I did everything I could to achieve those dreams.

8. If you could have any new technology or invention in the future that would make your life a whole lot easier (or more fun), what would it be? Oh, that’s easy – a robot to do housework.

9. What are your hopes & dreams for the future?

To stay happy. To surround myself with wonderful family and friends. To travel to Africa. To write books and create stories I can share with readers.

Thanks for joining me on the blog, Helen, and all the best for the future (I’ll have one of those housework robots too, please!)

Just in time for Christmas you can pick up Helen’s book, ‘Marriage Under The Mistletoe’ via these retailers:

Amazon     Amazon UK

B&N     Book Depository       Harlequin      Mills & Boon Aust

Visit Helen online:

Web        Facebook           Twitter          Author Page

 

Exciting News! My first publishing contract :)

I’ve been patiently waiting for the moment I’d be able to write those words, and now it is here! I’m excited to announce that my debut novel, FAST FORWARD, will be published by Escape Publishing – the digital-first imprint of Harlequin Australia!!

I’m thrilled to have the backing of such a wonderful publishing company with years and years of experience in the industry, and I can’t wait to get my first story out into the world (actually, part of me is a little scared, but mostly excited!). FAST FORWARD is the third full length manuscript I’ve completed in the three years since I took up writing seriously, and I had an absolute ball writing it. It’s a romantic comedy with a twist… what sort of twist? Well there may be a little bit of time travel in it. It’s nowhere near sci-fi by any means, it is at its heart a humorous, heartwarming, and romantic story about being true to yourself and following your passions. In the case of the main character, Kelli, she needs a little kick in the pants in the form of a day trip to the future so she can discover what’s really important to her. Here’s a short blurb…

Aspiring supermodel Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her 25th birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.

Trapped in the opposite life of the one she wanted, Kelli is forced to re-evaluate her life and discover what is really important to her. Will she overcome the hilarious and heartbreaking challenges presented to her and get back to the body of her younger self? Or will she be stuck in the nightmare of hot flushes, demanding children, raunchy advances from her husband, and hideous support underwear forever? 

I’ll share more details and my Call Story in a couple of days time, but for now, I think a yippee is in order:

Yippee!!!!!!!! 🙂

Survey Results! What Do You Like To See On Author Blogs?

A few weeks ago I posted a survey link to find out what people like to see on author blogs. If you haven’t participated in the survey you can do so here. I will share the results periodically as more people respond to the survey.

Here are the survey results so far:

  • 5% of respondents were readers, 92.5% were writers (and readers), and 2.5% were publishing industry professionals

 

  • The most popular genres that respondents like to read, in order of most to least popular, are: romance & women’s fiction/chick lit (tied first), romantic comedy, mystery, thriller/crime/suspense, historical, paranormal, young adult, literary, Australian rural fiction, steampunk, men’s contemporary fiction, and sci-fi.

 

  • 75% of respondents have a blog, 17.5% don’t, and 7.5% are thinking about getting one.

 

  • Of those that have a blog, 40% only post when they get a topic idea, 23.3% post a few times a week, 20% post once a week, with the remainder posting one or two times a month. None of the respondents post daily.

 

  • 40% of respondents regularly visit author blogs a few times a week, 32.5% visit author blogs when they are enticed by an interesting post, the same number of people (7.5%) visit daily, once a week, and a few times a month, with only 5% visiting once a month.

 

  • When asked which factors influence the decision to visit a particular blog or blog post, 82.1% of respondents said that knowing the author professionally or personally made them want to visit the blog. 79.5% visit a blog to learn about a specific topic, 64.1% visit based on the recommendation of a friend or an interview with a favourite author, 51.3% visit to discover a new author or book, and surprisingly, only 38.5% visit a blog to enter a contest or giveaway. Some other reasons people mentioned that cause them to visit a particular blog were: to learn how to do their own blog, to keep up to date with industry information, to visit the blog of someone who commented on their own blog, posts with interesting titles, recommendations via facebook and twitter, and to support fellow writers.

 

  • The most popular types of blog posts/categories, in order of most popular to least popular, were: How-To articles & tips on writing, interviews with publishing professionals, How-To articles on author marketing, opportunities to pitch your book to an agent or publisher, author interviews, humorous posts just for fun, book reviews, info on upcoming new releases from authors, excerpts from books, book giveaways, free short stories or serials, giveaways for non-book prizes, and character interviews.

 

  • The most popular topics to read about on blogs were: digital publishing, writing books, marketing & promotion, the story behind a book & how it came to be, cover designs, how to get an agent or publishing contract, a writer’s life behind the scenes, self publishing, readers guides/book club questions.

 

  • In author interviews on blogs, the most popular things people like to find out about the author are: info about their latest book, what they’re working on next, where they get their ideas and inspiration, how they came to be an author, how they balance family/life with writing, info about their other job or previous career, how to connect with them online, fun things like favourite colour/movie/tv shows/books/music/hobbies. Respondents also commented that they’d like to see more specific information about developing writing skills, fun character interviews to find out things that weren’t in the book, and detail about the author’s processes from beginning of the idea to the end result.

 

  • Some of the final comments people had to say were: many author blogs seem to be the same – need to make the blog stand out and be unique, never blog an apology for not blogging, don’t get offended if you don’t get many comments – it doesn’t mean the reader hasn’t enjoyed the post, it usually means they are busy. And someone also commented that I was amazing so I thought I’d throw that in there to add to the important statistics, lol! 😉

 

 

As with all surveys, the results are only representative of a selection of people so take from it what you will, and I hope the results help authors to plan their blogs with the reader in mind for the greater benefit of both parties.

What I gleaned from this survey:

  • Try to blog one or more times a week
  • Network with authors and readers
  • Blog about topics that people want to learn about
  • Support your friends and favourite authors by sharing links to their blog posts
  • Visit and comment on other blogs to increase exposure for your own
  • Contests are good but not essential for a blog to be popular
  • Blog not only about writing but about marketing and the publishing process
  • Space out your informative blog posts with fun & light-hearted posts
  • Character interviews are enjoyed by some but hated by others – these may be best used as a bonus for those who have already read your book
  • Anything to do with digital publishing is a hot topic
  • Try keeping a story journal to record the development of your book from idea to end result
  • Think of a way to make your blog unique and stand out from others that are similar

 

So next time you’re thinking hmmm… what will I blog about? Take a look at these results and maybe you’ll be inspired and come up with a top idea that readers (and writers) will love.

SISTERS AT HEART – my short story

Every now and again I get the urge to write a short story. Especially if there’s a competition (Aries competitive nature). Earlier this year Country Style magazine held a short story competition with the theme ‘Cooking from the heart.’ The $5000 prize was a big motivator to enter, but even though I didn’t win I enjoyed writing my story and am proud of the result.

When I heard what the theme was, it was the perfect theme to match to a story idea I’d had for a while, so with enthusiasm I sat down and wrote the story all in one go till the early hours of the morning.

2000 words doesn’t seem like a lot, but with short stories you have to plan the plot and create characters just like in a novel, in fact, sometimes short stories are more challenging because of the restriction in length. You have to focus on a moment in time with only a couple or a few characters and have a satisfying emotional ending to the story. Sometimes the ending is not an ending but the start of something new, but the event that takes place in the story is the driver for that new beginning.

My ‘cooking from the heart’-themed short story, SISTERS AT HEART, is now published on Smashwords. It’s set in the fictional town of Tarrin’s Bay where I am setting a series of novels, the first being THE JANUARY WISH which is completed and the second being FEBRUARY OR FOREVER which is a work in progress. SISTERS AT HEART is women’s fiction with a twist; there’s a little surprise at the end that some people may guess and others may not.

Here’s the blurb…

Grieving the loss of her sister and breakdown of her marriage, Carrie moves to the small seaside town of Tarrin’s Bay for a fresh start with her young son. When she volunteers for the school cake stall, a remarkable coincidence has her realising the incredible power of the human heart.

You can read the first page here, and if you like the sound of it and want to see what the twist is, the full story is only 99 cents 😉

I’d love to hear what you think about it! I might write more ‘Tarrin’s Bay’ short stories.

Do you have any short stories published? If so, let me know in the comments 🙂

Jan Graham answers Juliet’s Ten Awkward Author Questions!

In this segment, authors will be subjected to a list of awkward questions that may reveal more about themselves than they really wish to share, and they will receive a score on the ‘Braveometer’. If they choose to answer only five questions, they are a ‘Brave Author’, if they answer 6 to 9 questions they are a ‘Mega-Brave Author’, and if they answer all 10 questions they are an ‘Ultra-Brave Author’!

Please welcome Jan Graham…

 

1. If only one of your books could have been / could be published, which one would you choose? (C’mon, I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, I love them all, there’s no way I could choose.’ Time to be ruthless, these are the Ten Awkward Questions after all!)

I’d choose Finding Angel because it is my first born and it set the platform for three more books.

 

2. Okay, now which one of your children/family members would you… nah, just kidding! Which of the following words most accurately describes your best personality trait (you must pick only one!):

Punctual. Good listener. Neat.  Graceful. Generous. Cheerful.

Generous

 

3. Which of the following words most accurately describes your worst most challenging personality trait (even if you’re perfect, you must pick one):

Always late. Blabbermouth. Slob. Complete klutz. Scrooge. Grumpy pants.

I’m a Complete Klutz 3.5 weeks per month and Grumpy Pants for the other days.

 

 

4. Have you ever had a romantic crush on one of your characters? Who and why?

I have a romantic crush now on Steve. He’s in Finding Angel but he’s the main character in the next book Playing Jax. I love his sense of humour, his protectiveness of those he loves and the fact that he understands the difference between lust and love. Of course, my two beta readers tell me I can’t have him because he belongs to them.

 

5. When writing an important scene, do you act it out to allow you to better describe what’s happening?

No, because a lot of my important scenes involve violence (I write romantic suspense) and I wouldn’t like to be arrested.

 

 

6. Do you talk to yourself when writing or coming up with plot ideas?

All the time, I pace around the house or out in the yard mumbling to myself, I’m sure the neighbours think I have an illness.

 

7. Who would be ideal to play YOU in a movie of your life?

In my mind, I see Angelina Jolie, but realistically it’s more like Rosie O’Donnell.

 

8. If you could be any book character for one day, who would you be and why?

I’d be Georgina Kincaid from the Richelle Mead’s Succubus series because I’d get to have more sex than I am now.

 

9. You’re about to be left on a deserted island for a year, and while your basic food and water needs will be met, you can only bring one extra thing from the following. Which would you choose?

a) A pen and notepad that never runs out

b) An unlimited supply of books

c) An unlimited supply of chocolate, coffee, or alcohol (your choice)

d) A gorgeous man/woman depending on your preference

A gorgeous man (I’m thinking Hugh Jackman could fit the bill.)

 

10. If you had the attention of the whole world for two minutes, what would you say?

Thanks for being here, make sure you make it worthwhile.

 

Thanks for participating, Jan. You have been awarded Ultra Brave Author status on the Braveometer!

 

 

 

You can visit Jan and find out about her books at her website, or click on the book cover of Finding Angel to buy a copy!

Jeanette Hornby answers Juliet’s Ten Awkward Author Questions!

In this segment, authors will be subjected to a list of awkward questions that may reveal more about themselves than they really wish to share, and they will receive a score on the ‘Braveometer’. If they choose to answer only five questions, they are a ‘Brave Author’, if they answer 6 to 9 questions they are a ‘Mega-Brave Author’, and if they answer all 10 questions they are an ‘Ultra-Brave Author’!

Please welcome Jeanette Hornby…

1. If only one of your books could have been / could be published, which one would you choose? (C’mon, I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, I love them all, there’s no way I could choose.’ Time to be ruthless, these are the Ten Awkward Questions after all!)

Where The Heart Is

 

2. Okay, now which one of your children/family members would you… nah, just kidding! Which of the following words most accurately describes your best personality trait (you must pick only one!):

Punctual. Good listener. Neat.  Graceful. Generous. Cheerful.

Neat

 

3. Which of the following words most accurately describes your worst most challenging personality trait (even if you’re perfect, you must pick one):

Always late. Blabbermouth. Slob. Complete klutz. Scrooge. Grumpy pants.

Scrooge

 

4. Have you ever had a romantic crush on one of your characters? Who and why?

Antonio in ‘Where The Heart Is’ because he’s a hot Italian

 

5. When writing an important scene, do you act it out to allow you to better describe what’s happening?

No, just picture it in my head about a hundred times

 

6. Do you talk to yourself when writing or coming up with plot ideas?

All the time, sometimes at the most inconvenient moments

 

7. Who would be ideal to play YOU in a movie of your life?

Edie Falco

 

8. If you could be any book character for one day, who would you be and why?

Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because he understands human nature

 

9. You’re about to be left on a deserted island for a year, and while your basic food and water needs will be met, you can only bring one extra thing from the following. Which would you choose?

a) A pen and notepad that never runs out

b) An unlimited supply of books

c) An unlimited supply of chocolate, coffee, or alcohol (your choice)

d) A gorgeous man/woman depending on your preference

d) A gorgeous man

 

10. If you had the attention of the whole world for two minutes what would you say?

Life is short, live your dreams!

 

Thanks for participating, Jeanette. You have been awarded Ultra Brave Author status on the Braveometer!

 

 

 

You can visit Jeanette and find out about her latest books at her website here. 🙂