LizAnn Carson

Releasing the stories into the world


2 Comments

Long, Hard Slog: Book(s) Launch

Amanda Pat Mel SmallDone.

Oh, my goodness, is that ever a beautiful word. So beautiful that I came close to writing five thousand words for NaNoWriMo* yesterday, out of sheer relief. As if the weight of a whole bookstore resting on my shoulders for the last few months had suddenly lifted. I could float away.

The first three books of the Calter Creek series are out there.

As part of this mass release, I’ve also put out a box set with all three books, at a bargain price. So that’s four books. All at once. Agghh.

And if you want to know what a writer’s life is like, here’s a reality. It’s been months of obsession and plodding, a slog through editing and proofing, to launch four books at once.

Problem is, I’ve been working on the critiquing and editing for so long, I no longer can tell if they’re any good. Do other authors get to that point, I wonder? I used to love these three books, each in its own way. Now, I’m numb. And honestly don’t care if I ever see them again. Yeah, probably not the best way to sell them! Burnout is real, folks. And in fact, I rarely hear about authors going back and re-reading their books. If you’re an author, do you? I’d like to know.

So let’s assume that if I didn’t have faith in their quality, I wouldn’t have released them, okay?

What happens next? Well, if it were only NaNoWriMo, I could kick back, not worry too much about whether I actually produce the 50,000 words, and take some time off. But it’s not only the next Calter Creek novel swirling around in my weary head. Hard on its heels is a fantasy-romance trilogy, tentatively called Come by the Hills. It’s still in planning, but my world and main characters are fairly well drawn, and I’m itching to get to it.

The other good thing about finally having these books launched is that there’s time to do other things. Housework, for instance. (My family would agree that this is a very good thing.) Actually cooking a meal occasionally. Getting in touch with friends who probably doubt that I’m still on the planet.

Have a look at the Calter Creek page to see the covers, synopses, and brief extracts of the three new books: Amanda, Pat, and Mel.

And if you’re wondering why I chose these simple book titles, instead of something more, well, romantic, I suppose I should admit that I’m not all that great at coming up with titles, so to some extent this is a cop-out. As well, though, there are several series I follow, and it drives me a little nuts to try to remember which heroine went with which book, especially if I want to re-read.

More soon!

LizAnn

* NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s a self-challenge to produce a 50,000 word book in the month of November. Julie will be considerably longer than that, but the 50,000 is a good, if challenging, target.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

8 Requirements for a Successful Writers’ Retreat

My writing pal and I, for different reasons, both decided to skip writers’ conferences this year. Instead, we planned a writers’ retreat. Totally renewed and with a fair amount of output under my belt, I can now tell you what made it a success:

  1. A suite (one bedroom plus living room and full kitchen) in a resort far enough away from home that it really feels like getting away. My friend and I chose Tigh-Na-Mara in Parksville, a vacation-oriented town a couple of hours up the island from Victoria.
  2. A general plan. Ours was to work in the morning, play in the afternoon, do things like critiquing and goal setting in the evening. That it didn’t work out that way is irrelevant. It’s a place to start.
  3. Food. My friend brought breakfast, I brought lunch, we both brought whatever else we wanted (sourdough bread and dips, Oh Henry Bites, Moscato), or needed (coffee for me, tea for her). We could have lived for a week or more, without leaving our suite, on the quantity of food in our kitchen.
  4. Enough time to make it all worthwhile. We had four days, Saturday through Tuesday. We left Victoria sufficiently early that we’d checked into our suite by noon. After stowing the food, we had all afternoon to discuss craft, set goals, and work in our cozy living room (complete with thermostat-controlled fireplace).
  5. A spa appointment. So help me, we ended up spending five and a half hours on Sunday at the spa. Limp from our one-hour massages, we went to their treetop restaurant for ‘endless tapas’. A new plate of food was placed in front of us every few minutes. We gorged (plus wine) for two hours. And we still had their large salt-water grotto pool to play in. The pool’s warmth left us feeling even limper than before. By the time we staggered back to our suite, neither of us had energy or focus to do anything but flop, chat, read, knit. Supper that night consisted of cheese, potato chips (purely for medicinal purposes, of course, renewing our salt balance), and the aforementioned Oh Henry Bites.
  6. Less than perfect weather. Other than that dissipated afternoon at the spa, we didn’t actually do any of the recreational things we’d semi-planned. We did manage to buy lottery tickets and go to a quilting supplies shop (with a side trip to Starbucks – for the mental renewal, of course).
  7. Dedication. We worked. We outlined, wrote, and edited. Our suite would be alternately quiet, then full of chatter as we took a break, fixed a snack, and/or discussed something in our writing worlds. Given the drizzly weather, we worked for hours, morning and afternoon, and accomplished a lot.
  8. Food. Did I mention food? Do I need to elaborate? Enjoy the food! You can lose the new pounds some other time.

Would I recommend a writers’ retreat? Absolutely. You get away from the usual pattern, fix a goal and go for it, with lots of conversation, support, and good times.

Now, with improved focus, I’m ready for the final push to get the first three books in the Calter Creek series released. So close, maybe another two or three weeks …


1 Comment

Critique Partners

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’m now in a position to say that this is true, especially when the child in question is a book and the village is a community of critique partners.

I suppose by now many of you have assumed that my blog is a thing of the past. Sometimes it’s felt that way to me, too. This is a case of best-laid plans – since we’re dealing in aphorisms here. Twenty-four hours only stretches so far, and thanks to my community of critiquers, my time has been filled to the max for the last few months.

You may remember that I’d planned to release the first three books in the Calter Creek series this past summer. That was before I joined the From the Heart online chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Arguably, joining FTH was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my writing life.

FTH has a critique loop. My first submission – the first chapter of Amanda – got a lot of responses. And suddenly I was looking at a whole new ball game.

When you submit a book for critique from fellow writers, you also critique a work of theirs. I found myself not only working through up to eight sets of comments about my novel, but also reading and writing critiques for eight other women, eight other novels. The FTH process was a thrill, not only because of the changes in Amanda, but also because I got a first-reader look at some incredible work.

Inspired by the positive effect FTH had on Amanda, I began to explore other critiquing options. Through the PRO loop (also part of RWA) I found three more critique partners, and a fourth is a member of my local writing group. So Pat and Mel went through their own critique processes, and once again I was privileged to read and critique some excellent work by fellow romance authors.

But all of this takes time.

My three books have all benefited immeasurably from these outside, objective, and sympathetic extra sets of eyes. My village came through, and I face my self-imposed publication deadlines with a lot more confidence.

The publication date is so close I can almost taste it. The book covers have been designed, the blurbs are (almost) written, Amanda is finished – finished! – and the other two have had their final edits. Now to spend the time on the last read-throughs, deal with formatting, and hit the button, which should be in late October or early November.

Once it’s done … ah, magical words. I’m sharing a writing retreat with a fellow author in a couple of weeks, which for me will focus on moving forward, not polishing off what’s already been. The next Calter Creek book, Julie, has a reasonably solid outline and some of the opening scenes written. I’m chomping at the bit to do some actual writing instead of months and months of revisions. But being a plotter, I expect the retreat will focus at least as much on the outline as on producing a new scene or two. (It’ll also feature playtime, massage, food I haven’t had to cook myself … oh, yeah, I’m ready for a break.)

With any luck, more time also means a saner schedule, and that means a return to my poor, neglected blog. I like writing these rambles. I’ve missed it.

Talk to you soon!

LizAnn


Leave a comment

Staying within the Lines

Secret Garden, not quite finished

Secret Garden, not quite finished

I have a new coloring book. I love it. (If you’re curious, it’s called Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford.) It has page after page of these wonderful, flora-themed line drawings to color and play with.

As a child, I was always a first-rate colorer. I knew how to take my time, to stay within the lines. As I got older, I remember being frustrated by the juvenile nature of most of the available coloring books. This was long before grown-up coloring books became popular, of course. Now you can get coloring books to help you study anatomy or botany, coloring books that mimic stained glass windows, coloring books with patterns ranging from old wallpaper patterns to crazy paisleys, and everything in between. Being an adult colorer has never been easier.

No one ever told me, back in those childhood days, that you could draw your own pictures. That you didn’t have to be confined by someone else’s lines. It was as an adult that I discovered that I could draw, if I put my mind to it. Or that I could create Zentangle drawings that blew my mind. Nobody told me.

I’ve picked up some of those skills now, to some extent anyway. But I’ve also colored my way to my relatively ripe age, happy as a clam.

Funny thing, though. When I look at my coloring in my new book, I realize I’m not quite as good at staying within the lines as I was.

Being me, I have to wonder if this is symbolic. I’ve never personally wanted to stay within the lines. Sometimes I wonder if that’s part of why I became a romance author.

Pity the poor romance author! Given no respect, no credibility. And yet we account for an enormous percentage of fiction sales. And while not all romance writing is great, a lot is nothing to be ashamed of. We can write, dammit. But it really does feel sometimes like we’re on the outside looking in, waiting for someone to notice us and say, hey, wait a minute, this book is actually good.

I’ve heard it said that romance writing is writing to a formula. In some cases it plays out that way. But not all cases. Having the lines pre-drawn, as in a coloring book, means you know the beginning and the ending before you start writing. But then you get to choose the colors, fill in the blanks. How the beginning and ending happen, and all the steps in between, are yours to tint. My finished drawing, or book, isn’t going to look a thing like yours.

And then there’s the business of coloring outside the lines on purpose. Now we’re getting exciting—and scary. My new coloring book actually encourages you to draw your own lines, add to the patterns. I’m not sure I have the courage for that (the old what-if-I-mess-it-up thing starts happening). In writing, sure, I’ll try it. It’s called finding your voice. It’s called ignoring convention and going with your gut. It’s called making your book the best darn book you can, on your own terms.

I bought a new pack of markers to go with my new coloring book. And that’s what I’ll do this afternoon after tea, having written all morning. I’ll stay within the lines or not. I’ll layer colors. Maybe I’ll add a trailing vine or a red flower. I’ll make the picture my own.

(One last note. In amazon.ca, Secret Garden is a number one best seller in children’s coloring books. Kids these days are a lot luckier in their selections than I was!


Leave a comment

The Agony of the First Draft

I’m about two-thirds of the way to finishing the final book in the Calder Creek series. What this means, in terms of my process and my sanity, is that I’ve got the figurative bit in my teeth, I’m obsessed, I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, the finish line is so close I can almost touch it …

Unfortunately, it also means that as of now, everything I’ve written and everything I’ll write until the first draft is done is officially garbage. Awful. Boring. The worst tripe I, or anyone else, has ever produced.

Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves? Writing is bliss, writing is hell.

For me, getting the first draft down on the page/screen is the hardest part. I become convinced that I can’t do it, that it will never be any good. I hate this. And the sad reality is that a lot of that first draft needs attention. I’ll put the whole thing aside for a few weeks, then go back to it. That’s when the fun starts. For some reason I don’t mind the revising, reworking, rewording, reordering, and generally cleaning up the mess that is currently Calder Creek 3: Mel.

This may not be usual. A fellow writer sweats her first drafts so they’ll be as good as they can be, because she dreads revising. Most articles I read imply that the revision process is akin to pulling teeth without novocaine. So maybe I’m lucky. All I have to do is survive that first draft and the rest is play.

I write quickly, and I put in the hours, so I fully expect to get to first-draft-completion nirvana in a couple of weeks. I sure hope so. This not-good-enough feeling is depressing. Those around me suffer. I eat too many carbs. I resent it when friends want me to come out to play. My sleep patterns go skewed. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

I can already see some of where the book falls short: I don’t have a good enough handle on my hero. I know what he does, I know his motivations, I know what he looks like and how he feels. But there’s something in the essence of him that I haven’t been able to capture yet. I’m relying on that few weeks’ breathing room and the revision process to bring him to life.

Well, never mind. I love my heroine and I’m having a good time with the mess … er … situation she finds herself in. I’m glad she has a happy-ever-after in her future. There’s nothing wrong with a little romance, especially as winter drags on. (Even here in the Pacific Northwest where the plum trees and rhododendrons are in bloom and the spring bulbs are all up, days are chilly and gray.)

I’m going to stop typing now and make some supper; at this stage in the process I’m a master of fast meals. Then, I think I’ll write for a while. That finish line’s getting closer …


Leave a comment

Free Book, plus Reflections on Book Marketing

First, the big news. Seducing Adam is free on Kindle this weekend, February 13-15. Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy reading! I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Now for some thoughts on a big boogieman for me: publicizing your book.

Writing is one thing. Publicizing what you write is something else entirely. And it’s fair to say, it’s tough.

Well, tough. That’s life, if you’re a writer in the modern world, and especially if you’re an indie published writer.

I’m playing around with various routes to publicizing a novel, and not having too much fun at it. Tools and advice keep coming at me, which I suppose is a good thing. It gives me options, anyway.

A lot of it circles around to social media. But the thing is, the whole social media thing is a mystery to me. I don’t mean how it works, I mean why I’d do it at all. Let’s face it, I’m the kind of person who’s never learned to text on her smart phone because I really don’t have anyone to text. (Besides, the thing’s usually dead when I need to use it. I can’t even remember to keep it charged.) This new world of interconnections feels very strange to me.

Seducing Adam, besides being my first published book, is my publicity guinea pig. My goal is to try things out, find publicity avenues that work, and that I’m comfortable with. For instance, there’ll be a book blog tour in early March (I’ll keep you posted), and some free days on Amazon. I’m also thinking about branching out onto other sales outlets, such as Apple and Kobo.

In the meantime, I’m so grateful when I hear from someone who has loved Seducing Adam. A friend said she spent all one afternoon reading it, and it was just what she needed. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement a writer hopes for. Because, when you tell people you’ve written a novel, their typical reaction is akin to an email I received from another friend: “Loved your book. I was afraid I wouldn’t, but I did.” Of course your friends are going to be scared to read what you wrote, because what if it’s a dog’s breakfast? What if they hate it? How are they ever going to look you in the eye again?

Don’t even ask me how I feel about putting my book on the line for a review. I’m thrilled (aren’t we all?) when a positive review turns up on the web spontaneously, but to actually submit my baby for a “professional” review? Scary times. Bite the bullet, I tell myself. Because I do believe in Seducing Adam, and I’m realistic enough to know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I shouldn’t be so nervous about it. But still …

Thanks for dropping by. Why not pick up a freebie of Seducing Adam for weekend reading? If you like it, why not leave a short review on Amazon? Trust me, my heart would be thrilled.


2 Comments

To Cuss or Not to Cuss

You have a hero – or a heroine, but let’s keep it simple – a hero who lives in a serious man’s world. Maybe he has a healthy temper. Maybe he’s had a bad day. Whatever, it’s easy to picture him using, shall we say, colorful language.

So. You’re a writer. Do you write the swear words?

When I was a kid, the offensiveness gradient for the set of “bad” words was very different. We substituted ‘darn’ for ‘damn’; nowadays, ‘damn’ barely makes it onto the list of swear words. My grown children wouldn’t blink an eye at the F-bomb, and in some moods I don’t, either.

In my world of romance, where swearing is concerned, some authors use it, some don’t. I’m amused at the moment by one of the series I’m addicted to, Maya Banks’ KGI series. Her heroes swear. But the wife of one of those heroes is on his case to clean up his language. Hmm. Even heroes can learn, yes? This is a minor but realistic plot twist.

In the second book in my upcoming trilogy, there is a very tense scene, bordering on violence. I wrote it with a lot of profanity. The words worked. They belonged. This is the kind of language both Alan and Pat (my hero and heroine) might well use in the sort of confrontational situation I put them in. I thought the words were necessary to convey the hostility of the moment. It’s how they would speak, at that moment in their relationship. And because they are who they are, I scattered a few of these words  through the rest of the manuscript, mainly in internal dialogue, to convey frustration, dismay, disbelief.

Then my husband read Pat’s story. Thank heaven for husbands; they can be very useful to have around! He pointed out to me that however realistic the dialogue might be, it’s not what my readers would expect.

I was breaking faith with my readers. And that’s not a good idea.

But this left me with a challenge I wasn’t sure I was up to. Could I convey the tension and violent feelings in the scene, without either character swearing? One way or another, I had to try.

In the meantime, I was given hope from an unexpected source. Have you read anything by Harlan Coben? I recently read Missing You (Dutton/Penguin 2014). Now, this is a first-rate thriller. It has a heroine who’s an NYPD cop, an old murder, assorted killers, and a bad guy who will keep you awake at night. But about two-thirds of the way through, I realized what it doesn’t have. It doesn’t have profanity.

OMG. (Does that count?)

This phenomenal mystery/suspense writer doesn’t use bad language! And believe me, he gets his point across. In spades. When things are bad in his books, they are very bad. But I’d be willing to bet that you will read this book and not notice that the characters don’t swear.

So it can be done. I went back into Pat’s story and excised the language. Added more action and visceral responses (gut clenching, muscles liquefying, that kind of thing). I like the result. It really is possible to create the tension without the language. It’s a challenge, but it’s possible.

To write is to experiment, and I’m pleased with my most recent experiment in writing. But isn’t that what we writers try to do? We convey the essence of a situation, yes, but in a way that’s congruent with personal style and readers’ expectations. I love Pat’s book; I think it’s my strongest work so far. I hope you’ll agree. Only, darn, it’s not ready for me to show it to you yet …