Category Archives: On Writing

The Next Shiny New Thing by Georgia Rose

Georgia Rose 2

Author Georgia Rose

I’m sure I am not alone in this writing world when I say that I’m not a fan of having to get involved in the marketing of my books. In fact, I would give a lot to be able to hand that task over to someone else. I am a person who likes to have some control in the things I do, this is a reason why I love being an indie author, but I find the marketing world a confusing one. Someone on Facebook recently described trying to run a successful book promo like throwing darts in the dark and I’m inclined to agree. I’ve been struggling with setting promotions up recently and wading through the bewildering array of promotion opportunities is enough to make your head spin.

Perhaps I should clarify this a little because I understand the concept of spreading the word in as many different ways as your time, and energy, will allow in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. However, it’s the plethora of advice available over which routes to take, which sites to sign up to, which sites to give your shiny pound/dollar to if you get granted the opportunity, of course, to be accepted onto their site in the first place that’s hard to decipher.

I must however give a huge round of applause to the indie world out there who being endlessly generous and supportive of each other think nothing of having a decent sales spike after a promo and then willingly tell everyone how they achieved it.

Rather unusually, but please indulge me, I’m going to use a football (soccer) analogy here because seeing authors leaping onto the bandwagon of ‘the next big thing’ I’m reminded of watching my son play when he was an 8-year-old when he and his team moved as one, huddled around the ball which attracted them as if it had magnetic powers and much as a laser does to a tumble of kittens (see YouTube for examples).

I’m finding that this is happening to me. I start out reasonably focused on the marketing tasks I’m planning, I pop onto the internet to, you know…tweet…and all that then before I know it I spot a blog post discussing how someone shifted goodness knows how many gazillion copies of their book in a day which, obviously, sounds like a great idea and I will be derailed. This happened to me last Sunday when I ended up setting up an Amazon Giveaway for a couple of paperbacks of my first book. It wasn’t planned and I really need to stop these spur of the moment, and distracting, decisions.

What it comes down to is that we are all after the next shiny thing. The latest, and greatest, marketing whatever that has worked for someone and will also give us some, hopefully, spectacular results. I guess I should make up a proper marketing plan. Now, I just need to know what one of those looks like…I’ll pop onto Google to try and find out… it won’t take a moment. 😉

ABOUT GEORGIA ROSE
Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her overactive imagination! Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire where she lives with her much neglected family of a husband, two grown up children and two dogs.

CATCH GEORGIA’S Thicker Than Water WHILE IT’S ON SALE!

Thicker than Water (Book 3 of The Grayson Trilogy)

Amazon US
Amazon UK

CONNECT WITH GEORGIA ROSE

Website and Blog:- http://www.georgiarosebooks.com/
Twitter:- @GeorgiaRoseBook
Facebook:-Facebook  

Writing That First Kiss

Today in This Literary Life Dutch Contemporary New Adult author Lis Lucassen shares the joy and tingles of that very first kiss.

Lucassen, L.

Author Lis Lucassen

It’s magic

I love reading about it. I most definitely love writing about it.

And I still remember how it happened to me. For me, it’s one of the most
anticipated and important scenes in every romance novel. It’s the pillar of the story. It’s pure, it’s sexy, it’s everything you hoped for and then it happens… And everything’s changed.

What I’m talking about?

The first kiss.

That magical moment in which the hero and heroine can’t deny it anymore. Their lips touch and their feelings explode.

I’m a sucker for a good first kissing scene. Every page I turn, I’ll hope the next will be the one where mouths glide against each other, where eyes flutter closed and where our beloved characters lose themselves in each other. Completely. Totally.

Writing about that first kiss is all about planning. When will it happen? When’s the right moment? On which page are the stars aligned? If it comes to soon, there’s no magic and it feels too rushed. When it comes too late in the story, the momentum is off and there’s no gratification. It’s like holding on to your favorite cookie, only to find out it’s gone stale when you finally are ready to eat it. And everybody likes their cookie with some crunch, am I right?

A first kiss needs to be just that. Crunchy. And magical. It takes you back to that special moment in your own life, or makes you want it even more if it didn’t already happen to you. In that last  case, let me tell you, you’re the lucky one!

You’ve still got that earth stopping, heart shattering, sense numbing, and totally of the charts blissful moment in your future. For us that are behind the kissing mark, we’re lucky that romance writers exist, so that we can live vicariously through the characters that they gave us.

Lis Lucassen’s latest novel Heat (read my review HERE) is available at these outlets:

Heat by Lis Lucassen

Amazon.com

Amazone.co.uk

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Connect with Lis!

Facebook Storm Publishers: https://www.facebook.com/stormpublishers

Facebook Lis Lucassen: https://www.facebook.com/lislucassen

Finding Your Natural Audience

A review of Intentional Practice & the Art of Finding Natural Audience ( a framework for artists and professionals) by Marc Zegans.

Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience: A Framework for Artists and Professionals (Intentional Practice in the Arts and the Professions)

Buy this book on Amazon

Artists and professionals don’t have to choose between their integrity and making a living.

In this article, Marc Zegans offers a thoughtful approach to facing market realities while maintaining artistic/professional ideals. Since it is relatively short, I can’t go into as much depth as I normally might or readers could be tempted to take the summary in place of the article. That would be a shame. Zegans sets out a clever program for using one’s core beliefs to both create their best work and reach those who will be most receptive to that work.

Zegans process of intense practice manages to meld intuition with practical method. The bridge between art and audience is a series of diagnostic questions that keep the artist in tune with the message/intention his art conveys and aware of those who share the intention and are therefore the “natural” audience for that message in the form of a book, painting, or music CD. Further, readers learn how even their natural audience is made up of distinct types of individuals. Zegans calls them champions, collectors, and visitors. Understanding the differences between these “fans” helps the artist further hone and direct her message.

I will say that the language Zegans employs is a bit more formal and academic than some artists might be used to. Artists and professionals are so used to getting marketing tips in bite-sized, bullet-pointed blog posts and newsletter features where they can scan the sentences in bold type and glean the major points in a minute or two. This article requires close reading and focused attention. Further, putting the advice it offers into practice is an ongoing process. So, it’s good that the article is short–since you’ll likely have to come back to it multiple times as you fine tune your audience-finding efforts.

A somewhat demanding but valuable primer for artists and professionals preparing to face the marketplace.

Guest Post: Author Lisa Vogel on What Makes for Believable Fiction.

Lisa Vogel and her cat

Author Lisa Vogel and feline friend.

It’s a good thing writers are different because readers certainly are. If you want to see some evidence, go onto Amazon or any other website which allows readers to review books. You’ll soon have no doubt in your mind that there are an awful lot of opinions about what constitutes good writing, and many of those opinions contradict. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows! The bottom-line is that what readers want differs. This is good news because it means there is a lot more leeway for writers than many of us might have originally thought. Of course, you should definitely be the best writer you can be. What constitutes being the best? That’s the part that varies. So, there is hope your individual style will connect with some (although definitely not all) readers.

Nowhere is this more the case than in relation to characterization. There isn’t a right answer. There is only personal taste. And, since I, as both a reader and a writer, tend to like books that delve deeply into negative attributes, that’s what I’m going to address. I’ll use two books to illustrate what I mean. Both We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III contain a plethora of deeply flawed characters and, ultimately, a bad ending for just about everyone. One book I found completely realistic. The other book left me feeling that the author had gone too far.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

In We Need To Talk About Kevin, the main characters are all part of one family (Mom, Dad, one daughter, one son), and everyone has personality issues. Kevin, the older child, is clearly the most flawed of the bunch, and Shriver never really says what’s wrong with him. Rather, she expertly leaves it to readers to interpret for themselves. What do you call a teenage loner who has murdered his fellow classmates? At the very least, he is extremely troubled. I didn’t personally relate to him (that’s probably a good thing), but I did completely relate to the manner in which the other characters were affected by him. And, as I know there are young people who have murdered others, I understood that his personality type, although rare, does exist.

On the other hand, I was easily able to relate to the other characters, especially Kevin’s mother Eva. I could feel within myself her struggles, her need to withdraw, her inabilities as well as her strengths. The same was the case with Eva’s indecisive husband Franklin and emotionally pale daughter Celia. All the characters were flawed but, other than Kevin, they seemed to me to be not so different from my friends, my neighbors and, well, myself. The problem for them was that they were tied to the railroad tracks of their lives and were therefore unable to get away from that out-of-control locomotive that was Kevin. Because Kevin was the only character that, of his own accord, went truly over the edge, it allowed me to believe in both the entire characterization of the novel as a whole and what I interpret to be a somewhat open ending.

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog, which also has characters murdered and in prison by the end, is a novel I had a lot more trouble relating to. No one is quite as troubled as Kevin in We Need To Talk About Kevin, but the three main characters in House of Sand and Fog are far more troubled than I am. And isn’t that how we all judge things in the end? I could believe that someone would be as troubled and oblivious as Kathy. I could believe that someone would make as many critical errors in judgment as Lester. I could believe that someone would be as controlling and stubborn as Behrani. But, although I could feel myself in Eva, Franklin, and Celia, I couldn’t quite feel myself as Kathy, Lester, or Behrani, just as I couldn’t feel myself as Kevin. While one hard to digest character can make for excellent fiction, three in one book is too much for me. It just didn’t seem realistic.

And then, too, are how the books end. In my opinion, given the nature of Kevin (as well as the other characters) everything in We Need To Talk About Kevin happened in a logical progression. True, a number of characters die, but it happens due to a worst-case scenario based on the actions of ONE character. In House of Sand and Fog the ending requires that a worse case scenario occur in the lives of all three main characters separately. It’s like a perfect storm of misery converging into one humongous pile of poo. Though it was masterfully done, I still didn’t quite buy it.

There are, of course, many readers who feel differently. As of August 14, 2014, there are 275 five star reviews for House of Sand and Fog (out of 836). No doubt those reviews represent readers who did not feel the book’s conclusion was over the top. We Need To Talk About Kevin has 441 five star reviews (out of 828). Both books were made into motion pictures. Whatever you think of them, you can’t say they were commercial failures.

So, what is the message that writers might walk away with from these two novels? I think it’s to not be afraid to write hard to sympathize with characters. If the novel justifies it, some readers will go there with you. On the other hand, don’t make things dark unnecessarily. Take a look at what feels true to you and write that. No book is for everyone but, if the way your plot unfolds is based on what you perceive to be realistic characterization, it will be a real plus for some readers no matter how bleak that road is. But even more than that, the larger lesson is this: write what feels true to you. Readers don’t all want the same thing. Don’t let yourself be talked into someone else’s idea of what sells.

LISA VOGEL lives and writes in Cascabel, Arizona.

Interview with Brooke Williams, author of SOMEONE ALWAYS LOVED YOU

 

Today I’m visiting with award-winning author and freelance writer Brooke Williams. Brooke’s fiction spans genres but all of her books feature ordinary people facing challenges with courage and grace. Today Brooke talks to us about her writing process and how she manages to write novel after novel AND maintain an active freelance career while caring for two very young children.

Be sure to read on after our chat for my review of Brooke’s Someone Always Loved You.

 

Author Brooke Williams

Author Brooke Williams

Someone Always Loved You, the book featured today, is a family drama, but the subject matter of your novels varies a great deal—from romantic comedies like Taxi Delivery to your suspense novel Beyond the Bars. How do you decide what to write and what, if any, themes do you find uniting your various books?

I think what I write is decided for me! The ideas come to me and I only write them when they bug me so much that I simply cannot NOT write them. Someone Always Loved You is the first book I ever wrote and it is the one I was most inspired to write. I always wanted to write a book that featured someone in a coma. My grandma was in a coma on two occasions, and I wondered what she thought, if she could hear, things like that. Once I came up with the prologue for the book, I HAD to write it down. And once I did that, I desperately wanted to see what would happen. When it comes to writing, I will get a basic idea for a book and then, once I get the first scene in my head, the rest happens as I write it. I don’t plot and scheme outside of my computer time. There are characteristics that are similar in characters throughout my books, I think. Probably because of who I am. Otherwise, I think my overall themes are similar too in the underlying spiritual contexts. But like you said, I’ve written a bit of it all. I’ve had recent success in romantic comedy and that’s where I’m sticking for the time being. But who knows what idea will hit me next!

You’re married and the mother of two young girls. You also undertake quite a bit of freelance (non-fiction) writing. How do you make time for your fiction?

It’s certainly not easy and it’s not something I get time to do everyday. My girls come first, hands down. They are 5 and 18 months old and I’ve been a bit of a stickler when it comes to naps. When I figured out how to get them to nap at the same time, I was able to carve writing time out each day. My oldest doesn’t really nap anymore, but she has fun playing alone in her room for an hour or so while the little one naps. I have to prioritize my freelance writing at times and make sure I hit deadlines with clients. They pay, after all. The fiction doesn’t! At least not right away! Though I have several books under contract, so when I have editing deadlines, I put those items first. I have a lot on my plate and only 1-2 hours a day, tops, in which to do things. The good news is that I work really fast and seem to be able to fit it all in. I can only imagine what I’ll be able to get done in a few years once my youngest is in school and I’m all alone for big chunks of the day!

Your books demonstrate a strong faith in God and in a way that enhances and supports the work without overpowering it. Are you conscious of your audience as you write? How do you strike a balance between remaining true to your beliefs and being entertaining to readers who may have more secular points of view?

I don’t really think of the audience when I write. I think, for me, that part comes later in editing. I just think of the story, the characters, where things are going, how to make happen what the story and characters say should happen. I think my faith blends itself into my writing as it does my life. I’m not an overpowering in your face person of faith in real life so I am not in my writing either. And yet my faith is always there and is a huge part of my life. I think it just comes through in my writing as part of who I am. Even when I am writing a character that seems nothing like me, there are little bits of me in them. I have a novella coming out December 9th called Wrong Place, Right Time and I had intended to make that a Christian romance. Due to the plot line and the circumstance surrounding the piece, it became more of a romantic comedy. It’s clean comedy, it has some spiritual elements, but there is no hard hitting faith message. And it works better that way in this instance. I was trying to push it to be something it shouldn’t have been and that’s the last thing I want to do.

Some writers are quite protective of their work—they won’t show it to anyone until it’s as polished as possible. Others seek feedback early and often. At what point do you invite an outside eye into your process? Do you have a beta reader? And, when you get advice on revising your work, how likely are you to take it?

I’m protective in some ways and not in others. I’m protective over Someone Always Loved You and do not want to hand that book over to a publisher. I just can’t let it go. But I appreciate people reading my work in any stage. I recently wrote another romantic comedy entitled Mamarazzi (due to be released in August 2015) and I enlisted the help of several beta readers on that one. I wasn’t looking for spelling and grammar help because I know that will come with an editor. But I wanted overall feedback. Did the story make sense? Was I missing any plot holes? So on and so forth. I sent it to beta readers right after I completed it. I hadn’t edited ANYTHING at all myself yet. They pointed out a few things and I really appreciated the help. I went back through and did my own self-editing and changed what they suggested. I then sent it to my publisher and received a contract thanks to their help! So I’m very open to ideas from others. That being said, everyone has an opinion and sometimes those opinions clash with my own. I was once told that I should completely trash Someone Always Loved You and re-write it from scratch. That came from someone who hadn’t read it, so (…) I ignored that advice and many people have greatly enjoyed the book as it is.

There’s a semi-serious saying: what publishing needs are fewer writers and more readers. So many of us come to writing through a passion for reading. But then the writing sort of pushes out the reading. Have you experienced this? How do you make time for reading?

I don’t spend nearly as much time reading as I could if I weren’t writing, that much is true. If I didn’t have my freelance writing and author career, I would probably spend a lot of the time I spend writing reading instead. I write because I love to read! However, since I love to read and always have, it’s not something I am willing to give up. Actually, right now, I am “reading” an audio book. I have a book on my kindle on my phone. And I have a paperback. I read little chunks here and there throughout the day. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t read. And like writing, I read fast. I used to read a book a week or more back when I was in radio. Today I’m slower, but I still have to read. I want to support other authors and I just plain love it. It’s as much a part of my life as writing. Now that I think of it, I actually DO spend more time reading than writing if you count the endless children’s books I read to my daughters! I’m starting them on the reading addiction early.

What do you enjoy reading? Do you find your reading influences your writing—either in style or content? Of the books you’ve read and loved, which one made you stop and think: Gee, I wish I’d written this one!

Like with my writing, my reading tastes are varied. I like romantic comedy and clean romance, but I also like James Patterson Thrillers and others like his. I love Karen Kingsbury and I really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife. Lately, I have been blown away by Heather Gudenkauf and wish that I had written her books. She’s from Iowa and I grew up there so I feel like success for a Midwestern author is possible. Plus her books are just amazing! I also enjoy Dan Walsh, though (there are) historical aspects in his books, and I know I don’t have the knowledge to do that or the patience for heavy research. And I have liked Richard Paul Evans for a long time as well. I started my book God in the Kitchen with his style in mind though it didn’t turn out like his books at all as I continued with it!

What are you working on now? How did you come up with the project?

I started a new romantic comedy called Love is a Roller Coaster, but I only got three chapters in when other writing projects took over. When I’m writing a novel, I like to write the novel. Period. I like to put all other jobs on hold and write. But with Wrong Place, Right Time coming out December 9th, I have editing and promotional work to do there. Accept this Dandelion, another romantic comedy inspired by the Bachelor TV show, is due to come out Feb 2015 and will be in the editing phase soon. Couple that with my freelance jobs and I haven’t been able to concentrate on a new story. But I came up with the idea for Love is a Roller Coaster after visiting the Adventureland theme park with my daughter this summer.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you being doing (professionally) with your life?

Gosh, I’m not sure! I was in radio for 12 years, but I left that career to stay home with my daughters. When I left radio, I knew I wanted to do some sort of “work” from home. I knew any job I had would have to be a home-based thing. I’ve always loved to write so I figured looking into writing jobs would be a good idea. When I left radio, I didn’t know what I was going to do. But research and time and a little go-and-get-it attitude created a career in freelance writing which then led me back to fiction. I liked many aspects of radio, but honestly, if I’d known writing was an option in terms of a viable career, I would have left years before I did. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I feel like I am where I was meant to be…doing what I love to do. I can’t believe people actually pay me to make things up! And I look forward to having more time to do so in the future. If I could no longer be a writer, maybe I’d go back into TV news. I was a traffic reporter for 5 months once. This is where we insert the sarcasm because I was pretty bad.  Read Wrong Place, Right Time when it comes out December 9th. The main character is a TV traffic reporter and she emulates my experience! In reality, if I wasn’t a writer, I think I’d stick with being a mom for now and try to get back into another career once my girls are in school in a few years. I don’t really know what, but with any luck I won’t have to find out!

Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She began her career in radio, both on the air and behind the scenes. She did a brief stint in TV news and then took on her most challenging job as a stay at home mom. During the few quiet hours in her day, Brooke writes articles for a number of clients as well as fiction creations such as Someone Always Loved You. Brooke has also written Beyond the Bars, a thriller, God in the Kitchen, a Christian novel, and Taxi Delivery, a Christian Romance. Brooke looks forward to the December 9th release of Wrong Place, Right Time, a romantic comedy and the February 2015 release of Accept this Dandelion inspired by the Bachelor TV show. Brooke has been married to her husband Sean since 2002 and has two daughters, Kaelyn and Sadie.

(Scroll down for my review of Someone Always Loved You)

Brooke’s Links:

Website:
http://www.authorbrookewilliams.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrookeWilliams

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/151184.Brooke_Williams

Someone Always Loved You amazon link:
http://amzn.com/1300204559

Email:
authorbrookewilliams@gmail.com

 

salycover

Someone Always Loved You

Ambulance driver Jay has a really bad first day on the job when he speeds toward the ER and accidentally hits a woman hurrying to see her ill husband. Overcome by guilt, he sits by Jordan’s bedside and gets to know her husband, all the while unaware of how his own past is intertwined with theirs.

Author Brooke Williams moves between past and present to tell a story of young love and difficult choices and the fine line between chance and fate. It’s a quiet book that deals with big human and spiritual questions. Simple cause and effect, action and consequence, play out against a grander spiritual design that nudges things along behind the scenes.

With so much back story, the pacing gets a bit slow in places. There’s a lot of co-incidence driving the plot twists but, as there’s a strong spiritual element to this novel, this doesn’t undermine the reading experience to any great degree. It’s easy to like Williams’s believably flawed characters, and the reader wants to follow them to the end of their story. Dr. Evan Rodriguez shined the most for me. His single-mindedness, his loyalty to a promise from his childhood really moved me. I wanted to know more about him. He seemed to have no life–romantic or otherwise–outside of his work and his private vow.

SOMEONE ALWAYS LOVED YOU is a touching family drama with enough emotion and compassion to make up for any minor plot issues.

The Story Behind the Story– Adventures in Culinary School– Part I

There’s an old saying that within every story lives at least a grain of truth. This is usually the case in my short stories and novels. While I believe in a solid line between memoir and fiction, I do draw upon personal experience to enrich my plots and develop realistic characters. Molly Price, the protagonist of my contemporary romance Knife Skillsis a newly hatched chef about to start her first job at a restaurant on her family’s Long Island vineyard. I grew up on Long Island and, from December 2001 until August 2002, I attended culinary school, ending the program as a pastry intern at a hotel-golf resort. My career in the food industry didn’t last long, but I did keep detailed journals, which became an invaluable resource as I transformed Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park into a modern tale of a young chef’s search for identity and a second chance at love.

This post is the first in a series presenting entries from my journals alongside snippets from the novel to demonstrate how life experience and imagination work together to create the heightened reality that readers count on when they seek to lose themselves in a good book.

Me in my chef's coat and puffy hat. Looking back, that coat needed  alterations. Short girls and rolled up sleeves make for some serious kitchen messes!

Me in my chef’s coat and puffy hat. Looking back, that coat needed alterations. Short girls and rolled up sleeves make for some serious kitchen messes!

12/13/2001–Cooking School, Day Four

Walking into the practice kitchen this morning…smelling herbs, tasting oils, taking in all the gleaming stainless steel…I felt at home. It stayed with me all day and carried me through the physical rigors, which were pretty torturous at times. Sore feet. Aching back. It’s the part they don’t show you on the Food Network!

From Knife Skills:

As usual Molly was the first to finish the written portion of the exam, and she enjoyed a surge of excitement as she proceeded to the kitchen and surveyed the cool stainless steel surfaces with pans in half a dozen sizes dangling from overhead racks. Thankful for a few moments of solitude, she took the opportunity to catch up with herself. The accident still bothered her. One thing she didn’t need was an increase in her insurance rate. And then there were the continuing problems with Antonio. Where was she supposed to get the money for her share of this latest bill? She needed help just making her rent each month.

Unless there’s a whiff of sensationalism, like a celebrity in trouble, or a political figure caught in wrong doing, “real events” aren’t dramatic enough to sustain reader interest over the long haul. Keeping a reader with you for two hundred pages or more takes major literary manipulation–attention to pacing and the ebb and flow of tension. Yet, used carefully, personal experience can provide key physical details and a hint of emotional honesty that bring a spark of realism to fictional characters and scenes.

Knife Skills

 

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It’s all burners on high for Chef Molly Price, about to start her first restaurant job on her aunt and uncle’s Long Island vineyard. They took Molly in as a child, and she’s determined not to let them down. 

But it’s hard to focus on the perfect bread pudding with a no-good ex who won’t leave her alone and a best guy friend who’s as cranky as he is kissable. 

Love, family, and career all come to a boil when tragedy forces Molly to reconnect with her troubled parents and she must step in to save her five-year-old sister. Molly soon learns that, though her sauces never break, the same can’t be said for her heart.

Travels in Fiction: Long Island Wine Country–Pt 2

During my wanderings on Long Island back in 2005, I had the chance to explore the region’s wine country and get a behind-the-scenes peek at the action at various vineyards and wineries.

Vineyards fit in beautifully with the rural landscape of eastern Long Island.

Vineyards fit in beautifully with the rural landscape of eastern Long Island.

This inside look allowed me to inject needed realism into my novel Knife Skills, which re-tells Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Wine grapes are grown on wire trellises set in wide rows.

Wine grapes are grown on wire trellises set in wide rows.

The secret works behind the winery...vats for first ferment.

The secret works behind the winery…vats for first ferment.

Translating a story set in Regency England to America in the 21st century wasn’t always easy. We don’t have many grand historic estates here or even the remnants of the class and social system that shaped Austen’s original work.

Oak barrels for aging.

Oak barrels for aging.

Tasting rooms are where the vineyard introduces the public to their vintages.

Tasting rooms are where the vineyard introduces the public to their vintages.

Long Island is a wonderful place to set a book. It’s an island of contrasts…the glittering Hamptons and older, working class towns…beautiful beaches and some of the most productive agricultural acreage in the country.

For visitors, tasting rooms provide a fun chance to sample new wines.

For visitors, tasting rooms provide a fun chance to sample new wines.

Using a LI vineyard–one experiencing a time of transition, the opening of a new restaurant–gave me both the physical locales and the scope of activity I needed for Chef Molly Price’s new version of Austen’s tale of love, family and self-discovery.Knife_Skills_Cover_for_Kindle (1)

 

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It’s all burners on high for Chef Molly Price, about to start her first restaurant job on her aunt and uncle’s Long Island vineyard. They took Molly in as a child, and she’s determined not to let them down. 

But it’s hard to focus on the perfect bread pudding with a no-good ex who won’t leave her alone and a best guy friend who’s as cranky as he is kissable. 

Love, family, and career all come to a boil when tragedy forces Molly to reconnect with her troubled parents and she must step in to save her five-year-old sister. Molly soon learns that, though her sauces never break, the same can’t be said for her heart.

Travels in Fiction: Long Island Wine Country–Part I

When I decided to set Knife Skills,  my retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park on eastern Long Island, I had already moved to Las Vegas. I figured I’d have to use whatever photos I’d collected during my pre-writer days supplemented by maps and travel brochures. And that was fine. As Thomas C. Foster states in his marvelous How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form, “Places in a work of fiction are never real but must behave as real.” 

Fiction is all about making things up.Long Island NY 001

But, in the spring of 2005, an unexpected family emergency led to a three-week trip back to Long Island. During that time, I traveled the highways and byways of the north and south forks scouting locales like a movie producer.

The main action takes place on a vineyard in the small north shore town of Mattituck.  Below, hubby (On the right. Boy, he was young there!) poses with his mom and younger brother in front of the neighborhood grocery store.

Mattituck 001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the bakery that stands in for Delgado’s, my character Molly’s high school workplace and where her love affair with pastries began. Her big dream is to buy the place from Mr. Delgado and open her own tea shop.

Mattituck 002But her uncle, who raised her and put her through cooking school, has opened a new restaurant on his vineyard.

Molly can’t just up and leave him…can she?

 

 

What I love about Mattituck is its quaint, small-town feel.

Mattituck 005Mattituck 003Mattituck Marina 001Mattituck 006There’s a wonderful contrast between the town’s thriving business district and the wide open spaces surrounding it.

I wanted a town that inspired a sense of homecoming in Molly after the collapse of her troubled marriage and the grueling marathon of cooking school.

Mattituck is the sort of place that makes you slow down and take deeper breaths.

It’s also at the center of one of the region’s best kept secrets: what began as a patchwork of vineyards and wineries burgeoned over the past two decades into an industry producing  world class vintages that can be found at local eateries and in the finest restaurants in the Hamptons and NYC.

In my next post, I’ll offer a behind-the-scenes peek of a working vineyard and winery. From vines to fermentation vats to tasting rooms–it’s a view of Long Island you won’t want to miss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Writing Isn’t Easy. A Reveiw of 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of what You Love by Rachel Aaron

Fantasy author Rachel Aaron first presented the method she used for drastically increasing her daily word count in a guest post written for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website. The feedback encouraged her to write this short, useful book. But writers looking for some secret key to writing at supernatural speed and with little need for revision will be disappointed. According to Aaron, increased productivity is built on extensive preparation. So much preparation, it could be said that the reason Aaron can compose her novels so fast is because she’s done all the real work ahead of time.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

Aaron advises writers to carefully analyze their work habits to pinpoint the when, where, and how of their best working conditions. No point in working late if you can keep your eyes open after ten. Or working at home if you’re the type who can’t settle down if there’s a dirty dish in the sink…or if there isn’t, you feel compelled to use one and then wash it!

Once you have the best conditions for a work session figured out, Aaron suggests keeping a log of how many words you write in the time you’ve allotted and analyze the results. Are your sessions too long, so that you’re productivity starts off strong but then peters off? Are they too short, so that by the point your revving up to the good stuff, you run out of time?

All of this analysis and exploration is just a prelude to the real heavy lifting: planning the actual writing of your project ahead of time. Aaron is a proponent of outlining. Serious and detailed outlining. She doesn’t begin writing a novel until is outlined chapter by chapter and scene by scene. Working in this way, any given day’s writing is already done–whether via scribbled notes or in your head–and simply pours out when you sit down. This should, according to Aaron, result in a marked increase in the number of words produced in a single session. This word count doesn’t include revising the work, though, having been planned in such detail, first drafts will be far more polished and require less tinkering. Even so, Aaron also provides her method for revising with speed and efficiency.

If you have the discipline necessary to track and evaluate your writing habits and apply the results with consistency, Aaron’s book will help you. But it won’t instill you with drive or inspiration. That you still have to provide all on your own.

How to Carry on a Lifelong Affair…with Books

There are piles and piles of books about being a writer. It’s refreshing to find one about being a reader. Thomas C. Foster, a literature professor, employs a fun, breezy style to teach people how to get the most out of their reading. Chapter by chapter he takes readers through the major aspects that comprise “the novel”–quite a trick considering what a slippery creature it has shown itself since its debut back in the 1700s.

How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form

Here’s a quick sample of some chapter headings. They give a good sense of the Foster’s friendly, approachable style.

–Pick Up Lines and Open(ing) Seductions or Why Novels Have First Pages.
–Never Trust a Narrator with a Speaking Part.
–When Very Bad People Happen to Good Novels
–Everywhere is Just One Place
–Who Broke My Novel?
–Untidy Endings

Within each chapter, Forster uses pointed examples from both classic and contemporary fiction. I’m glad I have a habit of reading with a pen in hand, because I ended up with quite a reading list by the time I finished this book. The basic “lesson” of each chapter is summed up by a general (and pretty tongue-in-cheek) rule. Below is a sample of Foster’s useful little nuggets.

–The Law of Getting Started: The opening is the first lesson in how to read a book.
–The Law of Narrative Unreliability: Stop believing the narrator when you see the word “I.”
–The Law of People and Things: Characters are revealed not only by their actions and their words, but also by the items that surround them.
–The Law of Crowded Desks: When a novelist sits down to begin a novel, there are a thousand other writers in the room. Minimum.

If you are a writer, this book is doubly useful. It’s chapters provide a neat checklist of thing to look for in your own work. Foster manages to provide lots of good direction without hampering individual style. His whole philosophy is based on the flexibility of the novel as a literary form. One that can accommodate sensibilities as wide ranging as stalwart Victorian Charles Dickens, noir writer Raymond Chandler, and contemporary novelists like Barbara Kingsolver.

Foster emphasizes that, in all literature, there is only ONE story. And yet it’s also true that we can’t read the same book twice. We’ve changed and therefore so has the book. It’s his treatment of books as living, evolving entities that makes it likely his own HOW TO READ NOVELS LIKE A PROFESSOR will stand up to multiple readings.The discussions and theories he presents seemed designed to support a literary taste that grows and changes.