Monday, 18 February 2019

Weekly Update: Feb 10 to 16

Division is coming along nicely.  A number of scenes have been reordered but for the most part I'm able to reintegrate what I've already written.  There are a couple of bits that I'm sad to lose but overall, it's better.

I'm hoping that I'll continue to make progress and hopefully have the manuscript finished up soon so that I can begin new projects!  The lure of the blank page is a powerful siren call to my imagination.

I successfully transitioned my books from Draft2Digital to directly with Kobo.  And I sat down and combed through my sales reports to get my total numbers for 2018 (lower than previous years but better than I'd feared).

My stumbling block thus far has been transitioning my print books to Ingram Spark.  Before I can shift them over, they need to come off expanded distribution with Amazon.  I removed them a week ago but apparently it can take 6-8 weeks for the transition to take effect.  Patience is a virtue, but not one I have a lot of.  

I've also been working on the final edits for Third Eye Open and I got to see the early draft of the artwork.  It looks amazing and I can't wait to share it.  Once Third Eye Open is finished then I can start the process of creating the anthology for all three stories.  The Spirit Sight anthology will be available as a print book, my first mass market paperback!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Heroine Fix: The Brilliant Charlotte Holmes from The Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas

I'm addicted to strong and intriguing characters.  Heroine Fix is a monthly feature examining female characters that I admire and who influence my own writing.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

I love a smart woman who's not afraid to demonstrate that she has brains.  I also love women who defy the expectations of those around them.  Women who refuse to dim their own light, to act smaller than they are, or ignore what they need and want.  So it's not a surprise that I adore Charlotte Holmes from Sherry Thomas's Lady Sherlock series.

There are many iterations of the Sherlock Holmes story.  (Two of my favourites are Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock and Jonny Lee Miller's Elementary.)  But I've become a fan of Sherry Thomas's novels ever since I heard her speak at RWA Nationals in San Diego and when I heard she was writing a variation on Sherlock Holmes with a female protagonist, I pre-ordered A Study In Scarlet Women as soon as it was available.

Once I started reading, the story grabbed me right from the beginning.  Charlotte Holmes is the daughter of a family struggling to maintain their position in society.  Her family insists on Charlotte contracting an advantageous marriage but Charlotte has no interest in trading her father's control for a husband's.  She would prefer to make her own way in the world, supporting her sisters.  Her father has refused to give her the education and training she would need to achieve her dream of becoming the headmistress of a private girls' school, so Charlotte comes up with a daring plan to make her permanently ineligible for marriage.  She arranges for herself to be deflowered but the plan goes awry when the act is witnessed by a larger audience than she'd initially intended.

Charlotte quickly finds herself involved in a larger mystery, one which needs her unique ability of deduction to unravel.  She acquires an ally, the widowed Mrs. Watson, a former actress.  Hiding behind the guise of a masculine pseudonym, Charlotte takes on a clever murderer and the expectations for a fallen woman in Victorian society.

The story is fast-paced and engaging but it was the characters that drew me in.  Charlotte's worldview is fascinating.  As she wryly observes, most people can never escape how they were taught to live.  She is the rare individual who sees how arbitrary our social expectations can be.  That often, the things which restrict us most are no more binding than threads, kept intact by a group reluctance to challenge them.  By the understanding of her society, a fallen woman should be hopeless.  But Charlotte not only survives, she thrives and finds happiness in her new life because she refuses to accept the dictates of other people's expectations.

I also adored Charlotte's awkward sister, Livia, who struggles to find the courage to follow her own dreams; the defiant and compassionate Mrs. Watson, who has always lived on the outskirts of expectations; and Charlotte's other sister, Bernadine, who I suspect is severely autistic in an age before such labels were known.

But it's Charlotte who keeps me reading.  I could sympathize with her frustration at trying to pursue her dreams, only to find herself blocked at every turn.  She's planned a perfectly logical course of action for herself, one that suits her temperament and ambitions and would allow her to be reasonably happy and productive.  But those around her are far more interested in forcing her to fit into what they want than in listening to what she wants.  But the part which truly inspires me is that in losing everything that she thought she wanted, she found a life that was better than the one she'd dreamed for herself.  Because even with her tremendous insight, her plans for herself were still limited by what she'd been taught to expect.

To me, that is the essence of the hope inherent in every romance novel: that sometimes life can give you something even more wonderful than you would have wished for.  Considering that real life can often deliver situations which are worse than we could have imagined, it's comforting to believe the opposite is also true.  That we can defy the expectations that oppress us, we can find a lasting love with a partner who respects and treasures us, and we can achieve all of our ambitions, including the ones we haven't quite admitted to ourselves yet.

(Keep on reading for more information on next month's Heroine Fix and a special offer on my own books.)

If you'd like to read my stories of heroines who find more than they ever hoped for, you can pick up my first novel for 99 cents US (or equivalent) on all platforms.  Enjoy fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense about a secret society of superheroes living among us.

Or you can check out some of the other features on my blog, like last month's Heroine Fix which looked at the intriguing and untamed Catwoman or my most recent post about how impostor syndrome convinces us to keep silent.  Or you can find other amazing romance authors with my monthly Hidden Diamond feature.  This month, my secret gem is Freya Barker and her extraordinary tales of ordinary people.

Next month I'll be examining the heroines who inspired my first novel, Tess and Ally from the 2010 movie, BurlesqueTess, played by Cher, runs the burlesque club that has been her dream but is proving to be financially risky.  Ally, played by Christina Aguilera, has left her small town to come to LA to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer.  The story about how they find their happy endings is one that has stuck with me since I first saw it.  Join me on March 14th for my next Heroine Fix.

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Monday, 11 February 2019

Weekly Update: Feb 3 to 9

I've been working hard on my second draft for Division.  Instead of doing a daily word count, I decided to share my chart for my overall writing process.

The green is the new draft (though I'm reusing a lot of material from draft one).  I'm hoping that in a couple of weeks, I'll be able to get on with new writing.  This story has been very eager to get out of my brain and onto the page.  

There's also plenty of other work to keep me busy.  I'm looking at making some changes to my website and some other behind-the-scenes stuff.  There's always plenty of work to do in running a small business and it's been a steep learning curve but I'm getting there.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Overcoming A Fear of Keeping Silent

Last weekend, ORWA hosted Heather Elliott, who talked to us about impostor syndrome and author burnout.  She was incredibly frank and open about her own personal journey and many of her comments gave me a lot of insight.

I think most women have experienced the little voice in their head that says: no one is interested in your opinion, or if you speak up, you'll only invite attack/look foolish/cause problems.  Most of us discount our own hard work and experiences.  We hesitate to take center stage because experience has taught us that center stage is an unpleasant place to be (it's not ladylike, it's not safe, it's too arrogant, it's too demanding... there are a ton of reasons which all boil down to the same truth: it's just not for me.)

The sign is a trick.  Doubt and Fear are behind you, too.
One of the points which resonated most with me seems incredibly obvious in retrospect.  Mockery has always been a useful tool to prevent groups from effectively lobbying for change.  It doesn't take more than a passing glance through social media to see the sneers, the unkind memes, and the personal attacks which dog the steps of the outspoken.  It's depressingly predictable, but still effective, even when the target knows the attacks have nothing to do with them personally.  The burden of such ongoing negativity and derogatory comments erodes the self-confidence.  And it's even more effective when one considers the effect on the audience, on every person who hesitates to speak up against something they know is untrue or wrong.  They keep silent because they don't want to be attacked.

Keeping silent is the equivalent of "I won't go to this party" or "I won't take a walk after dark."  It's a self-imposed restriction made because of the implied risk of action.  It really boils down to I won't do this because it's too dangerous.  

One of the challenges that comes up is that promoting oneself is a necessary part of life.  The obvious example is in careers.  Quiet good work can be overlooked in favour of the loud and flashy (leaving aside the absolute horrors that happen when credit is stolen).  My chosen job as a writer literally depends on me promoting myself to strangers and so far, I've found it's the most challenging part of the whole process.

But it's not just about work.  We need to advocate for ourselves at the doctor's office, with service providers and sometimes with the public in general.  We do, in fact, deserve to be treated with respect and without dismissal of our concerns.  We shouldn't have to justify our needs by citing outside authorities and third parties, just to be taken seriously.  

Heather Elliott had a lot of good advice but there's one bit I'm taking to heart for 2019.  I'm going to take a deep breath and start being more active in promoting myself.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Weekly Update: January 27 to February 2

Edits are done!  Edits are done!

It's been three weeks of very intense editing but the manuscript for Eyes On Me is now ready to go back to Soul Mate Publishing for the next round of edits.  I ended up simplifying two subplots and eliminating one entirely but the story is now more intense and streamlined.  I still love it (which I always consider the ultimate sign of whether or not one of my stories is good enough to publish) and I had several moments of laughing and crying while going through, which I hope readers will share.

Next week it's back to work on Division and hopefully I can get that manuscript done in the next few months.

Full steam ahead.