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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Q & A with Author Violet Sparks

Hi, Violet. Thanks for joining me today! Do you have a specific writing style?

I generally write in the third person limited or omniscient style. I have to say, I begin by the seat of my pants and allow my characters full reign. About one-third to half-way through the book, I'll sit down and outline the rest of the novel to keep things on track. At this point, I've got a good idea where all the personalities will end up. 

How did you come up with the title?

The main character, Katrina Crimshaw, is a jewelry aficionado. She runs into a man from her past, someone she found incredibly attractive but was too shy to pursue. I combined the idea of a solitaire ring, representing her love of jewels, with the loneliness that sometimes accompanies someone who is fearful or shy, and came up with A Solitary Romance

What books have most influenced your life most?

The Bible has had the biggest impact on my life. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 1600s, is an amazing book that I can read over and over. Coming Out of the Ice by Victor Herman also affected me—it's a wonderful tribute to the human spirit. I can't leave out the books by Dickens, Austen, and the Brontë sisters, which I read in my youth. Their works definitely lent an idealism to my mindset (which does not seem to belong to this century!), and shaped my ideas of what romance and love should be.  

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice to other writers is to keep on writing! Find a good editor you enjoy working with and don't rush your writing process. Read and write as much as possible and do not allow others to discourage you.  

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

I've always loved how Charles Dickens could weave a story together with unforgettable characters and intersecting plots.  I appreciate how he inserted humor in his books as well. I admire the way William Faulkner packed a punch and how the Brontës created amazing atmospheres, including unexpected twists in their stories.  The contemporary author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is a master of characters, atmosphere, and storylines.    

What genre do you consider your books?

A Solitary Romance is a sweet, or clean and wholesome, romance.  It is book one of the Only Love Series, which currently consists of three books. I have also written mysteries under a pen name.

Do you ever experience writer's block?

I haven't yet had a serious writer's block. With every book, I do come to a place where I just have to grind out the story. I don't particularly enjoy this part of my writing process, but I've yet to escape this phase. Luckily, it only lasts for a chapter or two, and then I'm over the hump.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I would not say that I've hated any of my work. Anything can be polished, rewritten, examined with a fresh eye, or edited for improvement. I do go through some fear each time I start a new book. Will I be able to come up with anything funny?  Can I do the characters justice?  Will unnecessary details hinder the story?  In other words, how can I possibly pull this off?

What is your favorite theme/genre to write?

I cannot pick a favorite a genre. All of my books have at least a hint of romance, so maybe that's my top choice. The Only Love Series is straight-up romance, although the third book, A Calculated Romance, has a touch of suspense and mystery. I like to incorporate a twist or even several unexpected events in my novels, so that's a theme to look for.

Where did your love of writing come from?

I have always loved storytelling. My mother used to catch me as a toddler making up stories for my own entertainment.  She fostered my love of writing by introducing me to classic literature in grade school, and I won writing awards as a teen. Then, life and career got in the way. I always hoped to return to writing, and the encouragement of a friend got the ball rolling for me.  

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of penning A Solitary Romance was just taking the plunge. I experienced a personal loss around the time that the idea started to sprout.  I think this book provided a much needed distraction during those first, early stages of grief.  With its overall light tone, the writing allowed me a welcome reprieve from reality.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A Solitary Romance is ever so slightly autobiographical.  I enjoyed reliving my early career days and the fun I had with one of my girl pals.  Also, because everything in the book felt familiar, it required little research. I appreciated how my writing could flow without stopping to investigate other subjects. Because I love the arts, I savored drawing on my experiences at a major auction house.  There's a scene in the book where a character helps her friend squeeze into a gown in a dressing room by very creative means. This actually happened, and my friend managed to fit me in that tight, red dress by the same method!  Just thinking about that little episode brings a smile to my face!

Do you write every single day?

I find I produce my best work when I am writing every day. I aim to write six days a week, although I've slipped off a little this summer since my children are out of school.

What are you working on at the minute?

I am beginning the research for a novel set in the medieval period.

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is third in the Only Love Series, A Calculated Romance.  This is the story of Katrina's assistant, a young rock hound named Landi, and what happens when her path crosses with that of James Crimshaw.  James is featured in the first three books of the series.  He is Kate's brother and a naval intelligence officer.  Both he and Landi have murky pasts and a strong attraction to each other.

Thanks again for joining me, Violet! I can't wait to check out your books! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Q & A with Author Alix Nichols

Hi, Alix. Thanks for joining me! What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

My ambition is to outsell Nora Roberts... What? A girl can dream, can't she? 

What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

I won’t be very original here—it’s Game of Thrones. I'm totally addicted. I even made one of my characters quote Melisandre and another, Tyrion!

Oh, that's one of my favorites too! Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

I definitely believe in lust at first sight. I also believe it’s possible to fall in love after spending a day with someone truly special (at least, to you). As for the “fated mates” concept so dear to paranormal romance authors, I don’t think it exists beyond the pages of paranormal romance.  

What is the strangest fact about you?

I’ve never Googled myself. 

Which writers inspire you?

To name just a few: Arthur C. Clarke, J. K. Rowling, Marian Keyes, Nick Hornby, India Knight, Judith Ivory, Tessa Dare, Armistead Maupin, Sue Townsend… 

What are you working on right now?

Book 2 in the Darcy Brothers series. I hope it will be just as fun to read as Find You in Paris

Why do you write?

For the same reason people clean out their “junk drawer” from time to time. In my case, I declutter and make room inside my overcrowded brain by letting out some of the stories fermenting in there. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

Stop wanting and do it. 

What book are you currently reading?

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. One of my readers recommended it, and I’m glad I listened. 

I just picked up my copy of Eligable today! How can readers discover more about you and you work? 

Follow me on Facebook and Goodreads. I post regularly in both. And don't forget to sign up for my mailing list and get a free book.

Thanks again for joining me and good luck with your future writing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Q & A With Author Aimee Horton

I am joined today by the author Aimee Horton as she relaunched and rebrands her The Perfect Disaster series with all new covers. Hi Aimee, what are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

Oh, I have a lot of unrealistic ambitions for writing, and if it were an ideal world I’d be living somewhere sunny writing on my terrace, and watching my books being turned into movies and sitcoms. HOWEVER, if I’m realistic, I’d settle for making a good living where people genuinely enjoy my books – I love to make people laugh so the thought of lots of people laughing at what I write would be amazing!

Those are awesome goals. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

OH! Pretty Little Liars! I LOVE IT! And I was late to the party with Gossip Girl. OH OH and I’ve just started watching the Scream series on Netflix. Plus all of the Top Model franchise.

I am also a huge fan of Gossip Girl and Top Model. I am so sad that they are both over now. Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

I’m not sure if I believe in those actual things, but I do believe things happen for a reason, however it’s not what happens, but how you deal with them that shapes your future.

That's a great way to look at things. What is the strangest fact about you?

All my fingers are bent, and as a teenager I could burp for 13 seconds.

Oh, wow! Which writers inspire you?

So many. Jonathan Harvey, Lisa Jewell, Adele Parks, Marian Keyes. But then there are writers I know in "real life" who inspire me like Kerry Barrett, Amanda Jennings and Rachael Lucas, all of them who I know the full extent of their workload; they inspire me.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on my next Dottie novel, and something completely different.

Awesome, good luck! Why do you write?

Because I love it. I love to make people laugh and nothing makes me feel happier than the thought of people reading and enjoying what I write.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

Grow a thick skin! Not necessarily because the public will be horrible (although some people forget that authors are actual people) but for yourself. You suddenly become your own worst critique.


What book(s) are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished Letter’s for Scarlet and have started My Husband’s Son.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

I think the biggest thing to also comment about, is that when you’re feeling self-doubt, and you don’t want to write because you think it’s rubbish (I do this a lot) try and write just a little – just for half an hour or something. It’s amazing how quickly you get back into it.


How can readers discover more about you and you work?

I have my website and I make regular updates on my Facebook page along with Twitter @AimeeHorton and Instagram. I also edit and write for The Take.

Thanks for joining me Aimee, and good luck with the relaunch!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Melissa Explains It All | Melissa Joan Hart

“I remember asking my friend. . .for tips and her best one was: When watching football with your man, just look up once in awhile and ask, Now who did he used to play for?' He'll talk for at least fifteen minutes, you'll seem like you care, and then you can go back to your In Style or whatever.” 

Genre: Celebrity Memoir. 
Number of Pages: 276.
Perspective: First. 

This is a memoir by the former child star, Melissa Joan Hart.  She details her life growing up in front of the camera and her adventures into adulthood. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which was enjoyable since Melissa provided her own voice. She definitely made this one of the easiest to listen to audiobooks I have experienced. However, the content left me wanting more. 

I really enjoyed hearing about Melissa’s childhood and how she got into acting. I also liked the nostalgia of hearing about the behind the scenes of Sabrina: the Teenage Witch. I’ve always seen Melissa as one of the “good” celebrities that stayed out of the paparazzi's slimy fingers and focused on her career. However, I felt that this book was her trying to shout, “Look at me! I’ve done some mildly bad things!” Some of it just felt insincere and like she was trying too hard. 

This book is probably only interesting for fans of Melissa Joan Hart since it is about her life. It’s not a particularly moving memoir, so it won’t be appealing to people that don’t know her. But, it is worth a read if you want some behind the scenes scoop. There’s not a whole lot of dirty laundry, just some mild name-dropping. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

3/5 Stars

Sunday, July 17, 2016

American Wife | Taya Kyle

“Never complain about the price of a gift from your spouse--accept it with love and gratitude. You can’t put a price on romance.”

Genre: War Memoir. 
Number of Pages: 329.
Perspective: First. 

This is the memoir of the famous sniper Chris Kyle’s wife. She tells her experiences of being a military wife and how she dealt with the death of her husband. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I listened to this as an audiobook on a road trip. I chose this book because I watched the movie American Sniper and then listened to the audiobook version on my last road trip. Honestly, I don’t feel like Taya offered a lot in this story to add to Chris' story. The first half of the book, she is basically restating all of her husband’s book, but from her perspective. This may sound mean, but I don’t really need her perspective. If it was more of her overall experiences of being a military wife, it may have been more interesting. However, she talks mainly about Chris’ experiences while deployed. He already told his story, so I don’t need to hear it all retold. 

The second half of the book was more interesting since it was the continuation of where American Sniper left off. So we got to hear about the production of the American Sniper movie and the aftermath of Chris’ death. By about three-fourths through the audiobook, honestly, I was just tired of hearing Taya talk. I guess that’s just an issue with audiobooks in general that aren't read by famous personalities. 

I would recommend this book for fans of American Sniper or for people looking to get some insight into the life of a military family. I suppose it could also be comforting for military spouses who have had to deal with death, as it talks about how to cope. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Don’t get too tied up in your plans for the future. No one really knows their future anyway.”

3/5 Stars

Monday, July 11, 2016

It's a Writer Thing -- My Process for Responding to Feedback

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

Welcome back to my series on receiving feedback. This time, I’m going to discuss my very own method of responding when my inbox pings the arrival of both the most coveted and the most dreaded missive in an author’s life: a critique. As I write this, I have one waiting in my inbox, so I can speak from my most immediate experience when I describe my system. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: getting input is never easy. It wasn’t easy for me the last time I got a round, and it’s not easy today. BUT, it will get easier, especially when you find CPs and develop relationships with agents/editors who you really trust and who have your best interests in mind.

I find it’s easiest to cope with this inescapable task in a writer’s life via a series of steps. When I’m not writing, I’m a clinical psychologist, so I’ve taken my method from exposure-based therapy. I have my own personal writing feedback exposure hierarchy. You may choose to tackle more than one of these in a single day, but I often give myself a whole day between steps. And for steps 7-11, you’ll really need ample time to really make the best use of the feedback, so I highly recommend one per day for those.

So here goes, How to Respond to Feedback in Eleven Easy Steps. (Yeah, eleven. I’m not kidding.)

Step 1: 

Acknowledge that the feedback exists in the world. You see your CP’s or your editor’s or your agent’s or your mom’s (see last post on that one) email address in your inbox; time to take a deep breath and say to yourself these words: “I have feedback. I need this. It will be okay.” 

Step 2: 

Close your email and go eat something sweet or covered with tomato sauce and melted cheese. Bacon is a plus.

Step 3: 

Remind yourself that feedback awaits you in your mailbox. Repeat Step 2.

Step 4: 

Find the email, open it, and read it. You may decide to hold off on Step 5 for another 24 hours, but that depends on what the email says, which can range from “Hi, here you go,” to “It was great, I really enjoyed it. Here are a few notes,” to an entire essay right in the body of the email with all the stuff they liked and didn’t like. If the email is the former two, then go ahead and jump ahead to Step 5. If it’s the latter, no one will judge you if you prefer to read the email then go on back to Step 2.

Step 5: 

Open the doc. Don’t read the notes, whatever you do! Don’t even let your eyes focus on the words. Just sort of scroll through and get the lay of the land. Are there a lot of track changes? A bunch of comments in the margins? Whole pages of pristine white space with nothing scary at all? Just get a feel for what you have coming to you.

Step 6: 

Now it’s time to read the comments and track changes. Brew some coffee, get something sweet or covered with sauce and melted cheese (bacon is a plus), then dig in—but don’t get bacon grease on your computer. You may want to read through it all one sitting, but if there are profuse notes, make an agreement with yourself to get through at least a portion. I usually do it by halves, however that part is up to you. 

At this point, you’ll really be able to breathe because now you’re in it, and getting in it is the hardest part. 

Step 7: 

Don’t make changes right away unless they’re the small, simple, no-brainer types. In that case, you should make any change that is easily accomplished in 2 minutes or less right away (i.e., line edits, small inconsistencies, an added detail, etc.). Cross these items off your list now. For any notes that you’re uncertain of or that require reworking the plot or making substantive changes, note those comments in the margins of your active document. Come back to them. Let them marinate, especially larger suggestions that come as a surprise or will require considerable work.

Step 8: 

Reflect on these suggestions for a few days. This may be a time to wait for other feedback to come in or to request it. We hear this ALL THE TIME, but the fact of the matter is, fiction is subjective, so if you balk at a suggestion, it could mean that the suggestion is truly off base and you should ignore it. However, we need input to help us see things that we aren’t seeing on our own (Remember my first post in this series?), so we shouldn’t throw away any piece of feedback until we’ve given it some thought. If other CPs or readers have said the same thing, then it probably means you should put the time and effort in to make the change. If not, then it’s totally up to you whether to keep or reject it. If you’re unsure, ask a trusted reader/writer what they think of the suggestion (see Step 10).

Step 9: 

I like to collect all my CPs’ notes before I dig in for the harder edits, so repeat steps 1-8 with feedback from any other readers you’ve solicited for this manuscript. Though facing the rest may take just as long as the first run-through, I find that once I’ve jumped into the first batch of feedback, it’s way easier to breeze right through all the steps, often in one sitting, for any subsequent input I receive. But go easy on yourself, and if you need a few days to take your time, that’s totally fine. 

The key is to allow our brains to be in the best place possible to objectively process and digest what our trusted CPs are trying to tell us.

Step 10: 

Ask questions. Ask the reader for clarification of anything that confuses you.

Step 11: 

Time to make the larger changes. After a few days marinating and adding in notes from any other CPs who’ve read the manuscript, it’s time to tackle the job of incorporating the changes you intend to make.  

That’s it. You’ve done it! I wish I could say it gets easier with time, and it does—but only a little. For some, every round of critiques will be as challenging to face as that first round. But a process makes it way easier.

This concludes my mini-blog-series on receiving feedback. I hope this helps other writers consider how to make the best use of input from other writers, readers, agents, and editors. And, remember: You can do it, you can write!

This article was also posted on as a part of the "It's A Writer Thing" series. 

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.