Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ladies' Drawers, Snuffboxes, Regency Wedding Dress

Great fun researching my novel Monday's Child set in the Regency era. This morning I sat in bed with a pile of research books beside me working on my laptop.

Drawers were ankle length made in various materials and colours without a gusset, pin tucked and edged with lace at the hem. At first drawers were considered indecent. However, Princess Charlotte wore them and did not care if anyone glimpsed them.

Snuff boxes were made in gold, silver and other metals, tortoiseshell, semi-precious stones and various materials.. Some were engraved, others set with precious stones and, for example, mother of pearl. Those in the shape of naked ladies were popular with gentlemen.  These small snuff boxes sometimes had a tiny drawer in which a note or memento could be concealed. Others were miniature music boxes. The Prince Regent and many noblemen collected snuff boxes and displayed them in glass cabinets.

Finally, I chose the design for my heroine's wedding dress - more fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writing Tips to Move Your Process Forward

Just write! I know you’ve heard this before but editing while you write only delays THE END. Worry about editing once the story is finished.

Train your Editor’s Hat you wear to eliminate such things as:

- ‘that’- if the sentence is clear without it, then delete it.
- ‘he said, stuttering’ – make it clear in your dialogue that he/she is stuttering and avoid using this in the tagline. A dialogue must convey the meaning of the character’s thoughts/actions/moods without having to tell the reader how he/she feels: “I…I don’t know what you’re ta…talking about.” Let the sentence give the essence of their dialogue.

If you’re one of those writers who can’t get in tune with a writing schedule then make sure you write something down everyday, even if it’s a sentence or two. Moving your work forward when you have a chance is better than waiting for a long quiet moment to yourself to write. That may never happen and guess what…your story will never get done. Carry a notebook with you to write down your inspirations as they come to you wherever you go.

Blocked on a certain passage in your story? Let it go for a spell and return to it with a fresh outlook. At times, working on another story will allow you to leave that ‘can’t think what to write next’ box you’ve placed yourself in.

Don’t look at your first draft with disappointment. This is, after all, only a first draft, possibly riddled with typos and grammatical mistakes. The second, third, even tenth draft will tighten it up. Remember that your first draft is like the wrinkled sheet on your bed. Slowly you’ll iron each wrinkle out to reveal a clean and smooth sheet of words.

For stay-at-home writers, ignore the nagging telephone ring, the doorbell, the friends requesting to come over for a coffee, the dirt sitting on your coffee table, the laundry threatening to take over the entire first floor…when you sit down by your computer to write, clear your mind and don’t allow distractions to rule this time.

Make sure to write every day. Did I mention this? Oh well, it’s important enough to mention again and again.

Read. The reason for this is for you to notice some of your favorite authors' techniques, such as:

how they grab their readers' interest,

the way they use a lot of descriptive detail or a mixture of dialogue and descriptive passages to move the plot forward,

how they describe a character’s descriptive detail,

how the subplots formed to help the main plot along,

how they get right into the action or slowly introduce and build/foreshadow what’s to come,

how the inner and outer emotional conflicts are projected

and most importantly, how they wrap up the conclusion.

While you’re pacing the floor waiting for the postman to deliver the acceptance/rejection letter…STOP pacing and begin writing the new project. Why waste time when that creative juice in you is so hot it’s waiting to pour words onto paper. This is why we’re called writers because we’re ALWAYS coming down with new ideas.

Are you waiting for that special desk for your office? Or did you run out of computer paper? Maybe no ink in the pen? Well, there’s a kitchen table and chair to use as a desk in the meantime…there’s loose-leaf paper to use instead of computer paper and write it longhand…and there’s always a pencil for you to use. Stop making excuses.

If you believe it’s not going to happen to you, well, think again. Back up your files every week. Trust me…I know what I’m talking about and you don’t want to be pulling out your hair like I did.

Now, you never know when that brilliant plot or character is going to strike your creative muse so a good idea is to keep several notebooks in various areas around your home all ready with a pen to jot down your thoughts. And yes, even the bathroom.

Begin researching publishing houses to fit the genre you write in. A good tip is to go to your local bookstore, pick up published books you’ve read and believe are similar to your style and genre, and check in the beginning where they mention who the publisher is. Google it and then read their submission guidelines. The Writer’s Market annual book is another valuable resource to have in your home library. Or hey, there's always MuseItUp Publishing. LOL!

Join an online writers' group. You’ll be amazed at the resources you’ll find in there. Also, either join a critique group or find yourself a critique buddy. It’s always smart to have someone else look over your work and guide you where changes are needed in your manuscript that you may have missed. A second pair of eyes is always the smart way to go.

Subscribe to online writers newsletters. Many are FREE and some containing exclusive markets have a small yearly fee.

Keep your readers abreast on your newest releases, book signings and anything else pertinent to your writing career by having them subscribe to your newsletter.

Do you find writing a novel too much of an effort? Then write short stories. Seek out calls for submissions for various anthology projects put out by publishers or other writers.

And the last but most important aspect is to STAY POSITIVE. There will be rejections, there will be harsh critiques, and there will be bad reviews. From all three what you need to take away is the fact you write because you have a passion. So learn from these rejections, critiques, and reviews and make sure you hone your craft.

Sunday Musings: September 28 2014

Musing from the comfort of bed

Hey there Muser Friends and Family. Hope you've had a fun week and carried that through to the weekend. And, of course, may this week be filled with fun and giggles. Don't forget that saying...keep smiling, makes them wonder what you're up to (or been up to)

Let's get musing.

So this week we're going to continue the thought process started yesterday. We've mused on what surprised us about the process. This week....

...what do you need to remember when approaching/emailing/contacting a publisher?

I'm a step back from contacting the publisher myself.  I send the completed mss. to my agent, Cherry Weiner, and she makes the submission.  I then cross fingers and toes and wait.

(Chris...which I don't think some new authors realize this about agents. The person I was when I first came to the internet would have loved to have someome to break the ice and guide me through everything. Plus I love Cherry, she's super to work with)

Read the guidelines. Read them again. Make sure your submission conforms to them.

(Chris, oh yes, cannot repeat this enough)

First I consult The Writers and Artists Year Book or The Writers Digest, make a short list of agents and or publishers I want to submit to and then strictly adhere to their submission guidelines.

(Chris...dang, I had forgotten about this avenue)



Good question this week. A big thing I learned was polish that work til it shines. These editors see a lot (Seriously, a lot) of new authors. always put your best draft (3rd or 4th draft) forward. And always research the pub. house or magazine, buy a copy of their latest mag. or make sure to look at their books. Read their guidelines! always. Your work may not even get looked or thrown out after the first page if you don't follow this list.

...what do you need to remember when approaching/emailing/contacting a publisher?

Research. Research. Research. When considering which publisher to produce your baby: research. Research for the best editors. Research for the best house which publishes your genre. Research for satisfied (or unsatisfied) "clients." Research their cover designs. You want the best for your story. Research those who can give that.

I love MuseItUp and my fabulous editors and cover illustrator. Go Muse!

JAMI GRAY, author

What to remember when approaching a publisher…

I’ve given a few presentations on writing, and when I get this question I list three very important points to never forget when querying.

First, make sure you have the name right.  No one wants to be called by the wrong name, and boy do you feel foolish when you hit that send button and realize, “OMG, that’s the wrong person!” No amount of tears, bribery to the electronic gods, or pounding on the keyboard will bring that mislabeled missive back.  

Second—make sure your work fits them. Go to their site, check out their authors, make sure your story will have a place in their home.  You don’t want to send your carefully crafted space odyssey of brilliance to an agent/house who represents say, women’s fiction or literary non-fiction. Know your genres, and make sure you take the time to research those you approach.

Third—don’t copy and paste your query letter. Personalize it. Every. Time. You. Send. It.

For me, when I’m querying I have to remember to sell myself. That means, listing all the accomplishments my books have garnered. All of them, even the non-fiction pieces.  And writing the query in general? I dread it, every time.  I have to craft my query as if I picked my book off the bookstore shelf, flipped it over and read the back.  I try to make sure I personalize each query so the person I’m reaching out to can tell I’ve—1. Done my homework  2. Read their submission guidelines and 3. Understand what they’re looking for.  Otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the pile of incomings.

What do you need to remember when approaching/emailing/contacting a publisher?

Ken:    I knew if we were patient, Muse would finally send a topic we could answer! The answer is S.A.S.E.  Am I right?

Anne:  (Takes a deep breath. Sighs).

Ken:    No? Oh I got it! We have to tell the publisher we’re not submitting anywhere else at the same time.  Promise, cross our hearts!

Anne:  I don’t think so, Ken.

Ken:    Hope to die?

Anne:  (Long pause. Deeper breath.  Then … ) I think the important thing is to remember that there are hundreds and maybe thousands of books being sent to the publisher and that you have to make your book unique.  You have to describe it succinctly but in a way that makes the publisher just desperate to read more.

Ken:    Seriously?  Hundreds and thousands? And all against us?

Anne:  Are you paying attention?  The publisher is really the first reader that you have to attract.  If you don’t get past that first portal, you’ll never get to the others.  So whatever cool language you use on the publisher is going to be used on the ultimate readers.  You have to make yourself stick out in a crowd or there will be no sales.

Ken:    Would that be a big crowd?

Anne:  Pretty big, Ken.

Ken:    I think you’re just trying to make me cry.

Anne: (Sigh.) 

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Special Offer:Tangled Love: 18th C Novel

Tangled Love was shortlisted at the Festival of Romance for the best Historical e-book in 2012.

Extract from a 5* Amazon review. "Set during a time of religious turmoil in England, 'Tangled Love' is a worthy historical novel as well as a fast-paced romance. Through its pages the reader learns of the social and divisions of faith during the time of Queen Anne and is shown the very limited destinies available to women at the time. There is also a mystery here concerning possible secret, hidden treasure and a lively sub-plot involving a second romance between two of the subsidiary characters."

Tangled Love is on special offer for £1.84 and $2.84 from:


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunday Musings: September 21 2014

Here let me show you

I joined the internet, oh about, twenty-two years ago. Chat rooms where from listserv addresses and you had to dial-in to connect. A real pain if someone picked up the other line and disconnected you. About nineteen years ago I discovered yahoogroups and a whole new avenue of connecting, this time with writers.

I believe there comes a time when everyone experiences a moment of "ah ha" and the mental light bulb goes off in surprise. For me it was these yahoogroups, I thought I knew how to write a story. Hey, I had been writing them for years. Now, heck, I'm still learning, but I'm no longer "ah ha" surprised. Granted, I have other "ah ha" moments, but those I'll save for a different musing.

Like that lead-in to this week's musing? Here we go:

What part of the writing process surprised you the most?


I think the revision process has surprised me the most.  Sure, I moan and groan about doing it but once I really hit my groove?  It’s as if I’m taking a chisel and chipping away the rough edges of my writing to reveal the diamond hidden underneath.  Love when that happens! 

You kind of have me on this one.  I've been writing so long, since preschool, that the whole process simply grew along with me.  I think the greatest surprise was my experience with the editing process.  I'd heard horror stories, but instead I have encountered talented individuals whose thoughtful work and comments have polished and improved each manuscript.  The requested author input is also a pleasant surprise.  When I first entered the realm of a published author, the writer had no say about cover artwork or anything else that went on the cover.

MEG AMOR, author

Aloha Chris and everyone! :-)

What surprised me the most was how wonderful it was to have 'The Muses' turn up and take over. Or one of my characters to go 'rogue' on me and realize I'd just hit the vein of gold because of it.

It used to terrify me when I first started though. I'd think. OMGod they're gone. I'll be stuck, nothing else will come... argh... gah... and other appropriate panic responses.

Once I learnt to trust it. I knew that another piece would come when it was ready and not to worry. And it always does. It made writing so much more fun than my previous book which I nearly had to hold a gun to my head to finish, because I MADE myself write when I didn't have any juice.

Now, I write when the Muses are here. They fly in periodically from The Bahamas, raid my booze cabinet, make themselves at home and I take dictation. Then they jet off again and leave me to the fun bit - editing. :-) I actually LOVE to edit. And I love editors too.

It's such a great process. You watch a nugget of a gem get cut and polished. All the rough edges gone, and it shines. Gorgeous. A good editor is worth their weight in gold!!!

Thanks and aloha

DAWN KNOX, author

It always amazes me that a story - even a whole book can start from something very tiny, such as a comment, an overheard conversation or an unusual phrase. I'd never heard of a 'thin place' but once it was explained to me, my imagination went into overdrive and 'Daffodil and the Thin Place' was born. Even more amazing is that stories just pop into my head from nowhere!

Sometimes an idea completely unrelated to whatever I'm thinking about appears in my mind and becomes the basis of a story. It doesn't seem to be anything I have any control over, so I'm always surprised when it happens.

Two things took me by surprise when I began to write fiction. One was how the characters which I created (by giving them particular personalities including strengths and weaknesses) took on a life of their own as I wrote - indeed I began to think of them as real persons. The other was just how much research goes into an authentic setting for a story. Sometimes the amount of reading I’ve done, say of a learned tome on the development of refrigerated transport and storage ends up as one small paragraph or speech in the story. I remember a rule of thumb quoted at me in a former life when I had to prepare presentations - one hour of preparation for every minute you intend to speak. It’s like that with writing only even more extreme.

I continue to be surprised by the amount of historical research necessary to recreate the past to the best of my ability in my novels. I read and read and read until something sparks an idea for a novel. For example, I read about James II, King of England's flight to France. Most of the noblemen had sworn an oath of allegiance to him and many refused to swear a second oath to his daughter Mary and son-in-law William of Orange. What, I asked myself, would be the effect on the children of two noblemen who followed James to France instead of making the oath?

 The need to research meticulously continues to surprise me. This week while working on my new novel, Monday's Child, the sequel to Sunday's Child, I researched Regency engagement rings, snuff boxes and Brussels lace.

Of course, I doubt any historical novelist can get every tiny detail right but I try my hardest.

Well, nothing about the process itself, really. As part of the process, and I consider this an integral part of the process, it is the amount of marketing/public relations activity and establishing your own "brand" that is the big surprise. Quite often I think this is more important than the process, especially when being published by small publishing houses. I've also heard that in larger publishing houses you're still pretty much on your own until your writing starts generating big bucks, then they will jump in and do a lot of that for you. I guess writing is no longer just writing, but a process. Oh well...


What truly surprised me--and you Pantsers will testify--is the 'messages' you receive from out of the blue, telling you what comes next in your writing. This, IN SPITE of thinking you know your own story! I was on 61,000 words last week, and the solution to the crisis came to me in a dream. No, it wasn't at all how I thought the plot would be resolved!

One time, I was on P80 of a romance, when these two little girls entered the book and COMPLETELY stole the plot out from under my romantic hero and heroine. It has to be re-written, but it will be a wonderful novel, because the muse came and opened my eyes.
I love it when that happens.

J.Q. ROSE, author

 Here is my "take" on the process--Thanks.

When writers talk about "the process" my understanding is they mean the method they use to create their manuscript from the beginning of the first chapter through to the end of the last chapter. Part of the way to accomplish this is to sit in the seat and write! Oh yes, the ideas come while I'm in the shower or taking a walk or in the middle of the night when those darn characters are talking to me. But the actual ms does not take shape until I put fingers to the keyboard and words on the screen. I discovered my process to accomplish this is to set aside time right after lunch to write. Knowing that I planned to write everyday at that time gave me a sense of confidence to attack the next part of the story and immerse myself into it. Now that confidence was a welcome surprise! When the chapter(s) or hour or two hours I set aside are done, I don't feel guilty for leaving the laptop to do other things in my day. Do you have a time devoted to working on your manuscript? Does it help you with the writing process?

I've been writing for quite a while, so I can't remember what was initially surprising for me. Though one thing that I've recently discovered that I find surprising is just how many options there are in a story. Especially for novels, at any one point, you can branch off into so many different directions, choose to follow different characters, make different obstacles, etc. I used to plan my stories and sort of box myself into events that had to happen a certain way. But there are so many more things that could have happened. It's up to us as writers to choose what story we want to follow. Of course, some stories and characters are much better than others, but the sheer number of things you can write about is overwhelming sometimes. So that's what surprised me and continues to surprise me, because it's not that when I set out to tell a story, that it has to go a certain way, but every little part of it could have been otherwise, and so it's up to us to choose the right story for us to tell that's important to us.


The revision process is what surprised me the most. It's amazing how many times I can go through a manuscript and find parts that need fine tuning. Overall, it's a process that I find enjoyable. It's great to be able to produce that final, perfect piece of writing. What an awesome feeling!

I think what surprises me the most about the writing process are the emotions I feel when a scene begins to unfold. Those times when I have that 'aha' moment and I know exactly what's going to happen next. Or the times when my characters become 'real' to me. I never expect to get so caught up in writing a story, but it happens every time.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com