Are you a Part-Time Writer Looking for Inspiration for 2014? You’ve Come to the ‘Write’ Place!

I’m starting of the year with a guest post from Nikolas Baron, from Grammarly.com. Have you heard of them? It’s a great site for writer’s who need help proofreading their work. From blog posts to essays, they’ve got the tools you need! But first, get inspired to start 2014 off the ‘write’ way!

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The Part-Time Writer

part_time_writerBeing a writer is, for many, a lifelong dream. Writing for payment is a thrilling accomplishment, but it’s usually soon followed by the realization that most writers do not make a living from writing alone. In fact, many writers pursue a separate, unrelated career while writing part-time, whether as a hobby or as a secondary source of income. For the part-time writer facing deadlines, a quality online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can be a valuable tool. Saving time is just one aspect of creating success as a writer, however. Writing takes dedication, patience, and a willingness to learn the craft.

Being a writer is an admirable goal, but it’s not a realistic one. How does one become “a writer”? There is no pill, no bottled potion to be ingested, that will magically bring about the transformation. Becoming a writer begins with picking up a pen; but, having taken that first crucial step, the aspiring writer will discover that the journey has just begun. First, the writer must decide what type of writing he or she wants to do. Fiction or nonfiction? Short stories?

Articles? Novels? Each type of writing requires a unique skill set, and there is a distinct path to follow to the individual definition of success for every writer. It’s important to study the craft and read within and outside the genre to become a well-rounded reader and a better writer. Wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. It’s important to decide upon a genre and a style that best suits the writer’s individual dream. Becoming a writer is a dream. Transforming an abstract desire into a concrete success takes deeper thought.

Once the budding writer has decided upon writing mystery novels, for example, the next step is to set some goals. Novices may want to keep the goals reasonable, setting themselves to the task of writing for a set amount of time per day or obtaining a certain word count, depending on the time that can be found in between other obligations. Some professionals suggest that writing every day is critical to success, while others claim that a certain amount of time must be invested. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Time and discipline are important, but the definition of success is an individual one that only the writers themselves can create. Goals create personal milestones, giving the writer a measuring stick against which to check progress. Setting the goals is entirely up to the writers themselves.

Time can be a precious commodity in our fast-paced world. Between work, family obligations, hobbies, volunteer work, and other commitments, the idea of finding time to write might seem out of reach. However, it can be done. It may be necessary to write out a simple schedule, noting work, family obligations, and other time constraints, and then consider the blocks of time that are not already committed to other pursuits. Television viewing might have to be sacrificed. Getting up a little earlier in the morning, for a morning person, or staying up a little later in the evening, for a night owl, might be an option as well. Moreover, a shorter lunch break might provide some time to indulge the muse.

Time, however, is not always the only consideration. Many writers need to “warm up” to the page, to shift gears from their day jobs into the mental work of writing. It is necessary not only to find time to scribble a few words on a page but also to find long enough blocks of uninterrupted time suitable for writing. Indeed, protecting the quality of one’s writing time is as important as finding time to write in the first place. If writing is not a priority and if the commitment is not as firm as the Saturday-morning golf game or the monthly martini lunch with the girls, it will never get off the ground.Marjorie Facklam, author of numerous children’s books, began writing while raising her five children, with several still in diapers. If a harried mother of five can find time to research and write rhyming science picture books like Bugs for Lunch while chasing toddlers and maintaining a household, any writer can find time in their schedule. Often, the question isn’t one of time, but of commitment.

Connect with  Nikolas Baron on Google+      Plagiarism Checker

nick-Grammerly Guest posterAbout the Author:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 1

Before reading any further, take the next three minutes to watch this video. Get your laugh on, then watch it again and get your learn on. Not only will you be entertained, you’re going to learn something new because afterwards, I’m going to break it down!

DATE NIGHT! -THE VIDEO

(Video via Facebook share)

Hilarious, right? It’s the typical men see things differently than women story of a date through the eyes of two very different couples. The difference? The back story. Knowing what each character is going through before, during, and after a scene helps you, the author, know what experiences should be included in a scene and how to present them.

Remember those pesky and time consuming character outlines I’m always referring to? Well, here is how they work for the characters in this short video.

THE BREAK DOWN:

COUPLE A:

HER POV: The Date SUCKED!

Woman A was looking forward to a romantic interlude. She did her hair and make-up, took the time to prepare a meal, and set the table. She expected her date to arrive looking nice, probably bearing a vase of flowers, and taking the time to appreciate her appearance and the meal. Next would have come some small talk, flirting, and no doubt, some personal fun time.

What did she get?

A quick hug, no compliments on her appearance or the meal. Instead he made a beeline for the food, woofed it down without any conversation besides grunts that seemed to ruin her appetite. And when it came to fun time…well, let’s just say Mr. Happy was there and back again in less than 3 seconds, or as she said, before she could unhook the back her dress. And to top it all off, he finds his way to her bed and passes out from what has to be over eating and rapid blood loss to the brain.

His POV: IT was AMAZING!

Man A wanted exactly what he got: A good looking woman who cooked for him (free food), had nothing to say, and stood there long enough for him to get his rocks off. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the comfy bed. In his eyes, major score!! And he got to leave with his needs satisfied in time to watch the big game at home without interruption.

 

COUPLE B:

HER POV: Most ROMANTIC DATE EVER!

Everything about the evening was different than being with any other man. First, he paid for a cab. Dinner was an amazing experience. After, instead of hailing a cab, they took the scenic route, walking along, holding hands, and experiencing the night life from another point of view. At his place, the romance continued with lit candles to set the mood, a very intense love making session that lasted longer than anything she’d ever experienced. And the best part, he didn’t pass out when they were done. They lay there wrapped in each other’s arms and talked all night.

In a nutshell, everything was magical and perfect, just what a girl could ever want.

 His POV: EPIC FAIL!!!!

It’s been a long day full of one frustrating event after another. Failure to pay his light bill lead to to spend money taking her out instead of having her come over. After paying for a cab, dinner was so expensive he could no longer afford a taxi cab home. He plays off the whole broke thing by suggesting they ‘sight see’ and walk to his place, (is this chick gullible or what???). No electricity leaves him improvising again with candles. Frustrated by the series of mind numbing fails, he has too much pride to say let’s call it an evening and tires to play it off by ‘making love’ when what he’s really doing is stalling for time to work himself up for that magic moment. By the end of it all, he doesn’t feel like finishing the act, but he’s literally ‘in the game’ and has to figure out how to play it off, because hey, Ms. Gullible is having the time of her life. Again, frustrated, pissed off, and ready for it all to be over, he can’t sleep which means he has no choice but to be subjected to Ms. Chatty Cathy.

This date sucked so much he probably would refuse to see her ever again.

Pad of Paper & Pen

 

 

 

Now, how does all of this tie into writing?

First, let’s review the definitions of Point of View and Perspective:

 

 

 

 

 

POINT OF VIEW: The position of the narrator in relation to the story, as indicated by the narrator’s outlook from which the events are depicted and by the attitude toward the characters

PERSPECTIVE: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

DETERMINING USE OF POINT OF VIEW:

When telling a story, you must know which character’s voice you want the readers to experience. If the entire story is being written from one character’s POV, then it’s simple. Everything that happens comes from them. If your story is being told from more than one character’s POV, then you must decide how much of is being told and from who’s POV. This can be done in several ways:

  • An entire scene or chapter is told in one character’s POV
  • A scene or chapter is told in split POV’s
  • A section, or portion (meaning more than a few chapters in a row or Part 1, Part 2, etc. of the manuscript) are told from various characters’ POV

Knowing the story your telling (story line) and what your characters experience and how those experiences will affect their decision making (back story) determines who’s POV is shared at certain points. The character’s reactions to their environment and scenarios they face will be based on that back story.

Of the four characters portrayed in the video, the best example would be Man B from the second couple. An unfortunate event (failure to pay his light bill) led to changing his date night plans (paying for cab, expensive dinner, walking home, candle light sex, aggravation to the point of failure to perform for an extended point of time, and sleeplessness). Lack of electricity set off a catalyst of events that when told from his point of view, led to the date from hell. His POV was much more entertaining than Woman B who saw things from a fairytale perspective.

Now, how does perspective come into play?

Come back tomorrow where I’ll break down that portion of the video, as well as share a scene from my bestselling novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, where I demonstrate the use of perspective from three characters POV in one scene. Until then, Happy Writing!!!

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

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New Romantic-Suspense SPLIT DECISIONS by bestselling author Carmen DeSousa is now available!

Split Decisions is a follow-up novel to the romantic-suspense bestseller She Belongs to Me. While you do not have to read the first book to enjoy the second, we believe you should have the option, so click here to avoid spoilers.

 If you’re still here, read on for a first peek at Split Decisions and a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Split Decisions - Final Cover

Sometimes you want something so badly you are willing to abandon everything you’ve ever known—including yourself.

Eighteen years ago, Jaynee Monroe married the man of her dreams, became the mother of four, and fulfilled her career goals. About to turn forty, she senses something is missing from her idyllic life. While Googling her name in an attempt to find herself, she unearths something so impossible, she contemplates her own sanity. Seeking answers, she embarks on a journey to discover the truth, only to end up abducted by a deranged stranger who insists on calling her Caycee.

Caycee took the road less traveled. Rejecting a marriage proposal from the only decent man she ever knew, she ventures to California to become famous. Eighteen years later, success has left her alone and miserable. Attempting to locate her lost love on Facebook, she discovers his infatuation with her. Not only does his presumed-dead wife have Caycee’s uncommon middle name, it appears he has photo-shopped her face over hers.

Never could Caycee and Jaynee have imagined decisions they made years earlier would threaten not only their lives but also their loved ones. Caycee must now reunite with the southern gent she dismissed eighteen years ago and convince him to accompany her to New York to locate his wife, the most important person in both their lives.

 Download Split Decisions here:

Amazon US     Amazon UK     Barnes & Noble     iTunes

 Now all you have to do to register to win the $10 Amazon Gift Card is share this page via Raffle Copter. Contest ends 7/1/13 at 12:00 a.m. EST and you can share daily if you want. Good luck!

  Click her to go to the Rafflecopter giveaway!

New Release Day for 5 Prince Publishing Authors Peter Hindley and Susan Goodsell- The Perfect Crime: A Story of Truth or Fantasy

5 Prince Publishing welcomes it’s newest authors, Peter Hindley and Susan Goodsell! Check out their book, The Perfect Crime: A Story of Truth or Fantasy!

Perfect Crime Cover

Events have accurately been recorded since the time of Alan’s death; they combine to reveal an intriguing story. Did he die naturally or was he helped in some way? Has a crime or two taken place? Some may think so. Maybe there is a conspiracy; if so how far it may extend is unclear. Nothing is quite as it should be.

This unique book evolves from a simple account to a vast scandalous exposé, a true and topical account showing a fascinating view of human nature, society, and the establishment in the United Kingdom. Many questions are posed for the reader and evidence is laid bare as you take a journey of discovery.

The story and writing style changes drastically as the twists and turns in the narrative expose themselves; ultimately it reaches a logical end, but that is not the end of the story. A sequel is already underway.

Buy Your Copy Today for $2.99!

Excerpt: 

We have accurately recorded the events near the time of Alan Hindley’s death, who was a brother to Peter and father of Susan, the two authors of this account, and what followed; they combine to reveal an intriguing story. Did he die naturally or was he helped in some way? Has a crime or two taken place? Some may think so. Maybe there is a conspiracy; my lawyer certainly thought so; how far that conspiracy extends is unclear. We are certain that nothing is quite as it should be. Nevertheless this account shows a fascinating view of human nature, English society and the workings of the establishment in the United Kingdom. The story is so bizarre that it could well be fiction, and that is why I have added “A story of truth or fantasy” to the title. What is frightening is that it is all absolutely true.

The normal formalities that follow a death were not adhered to after Alan’s demise: Why the mandatory procedures were bypassed may not be evident, but during the course of our nine year account they certainly do become evident.

Why did his wife act as she did and who aided her? These and so many other questions will become apparent.

In this case what is certain now is that the will and wishes of the deceased, Alan Edward Hindley of Paignton, Devon, has not been adhered to and the UK law and establishment did nothing to aid its rectification: The laws relating to Wills are fatally flawed and the government is fully aware of that. As named executors we have been denied the right to execute his wishes. You may think this is not possible, but it is, and it has proved to be absolutely legal.

His wife, Wendy, acted as sole executor of her husband’s Last Will and Testament without the other two named executors and we reveal how simple it is to do just that. Why she felt this was necessary will ultimately be disclosed. You will learn how the solemn duty of executing a will can be mal administered in a totally legal way and without fear of retribution.

We have experienced many twists and turns along our path of discovery and these have been reflected in both the different styles and structure of the book. Our journey has taken us to numerous office doors and has led us into the heart of the halls of government, where events have made it very apparent that what we were witnessing was true injustice and unchecked corruption within the United Kingdom. It is for this reason that we felt it necessary to pen our story, to be able to share our account with you and all our other readers, who have been reading an abridged account on the Internet since May 2008; it is very much in the public’s interest to be aware of what can go wrong and does go very wrong daily.

We have been told that Alan died in his home during the evening of 14th March 2002 in more than one place, and all on the same night, the last time anything vaguely like this happened was two thousand years ago (please forgive the last statement, it is not meant to offend); but first a little background information about the family.

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About the Authors:

Peter Hindley

Peter Hindley is a coach to dance competitors and is a jury member for international dance competitions. He left England in 2007 for a new life in France and has been recording events since his brother’s unconventional death in 2002.

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Susan Goodsell

Susan Goodsell, co-author and Peter’s niece, lives in England with her partner and their two now grown-up sons. She spent many years in London before returning to Kent in 1997. The year her father died she began teaching English in a secondary school; now after finishing work, she returns home to begin another shift, as a detective and writer.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook     Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

MJ on Writing: Viewpoint Tips and Tricks

WritingOne of the first things I learned about writing was the correct way to write a scene. After years of reading I had become accustom to what is known as ‘head hopping’. For those who may not be aware of what that is, ‘head hopping’ is where two characters point of views are shared in the same scene. This is not to be confused with conversation. I am referring to the scene starting with the heroine’s POV and then in mid scene, it switches to the hero’s POV, and back again or to another character without a change in the scene or start of a new chapter. Sound confusing? Imagine how it feels to a reader!

That style of writing is no longer accepted in manuscripts today, unless of course your one of the old school authors who were allowed to do it years ago. Chances are they haven’t been forced to change. In fact, I know they haven’t. One of my favorite romance authors who have been around for years still does it in every new book. But for the new author, agents and publishers are looking for a more polished style of writing, starting with characters whose POV’s are the only one featured in a chapter. Even if you plan to self-publish, taking these extra steps to polish your writing will make your work stand apart from the rest!

So how do you make this happen? Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you stay in one viewpoint from the beginning to end or your scene! (I write in 1st Person POV, so I will write these examples in both 1st and 3rd POV when needed.)

Make sure your reader knows who is speaking.

The easiest way to have this done is by having them addressed by name by another character in the scene. Doing this in the first few lines of the chapter will let your reader know who’s speaking:

Example:

(1st Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” my brother asked.

“Things could be better.” I grimaced while holding my stomach.

Or

(3rd Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” John asked.

“Things could be better,” she said while holding her stomach.

As mentioned above, NO HEAD HOPPING!

Doing so destroys the tension your building by staying in one character head. You know the saying, ‘the right hand can’t know what the left is doing?’ When sticking in one POV, it’s the same way. If Phil has a secret that he is trying to hide from Bob, his actions and what he says should say that to the reader, but the reader can’t know that Bob already knows that Phil is guilty.

Example:

Correct:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie. He tried his best to ignore Bob when he asked another question, and continued to stare out the kitchen window.

Incorrect:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie.

Bob knew Phil was guilty, because he refused to look at him. It didn’t matter if he answered his question or not. He was going to tell grandma.

Phil knows he’s guilty, but tries his best to hide it. If we are only in his POV, he can’t know what Bob is thinking, only assume, or in this case ignore Bob all together. What he thinks Bob knows or doesn’t know is not important. You only want to share Bob’s thoughts if/when his POV is addressed in another chapter.

Describing your character from their POV.

Every now and then it’s necessary for a character to tell the reader what they look like, what they are wearing, or describe their expressions. You have to be careful their voice does not slip into the voice of another character that may be looking at them. Try some of these tricks:

  • Have your character stand in front of a mirror and talk about what they see, but don’t be technical (and it should be relevant to the scene!)
  • Use feelings and descriptions to guide your reader into visualizing what the character is trying to say about themselves.
  • Quote another character’s thoughts about their appearance.

Example: Here’s how my character, Ebony Campbell, describe herself in the opening chapter of A Heart Not Easily Broken: (1st Person)

I smirked (facial expression) before sipping my margarita. Yasmine’s light-skinned complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cup breasts suited her personality. There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’. According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye. (Opinion of others)

And last but not least, select ONE character to focus on in a scene!

In other words, don’t split up your chapter into two different points of view. Extend the scene, or shorten it, with chapter breaks instead of scene breaks. Doing so will keep the reader from missing the POV switch at the break point, because sometimes inserting *** just doesn’t do it. Doing so generally means there is a change in the scene itself, not POV.

I hope this helps! For more tips on writing, check out my page with links to previous articles on writing. Until next time, Happy Writing!

MJ

#8Sunday- Jaded (Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs)- Words of Wisdom

When I write, I like to incorporate the point of view of an outside character who steps in as a voice or reason or wisdom. Doing so gives the reader a chance to see how the characters actions are viewed by someone outside of that intimate relationship. In the case of Yasmine and Zack, the voice comes from Zach’s mother, Belinda Givens. Listen to her words of wisdom as she speaks to a very upset Yasmine.

Excerpt:

I tapped her chest lightly. “A good heart. You’re selfless and care about others. You’re just the kind of woman my son needs. Sweetheart, if you let him, my son will take care of you in every way he can. He’ll be anything you need him to be and then some. You two were made for each other.”

“That’s what scares me the most.”

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Will Yasmine listen to those words and take a chance? Buy a copy of this 5 Star Reviewed Amazon Bestseller today!

 

Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

New to The Butterfly Memoirs Series? Catch up with A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book One of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Reviews, Free Chapter Samples, All Sales Links

NEW RELEASE from 5 Prince Publishing- Bridge Over the Atlantic by Lisa J. Hobman!

Today I welcome a new author to 5 Prince Publishing and am happy to introduce you to her debut novel, Bridge Over the Atlantic! Please take a moment to welcome her to the 5 Prince Family and show your love! Congratulations, Lisa!

Bridge over the Atlantic cover

Mallory Westerman is a full-figured, successful, young business woman living in Yorkshire, England. Though very career minded, she is extremely self-conscious about her ample curves and so her love life tends to pay the price. Concentrating solely on her business, she has almost given up on finding someone to love.  That is until she literally trips into the arms of a stranger who becomes her Knight in shining armour.

The immediate sexual and romantic spark that blossoms into love and the events that follow, irrevocably change Mallory’s life-path and self-image forever, but only go to prove that the road to true love is never smooth and that things don’t always turn out how you expect…

BUY your copy today! 

Excerpt:

January 2011

 

“You can NOT be serious?!” Mallory Westerman recoiled. It wasn’t a habit of hers, to inadvertently quote 1980’s sports stars. But even she was surprised when she heard John McEnroe’s words fall from her lips.

Thankfully, her fiancé, whilst obviously bemused at her reaction and frustrated by her lack of enthusiasm, didn’t really notice the similarities between her and the wiry haired tennis supremo. He was much too busy stroking the print-out in front of him, on the table, as if ironing out the creases would make his suggestion a more viable proposition.

“Honey, imagine the life we could have there right now,” he pleaded. “The open spaces, the fresh air-…”

“The midge bites, the lack of internet connection, no other civilisation for miles.” She rudely interrupted. She immediately felt guilty when Sam’s eyes took on the appearance of a scolded puppy dog. She slid her arms around his neck caressing the sides of his beautiful face. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I just don’t see me…either of us, really, taking to a permanent life out in the middle of goodness knows where at this point in our lives, surrounded by sheep and wearing wellies and Tweeds!”

“Now you are being terribly stereotypical and insulting to all things countryside, Mallory,” Sam chastised in his Canadian drawl. “And besides, I think you’d look very fetching in wellies….just wellies that is, nothing else.” He grabbed her playfully and squeezed her. His green eyes flashed with a mischievousness Mallory had come to adore. She giggled and gazed up at him, lovingly recalling the first time she had found herself utterly mesmerised by him.

 

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December 2009

Mallory had lived in Yorkshire all the twenty-eight years of her life. Since dropping out of her PR course at Uni, through sheer laziness, she had endured a run of soulless jobs. Nothing ever really pushed her buttons. That was until an inheritance from her dear Aunt Sylvia had given her the opportunity to do the one thing she truly wanted to do.

Her little gift emporium, Le Petit Cadeau.

It had been the brain child of her Aunt many years before, when Mallory had taken to making her own Christmas gifts one year when, as was the case on more than one dreadful occasion, unemployment occurred on the brink of the festive season.

She had sobbed and sobbed when the solicitor informed her that her Aunt had left her the large sum of money under strict conditions that she was to, ‘get off her backside and do something fulfilling for once!.’ She remembered almost laughing aloud at the point when the solicitor had uttered the quote directly as her Aunt had written it. Even in death, feisty Sylvia knew how to draw a chuckle from her beloved niece.

It was a fairly quiet early December Wednesday in Leeds, well perhaps quiet was not the right way to put it. The city centre was the usual bustling metropolis, but the Victoria Quarter was, ostensibly, being given a somewhat brief reprieve from the usual barrage of festive shoppers. Mallory huffed as she watched a swooning couple canoodling whilst browsing in the window of the lingerie boutique opposite.

“Sod this for a game of soldiers. I think I need a break,” she informed one of the cute, jointed, stiff teddy bears sitting, looking pensive on the shelf next to where she perched. “I reckon there is a tall, caramel macchiato with my name on it somewhere!”

Grabbing her oversized bag she chalked Back in 20 mins on her very own, handmade door sign. Once she had dropped the latch she headed out into the sea of suited business people and Christmas shoppers. She smirked at the vast number of pre-school children who were sporting cheap red Santa hats lovingly procured for them, she guessed, by harassed parents as bribery for good behaviour.

The paved precinct area was buzzing. Mallory loved Leeds City Centre with its designer boutiques and quirky shops. At this time of year, however, there was something transcendent about the atmosphere. Maybe it was the twinkling lights strung from building to building or the way that each and every shop was decked in sparkling silvers and gregarious gold. The myriad Christmas songs, being played in numerous outlets all out of synch with one another, were an assault on the senses. The stalls all laid out, down the centre of the precinct, were vying for the attention of passers-by with their brightly coloured gifts and trinkets. A delicious aroma of roast chestnuts wafted through the chilled air and into Mallory’s nostrils making her tummy grumble.

She rounded the corner heading for her favourite coffee shop when suddenly she involuntarily lurched forward. Her stiletto heel had become lodged in between two paving slabs, sending her and her belongings, hurtling into the arms of a passing stranger.

“Whoaaaa there!” The startled man grabbed for Mallory, in a bid to stop her inevitable collision with the pavement. “We haven’t been formally introduced and yet here you are throwing yourself at me!” He laughed. His accent was noticeably of the North American variety.

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Lisa J. Hobman Author Pic

About the Author:

Lisa is a happily married Mum of one with two crazy dogs.  She especially enjoys being creative; has worked as a singer and now runs her own little craft business where she makes hanging signs and decorations for the home. Lisa and her family recently relocated from Yorkshire, England to their beloved Scotland; a place of happy holidays and memories for them.

Writing has always been something Lisa has enjoyed, although in the past it has centered on poetry and song lyrics.  The story in her debut novel has been building in her mind for a long while but until the relocation, she never had the time to put it down in black and white; working full time as a High School Science Learning Mentor and studying swallowed up any spare time she had.  Making the move north of the border has given Lisa the opportunity to spread her wings and fulfill her dream.  Writing is now a deep passion and she has enjoyed every minute of working towards being published.  Novels two and three are works in progress so watch this space!

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#WritingTips- Use Your Microsoft Word Doc Tools to Make Writing Easier!

When my Muse wakes me up in the middle of the night, or I have an epiphany of a new scene to add more life to my manuscript, the first thing I do is search for any means of recording my thoughts. Paper and pen, notes on my iPhone, voice recordings if I’m driving, or sometimes I just grab my laptop, open up a blank word doc, and let my fingers fly over the keys. Then I file it away until I’m ready to work on it again.

I am a plotter with a hint of panster. I take my time when I write, letting my stories marinate as I decide what trials to put my characters through. I spend even more time discovering who they are. When my research is complete, my outlines written, and I’m ready to add dialogue, the last thing I want to do after spending hours bringing my story to life, is have to go back and reformat the entire manuscript before editing it.

Let’s face it, authors, the mere thought of the words edits, editing, or editor are daunting, especially if you are new to writing!

I remember those days! But, have no fear! Since then, I have learned when you put in the work, the editing process can run so smooth, it’s nearly as fun as watching your story come to life from the blank page!

Okay, okay, stop laughing!  Let’s keep it positive people! 🙂 I’m about to share a tip that will have you grinning from ear to ear! (If you had no idea about it, that is!)

Did you know there are tools built into Microsoft Word that can cut down the amount of editing you or your editor need to do if used while you write?

I learned this while working on my first manuscript, (A Heart Not Easily Broken), and my dear friend and fellow author enlightened me to these amazing settings. I can’t lie; I am NOT a tech savvy person. What I’ve learned to do with my laptop, be it building my webpage, (the one you’re visiting now), or surfing the web, all of this has been because of being pointed in the right direction by people who discovered these shortcuts and shared them with me, or by taking the time to keep hitting buttons and trying over and over again until I figured it out. In other words, HOURS of frustration mixed with patience, coffee, and chocolate!

Now it’s my turn to reciprocate!  If any of this is new to you, I hope you find this information useful, and that it makes writing easier!

***NOTE: The following directions and screen shots are based on Microsoft Word 2010. Similar functions can be found for 2007, though they will not be as detailed. For more advice, I suggest searching Google or YouTube for instructional videos on how to use your editing/proofing features.***

Unknown tricks to Word 2007 and 2010 to avoid unnecessary editing issues (AKA – Quick Access Tool Bar). Let’s face it, we all didn’t sit down to read the manual…

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Screen shot of the steps below. Daunting, but well worth the work!

Use of this function will allow you to set up Word to point out common editing issues as you type, allowing you to rethink your sentence before you continue, or make it easier to find some of the editing issues that make your writing passive. To customize this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open up a blank Word Document
  • Select the REVIEW tab at the top of your screen; Right Click and select CUSTOMIZE
  • Select PROOFING. (Here you can choose what kind of typing issues you want Word to ignore or point out to you).
  • Look lower in the box marked: WHEN CORRECTING SPELLING AND GRAMMAR IN WORD
  • Select WRITING STYLE, then click on the drop box, choose GRAMMAR & STYLE, then click SETTINGS. (From here you can have Word point out EVERYTHING!!! From punctuation issues, misused words, fragment and run-on sentences, to the use of cliches phrases, and so much more. Using this feature to help point out issues you need to correct before submitting your manuscript to an editor will make the editor quickly fall in love with you!)
  • Be sure to select OK before exiting to save your settings.

***By the way, once these settings are saved, they stay that way  for every document you create, until you go in and reset them.***

I touched on this a few posts ago when sharing tips for writing query letters, but again, putting this simple step into practice BEFORE you write one word will make the rest of  your writing experience pleasant.

The Universal Settings for your Manuscript (or Prepping you MS for Query Letters and you Editor)

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Your screen should look like this when selecting your font type and size.

Set your Font:

  • Open a blank document.
  • Select the HOME tab.
  • Choose TIMES NEW ROMAN Font with a 12 Point  size.
  • Save and exit

***Check these settings for each new document created! They do not always stay the same!***

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This is the easiest fix!

To Set Page Borders/Margins:

  • Select the PAGE LAYOUT tab.
  • Choose MARGINS.
  • Set to NORMAL. (1 inch border on both sides and top and bottom)

***This usually the normal setting, but it never hurts to make sure it’s set correctly. Technology is funny, and can revert back to the original settings  without warning!***

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Set your page to automatic indent and line and paragraph spacing.

  • From the HOME tab, select PARAGRAPH.
  • In the INDENTION box, choose HANGING.
  • In the SPACING box, choose DOUBLE, and change the  AFTER PT to ZERO (O)
  • Check the box below to avoid  spaces between paragraphs
  • Select OK to save changes.

***Again, check this feature with the start of any new document. The default settings are not the same as what you need when writing. Any new document created will not have your new settings.***

 Other Advice:

Here are a few more things you can do to make your writing cleaner:

  • Make sure you have clean chapter breaks. In other words, when Chapter 1 ends halfway down the page, Chapter 2 should start on a fresh page. The final page of Chapter 1 should not have the first part of Chapter 2 .
  • Italicize words meant to stand out for emphasis, do not highlight or underline.
  •  When inserting a scene break in a chapter, use ### or *** to show the break in time, or the start of a new scene and/or location. Which ever one you use, stay consistent throughout the MS, do not flip-flop.
  • If you have already written you MS and have not used these settings, there’s no need to type it over again! Simply go to page one, hold down the CTRL + A buttons; it will highlight the entire manuscript, from page 1 to 1000+. Follow the steps to set PAGE MARGINS and FONT while highlighted, and it will fix all of your work. Be sure to scroll through in order to separate your chapter headings on fresh pages, or else, some of them may find their way into the previous chapter. Don’t forget to save and back it all up when you’re done!

I know, I know, if you are technically challenged, the whole idea of learning how to properly format your work is daunting. But believe me; editors appreciate working with authors who take the time to learn how to use their writing programs. It cuts down on the amount of tedious stuff they need to do to get your work up to par, and allows them more time to focus on the real work, the mind-numbing technical side. And who knows, less work may end up saving you money!

Happy Writing!

MJ

 

Interview with Christine Steendam!

I am excited to introduce you to fellow 5 Prince Publishing author, Christine Steendam! If you love Historical Romance, check out her debut novel, Heart Like an Ocean! I wish her much success! Take a moment to get to know her, then be sure to grab a copy of her book!

Christine Steendam

Welcome, Christine!

What inspired you to write?

I can’t really think of one thing that inspired me. I’ve always written, for as long as I can remember. However, Heart Like an Ocean was inspired while I was living at a ranch learning to train horses. I was sitting, listening to music, staring out at the horse pasture, and I envisioned a girl running across the field to her horse, looking for an escape. From there Heart Like an Ocean was born.

What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?

I write romance. Heart Like an Ocean, my debut novel, is a historical romance and the book I’m working on right now is a contemporary romance. I always thought that my genre would be science fiction or fantasy but it seems my inner muse had a different idea.

MJ: I can relate to that! I used to read Sci-Fi, but when I decided to write, Women’s Fiction is where my muse took me.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Work schedule? I used to have a schedule but with baby #2 on the way that all went out the window. Now it’s more like I find a moment between chasing after my son and exhaustion to get 500-1,000 words out daily. I’m working on getting back on schedule though.

MJ: Congratulations on your upcoming new addition to your family!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

This isn’t really a writing quirk but once I reach the editing stage I actually print out the entire manuscript (I know, I’m not saving trees at all) and go through it with a red pen. I can’t edit on the computer or with any other color pen. It has to be red.

MJ: *raises had in air* I’m guilty of the same!

Are you a pantser or plotter?

A bit of both but probably leaning more towards pantser. My first drafts are almost always just bare bones idea of a beginning, middle and end that I rarely even write down. I basically just go with the flow and get it all out. Once I’m done the first draft though is when the real fun begins and I end up plotting it out in great detail so that I know what needs to be fixed up.

Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?

One of my beta readers said that when she picked up Heart Like an Ocean she saw a lot of me in it. She tells other people we know that when they read it they’ll just know it came from me. I don’t agree completely, but definite aspects of my life and attitude while growing up are reflected. To say no aspect of my real life gets into my writing would be a lie because real life is what inspires me, but there are no characters or events based on anything in particular.

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?

#1. The first step is to get it all out. Finish your first draft. You can never get better if you don’t first finish. #2. Hearing “you’re awesome, your writing is great, I loved the story” is great for your ego but not great for improving your writing. Search for honest and constructive criticism. It might sting a little but you’ll learn from it.

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?

Indie pubbed by the fantastic 5 Prince Publishing. I love everyone there. It’s like a big family.

*Virtual High-Five to my 5P Sister!*

What are your current projects?

I am currently working on a contemporary romance set on an Alberta cattle ranch. It’s tentatively titled Unforgiving Plains. I’m currently in the editing stages right now but will hopefully be ready for submission soon.

HeartLikeAnOcean-Cover

Heart Like an Ocean– Released in eBook on Feb 2,2013 on Amazon and 5 Prince publishing.

In a society where she doesn’t belong, Senona Montez, a strong-willed and free-spirited woman refuses to follow the path expected of a Don’s only child.

On the eve of her marriage to a stranger, she saddles her horse and flees everything she knows, only to discover the petty concerns of society did not prepare her for the harsh life on the open sea. She finds an unlikely protector in a reckless privateer, Brant Foxton.

Straddling the worlds of independence and privilege in 1600’s Europe, this captivating man challenges her in ways she never thought possible, shows her what living to the fullest really means, and allows her to follow her heart wherever it leads.

 

Excerpt:

Prologue

Spain-1666

Senona looked around the room full of swirling dresses of so many shapes and colors. It was like a dream and left her overwhelmed and unable to tear her eyes away. Tonight she was a princess in her new dress with her hair curled, cascading in loose waves down her back. Tonight she was perfect.

Browsing the room, this time in search of familiar faces, Senona spotted Caton Amador, and Isidro Amato. The boys, although older, were her friends and a welcome relief to the overwhelming nature of her surroundings. She made her way around the perimeter of the room in their general direction.

Isidro was never very serious about anything and enjoyed teasing Senona, which annoyed her to no end. Caton was much more subdued and quiet, at least around her. Although they were not as close as they once had been, the families remained good friends, and the three of them spent many hours riding around the countryside or playing games in the garden. When they were younger, Isidro and Caton had been her constant companions, helping her sneak out of tea with their Madres or rescuing her from lessons with her tutor. Now they never voluntarily saw each other, but due to their families’ relationship, they found themselves together often enough.

“Senona, my Chica! You are a picture of beauty, as always,” boomed Isidro’s obnoxious and teasing voice.

Caton turned to look at the young girl. “Leave her alone, Isidro.”

“Come on, Caton. She’s glad to see us.”

Caton frowned but said nothing, turning his attention back to the pretty girl standing next to him. Isidro seemed to accept that as permission to continue, and he smirked mockingly at Senona, beckoning her. The small flock of girls that surrounded the two boys giggled, causing her to blush and become hesitant and uncomfortable. She had never seen the boys in this environment, and she quickly questioned her decision that she belonged with them.

“It’s okay, Isidro. I just wanted to say hello.”

“Well then, run along. There must be some of your friends around.”

Senona forced a smile and turned to Caton. “Hello, Caton.”

He barely acknowledged her with a brief glance and nod in her direction, and then returned to ignoring her. Unsure of how to deal with Caton’s rejection, she walked away, her eyes burning with angry tears that threatened to spill over. Why was he being so rude? Not even so much as a hello, as if he were embarrassed to be associated with her.

As she pushed her way through the crowd, she heard one of the girls laugh. “Caton, I do believe you hurt her feelings.”

Caton’s deep, unmistakable chuckle cut through the din and his voice was all she heard. “She’s a silly, strange girl. I would rather not encourage her.”

Senona expected this behavior from Isidro, but from Caton? She had always thought he was honest and simple, but his actions tonight had shown her otherwise. She had been a fool to think that these older boys were her friends.

Escaping into the shadows, she hid from the sneering glances and mocking laughter that seemed to follow her wherever she went. She had thought that tonight would be different, but nothing had changed. She was just a strange little girl.

The night was a blur, a blur of swirling skirts and obnoxious voices. To nearly everyone she was invisible. Even her Madre and Padre, who had never been overly affectionate towards their daughter, seemed to have completely forgotten her existence. But that wasn’t so different from normal. They weren’t very affectionate people ever, even towards each other.

At the end of the night, Senona lay in bed, her new dress hanging in her wardrobe, mocking her. She had realised tonight how far she fell from society’s standards, her own parents’ standards. Any illusion she had of being a princess, of being perfect for one night had been shattered. But that didn’t really bother her. The truly odd thing was that she felt a weight lifted from her shoulders. Perhaps she didn’t have to be that way. Perhaps now she had the freedom to do as she wanted. It wasn’t as if anyone cared about her anyway. She was just a strange little girl.

####

About the Author:

Christine has been writing stories since she could put pen to paper and form words. Now, many years later, her debut novel is scheduled to be released and her second book is in the works.

Christine has spent the better half of her life owning and working with horses, and these four legged companions often find their way into her stories. After all, no work of women’s fiction would be complete without a horse or two (in Christine’s opinion at least).

She currently makes her home in the center of the world—no, really. Look at an atlas.

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Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ