Good Reasons Not To Be Writing

I admit, the past several days I haven’t written a word. Haven’t even checked my email, in fact, or even opened my computer. My husband and I took a long weekend and drove over to the Peninsula for some much-needed time out of the city. It reminded me – once again – how incredibly fortunate I am to live in this beautiful part of the world.

We started on the northern shore, looked out over the water to the green hills of Vancouver island, so close we could practically spit and hit Canada. Then to the very tip of the continental United States, Cape flattery, with its lighthouse on a tiny sea island pointing the way toward the boundless Pacific. Seabirds flew into saves in the rock, crying and screeching as waves roared, whitecapped, deep within the earth. Later we went hiking down through thick, mossy forest, gathering wild salmonberries as we went, bending the canes to reach the ripest ones, stuffing the sweet-tart fruits into my mouth as we stroll, laughing, down to the shore. And there was the Pacific again, just a strip of sand between it and the dense forest. How amazing, to hear the sound of the waves and the wind in the trees, all at the same time; to walk through a wall of conifers so thick you can’t see more than three trees in, yet know the ocean is just a few yard away. Amazing.

As I walk, my mind is always turning. Even as I gather salmonberries, or dodge mud puddles, I’m thinking. Stories bloom in my mind. Characters form and begin to grow into personalities. Scenes take shape, slowly building together into a tale. So I suppose I actually was writing, after all; I just wasn’t typing it out. But without these breaks from everything, the imagination stagnates. Now, back at home, I feel fresh and excited, ready to release these pent-up stories. Nature, once again, has brought inspiration and energy, as well as peace.

I’ve got the cow – so have some milk for free!

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Missed the giveaway? Never fear! You can still buy it here! (Wow, I must be in a rhyming mood…)

First of all, congratulations to the eight lucky winners of my Goodreads giveaway! I’ll be mailing out free signed copies of An Amazon’s Equal later this week, along with my usual plea to kindly read and leave a review. You know how much those mean to us indie authors!

Now, a lot of people are totally against giving anything away. In a way, they’re right: all work has value, and people should be paid a fair wage for whatever work they do. When it comes to creative arts, though, there is a sticky question: What is the value of art?

Art vendors put price tags on it all the time, but does that truly make one work more or less intrinsically valuable than another? If I happen to LOVE the $10 painting, and think the $1000 painting is only ho-hum, then it’s clear which one has more value to ME. (Whether or not the art experts agree is neither here nor there.)

I do consider myself an artist. Like most artists, I have a day job – which everybody else calls a “career” – and I invest most of my time and energy into it. However, writing and imagination is an essential part of who I am. What I produce is, therefore, art, for art’s sake, not for any hope of material gain. (Of course, I do love it when people purchase my work! And yes, it IS work, and I feel I should be paid for it, just like all other types of creators.) But…

Sometimes I just want to milk that creativity cow and give away glasses of that warm, frothy, creamy fresh drink for free!

Hence the Goodreads giveaway. 🙂 Also, did you know that two of my earliest works – One Night to Tango and Taking The Reins – are always, absolutely, 100% free to read? Grab ’em here if you’d like to have a taste before you actually buy the rest of the creamery’s fine dairy products. 😉

Okay, that’s enough milk metaphors for today. Anyway, enjoy!

tango cover (804x1024)One Night To Tango  :  Meet Esme, a shy wallflower who releases her inner seductress with a dark and handsome masked stranger. He quickly sweeps her off the dance floor, through the parking lot, and up against a chain-link fence… where a whole new kind of dancing ensues. Sensual and satisfying!

cowboy cover NEWTaking The Reins  :  The local horse show seriously steams up with the arrival of a sexy cowboy. Sparks fly. Hands touch. Pants start feeling way too tight. Belt buckles are strained. Perfect for the horse-loving girl and the cowboy-loving woman; it’s all the butterflies of a first date, with the rough-and-ready action of a truck fuck!

A Guest Post From Author Lizzie Chantree!

As many of you know, I’m a recent member of Rave Reviews Book Club. As an indie author, I am always on the lookout for new ways to connect with readers, and fellow writers. This week I am delighted to share a guest post from Lizzie Chantee, a fellow member of the RRBC. She’s highlighting her latest novel, a modern fantasy/romance called Finding Gina. Check it out!

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Weird writing habits

by Lizzie Chantree

I sometimes wonder if other authors have weird writing habits. Do you? I know I do! I love to write on A4, green, lined exercise books, with a beautiful pen my husband gave to me for my birthday. It has my name inscribed on it and is so comfortable to write with. I also have a small cabinet next to my desk in my studio, which is where I keep my bubblegum drawer, (don’t tell my children!) I love bubblegum.

Some authors, like Mark Twain , George Orwell and Marcel Proust, have been know to lie down to find writing inspiration. Others set word count targets, write on index cards, use a certain colour of ink like Lewis Carroll, walk around, colour code notes, or compose poetry in their head whilst on horseback, like Sir Walter Scott. This does make my bubblegum drawer seem rather tame, but as I’m a tad clumsy, it probably best I keep both feet on the ground!

With my most recent novel, Finding Gina, I hand wrote the original manuscript in A4 books and now it has been published, I can’t wait to unwrap a new exercise book and begin the whole process over again.

Excerpt from Finding Gina:

‘Sorry!’ apologised the woman, eyeing the handsome man on her doorstep. ‘We had the music on and didn’t realise you were here. This little munchkin heard the door and got to it before I could stop her. So much for all of the stranger danger talks I have given her.’ She raised her eyes to heaven in exasperation and sat the wriggling child on her hip with a stern look, which made the sides of the girl’s mouth wobble in uncertainty and her eyes become wary, when she realised she had done something wrong. Her mother gave her a swift kiss on the top of her curly head and lowered her to the ground in the hallway. ‘I’m hoping you are Lewis?’ she said jovially, beckoning him to follow her into the open plan lounge and kitchen at the back of the house. ‘I’m Hannah.’

‘I am,’ smiled Lewis, winking at the child as she tried to hide behind her mother’s legs, before darting off into the garden with the biggest dog Lewis had ever seen. ‘I really appreciate you taking the time to see me.’

‘I was curious to see if you could find her,’ she said simply, casting a glance at her child who was trying to dress the poor dog up as Cinderella.

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Find out more on the book’s Amazon page!

Follow Lizzie Chantree on Social Media:

Twitter handle: @Lizzie_Chantree

Facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/lizziechantree/

Website address: https://www.writewithsydney.co.uk

Any additional means of contact: Blog: https://www.lizziechantree.com

Watt’s Up on Wattpad?

So… Wattpad. What’s up with that?

Well, my good friend SexScribbler let me know about it. (You have visited her website, haven’t you? If not, head over there now and take a peek!) Wattpad, basically, is a space where writers can ‘publish’ their work and offer it to readers for free. The real interesting bit is Wattpad encourages serialized writing, as you publish chapter-by-chapter as it is finished. (In the long tradition, I might add, of great novelists like Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo; those guys were paid by the word!) Readers can vote on their favorite parts, leave comments, and offer suggestions as the story develops. Cool, right?

The process reminds me of my much younger (and even nerdier) days, and an old platform called FanFic.net .  No idea if it’s still around. In any case, my writing is long gone, censored way back when they eliminated the NC-17 rating. (Hehehe, woops, I *might* not have been 17 when writing all those sexy fantasies… ah, well, too late now!) However, it offered a similar freedom of storytelling. Some people only uploaded finished stories, but many, like me, published them one chapter at a time. That’s how I got my first giddy taste of admiration from fans of my story… not to mention enjoyed some forays into my dirty high school imagination with Legolas the Elf. (Yeah. I was that girl…) In the here and now, Wattpad offers a similar experience connecting writers and readers – minus the fan fiction bit. (And the sexiness. Alas, Wattpad does not approve of “scenes merely for the purpose of titillation,” so I’ve had to censor my language somewhat…ahem. Never mind; when I publish it in real-book form all the smut shall return!)

major arcana coverMy current project is very much chapter based, as each chapter is linked to a certain card from the Tarot deck. In fact, I don’t know what the card will be until the moment I draw it – just like Rosemary, my lovely main character. So far there are two cute guys, hilarious siblings, big life decisions, and art. Lots of art. Also, it is the first story I’ve set in my hometown of Seattle, so that’s kind of fun.

Want to take a look? Well you’re in luck, because it’s free to read on Wattpad! Just click on the link and take a look! It’s not finished, but I promise it will be. 🙂 (And hey, if you’d like to leave a vote or two, go right ahead!)

Read “Major Arcana” on Wattpad!

Sexing up some Little Free Libraries

Among its many charms, Seattle boasts a proud literary distinction: the city with perhaps the most Little Free Libraries in the country. And as an erotica writer, I have taken the liberty of sexing them up.

Little Free Libraries are a delightful version of the take-a-book, leave-a-book idea. (It’s a full-on nonprofit organisation – take a look at their website here!) Homeowners build their own small book boxes, usually with a glass door to protect from the elements while allowing passersby to glance in at the offerings. Most Little Free Libraries are on the corner of a yard, or sometimes hanging from a retaining wall, faced invitingly towards the sidewalk. And according to this article by MyNorthwest.com, other cities just can’t keep up with Seattle.

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A Little Free Library in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Kipp Robertson/MyNorthwest)

There are several in my neighborhood alone, and Little Free Libraries are a common sight when strolling through the neighborhoods. (I asked my husband for one for my birthday, but that all depends on how handy he’s feeling, so I’ll not hold my breath!) It’s so charming to see them there, full of books, just free for anyone to take. I also use them to pass along books I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily wish to keep forever – all my three-and-four-star reads find their way into a library box, ready to be discovered by another lucky reader.

So what am I doing? Well, quite simply, I’m leaving print versions of my work all around Seattle. Print copies are inexpensive and lovely to have, so I order them in bulk whenever I do a giveaway or print promotion. Whatever I don’t list, I send off into the world via Little Free Libraries. And, being the person I am, I do admit to peeking inside later, just to see if my work has gone… as of now, all of them have found a home. Temporary or permanent, no matter; so long as they bring enjoyment to someone in need of a scintillating erotic read. What fun!

If you’re a fellow Seattleite, keep your eyes peeled when passing by. I just set loose a fresh print copy of An Amazon’s Equal in a Little Free Library nearby. If you find it, please leave a review! (And, you know, leave a book. That’s what makes the whole wonderful process work! I love it.)

Speaking of which… have you entered the Goodreads giveaway for a free print copy of An Amazon’s Equal? No? Then head on over here and enter now! Who knows – you might get lucky… 🙂

The Paramount Importance of the Blurb

So I do a lot of book shopping, as you know. Hell, this afternoon I dropped $75 at the used bookstore down the street! (Don’t tell my husband…) And while I love browsing – and overspending as a result of far too many tempting paperbacks out there – I do, naturally, also indulge in a good bit of Amazon.com perusal. When I go to the bookstore, different elements might catch my eye. Maybe an evocative title, an artistic cover, an attractive table laid out with books like a literary buffet, or a friend’s recommendation. (In the aforementioned case of the $75, I can blame it all on my friend! I only went with the list she gave me… the list of 8 books I just MUST read!) When shopping online, however, there is really only one deciding factor in whether or not I’ll buy a book. And that is the blurb.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s true. However, you can absolutely judge a book by its blurb!

I can’t really say how many god-awful blurbs I have come across. And, sad as I am to say it, the majority of those are from self-published authors. I think many of us ignore the blurb and just kind of throw it together. This is a huge mistake, because it is the one element – yes, even more important than a snazzy cover – that will convince someone to buy your book. It is a chance to highlight your writing style, present the plot and characters, and give just enough information to make them yearn for more. And, you know, purchase the book. 🙂

So what makes a good blurb? Now I am hardly a blurb-master myself. (In fact, no doubt my work would be well served if I were to go back and rewrite some of my earlier ones…) However, there are some general rules to follow. Plus some major what-not-to-do’s. Here is my humble two cents on the subject:

  • The blurb should give a fair interpretation of your writing style. If the blurb has lovely, long, flowing sentences, that’s what I expect in the book! If it’s Hemingway-esque, you’d better deliver the clipped, raw goods. And if the writing in the blurb sucks, well, I’m pretty sure the book’s writing is equally bad! (As we all know, life is too short to read bad writing…)
  • The blurb should introduce the characters, the setting, and the problem (also known as the story!), without giving everything away. Even if your book is not a mystery, the blurb should be. After all, you don’t want to reveal your fabulous twists and wrinkles – of sheets or plotlines!
    • On that note, lots of people fill their blurbs with questions. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. But when I’m picking a book, I don’t want to play 20 questions. I want to know some major themes, the people involved, and where it’s happening. Limit questions to one or two really juicy ones.
    • If your blurb is a full summary of the book, that’s bad news. Just an introduction, please! Think of it as a preview to a film. You give glimpses, but don’t haul out all of the best bits for the teaser. (In other words, don’t model yourself on the overly-detailed modern previews. I didn’t even watch Revenant and already I know everything that happens. Go for an old-school, classy, suggestive kind of preview…)
  • If your book has any accolades – prizes won, bestseller lists, and such – they should go at the top, but discreetly. One line is enough to get all that info out there, and then let your reader get on with the blurb!
  • I was recently critiqued on this one: it’s best to keep blurbs concrete. Mention specific details – maybe a hot scene, a building tension, something unique about the setting. Generalities will not give a reader enough to sink their teeth into. I have reread my old blurbs and made many improvements with this in mind.

A good blurb is a tempting peek into the book. Kind of checking out its ass in those nice jeans, without really knowing all the goodies hidden underneath… It’s a flirty meet-and-drink at a bar, just getting to know the guy, trying to decide whether to take him home. Think about it. What would convince you to take that man(/book) to bed? For me it would be an interesting question, characters I want to meet, a place I want to go… and some slick writing. When you are able to seduce in just one paragraph, you are the blurb-master!