Archive for January, 2010


Writers’ Realities

I started out with every intention of writing a stunningly funny and erudite essay to make a splash for my first post on the Romantic Journey site, Well, the best laid plans of mice and writers go aft awry, to misquote Robbie Burns (a nod to Burns’ Night!) so you get this piece instead.
Sometimes I get very confused. Not just because I’m blonde, but because my writing life is split up into two different Realities.
Reality One: I write romantic suspense. Ok, so there are sometimes rather nasty, bloodthirsty scenes, but that’s par for the course. You’d sort of expect it, right? But I also weave in a lot of humor into my work (I lived in Ireland for a few years; the humor sort of rubbed off) . Romance writing almost always has a happy ending, so that reality is all warm and fuzzy and Happy Ever After,
Reality Two: This is quite different. I write non-fiction books and ghostwritten biographies and novels. Hey, I was a journalist and this is a good way to pay the bills. But at any given time I may be translating a battered wife’s memories of her brutally unhappy marriage; writing a dating manual for the unhappy and panicking lonesome souls; or using my training as a counselor to write about depression and its treatment. Soon, I may be plunged into researching and writing about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or rewriting a semi autobiographical novel a client has poured their heart and soul into.
Can you see what I mean about my two realities being confusing?
But if my working life is confusing, imagine the plight of the journalists who travel to foreign lands to cover wars and disasters. When I was a young journalist, my big ambition was to be a foreign correspondent. I thought it would be incredibly romantic and noble. Now I’m thankful my career path took a different turn.
But I have huge admiration for my journalist colleagues who regularly put their lives and sanity in jeopardy to look deep into the Abyss on our behalf and bring back the Truth that they find there.
Next time you hear or read reports about wars or disasters, about the terrible human suffering that plagues our planet, please send up a brief prayer for the dedicated professional writers who went out and gathered that information. Ask whatever Power you believe in to keep them safe so that we can continue to see, through their eyes, the truth.
Sometimes the writing I do leaves me sleepless. Yet I cannot imagine the sights and sounds that disturb their dreams.
I’d love to hear comments about your Realities and how you deal with the confusions that inevitably arise from the balancing acts of writing, earning a living, and Real Life!


Interview and Giveaway with Dating Detox Author Gemma Burgess

Today, we welcome Gemma Burgess, author of The Dating Detox. Here’s a little description of the book:

If you can’t date anyone nice, don’t date anyone at all.

Dating is a dangerous sport. So after her sixth successive failed relationship, romantically-challenged 20-something Sass decides she’s had enough. The Dating Detox is born. No men, no break-ups, no problem.

The result? Her life – usually joyfully/traumatically occupied with dates, clothes and vodka – is finally easy. Chastity rocks. No wonder nuns are always singing. Everything falls at her feet. Especially men.

Will Sass break the rules? Why does fate keep throwing her in the path of the irritatingly amusing Jake? Will she ever roll the dice and play again? Or is a love-free life too good to risk losing? For the post-Carrie Bradshaw, post-Bridget Jones, post-credit crunch generation of singles, life isn’t beautiful, a bitch, or a beach. It’s a party.

Romantic Journey: Welcome, Gemma. Thanks so much for stopping by today. How did you get The Dating Detox into print?

Gemma Burgess: I sent the first three chapters, plus a cover letter and a synopsis, off to 10 agents in London. Then Laura Longrigg at MBA asked to read the rest, at which point I had to write ‘the rest’. (Ahem. In my defense, I never thought I’d actually get that far…) Then she sent it out to publishers, and Harper Collins offered a deal. There was a lot of waiting and redrafts in between those moments of high excitement, but that was the basic path. If any of your readers want to know the full story, I give a month-by-month synopsis of how I did it on my blog at

RJ: Are you still working as a copywriter, too? If so, how do you juggle your two jobs?

GB: I’m a freelance copywriter – so I just don’t work when I am working intensely on a manuscript. It’s an ideal job for a writer. It also easy, as there’s less of the inevitable politics / pressure that comes with any permanent role. You just turn up, have fun with words, and go home. I used to get very involved in my job – in making sure my team was happy, and making sure I was impressing the right people, worrying about results and reviews and all of that. I don’t think I could have had the headspace to write a novel if I was worrying about work.

RJ: How does a typical day unfold?

GB: When I’m writing (ie, not copywriting), I wake up about 6am, and have coffee and start writing in bed. This is when I try to get big chunks of writing done – I don’t worry about word count so much as getting a particular event or scene done. After lunch, I reread and revise the morning’s writing. And then usually at about 3pm I get cabin fever, and I need to get outside and walk around or exercise. Then most evenings I slowly reread and think and let my mind wander… this is usually when I come up with little ideas and one-liners, rather than big plot chunks. When I’m going to sleep I go over the book in my head and often come up with answers to things or realise I need to change something. I need a notebook; at the moment I wake my boyfriend up and say something cryptic that I know will trigger the memory for me, like ‘Remember this in the morning: Janey emails, Dan says rabbit’ and he mumbles ‘Okay’. He always remembers, bless him.

RJ: Tell us a little about the Name That Bastard site. What makes a good bastard name?

GB: You tell me! Naming is a constant challenge for me – I asked for help on Twitter this week for a new character name, actually. When it came to naming the bastard character in The Dating Detox, I was so fed up of thinking of names that I thought I’d ask my friends about ex-boyfriends they’d like named and shamed. Everyone got very enthusiastic, and I ended up with Rick. So for the second book, I’m throwing it out to the world. So far we’ve had a lot of Daves. Doesn’t it seem like the most innocuous name? Apparently it isn’t…

RJ: What are your five favorite books? What lessons have you applied from them to your own writing?


  1. Bridget Jones – this book made me realise how just the way we think can be funny.
  2. Heartburn, by Nora Ephron – this book is so intimate and warm, I love the tone of voice. I aspire to a similar immediacy.
  3. Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis – the lead character is delightfully enthusiastic about being negative – you love that about him. And Sass in The Dating Detox is delightfully negative, too.
  4. Jilly Cooper – I love everything about her books, but particularly the party scenes. She obviously enjoys writing about people having a raucously good time, it’s infectious and puts you in a good mood… I tried to get that sort of feeling into my party scenes, too.
  5. I can’t think of a fifth without having a huge argument with myself, so it comes down to Nancy Mitford, Bret Easton Ellis, Fanny Burney, David Sedaris, Stella Gibbons, Jane Austen, Michael Chabon, Julian Barnes… they’re all inspiring in different ways.

RJ: Are you a chest or buns woman?

GB: Ha! Shoulders, actually…

RJ: We get a lot of shoulder fans. Perhaps we need to broaden our options. Who’s your fantasy man?

GB: Right now it’s Robert, one of the characters in my second book.

RJ: What is your favorite pair of heels? What makes them so special? And, how long can you wear them comfortably? (We would be happy to include a photo.)

GB: Oooo! Good question. I hate to play favourites – I love all my shoes equally, even the grubby Converses – but I just bought a pair of Miu Miu shoes (on sale! that’s God giving me a high-five) from Net-A-Porter to wear at my wedding in April. The picture is attached. I LOVE them. I might go and take them out of their box and give them a little hug when I’ve finished this interview, actually.

RJ: Those are gorgeous shoes! Now our last question: If your ship were sinking and you could grab one thing on the way to the lifeboat, what would it be? Go on instinct here; don’t let common sense interfere with you as you grab your hairdryer or laptop instead of food to take to the desert island.

GB: Uh… the cabinboy?

RJ: Nice. Thanks again for stopping by, Gemma. It was great getting to know you.

Now for the fun part. Gemma is giving away a copy of The Dating Detox to three of our readers. Here is how you can enter to win:

  • Commenting on this post.
  • Tweeting a link to this post in Twitter. You’ll need to comment letting us know that you tweeted. Include your Twitter username for verification.
  • Posting a link on Facebook. Again, comment letting us know that you posted the link.
  • Following The Romantic Journey in the Facebook Networked Blogs application.
  • Adding The Romantic Journey to your blogroll. Comment that you did that and include a link for verification.
  • Posting something about The Romantic Journey on your blog. Comment that you did it and include a link for verification.
  • Subscribing to the RSS feed or email feed. Comment that you did it to be entered.
  • Following The Romantic Journey on Twitter. Again, comment with your Twitter username for verification.

You receive one entry for each action, so you can potentially receive eight entries.

The winner will be announced 1 February. Entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. UTC on 31 January, 2010.

No transfers or substitutions.


Finding Inspiration

Have you ever read a great book and asked, “How did the author think of that?”

The funny thing about that question is that there are as many answers as there are scenes written by authors. Every flash of inspiration comes from a different source–a snippet of conversation you overhear in a restaurant, a visceral reaction you have to a photo or an ad you see, or the what-if question you ask when you read a headline in a newspaper.

Sometimes, once you open yourself up to inspiration, you can barely shut it off. The dialogue, scene ideas, and exposition can overwhelm your brain.

That is why I typically watch TV while I fall asleep. It is much easier to shut my brain down when I’m hearing familiar dialogue from a favorite sitcom than when I’m surrounded by nothing but silence and snoring.

Readers, what was the last book you read that made you ask how the author could possibly have come up with that chain of events?

Writers, what led to your most recent stroke of inspiration? And, how do you flip the inspiration switch?


Lending a Hand

It’s been nearly one week since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti.

The past week has seen an amazing outpouring of support from the writing community and others all over the world.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen scammers using this tragedy to bilk money from people who are trying to do good. Here are a few reputable sources you can donate to to ensure that your good deed actually does good for the survivors in Haiti.

Red Cross
The Red Cross is a huge part of the relief effort, coordinating volunteers and supplies. You can make a donation through the Red Cross website. Or, you can make a quick and easy $10 donation by texting Haiti to 90999. A $10 donation will be added to your phone bill.

The United Nations child-focused charitable fund is working on the ground to save children who have been hurt in the earthquake. Donate through their website.

Hope for Haiti Telethon
George Clooney has organized a telethon to air Friday, January 22, on all of the U.S. broadcast and some cable channels. The telethon will raise funds for the Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam America, Partners in Health and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation. I’m not sure if it will be broadcast internationally–check your local listings to find out.

You can check other charities through your state attorney general’s office (if you’re in the U.S.) or through your local government (if you are in another country). Thank you for all that you have done so far to help the citizens of Haiti.


Stephanie Draven Contest Winner

Congratulations to Leia Rice, who said this in response to Stephanie Draven’s interview:

Great interview!

I also included a link on both my blog and my facebook! Thank you for sharing!

Leia, check your email for your prize, a $10 Amazon gift card.


Drawing Book Characters from Real Life

I’ve recently discovered that it’s a fairly common practice all across the romance interwebs to align certain characters with their celebrity counterparts. Some writers draw on pictures for inspiration, while others go so far as to study the mannerisms of their favorite actors, actresses, or the parts these professionals play. Although I’ve never done it myself, it seems like a really good way to create believable characters; whether you’re trying to emulate Hugh Grant’s bumbling speech or the way Jason Statham can blow stuff up without even batting an eye, it allows writers to infuse a real human element into a book.

The reason I don’t do it is that it never really occurred to me to give it a try. When I read (and when I write), I rarely create a solid vision of what the characters look like. Like they exist in a dream, my characters are fuzzy impressions in my mind, faceless beings whose souls I know intimately, but whose bodies could belong to just about anyone. In all honesty, I think I do this because I live in an age when half of the books I read are turned into movie adaptations, and keeping my impressions intangible allows me to enjoy the movie versions, since I’m open to what the directors interpret for the characters without ruining my own internal vision of the book.

I will confess, though, that I did once run into a real life version of one of my heroes. It just about floored me, too, because my hero is not…ordinary. Or rather, he is ordinary (for the romance genre), in that he’s over six feet tall, muscular as hell, and gorgeous. You know, the alpha combination that doesn’t usually exist in real life, but that we love to oogle on the book covers all the same. To top it all off, my hero is of mixed Pacific Islander and Japanese descent with a kick-ass tattoo across his back. And I kid you not: I saw this exact man walking across a parking lot one day. Shirtless. (Hey, it was summer and we were at a theme park.) I almost wanted to take a picture of him, if only to prove that a man like that really could exist!

Anyway, because I’ve spent most of my life NOT assigning physical counterparts to the characters I encounter in fiction, I’m not likely to start any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the fact that other writers do it. It’s fun to discover just who an author had in mind when they created so-and-so, and to see how that image differs from one I might have. It adds another layer of complexity to a book, and I’m always game for that.


Truth is, it just doesn’t matter why you can’t

Okay, so the holidays are over. Now what?

Back to writing, that’s what. Now the visiting and eating and lazing around in front of the cricket are done, gotta get back to work.

But it’s hard. My brain gets accustomed to not being used 🙂 and the little bugger likes it. My usual word goal is 2,000 per day, and I’m struggling to make it. And I should be excited, because I’m starting a brand new manuscript, the fourth book in my Shadowfae series. It’s got an interesting heroine, a self-tortured hero, cool bad guys, a vengeful demon subplot and loads of hot sex.

So why do I feel like watching tv? Or going shopping? Or to the beach? Or milling about in the garden, or walking the dog, or doing anything except sitting in front of my computer and pumping those words out?

I could sit here and analyse. Maybe I’m ‘blocked’, whatever that means. Or I’m tired, sick, over-stressed, hormonal, headachy, need a break, got too much on my mind. Whatever. Boo hoo.

Truth is, it doesn’t matter a damn what my problem is. No amount of navel-gazing will get those words on the page. I’m a writer. I have deadlines. I must write. End of story.

And I need to have faith that my mojo, muse, inspiration, fun factor, writing juice will come back. Just because I’m having a rough few days doesn’t mean I’ll never write well again, or that the story’s broken, or my vocab’s somehow dried up.

I’ve done this before. I can do it again. So I only made 700 words today. So what? It’s better than none. Which is how many I’d have if I gave up and went to the beach.

My point? There’s no value in being hard on yourself when things aren’t going well. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Persist. Scale your daily goals back if you have to — because goals are there to make you feel good when you achieve them.

Not to make you feel bad when you don’t.

So, yeah. I made 700 words today. Good for me. That’s 700 words closer to the end of this manuscript.

And if I don’t go to the beach tomorrow — if I show up at my computer at 8 am like a good little writer — I’ll make more.

So what do you do when things aren’t going well with your writing? Any coping strategies? I like to break the writing session up into little chunks, and give myself a small reward after each. Does this work for you? What other tips can you share for getting yourself out of a slump?


Shiny New Year!

With 2010 barely in the door, many writers are setting goals for the year.

“Sell a book.”

“Finish a manuscript.”

“Find my dream agent.”

I can write a nice long blog post about setting reasonable, achievable goals, but I’m not. Maybe I’ll save that for later. Today, I’m going to talk about one of the major problems with forming goals that’s plaguing me: The “OOH, look! Shiny!!”

I know of plenty of writers who are often tempted to stray from a WIP and play with the new plot bunny that’s hopping through his or her mind. This seems to be especially tempting when I’m stuck at a difficult part of a WIP. It’s so easy to abandon it and explore a new possibility. The problem? About 8 half-finished manuscripts.

One of the biggest tests of a writer is finishing what you start. You can’t sell that book or find a dream agent if you don’t have a complete, revised manuscript to show. And in order to land that contract with an agent or a publisher, you need to show that you have the discipline to finish what you start in a reasonable amount of time. Many contracts these days are for multiple books. When you sell a book based on the proposal, you’re obligated to finish it, no matter how much you hate trudging through the difficult parts, and your editor won’t wait three of more years for your next book.

For this reason, I’m trying to be very careful about what I set as my goals in 2010. Usually, I try to keep it vague. EX: “One novel and two novellas.” I try not to commit to a title (one of the joys of being unagented and not under contract). But now that I have a series in progress with Samhain, I’m unofficially committed to continuing it, so I know the 2 novellas I plan on writing will be for that series. As for the novel, that’s where the “Ooh, shiny!” comes into play. I have about 5 different ideas for novels, and I’m having a hard time choosing where I’ll concentrate my efforts this year. Do I go with what I think is the “breakout idea”, even though I’m very enthusiastic about it? Do write the next book in the series that I’m shopping around with agents? Do I go with the one with the strongest “voice” (which would be the easiest to write), even if the idea may border on cliché?

How do you choose your goals for 2010? What are some things you’ve learned to keep you focused on the task at hand and not be distracted by the “shinies!”?


Author Contests (and Why They are Disappearing)

This is a subject I hate to have to write about, but it’s a growing trend that could mean the end of the line for many authors. Which means the books you enjoy won’t be written.

Ebook piracy is taking off like it did in the music industry a decade ago. When bands discovered their sales were dropping, many had to go back to live tours to make a living. Authors can’t do that. I mean, seriously, how many people would really pay to go hear La Nora read her latest novel? It’d be great at first, but how long does it take most of us to read a novel? Could you sit and listen to someone read that long?

But I’m jumping ahead. Ebook piracy isn’t only affecting the new releases published in ebook format. Pirates are scanning copies of print books and offering them for free. Or better yet, some are SELLING collections of ebooks. Some publishers are refusing to release their books as ebooks. J.K. Rowling insisted that Harry Potter not be made available in e-format. Yet it’s out there, thanks to the efforts of some scum.

Already there are authors who have ended certain series because of the number of prior books circulating for free. They’re focusing on print publishers instead.

There are those who insist that copyright is taking rights away from them. Huh? I will never understand that one. What I understand is they can do their 9-5 job and get paid for the work they did, without question. But we authors are expected to do our job for free. Cool, set me up mortgage free, with a working car, groceries, utilities, and all, and I’ll work for free. As it is, I work two (or three) jobs to be able to keep a roof over my head while my writing backlist grows. Those hours away from my computer mean stories that will never be written.

Another argument is that authors can afford to lose some sales. Or, the pirates would never have bought the book to begin with. Or, if they like the free book they’ll go buy it, or the rest of an authors books.

Get real, people. Does your grocer let you eat a steak before deciding if you’ll buy it? If you’re concerned, look for excerpts and reviews before buying a book.

Back to contests. The latest thing to do is surf the Internet, Twitter and other social networking sites, and join the author loops to try and win free ebooks. Then offer them up on a file-sharing site so others can read it, too. It’s a game to them. They do it because they can.

Big name authors and publishers are getting involved, though, so prosecution and fines will finally be handed down. Sure, some ebook pirates will just go deeper underground, but a majority are like the woman who recently got fined in the six-figures for downloading files illegally.

Most importantly, authors are discovering that giving away ebooks hurts their sales more than helps it, because of pirates. They’ll give away print copies or items other than books instead.

I apologize to those who enter contests for the right reasons, and tell their friends about the books they enjoy, without sending the ebook to all of them. You are the reason we still write, and why we fight to keep the pirates at bay. We’re spending more hours sending take-down notices and filing complaints than we should, but maybe one day we’ll be able to use that time as we should: to write MORE BOOKS!


Debbie Mumford Contest Winner!

Thanks to I have a winner from all the entries. The lucky recipient of Debbie Mumford’s The Silver Casket is RKCharron! Congratulations!

RK, email us your contact info so we can pass it along to Debbie.

Thanks to all who entered!


January 2010

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