Guest blogger: Juliet Madison

Juliet Madison:

I’ve got an article up on the ARRA blog today about small town settings in books…

Originally posted on Australian Romance Readers Association:

Juliet MadisonThe appeal of small-town settings

I like to read and write books set both in small towns and in urban environments, but small towns hold a certain allure for me. They have a cosy, magical quality, and I find them intriguing. When I came up with the idea for a small-town series of books, I knew I wanted to base it on the town I had just moved to, on the south coast of NSW. I was getting used to my new home and discovering all the quirks and beauty the town had to offer, and tried my best to translate that to the page. The first book I set here was The January Wish, which led to the decision to create a monthly-themed set of books linked by the same setting, and the Tarrin’s Bay series was born. I wrote February or Forever after that, and am now…

View original 387 more words

Why We Need Fiction (inspired by A Place To Call Home)

If you’re in Australia you have probably heard of or watched the TV show A PLACE TO CALL HOME. I watched the final episode Sunday night, ending the series at season two, much to the disappointment of many fans. It was obvious the final few minutes of the episode were rushed to try and tie up loose ends, but still many viewers were left with unanswered questions.

It got me thinking how important fiction and fictional characters are to people, how we connect with them even though we know they aren’t real. As an author I try to do this on a daily basis; write characters and storylines that people are going to hopefully connect with and care about what happens next. With books you know you will get to The End, a proper ending, and know how everything turns out, but in television it is less assured. Writers, actors, producers, and directors often don’t know if the season they’re working on will be their last, and must not only prepare for a future season but keep in mind some options for tying up storylines should the show be cancelled. There’s nothing more frustrating than being left hanging, no resolution, no idea what was supposed to happen next.

Many fans of the show have taken to signing petitions to try and bring it back, and there’s a facebook page to show support for the show. I even wondered if fan fiction or a spin-off book would be possible to continue the storylines that had been planned for season three, who knows!

This reaction is a great example of the power of fiction in people’s lives. We all like a good story. Is it just the entertainment factor or is there more to it?

I believe it is human nature to be curious, and fiction stimulates that curiosity. I also believe that connecting with fictional characters helps us recognise similarities in our own lives – behaviours, experiences, relationships, issues in society – our real life world can be reflected through fiction in a controlled way that helps us make sense of life. And historical stories like A Place to Call Home remind some people and educate others on what times were like back then.

Ironically, fiction is both a reflection of and an escape from real life.

Whatever the reasons for enjoying them, stories told through TV shows, movies, books, plays, etc, are an integral part of human nature, and though the mediums for telling stories may change and evolve over time (as with the rise of ebooks), I don’t think the desire to enjoy stories will ever change.

 

What do you love about fiction both on the screen and on the page, and why do you think it’s so important for people in their lives?

And if you’re a fan of A Place To Call Home, what do you think would have happened next had the show continued? ;)

 

~ Juliet

Giveaway Time! Celebrating 100 Reviews of Fast Forward

FAST FORWARD has now reached 100 reviews on Amazon.com and I’d promised I’d do a giveaway when I reached that magic number. So here it is! :)

100ReviewsFF

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who’s bought a copy of my bestselling, wacky, time travel romantic comedy, and extra thanks to those who’ve taken the time to leave a review or star rating whether it’s been on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, or elsewhere. Here are some of the comments people have made:

  • “I don’t give 5* ratings easily… Those 5 brilliant, sparkly stars my friends I now reward to Juliet Madison for writing this funny, witty, magical tale I will never forget.” - Ananda
  • “If you love movies like Suddenly 30 (13 Going On 30), you’ll love Fast Forward.” - Diane
  • “I don’t write many reviews, but I had to rave about this story! it was an amazing, realistic peek into the future. Juliet Madison must have the mind of a creative genius to have come up with all of this.” - Closophari
  • “This is definitely a must-read, you won’t regret it, it’ll make you smile from beginning to end.” - Ben
  • “The first time I read it I had to put the book down in some spots because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hold the book still.” – Annie M

If you haven’t yet read it, you can grab a copy from Amazon HERE or from other ebook retailers, links are HERE (click buy now on that page to see all retailer links).

Now, onto the giveaway…

I love giving stuff away, and I also know how frustrating it is when a giveaway is restricted to a particular country, so I’ve made 5 of the 6 giveaways international! For each prize that you’d like to win, all you have to do is click the rafflecopter link and enter. That way if you already have one of the books you can just enter for the ones you don’t have or any you might like to give as a gift if you win.

Winners will be drawn on 21st July and notified by email. Good luck! :)

 

PRIZE #1: AUSTRALIAN RURAL ROMANCE BOOK PACK (Australian entrants only, this pack is HEAVY!)

photoPrize consists of:

1 x print copy of OUTBACK DREAMS by Rachael Johns

1 x print copy of THE HOUSE ON BURRA BURRA LANE by Jennie Jones

1 x print copy of RIGHT AS RAIN by Tricia Stringer

1 x print copy of DRIFTWOOD by Mandy Magro

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag (postcards, magnets…etc)

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW (Australian delivery addresses only!):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

PRIZE #2: CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE BOOK PACK (International giveaway!)

bookprize1Prize consists of:

1 x print copy of ALL HE EVER NEEDED by Shannon Stacey

1 x print copy of THE LOOK OF LOVE (The Sullivans #1) by Bella Andre

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

PRIZE #3: FUN & FLIRTY BOOK PACK (International giveaway!)

bookprize2Prize consists of:

1 x print copy of LUCY IN THE SKY by Paige Toon

1 x print copy of FLIRTING WITH FORTY by Jane Porter

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

PRIZE #4: CAPTIVATING BOOK PACK (International giveaway!)

photo 5Prize consists of: 1 x print copy of THE INEVITABILITY OF STARS by Kathryn R. Lyster

1 x print copy of CAPTIVATE by Vanessa Garden

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PRIZE #5: WOMEN’S FICTION BOOK (International giveaway!)

weddingseasonPrize consists of:

1 x print copy of THE WEDDING SEASON by Su Dharmapala

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

PRIZE #6: WOMEN’S FICTION BOOK (International giveaway!)

winterlodgePrize consists of:

1 x print copy of THE WINTER LODGE by Susan Wiggs

Plus, 1 x ebook of your choice from Juliet Madison, and assorted swag

>>ENTER BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

How’s that for a giveaway? Why have just one when you can have six!

Good luck, and thanks for helping me celebrate 100 Amazon reviews of FAST FORWARD!

FF-BestsellerAmazonAspiring supermodel, Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her twenty-fifth birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.

Trapped in the opposite life of the one she wanted, Kelli is forced to re-evaluate her life and discover what is really important to her. Will she overcome the hilarious and heartbreaking challenges presented to her and get back to the body of her younger self? Or will she be stuck in the nightmare of hot flushes, demanding children, raunchy advances from her husband and hideous support underwear forever?

 

 

COVER REVEAL! Haunted Ever After (plus excerpt)

Drumroll… Ta-Da! :)

What do you think?

HauntedEverAfter-JulietMadison

The design team at Harlequin Australia / Escape Publishing have given me another fabulous cover. It’s always so exciting to see a cover for the first time, and I end up giggling like a little girl. :D

This is my first cover with a guy on the front! Hello. Oh, except if you count the male nose and mouth on the cover of Starstruck in Seattle. ;)

As soon as it’s up on Goodreads, and on Amazon etc to preorder, I’ll post links. But for now, enjoy the cover and the blurb and excerpt below…

(Unofficial) blurb:

When bride-to-be, Sally Marsh attends a weekend away with her bridesmaids in the small country town of Barron Springs, the last thing she expects is for an uninvited visitor to tag along: the ghost of her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend.

She’s quirky, loud, and hyperactive, and the prim and proper Sally is desperate to find out why she’s being haunted so she can be free of her embarrassing disruptions before the wedding day. Problem is, the ghost is reluctant to share the reason for her presence, but seems intent on tempting her with the hot and charming stripper, Ty, who is always turning up at awkward moments. Is the ghost on a jealousy-fuelled mission to stop the wedding? 

By the time the ghost’s secrets are revealed, Sally’s strength will be tested to its limits, and she must go above and beyond anything she’s ever experienced in order to ensure a happy-ever-after for not only herself, but others too.

Exclusive excerpt:

She pushed her finger forwards, and — plop! —the stone fell from my grasp and down my t-shirt through the small valley of my cleavage. I shivered at its cold, smooth surface as it travelled down to my abdomen. ‘Oh no!’ Red laughed as I unbuttoned my jacket and tried to discreetly shove my hand down my top.

‘Can I help at all?’ I spun around to see Ty standing nearby, my hand still lodged between my boobs and my elbow pointing to the heavens, where I wished Red would toddle off to. I yanked my hand out and straightened my jacket.

‘No, I’m fine thanks. Where did you spring from?’

‘I saw you looking at something in your hand so I came to see what it was.’

‘Oh, it’s just a gemstone.’ I brushed a non-existent strand of hair from my face. ‘It sort of, um, fell down my top.’ I could still feel it low against my belly, but I didn’t think my arm could reach down far enough to get it. I could also feel an uncomfortable wave of heat rushing across my face, belying the fact that it was a cold winter’s day.

Ty tried to hold back a grin, but a hint of it twinkled at the sides of his mouth. ‘So, maybe just give your shirt a bit of a shake?’ He grasped his close-fitting black ribbed top at the hem and gave it a shake, and a glimpse of his tanned, hard abs brought back flashes of him last night in his underwear.

The heat on my face intensified. ‘Well, you see, I sort of can’t,’ I replied, touching the spot where the gemstone lay.

‘Why not?’

Oh dear God. Of all the days, why did I have to wear this thing underneath?

‘Because I’m wearing a bodysuit.’

Ty’s eyebrows rose. ‘Oh, one of those all-in-one lycra things?’

I nodded.

‘So you’d need to, um…’

‘Unhook it, below, yes.’ Too much information. Why was I telling him this? Surely a man of his ‘experience’ knew how a woman’s bodysuit was structured.

‘In that case, I’ll let you get on with it.’ He gestured behind and turned away, then turned back briefly. ‘I’ll just wait over here.’

I hid behind a stall and grasped the stone through my clothing with one hand, walking it up my body the way one does with a draw cord lost in the waistband of one’s pants, but it only moved slightly. I plunged my hand down my top again and dug around, but the tight-fit of the bodysuit made it difficult. C’mon gemstone! Where are you? It was like the Bermuda Triangle in here. If this failed I’d have to find the ladies bathrooms and do the unhooking, but if I could just get it…

I grunted, sinking my stomach muscles inwards to make more room for my arm, and stretching poor Mel’s t-shirt piece of art. My fingers came in contact with cold stone which I grasped, and with my other hand I pushed it upwards, until the stone was in my hand and my arm was finally out of a place I didn’t exactly aspire it to be whilst in public, or even private, for that matter. ‘Phew!’ I breathed out, having held my breath for a little while.

I adjusted my top and jacket and returned to where I’d been, feeling as though everyone was looking at me, even though they weren’t. Except Ty.

‘Got it?’ he asked.

I held up the stone in victory.

He clapped. ‘If you were single I would have given you a hand. You know, just to do the helpful gentlemanly thing.’ He winked.

Flirt. ‘Oh, I’m sure.’ I crossed my arms and diverted my gaze from his.

 

Stay tuned… HAUNTED EVER AFTER releases on 1st Sept 2014. Subscribe to this blog or to my email newsletter HERE to be reminded on release day.

Mid-year already?! Start over again with THE JANUARY WISH (99c sale)

It can’t possibly be the end of June. How did that happen? Weren’t we just setting New Year’s goals a few weeks ago? Time seems to be flying faster than ever before, or maybe we’re all so busy it just seems that way. 

january wishWhen I came up with the idea of a monthly-themed series I thought it would be fun to experience the characters and events of a small town over the course of one year, and so the Tarrin’s Bay Series was born. Twelve books for twelve months, linked by the same setting. The first two books are currently available and I’ve recently started writing the third (yay!) which will release in March 2015.

If you haven’t yet read the first book, THE JANUARY WISH, now is the time, as it is currently on special on Amazon for only 99c (I think this may only be for Aus/NZ readers though – sorry international friends! It was Amazon’s decision ;))

You can grab a copy here…. I don’t know how long Amazon will keep the discounted price!

>> Amazon.Com: CLICK HERE

>> Amazon.Com.Au: CLICK HERE

>> For all other ebook stores you can find the relevant links on my publisher’s page HERE.

 

What’s THE JANUARY WISH ABOUT?

When Dr Sylvia Greene makes an impromptu wish at the Tarrin’s Bay Wishing Festival, it’s the most out of character action she can think of. Hers is not a life of wishes. Hers is a controlled life of order, plans and preparation…of science and research and diagnosis and treatment. But her past has been weighing on her mind, and decisions made long ago have far-reaching consequences.

A week later, the daughter she secretly gave up for adoption at sixteen arrives in Sylvia’s small coastal town with secrets that can’t be shared. Between feelings of guilt, gossip, and a growing attraction to an emotionally unavailable colleague, Sylvia’s well-ordered life is soon thrown into chaos. She is no longer alone, and for the first time she feels as if her world is open to possibilities.

They say be careful what you wish for, but, for Sylvia, the unexpected consequences may be just what the doctor ordered. 

This story is close to my heart. It was the second book I wrote and I put some of my own experiences into it, and for those that don’t know, the setting is based on where I live on the NSW South Coast. I was thrilled when this story became a finalist in the Choc Lit Australian Star contest, and even more thrilled when Escape Publishing decided to publish it.

If you’ve already read it, I hope you enjoyed it and if so, if you’d like to write a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads, that would be awesome. ;)

 

Where I’m at…

I’m currently writing MIRACLE IN MARCH, the third Tarrin’s Bay book (*note: these books can be read in any order, some characters reappear but there aren’t major spoilers). I’m enjoying revisiting Tarrin’s Bay and creating new characters to fall in love with. I think this one will be a bit of a tearjerker! But as always, my books have uplifting endings.

I’ve recently finished writing 12 DAVES OF CHRISTMAS, a romagic comedy novella, and this is due for release on 1st Dec 2014, but my next release is HAUNTED EVER AFTER on 1st September 2014, another romagic comedy but a full length novel.

hummingcake>> I’d like to say a big warm welcome to all my new subscribers who visited the blog for my post on How I Write Fast, the response was amazing and it is my second most popular blog post of all time since I started blogging! (The most popular post is How To Choose a Pen Name … hmm, what other ‘How To’s could I do?). Thanks to everyone who shared the post, here’s some virtual Hummingbird Cake for you (which features in The January Wish, served by the dreamy Jonah).

Next month I’m off to the RWA Australia conference in Sydney and I’ll be doing my first book signing for the Australian Romance Readers Association, so if you’re not far from Sydney, make sure you book a ticket and come say hello! There will be over 70 authors there!

julietmadisonWell, I better get back to writing, there is still half the year left! (optimist) ;)

You can also visit me online at Facebook and Twitter where I spend a bit lot of my time.

~ Juliet

 

Book Bundle Giveaway!

Author Jennie Jones is holding a multi-book giveaway to celebrate the first birthday of her bestselling rural romance, The House on Burra Burra Lane.

It is OPEN WORLDWIDE, and all you need to do to enter is visit my interview HERE, click the little green ‘subscribe to Jennie’s newsletter’ button on the right side of the page, then say ‘yes’ on the Rafflecopter form. Easy!

The winner will receive a special limited edition USB key from Escape Publishing, with six books loaded onto it just for you. Plus you’ll receive swag including bookmarks, postcards…etc.

CLICK HERE to enter and read an interview about my book The January Wish. Good luck, and tell your friends! :)

giveaway-jenniej

How I Write Fast (AKA: How I Wrote 70k in 20 days)

“You’re a machine,” people have told me. “How do you write so fast?” I’ve been asked. Well, today I’m going to tell you how.

writingfast-istockLet me start by saying that what I do may not suit everyone, it is just the way I work. If you can take something helpful away from my process to help your own writing, then that’s great. If not, then that’s perfectly okay.

First, a bit of background info…

I’ve been writing seriously since late 2009, so in a few months time that will make it five years. I’ve written six novels, three novellas, two partials/proposals (synopsis and three chapters), and a few short stories. Three of my novels are published, one is contracted (and another but it isn’t written yet), the other two novels are on submission. Two of my novellas are published, the third one is contracted. I self-published one of my short stories, two others are provided free on my website and the others are hiding away on my computer till I figure out what to do with them!

The first novel I wrote took me about a year. I’d heard that was an average time frame. But I want to write faster, I thought. My second novel took me nine months (ironically, the storyline touched on pregnancy), and my third novel but first to be published (Fast Forward) took me four months.

Hmmm, if I could decrease the length of time it took each time, how fast could I go?

Obviously, you can’t whip up a novel in a couple of days and nor would I want to. But my fourth novel took twenty days to write. Not consecutive days, but twenty days of actual writing over about two and a half months. The book was only 52,000 words, maybe it was a fluke? Nope, my fifth book which was 84,000 words took twenty-seven days and my sixth book which was 70,000 words took twenty days. Again, these weren’t consecutive days – I didn’t write for twenty days straight, and nor did I write all day, but I started this sixth book on 20th Jan and finished on 28th Feb, so just over a month.

To show you how I did this and how I write fast in general, I’m going to share some details on my writing process. One of my critique partners calls it the Pressure Cooker Method. Quite appropriate, since I love the pressure cooker in my kitchen ;)

To sum it up, my process is divided into three parts:

1. Plan

2. Write

3. Edit

Sometimes, the steps might overlap as I go back and forth with new plot ideas or if I feel like I really need to edit and perfect chapter five before writing chapter six.

The most important part for me is the planning.

Yes, my name is Juliet and I am a plotter.

If you’re a pantser and rolling your eyes right now thinking, ‘Oh, she’s one of them, this article is obviously not for me’, hang in there a moment. I didn’t always plot a lot. And sometimes, I even pantse myself, but I’ve learned that for me, plotting reduces how much editing and revising I have to do. This is good for me, because out of all the steps involved in writing it’s doing the actual writing that I enjoy the most. Some people say they like ‘having written’ but not the actual writing. I like having written too, but I love the writing itself – fingers typing away madly on the keyboard as ideas and thoughts scramble over themselves in an effort to be born onto the page. That makes me feel alive and powerful, gives me a natural high.

Did I jot down a plan for this blog post? You betcha. Just a few notes in point form, but I know what I’m going to write and what comes next, yet still I can pantse and type whatever comes into my head. A plan for me is not a strict guide to follow or else, but provides a framework to keep me on track.

 

1. PLAN

  • I usually start by visualizing the story in my mind. Much of the work is done before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I have to feel the story before I can write it. Luckily, I was always good at daydreaming, so this is like having a 3D high-definition movie playing in my head, minus the costly ticket prices, popcorn, and tall person in front blocking my view.
  • I also like to start with a title and a one sentence or one paragraph pitch or blurb so I know what the main premise of the story is. If you can get the story down to a paragraph, it helps you stay focused as you write and not waste time writing scenes that don’t move the story forward.
  • Then I write down as many things as I can about the story in what my critique partner and I like to call a Vomit Outline. Just blurt it all out, don’t worry about typos or chunky bits or weird bits, and don’t worry if it’s not in order, just do an info dump or word vomit. Sometimes I type this up and sometimes I handwrite it. No one needs to see this, so don’t hold back. You are allowed to write strange things like:

John and Jane bump into each other at a café (not literally) and swap phone numbers, they see each other again the following week (what will they do? Where will they go?), sometime later in novel they will talk about this day and reminisce, but before then some interesting stuff needs to happen (like what? What the hell is this story about?), and maybe they will be witness to a crime and then have to go on the run, some exciting stuff happens when they are on the run, and some romance, and they call a friend for help…but how will they charge their phones when they are on the run? Mental note: make it so the characters can at least grab their bags and phones and chargers before they go on the run… etc etc.

This is just a silly example but hopefully you get the drift. Sometimes this is one page, sometimes it’s eight – whatever works. This aint’ no synopsis, this is when you can let loose and spill it all onto the page; big things and little things, plot twists and even what the character ate for breakfast if you like (this is a vomit outline after all).

  • When I have a good grasp of the story and its main plot events and character arc (you don’t have to know everything about your story, you can come back to the outline later to add more), I make a timeline. I decide what timeframe the story takes place over and then make a word document with a table inserted, creating a sort of Story Itinerary or schedule. Don’t freak out, it’s nothing like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory or Monica from Friends would do. ;)
  • For the 70k story I wrote in 20 days (Haunted Ever After, releasing Sept 1st), the timeline was easier to plan as the story was only set over five days. In the table, there are two columns and one row for each day. If your story is set over a year, you could have one row for each month. In the first column of each row I list the day/date and I leave the second column blank. I make sure I’ve allowed enough room for each day and then I print out the table.
  • Look at your vomit outline, however gross and messy it may be, and take the key points/plot events and write them into bullet points in the appropriate day/month of your timeline. In pencil is best as you might rearrange them later. (It’s just struck me now that some writers use Scrivener, a writing program, which probably does similar things to this. Again, whatever works for you. This is what works for me). By the end you should have a list of general bullet points for every day/week/month when something takes place in your story. Eg: John has dinner at Jane’s house, John and Jane witness a crime…etc.

Now you have a schedule to follow when you write so you are not left wondering ‘what am I going to write about in this scene?’ Your story is mapped out and you are ready to write.

 

2. WRITE

*Note: I usually write chronologically, but with this method you can take any scene from your timeline and write it when you wish. If you want to write the end first, go for it. If you want to start from the beginning, go for it.

  • I decide how much time I have available for writing (eg: 30 mins, 2 hours), and get comfy. I have my writing instrument of choice (see below), my timeline, pen, and post-it notes on hand, as well as a timer. I decide what scene to write from my timeline and pick one of the bullet points. Then I break this down into more bullet points! This doesn’t take long, and I only do it just before a writing session. I put these new bullet points onto a post-it note and stick it beside my screen. Each point is one ‘thing’ that happens, even if only small.

Eg: for ‘John has dinner at Jane’s house’, I could break this down to:

    • Jane opens the door and John gives her flowers, Jane sneezes.
    • Jane serves dinner and realizes she forgot that John is vegetarian.
    • Jane and John share awkward conversation.
    • They hear yelling outside and go to the window to look.

Or, here’s a real life example of one of my scene post-its:

postit

  • Now that I know what’s going to happen I can type madly, turning the events into a cohesive scene. But first, SET A TIMER. This is what helps me write extra fast! Even if I have two hours available to write, I’ll only set the timer for 30 or 60 minutes. Then I’ll reset it. I’ve found that a shorter time limit makes me write more words.
  • While the timer is running, the only thing I do is write. I don’t worry about what I’m writing, I have my plot points on the post-it next to me so I know what needs to happen, and the writing itself can be fixed up in edits later on. No checking emails or social media, no answering the phone. YOU ARE WORKING! You are currently unavailable and in an appointment. That is how I view my writing sessions. If you were serving a customer in a shop would you stop halfway through their purchase and say ‘hang on, I just want to check this Facebook notification’? No. Treat writing like any other job. You can check your messages when the timer is up.

Following this method, I can usually write between 1200-1500 words an hour, sometimes up to 1800. So if my word goal is 3000 words a day, this would only take two hours.

  • After I’ve written for the day, I usually jot down the date and how many words I wrote that day on a scrap of paper stuck to my wall with blue-tak. When I finish my book I can see how many productive days I had and how long it took to write the book, which makes it easier to plan for upcoming deadlines. When first starting with this, you can also choose to note down how many hours you wrote for each day so you can work out your average words-per-hour. If you have a competitive streak like me, you’ll want to up your game and beat your personal best. ;)

*Note: Here’s a little secret that has had a BIG impact on how fast I write: I don’t write on a computer! I write on a nifty little device called an Alphasmart NEO2, or NEO for short.

NEOIt’s a lightweight portable word processor that runs on AA batteries (which means no charging or running out of battery while out and about – it took over two years before I had to change my NEO’s batteries!).

Apart from the battery life, the other benefits are that it has a small screen that only shows a few lines of text so you have less temptation to re-read what you’ve written while writing, the screen isn’t backlit so you don’t get sore eyes (it’s that old fashioned black text on a greyish-green screen), and there is no internet! On this machine, you JUST WRITE. Also, it saves automatically as you type (even if you turn it off, you can turn it back on and resume where you were without losing anything), it turns on in an instant so there’s no waiting for things to load, and when you’re done you plug it into a computer via USB and can import directly to a word document (the words will gradually appear while it transfers) or save it as a text file and copy/paste into a word document. I LOVE IT. I also find the small layout really easy on my hands for typing and to get comfy with it on your lap. And it doesn’t get all hot like a laptop. Plus, if you accidentally leave it in your car no one will steal it because they probably won’t know what it is and think it’s an old, outdated piece of junk!

Sadly, the supplier I bought my NEO from has said that they are not making them anymore due to everyone using iPads and whatnot. I would still prefer writing on my NEO to an iPad. I wrote my last novella on my laptop and found that I was nowhere near as fast as on the NEO. You should still be able to buy them from eBay or Amazon though (might be second hand), so if it sounds like something that could help you then do a search online and see what you can find.

*Another note: I usually write while lying down. Bit hard if you’re using a desktop computer but if you write with a laptop or NEO, try it! Don’t know if it makes a difference, but it sure helps me get comfortable and makes sure I don’t get up and do anything else when I should be writing! Maybe it’s a blood flow thing too, who knows?

 

3. EDIT

  • If I have time, either right after a writing session or at the end of every day or two, I’ll do a quick read-through and tweak of the chapter/s I’ve just done. If I’m writing a novella I’ll usually just leave it all until it’s finished, but I find with a novel, doing this helps remind me of certain plot points and characteristics to help me stay focused and write the later scenes. And it’s good for picking up when you’ve accidentally changed someone’s name or hair colour.
  • By doing the above, and by doing the detailed planning and plotting before writing, I’ve found there isn’t usually a lot to be done with editing. This wasn’t true for my first and second books when I was just learning the ropes, they required A LOT of revisions (and I’m still going back and forth revising that first book each time I get new feedback).
  • When the manuscript is finished, I can usually do the edits in a few days. First, I go to my trusty list of overused and passive words and search for each in my manuscript, deleting them or changing them to something better. As I do this, I often find little things to adjust or improve in the narrative or dialogue, and doing little tweaks out of order can be helpful because you are not involved in reading the story at this point.
  • When I’ve cut or changed as many of the passive words as possible, I do a mental checklist on the story and characters, making sure I haven’t forgotten any important details and seeing if there are ways I can enhance their characterization in subtle ways through their appearance, word choices, and behavior and body language.
  • Then I read through the manuscript from beginning to end and tweak anything else that’s needed as I go. I try to set aside a good chunk of time to do this so I can read the whole book in a day or two, which makes it easier to pick up on inconsistencies and repetition.
  • Done! I send to my critique partners if there’s time then do another edit with their feedback, or I send to my publisher and await the final verdict.

>> For my 70k in 20 days manuscript, Haunted Ever After, I kept track of when I wrote and how many words I wrote. I started on 20th January and finished on 28th February, and wrote on twenty days during that time. My word counts ranged from 1300 a day to 5000 or 6000 a day (but most were around the 2000-3000 mark), reaching a grand total of 70 227 words, and getting it sent to my publisher on deadline day.

>> My 84k in 27 days manuscript was written in a similar way, starting on 1st July and finishing on 7th September.

Does writing fast lead to a reduction in quality? I’ll let you be the judge! My 84k book February or Forever was published last February and you can check it out here.

 

If you don’t know me well you might be wondering if I have a lot of time on my hands to churn books out. No, I’m a busy single mother with a son with special needs. For the last four years I played teacher and helped him through high school via distance education, while also running an online business and writing my books.

We’re all busy these days, but if you’re passionate about being a writer, you will make time to write. Life gets in the way for sure, and I certainly don’t write every day because some days it is just not possible, but I try to not let too many days get away from me.

I also try to remember my priorities. If something can wait for another day, I let it wait. My priorities lie with the wellbeing of myself and my family and close friends, my responsibilities to my publisher, and then with others. Don’t let little things waste your time, and be kind to yourself. Allocate time to write when you will refuse to get sucked into demands from others (unless you have a young baby or child or other urgent reasons, then you have to be creative with your time!). Make writing a priority and don’t be hard on yourself when you get to the end of a hard day and haven’t done any. Go to sleep, start again tomorrow.

Another thing that helps me write fast is that I have a lot of determination to succeed in this industry. It’s my passion, it’s what I want to do with my life, so I treat it with the importance that it deserves. Having dreams and clear goals can help you get your books written faster, especially when you have lots of other ideas you want to write about! Knowing that when I finish one book I can start on another ‘ve been dying to write keeps me going!

…So think about what you want to achieve with your writing. If you want to write at a leisurely pace at the end of the day for your own enjoyment, whether or not you get published, then writing fast may not be a concern for you. If you want to be a prolific author with multiple books published and make a full time career out of it, then learning to increase your writing speed will help you greatly. This doesn’t mean you should rush, just be efficient. Try some of my tips if you like, see how they go, and remember that it is okay to do things your own way. What I do may not work for everyone, but I hope that it will help at least one of you out there to maximize your writing time and get more joy and satisfaction from bringing your ideas to life.

 

~ Juliet 

 

P.S – Now that I’ve written a long blog post on how to write fast, I’m off to search for a blog post on how to write shorter blog posts… ;)

Making Time For Reading

I have a confession to make: I’m a slow reader. :(

But in contrast, I’m a fast writer. :)

relax-on-the-sofa-776289-mInformation and news and technical stuff, I can read fast, but fiction… for some reason I take a lot longer. Maybe I just want to savour what’s happening with the characters and take my time to really feel the setting, or maybe it’s that when I read fiction my mind starts getting ideas for my own books (*note to aspiring writers – once you start writing, you will NEVER read books the same way again!).

There are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS out there right now that I want to read, and I get frustrated when I can’t get through them all. However, five months into 2014 and I have been reading more than usual and making more time for reading. It’s not just about the speed you read when you’re actually reading, but taking opportunities throughout the day to get a few pages in to increase your total reading time and get through more of those wonderful stories.

Here are some of the tips I’ve found helpful to make more time to read (some of these work best when reading ebooks, as digital books can be on your smartphone ready to whip out when needed):

  1. Waiting in a supermarket or post office queue
  2. Waiting for an appointment in a waiting room
  3. Waiting for large documents to download or screens to load on the computer
  4. While on hold with phone companies, etc
  5. Waiting in the car to pick up spouse or children from classes or trains, etc
  6. While eating breakfast, lunch, or on a coffee break
  7. First 5 minutes or so after waking in the morning
  8. At night before bed (the obvious one, this is when most people read)
  9. During commercial breaks on TV. The average one hour show has 10-15 minutes of ads! Watching TV for two hours you can get half an hour of reading done
  10. While stirring/cooking dinner (watch those sticky fingers and don’t drop your eReader or phone into the pot!)
  11. After exercise: if you go for a walk, why not stop half way or towards the end and read for 5 minutes in the great outdoors. Or if working out at home, take a few minutes to lie down afterwards and read while your body recovers (just remember to get back up!)
  12. Try an audio book to listen to while driving, doing housework, cooking, or exercising
  13. Have an allocated ‘nothing but reading’ day once a month, or whenever you can

I also recently heard about an app that increases how many words you read per minute. It’s called Spritz. I tried it. It works! But would this work for fiction or would it take away from the overall relaxing experience? Hmmm…

 

What about you, do you read as often as you would like?

Have you got any more tips to increase your reading time?

~ Juliet

Paris Letters – interview with memoir author Janice MacLeod

I’m thrilled to welcome Janice MacLeod to the blog today, the author of the memoir PARIS LETTERS which I read and loved recently. In the book she shares how she went from being a busy and worn out copywriter to simplifying her life and becoming an artist in Paris, finding unexpected love on the way.

Janice sold, donated, or got rid of most of her belongings and saved enough money to quit her job and buy some time to travel, not knowing what would happen next but trusting that she was following the right path to make her life what she wanted it to be. Now, she is married and runs a painted letters from Paris subscription service, combining her love of words, art, and Paris…

 

Janice MacLeod Author Photo credit Krzysztof Lik1. Did you ever imagine when you first went to Paris that you would end up living there?

Not in a million years. I thought I’d like to live in Rome. When I first planned my European itinerary, I made Rome my final stop so I could either stay there and eat pasta every day or figure out where to go from there. But of course, by then I had met the lovely Christophe in Paris who had asked me to return. Since I gave up my job and my apartment in California, I figured, hey why not? Paris is hardly outer Mongolia. I’d go and see about this Christophe fella. And of course, I fell in love with the city around the same time I fell in love with him. Paris is definitely well suited for me. For an artist, the streets provide constant inspiration.

 

2. Describe your life before Paris in three words and your life after Paris in three words:

Before Paris: Stressed. Traffic. Alone.

After Paris: Inspired. Stroll. Love.

 

3. You mention in your book that you write three pages in your journal every day, as recommended in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. After doing this for so long, do you ever struggle with what to write or is it one of those things where the more you do it the more you can do it? How helpful is journaling in your life now?

I would love to tell you it gets easier, but that third page is still a pain much of the time. Though it has become easier to show up at the page. I can now open my journal and begin quite easily. Journalling has helped me organize my thoughts, my day and my future plans. Being the master of my own business requires a lot of planning. The journal is where I carve out time to plan. It’s also where I dream. It’s also where you’ll find my daily list of things to do. Writing everything down has made me more efficient with my days.

 

Janice Wedding 2 credit David Bacher4. Did it cross your mind that you might meet an eligible bachelor while travelling, or was your whirlwind romance totally unexpected?

Not only did I not expect romance, I had given up entirely on finding it. Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I really thought the love of my life was there and all I had to do was find him. After many disappointing dates, I gave up looking for him. I was in complete acceptance that it might never happen. In a way, I broke up with my imaginary boyfriend who lived in Los Angeles. I took off for Europe, and of course, there he was waiting for me to arrive. Even when I met Christophe, I didn’t think we would have a relationship. I was traveling through Paris. Knowing I was just passing through and having already given up on romance likely made me more open to simply living in the moment with this handsome butcher. And that likely helped romance blossom. Life is funny that way.

[Juliet ~ It's amazing how letting go can lead you to something wonderful :) ]

 

5. At the back of your book you list a ton of helpful ways to declutter, simplify your life, and save or earn money. For people who are overwhelmed with their lives and want to get started on making some changes, what three tasks do you suggest they start with?

1. Oatmeal. The cheap bulk kind. It’s healthy, filling and so very affordable. You can get ahead in a lot of aspects of your life by eating oatmeal in the morning. I don’t cook mine. I toss it in a bowl with some nuts, seeds, cinnamon and whatever milk I have on hand.

2. Live beneath your means. You’ll likely start saving and be able to pay off credit and boost your bank account. Being able to live life with a chunk of change in your pocket provides an air of peace and calm in your life.

3. Write in a journal daily. I came up with so many ideas on how to save money (like saying no to group dinners that left me drained in spirit and pocketbook) and earn money, which led to my Etsy shop that now brings in most of my income. And in between all that, I had my Lists of Things To Do each day, which just made me more efficient in my days, resulting in more energy to clean out my drawers and sell household items online.

 

6. How did you go about getting your memoir published?

Once my romance and artistic life started to blossom in Paris, I realized this might make a memoir that would help and inspire. I consulted Linda Sivertsen over at http://bookmama.com/. She helps people create a book proposal. I researched agents who are great at selling memoirs and found Laura Yorke at the Carol Mann Agency in New York (laura@carolmannagency.com) and sent her a note explaining my book. She agreed to see my book proposal. She signed me right away and we went about pitching the book to publishers. We landed with Sourcebooks and I couldn’t be happier. This publisher is fantastic. Great editors, great publicists, great resources for authors.

[Juliet ~ Congrats!]

 

Janice MacLeod St Andre Paris Letter Photo Krzysztof Lik7. You created a business selling painted letters from Paris. Do you have a favourite Paris Letter so far?

The most recent Paris Letter is always my favorite. I never know exactly how it will turn out. The process is magical, even for the one holding the brush.

[Juliet ~ I look forward to receiving mine in the mail each month!]

 

8. When you’re not writing or painting or enjoying the sights of Paris, what do you like to read?

I love reading memoirs, but only happy stories. Tragedy bums me out. I also like historical fiction because it’s a history lesson wrapped in the shiny bow of an entertaining story.  Though lately I must admit, more of my free time goes to lounging around Pinterest. It may be the best museum I’ve ever visited. And that’s saying something as one who lives in the City of Museums.

[Juliet ~ I totally share your love of Pinterest! I think I'm addicted.]

 

Paris Letter Sample 19. My readers love romantic stories with a happy ending (or at least, a happy new beginning!), what’s next on the horizon for you?

I love romantic stories with happy endings, too. The other night I watched The Notebook (again!) but this time with French voiceover. And I bawled my head off (again!). But it was the good kind of crying. So satisfying.

[Juliet ~ I must watch that one again!]

Next on my horizon is a big move. Yes, Christophe and I are cleaning out our drawers and discussing next steps. We are such compatible travelers and our wanderlust is in full gear. We are both nomads at heart. I also have a couple book ideas bouncing around my head. And of course, another line of letters will come out that aren’t about Paris. They’ll likely be about wherever we show up with our suitcases. Oh the intrigue. I’ll report more over on my blog: janicemacleod.com

[Juliet ~ Intriguing indeed! I look forward to following the blog]

 

10. And lastly, can you impress us by telling us something really cool in French? ;)

Alas, I cannot impress you with my French. My French is not impressive.

[Juliet ~ It's gotta be better than mine ;) ]

 

Thanks for sharing your story, Janice!

>> Follow Janice’s ongoing journey at her website/blog.

>> To get a copy of Janice’s memoir, PARIS LETTERS, check out your local bookstore or buy via the links on this page HERE. 

>> And for a little taste of Paris delivered to your letterbox each month, subscribe to her personalised, painted letters HERE.

 

Paris-Letters-by-Janice-MacleodHow much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this question to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street—who doesn’t speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can’t ever return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves—words, art, and Christophe—to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever.

 

Meet The Mothers In My Novels [& Enjoy This FREE Mothers Day Gift!]

Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, aspiring mothers, mothers-to-be, mothers-at-heart, and single fathers! :)

I love writing about mothers in fiction, and being one myself, there is no shortage of inspiration to draw on… the fun, the challenges, the heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, I can make sense of these things in my life by putting them into stories.

Today for Mothers Day I’d like to introduce you to the mothers in my books, and I’ll share a little ‘motherhood’ snippet from each book:

 

FASTFORWARD-JulietMadisonMother #1: Kelli McSnelly from FAST FORWARD

Kelli suddenly becomes a mother when she transforms overnight from a 25 year old model to a 50 year old woman with two grown kids, a grandbaby on the way, and a husband she doesn’t like. As she navigates her way through the future, she’ll come to realise a few important things about life, love, and motherhood.

Excerpt:

Hang on, if she was pregnant, then that meant I was going to be … a grandmother. No way!

This couldn’t be happening. Real grandma’s knitted and had short curly mauve hair and stored tissues up their sleeves, didn’t they? I was too young for this. Two children and a grandchild-to-be all in one day? I needed Valium. Preferably intravenously. Damn! I should have asked the doctor for a prescription.

 

january wishMother #2: Dr Sylvia Greene from THE JANUARY WISH

Sylvia became a mother as a teenager, but she gave her baby up for adoption. In The January Wish she meets her now eighteen-year-old daughter and must discover how to adapt her life to make room for the child she never thought she’d see again.

Excerpt:

Sylvia turned away to give them privacy, and leaned over Maria’s grave to place down the single sunflower she’d brought with her. Silently, she thanked Maria. Thanked her for taking care of Grace, for loving her, for being the mother Sylvia wasn’t able to be back then. She wished she could hug her the way she’d hugged David, but she couldn’t. She simply placed a hand on the cold, rough headstone, and somehow hoped to communicate just how thankful she was that her daughter had been well cared for. Maria’s life may not have been long, but Sylvia knew it would have been fulfilling, having Grace in it. And suddenly Sylvia felt a strong sense of responsibility, that although she wasn’t taking Maria’s place, she was taking on a new role in Grace’s life. At sixteen, it wasn’t her time. But now, at thirty-five, it was.

 

FebruaryOrForeverMother #3: Chrissie Burns from FEBRUARY OR FOREVER

Chrissie has recently gone through a divorce and is now single mum to Kai, a challenging six-year-old boy. She moves to the town of Tarrin’s Bay when she inherits her aunt’s beach house and hopes she can make a fresh start and help both herself and her son open up to the joy and possibilities of life.

Excerpt:

‘Oh, but Mum. You don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like to be this tired.’ He strung out the last word with dramatic emphasis.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake.’ Chrissie bent and hooked the heel of one shoe on her finger, then the other, and flung them into her son’s room. At least they were out of the way; he could put them in the wardrobe himself later. Chrissie picked up Kai’s school bag that he’d dumped next to the couch, and chuckled. Don’t know what it’s like to be this tired? She shook her head at her son’s naivety. Granted, he was only six, but if only he knew. Getting up five times a night on average for the first year of his life? That was the definition of tired.

 

Sisters at HeartMother #4: Carrie from my short story SISTERS AT HEART

Carrie is also a single mother with a young son who doesn’t want to go anywhere without her. She’s starting from scratch in a new town and living with her parents, desperate to find her own way and make new friends. When she volunteers for the school cake stall she experiences something profound that gives her hope for the future.

Excerpt:

‘I have to look after the cake stall along with another mummy, sweetie. Grandma and Grandpa will take care of you.’ I widen my eyes and nod in reassurance.

He cautiously turns his head towards my dad, who bends forward and holds out a lollipop of swirling, jarring colours.

Dental decay and hyperactivity to look forward to – thanks Dad!

Zac’s uncertain eyes glance back at me, then back at his grandpa. He releases one hand and holds it out to the lollipop while Dad inches back slightly so it’s just out of reach. Zac sighs and releases my other wrist, his pout soon replaced with a smiling red stain on ripping open the wrapping and licking the treat with gusto.

Bribery. Works every time. 

:)

 

926565_giftFREEBIE ALERT! Do you have a favourite fictional mother character from a book, movie, or TV show? Let me know in the comments and you’ll receive a FREE copy of my short story SISTERS AT HEART! This isn’t a prize draw, everyone will get a copy, as long as you answer the question and leave your email address in the comment too so I can send the story to you! It is a quick story you can read over a cup of coffee :) *Comment must be left before 16th May when the freebie offer will close. Spread the word! :)

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