Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Silver Writing Anniversary

April 2, 2016 is a milestone anniversary for me.  It was on April 2, 1991 that Tracy Farrell from Harlequin Historical phoned to tell me they wanted to buy my first book, A WARRIOR'S HEART.    I had volunteered in my daughter's kindergarten class that afternoon, so I didn't get the call until 4 pm.  It remains a vivid memory to this day.

So, what's changed most in publishing in those 25 years?  The arrival of a little thing called the internet, with both good and, from this author's point of view, not-so-good results.

First, the good:

No more having to reach for that dictionary, thesaurus or research book I may or may not have handy to check a word or a date.  No more spending days isolated from other writers, waiting until the next meeting of romance writers or a critique group to find a sympathetic ear.  The world of research and writers is at my finger tips -- and so are a vast array of writing and marketing tips.

Self-publishing.  Although I haven't ventured into self-publishing (except for a free novella on my website), this has opened the door to a wider variety of stories for other authors.  No more having to be subject to editorial notions of what will or will not sell.  Mind you, before I sold my first book, a medieval historical romance, I was told many times by many people that medievals will never sell.  My latest book (SCOUNDREL OF DUNBOROUGH) is a medieval and I've written many more medievals in between, so those dictates were never really carved in stone.  Nevertheless, it sure could be tough finding an editor willing to look at something "different."

Digital sales.  It used to be that a category romance had but one month to be available on store shelves (a concept that I had to explain many, many times, often to no avail).  Now they can be available in digital format forever.  Unfortunately, not all of my backlist books are available, including A WARRIOR'S HEART, but many of my older books are. 

Reader reviews.  Back in the day, when there were only one or two publications that reviewed romance, it was easy to believe that whatever a particular reviewer thought, all readers would think.  And thus a bad or mediocre review was to die a thousand deaths.  One thing the online world has shown me is the sheer variety of reactions to any particular book. And that's a good thing.

Reaching readers.  In the olden days, if an author wanted to have a newsletter, that meant printing and mailing and a lot of time and effort.  Now it can be done online.  And there are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more ways to reach readers. It's a do-it-yourself PR bonanza!  And it's (relatively) FREE.

Saving trees and fees.  Back in the day, a finished manuscript was a big pile of paper that had to get to the publisher either by mail or courier.  That went for revisions, copy edits and author alterations, too.  I didn't want to trust my precious manuscript to the mail, so I used FedEx.  One year my total billing from FedEx was over $800.  Kinda makes the cost of internet service not so bad, eh?

But for all the good about the internet when it comes to a career as a writer, there are some things not-so-good, at least for me.

Too much information.  What's hot?  What's not?  You must do this, you ought to do that, your story needs this, you shouldn't do that.  And on and on.  There have always been plenty of people willing to give writers well-meaning advice, but never have writers had so many sources.  But unless the advice rings true to you, I say write what ya gotta write, because at the end of the day, it's your name on the story.  And too many cooks really can spoil the broth by diluting your "voice,"  a writer's single most precious asset.

PR pressure -- whether from the publisher, agent or other writers, writers are being asked to do a lot of PR online.  Here's the thing:  I'm a writer, not a marketer.  If I wanted to work in marketing, I'd work in marketing and (presumably) have a steadier income.  (Sidebar:  I will never forget the look on the face of a financial planner when I explained that I had no idea how much I was going to earn in any year.  "No idea at all?" asked he in stunned disbelief.  "Nope, not a clue," I replied.  "None??"  "Nope."  He may still be in shock.) 

I made the decision to do only what PR I was comfortable with and that wouldn't take away from my writing time or my family time.  Should I have done more?  Could I have done (or do) more?  Oh, yes -- but at what cost in terms of time and attention?  Still, one of my major regrets is not doing more PR at certain points in my career, when I think it could have made a difference.  But that's water under the bridge now.

Reader Reviews.  Geez Louise, they can be brutal!

Reaching Readers.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, right?  My readers really don't need to know too much about me -- or indeed, anything -- to like my books, and there have been times I learned something about a favorite author that made me cringe and forever tainted the way I viewed their work.

What else has changed in 25 years?  Forty-seven more books and novellas, covers, word counts, the editors I've worked with, bouncing from category to single title and back again, my kids grew up, my husband retired, I'm a foster grandmother and I'm going to have another grandbaby soon. 

Whatever else has changed in the past 25 years, though, one thing has not and never will as long as I'm writing:  I still try to tell the best possible romance I can about interesting, believable characters in a realistic, believable setting.  And no, it doesn't get any easier.

This is the original cover for my first book, sold April 2, 1991, on the shelves March, 1992.  It also was the first manuscript I ever completed. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Where did February go?

Yikes, it's been awhile since I've blogged!  I think I have some pretty good excuses, though.  Two of them, both babies.

In January, I became a foster grandma.  I knew that that was in the works, of course, but if you think writing a book is tough, try going through the process of becoming licensed to provide foster care.  Makes revisions look like a cakewalk.  But the process WAS completed by my son and his wife, and in January, they became foster parents to a baby.  Believe me, it was as exciting as the call I got from an editor at Harlequin telling me they wanted to buy my first book.  Even if the placement isn't permanent, it's still a thrill.

Then in February, I found out my daughter and her husband are expecting.  Right around my birthday, too.  Cue more excitement!  And frankly, folks, I suggest you buy stock in Osh-Kosh, Michael's and Fabricland, because there's already been a whole lotta shoppin' goin' on!

I'm also working on a book.  It was due late last Year-of-the-Medical-Crises.  Fortunately, my very understanding publisher has allowed me to take my time to write it.  However, as anybody who's written a book that required stopping, starting over, stopping and starting again can probably attest, it's not been an easy road.  It's one I'm still on. 

So it's been a bit of a "different" time for me.  Fortunately, things are going well, but it's still uncharted waters for the next few months, so I can't say how often I'll be blogging.  I'm much more likely to be tweeting, so if you want to follow the progress of my current manuscript (aka The Great Ragout because I threw everything and then some into the first draft), I suggest you follow me there -- @margmooreauthor

I hope everyone is enjoying a good year so far.  I'm certainly having a much better one!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Really Easy Baby Quilt

Many years ago, when my son was born, my friend sent me a baby quilt she had made.  I was impressed by the shape and even more by the construction -- it was not complicated, to put it mildly.  If you can baste (aka running stitch) and tie knots, you can make one, too. 

This is the original quilt.

I decided to make one, using the original as my pattern.  I discovered that it was easier to do it all "by hand," given that quilt batting tends to get stuck on the presser foot. 

I also realized it could also be made in a rectangle, too.  That way, all the cutting necessary is trimming seams and thread.

Here's what you need to make this simple baby quilt. 

1 yard or meter of printed fabric - I use polyester/cotton or 100 % cotton

1 yard or meter of plain fabric for backing.  (Use the same kind as printed fabric)
NOTE:  I always pre-wash and dry all fabrics.

1 yard or meter of quilt batting  (NOTE:  I've only ever used polyester batting, so I don't know how this would work with other kinds)

Scissors for cutting batting, smaller ones for trimming threads.

Thread to match.  (If using polyester/cotton blend  fabrics, make sure you get polyester thread.)

2 or more skeins of embroidery floss, depending on # of colors used

marking pencil or fabric marker that will wash out

pins, needles for sewing and embroidery

Here's what you do:

Pin the pieces of fabric right sides together.  (The "right side" will be the brighter side.  If you can't tell, it doesn't matter which side you use.)

Pin quilt batting to fabric. 

Mark seams on fabric.  I do a wide seam, usually 3/4 inch. 

Using sewing thread, baste three layers together, leaving opening (4 - 6 inches) to turn inside out.  Remove pins. (I'm assuming non-sewers may be trying this.)

Trim seams to about 1/2 inch.  Trim batting a bit more.  Trim across corners (so you'll have a little triangle of fabric cut off) and even closer to seams for about an inch near corners.  

Turn inside out through opening.  I find it easier if I reach inside the opening to the fabric at the corner farthest from the opening, hold that and slowly pull back through opening.  This can be tricky, as the batting is thick, so take your time if you're new to this sort of thing.) 

Slip stitch opening. If you can't do a slip stitch (or hemming stitch), fold sides of opening to inside to match seam and pin, as it will be sewn closed when basting around sides with embroidery thread.)

Press.  This will make the next step much easier. 

Laying quilt flat, pin around edges and through all 3 layers within quilt to hold fabric together while working.

Mark along 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch from outer edge of quilt all around quilt.

Separate a piece of embroidery floss (see how here) and using 3 stands, baste around edges of quilt following marking.

 Join threads with reef (square) knots and trim about 3/8 - 1/2" from knot.

On right side of fabric, pick a place in the pattern to tie knots.  I pick the center of flowers, for instance, or the stars as in pictures shown.

From front, insert needle straight down through all 3 thicknesses, leaving 3/4 to 1 inch of floss at front.  Now here's where it gets a bit tricky.  Insert the needle up through the back and all 3 thicknesses so it comes out close to where you inserted the needle to make a stitch.  Take a look at the back.  The stitch should be small, about 1/8 inch.  It can be a bit larger, but not much.  If it's too large, pull out and try again.

When you're satisfied with the stitch, don't cut it yet!  Tie a knot, pulling floss tight.  Cut floss about 3/4 inch from knot. 

Continue until you've put a stitch and knot in every spot on the pattern. 

Trim the knots.  I trim them to about 3/8 to 1/2 inch.  Whatever length you decide upon, be consistent.  Here's one where the pattern was regular.



Here's one that's more random:

 Remove all pins.  Wash and dry as per fabric used.  

 And that's it!


Monday, January 04, 2016

Let the revisions begin!

Today I start revising the first draft of my current work-in-progress that I'm now calling The Great Ragout because oh, my, it's got a lot of "stuff" going on.  I realized this was the case as the chapter count increased to a whooping 32.  There was a reason for this -- my work was interrupted by not one, but two, family medical crises in 2015.  Fortunately, things are okay for now, but clearly, the stop-and-start meant I spent some time wandering through the manuscript wilderness, trying to find my way back to the path after each break.

So, how do I revise? 

I print the draft.  For a long time, I thought I did this because I was "old school."  Yes, I started my first book on ye olde typewriter.  And I find it easier to keep track of changes and notes when I can hold the manuscript in my hands.  However, I've come to another realization lately.  Reading on hard copy makes the experience more of a reader experience and less of a writer experience.  It gives me more distance, and gives me a better view of the bigger picture.

I read the draft with colored pen in hand and make changes and notes as I go.  I write additions on the back of the pages and other paper as necessary.  I use highlighters if there are blocks to be moved or deleted. 

After I go through the whole manuscript this way, I begin the second draft on the computer.  I don't just transpose the changes and additions and make deletions as noted.  I make new changes.  Sometimes I'll print up a scene or chapter to check it.  I'll go back and forth making changes or moving bits.  I save the deletions just in case, although I rarely use the cut bits.  After I've done the second draft, I'll print it up and go through this whole process again, at least once more.  Sometimes a few times.   However many it takes until I'm satisfied the story is the best I can make it, and within the right word count.

First drafts are tough.  They take a lot of mental effort, because you're making decisions all the time -- every sentence, really.  It's like building a house.  Revisions aren't easy either - it's like renovating a fixer-upper.  The "bones" might be there, but the plumbing's shot and the wiring's not up to code, and then comes the new walls, etc. etc. and finally the decorating.  But just like a good renovation, when the final draft is done, the satisfaction is wonderful.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wishing you and yours

the very best for a lovely holiday and a great New Year!

(I made this ornament in school over 50 years ago.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Today's the day!

My latest medieval romance,
is out today!

From the back cover:
She swore to resist temptation!
Journeying to Dunborough to learn the truth about her sister's murder, novice Celeste D'Orleau dons a nun's habit for safety. But seeing her childhood hero Gerrard of Dunborough makes her dream of pleasures that will be forbidden once she takes her final vows.

Gerrard wrestles with his desire for the innocent beauty. After striving to redeem his wicked reputation, he won't seduce a nun. Yet as Celeste's mission draws them closer together, it soon becomes clear their passion is stronger than any vow!

"Moore ends The Knights’ Prizes series with an exciting tale of murder, secret treasure and lust between a saint and a sinner. We love that the heroine is strong-willed and loyal, and that the hero is a rascal out to redeem himself. There’s great conflict, authentic setting and enough heated embraces to melt readers’ hearts."
-- Romantic Times

The other books in The Knights' Prizes series are CASTLE OF THE WOLF, followed by BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT.  As with all of my books, SCOUNDREL OF DUNBOROUGH was written to "stand alone," so you shouldn't feel lost if you haven't read the first two books, although I hope you have! 

(Not available on Kindle until Jan. 1, unfortunately.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Speaking of movies....

I see In The Heart Of The Sea "bombed" at the box office on the weekend.  I don't think their advertising campaign helped.

What did I see in the ads?

Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor.  Yes, he's handsome.  But who is he in this movie?  Some guy on a whaling ship, apparently. 

Lots of CGI of a whale (possibly white -- hard to tell on the TV) hitting a ship.  Lots and lots of water.  Guys screaming and falling. 

Not a lot of women and certainly none on the ship.  Which is historically accurate, of course, but not likely to entice women to want to see the movie, Chris Hemsworth notwithstanding.

It's based on Moby Dick, the only book to literally put me to sleep.   I had to read it for school but was hoping to get more about the characters and backstory than was shown in the movie with Gregory Peck.  Instead, I had to read way too much about whaling and zzzz.....  So that's no draw for me.  Is it for anybody who had to read it in school?  Who else reads Moby Dick these days?  Clearly not enough to help the box office.

The Gregory Peck movie was about the characters, not so much about the whale.  From the ads for In The Heart Of The Sea, I'm thinking that movie is about Chris Hemsworth as a guy on a ship and a big fake whale bashing in the ship.  That's certainly not enough to get me to the theater, not when I can see Gregory Peck as one heck of an obsessed captain sending nearly his entire, interesting and diverse crew to Davy Jones' locker for free on TV.