Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone all the best for a wonderful holiday and a happy, healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

News and First Drafts

I've got some news. It's official that CASTLE OF THE WOLF, my new medieval from Harlequin Historicals, will be out in July 2014.  Hooray!

I'm currently working on the sequel.  Well, it's more like I'm wandering around, or at least that's how it feels as I wend my way through the middle of the story.  I don't do outlines other than the synopsis my editor gets and I generally tend to be pretty vague about the middle of the story at that point.  I know the beginning, I know the crisis and the climax and how the story's going to end.  But the middle?  Uhhhh....stuff happens. 

But that's also where the unexpected happens, in no small part because I've kept things vague.  That leaves me wiggle room to explore new characters or plot ideas, and to come up with unforeseen elements of the characters' histories. 

So while it's a bit of a nail-biter to be wandering through uncharted territory, it's thrilling, too.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

7 Tips for Public Speaking

I used to do a lot of public speaking competitions when I was in school - prepared speeches, impromptu speeches, debates.  Along the way, I learned a few things about getting up and talking to a room full of strangers.

1.  Eye contact is good.  But forget the ol' adage about picturing people naked.  I can think of few things more distracting when giving a speech or workshop.  Here's what I do, especially if it's a big crowd.  I look just over people's heads.  Looks like I'm looking at them, but I'm not.

2.  Instinctively raise your voice by looking at the back wall.  This tip came courtesy of the late True Davidson who was one of my contest judges.

3.  Move around.  Not a lot, but some.  Few things are more boring than seeing somebody stand in the same place for an hour.

4.  Avoid fussing with glasses, jewelry, your water bottle, papers...anything, really, that makes folks start to pay more attention to what you're doing than what you're saying.  I remember one workshop where the speaker kept unscrewing, then re-screwing, the lid of her water bottle.  Just about drove me nuts and I have no memory at all of her workshop except for that.

5.  Rehearse, but not too much.  You want to sound competent and in command of your material, but you don't want to sound like a robot. 

6.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.  This is NOT the time to wear those fantastic new pointy-toed pumps.  Or that shirt that looks good, but makes you itchy around the collar.

7.  Most importantly, try to relax, especially if it's in a workshop environment.  People want to hear what you have to say, or they wouldn't be there.  And having been to several workshops myself, I can tell you that you really have to do something pretty foolish to earn the enmity of the room.  Nervous?  That's fine.  We sympathize.  Lose your place?  Laugh and get back on track, and it's all good.  Don't have the answer to a question?  Admit it.  Nobody expects you to know everything.  Slam a genre in a roomful of readers and writers of the genre?  That's just plain foolish.  But you really do have to do something that extreme to lose the room, so try to relax, look at the back wall, move around a little, and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Night Out With Authors

The next Night Out With Authors is Monday, November 18, featuring Kelley Armstrong and Ann Lethbridge and our first Open Mic for Writers.  Same time, same place.  Details here.  Hope to see some familiar faces!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beneath the waves

This is the day my Dad, a veteran of World War II, is a rock star.  He goes to the school where my sister is a teacher's aid to talk to the kids about his experiences.  First, their minds are boggled that somebody from WWII is still alive.  Then they ask for his autograph.  And write lovely thank-you notes to him for serving our country.

He stopped by this morning and I asked him what he was going to talk about today.  He was in the navy, so today he's telling them that the men who died at sea don't have graves, so there are no white crosses for them.  Yes, there are memorials, but they are not "beneath the crosses, row on row."

They lie beneath the waves.

May they all rest in peace.   

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Handouts, Free books and More!

If you're attending my workshop What Lies Beneath:  Adding Layers to your Characters and Conflict

for Toronto Romance Writers this 

Saturday, November 9, 

at the North York Central Library
 Room 2/3
from 1 - 4 p.m. 

there'll be handouts, free books and me, doing my lively, entertaining best to share some of the things I've learned about writing over the course of 20+ years as a published romance author. 

I'll also be raffling off two tickets to the next Night Out With Authors, featuring Kelley Armstrong and Ann Lethbridge.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Really Big News!!!

I'm thrilled to announce that I've signed a new contract with Harlequin Historicals for two medieval romances.  Yes, I'm back in Merry Olde England!

CASTLE OF THE WOLF is tentatively scheduled for summer, 2014.  The sequel doesn't have a title or release date yet because I just started it.  If you follow me on Twitter, that's my National Novel Writing Month project.  Except I'm extending my NaNo experience into December, because of other things happening this month.

So who's the Wolf?  No, he isn't a werewolf or shape-shifter.  Rheged of Cwm Bron is a Welsh knight known as the Wolf of Wales because when he fights, he's fierce. He wasn't born noble and has had to earn his title and estate. But he puts his future in jeopardy when he impulsively abducts a Norman lord's niece. 

Who's the lady?  Thomasina (aka Tamsin) of DeLac.  When her uncle betroths her to a notoriously cruel lord, she tries to refuse, until her uncle threatens to make her beloved cousin take her place as bride. But Rheged takes Tamsin before the wedding can occur. 

There's a lot more to the story than that, of course.  And several more characters.

It's wonderful to be back in the publishing world after my long, but necessary, break.  I feel energized, refreshed and excited, and not even the daunting prospect of Chapter One, Page One could dampen my enthusiasm.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Workshop on November 9

On Saturday, November 9, I'm conducting a workshop for Toronto Romance Writers called What Lies Beneath:  Adding Layers to your Characters and Conflict.

What exactly does that mean?  For longer than I should probably admit, I would hear that a romance needs "layers" and I was baffled.  What does that mean, layers?  I'm not baking a cake, I'm writing a book.

I did a lot more thinking about it, and read a few more writing books, and finally a light bulb went on.  I'm going to tell the members of Toronto Romance Writers what that light bulb was.  And how to add layers to their own work.

The workshop takes place at the North York Central Library, Toronto
Room 2/3
from 1 - 4 p.m.  

Yes, I'll be taking questions about the workshop and, if there's time, anything else you want to ask me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cruising down the Rhine

For two and a half weeks in September, my husband and I were on holiday in Europe. 
See that boat to the far right on the first bend in the Rhine?  That was our cruise ship, the Da Vinci.  It was a lovely holiday (even though the weather wasn't great and I developed a terrible cough).  

 We saw lots of castles and vineyards (and sampled the local wines).

And we found something unexpected  - a German edition of one of my books in Cologne.

Now it's back to our usual lives...but with some more changes coming.  Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Latest News

It's been a busy time for me!  A wedding, son's visits, anniversaries (my parent's 65th!), new nieces in the family, trying to keep two gardens in some semblance of order, finishing a book (I wound up doing ten complete drafts), and being involved in creating a new reading series, Night Out With Authors. Where has the summer gone???

The first Night Out With Authors event is on September 23rd in Toronto. If you're in the GTA, I hope you'll attend.  The authors reading are Mary Sullivan, Molly O'Keefe and Susanna Kearsley.   

More Information about Night Out With Authors

Here are some pictures of the cottage garden.  I can't believe those yellow bushes bloomed all summer long!

I hope everyone had a lovely summer! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Big and Little Doin's A-transpirin'

It's been awhile since I've blogged. Wondering what's going on in my life lately?

First and foremost, I'm writing. Or rather, rewriting. My agent had, shall we say, issues with certain things in my latest effort. Issues that were at the start of the book. Issues that I could see and yep, she was right. Revisions are never delightfully pleasant, but they can be easy, not too bad, or OH LORDY! These revisions are in the OH LORDY! category. Whole scenes have disappeared, new scenes added. Some bits could be salvaged and worked into the new material, but if you've ever had to unravel a sweater and re-knit, or pick out a seam to sew again, you'll appreciate what that's like.

This had to happen in the spring, of course, when I have two gardens to get in shape.

 I've also been involved in a very exciting venture with some fellow authors. We're starting a cross-genre reading series in our city called Night Out With Authors. We've been busy lining up authors and a venue, and starting a blog, among other things. Our first Night Out is in September, featuring Mary Sullivan, Molly O'Keefe and Susanna Kearsley at the Tranzac Club in Toronto. You can find out more at the Night Out with Authors blog.

We have some family events coming up that require some planning and legwork, too, like my parent's 65th wedding anniversary (yes, that's right - 65!!), and few other social events as well. And more visits from my far-away son (YEAH!).

So blogging this summer will likely be sporadic. I'll probably be tweeting, though, because it's fast and easy. I'm WriterMargMoore on Twitter,and I hope you'll follow me there.

Have a great summer, everyone! Like the Terminator, I'll be back. I just don't know when.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wedding Pictures!

My daughter's wedding was wonderful. Even Mother Nature cooperated with a beautifully sunny day.

Being self-described geeks getting married on Star Wars Day, there were plenty of geeky touches. The biggest Star Wars Day surprise was the ring bearer.

We didn't know about this. Nobody did, except the bride, groom (who found and arranged the special guest appearance online), their friend who was the driver (and apparently pretty darn pumped driving around with R2D2 in his car, although if you were stuck behind him on the highway because he was driving so very slowly and carefully, our apologies) and of course, the operator, who works the remote controls behind his back, so nobody knows anything's afoot. R2 even made the appropriate noises coming up the aisle.

But it wasn't all Star Wars and video games, as the seating chart demonstrates.

The bride and groom also exercised their considerable creativity with the centerpieces. They bought lanterns at IKEA, then personalized them to each table. Ours was Pemberley. Is that cool or what???

(Those are little electric tea lights on the top, that later went inside the lanterns.)

What made the day most memorable, though, beyond all the surprising, clever and creative personal touches my daughter and her fiance came up with, was their obvious love for each other. When it comes to a child's wedding, everything else pales in comparison. Both our children have found wonderful spouses, and for that, we are truly grateful.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Wedding Day Approaches...

My daughter is getting married in less than a week. It's exciting, it's wonderful, it makes me nostalgic.

Wasn't it just last month she was toddling around in her fuzzy pink sleepers? Wasn't it a couple of weeks ago that her brother chopped off her bangs right before a big family reunion?

It was surely just last week she was graduating from her high school with the highest average of the class, and applying to study English and history in university, much to the chagrin of her science teacher. But she was well aware that, all talk to the contrary, one could actually get a job with an English and history degree, and that's what she wanted.

Which means it was yesterday that she began her career in publishing and met her fiance.

On Saturday, she'll be embarking on another new path, with someone she loves to walk beside her.

I probably won't cry at the wedding. I'll have done that this week, when I'll be remembering all these things, and more.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Crafty Recycling

The son of a friend of mine is in the school archery club. They have a lot of broken arrows. Rather than just throw out the broken arrows, he saw potential and in doing so, came up with something useful and ecologically excellent, as well as a way to earn some money. He turns the broken arrows into pens! Here are mine. More are available on Etsy.

I've been doing my own bit of crafty recycling. When my mom downsized recently, I was given several small balls of leftover wool that I'm making into squares for an afghan. I don't know what it's going to look like when it's finished, but it's better than throwing it all away!

And I used a piece of leftover fleece to cover a chair to keep cat hairs off it - only to discover it doubles as kitty kamouflage!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Shawl of Sleep

I've inadvertently created a monster.

A warm, soft, cuddly monster that encircles my neck and shoulders and makes me fall asleep. I call it the Shawl of Sleep.

Michaels was having a wool sale, so I picked up some Lion Brand yarn, called Homespun, in a beautiful purple-with-variations color. A shawl pattern came on the package, and I like a nice shawl. Actually, anybody subject to hot flashes should appreciate the convenience of a shawl, so much easier to shrug off than a sweater.

The pattern was for a knitted shawl. However, I find crocheting much easier to stop and start, and if I make a mistake, a whole lot easier to unravel and redo. So, after some experimentation, I crocheted the shawl using a loose, double crochet stitch. It's a bit longer than the suggested 60 inches, and a little bit wider. It's kind of like a long, skinny afghan.

And I love it. As I said, it's warm, it's soft, and when you fold it at the neck, it makes an extra little cushion, like those cushions worn around the neck on airplanes. With those qualities, is it any wonder I tend to nod off while sitting on the couch watching TV, especially when I put my feet up, too? I think not!

I'm making another one for my daughter, and I suspect I'll be making a few more for various family members.

(I have to say this picture does not do the colors of the shawl justice. It's much prettier in person, with shades of blue and some jade in with the purple. It's called Barrington on the Lions Brand website, link above.)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Board Games - We Do It Our Way

The hosts of the morning news show I watch got into a discussion of board games today, specifically their favorites. It all started with mention of Kamchatka and Risk.

This got me thinking about our family's enjoyment of board games, primarily at my parents' cottage. There's never been a TV there, so we've played board games since the kids were little. The ones we played most often are Monopoly (using the top hat piece as a reminder of whose turn it was if we took a swimming or food break), The Game of Life (more on that below), Careers (the 60's version, with ye olde sexism on display - a lesson to the kids about how times have thankfully changed), Boggle and Scrabble. Mostly we played by the given rules, but sometimes we made modifications. For example, here's how we modified The Game of Life.

1. Share the Wealth cards - these seemed to make the game unnecessarily complicated, especially when the kids were little. So we just didn't use them, and still don't. I'm all for simplifying a little if it doesn't make a huge difference in the game and it means everybody can play.

2. When you reach the square where you get married, we each must chose a "celebrity" spouse.

3. We allow divorce. Daughter once was so disgusted with her celebrity spouse, who kept having impoverished relatives who had to be financially bailed out, she took his piece out of the car and declared they were now divorced. (For those of you not in the know, the car is the playing piece everyone gets and moves around the board. As you get married and have children in the game, you add their representative pieces to the car.)

4. If you have pretend kids in the game, they must be named, and the more creative, the better. Son has proven to be amusingly creative in that capacity. Which kind of makes me wonder what he'll come up with if and when he has own children.

Those are the main things we change for the Game of Life. We have a couple of other slight modifications to other games, namely that I must always get the light blue color group in Monopoly (Oriental, Vermont and Connecticut). Well, okay, that's just something I declare at the start of every game that is then ignored by all. Sometimes I get them, but whether I do or not, we have fun as a family, and that's the main thing.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

And not to be outdone...

Mother Nature sent us a February gift. Very heavy, wet snow - but oh, so pretty!

This picture was taken at 7 am. I got to sleep in late today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Beach In Winter

We recently went to the cottage for the weekend. Unlike most Canadians, we go south to our cottage, which is on the northern shore of Lake Erie. It may be generally warmer there, but it is on a lake, so there can be more snow at any given time.

Like the weekend we were there, when there was a snowfall that was heavier than predicted. It dumped three inches overnight.

Here are some pictures of the beach taken the next morning, when the sun was once again shining.

Hello, Cleveland! This is looking south over the lake, aka The Frozen Waste.

If a person sees her shadow on a snow-covered beach, does that mean spring will arrive sooner? Or later?

An example of natural camouflage. Of a lake.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The third time's the charm...

I went to school with a girl who used to write one draft of her essays. I was gobsmacked. I would never hand in the first draft of my work. I still would never, ever show anybody the first draft of my work, because, frankly, they're a mess.

In fact, I call my first drafts the "kitchen sink draft," because I throw in everything but the kitchen sink. I have a general plot in mind, but I toss in other characters and events if I think they're interesting. I don't do much revising; I just carry on to the end which, believe you me, is hard enough. With the first draft, there are so many decisions to make - if this happens, then this could result, or this, or possibly that. Which one works best? Whose point of view should I use for this scene? Is that idea going to work, or is the new one better? It's like I've got a really old map with lots of detours that I'm trying to read while in a very jittery car.

Then comes the second draft, aka The Winnowing. This is where I decide what's working and what's not. There's a whole lotta cuttin' going on - events and characters. Yes, I sometimes decide to get rid of a character completely, or combine two into one. This draft inevitably winds up being short. But I don't worry, because next comes the third draft.

I'm working on a third draft now, and it's occurred to me that this is where I start to enjoy the book as a whole. The most difficult decisions have been made in terms of story and character, so I can relax a bit. This is also where I start to put in a lot more of the "color" - descriptions of clothes, food, furnishings, etc. I ramp up the sexual tension whenever possible. Sometimes I discover I've made a major plot error in terms of timing, or I've made a character act out of character and that has to fixed, but overall, the process is a bit easier. Yet I'm still not done.

Hopefully, though, when I get to the fourth draft of a book, it's just a matter of smoothing out the prose, looking for repetitions and typos, adding a bit more color, or correcting the occasional continuity blip. Generally, this is the final draft before I send the book off to my agent. Not always, though. I've done up to seven complete drafts, and many more of individual scenes. I want to, as Ernest Hemingway put it, "get the words right" and I keep editing and revising until I think they are, no matter many drafts it takes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Major Changes - How Do I Know?

I finished the second draft of my current work-in-progress as I was fending off a cold. I didn't succeed with the cold, so I took a couple of days off to rest. That's one of the bonuses of being self-employed and an empty nester - I could nap, so I did.

Feeling better, I printed the first few chapters and started to read. As my twitter followers will already know, I suddenly realized that a new scene I'd written and put in Chapter Three should be the opening scene not just of that chapter, but of the book.

How did I come to this conclusion? My first impulse would be to say "I just felt it." However, I've taken a closer look at my "instinct" and here's what I concluded.

The energy of the scene in Chapter Three immediately made me sit up and take notice. I don't think the original opening scene is bad, it's just not so vibrant - and one thing I want right away is that energy, the sense that something's going to happen and it's going to be exciting.

The new scene was not the first from the heroine's point of view, but it was the first that shows her reacting with someone other than the hero. It's generally best to get the heroine and hero together ASAP, but they don't have to be physically together. She can be thinking about him, and so she is in the new scene, so moving it won't be a problem in that regard.

With my original first scene, I had noted that I'd have to do a lot more to set the scene. There are plenty of people who can write really wonderful descriptions, and description doesn't necessarily have to be static or boring (it's all about the verbs!), but it's not my best or most favorite part of writing. If I use the new scene, it's immediately easier to give a sense of the setting without a lot of description. A few key details should do.

The heroine of this romance is more Jane Eyre than Elizabeth Bennett - serious and intense, as compared to merry and cleverly witty (although my heroine can give as good as she gets when it comes to repartee). With a heroine like this, though, it can be more difficult to make her appealing to the reader. By starting in her point of view, and in that particular scene, that should be easier.

During my heroine's first actual meeting with the hero, my heroine does something that is quite uncharacteristic. The explanation was going to come after that action; by starting with the scene from Chapter Three, I'll give a hint of her motivation first, so the action should consequently seem more believable.

So often, my writing decisions are made more with doubt and hope than complete certainty. But not this time. Moving that scene is absolutely the right thing to do and regardless of the work involved in revising, I'm thrilled!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Ideas are easy

"Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course, you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody else has ever thought of them before. It's really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution." - Hugo Lindgren, "Be Wrong as Fast as You Can", New York Times Magazine, Jan. 6, 2013 (italics mine)

Writers get asked where they get their ideas all the time.  I confess I find this rather frustrating, because it implies that once you've got an idea for a story, the hard part's over.

I wish.

As Mr. Lindgren notes, you still have to develop the idea as uniquely as you can, as well as deal with the "endless problems" that come up as you write. For instance, a dramatic plot twist that sounded cool when you first got the idea eventually backs  your characters into a corner with no way out (at least, not one that's believable). Or something appears in dialogue from you-don't-know-where-in-your-subconscious that takes your character in a new, exciting direction but that also requires a major rewrite to earlier chapters. And those are just two of the possibilities.

To put it another way, ideas are easy, it's the writing that's hard.

But to quote from A League of Their Own, "It's the hard that makes it great." Because when you've made it from initial idea to finished novel or story or article, it's all yours, baby. You did it, and you alone.  You got the idea, you did the work, you finished your book. Whether or not it gets published, you've done something thousands of people with "a great idea" - or, more sadly, no ideas at all - only ever talk about, and that's definitely a cause for celebration.