Keeping It Fresh: Advice for the Mid-career Writer by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

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Welcome to the blog tour for my special guest, Janet Elizabeth Henderson. She’s been a guest before, and I always love having her on my blog. This time, rather than an interview, I’ve asked her to share some writing wisdom for those of us who have been in the writing game for a while. Check out her advice below, and be sure to read all the way to the end so you can read all about her new book: Reckless.


There are a lot of fiction writing advice books out there. Most of them focus on teaching the basics of the craft and guiding you on how to find your voice. There are very few that concentrate on what to do once you have the basics down. I think this lack of balance reflects a deeper problem within the world of fiction writing—a lot of writers assume that once they’ve found their personal style and understand the basics there’s nothing else to learn.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t want your writing to stagnate… If you don’t want to write the same book over and over… Then you have to challenge yourself in every new piece of work you write. Think of the process as mining. You can dig down a little, find something interesting and then stay at that depth forever as you widen the same hole outwards. Or, you can go deeper and find something more precious. Maybe even find something that no one has ever found before. And yes, digging deeper is harder. But it’s worth it.

So, if you’re a mid-career writer and you want to dig deeper, how do you go about doing that? You could try some of the following:

Get out of your character comfort zone

Challenge yourself to write a character unlike any you’ve ever written before. If your speciality is alpha men, write the weakling—but do it in a way that makes him lovable, desirable and magnetic. (Be careful he doesn’t morph into your usual character type throughout the book. Keep him true to himself.) If you write great submissive women, try writing about a strong, leader-type woman. Get into the head of your character, changing your language and adapting your style to suit the character’s voice.

Make story, not plot, your priority

When we first start out, we cling to the formulas for plotting as though they are lifelines. The problem with this is that sometimes the flow of the story can become mutated or get lost to accommodate the structure you feel it must fit. Instead of following a pattern for your book, focus on the story. Story is the natural development of a tale which meets the criteria of your fictional world and the needs of your character. Plot is a series of events which follow a set structure. Do you see the difference?

Try not to think about whether your fiction fits accepted norms, but rather whether the story flows or not. Ask yourself: is this is the story your characters need to tell? Does it make logical sense within the frame of the world you’ve created? When you read something written by a natural storyteller, you often can’t see a structure at all. It’s buried underneath the very real dilemmas of the characters. It flows with a natural rhythm that suits the world the writer has set up. And it always surprises the reader.

Do one thing in each piece of work that you haven’t done before

With each new book, try to do something new and do it well. If you’ve always focused on the internal drama of your characters, write a scene where everyone has to deal with an external drama. If your last book was full of action, make this one full of emotion instead. If your last book flitted all over the world, set this one in a single room for the duration. Do something hard that will make you think deeper for every single scene in your story.

Never go with your first idea

I learned this one in art college! Always brainstorm your story ideas. Keep asking “what if?” until you hit an angle that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. This will keep your stories fresh and give greater depth to your writing. The first few ideas we have are usually pretty obvious. Dig deeper. Find the idea that’s going to surprise you and your reader.

Critique your own work

There is a difference between having a critique and being a critic. Being a critic is often a negative thing; staging a critique is a productive event. The difference is that a critic often compares your work to the work of those around you, whereas a critique asks questions of the work itself to make you consider it on a deeper level.

Have a critique of your work by asking questions of it and not being afraid of the answers. Ask things like: “Is this truly in character or am I trying to bend the hero to fit the plot?” and “What other outcomes are possible from this set of circumstances?”

Always ask yourself why you’ve chosen something and whether there is a better, more unusual choice to be had. Make “what if?” your mantra. What if the plot took a different direction? What if the character did something else? What if there was another person in this scene? What if the setting was different? “What if?” is a question that will help you mine deeper into your work.

Okay, so that’s five things I try to do with each new book. I hope, if you give it a go, that you’ll let me know how it works out for you. And if you have some suggestions to add, all the better—I’m always looking to improve my writing!


Celebrate the release of Reckless

by Janet Elizabeth Henderson!

Follow the tour and enter to win great prizes!

2 grand prize winners will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

2 runner-ups will receive an e-copy of choice from Janet’s backlist!

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Visit all the blogs participating in the tour for reviews, excerpts, guest posts and more chances to win!

07/23/2016

Romance Junkies

Splashes Into Books

True Revue Book Blog

Carrie’s Book Reviews

07/24/2016

Kitty’s Book Spot!

Deluged with Books Cafe

Those Crazy Book Chicks

Books and Bindings

She Hearts Books

What Is That Book About

Just Books

Reese’s Review

Nicole’s Book Musings

07/25/2016

It’s All About The Romance

07/26/2016

Indie Authors, Books, and More

I am, Indeed

07/27/2016

Tamar Hela

Reviews From The Heart

Catherine Mede

07/28/2016

Swept Away By Romance

07/29/2016

Happily Ever Chapter

The Power of Three Readers

Loves 2 Read Romance

We So Nerdy

07/30/2016

Fiona Reads and FoodSpots

Splashes Into Books

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Joyfully Reviewed


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About Reckless

Synopsis:

The new London office of Benson Security hasn’t even opened its doors yet and already it’s neck deep in its first case…

If the mission doesn’t kill him, his sexy partner just might.

Dimitri Raast and Megan Donaldson have a common enemy—the head of an organisation that specializes in human trafficking and sexual slavery.

They have similar motivation—Dimitri’s sister was taken by the organisation, and Megan’s sister is threatened by it.

They have the same goal—eliminate their enemy and save their sisters.

Given they have so much in common, you would think working together would be a piece of cake.

You would be wrong.

While Dimitri brings skills and experience from years as a US Army Ranger to their partnership, Megan brings a background in failed career choices and an ability to cause trouble wherever she goes. Yet, even with so much at stake, Dimitri can’t resist Megan’s particular brand of crazy.

She’s wild, she’s sexy and she’s fearless. An irresistible combination for a man who lives his life completely in control. Now, after almost a year with one all-consuming focus, Dimitri finds himself torn between rescuing his sister and protecting the woman he wants—from herself.

Before she gets them both killed.

Available at: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N


Excerpt:

They were meeting Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Of course they were meeting a guy called Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Megan rolled her eyes. Obviously Johnny went to the TV movie school of how to be a bad guy.

“You stay here.” Dimitri pointed at a dumpster. Yeah. A dumpster. She half expected some guy with a camera to shout cut and make them start again.

“You don’t mean in the dumpster, right?” Because—eew!

“No. Beside it. In the dark.” He didn’t even try to disguise that he was losing patience. “Don’t move, don’t make a sound, don’t interrupt.”

Blah, blah, blah, let the big boys play. She was so tired of hearing the same old tune. It was time to change the radio station.

“Right,” Dimitri said. “I’m going to drive round and come in from the other end.”

“Why can’t I just wait in the car? It’s cold and it stinks here.”

“Because…” He stretched the word out. “You’re supposed to be my hostage. I can’t just let you hang out in the car.”

“I can pretend to be drugged.”

“No. Too dangerous. He might spot you, know who you are and that Rudi wants you. Then what would stop him deciding to eliminate me and take you to Rudi himself?”

She stamped her feet to get her blood circulating before the chill removed her toes. “Why didn’t you just take me back to the office?”

“You’re my backup.” There was a silent ‘idiot’ attached to that sentence, she just knew it.

“The backup that hides in dumpsters?”

“The backup that phones for help if it looks like things are going south.”

Megan blushed, grateful he couldn’t see it in the dark. “So, I need my phone?”

He put his hands on his hips and looked skyward for a moment. “Where is it?”

“Car.” She gave him what she hoped was an apologetic smile.

He stomped off, cursing under his breath and came back a few minutes later with the phone. “Sorted now?”

Megan nodded. It probably wasn’t the best time to tell him she really needed to use the bathroom. She could hold it. How long did it take to have a covert meeting in an alley anyway?

She gave him a thumbs up and watched him march back to the car. Leaving her alone in a stinky, dark alley. Alone and not thinking about how good Dimitri’s lips felt against hers. Nope. She wasn’t thinking about that at all. She was a professional—nearly. She had a job to do. She backed into the shadows and tried to become invisible. Ninja Megan. She could do it. It was all about the power of the mind. She closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths.

That’s when her stomach rumbled. Her hand smacked flat on it as she bit her lip. Maybe all that fried food wasn’t such a great idea after all. Not that she would ever admit that to Dimitri. She was still mad at the man. Sure she’d been the first to say they weren’t in a relationship, but he didn’t have to agree so enthusiastically. He’d sounded affronted. As though she was the last person on earth he’d consider dating. It was insulting. Her stomach made a strange bubbling sound as she saw Dimitri’s SUV pull up at the other end of the alley. He got out and stood under the yellow glow of the street lamp. Waiting. Alert. Moody.

Megan’s stomach rumbled again. Loudly. This wasn’t good. So much for not making a sound. Her own body was working against her. She crouched down in an attempt to dull the noise, and hoped it worked. She closed her eyes, tried to calm her stomach and think thoughts that made her invisible.

That’s when she farted.

It wasn’t silent.

Megan dropped her head to her knees. If the bad guys didn’t get her, she’d die of humiliation.

And then her stomach rumbled again.

© 2016 Janet Elizabeth Henderson


About Janet Elizabeth Henderson:

I grew up in Scotland, but now I’m living in New Zealand – married to a Dutch man whom I met in America. (It can get a little confusing in my household!) When I’m not living in my head, I’m a mother to two tiny kids, three pet sheep, three miniature horses, three alpacas, one dog, two cats, several chickens and an escape artist goat.

5 random things about me:

  1. I accidentally mooned a crowd at a Bolivian wedding.

  2. I’ve been chased by a gang of baboons. And I mean gang. They were organised and vicious. All that was missing was their leather jackets and tattoos!

  3. I wrote my first novel when I was 22. It was a cross between Star Wars, Monsters Inc. and Tinkerbelle. Funnily enough, no one wanted to publish it. Odd, that…

  4. I was a portrait artist on the streets of Amsterdam for a time.

  5. I worked night shift as a security guard at Stirling Castle in Scotland while I was in art college. The castle was on a terrorist hit-list back then. To defend it they gave me a flashlight, a two-way radio that only worked one-way and made me wear a polyester A-line skirt…

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, which happens sporadically – usually when books are being released – then you’ll find a form on my website. I hope you enjoy my books. Happy reading!

 

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Book Review: Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Tailored for Trouble (Happy Pants, #1)Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***ARC kindly provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

I REALLY, really enjoyed this book. There was a lot going on, but it all worked so well. The pacing was excellent and the characters drew me in from page one. They were well-developed and had strong voices.

Taylor Reed, our female MC, has a witty and funny voice, which often made me laugh out loud and empathize with her. She has strong opinions but is understanding and really wants to change the business world for the better.

Bennet Wade, our male MC, is very intriguing and complex, and it’s interesting to keep finding out why he is the way he is as the story unravels. Everything he does has a good reason behind it, even if Taylor doesn’t think so. I thought he was delicious as a book boyfriend and thoroughly enjoyed him.

These two had me rooting so hard for them, and I think the ending tension worked really well. Also, I want to eat those delicious love cookies from the story! 😉

It takes a lot of effort to get 5 stars from me, so I can confidently say that I was impressed with this book. I would definitely read more by this author and look forward to her other stories.

View all my reviews

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Star Struck by Amber Garza

Tour Banner_Star Struck

Book Title:  Star Struck

Author:  Amber Garza

Release Date:  June 15th

Genre:  Contemporary Romance / New Adult

Length: 300 pages

Publisher:  Amber Garza

Presented by:  As You Wish Tours

Tour Banner by: Candy Smith

Front-ss

BLURB

I don’t go for bad boys, or rockers.

And I don’t believe in love at first sight.

Until I see Beckett.

And things only get worse when I hear him sing.

There is no one like him.

The problem is that he wants nothing to do with me.

And I know I should stay away from him.

It’s the smart thing to do.

 Only when it comes to Beckett I don’t want to do the smart thing. He makes me want to take a risk.

I just hope he decides to take a risk on me too.

SStruck

EXCERPT

Then I lower my gaze and I start playing. As I sing through the verse I’m careful not to make eye contact with Star. But when we reach the chorus and her voice rings out, my eyes lift to hers. Her lips are pressed against the mic between us and I find my gaze lingering on them. Her body moves ever so slightly as she sings and it’s damn sexy. Her lips are pursed and I’m acutely aware of the fact that if I move the microphone out of the way we would totally be making out. I wish I could say that this didn’t tempt me in the least, but then I’d be a liar. In fact, through the rest of the song all I can think about is kissing her. Ironic that the lyrics are about wanting something you can’t have. Star is someone I need to stay as far away from as possible. She’s too good for me. I hardly know her, and yet that’s painfully obvious.  I won’t drag her into all of my garbage. When the song finishes, it takes me a minute to compose myself. I get a little satisfaction out of seeing how dazed Star seems to be too.

Only it’s probably more about the rush of singing on stage. I doubt she spent the entire song thinking about kissing me. It’s obvious by the dazed look on her face that she’s relishing the feeling of performing in front of a crowd. Not that I blame her. There really is nothing like it.

Amber Garza

 

AUTHOR BIO

Amber Garza is the author of Young Adult paranormal and contemporary romance. She has had a passion for writing since she was a little girl, making books out of notebook paper and staples. Amber lives in California with her amazing husband and two hilarious children who provide her with enough material to keep her writing for years.

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Giveaway Details

(1)  One Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Star Struck & Swag

– US Only

(2)  Three Winners will receive an eBook Copy of Star Struck gifted via Smashwords

– Open Internationally

Tour Wide Giveaway Link

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Giveaway & Author Interview: Janna Gray, Author of Kilingiri

Kilingiri Tour Banner

Book Title:  Kilingiri

Author:  Janna Gray

Release Date:  May 21st 2013

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Saga, Saga

Publisher:  GMTA Publishing, LLC

Presented by:  As You Wish Tours

Janna Gray

MY INTERVIEW WITH JANNA GRAY

TH: Tell us a bit about yourself—what’s your background and how did you become a writer?

JG: I was born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and educated at convent schools in Kodaikanal, South India and Matlock Derbyshire before training to become a teacher in London. My husband and I have lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand and are currently in Dubai, UAE. I’ve always loved writing – I had to really, as at boarding school I was expected to write home every week (the letters were edited for whinges about the nuns and the food!) and as I grew older, before the advent of email and Skype, I continued to keep in touch with family and friends via letters. I kept diaries and wrote short stories to entertain my younger sisters so progressing to writing a book seemed like a pretty good idea!

TH: What is the genre in which you write?

JG: I write romantic sagas. Kilingiri covers two continents and thirty years.


TH: Have you published or written any other works?

JG: When in I lived in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand, I wrote articles on pretty much anything and everything for newspapers and magazines. In addition, I was the Year Book editor for NIST, a wonderful IB school in Bangkok, Thailand where I worked for many years.


TH: Name your top three favorite characters you’ve made up and explain why they’re your favorites.

JG: Nina, Cassie and Midge are my favourite characters. When we first meet Nina from ‘Kilingiri’ in the 60s, she is young, pregnant and unmarried and naïve, facing the consequences of some pretty bad errors of judgement. But she has the resilience of youth; she is great company, intelligent and loving and refuses to accept the obstacles that stand in the way of finding and keeping love. When troubles strike she goes under for a while, as we all do, but then she pulls herself up and gets on with life. She is feisty and can be bloody-minded, she is loyal, a devoted single mum and a loving daughter and friend. She learns to accept there are things she cannot change so she works around them. She also understands the healing power of forgiveness and importance of letting go of the negative aspects of life to make room for the positive.

Cassie from ‘Taprobane’ lives an idyllic life in Ceylon but learns that her paradise contains snakes. She rises above the horrendous effect of spousal abuse and just when we think she has found love and happiness it is snatched away from her. Cassie goes on to raise her daughter alone and takes on the responsibility of another child who has been abandoned by her mother. She is a good, strong woman but like so many of us she is not perfect and she too understands the healing power of forgiveness without becoming a doormat. I hope readers will meet Cassie soon.

Midge and I are getting to know each other through the pages of ‘The Scarlet Thread’, but as her character is still developing in my mind, I can’t say too much about her other than she is barely sixteen at the start of the story, has no relationship with her step mother but is loved dearly by the servants at her family’s home in Hong Kong. I like her already. Despite her learning difficulties, she is strong, adventurous, has a sense of humour and rolls with the punches. Without giving too much away, her life and the relationships she forges impact greatly on the lives of others.


TH: What projects are you currently working on?

JG: Taprobane is in the capable hands of four lovely pre-readers and a wonderful editor with an eagle eye. This has given me time to get on with planning and researching facts for ‘The Scarlet Thread’ which is based in Hong Kong between 1978 and the handover to China in 1999. I’ve knocked out three chapters in Midge’s voice … a new approach for me so I have to focus! I hope it works as I have become rather fond of her!


TH: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

JG: I’ve had two potentially soul-destroying criticisms. One I ignored as it was plain nasty … along the lines of don’t throw this on the rubbish heap yet, there are some salvageable sections. The other was to go back to the manuscript and cut out all the extraneous crap. I was hugely taken aback as I loved every word I’d written (!) but I did what the tough-as-old-boots editor suggested and the result is Kilingiri as she is today, a much better read! And with the blessed gift of hindsight, the extraneous stuff really was crap!

Choosing the best compliment is not easy as I’ve been lucky to have some fabulous reviews but this one ticks pretty much all the boxes! ‘Janna Gray’s Kilingiri was a phenomenal read that tantalizes you with the scenery but really comes through with the characters and the story. You won’t want to miss this book, but be ready to want to travel to the far corners of the world that Janna describes so eloquently.’

TH: What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

JG: Prepare, research, and write from the heart. You don’t have to restrict your writing to what you know about as I’m sure no author is best buddies with a gang of vampires, but nevertheless inhabit the world you’ve created until it becomes second nature to you and thus a believable realm for your readers.

Edit, edit edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, and edit again.

And don’t give up.


TH: What’s a cool fact about you that you’ll share with us?

JG: I once sailed an Enterprise dinghy up a ramp and in to the bar of a yacht club in Ceylon. My good friend Richard who was with me in the dinghy was horrified. But not as horrified as our fathers who were faced with a rather large bill for the repair of a part of the bar, several bar stools and the dinghy.  Although Richard mentioned that episode and a couple of others at my wedding, we are still great friends.

 

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BLURB

1968, Srinagar, Kashmir and Nina is devastated by the death of her new-born baby girl. Sister Angela and Father Michael at the mission hospital step in to nurse Nina back to health but when the friendship between Nina and Father Michael turns to love, Michael makes a decision which will resonate through the years.

It is 1981 and in Kinsale, Ireland, Nina, devoted to her son Joshua, lives a loveless existence, but a chance encounter changes everything. Michael is back in her life, he leaves the priesthood and happiness is within their grasp.

But when past and present collide, their whole world is turned upside down.

Only by facing the consequences of what has gone before, can Nina and Michael embrace the future.

Janna Gray guides us masterfully through this poignant story of love, loss, betrayal and hope.

 

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AUTHOR BIO

Janna Gray grew up in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and was educated at boarding schools in Kodaikanal, South India and Derbyshire, England. She trained to be a teacher in London where she met and married her husband Simon. His job took them to Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand where she raised two sons, worked at British and International schools and wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.

Currently living in the UAE, Janna was the Senior Mistress (a title which caused much merriment among her colleagues!) and Head of Pastoral Care at Repton School before trading her marking pens and report cards for the world of writing novels. She enjoys travelling and sailing and had a love-hate relationship with exercise until she discovered the joy of Zumba where the trainers turn a blind eye to her inability to remember dance sequences. She sings in the shower and with choirs, has an allergy to golf and recently discovered the allure of oils and acrylics – a delightfully messy way to express her inner artist.

 

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Tour Wide Giveaway Link

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Book Review: Treasure Me by Christine Nolfi

This month marks the beginning of many guests on my blog. Today, I am honored to give a review for the book Treasure Me by the talented Christine Nolfi.

Treasure Me is a contemporary fiction novel that has all the right amounts of adventure, suspense, romance, and humor. Birdie, the main character, is a small time thief, trying to find a hidden treasure in Liberty, Ohio. The man who drives her crazy, Hugh, is a reporter on his last thread, completely addicted to the pursuit of women. The small town of Liberty holds many surprises for the two visitors, even in their initial meeting. As Birdie tries to uncover clues that could lead her to a potential, life-changing fortune, Hugh has a hidden agenda to unearth “dirt” from some townspeople. As Hugh and Birdie continue on their searches, their paths cross and they find it hard to stay away from the temptation of attraction. Will they stay on track, or will they completely detour and turn their lives and the entire town upside down?

I really enjoyed this short read. There was definitely a good amount of action, balanced with the appropriate amount of dialogue and background information. Some parts led to places that I predicted; other parts took me by surprise. The story itself was well paced and the writing was clear and concise. Birdie and Hugh are just some of the enjoyable and interesting characters throughout the story, and the resolve to conflict is exactly what I hoped for. The story takes place around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so it’s a great read for this season especially. Overall, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to readers looking for something with depth, humor, and romance.

If you’d like to learn more about the writer, Christine Nolfi, check out her interview by clicking here.

How to buy her book, Treasure Me, and find her on social media:

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG13

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Christine Nolfi on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.christinenolfi.com/

GoodReads Author Page

The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge on Amazon