writing

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My own personal book club (#MFRWAuthor)

Published February 9, 2018 by francesothomas

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This week’s blog topic is what five authors dead or alive I’d like to meet.

The first is easy. I’d love hanging out with Janet Evanovich. I have read all of her Plum novels and belly-laughed at every one. Imagine sitting down with her over a glass or three of wine and finding out if Ranger is based on a real person. She lives only a couple hours away from me, so this can easily be arranged if you’re listening, Janet.

My next choice is Eloisa James. What fun it would be to talk about how her university students react to her as both a Shakespearean scholar and a romance author. I was an adjunct professor briefly myself, and I’m sure we’d have lots of stories to share.

That brings me to number three. Shakespeare himself. Am I stretching the rules to include a playwright? If so, I don’t care. How brilliant he was to have written so much that is just as valid today as it was centuries ago. What a wit, and what a student of human nature.

Since I’m rule-bending, for number four I’d pick Stephen Sondheim. I love his music, largely because of his erudite lyrics filled with astonishing rhymes. “What makes him look reptilian is the brilliantine.” C’mon. Who wouldn’t want to have written that line?

Number five? This one is tougher. Do I go with perennial favorites Louisa May Alcott or Charlotte Bronte? The indefatigable Nora? Nah. I think I’ll go with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have probably read and enjoyed all of her books. Her football player heroes are yummy yet down to earth.

I think I’m seeing a pattern here…

Read about which authors others have chosen here.

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Parachuting In (#MFRWAuthor)

Published February 2, 2018 by francesothomas

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The topic for this week’s Marketing for Romance Writers blog challenge is what book influenced my life. I thought for a long time about this one. What novel can I say influenced me? Little Women was an early favorite. I always loved Gone With the Wind. What about Jane Eyre?

Then it hit me. I enjoyed the works of fiction, but to say I was influenced the book had to be nonfiction. My choice is What Color Is Your Parachute, the perennial best-seller by Richard Bolles.

I had toiled (and I do not use this term lightly) in the insurance industry for more years than I care to count when I decided I couldn’t stand it any more. A friend of mine suffering the same sort of angst suggested I go to the counselor she was seeing.

Said counselor put me through multiple check lists and exercises including those in Parachute. I am admittedly a self-help book junkie, but I never actually write out the answers to all of those questions the authors pose. This time I did. What emerged was the decision to go to grad school and pursue a degree in educational psychology.

If you are facing a mid-life career crisis as I was, I urge you to get a copy of Parachute. Much wisdom and practical advice reside therein.

More importantly, if you are the parent of a teenager, get them a copy. Don’t make them wander in the desert of an unhappy job when they could find a better path.

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Backup Singers R Us (#MFRWAuthor)

Published January 26, 2018 by francesothomas

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This week’s topic in the Marketing for Romance Writers blog hop is what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.

I actually worked in the insurance industry for far too many years before I became a writer. I most assuredly would not do that again.

For a short time, I worked as the administrator for the local chamber of commerce. That was a little better.

Most recently, I was an adjunct professor at a community college. Pretty good fit.

But this challenge is for authors, so my answer can be fictional, right?

If I weren’t a writer, my dream job is back-up singer. I want to be one of those three women at the back of the stage, oohing and aahing in perfect harmony while performing some variation of the Temptations dance step, preferably attired in sequins.

Failing landing a gig with Michael Bolton or Barry Manilow, I would be OK with being a part of the chorus for the annual PBS Fourth of July concert.

Then I could write about it.

Take a look at what some other authors have to say on this topic:

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How It Began (#MFRWauthor Blog Hop)

Published January 5, 2018 by francesothomas

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I’m embarking on a 52 week blogging challenge put forth by Marketing for Romance Writers.

The topic for Week One is my favorite piece of writing. I have to choose my first attempt as a favorite since it led to a lifetime of putting pen to paper followed by fingers to keyboard.

The first thing I ever remember writing, well actually co-authoring, was a play when I was in the fourth grade. We had been studying about the Spanish colonization of St. Augustine. My friend Lynda and I concocted a script about siblings, a boy and a girl, who voyaged across the ocean to settle in Florida.

Knowing my proclivity for the performing arts, I am convinced in hindsight that we wrote it so we could take the leading roles. With age-appropriate disdain for boys, we convinced only the girls to participate. Since I was taller than Lynda,  I got to play the brother. I know we cast the tallest girl in class as the sea captain. Other details have fled my memory.

The production must have had at least some merit, however, as we put it on not only for the scorned boys in our own class but also for another grade. Fifth, maybe. Upper classmen.

Who would have guessed that decades later I’d be living in Florida? I set my Calusa Town Tales series on a quasi-fictional island off the coast of Southwest Florida.

What is a blog hop?

A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS.
When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the
exact same list appears on each blog.

Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list.
The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can “HOP” from blog
to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

Click here to see what other authors have to share.

Get ready for NANOWRIMO

Published October 24, 2017 by francesothomas

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If you are gearing up for National Novel Writing Month, Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt may be just the tool you need. The book includes lots of fill-in-the blank worksheets to guide your process each and every day. In addition to paperback and e-book versions, it comes in a spiral bound version that should be perfect to write in and keep track of all the details that go into planning and plotting a book.

I particularly like her advice to celebrate your successes along the way. Making a contract with yourself is a good idea too. The book is relatively short but manages to cover a lot of territory.

My understanding is writers are allowed to do prep work on their novels before November starts. But remember, if you don’t make it to 50,000 words in 30 days the world will not come to an end.  Schmidt says you can also  use her book to complete a detailed outline or revise an existing manuscript. Grab this book and get started.

Rewrite Your Life book review

Published May 8, 2017 by francesothomas

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We’ve all heard the dictum “write what you know.” And most if not all writers use incidents from their own lives in their books. Yet how well do we know ourselves on an emotional level? I read an awful lot of “self-help” books but rarely do the suggested exercises. All that introspection is hard work and brings up too many things I don’t want to examine or re-live.


In Rewrite Your Life,
Jessica Lourey bravely exposes her own experiences and relates how she has freed herself by incorporating what she learned about herself. I am trying to deepen my own fiction writing, so I am actually working my way through her prompts.

Along the way, Lourey also gives good info on choosing a genre, concept, characters, plot, and setting.

I highly recommend this book to both authors and those who want to overcome the painful parts of their lives through journaling.

Southwest Florida Reading Festival

Published March 18, 2017 by francesothomas

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I just got home from the Southwest Florida Reading Festival, an event held each March in Fort Myers. When I attend, I always make a point to go to hear any romance writers who are featured. This year’s panel included Cassandra King, Susan Wiggs, and Lori Wilde.  I’ve read and reviewed Wiggs and Wilde, but King was new to me. After hearing her speak, I intend to remedy that situation.

The three women took turns introducing themselves and then answered questions from the audience. King and Wilde grew up on farms. Wiggs was born in upstate New York but grew up in various places in Europe. All three said they were from families where reading was important. King and Wiggs became teachers when told they needed to have something besides writing to earn a living. Wilde became a nurse, a profession she professes to dread ever having to go back to.

King has written five novels but also nonfiction. Wiggs’ first novel was published in March 1987. Wilde has written more than 80 books. Asked the typical question of where ideas come from, King related how she modified  her original premise for Moonrise after she rented a house to do research in the area in which the story is set. Alone in the rather spooky house, she began to read Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and the story developed from that. Wiggs wrote Family Tree during the last year of her father’s life, inspired by his unfailing optimism. Wilde wrote Christmas at Twilight when she was coming to grips with mental health issues within her family and overcoming her own need to fix everything.

None of the three does a complete outline before beginning to write although they all know the general story arc. Wilde said her characters used to keep her awake at night until she learned to give them boundaries. Wiggs motivates herself to write by rewarding herself with an M&M for each page. She writes in longhand first and then goes back later and types her manuscript. King stressed that writers must uphold their contracts and meet deadlines. Publishers don’t buy the excuse of artistic temperament.

None of the women have much say over the covers on their books. Wiggs just saw for the first time the cover of her next book to be released in August. King once had a different cover put on the paperback edition of her book than had been on the hardback. Wilde said covers are a crap shoot. What may appeal to the author might not be a cover that will sell the book.

Asked about agents, Wiggs said she’s had the same agent for decades. Wilde is on her third agent. King said her first agent didn’t do much for her. She advised authors to publish anything they can, anywhere they can to increase the possibility that an agent might find them.

I’m so grateful that this event is held every year. The authors’ back stories  are fascinating.