How Summer Travels Help Your Summer Writing

Summer Writing

I’ve had an incredible, adventurous, and exhausting time this past month exploring South Korea and Hong Kong. (Shout-out to every single cityscape in Seoul: the views were gorgeous.) To be honest, I haven’t done as much writing as I planned to accomplish during this trip. But there was potential writing inspiration in every photo I took, awareness of other customs I want to include in future works, and a general boost to my summer writing now that I’ve returned home.

Whether you’re flying halfway across the world, visiting the beach, or taking a road trip along the coast, I am a huge believer that all writers benefit from summer travels. All of my novels were inspired from past trips, and I know this past month’s study abroad program will probably result in Seoul being a future novel setting as well. Which brings us into the first point…

  • Fresh story settings. There’s nothing like experiencing a place for the first time. While we may be familiar with our hometown, when you get used to a place for too long you forget to notice the little details. What are the scents in the local market? How do people greet each other? What famous structure does the city hall building remind you of? You never know, a new story setting could inspire a new plot.
  • Take (lots of) pictures and keep them as writing prompts. My phone is currently filled with all kinds of random photos I snapped in Seoul – at cafes, with friends, of unique store window displays, and of course endless city skylines. What catches your eye while traveling will later invoke your imagination while writing. Every time my manuscript reaches that “soggy middle” stage or I feel a bit of writer’s block coming on, I look back to old vacation photos and feel inspired again.

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Writing Mistakes I Wish I’d Avoided

COOKING

It’s been a year since I published The Innocent Assassins, and almost a year since I published One Last Letter. Even within the past year, I’ve noticed my writing improve. I sat down at my computer the other day to read a few old manuscripts I typed up (even pre-TIA) and I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the common writing mistakes I used to make. The following list of writing mistakes are ones I’m determined to avoid in future writing, and ones I wish I’d read about in the past!

(1) Adverb usage.

Most of the time, descriptive words can replace adverbs and make the sentence stronger. It all goes back to “show, don’t tell”. Why write she said it “tiredly” when you could write she “paused and rubbed the throbbing temples of her forehead”. When adverbs are avoided, visualization becomes much more vivid for the reader.

(2) Using the character’s title when I could be saying “he”, “she”, or “(Character’s Name)”.

This post from K. M. Weiland discusses what I’m talking about. This means saying “the lady”, “the man”, “his mother”. I’m pretty sure in One Last Letter I used “the cowboy” a bit too many times. I realized I was including “the” nouns as a way to remind myself of the character’s role in the story, but the reader already knows the character’s role. They don’t need to read about “the cowboy” instead of Jesse or “he”.

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Best Films About Writers

BestFilmsAboutWriters

These are not only some of my favorite films about writers and writing, they’re also some of the best films for any movie junkie! As summer rolls around and you might need a writing break, I highly recommend watching these three.

Midnight in Paris

“No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”


Why this movie? It’s always fun to recognize all the Jazz Age writers such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, though fair warning: they’re complete stereotypes of how the media remembers them. The protagonist, Gil Pender, is a screenwriter who wants to work on a novel. While venturing through the streets of Paris after midnight, he’s swept back in time to the Jazz Age and immerses himself in the Parisian culture of the period. This movie not only captures the writing struggles of trying to break into a different medium, it also discusses what it’s like to seek inspiration from both the past and present.

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What College Taught Me About Writing and Publishing

OCEANBUFFET I’m typing this post after I’ve finished my last final during finals week – and what a relief it is for summer to finally be here! Sophomore year has definitely had its ups and downs. It’s crazy that I’m already halfway done with college, but the end of this year made me realize how much the past two years have taught me about both the writing process and how to approach publishing.

1) Failure is inevitable.

Just like good reviews and bad reviews, you’ll have amazing wonderful friends and then you’ll also have disappointed relationships. Not all stories will do as well as others and not all readers will love your writing. Sometimes you’ll put a story out there to the world or try a marketing technique and it won’t work. That’s fine.

College was the time when I started to realize that there may be tests you study an insane amount of time for and still don’t perform as well as you’d hoped. There will also be times when you have three midterms in one day and somehow you do well on all of them. There will be failures from your writing and promotion, just like there will be failures from your tests and friendships. There’s no such thing as a 100% success rate – and that’s normal! Continue reading

Revolutionary Hearts is LIVE!

RevHearts

roses2

Revolutionary Hearts is live!

Only $0.77 on Amazon, $0.99 at all other retailers!

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U7NR38M/
B&N: http://bit.ly/1NrACsI
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1NrAGc9
iTunes: http://apple.co/19wzKpB

Synopsis

Parineeta Singh has always known her purpose in life: to help exact revenge on the invading British and free India. She becomes a maid for General Carton in order to supply information to her brother’s Indian revolutionary group. But when her employer is  exposed as an American spy, she agrees to help him escape the British Raj.

She did not agree to lose her heart.

To complete his mission, Carton—aka undercover operative Warren Khan—must hide both his true objective and his part-Indian heritage. But once he meets the captivating Parineeta, who holds the key to both his freedom and capturing her brother, a suspected anarchist, he finds the subterfuge more difficult than anticipated.

Navigating between the lavish social circles of the British elite and the dense jungles of 1920s India on the brink of the country’s revolution, the two must find a way to protect both their lives and their love.

Excerpt

“How do you know so much about the jungle, anyway?” He leaned against one side of the cave, and she watched his face slip into the shadows. “I thought your entire family worked for the previous general who lived in that house before me. Surely he didn’t send you out for tasks in the trees.”

The unbidden memories sent a fresh wave of pain straight to her heart. “When I was younger, I worked as a maid in the house. But the previous general was… He would instruct me to scrub the floors from dawn until sundown, when I would finally receive a break to eat a meal. All his servants were treated in such a manner.”

“Why?”

“I do not believe he saw us as people. We could be worked like dogs. I would often escape into the jungle, and eventually I no longer worked in the house at all.”

“I see.” Warren reached out to envelope both of her hands into his smooth ones. She flinched. Yet as her skin grew accustomed to the touch, she relaxed her hands in his. It alarmed her how much more at ease she was becoming around him. It was almost as if he provided a source of comfort, something she couldn’t quite name and didn’t care to. “I do not understand why anyone would be cruel to you, though.”

He rubbed his thumb in a circular motion over her hand. Shockwaves from his touch jolted up her arm.

Danger. She wrenched one of her hands from his hold and pivoted on her heel. But his right hand still gripped hers with firm pressure. Her torso twisted as she kept her face turned from his. “Then you do not know enough of the world.”

“I think I do.” His voice was low and husky. A chill ran up Parineeta’s spine and unfamiliar heat pooled in the pit of her stomach. “I’ve seen and known many women during my life. No agent’s or colonel’s daughter has ever been more courageous or intelligent than you.”

Parineeta spun her head around. She wanted—no, she needed—to believe this man. No one had ever said the honeyed words that left his mouth to her before. They were so sweet that she could almost taste her grandmother’s syrup. He squeezed her hand and brought her body ever so closer to his. His musky scent lingered in the air, and she would have sworn he could hear her heartbeat.

“You called me intelligent in the past. Am I?” She lifted her chin, reclaiming her pride and throwing off whatever feeling this man gave her. She would not buckle to her knees before him. “I am here to learn information from you and nothing more, yet you seem to draw me into dangerous situations.”

Warren lifted his thumb to graze the top of her cheekbone. She struggled to keep her breathing under control as she met his gaze. The brown hair she had grown accustomed to seeing so coiffed and slicked back had fallen from its former grace and hung loose over his forehead, the ends brushing the top of his eyes.

When he spoke, he sounded distant, as if in a trance. His eyes remained fixed on hers. “I wish every woman was like you.”

She felt her cheeks flush. No man had ever spoken to her with such boldness before. A heady rush swept through her body as he inched closer to her, removing the gap between them as he inclined his body toward hers. His stubble scratched the side of her cheek, and his scent bombarded her senses, removing all rational thought. It was only her and him, in this moment, free and alive and closer and closer….

His lips brushed against hers, softly at first, then more insistent. She clutched the collar of his kameez. Could he hear her heart pounding? His right hand threaded through her hair, combing through her waves and falling along the sides of her sari. His other hand pressed into the small of her back, molding her body against his.

Her body naturally reacted in the same way—hungry and yearning against his lips. She put everything she had into the kiss, all her years of rejection and feeling unwanted and being unable to marry due to her skin. Too dark for the British to view her as an equal, too light for the men in her village to forget who her father was. She’d never kissed a man before. And this one made her feel like a flame burning up from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.

How to Stay Motivated During the Writing Process

How to Stay Motiv

One of the hardest parts about writing is the motivation aspect. How do you keep going and stay inspired even when you face rejection or lack of time? That’s why I’ve assembled this quick list of how to stay motivated during all parts of the writing process! Hopefully the tips below will help you just as much as they helped me.

1. Turn your ‘shoulds’ into ‘musts’.

It’s helpful to make a list of all the things you keep telling yourself you ‘should’ do. Chances are that the list is longer than you thought. It’s also a list of projects or activities that will bring you serious joy and fulfillment once you get started on them. Have you kept telling yourself that you should read every day? Carve out ten minutes at the beginning of your morning to pick up a novel over breakfast. Have you always said to yourself that you should begin on that plot idea that’s been bouncing around your head? Take five minutes to jot it down. Even with a major time crunch, you can still get started on that list in short intervals. Continue reading

How to begin your novel: Start with the action!

Writing Tip - Start with the Action

How should you begin your novel? The best way is to start with the action!

This is a concept that’s taken me many stories to understand. When writing my first draft of One Last Letter, I included a flashback scene that showed Jesse and Evelyn as young teenagers. They were making a promise to one another to stay together forever. It was a great scene and I loved it and then when I was editing with Crimson Romance’s brilliant editor Julie Sturgeon, she said: “This has gotta go.”

To be honest, the action of the story didn’t start with that promise. The action started a few years later, when Evelyn returns from school and she no longer believes she can be with Jesse. That’s where my story needed to begin. The same issue happened with Revolutionary HeartsI’d drafted a scene right before the hero and heroine meet for the first time. It was a discussion between the heroine and her grandmother – fun dialogue, but again, not where the action starts.

Why should you start with the action? It grips your reader’s interest and hooks the reader from the beginning. I know I make judgments about whether or not I’m going to buy a new book based on first chapter excerpts. If the beginning of your book isn’t strong, your reader won’t stick around to see if the rest is any better!

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to tighten up your writing and start with the action:

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Romance fan? Advanced Reader Copies of Revolutionary Hearts are available for review

Review copies!

For all interested book bloggers, book reviewers, or just a general lovers of historical romance: I’m excited to announce Advanced Reader Copies of Revolutionary Hearts are now available for review!

Thanks to the amazing Crimson Romance team, my novella is finally in the last production stages and will be released by the end of March. (March 30, to be exact.) Till then, I’m on the look-out for some awesome reviewers who would be interested in reading the novella. You can post the review to your blog, Goodreads, Amazon, B&N… it’s all appreciated! Think you could be one of those amazing reviewers? Sign up here!

If you’re curious to find out more about the novella:

Parineeta Singh has always known her purpose in life: to help exact revenge on the invading British and free India. She becomes a maid for General Carton in order to supply information to her brother’s Indian revolutionary group. But when her employer is  exposed as an American spy, she agrees to help him escape the British Raj.

She did not agree to lose her heart.

To complete his mission, Carton—aka undercover operative Warren Khan—must hide both his true objective and his part-Indian heritage. But once he meets the captivating Parineeta, who holds the key to both his freedom and capturing her brother, a suspected anarchist, he finds the subterfuge more difficult than anticipated.

Navigating between the lavish social circles of the British elite and the dense jungles of 1920s India on the brink of the country’s revolution, the two must find a way to protect both their lives and their love.

Excerpt:

 “How do you know so much about the jungle, anyway?” He leaned against one side of the cave, and she watched his face slip into the shadows. “I thought your entire family worked for the previous general who lived in that house before me. Surely he didn’t send you out for tasks in the trees.”

The unbidden memories sent a fresh wave of pain straight to her heart. “When I was younger, I worked as a maid in the house. But the previous general was… He would instruct me to scrub the floors from dawn until sundown, when I would finally receive a break to eat a meal. All his servants were treated in such a manner.”

“Why?”

“I do not believe he saw us as people. We could be worked like dogs. I would often escape into the jungle, and eventually I no longer worked in the house at all.”

“I see.” Warren reached out to envelope both of her hands into his smooth ones. She flinched. Yet as her skin grew accustomed to the touch, she relaxed her hands in his. It alarmed her how much more at ease she was becoming around him. It was almost as if he provided a source of comfort, something she couldn’t quite name and didn’t care to. “I do not understand why anyone would be cruel to you, though.”

He rubbed his thumb in a circular motion over her hand. Shockwaves from his touch jolted up her arm.

Danger. She wrenched one of her hands from his hold and pivoted on her heel. But his right hand still gripped hers with firm pressure. Her torso twisted as she kept her face turned from his. “Then you do not know enough of the world.”

“I think I do.” His voice was low and husky. A chill ran up Parineeta’s spine and unfamiliar heat pooled in the pit of her stomach. “I’ve seen and known many women during my life. No agent’s or colonel’s daughter has ever been more courageous or intelligent than you.”

Parineeta spun her head around. She wanted—no, she needed—to believe this man. No one had ever said the honeyed words that left his mouth to her before. They were so sweet that she could almost taste her grandmother’s syrup. He squeezed her hand and brought her body ever so closer to his.

“You called me intelligent in the past. Am I?” She lifted her chin, reclaiming her pride and throwing off whatever feeling this man gave her. She would not buckle to her knees before him. “I am here to learn information from you and nothing more, yet you seem to draw me into dangerous situations.”

Warren lifted his thumb to graze the top of her cheekbone. She struggled to keep her breathing under control as she met his gaze. The brown hair she had grown accustomed to seeing so coiffed and slicked back had fallen from its former grace and hung loose over his forehead, the ends brushing the top of his eyes.

When he spoke, he sounded distant, as if in a trance. His eyes remained fixed on hers. “I wish every woman was like you.”

She felt her cheeks flush. No man had ever spoken to her with such boldness before. A heady rush swept through her body as he inched closer to her, removing the gap between them as he inclined his body toward hers. His stubble scratched the side of her cheek, and his scent bombarded her senses, removing all rational thought.

His lips brushed against hers, softly at first, then more insistent. She clutched the collar of his kameez. Could he hear her heart pounding? His right hand threaded through her hair, combing through her waves and falling along the sides of her sari. His other hand pressed into the small of her back, molding her body against his.

Her body naturally reacted in the same way—hungry and yearning against his lips. She put everything she had into the kiss, all her years of rejection and feeling unwanted and being unable to marry due to her skin. Too dark for the British to view her as an equal, too light for the men in her village to forget who her father was. She’d never kissed a man before. And this one made her feel like a flame burning up from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.

For more links, find the novella on Crimson Romance’s websiteadd it on Goodreads, or listen to the novella’s soundtrack. I loved writing about Parineeta and Warren’s passionate journey during the British Raj, and I can’t wait for you to meet them as well.

My Secret Weapon? Audio Inspiration and Writing Podcasts

my secret weapon-

“Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” But it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a shot of motivation every once and a while. The three podcasts below have helped me so much as a writer over the past few months. Whether you’re looking for plot development tips or general information about how to publish your work, these podcasts can work wonders. Next time you’re feeling a serious lack of motivation, just listen to one of the following podcasts for valuable information and writing inspiration.

Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors – K. M. Weiland’s podcast is based around writing methods and editing strategies. It’s focused on the writing process, not so much marketing or publishing. I always turn to her podcast when I’m struggling with editing a scene or before beginning an outline. Her podcast episodes made me reconsider everything from where a book ending should be set to how realistic my dialogue truly is. No matter what stage of the writing process you’re at with your MS, she’ll definitely help you improve your current draft. Some of my favorites: “Get Rid of On-the-Nose Dialogue Once and For All”  and “Most Common Writing Mistakes: Describing Character Movements” .

The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn’s podcast is wonderful for writers who want to learn more about the business side of writing. She’s a self-published entrepreneur who has great wisdom to share about the publishing industry. She covers everything from how current technology is affecting readers to the basics of marketing work. Penn also has a publishing news round-up in the beginning of each new podcast that keeps me learning more about the industry. If you’re interested in eventually publishing your novels, I recommend checking out The Creative Penn. Some of my favorites: “Die Empty. Managing Your Creative Rhythm” and “The Lion’s Gate, Fighting Resistance, and Mental Toughness for Writers”.

The Accidental Creative – This podcast is for anyone who considers himself or herself a “creative”. It’s not specifically aimed toward writers, but each episode is relevant for anyone who produces creative work on a day-to-day basis. Todd Henry covers some great ideas, such as daily practices that lead to long-term success (like writing all year) and the importance of meaningful time allocation. Think of this podcast as life coaching for the creative writer. Some of my favorites: “Your Intended Audience” and “The Dailies”.

All of the podcasts above release several new episodes each month, but there’s a ton of other writing and publishing podcasts out there which also update regularly. Know any other writing podcasts that inspire you? Feel free to share them in the comments below!