Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo Tips

I need some!

Today I'm over at From the Write Angle talking about some blogging tips. Hope you'll pop on over and check it out.

One of the tips I mention is to use a photo of yourself as an avatar. There are so many good reasons for this - the most important being that people connect to people, not to symbols, or even pretty purple flowers.

Yet, I've never used a photo. I've had 2 avatars - both flowers. As a romance writer, I figure they've worked pretty well, but it's not as powerful of a visual statement as a face.

My problem: I write romance. I teach elementary school.

So, I can't/won't use a photo of myself.

I've considered a silhouette, an eye, hands,... but so far, nothing has really worked.

Any suggestions on what kind of photo I could use??? Do you use a photo? Do you find avatars as memorable/identifiable as photos?

Monday, March 23, 2015


I did it! I managed to get my entire draft recovered and saved (in multiple places!) after my latest computer disaster. I even found the Changes file I needed to remind me of all the things I needed to tweak. I've updated my Mozy and Dropbox folders too.

In the process, I've been learning a lot about my new Mac.

It didn't take too long to get used to the touch pad - scrolling with 2 fingers, right click is now a 2 fingered click, and scrolling upside down.

I've also figured out most of my short cuts. I used the Home & End, Page Up & Down keys a lot on my old laptop, but they don't exist on my Mac. Between the Function & Command Keys, I've got most of those figured out. Took longer to figure out the Delete key being the old backspace & Fn+Delete being the old delete.

I'm still finding the positioning of the Command key awkward, but I assume I'll get used to it too.

Now, my big problem is switching between the Mac at home and the PCs at school. We'll see how messed up my brain gets with all the switching!

At this point I can't say I've really got a preference for either PC or Mac - I like them both. What about you? Are you a PC or a Mac user?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shelley Sly - MG vs Romance

Please welcome Shelley Sly to the blog today!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Jemi!
So, I love middle grade. There’s something thrilling about writing for kids, and the conversations I’ve had with young readers have been the best part of my job as a writer. But I didn’t start out writing MG.

I started out writing romance.

I’ve written short stories of all different genres, but when I decided to get serious about being a
writer, I was set on writing romance novels with college-aged protagonists. (I guess today it would be classified as New Adult Romance, but back when I wrote my first few novels, it didn’t have such a clear genre.)

Here’s what I loved about romance:
  • The moment when the hero and heroine meet. I love introducing two important characters and seeing how they react to each other!
  • Showing the sweet side of the hero. My favorite heroes are the ones who are just so loving and thoughtful… even if they try to be a tough guy on the outside!
  • The ups and downs of the relationship. I enjoyed putting my hero and heroine through some challenging, heartbreaking times, as long as it ended in a happily ever after!
I didn’t even plan on switching gears and writing for children. But working in an elementary school and being around kids every day inspired me to write for them. It’s not the same as writing romance, but there are things I love about middle grade, too:
  • Even though there’s no romantic love, I still have fun introducing two important characters, such as two soon-to-be best friends, or two long-lost relatives.
  • There might not be a swoon-worthy hero, but I like showing the depth of young characters, too. Maybe the carefree class clown has a very sensitive side, or the rough and tough tomboy secretly loves pretending to be a princess.
  • Other relationships, such as family or friendships, can have ups and downs just like a romance. I enjoy making my characters argue and stop speaking to each other, only to be good friends again later.

Two totally different genres, and yet, they’re more similar than you’d think! I’m pretty attached to MG right now, but I do look forward to returning to romance sometime in the future.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about writing in multiple genres!

Shelley Sly lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area with her husband and their chocolate lab mix. She writes middle grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in. Shelley is the author of WISHING FOR WASHINGTON, and her brand new release, ONE HUNDRED THIRTY STARS. You can find her online at

Thanks Shelley! I adored Wishing for Washington and can't wait to read One Hundred Thirty Stars!

I love reading in so many genres (obviously MG is on that list) & I've dabbled in writing multiple genres too. I can totally see me branching out into other genres & age categories once I've got myself some more time!

How about you? Do you write in multiple genres? Want to?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Back It Up!

In case you hadn't heard, I dropped my laptop a few weeks back and killed it. Killed it dead. No chance of retrieving data. (More on adventures with new laptop later)


Question: When was the last time I backed up to my external hard drive?
Answer: Too long ago.

Reason. Our lives have been even more than the usual chaos lately. Our water slowed to a trickle and for over 2 weeks we were down to the bare minimum of water (no laundry, no dishwasher, 1 minute showers). The crews for fixing stuff like that are awesome here - but it was February & we were one of over 200 homes on the wait list. Too many -40 degree days this year and shutoffs and pipes were breaking everywhere. Also, we still have mounds of snow and frozen soil to deal with. *sigh* Add to that, we had a leak issue in an upstairs room and while fixing it decided to replace the floors too as that was on the plan for summer. Of course, that's where the external hard drive lives (we don't have an office/den). So, it's been virtually inaccessible for a while. I did a back up around Christmas.

BEFORE I started the rewrite of my NaNo novel. The rewrite I'm pretty happy with.


But, I use Mozy. Free online storage. Perfect.

Except Mozy and Scrivener do not appear to get along very well. Each scene & file is restored as a separate file. Each has to be opened separately, then copied and pasted into a brand new Scrivener file.

All 200+ files for this novel. None of which are saved with the name of the file. Nor are they in order.

Thankfully I'd compiled the entire document recently and found this using Mozy as well. MUCH easier to copy and paste each scene from there into the new Scrivener. It may not have every last change I've made, but it's not from too far back either.

I also use DropBox which (apparently) syncs writing automatically. But it appears I didn't add my new NaNo novel to the list, therefore I can't testify to whether or not it works.

Lessons learned.
1. I'm an idiot
2. I need to be more aware of keeping DropBox up to date
3. I need to not be complacent about my back ups!!
4. I'm an idiot

(We still have a bit of snow. 
The blue stake in the front is where the water break was. 
Come on Spring!!)

So, do me a favour, back up your writing Right Now! Go!!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Christina Hollis - Do You Need an Agent?

Please welcome Christina Hollis to the blog today!


The obvious answer to that question is no. Writers have so many options now. Some big publishers have started offering open sessions, when they ask people who don’t have agents to make submissions. You can self-publish your work, and keep all the profit.  So why sacrifice 15% of your writing income to a literary agent? Surely it’s a luxury you can do without? To date, I've sold three million novels (including my latest release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion), hundreds of non-fiction articles, and loads of short stories, all without an agent—so it can be done. The problem is, there’s a price—and I’m not talking wholly about money. If your aim is publication, writing a book is only the start. You then have to get it published. Whether you do this yourself, or you’re taken up by a publishing house, you’ll also have to get out there and sell it. The days are long gone when you handed your manuscript over to a third party then sat back, waiting for the money to roll in. 

Without an agent, get ready to spend  hours online, checking out which publishers are buying in your genre. You'll need to read the type of books on their lists, and target your submissions. If you’re a self-publisher, you’ll need to liaise with professional editors and cover artists to make sure you do justice to your work.

Once you’re published, by whatever means, your book must hit the real and virtual marketplaces. All this eats into time you should be using to write your next book. Most people have to fit their writing around their day job. Which would you rather do in your precious free time—write, or trawl the net in the name of research, getting distracted by the lure of social media every step of the way?

This is where literary agents, with their ready-made networks, earn their money. They take much of the non-writing stuff off your shoulders. They've  also got the inside track on current market trends. A lot of writers recoil from phrases like that, which is where agents score. They’re dedicated business people, who know who's buying, and exactly what those potential buyers are looking for. On the other side of the equation, publishers use literary agents as a shortcut—the first stage in quality control. A publisher may be more likely to check out your project if it’s already been vetted by a reputable agent. 

Once a publisher says yes, the horse-trading starts. Most writers are loners. Can you honestly say you'd feel happy negotiating the best terms for your contract, if you've never done it before? Professional bodies such as The Society of Authors will vet contracts for you if you're a member, but that takes time to arrange. And if this is your first book, can you really see yourself getting the best deal over publicity arrangements, tour dates, extending deadlines when necessary and sorting out foreign editions and rights? Really?

Writing is a lonely business. A good agent is a supporter, and that’s a great feeling. It takes the pressure off, knowing that someone is taking care of business. It gives you the chance to get the "creative" back into your "creative writing". 

To return to what I wrote at the beginning: yes, I might have sold three million books without the benefit of an agent. But how many more books would I have managed to write if I'd had an expert on hand to help me target my work and do all the paperwork, while I got on with the fun stuff?
Have you got an agent? What are your experiences?

About Christina
I live deep in the English countryside. I met my husband on a blind date, and during a career break to raise our family I wrote non-fiction articles and award-winning short stories for national magazines, to fit in with my parenting timetable.
My first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was an historical romance published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under my pen name of Polly Forrester. Then in 2007, Mills and Boon published my first Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. Since then, I’ve written many full-length historical novels and contemporary romances which have been released internationally by various publishers. In all, my work has been translated into nearly twenty different languages. 

My current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is available From The Wild Rose Press at and Amazon at (US) and (UK). You can find a selection of my other work at, find out what I’m doing right now by following me on Twitter at, liking my Facebook page at and following my blog at
His Majesty’s Secret Passion by Christina Hollis

Available from:

Leo Gregoryan is determined to be the perfect king. Loyalty to his country means sacrificing his
own happiness, but he’ll divert the energy he once poured into his dream of becoming a doctor toward royal duties. All he needs right now is a stress-free vacation–no future queen need apply. Sara Astley escapes to the luxurious Paradise Hotel after she’s dumped by her partner, who then stole the promotion she’d expected. She hides her broken dreams behind a tough exterior. Her stubborn streak makes her a challenge Leo can’t resist. His special brand of hands-on persuasion seduces Sara into enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Their fling can't hurt either of them–or so they think. Leo's focussed on being the ideal hero. Sara knows what she wants, and that’s independence. Then a revelation tears them apart, meaning things can never be the same between them...

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold over two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at Her current release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is published by Wild Rose Press.

One Kindle copy giveaway of His Majesty’s Secret Passion

Link to signed copies giveaway on Goodreads

Thanks Christina! I've always been so impressed with the agents I've had contact with. Great people who are passionate about their jobs and the stories they take on. They sure have a lot to offer writers! There are so many different paths we can take. Finding the right one is a very individual experience.

What do you think? Agent or solo? What's the best path for you?