Thursday, 29 December 2016

How to Secretly Work on Your Novel During Your Day Job

For writers, nothing is worse than leaving your laptop to go to your day job—you know, the place where you actually get paid.

But don't let resentment cloud your ambitions. There's a way to keep the creative juices flowing even when away from your computer. Here are a few ways to secretly work on your novel while at your day job.

1. A two hour meeting in the board room?

Excellent! Take a few pens and keep your notepad on your lap, just under the table and out of sight. Throughout the meeting, glance up from your writing and make eye contact with the speaker, nod, and then write for the next five minutes. Keep repeating this process until the meeting is over. At the end of the session everyone else is weary and yawning, but you my friend have a spring in your step because you totally nailed the word count for that chapter.

"And then...and then...and then..."
photo credit,
2. A co-worker talks non-stop?

Embrace her enthusiasm! The office gossip is worth her weight in gold. Listen to REALLY listen. Memorize all her turns of phrase and quirky slang. Notice the gestures she uses when telling something especially juicy compared to how she greets the boss. BAM!! You just met your MC's neighbour/sister-in-law/horrible blind date. This gum snapping, pen clicking, bucket mouth is going to give your book loads of color.

3. An annoying co-worker?

Bonus! Make a list of his most annoying traits. Does he say, “TGIF” EVERY Friday? Does he ALWAYS hit the elevator button even though it's already lit up? Does he call you by a nickname that makes no sense? BINGO! Take this stuff and give it to your antagonist's sidekick.

4. Is your plot stuck at a crossroads, unsure which way to go?

No worries! The answer is close at hand. Go to the guy no one talks to. You know who I mean, the quiet guy who smells like cabbage and still lives with his parents. He's the guy you know has weird stuff hidden under his bed. Seek him out and tell him your characters' problem, but pretend they're real people. Don't even ask for advice, just wait and listen. It's the still waters that run deep. WHAM! He might give you the freaky twist no one saw coming.

5. Are you a stay at home parent?

Lucky dog! Kids are hilarious because their imaginations are untethered by logic. Listen not for the slang, but for the reasoning. Case in point, here's a conversation between my eight year old son and his friend sitting in our backyard as they chewed bubblegum.

“Okay,” my son's friend started. “You're in a boat and you're surrounded by sharks...what do you do?”

Chewing noise then, “Hit it with the oar.”

“There's no oars.”

“Take off the engine and hit it—“

“—there's no engine.”

A bubble pops followed by a long pause. “I'd let him close enough to bite me, then I'd punch him in the eye like a thousand times.”

Me? I would have stayed in the boat. But how boring is that? I never would have made a character dive in and start a fist fight with a shark—I will now though.

See? There's inspiration everywhere, you just have to be open to the opportunities. As one of my co-workers said, “You can never quit working here, the material is endless. There's so much sh** happening each shift, it's like a new chapter every day.

Yup, I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Finding The Joy

I wrestled this out of the archives from a few years ago. It was originally posted on December 15th, 2011. My YA blog ( was brand new then and only eight people read it, but I think the message bears repeating...even after a few years.

This time of year my wallet is full of lists—those crumpled up, half crossed off reminders that I still have things to do.

The best thing about lists is drawing a line through the last item. I feel entitled to celebrate by hanging out at the book store with a gingerbread latte, making fun of the titles by adding “in bed with no clothes on.”

Try it, it's funny. The Clockwork Prince In Bed With No Clothes On. See?

Lately though, when I peek into the vortex of disorganization that is my purse, I continually find unfinished lists, and that means no gingerbread latte for me. I begin to resent all the errands which I now call 'things that get in the way of stuff I really want to do'.

I love the holidays...really I do, but sometimes the work involved in putting the Merry in Christmas leaves me exhausted and more bitter than Scrooge.

Alistair Sim, the best Scrooge!

With baking, mailing packages, and making sure everyone knows their line (yes singular) for the Christmas play, I roam the Shopping Malls—otherwise known as the black hole of commercialism—and my holiday mojo gets sucked away.
I drag my parcels through the parking lot, getting my coat dirty from brushing up against the salt encrusted cars. Bah humbug is right, life would be so much more enjoyable without all the fuss.

Then, on Sunday, I listened while someone talked about feeling the joy.

Feeling the joy?

How can I feel the joy when I have all of these things to do? If I don't wrap the presents and make the cookies, who will? Like most profound moments of epiphany, their answer was simple—you feel the joy in everything you do.

One of the coolest chicks out there, Gwen Stefani, said it best, “What You Waiting For?

And truly, why delay the happiness? I realized I have a choice. Instead of begrudging the baking and shopping, I can be thankful that I'm able to buy my groceries instead of having to depend on the food bank to feed my family. And that baking with my kids is a chance to make a memory, not another chore to be completed.

There is a tangible sense of freedom when you exercise the choice to be happy. Click here to tweet this!

I'm putting off dusting/vacuuming to read Christmas books with my kids. Instead of madly decorating to make everything perfect for a family party, I'm laying out all my ornaments for my beautiful nieces to have a go at the tree.

Today, I suggest you make the choice and feel the joy. Don't wait until everything is crossed off, because guess what—there's always something you forgot. So sit back, get a gingerbread latte, and read How the Grinch Stole Christmas In Bed With No Clothes On.

Cheers! *holds up latte*

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Novel Spotlight: The Pink Tourmaline

The Pink Tourmaline by Sandy Windham

Only in the past can she find the love of a lifetime.

A spell cast by her great-grandmother transports Quinn and her brother Michael to 1926. Stranded in an unfamiliar world, they only have one chance to get home—track down their great-grandmother and reverse the spell. Easy enough, except nothing in their family history lines up with reality. Things only get more complicated when they meet silent film actor Rafael Santino. Charming and with an interest in the supernatural, he offers his help.

When Quinn and Rafael fall in love, her relationship with her brother crumbles. She wants to stay, while Michael is desperate to leave. Splitting up is not an option. The spell has bound them together. Either both return or neither can.

Once Quinn finds a way home she must decide: Strand Michael in the past for the sake of her happiness, or leave the life she always wanted, so he can have his.

About the Author

Sandy Windham

I was born in Heidelberg, Germany , back when Germany still had the Deutsche Mark ( that’s not actually all that long ago!!!) I left Germany after high school and spent a few years bouncing around the world. After living in Israel, South Africa, and England I arrived in Key West, Florida, a few years back. It was supposed to only be a short-term stay, but then I met my husband and you know how it goes….. Recently, we relocated to Sarasota, Florida.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

30 Questions for Your Novel

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo winners!

You wrote a book! Awesome, good on ya'.

Now that the celebration has cooled off it's time for REVISIONS!

Hey, don't give me that face, you know I'm right.

Before you launch your best seller at friends/family/beta readers for glorious feedback, give it this test to see if it's ready.

This is a handy little tool I first saw on Pinterest a few years ago for outlining—I've modified the questions a bit to match my revision style. It helps me get to the meat of the story and showcases the stuff I need to polish, and the stuff I need to weed out completely. Plus, it keeps me motivated and saves loads of time because I lose focus easily...oh! Something shiny!

30 Questions for Your Novel

1: What does your character want?

What do they want most?
A heart, a way home, a brain, courage.

2: Why can't they have it?

3: Can you suck other characters into the main character’s problems, thereby broadening the conflict?
4: What is the hook for the readers on page one?

5: What is keeping your character from getting what she wants?

6: What character flaws are stopping your main character from getting what she wants?

7: Who is your main character's greatest ally?

8: Who is her enemy?

9: What external forces are stopping your main character from getting what she wants?

10: How does the main character try to fix her problems? What is the consequence? 

11: How does she try to fix it the next time?

12: What is the mood of your story? Keep it consistent.

13: Is your setting recognizable? Make it unique to the story, as seen through your MC's eyes.

14: Do you have ongoing mysteries/questions that will keep your reader guessing?

15: What are the surprises and twists in your story?

16: Is the subplot developing at the same rate as the main plot?

17: Do each of your characters have a role to play? Are they unique? What if they weren't in the story?

18: What makes each character special/significant to your main character?

19: What are your characters’ secrets?

20: Have you created a sympathetic main character? How?

21: Is your story building up to something big? Can you make it bigger? 

22: Who/what is your antagonist?

23: How do they challenge your main character?

24: How can you make your main character’s voice unique?

25: What tools does your main character have to gain in order to win in the end? What do they have to overcome? How?

26: Do you have a ticking time bomb? If so, what is it? How does it escalate the tension?

27: What are your characters’ back stories?

28:  What mistakes does your main character make? And what does she learn from them? 

29: What is your story's theme?

30: Does your ending reflect the tension in the beginning, ie: what has your character has learned since that moment?

What are some of your tools for tackling revisions?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Novel Spotlight IN MISTLETOE

IN MISTLETOE by Tammy L. Bailey

For their plan to work, they'll need to convince everyone they're in love.


At twenty-five, Grace Evans is steadily picking up the pieces of everyone else’s life. So, when her younger sister decides to turn into a runaway bride just four weeks before the wedding, Grace, drops everything to chase after her and bring her back home. Only, when the trail leads to Mistletoe, Washington, she finds herself at the mercy of the town’s most handsome and emotionally unavailable bachelor.

Ex-Army officer, Ayden McCabe, has three creeds in life: never make the first move, never fall in love, and never take anyone to Mistletoe’s Christmas Dance. Wanting nothing more than to keep his matchmaking sister from meddling in his personal life, he agrees to help Grace if she agrees to play his girlfriend. Too brunette and meek for his taste, Ayden believes Grace can’t tempt him enough to break any of his creeds. He could not be more wrong.



I was born in historical Appomattox, Virginia. After graduating from high school, I joined the military and served five years in the active duty Army. After leaving, I decided to go into the Ohio Air National Guard where I retired as a Master Sergeant in 2011. In case you were wondering, I have never flown a plane. After getting lost to the recruiter's office, I was highly discouraged from navigating one.

I admit, I am an avid Jane Austen fan and try to incorporate her in my books, in one way or another. This dream of writing, with Jane sometimes, is an exciting adventure that may take me as far as the stars or as close as my computer. 

When I'm not writing, I'm spending time with my husband and two boys, ages 13 and 10. Without their sacrifice and understanding, I would have never been able to pursue my passion of writing or my accomplishment of becoming a published author.

No matter what I write and read, there ALWAYS has to be a happy ending.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Best Gifts For Writers

You don't have to wait until Christmas to give your favourite writer a present *cough* me *cough* but since this is the season of giving, here are a few perfect items for the writer in your life.

#1. A waterproof notepad and pencil for when ideas strike them in the shower. And yes, it happens.

#2. A house plant for their writing nook to recycle all the carbon dioxide they emit when they huff and sigh over a plot snag. Studies show clear air is good for the head.

#3. A magic eight ball pen to help with all those tough decisions. Kill the hero? Should they kiss this chapter? Will the villain get caught?

#4. Fingerless gloves for the late cold evenings when everyone else has gone to bed.

#5. A basket of snacks to keep by the writing nook.

#6. Buy one of their books then write a glowing review on Goodreads. Make sure you use big words and sound official.

#7. A typewriter t-shirt! You can get yours from @PoisonPearHFX.

       Buy her awesome stuff on-line here.

#8. A mug with an inspirational message. "Don't give up on us! Love, your characters"

 You can get one from David's teas. Check it out

Encouragement. All it takes sometimes is the simplest, '
you can do this' to make a difference in a writer's day.

Happy Gifting!

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