Friday, March 27, 2009


~Sia McKye~

I read a number of blogs. One blog I regularly read is written by an agent. On this particular occasion there was an informal discussion going on between several agents and editors, chatting about a dichotomy between readers and writers. The gist of it was that there were a whole lot of writers out there that weren’t readers. People convinced that they had a “book or two in them,” but they weren't readers. Then there were the writers who felt you shouldn't read other’s work in your genre because it would interfere with your "voice".

To me, the question has always been how can you effectively write a book if you don't read them? Base it on TV? Your fascinating life? Because you're a professional writer on the job?

I write many things professionally, articles, seminars, notes, and lots of reports. I'm writing something every day and while I don't have the time to read six or more books a week anymore, I do read something everyday. I read for pleasure. I also read to keep an eye out for what is selling, what’s not, styles of writing, and premises used.

I write creatively and have completed two 90k contemporary romance manuscripts of a trilogy and I'm working on a paranormal trilogy. So, I'd say I had “a book or two in me”. I’ve told stories all my life. I come from a very creative family of oral storytellers and published authors.

My love of books came from reading voraciously throughout my life. As a child my parents and grandparents felt to be well read one must read classic literature first. I was also encouraged to branch out and explore various genres, not just one. Consequently, I regularly read various sub-genres of romance, paranormals, suspense and thrillers, and I love Sci-fi. You could say I'm a mood driven reader. I'm the same with music for much of the same reasons--my parents and grandparents.

There is a perception out there that you can't read another’s words when formulating your stories--something nonsensical about copying the voice or premise, yada yada. To me, that's BS. My voice is mine and doesn’t change just because I read someone’s work.

I often think about how coaches train their athletes. It isn't by ignoring the competition. To the contrary, they watch recorded games of the competition so they can be better. Actors know the style of other actors--they watch them. You don't think musicians aren't aware of those who produce the same style of music? Or artists aren't aware of whose style is similar?

As an author, to know what’s marketable you have to read it. Analyze it. That’s keeping your finger on the pulse of market.

I’m a marketing/promotion rep by profession, to sell my products and people; I have to be familiar with what’s out there. Is their product comparable? Better? Worse? How is it packaged? Any book I write is my product and to market it effectively I have to know what’s selling, what my target demographics are and why.

So, you want to be a author? Read. Particularly in your genre. Know what’s selling out there and why.

Sia McKye has spent over twenty years in marketing and promotion. She's written and published various articles on writing, marketing, and promotion. She's a Marketing Rep by profession and also writes fiction.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Psychotherapy With My Muse

My guest today is a delightfully quirky Scot, Malcolm Campbell. He's worked in and around the writing field for some years and has taught college level journalism and does book reviews for several sites. He has also written a wonderful story, The Sun Singer. Today he talks a bit about the writing process and his muse, who seems to a be a rather multi-talented being.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: I was reared by dysfunctional alligators in the Everglades where I cut my teeth on panic grass, ate anhinga for dinner, and played cops and robbers with a Florida panther.

Potentially, I’m making that up. But if you’re a writer, you know this is what people think. Other than fate or flat out insanity, nothing else but this kind of upbringing can explain what environmental conditions cause writers to materialize.

Last October, my friend Chelle Cordero wrote an article in which she said, “Every now and then I feel like an alien living in my home. Often misunderstood, mostly tolerated and usually hidden away. When family members are asked what I do, their voices tend to lower, they avert their eyes and finally, after shuffling their feet, whisper in a clandestine tone – ‘She’s a writer.’”

I can identify.

While hearing voices inside my head and seeing things that haven’t happened seems completely normal to me, non-writers tend to think there’s something “a little off” about it. But then what would you expect from a guy who grew up in a real or imagined swamp?

Generally speaking, people understand quantum mechanics, psychology and aquatic macrophytes and rocket science. But they don’t understand writing. They actually come up to me during funerals and/or on busy street corners and ask why I write and where my ideas come from.

My short answer is “psychotherapy.”

Since people think I’m making that up or being purposefully obtuse, they go away and don’t ask me again. Sometimes I hear them talking amongst themselves, “Hey, you see that guy over there; his best friend was a Florida Panther. Now we know why they’re on the endangered list.”

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter about why I write and where my ideas come from sounds a lot more dramatic than it is. While it really is psychotherapy, you know, due to my childhood, etc., the whole writing session shebang is just me sitting at my desk wondering what the hell I think I’m doing. I know one thing from experience: my feelings about myself and the subject matter of the story won’t become clear until all has been said and done.

My writing sessions are psychotherapy sessions with my muse. She's the analyst; I'm the analysand. There's libido there before my appointment begins, energy of some kind, and when I tell my muse what it is, she knows--because we're sitting face to face--that I will stall before I come to the real point.

I've had dreams, whispers of intuition, and sensed the influence of archetypes, but I'm not yet sure whether I want to confront them directly. They are as yet unconscious, behind doors where shadows lurk. How will I be changed, by permitting full knowledge of them? I am seldom in a hurry to know.

As the heroes of myth traveled out into the unknown forests in search of treasure, the writer travels away from his ego into the vast and often forbidding landscape of himself to find the story he must tell. He tells the story to become whole. He tells it out of necessity rather than choice.

When I confront my stories face to face, I may see joy or beauty or frightening secrets. Then and only then do I know how I feel about them. While the reader may define the image as a novel, a short story, an essay, or as nonsense, I know it's a shard from the infinite mirror of my mind's eye.

THE SUN SINGER, published in 2004, is a magical fantasy adventure about a young man who learns how to bend time, change the past and become the Sun Singer.
"The Sun Singer is gloriously convoluted, with threads that turn on themselves and lyrical prose on which you can float down the mysterious, sun-shaded channels of this charmingly liquid story." Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes
In addition to his novel, Campbell’s writing has appeared in Nonprofit World, Living Jackson Magazine, Nostalgia Magazine, POD Book Reviews More and More, The Smoking Poet, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Rosicrucian Digest. He has worked as a college journalism instructor, technical writer; grant writer and corporate communications director. You can visit Malcolm at his website

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Dreaded R Word

My guest today is, Aussie author Annie West is a bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Modern/Sexy. Annie discusses her love/hate relationship with revisions and what she calls "hardest part of your writing life"; the waiting.


People talk about being in deadline hell and I sympathise, oh boy, do I sympathise. But finishing the book isn’t the end of the story. I wish it was! Often there are those r…r…(oh go on and don’t be a wimp)…those REVISIONS.

I have a friend who tells everybody she loves revisions. They give her the chance to make the book the best it can be. I understand the sentiment. I spend so many hours slaving over a hot manuscript, trying to make it the best I can get it, of course I agree. I still think my friend is odd. Odd? Let me be frank – I think she’s loony.

I like the result of the revisions – a polished story. But the process? Argh!

I love the first set of revisions. It’s wonderful to sit in a comfy chair away from the computer with a manuscript, a red pen and a cup of coffee. I’ve achieved something. There’s sparkling dialogue, sexual tension, page turning chapter endings and…OK, maybe a few things that need changing. But I feel great when I work out how to fix them.

I get back up from my friend, historical author Anna Campbell, who reads my manuscripts as I read hers. I rely on her to find things that never occurred to me. What? Me get too close to my work?

Finally I send the story to my editor and wait. No one told you before you sold that waiting would be the hardest part of your writing life, did they? She’ll love the book. After all, I think it’s terrific and I’m an expert on this story.

Funny how editors see our work differently. Call it distance. Or an understanding of the market and reader expectations. Of all the books I’ve sold to Harlequin Presents only one got through without revisions.

Why do I con myself there’ll be no request for changes?

The email comes setting out areas to improve. Problems here. Possible solutions. I read and my head spins. My mind goes blank. If I change that thread so much else will have to change. Easy revisions are cutting word count, getting rid of a secondary character, losing a chapter (can you tell I write long?). Harder ones involve rejigging themes and motivation.

I spread the hard copy on the dining room table. It takes me days to work through the implications. I highlight major points, underline specific changes, query others till I think I know how to bring it off. I have a scrawled list of ‘to do’s’. Post it note reminders multiply as each change has consequences elsewhere. I write new sections, hoping I can hold it all in my head. Hoping I can bring it off. It’s a mess of notes, new dialogue, altered timelines and haphazard memos. At some point it doesn’t feel like my story but a maelstrom. Finally it settles into shape and…I think it works. I don’t believe it though because I’ve been to hell and back reshaping it and I’ve lost perspective.

Then I wait. Word comes that my editor loves it. Whew! I want to celebrate but I’m pooped.

Then the longer wait. Eventually the book is out and a reader contacts me. She loves the characters and lost herself in the story. Really? Those revisions worked after all.

I think about the story I’m writing now and realise it’s so much better. A corker of a story. This time there’ll be no revisions. I’m confident!

Aussie author Annie West is a bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Modern/Sexy (depending on which country you’re in). She gets a kick out of going to Australian writer and reader conferences where she gets described as ‘a Sexy author’! She’s won and been shortlisted for several reader awards and is just about to start work on what she hopes will be her 11th book for Harlequin. Annie loves her work, spending days fantasising about gorgeous men and their love lives. It’s a hard job but she has no regrets. Annie lives with her family on the east coast of Australia between the Hunter Valley’s world class wine country and some of the state’s best beaches.

Her next releases are The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride (Harlequin Presents Extra in North America in April) and Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife (Mills and Boon Modern in the UK in May). You can read excerpts of her books or enter contests to win new releases on her