As an author, I get asked a lot about when I first knew I wanted to be a writer. I wish I had a sweet story about knowing from childhood authorship was my destiny.
My journey, however, isn’t that tidy or straightforward. In fact, it’s a bit more like this:
I’ve had a lot of different jobs before becoming a published author: cashier, bank teller, certified medical assistant, college teacher and program head, risk management specialist, professional ballroom dancer, call center worker, and retail merchandiser.
In fact, up until I wrote my first book at the end of 2011 (after I had a dream that wouldn’t go away until I put it on paper), it never occurred to me to be an author. Now, that’s not to say I wasn’t a storyteller. I was an introverted only child, who always got along better with people twice my age than other kids, so making up tales to keep myself entertained was a daily occurrence. I just never thought to write any of them down.
Honestly, though, given my family history, I probably should have known I’d end up in some kind of creative field. After all, it is in my blood. Both my parents were artists. My mother was a graphic designer and my father was an interior decorator and visual merchandiser. My mom was also a dancer before she married my dad and she was a Rockette back in the 1950s and toured the country with the June Taylor Dancers.
Plus, my maternal grandparents were part of a trapeze/high wire act back in the 1920s and 1930s. The Flying Deislers worked for several major circus organizers in the US, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. They also performed for the Roosevelts at the White House and my grandmother was friends with Ginger Rogers. How cool is that?!?
So yeah. I guess a little of my ancestors’ creative drive was passed down to me, even though I can’t draw at all and you won’t find me swinging high in the air without a net. Nope.
Like I said earlier, I had a dream in 2011 that was basically the plot of my first published book in 2013, Seal of Destiny, a paranormal romance. My mom lived long enough to see it in print and was one of my first beta readers. I dedicated it to her and that story will always hold a special place in my heart. ❤️
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Here in the northern hemisphere, winter has arrived! And as a girl who now lives in the northern part of the United States, the chillier temperatures mean the possibility of snow.
I didn’t always live up north, however. I used to live in sunny Florida. Snow was just a thing of beautiful postcards and wishful thinking. And then I met the man who would become my husband. And although I met him in Florida, he wasn’t from there. He was from the aforementioned Postcard Land. Where it snows.
When we moved up north, I eagerly awaited that white fluff and marveled at it when it arrived. One year turned into two, which turned into many more. And although the arrival of snow is still magical, I’m a little less enthralled with it nowadays. Because it means I have to drive in it. And take care of my barn animals in it. In the cold. With fingers and toes that wished they were back inside my nice heated home.
So although those pretty flakes may have lost a little of their luster, the first real snow of the season is still a beautiful sight. It means hot spiced cider. And sleds. And snowmen. So if I had to vote one way or the other, I’d have to confess that I still love the snow. In spite of the inconveniences that come along with it.
Do you live where it snows (or wish that you did)? If so, what’s your verdict? Do you love it? Or do you pine for the arrival of spring?
This year I decided not to make the usual new year resolutions. In the past I have made resolutions to better my personal life , resolutions to fulfill some of my dreams and resolutions to better my career both nursing and writing. This year I wanted to do something different. So instead of making a resolution, I choose a couple words to focus on this year.
The first word I choose was discipline. Now, there are many parts of my life where I hope to apply this word. Recently, I’ve used the power of the word to help me limit my social media time giving me more time to concentrate on my family and my writing. But right now I am having a disagreement with my family as far as my need to use more discipline in my collecting of books.
Now while I call it collecting, my children have been known to refer to it as hoarding. They love to tease me about the amount of books in my office and the pile next to my bed. They think I have a problem. Not being big readers themselves (yes I know I was a failure though it wasn’t from lack of trying) they don’t understand the thrill of holding a new book in their hand nor do they understand that special feeling you get when you pick up a book and remember the pleasure a story brought you in the past.
But if you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced this and are probably a bibliophile like me. Only recently, I’ve discovered that someone who not only loves books but also loves collecting books and cataloging books is called a bibliolater.
So now I feel I have proof that instead of a hoarder, I’m a bibliolater. But before you make a decision let me show you some pictures of my library/office which is organized alphabetically by genre.
So what’s the verdict? Hoarder or bibliolater? I think we both know the answer.
I get asked a lot how great it is writing romance and the immediate answer is: REALLY GREAT. But as you know, a really cracking romance isn’t all first kisses, butterfly tummies and lavish proposals. Within each romance there are profound emotional hurdles each character must surmount before they get that glorious, well-earnt happily ever after. I’ve been enjoying exploring character’s personal journeys in greater depth these past couple of years in the guise of my new writer name: Daisy Tate. They’re more women’s fiction than romance, but never fear – love is pretty good at triumphing over adversity in them. So! I’ve written a new book.
Every book has its ping! moment and, in the spirit of Annie Claydon’s previous post, I had offered myself a bit of cushioning to explore where my latest idea would go. So! This lightbulb moment. It was actually a string of lightbulbs – the first one being the title.
I thought of the title and loved it. That’s often how I start: A Bicycle Built for Sue. And then … who is Sue and what’s she going to do. Ride a bicycle, obviously. But not just round the block…Sue’s going on a charity cycle ride. A hard one. One with hills. Something she never in a million years would have dreamed of doing. She’s not an athlete. She’s not even all that fond of getting sweaty, to be honest. She’s going to have to have gone through something big. Something that blindsided her. Something that turns her into someone who wriggles into a pair of padded lycra shorts and rides. And rides and rides and rides until she can tease away the darkness and begin to see some light.
I’d done a run recently (and by run, I mean put one foot in front of the other, listening to “Defying Gravity” from Wicked on repeat for two and a half hours). (Another sidebar: Debbie Macomber was in town that day to see her beloved Seahawks play and I knew I would be running by her hotel so, as a fellow Seattlite, I wore my Hawks hat in the hopes she was leaning out her window and see me amongst the crowd. #NeedleInAHaystack) Nearly all of the fifteen thousand people participating were running for one charity or another. I spent the bulk of the event weeping as I read everyone’s t-shirts, imagining why and for whom they were putting themselves through the horrendous ordeal.
It was pouring with rain, cold, and very long. And yet…there were literally thousands of people running for every sorrow under the (not entirely visible) sun. Amongst the scores of organisations represented, there were a preponderance of mental health charities, loneliness charities, depression, addiction, bi-polar, and, of course, suicide prevention charities. And then it hit me. Sue lost her husband to suicide. I’ve known far too many people who took their lives and, a few months later, as I rode the route Sue would ride along Hadrian’s Wall, I met far too many people who also knew people who had taken theirs. It was a six degrees of Kevin Bacon I would’ve much rather ended with Kevin Bacon.
Writing about life in the vacuum of a loved one’s suicide is not easy. Finding a way to make it uplifting was even harder. I actually went out and did Sue’s cycle ride. Again, it was pouring with rain and utterly miserable, and also unbelievably helpful in terms of really being able to tap into what she experienced. It’s a lot of alone time. But I was reminded again and again that I wasn’t alone. There was the B&B woman who stuffed newspapers in my sodden shoes and made me the best bowl of porridge I’ve ever had. The cycling group that kept passing me, making sure I was okay every time I appeared from a hedgerow (read: outdoor loo). The woman who made me a cuppa at a tourist centre when I was ready to call it a day and encouraged me to keep on going, let my bum blisters heal (I know, TMI|) and sit down at the end of it all to write about Sue, Flo, Raven and Kath. Which I did.
I also wrote four Mills & Boon last year so prepare yourself for some of those! The first is a duet I wrote with the fabulous Scarlett Wilson and it’s set in ROME (OMG – ROME!!!!! Just thinking the word makes me hungry).
Okay – I’ll leave you be, but with a question. Is there something you’ve done that you never in a million years thought you’d do? That was me with the cycle rides and the runs. Let me assure you – I am no athlete – I’m like the Little Tortoise That Could. I’m slow, not very graceful, but persistent. I actively seek silver linings. I hope you do, too. xoxoxo Annie O’
A month or so ago I was chatting with a friend about the first manuscript I sent off to Mills and Boon. I spent the summer after I returned from University bashing it out on a manual typewriter and then sent my pages off by snail mail. In due course it was rejected but by that time I had a job and other things in life had begun to take over, so it was another lifetime before I tried again. But that first try, and my first hero and heroine, still occupy a very special place in my heart.
The conversation inspired me to dig out the manuscript (yes, I still have the whole book, gathering dust at the back of a cupboard) and to re-read the first few chapters. I could see exactly why the book was rejected, and if I’d known then what I know now…
But of course, I didn’t. How could I? Because when I think about it, writing is all about making your own mistakes, finding out what you can and can’t do, and no-one else can talk you through that. I’m often asked ‘how do you write’ and never quite sure what to say. But I don’t mind dropping the tact with my younger self and giving her a bit of a shake 🙂 Now I’m much older and slightly wiser, perhaps a letter to the Annie who wrote that first manuscript is the best answer I can give.
When I read the first few chapters of your book, I liked it – I really did. Your enthusiasm for your characters shines through, but… well I’m going to give it to you straight. There’s an awful lot you need to learn before this is even remotely close to being good enough.
I could go into a bit of detail – that first chapter where you tell me what everyone else thinks of the heroine, and what brings her to the place where she first sets eyes on the hero is tolerably well written. But I really don’t care about any of it, because as a reader the one thing I want to know is how the hero sees her! Cross it all out, throw your hero and heroine in at the deep end, and let their past experiences filter out as and where they’re needed. I understand how much you value order, but aim for a bit of chaos as well!
As to your dialogue… Seriously, Annie, I know you don’t speak like this. If you’d just read it aloud you’d have realised that all those ‘I will’ and ‘I have’ would sound a lot less stilted if you’d popped in a few ‘I’ll’ and ‘I’ve’ here and there.
Your hero is pretty darn perfect. Actually a bit too perfect, he’s driving me nuts. How about a few human flaws? The things that I know you value in the people around you, just as much as their strengths. The point of all of this is that although your hero and heroine will be asked to be super-human at times, that loses its impact if they’re not human the rest of the time. Try writing what you see around you, rather than what you think you ought to see.
Since I like to think that I’m not so very different from you, all of this is annoying the life out of me. But they’re things that can be rectified. The one thing I want to get into your head in terms of your writing is that you’ve got to make lots of mistakes and learn from them. Cultivate the fine art of knowing when something isn’t working. Grit your teeth, cross out whole passages or even chapters. Try again, and make it work this time.
In life, you’ll be making your share of mistakes and you’ll survive them (I can’t tell you how because… spoilers…). And while I’d love to apply a quick nudge to the tiller in places, to steer you away from things I regret now, I wouldn’t want you to un-live a single one of the mistakes you make in your writing. Because time’s never wasted on those, you have to learn and they’re all part of an ongoing process that hasn’t ended for me yet.
Finally – and you’re going to have to trust me on this one because the rules of time travel don’t permit me to tell you how it’s going to happen. But hang on in there, because I know you’ll make it 🙂
…could be their greatest adventure! A humanitarian mission in stunning rural El Salvador will give obstetrician Cassie Andover the chance to focus on the medicine that she loves. But the one piece of her past she never expected to find there was the handsome Dr. Bryce Hamlin! And while this bold motorcycle-riding version of Bryce is nothing like Cassie remembers, he’s certainly one she’s compelled to know…
…leads to a chance at forever! After exchanging messages for months via a dating app, surgeon Ivy Ross is finally ready to meet up with “Mr. Right.” But when work calls her away the chance is lost…until fate intervenes and Ivy’s blind date—Travis King—arrives as her new senior medical officer…aka her boss! Travis and Ivy know mixing business and pleasure is a bad idea, but sometimes bad ideas feel so good…
…that just isn’t enough! A Mediterranean cruise is exactly what nurse Sophie Blythe needs. It’s the perfect opportunity to rediscover the free-spirited woman she once was, before she met her cheating ex. And ship doctor Luciano Montavano could be the perfect fling… Gorgeous yet guarded, the irresistible Italian isn’t interested in settling down any more than she is. Until one night of passionate abandon forces them to acknowledge that they both might want more…
…heal each other? Dr. Jess Young plans to use her time on the small Scottish island of Thorney to figure out how she can rebuild her shattered life after a recent blow that has stolen the future she dreamed of. Only Dr. Adam Campbell is a complication she didn’t expect! He’s handsome but hurting, too, and Jess sees a kindred spirit in Adam. Will he heal her already-fragile heart?
…she’s the midwife he still wants! Midwife Cleo Wren is horrified to discover the gorgeous Spaniard she spent an impulsive night of passion with is Dr. Felipe Gonzales, an eminent oncologist with VIP connections! She’s tempted to turn down the job of accompanying his young cousin back to his home in Barcelona. But she accepts…on the understanding that they never revisit what happened. Now Cleo just has to stick to her own rules!
…just a dream? Four years ago, GP Lily Scott walked away from Dr. Max Bryant and their sizzling fling. Why? Well, if the past had taught Lily anything, it was to be cautious with her heart. But Lily’s rule book is about to go out the window, because Max is her new colleague! She can’t ignore their powerful connection—or the family she pictures—every time she’s with him. Can that family become a reality?
Not sure if you know all of my big Penguin Random House books are on audiobook with the wonderful Caroline Lee (who narrates Liane Moriaty’s books here in Oz).
Well, big news, Montana, the first of my re-written LYREBIRD LAKE SERIES will be available in March with Caroline Lee narrating again. I’m so thrilled. So, if you love audio, like me, the Lake is coming for you to listen to. xx
And lastly, and most exciting, a brand-new Medical Romance from Mills and Boon, out today, offering you a chance to travel to beautiful Barcelona with me. Or with Cleo and Felipe, really.
Have you been to Spain?
Such a fun place when I was there two years ago, and in this book my Aussie midwife, Cleo, is a fish out of water. And like me, Cleo was fascinated with the amazing Sagrada Familia Church and all that Barcelona has to offer. Including, the dark and dangerous, Dr Felipe.
I’m honored to have this very first blog spot of 2021 to talk about a subject dear to my heart. After the year just gone, (It That Shall Not Be Named, Which Will Live On In Infamy) I’m hoping for a fresh start, and progress toward a better world for us all, including within publishing. I’m hoping readers and writers alike will find this blog interesting, and informative, and something to consider as we move into this bright, (hopefully) shiny New Year.
Over the last decade or so, there’s been a sea-change coming in the publishing sphere, and not everyone has been comfortable with it, or able to understand why it was even necessary. I personally think it started with the advent of small presses and self-publishing. During that time, a number of authors began to get noticed in a way they hadn’t been able to before. Many had abandoned the hope of getting traditionally published because they’d tried, repeatedly, and been rejected, repeatedly.
In some cases, those rebuffs came not because they were poor, sub-standard writers, but because their characters didn’t conform to what was then deemed acceptable, or marketable.
Those authors were writing about characters the gatekeepers in traditional publishing had little to no interest in. Worse, they were putting those characters in situations deemed the milieu of white, Cis-het people, yet often they were neither of these things. Those authors were writing characters who were LGBTQ+, black, Asian, and every other race, creed, color, and nationality. They were writing all types of stories imaginable. Those tales were often raw, and real, and questioning of a society that seemed inclined toward ignoring the realities of lives outside the “norm.”
“Norm,” of course, being relative and subjective; a truth that is oft glossed over, and minimized when it is convenient.
Since then, I’m happy to say, things have improved in the way of diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there’s still a struggle ahead. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t have to be a concerted effort to attract diverse stories and authors, but we would all be judged, equally, on the quality of our work. And all good stories, no matter where they’re set, or who the characters are, would have an equal chance of publication.
We’re not there yet, but it’s heartening to see the initiatives and training being offered in the hopes of getting us, as an industry, to that point. It takes effort, and courage, to affect change. Clarity about, and understanding of situations and people that perhaps are alien to us has to be sought, and taken on board. Recognition of the barriers people have faced, and often still face, is imperative, as is the determination to break them down.
At Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s new Write for Harlequin website, they’ve added an entire section geared toward Diverse Voices, and I’m hoping it attracts the attention of authors from around the world. Category romance may sometimes seem to be the unwanted stepchild of the publishing world, but it’s wildly popular, and always in need of fresh, new voices.
On the website can be found lists of initiatives and outreach programs, including mentorships and scholarships, geared toward diverse writers. By reaching out to underrepresented groups, Harlequin has shown they’ve seen, and understood, the impediments many authors have historically faced, and are making the necessary changes to address the imbalance.
With the success of those initiatives, I hope to have a much widened pool of amazing authors to read. New voices, showing us life as we’ve never seen it before.
I want to be swept away to places I’ve never experienced, see them from an insider’s perspective, and learn more about this wondrous, amazing world we inhabit.
Meet new characters, with a range of issues brought about by family traditions, misunderstandings, driving desires, and many other delicious problems, but with twists only that author, with their particular knowledge and world-view, could write.
I want my mind blown, and expanded, by those new stories.
That’s why I read: to be transported, educated, and entertained by stories outside of my own personal knowledge. To lose myself in new places, and characters, and cultures.
To learn tolerance and understanding through being exposed to life as others live it, not just be mired in my own small world.
To me, that’s the magic of books, and I want to be enchanted by all this world has to offer.
Please visit the Write For Harlequin website, and encourage others who want to be published to do so, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or the personal barriers they face.
After all, while I, and other like-minded readers, still actively long for diversity, ‘inclusion’ means everyone.
There is more than enough success to go around, when we clear the way for all authors.
We’re taking a break from blogging over the holidays, but we’ll be back again on the 1st January!
We’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU, to everyone who’s contributed to the blog – and in particular our lovely commentators and readers, who always make blogging fun and who have supported us so wonderfully this year. We’re enormously grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit us.
And last but by no means least, on behalf of all the Medical Romance Authors – we wish you all the comfort and joy of the season and we’re sending special thoughts for all those who can’t be with friends and family this year. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing we hope that the Holidays and the New Year bring you love, health and happiness.
I never wanted to be an author. There are author friends I know who maintain that from the age they could staple paper together, they knew they wanted to be a writer. Not me. I wanted to be a hairdresser when I was five and a kindy teacher when I was eleven and for a few years I wanted to be a travel guide in Greece because Greece. And then, when I was fifteen I was visiting my bestie in hospital and there were nurses all around in those cute old fashioned hats taking blood pressures and giving out pills and it hit me like a bolt from the blue – I wanted to be a nurse.
So, I became a nurse. Not an author.
Frankly, it never occurred to me that being an author was a job. That people actually did. Which is ludicrous because there were books – so many books! – and I loved books, slurping them up at every opportunity. But I’d never really given any thought to the writer behind the pages – just the story itself.
Until in 1991 for a period of six weeks, I found myself unemployed….
My husband and I were living in the UK on a working holiday. We’d moved to Milton Keynes where he’d taken a year contract with Abbey National bank and, after working in 2 nursing homes prior to the move, I declared I wasn’t working in another one and that I was holding out for a hospital job.
But, in the meantime, what was I to do? It was out first UK winter and it was freezing. The temperature hadn’t got above 0 for a week. I mean, the cobwebs on our house had frozen! Which is breathtakingly pretty but still….really freaking cold. Consequently, I needed something to do that didn’t involve me getting off my electric blanket while I waited to hear word about the various feelers I’d put out for a job in the NHS.
I know, I thought, I’ll write that book that’s in my head.
Okay, wait. Brake screech….
The what in the where? Yes….I was as surprised as you probably are given the previous paragraphs, to realise that the pictures and thoughts in my head were actually characters and dialogue and a plot. Up until that point it hadn’t occurred to me that it was a book. I just thought I had a…really vivid imagination.
But, in that moment of clarity, in that split second I decided what I was going to do with my time, I had no doubt at all, that it was a book.
Of course, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. As previously stated, I loved reading, I excelled at creative writing in English and, perhaps the biggest red flag of all, was the fact that throughout my childhood, my mother had always been tinkering away on a second hand typewriter writing her own book – a romance novel. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but she was laying the subliminal ground work for me. Watching her toil at her own creative endeavours had sown the seeds of conviction in my self-conscious – no matter how deeply – that anyone could write a book. Even me. You just had to sit your ass in the chair (or on the electric blanket) and do it.
Suddenly, it all made sense and the rest, as they say, is history.
I wrote that book long hand in ten days – a chapter a day. Yep, that’s right, ten chapters of 5000 words each just flew from my fingertips. It was like I cracked open a portal in my head that day – the creative portal – that I’ve never been able to shut. The door opened and I stepped over the threshold and shazam!
That book didn’t succeed. The rejection after nine months was cutting in its brevity but thankfully it wasn’t a fatal blow. In fact, I always say that it wasn’t writing my first book that made me a writer but my first rejection that transformed me. Rejection made me determined – bloody minded my husband calls it – to succeed. To prove to the publisher and the world and me that I would succeed, that I would write a book that a publisher wanted to publish.
Rejection made me a writer.
Eighty books down, I know so much more than I did then and yet, perversely it feels I still know so little. But none of that matters – because I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and figure it out as I go along. With thanks to you guys, the readers, for your fierce love of books and reading.