Author PJ Friel and A TOUCH OF WYRD

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I’ve known PJ for a few years now, both as an author and a cover designer (she designs the covers for the Jain Lazarus Adventures). I’m thrilled to host her ahead her debut novel’s release on March 23. PJ talks about her process, in her own words:

 A Twisted Process

According to Merriam-Webster, process is “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end”. When applied to writing a book, those actions would be: pre-writing, writing, revision, editing, and then publishing. That sounds, as my mother always said, easy-peasy.

(insert slightly hysterical laughter here)

Merriam-Webster obviously hasn’t met me.

According to my friend Justene, this is what my writing process looks like:

“Create characters, create a world. Toss them into a plot. Write forever. Rewrite. Rewrite again. Rewrite a few dozen more times. Send it out to beta readers. Look at the feedback. Freak out for a while. Make a cover. Think about throwing in the towel. Beat yourself up. Rewrite a couple more times. Decide another rewrite will make it different but probably won’t make it better. Send it out for publication.”

I cracked up reading her description but guess what. It’s funny because it’s true. The “process” I followed to write my first book, A Twist of Wyrd, was a study in frustrated perfectionism. But it wasn’t necessarily my process that was the problem.

Every writer follows a different path to their final destination: the Hero’s Journey, beat sheets, various systems created by other authors, or pieces of all these things sewed together into a Franken-process. Where I went wrong was the mistaken belief that I just hadn’t found my OTP (one true process). I thought there had to be some magical system out there that would take me from dim bulb to illuminated writer.

That may sound a little weird, but in order to understand why I was so dead set in my OTP belief, you need to know a little more about me. When I’m not writing stories about valkyries and berserkers, I’m a spreadsheet slinging, database pinging Business Analyst. My day job is all SQL code and Excel formulas, and if you’ve never worked with either, let me just say that a single misplaced comma can ruin your day. So, making the switch from by-the-book Vlookups and Select statements to a “learn the rules so you can break them” philosophy was a little panic inducing.

I could never decide which rules it was okay to break and I could never make my manuscript equal four, no matter how many times I added two and two. So, I got trapped in a rewrite loop. For years. Until one day, tearful misery, I called my sister and she gave me some advice that finally broke through logic wall. She said, “Stop writing the book and just tell the story.”

After trying everything else, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I stopped worrying about the rules and the beats and the acts and I focused on telling the story of a man and woman battling enemy factions and their own fears on the path to real love.

The by-product of my newfound “just tell the story” attitude was that I started to trust myself and my writing. I finished my novel and worked up the bravery to share it with beta readers, warts and all. Knowing that I was sending out an imperfect story to others was terrifying. What if they hated it? What if they found gaping plot holes? What if they couldn’t connect to my characters? What if? What if? What if? This is the part of the process where I created about thirty different versions of my book cover and thought about throwing in the towel.

Then an author friend of mine stepped in and saved my sanity, and with it, my book. How? By freaking out while writing his own novel. This successful man, who I deeply admire, was experiencing some of the same fears I was. What if readers hate my story? What if I’m not giving them what they expect? What if they just don’t get it? Suddenly, I was the one offering comfort and advice, and in doing so, I realized that there was nothing wrong with my process or my writing or with me. The only problem I had was one that we all have from time to time…letting fear hold me back.

So, that’s how I reached the publishing phase of process, with a whole lot of help from my wonderful beta readers and my brilliant editor. Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten over the freaking out. I’ve just made the decision not to let it stop me anymore. My plan for book two in the Ways of Wyrd series is to surrender to my lack of process, step into my character’s shoes, and leave the footprints of her life on the page. I’m kinda scared, but I’m also looking forward to the journey, no matter how twisted the path may be.

Blurb:
A TWIST OF WYRD – THE WAYS OF WYRD BOOK 1

They say a person’s wyrd – their destiny – is carved into the branches of Yggdrasil long before they are born.

Three hundred years after Odin’s gates to Earth malfunctioned, Outlanders left behind have integrated into society so thoroughly that few humans are even aware of their existence.

Straddling the divide is Bryn Ullman, a PI with a unique skill that’s in demand by Akron PD and a phobia that even her martial arts training can’t defeat. Her shadowy heritage means that she is always looking over her shoulder, and has no patience, and no place in her life, for Trygg Mackenzie and the confusing things he makes her feel…and want.

Trygg, head of security for the Devourer mob, is a berserker in hiding. If the Allfather finds him, eternal servitude will be the least of his worries. But for Bryn, he’s willing to take the risk if it keeps her safe and gains him redemption for his past.

A murder investigation throws them together, but with mob secrets and unknown factions at work, will giving in to their passion be their undoing or their salvation?

On the path of fate and destiny, it’ll take A Twist of Wyrd to save them both.

Links:
Goodreads
Amazon Author page
Website
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Guest Patsy Collins: Leave Nothing But Footprints

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Q: What was the inspiration for LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS?

Patsy Collins: You know how we’re always told to write what we know? Well, I do much of my writing whilst travelling with my photographer husband in our campervan. The novel is about photographers in a campervan… The storyline isn’t at all autobiographical, I promise, but getting two people to share such a small space is a good way for the reader to learn about them and watch their growing relationship.

The natural landscape is one of my interests, so I’ve made Eliot an eco campaigner. Mostly I want the book to be a fun, lighthearted read, but if it also encourages readers to take slightly better care of the world around them, I’ll be extremely pleased.

Q: How did Capri influence the story?

PC: Capri is used as a contrast to the main part of the story which takes place in South Wales. It’s an expensive, unusual destination, chosen by Jess simply for the luxurious facilities offered by the spa hotel. Capri represents the life Jess had before meeting Eliot. She enjoyed her holiday there, but it also highlighted the emptiness of her life. It’s not until she travels to the apparently less exciting Welsh coastline that she begins to find the sense of purpose she’d been lacking.

Q:What makes Wales the perfect place for this, and why does Wales make it different than setting it elsewhere?

PC: Partly it’s the fact that Jess and Eliot live, and work from, the campervan. They stay in empty fields and on quiet roadsides rather than on busy campsites – something which is entirely possible there, but much less practical in many other places. There’s none of the luxury Jess is used to. Learning to cope with that, whilst working hard and learning new skills, helps both reveal and develop her character.

The hills and beaches of Wales are rugged, spectacular and beautiful, but they can also be moody, forbidding and hard work. Kind of like Eliot. There’s not much that’s gentle and easy about the landscape, but the climbs and long hikes are definitely worth the effort. That’s reflected in Jess’s emotional journey.

Q: In general, how do you feel place affects your writing? What kind of details do you use to make your locations unique?

PC: The locations are very important to me, so much so that I do first drafts wherever the stories are set. That helps me get a feel for the place and of course makes research much easier.

With Leave Nothing But Footprints, I walked where Jess and Eliot walked. I climbed up to see the views which they photographed. Just as they did, I went out early in the morning and late in the day, to watch the effects of the changing light. I literally put myself in their place and noticed what they’d notice, tried to feel as they’d feel and react as they would. It’s a technique I’ve used before and found effective.

I don’t attempt to write a travel guide to any of my locations. Instead I try to capture the atmosphere with a few small details. The sand on the path, flowers which bloom alongside it and the sound of surf pounding onto the rocks below, form the background to one scene for example.

Q: What is your process working on a book, from inspiration to completion?

PC: First I create an outline of the plot and do some basic research, if needed, to ensure that plot will work. I pick the location and begin to think about the characters. Although there will be little to show for this stage, probably around 500 words, it can take months.

Then I start writing – on location if I can. Ideally I’d write the first draft all in one go, but that’s often not possible. I may hit a snag with the story, lose enthusiasm, or something unconnected with writing may cause an interruption. When the first draft is finally complete, sometimes years after I started, I leave it and write something else. That gives me the distance I need to start editing.

I’ll rewrite and leave the story as many times as necessary to get the novel as good as I feel I’ll be able to get it on my own. Then it goes to my fantastic beta readers. I’ll rewrite again, using their feedback. During each rewrite, I’ll research anything I don’t already know. That process will also be repeated until I’m satisfied with the book. After that, it’s just the usual copy editing and proofreading to arrange.

Q: Do you have any unusual rituals or objects you need around you when you write?

PC: Not really. Whether I’m in the campervan or at home I use the same laptop computer (I always write straight onto that, rather than on paper) and I drink a lot of tea.

Q: What are you working on now?

PC: I’m doing a ‘cosy crime’ story for NaNo. Four of my previous novels have had crime elements in them, but this will be the first one in which crime is the main genre. The action will be split between my home town and another seaside location I know well, so I’ve already got the settings fairly clear in my mind. I’m hoping that this time I really will manage my idea.

Thank you, Patsy, for joining us!

Blurb:
Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father’s money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy’s pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.

Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she’ll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she’s delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can’t be bought.

Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she’s ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she’s used to. She’s wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?

Book link myBook.to/LNBF

Author Bio:
Patsy Collins will write anywhere she can reach in her campervan. She’s the author of five novels; four contemporary romances and one coming of age story with a difference. Hundreds of her short stories have been published in magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa. She’s also co-author of From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction.

Patsy blogs about free entry writing competitions – http://patsy-collins.blogspot.co.uk and runs the womagwriter blog http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk which is handy for magazine guidelines.

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Interview: Jo Linsdell, ITALIAN FOR TOURISTS

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Jo Linsdell’s written a terrific book called ITALIAN FOR TOURISTS, which takes a far more common-sense approach to the language than most of the books on the market. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel confident when travelling to a country without knowing the language.

It’s written in a warm, personal style, which reflects Jo’s personality — always around to give someone a helping hand.

I was curious about her journey to a life in Italy, which led her to the journey of this book. So, of course, I asked her about it.

DE: You mention in the book that you came to Italy for 3 days and decided to stay. How did you navigate that transition? Did you stay longer than 3 days initially and return home to wind things up? So many people imagine falling in love with a place and staying, but I don’t think too many people actually know how it’s done. Would you share some of that process with us?

JL: Crazy but true. I’d originally planned to travel around Europe for a couple of months, giving myself 3 days in Rome before moving on to Greece. That all changed when I had my money stolen in Paris. On my 3rd day in Rome, I got a job working at reception in a hostel near the main station. They gave me little pay but I also got a bed too, which was the most important thing at the time. I figured I’d work there for a few weeks to get together enough money to take me to Greece.

Weeks turned into months and finally after 6 months here I decided it was time to go back to England and get more of my stuff.

I’d quite my job as a credit controller in the UK before leaving and left my rented accommodation. My belongings were all in storage in my parents garage so I had no need to hurry back.
Technically if you plan to stay for over 14 days in Italy, you should apply for a ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’ (permission to stay) at the local police station. For members of the European Union, it’s a simple process that takes just a few days. For non-Europeans this usually takes a little longer.

If you plan to work legally in Italy you need to have a ‘codice fiscale’ (tax code). Again, this is a simple process.
In general, documents in Italy require filling out several forms, photocopies of your passport and a few passport style photos attached. You will have to go back to collect the documents yourself.
Although sorting out all the documents can be frustrating and time consuming, the hardest part of moving here is finding an apartment. If you have enough money it’s best to use an agency. If not, you need to check ‘Porta Portese’, a weekly announcement newspaper, for listings and basically ask everyone you know if they know of anywhere available.

DE: How long did it take you to feel comfortable speaking Italian?

JL: I didn’t have ‘Italian for Tourists’ and so looked up each word in the English-Italian dictionary at the hostel. I was comfortable doing food shopping after a few weeks. For months when people asked my how I was, I was either ok, good or tired.

I started learning more when I met my husband. He couldn’t speak English and so I’d look up phrases and words so I could talk to him. Love is a great motivator!

I starting working in an office writing a multi-lingual book for the dental industry around the same time, and so learnt lots of new words there too.
The first time I realized I was comfortable with the language was after I’d been here about 8 months. I was crossing the road at a zebra crossing and a woman on a ‘motorino’ sped towards me and nearly ran me over. We ended up yelling at each other, and I won the argument. Being able to stand up for myself and tell her she was the one in the wrong made me realize I had control over the language and built my confidence, which in turn made it easier to learn more words.

The thing that holds people back when speaking a different language isn’t the language itself but the lack of confidence in using it.

DE: Did you find it easier to speak Italian, initially, or read it?

JL: Speaking was easier, as I learnt mainly by ear in the beginning. The great thing about Italian, though, is that it’s said as it’s written, so once you’ve mastered how to pronounce the alphabet it’s quite straight forward.

DE: Do you find now, that you’ve lived in Italy for 7 years, that you think in both languages? Or primarily in Italian? Do you switch back and forth constantly? Do you still think in one language and then translate to yourself? Are you living bi-lingually, or primarily in Italian now?

JL: I think and speak mainly in Italian although I’ve started to speak English at home so my son learns it as a mother tongue language along with Italian. I think in the language I’m speaking in and don’t tend to translate anymore.

When my English-speaking friends come to visit, I switch between the two languages.

DE: How do you feel being multi-lingual helps in your work as a writer? Do you find more shades of meaning in languages other than English, and how do you find it affects your writing?

JL: It makes me think more about the words I use. I’m more aware of grammar now, too.
In English, the same word can have different meanings depending on the context in which it’s used. This is rare in Italian.

Italian is a very poetic and romantic language where even a simple sentence seems elegant.

DE: You’ve mentioned that you wrote the type of book you needed when you first tried to learn the language (and you did a great job, by the way). How did you develop the structure of this book? Did you write it linearly? In sections and then re-arrange them?

JL: First I wrote a list of words and phrases to include and then broke them down into sections. I then re-arranged them into order putting the most important (emergency) and basics first.

DE: What are your tips for people who want to learn enough of a new language to get around a foreign country, but don’t have the chance to formally study enough to speak fluently before they travel?

JL: Buy my book! Ha-ha!

Learning the 7 question words, yes, no, please and thank you will help you lots. You can always point on a map and ask ‘Dove?’ to get directions. Good manners will always be welcome and appreciated.

DE: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

JL: I’m working on my first novel and also on a series of e-books called The Italian Home Study Series. I also plan to write a guide to Rome.

I always tend to have several projects on the go at once. This way if I get writers block on one I work on another for a while.

Linsdell

Bio:
Born in Gillingham, Kent (UK) in September 1980. Married name Joanne Denise Feliciani. Having passed 10 GCSE’s, went on to study Business Studies, History and Art A-Levels at Yateley 6th Form. Jo Linsdell left England and moved to Rome, Italy in June 2001, where she now lives with her Italian husband and their son.
She has had various jobs including working in hostels, being a tour guide and teaching English as a foreign language. She now works full-time as a freelance writer. She writes regularly for various websites, newspapers and magazines. She writes in both English and Italian.
She is also the creator and manager of the multi award winning site Writers and Authors and founder and organiser of PROMO DAY, an international online event for people in the writing industry.
Visit her at http://jolinsdell.tripod.com