Thursday, January 31, 2013

Welcome Author Amalie Berlin

Please help me welcome Amalie Berlin, who begins the So You Think You Can Write guest blog series on 1-31. A number palindrome as she noted, and a great time to begin.

I met Amalie on the Harlequin Board and I'm in awe of her quick and sharp wit. She is a true character, and her SYTYCW entry is under consideration and undergoing revisions with an editor for the Medical Romance line.

Hi, Amalie. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Overall, how would you rate your experience with So You think You Can Write Global 2012?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd probably give it a 8. The comments section which motivated a daily log on for the New Voices contests provided measurable feedback for most entrants, not just the ones who advanced past the first round. That was a big let down for past NV entrants stepping up to the new contest format.

With SYTYCW, my experience is limited. I spent the duration of the judging phase writing, since I entered with maybe two chapters done. I didn't read and critique as I had in New Voices, I didn't have time, and chasing people down on Twitter or FB made it seem too personal to give honest critique. I really don't know what the quality of the entries was like, I read so little. In that regard, which is the big draw for 90% of the entries, I felt it fell short.

But I finished the mss in record time and got a full request, and with that how can I not give it high marks?

I agree! We were required to upload the first chapter as our entry in SYTYCW. Is that chapter still in its original form or has it gone through more revisions?

My entered chapter 1 and current chapter 1 are vastly different. I ended up sending the first half of the manuscript for a read and got revision notes back on that while I was revising the second half. So I cut at least half the original and took chunks from chapter two, and combined them. And I've tweaked it again since then, when second round revisions came in.

How about the rest of the book? Is it finished? Going through more revisions?

Finished is such a final word :D I don't know. I turned in version 2.0... 2.5? Thursday night(24th) and I'm moving on for now. If she wants me to revise again, I will. I will do it and be happy to have the chance, and maybe cry a little because ... Revisions are Epic-Hard. It's a little like taking apart a puzzle and then trying to make those pieces fit in a new puzzle, matching both style and image. Hard, man. And since I'm sharing this with everyone, linking to the screenshots I put up with Track Changes on to show how it changed(Here).

But I'm learning a lot, and I feel like it will make the process easier next time around, knowing better what they want from the start. She was nice enough to tell me that if I didn't get the story nailed this time, she'd send me more notes. Took some of the pressure off, because the whole time I've been working on them, those doubt crows kept chanting THIS IS YOUR ONLY CHANCE, DON'T MESS UP. Nasty things.

Any thoughts on submitting your entry to another publisher or agent?

I have thought about it, actually. I've done a little leg-work on Friday regarding to it. Started sleuthing out agencies who have category romance writers, and asked an agent what the protocol was on querying agents with a manuscript already under consideration with a publisher. He said GO FOR IT. I'm making a database of where different category romance writers are represented. It's a work in progress, but I'm happy to share if anyone is agent-shopping. Give me a week and it will be bigger :D If my SYTYCW entry is eventually rejected, I will submit it to another publisher.

I hope one way or another I get to see it in my hot little hands someday soon. How long have you been writing?

With an eye toward publishing: three years. Just for fun: about 15 years.

Have you ever entered a contest like this one before?

Yep, entered New Voices both years, and the first SYTYCW, but didn't get anywhere with any of them.

What are your thoughts about the promotional aspect of the contest?

I didn't particularly enjoy that aspect. And I'll play my answer close to the vest there. I am very curious about the top three, and whether they were the three wildcards picked by the Editors or if any of the three got there through the popular vote.

Amalie, you are certainly not the only one curious about that! If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently, if anything?

(If I knew then... What I'd do differently involves my chapter. AKA: STUFF I LEARNED FROM REVISION LETTERS)

• Make sure that the conflict and motivation of the Hero and Heroine were at least strongly hinted at in the first couple pages if not bluntly stated.

• Sometimes you have to TELL, not show.

• Be more conscious of pacing--just because something is interesting to me doesn't mean it will be to other people.

• End of chapter cliffhangers are awesome, but the best kind of EoC cliffhanger is one that deals with emotional story line and not external story

• I have a tendency to create tight-lipped heroines. This is hard to pull off, and works better with heroes :) Too reticent to talk about her past/feelings makes it harder for the reader to connect with her and for the story to move forward at a steady pace.

Sound like you need a little dose of my heroines, who can't stop blabbering. But seriously, you've given out some great advice and pointers. What are you working on now?

I'm taking a couple days off writing to make stuff with my hands. But, I have printed my novella to edit that, and I have a contemporary romance(not medical) I need to get back to. There's also another of my medicals with HMB, but it probably needs more work than MM:MD :D I'm not in a hurry to chase that one down.

Where can we find you on the Web?

Twitter: @AmalieBerlin (I mostly lurk and read there)



email: amalieberlin at gmail dot com Thank you, Amalie!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Magnificent Seven

The right critique partner (CP) is a vital part of an author’s arsenal of tools. It’s like finding the right shoe – they might be the right size, but will they last – and how versatile are they? Can you wear them to work AND to the grocery store? But I digress.

It took me about six years, but about a year ago, through an online writing workshop conducted by the prolific Candace Havens, I met a great group of romance authors – we are not only all over the country (California to New Hampshire and places in between) but all over the world (Canada, New Zealand, Ireland).

We call ourselves the Magnificent 7 (even though there were eventually 8 of us, and by last count there were 9 of us).

So we’re not great at Math. We write stories.

One of the first things I noticed about our little group was the initial reluctance to share and/or critique and this came from, unfortunately, some devastating past experiences all of us had at one time or another. There is nothing that will ruin your creativity faster than doubt.

Let me just say it: there is a difference between CRITICISM and CRITIQUE. Some like to distinguish these with “CONSTRUCTIVE criticism” and “NOT SO CONSTRUCTIVE criticism”. And to that end, there is such a thing as subjective. Like: opinions.

To me, an opinion is not a particularly helpful form of critique. If you don’t like people who wear pink and I’ve got a character in my novel that makes it a habit to wear pink every day, it’s not helpful when you tell me:

“I really don’t like Nelly. She wears too much pink! I’ve decided: I can’t stand her.”

Woe. Hello. Not helpful. Subjective much?

Helpful? “Would love some more background on why Nelly wears so much pink. I feel like I need to see more motivation in that regard since it’s such an important character trait.”

Yeah! Helpful. (By the way, I’ve made up the above pretty sad example to illustrate a point.)

At the Mag7 group, we do critiques. And we are each other's cheerleaders, because let's face it, as a writer you need a few.

Thursday we begin a series of guests posts on the Harlequin So You Think You Can Write Global Contest of 2012. Several entrants, including some of the Top 28 finalists, have agreed to blog about their experiences with this awesome contest.

The top 28 contestants had to pull the popular vote which meant it was very important to be social media savvy, or at the least conscious. Only three entries were wild card editor picks and no, we don’t know which ones they were.

The contest will come up again later this year, so come and find out what you can learn from these entrants.

We begin with the wonderful Amalie Berlin, who has a manuscript under consideration with Harlequin's Medical Romance line.

Here is a peek at the upcoming schedule:

Thursday, February 7th: Fiona Marsden

Thursday, February 14th: Janie Crouch

Thursday, February 21st: Heather Gardner

...with more coming!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Drag me to the new millenium but don't leave me there

I can officially report that I now Skype. Sure, maybe I'm a little behind the times but I've been dumped into the new millennium. I just don't want to be left there alone.

Once I set up Skype I video chatted with my son in the next room (this will come in handy when letting him know dinner is ready) and I helped my 74-year-old mother set up Skype all by herself.

She was so excited to Skype with me from her home ... three miles away from me!

I can't help but think this Skype thing was intended to bring people together across a vast expanse of continents. But we all have to start with ahem, baby steps.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Drink Your Cake

This is a great rum cake to start (or end) the year. I've been making this one for the past few years and everyone loves it. This is possibly the moistest cake I've ever had.

Puerto Rican Rum Cake


1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

1 18 1/2 ounce yellow cake mix

1 1 3/4 ounce instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1/2 cup cold milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup dark rum


1 stick butter

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 dark run

For the cake, preheat over to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour (important, as I've had this cake stick in a Teflon coated pan and its not pretty) 12 cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on the bottom of pan. Combine all other cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert on serving plate. Prick top with fork and drizzle glaze over the top of cake. Watch as it pours over the sides and makes a pool in the center. If you like, use a brush or spoon to put the dripping back on the cake.

Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. PLEASE BE CAREFUL as the run will cause steam and you don't want to burn yourself. You want to drink your cake, not wear it.

Happy New Year!