Monday, March 4, 2013

Ask An Author Day

Available Now!
My brain is fried.  Finishing up one manuscript and diving into the next one without a break has pushed my creative gray cells to the max and left my fingers sore.  So, instead of being witty or pithy, I'm posting an easy blog today.

As an author, I get asked lots of questions about lots of things--from readers, aspiring writers, fellow authors, and well-meaning (or, occasionally, not so well-meaning) people who know little about books or publishing.

Do you have any questions you'd like to ask?  I'd be happy to answer as best I can.  I'm game for almost any topic.

To start you off, I'll answer 3 random questions.  Plus, I'll post the covers I've have so far in my Precinct: Task Force miniseries.

Finally, I'll give away a copy of my brand new release, TACTICAL ADVANTAGE, to one lucky poster.  Print or ecopy, winner's choice.  I'll post the winner tomorrow.

Have fun and Ask away! -- Julie Miller

May 2012
1.  What is your dog's name and does she really help you write?
Maggie.  And yes.  Writing is a solitary, sedentary occupation. Maggie helps in several ways.  One, she gets me up from my chair once an hour or so to have an outing or check the action outside the front window or get a tummy rub (her, not me). Getting up and moving keeps the blood circulating which stimulates the brain and refreshes the muscles. It keeps the back from locking up and gives my fingers/wrists a break from typing.  Maggie also is a wonderful little hot water bottle who doesn't mind me rubbing my cold fingers through her hair to warm them up.  And yes, she does pick contest winners for me--a totally random follow her little black nose to see whose name she touches first.



August 2012
2.  How do you feel about reviews of your books?  Do you read them?
Yes, I read some, not all.  Critical reviews hurt my feelings, erroneous reviews frustrate me, and mean reviews tick me off.  Not everyone has to like me or my work, but there are kind ways to say things and ways that aren't as clever as some people think.  I'm truly grateful to know so many people are reading my books and feel strongly enough about them one way or the other to share their thoughts with others.  I think it's the new version of hand-selling/word-of-mouth PR that so many brick & mortar booksellers used to do.  And I feel blessed by every positive review I read.  Thank you!




June 2013
3.  I have an idea for a book. Will you write it for me and we can split the profits?
No. Writing is hard, physically and mentally draining work. I'm flattered that you'd ask, but I have so many ideas of my own I want to write that I have neither the time nor the energy to write your story.  However, I heartily encourage you to write your own book.  Besides, no one can tell your stories the way you can.  I'd be happy to offer a bit of advice if you have questions, but your story needs to be your journey.  I wish you the best of luck!






So what else would you like to know?  Favorite national park?  Favorite hero?  Snacks you eat while writing? Let me know, and I'll try to answer.

29 comments:

  1. That last question made me laugh.

    My question: with your books, do you always end up with the title you began with?

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  2. Good question, Mary. We were just talking about titles on Harlequin.com last week.

    No, actually I don't have a great track record with titles, although I'm doing better after 50 book. ;) I'd say maybe 10 of my original titles are the ones the books are eventually published under. Sometimes, my editor asks me to suggest something different (because marketing thinks another aspect of the story is a better hook for readers, or it's just not catchy/romancey/suspensey enough) and they'll pick one of those. Other times, I'm just told, "We're going with xyz, is that okay?"

    Fortunately, I have editors who come up with some great titles!

    I think there have only been two over the years I haven't cared for. So that's a pretty good percentage.

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  3. This is going to be an interesting blog.

    What do you think is the hardest part of writing? What is the best part of writing?

    I'm sure I'll come up with more questions throughout the day.
    DeniseB

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  4. Ooh, those are toughies, Denise. Well, the second one is, anyway.

    The hardest part? For me, it's time management. I don't have a shortage of ideas, and I rarely write myself into a corner. But sometimes, life gets too busy, the other job intrudes, or my brain and hands are too tired, and I'm not as productive as I want to be. Then I get frustrated, which adds stress. Then I get behind on my schedule and have to play catch-up by having intense writing marathons, which leads to more stress. It's a hazard of being my own boss. The responsibility and pressures are all on me.

    The best part? Depends on what day you ask me. I've always loved the opportunity to bring the characters and ideas in my imagination to life. It really fulfills a creative gene in me.

    But touching/funny reader letters/emails can make my day/week/career. There's quite a rush each time I complete a manuscript (it feels like such an accomplishment) or see my book on a store shelf (always feels new and humbling--like I can't quite believe I really did it until I can hold that book in my hands). Things like that are definite bonuses.

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  5. Do you have someone or a group that you share your ideas with before you present them to Harlequin? And what is the best way to find a group you can trust to give good feedback?
    Love your Intrigue stories by the way.

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  6. Thanks, Brenda!

    When I first started, I worked pretty closely with a critique partner--and before I was published, I was part of a critique group. But truly, I'm a solitary writer for the most part. It quickly got to the point that I wrote too fast and had too many deadlines to wait for feedback. Plus, as my group diversified, I was the only one writing romantic suspense, and so they couldn't provide the critical help I needed.

    However, I do rely on my writers group, Prairieland Romance Writers for support. Our monthly meetings are kind of like Writers Anonymous--no one "gets" the ups and downs and concerns and joys of being a writer quite like another writer does. Those meetings provide a valuable shot in the arm of motivation. Plus, the networking is invaluable. It's one of the best places to learn and discuss the changes in the publishing industry.

    I do still read for my CP, Sherry James because she publishes a lot of her work independently. And, she reads my indie stuff (because that goes at a much slower pace for me--aka no deadlines). Most importantly, though, we're in contact almost every day. We really push each other to get things done!

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    Replies
    1. Oops. For the second part of your question... I've found my local chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) has been the best source for a critique group/critique partner. I've had the chance to get to know them, know what/how they write, and have found the CP who works best for the way I work. So that'd be my first recommendation--to join RWA (it's necessary before you join the local chapter) and then find a group close to you, or, they have several online groups in various genres. I'm also a big fan of the Kiss of Death online chapter (romantic suspense). They have a specific loop to find critique groups/partners. Most online chapters have that option. RWA dues can be pricey, but the local chapter dues are not.

      The Harlequin.com site also has opportunities for writers to find a critique partner. It's free.

      Beyond that, I'd say, keep networking. Get to know other aspiring writers. Take some time to get to know them. Read some of their stuff. Maybe try a sample critique to see if they give you what you want/need for feedback (grammar? plotting? conflict? etc.), and if their style is compatible with yours (businesslike, teacherly, tell it to me straight, sugarcoat it, etc.)

      Good luck!

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    2. Very helpful answer. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Hi Julie, I am curious if you have ever had a character, main or secondary, that you thought afterwards should have gone a different way? Maybe their personality or actions?
    Or do you go with the flow and the characters come to life as they were meant to...

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, fun questions! Occasionally, yes, Colleen. The first such character who pops to mind is Merle Banning. When I first created him as a supporting character for my Taylor Clan books, I thought that's all he would ever be--rookie detective who screws up/computer geek. But... readers saw something in him that I didn't initially, and were asking all about him. So I started tweaking him about the 3rd or 4th book in; giving him some secrets, toughening him up, growing him into a seasoned cop. And then, voila, when my editor asked for something similar to my Taylor Clan books after they were done, I came up with the Precinct idea... and Merle Banning became my first hero there. Who knew? It was like that nerd in high-school people overlook, who turns out to be the CEO of some major company. The readers were right!

      There have been other times, too, when I wanted a character to go one way, but the story demands and his/her voice in my head wanted something different. A couple of times, too, I wanted to go darker with a character, but my editor pulled me back. Must meet reader expectations.

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  8. Okay, so here's a question for you guys. When I was writing my current release, TACTICAL ADVANTAGE, I had to cut a few scenes because it was running long (I swear I was trying to write a single title! ) I thought as a treat to readers I might post one of those cut scenes on my website. I may not get to it until I get my current deadline ms finished, but I thought I'd go ahead and ask so my webmistress can be thinking about rearranging things on my site a tad to fit it in.

    Here's the question. Which would you rather see for the bonus scene?
    Love scene
    Villain's pov scene
    Epilogue

    Thanks for any input! (my brain's too full of my current story to make decisions on another one right now )

    Julie

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    Replies
    1. All are interesting to me, but I would really like the Epilogue.
      Thanks!

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    2. I enjoy epilogues... just that little something extra to see how they are!

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    3. I do like to know what the villain is thinking.

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  9. It's so hard to choose that I would like to see more than one bonus scenes. What's your favorite favorite fast food?

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    1. I love your question, Jane. Don't believe I've been asked that before.

      Hmm... anyplace that serves Pepsi. So I'm a Taco Bell and Arby's fan.

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    2. I love Arby's too, but there aren't that many here and not one that's close to me.

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  10. I agree. All of the above?? I'd say my first choice would be more Annie/Nick stuff.
    Now for my questions: How long does it take you to get through a manuscript? Have you ever abandoned a story that you were writing either because you lost interest or another story idea began to taunt you, or do you push through to finish everything, good or bad?

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    Replies
    1. If it's contracted work, Jennifer, I push through and get it done. I don't get paid if the project isn't done. (and those pesky bills want to get paid every month--go figure ;)

      On average, it takes me 2-3 months to write a ms. The fastest I've done one is 10 days (about killed me!). The longest was 6 months. (But that was one, rare, horrible time)

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  11. I would love to see an epilogue bonus scene!
    DeniseB

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  12. Laura AKA Loves 2 Read RomanceMarch 4, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    I always love epilogues. It's nice to see where the characters are after everything goes back to normal. I totally didn't know that Merle Banning had his own story. I will have to track that down since I just recently finished In the Blink of an Eye.

    Here is a question I am sure you get a lot and have probably answered but it's tax time and my brain is fried. How do you name your characters and have you every had to rename a character because the first name you choose didn't fit?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Laura--Merle's book is PARTNER-PROTECTOR.

      And he's probably the best example of a name that didn't work. Apologies to anyone with a hunky Merle at home, but to me that was too much of a nerdy name to be a hero. So I came up with a whole back story as to why he goes by "Merle". Then I made that his middle name, and made his first name Thomas, but he refused to use that name because of his back story--my heroine called him "T".

      Otherwise, about the only name problem I run into is when I have too many characters in a story or miniseries who have names that are too similar. It gets confusing to readers (and me!). But I usually catch those issues in the proposal stage.

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  13. What's your favorite thing to do with your dog?

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    Replies
    1. Cuddle.

      Sometimes, just to watch her. She can be so entertaining when she's "burying" a treat somewhere in the house or playing with her toys.

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  14. My question would be, what is your favorite spot to vacation in Missouri?

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    Replies
    1. That's a hard one, Linda! My first thought was to say Kansas City. There's so much to see/do in the area, whether it's a cultural event, history, dining, fun, etc. But I also love the Science Center and zoo in St. Louis. And the Ozarks (Branson area or Camdenton area) are just so gorgeous and have so many fun things to do!

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  15. And the winner is... Linda Henderson!

    Congratulations, Linda--Maggie nosed your name out of the pile and selected you as the winner. Please email me you snail mail address if you want a print copy of TACTICAL ADVANTAGE, or give me your account email if you'd prefer an e-copy for your Nook or Kindle.

    Thanks for the great questions! I think I'll do this again sometime. Appreciate the feedback on my question for you, too. I'll let you know as soon as the bonus scene is up on my site. And I'll consider doing more than one. ;)

    btw, I'm blogging tomorrow on Get Lost in a Story. It's a fun interview of me and my characters! Hope to see you there.

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  16. Thank you so much, I sent you a message.

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