Till We Meet Again – Anne Barwell

I haven’t managed to write many posts for Authors Speak over the last few months. Four books releasing in seven months is too many for my time and sanity to keep up with. I’ve spent months in what feels like an endless circle of edits and promo, and it is such a relief to finally sit down at the computer to write again.

I’m feeling sad that Authors Speak as we know it is drawing to a close, but I’m looking forward to being part of it going forward in a different way. Lou talks about those plans here .


This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster in many ways, and with 2017 finishing in just under a month, I’d like to give kudos to the rest of the Authors Speak group, and in particular Lou for hosting us, and giving us a place to speak.

I’d also like to thank those of you who follow us. Please continue to keep in touch. I’d love to hear from you at Drops of Ink, and I’m starting a newsletter in the New Year.

Anne Barwell – And Then What Happened?

I didn’t get as far as an Authors Speak post last month as I was knee deep in promo for my blog tour for Comes a Horseman, the third and final book of my WWII series.

Thanks again to everyone who hosted me, commented on the blog posts, and entered the rafflecopter giveaway.

So…. it’s my chance to have some time out before the next project, right?

That brilliant idea ended up lasting about a day. I started back on my huge to do pile which had been shelved because of the blog tour, and even put together a bookcase which is part of plan to declutter and sort out the house.

That evening, I got copy edits for One Word which is releasing from Dreamspinner Press in November. I figured I’d get them done within the week, and then have some time to play catch up—again. So Friday I return the edits, and Saturday evening there are edits in my inbox for my January/February release Prelude to Love.

So…. nearly done with those, and now wondering how much time I’ll have before something else with a deadline shows up. [edit – between writing this and posting it, I got proofs for One Word so there goes my week of getting other stuff done]

Meantime I’m watching TV in the evening after work is done for the day, and knitting beanies. The ones in the photo were for my granddaughters—and delivered last Saturday along with a cardy for the new baby, and one for his older brother. I have a couple more beanies to knit for friends and then a jersey for one of my daughters, so that’s going to take a while.

I’m getting a bit twitchy because of lack of actual writing, so looking forward to finally getting back to that as I have 18thC Scots lads, and dragons clamouring for attention. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to at least finish the beta I owe, and stick to my plan to write a book review a week until I’m caught up.

I also want to start an author newsletter in time for the blog tour for One Word. I’m planning to make it quarterly so I don’t spam people, and perhaps have a short piece of free fiction in each newsletter which wouldn’t go up on my site until the following newsletter, so subscribers get it first.

So, finishing this post with a question. What do you guys like to see in newsletters, and do you have any hints for someone just starting out with one?

When Do You Sleep? – Anne Barwell

Now I’ve done a few monthly blog posts I’m starting to run out of topics. If anyone has any ideas for future topics you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

A big thanks to SJ Himes for today’s topic – a writer’s slice of life. I went for the title because it’s a question I often get asked, or a variation on that being ‘when do you have time to read?’

Because I work full time, as well as writing, and have family commitments, I tend to live on a fairly tight schedule or I’d get nothing done. In saying that, though, despite making plans I do need to be flexible and be prepared to throw everything I’ve planned to the wind. Family emergencies happen far too often, especially of late, and also sometimes I start my weekend and realise I need to walk away from everything I’d planned to do for a while just to keep what’s left of my state of mind.

I’d love to know how others manage their work/writing life, while ensuring they still get some time out.

I figure I’d outline a typical weekday, and then contrast with my weekend.

I work fulltime in a public library, so it’s a busy job and quite physical. I figure I’m about the only one on staff who loves working afternoons/late night and weekends! Many people shift onto weekdays and a regular 8.30 till 5pm as soon as they can. However, with trying to juggle writing—and everything attached to it—afternoons and evenings work well for me. As I don’t start work till 12.15 four days a week, it means I can set an alarm in the morning and get a couple of hours writing related work done beforehand. I usually get home around 9 onwards at night so that gives me time to check emails, post blog tour stuff, and then relax with an episode of a TV show, before reading in bed and turning my light out about midnight.

Saturdays—as we don’t open in the evenings—I work what could be termed a normal day, starting in the morning and finishing after we close at 5pm. Saturday mornings remind me why I prefer to work the hours I do. After three late nights, the early start is a bit of a shock to the system. I get emails read over breakfast and that’s about it, and by the time I get home I’m too tired to write. Most Saturday evenings are social time because of it, either classic movie night, and/or planned get-togethers with friends.

Weekends are all go. Yay for several hours of writing time, although it’s far from uninterrupted as I need to fit in all the other weekend jobs such as grocery shopping, cooking, and baking. Because I work three evenings a week I bulk cook on my weekends and freeze so I can grab a container of food to take to work for dinner. Ditto for the baking—it’s usually muffins to take to work etc. It’s sad when writing breaks are when I do my housework and the other stuff of that ilk, but that’s life.

This Week’s Baking – Blueberry Muffins

Mondays and Tuesdays are also time for any appointments, and other errands. Nevertheless I tend to multitask—despite the cats thinking my being home means they should get fed every time I shift in my chair—so on a good day I can get quite a bit done. As it’s the weekend I don’t set an alarm but I’m still at the computer by about 9.30 at the latest and checking emails over breakfast. It’s nice not to have to stop to get ready for work just as I’m getting into the writing zone though.

Graphic from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Monday and Tuesday evenings I take off for orchestra rehearsals and SF club meetings/movie nights. I’ve set my schedule that way because otherwise I tend to work until 10pm at night, which is what happens when orchestra takes a break on Monday nights. Ditto for any Saturday/Sundays I don’t make plans to meet up with friends.

Often I write in chunks of time, as I can grab them, and it’s great to see a novel growing slowly, a bit here and there. Sometimes I find myself looking at big picture stuff, but I’ve found it doesn’t pay to do that as it tends to be daunting. I’ve written 13 books in the past 7 years so I figure my system is working more-or-less, adding in annual leave when the deadlines push back.

It’s a busy life, but on the whole, one I enjoy. However, if you find a TARDIS—preferably with a Doctor—somewhere, please let me know. The idea of going off to see different worlds and times, and arriving back before I left is very appealing. Along with a few extra hours in my day.

There And Back Again – Anne Barwell

As I’m knee deep in writing blog posts for the upcoming release of Sunset at Pencarrow with my partner in crime, Lou Sylvre, I figured I’d blog about blog tours. I’ve been asked by non-writers what they entail so here goes…

The title of this post is from The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, and as our upcoming book is set in New Zealand, it seemed appropriate.

Disclaimer: Everyone’s experiences and modus operandi is different, and I’d love to hear from you guys about what you’ve done. Also—readers—how do you find new books and do you follow blog tours?

Many authors use blog tour companies to set up their tours for them, and they do a fabulous job finding blog stops and helping to get exposure for a book. However, as I’ve only hosted for those, rather than used them for promotion, I’m going to blog about how I’ve set about promoting my books, and what’s involved.

Graphic from Michal Klajban (Hikingisgood.com)

The first thing I do is set up a cover reveal when the book goes up for pre-order so I have buy links. This is usually about a month before the book’s release.

The next thing is finding tour stops. My publisher is fantastic with this, and organises stops at review sites etc for me, so I just need to build on that. I usually aim for about twelve stops all up, and approach other authors for space on their blog. They’re always very supportive, and I love the way our author community is always ready to help each other out.

I then find about three excerpts to use on the tour. For some books it’s difficult finding excerpts that leave the reader wanting more, but don’t give away too much of the plot. I have a word doc I update with each book that has all the promo details I need – blurb, buy links, my social media links, and the excerpts. I’ll throw other handy info/links etc into the doc along the way. That way when I send my posts to each site, I just need to write my blog post, and then copy/paste all the other info from my promo doc, and attach the book cover, and any other graphics I want to send.

Offering a chance to win—often an ebook from a backlist—can also be a part of the tour. As a reader, I’ve found several new authors I now love that way.

The most time consuming part of a blog tour is writing the posts that go with it. Twelve stops mean a lot of topics to find to write 500 or so words about. Luckily some stops provide a handy list of topics, and/or a list of interview questions. I love interview questions, especially as some of them really make me think, and it’s one less topic I need to find. I also choose one excerpt that will only go up on a particular site so it’s exclusive to them.

Usually I let the book dictate the topics. I love reading about other authors and how their writing process works, and their behind the scenes peek at their books, so I figure I’ll write what I want to read. For example, with an historical I’ll do at least one blog post about research. Music often plays a part in my stories, so I’ll write about my writing ‘soundtrack’, or how a character being a musician drove the plot. As I write different genres, that tends to play a part in blog post topics too.

It can be a challenge finding something different to focus on for each stop, and I find I usually need to put aside at least two weeks with each book to work on promo. After all, readers aren’t going to read a book if they don’t know it’s out there.

Don’t forget we’re running a rafflecopter giveaway here at Authors Speak for May. Click on the link to find out more, and don’t forget to enter!

Anne Barwell – Juggling Apples & Oranges

When I mention I’m in the middle of edits—again!—and planning posts for blogging and cover reveals, the usual response from people who aren’t writers is: ‘oh, I didn’t realise there was that much work involved.’

A friend once told me that once your book is accepted by a publisher, then the work really begins. She was so right.

At present I’m juggling a bit more than just apples (edits) and oranges (promo). I’m also on a deadline to finish a book I need to submit at the beginning of June. Given I have a novella—Sunset at Pencarrow co-written with Lou Sylvre—releasing on 7th June, and a novel—Comes a Horseman—being published on 1st August, life is a little hetic right now.

Photo from Max Pixel – freegreatpicture.com

I also have another book under contract, and was very relieved when I discovered its planned publication date wasn’t until October/November this year. Phew. At least I can relax for maybe a month before the edits show up for that one. No wait, I have a tax return due 1st July, and a very long ‘to write list’. I need to play catch up on book reviews too, as I have a growing pile of books I’ve read and written copious notes about but haven’t had time to type up a review.

So anyway, I figured a good subject for this post would be to write about my experiences with the publishing process. Please note that others might have different experiences, and their publishers might do things differently. One thing I’ve found is that with each new book the process changes slightly as the publisher refines the way it does things—which is rather cool actually.

The first step is writing the book, and I often find I take annual leave at this point, especially when I have a submission deadline because something always happens to impact my writing time. Next comes the submission, and the waiting to find out whether the publisher wants the book.

Once the contract is signed, a different kind of work begins. By now I’m expecting the forms I’ll need to fill in fairly early on in the process, so I have all the information on hand and ready to go. This includes author’s notes, front matter, dedication, and, if it’s an historical, a list of resources used. The first time I had to provide the latter my reaction was “eep”. I work in a library so my list of resources is often the size of a novella just on its own. Now, if I’m writing an historical I make notes of every resource I use as I go which makes life a lot easier. I also think about what I’d like for cover art, as this question comes very early on in the process too, and with this in mind I have a handy guide to my characters written out so I’m not wading through a word document to find it. The blurb I’ve already written as I need to send it in with the submission, although I know my early version will probably not be the one on the back of the book.

Next come edits. These usually turn up several months before the release date, which won’t be definite until much closer to the time. Usually the contract states a window of a couple of months for the projected release date EG August/September. There is never just one lot of edits, as it’s a good idea to get more than one editor to take a look at the manuscript, as different people spot different things. Structural edits are followed by copy edits, which are followed by PR prep edits, which lead into the galley. The first two of these often have more than one round, and if you’re writing something historical and/or including phrases or words in another language there’s the historical and foreign language edits as well.

With Sunset at Pencarrow and Comes a Horseman out months apart I’d send back edits for one book, go to make a cup of tea, and find edits for the other book in my inbox.

And yes… I’m still trying to write my book which has a submission deadline a week before I have a book due out.

Photo from Max Pixel – freegreatpicture.com

So I’m now organising promo, as well as expecting galleys for two books, writing my two scheduled monthly blog posts, and oh yeah… real life, what’s that again? Housework and gardening at this point are just loud sighs of knowing I’ll need to play catch up or….do them as my breaks away from the computer on writing days. It’s not good to work 24/7 either which is why I keep up with the things I do to unwind—movie nights with friends, and playing in an orchestra.

I have a slight breathing space before having to write blog posts for all the stops on the tours for the new books, so hoping to spend that time writing. That is, if nothing else turns up in the meantime.

Wish me luck and catch you on the flip side.

Days of Not Wine, and Roses

As February draws to a close here in New Zealand we finally have summer. Frankly I preferred it when we had what usually passes for the season. Temperatures in the late 20Cs accompanied by high humidity are nasty especially when trying to sleep at night without air conditioning. Working in a building where we’re having issues with the windows not opening doesn’t help either.

Roll on autumn.

One thing that is nice about this time of year though is being able to dry washing outside, although it is weird looking outside today and not seeing much wind. Wellington without wind is just… wrong.

Originally I had decided to write a post about my love of stationery and notebooks in particular, but looking back I’ve already written one about that here last year as part of my blog tour for the 2nd edition of Shadowboxing, so I had to change direction.

So, what prompted my thoughts of stationery joy?

Aren’t they cool? These Typo notebooks arrived this week in my mail box from a friend who knows me well. I’m looking forward to using them to plan out more stories.

I’ve taken a few days annual leave this week. Hoping to get some writing done, although I’m half expecting edits to show up just because. I swear my publisher checks my diary and then sends edits. But *shrugs* I figure that’s what annual leave is for.

Apart from that, my garden is screaming for attention. I did manage to do a little bit of weeding in the shade last weekend, but it was still far too hot.

Nevertheless I’ve ordered more bark mulch from Zoodoo, and hopefully the weather will cooperate and give me couple of cooler evenings. I figured out a while ago that if I look at the big picture of what I don’t get done, it’s depressing as hell and harder to get started in the first place. So now I just aim for a bit here and there and do what I can, and hope it’s enough.

And try to fit in some down time or I’m doing is working and that’s a sure fire way to get sick and end up achieving nothing at all.

It’s difficult working a day job, and writing—and everything else to do with it—along with family and other commitments. I never get everything done I want to when I’m home, but only chip away at my long to do list bit by bit. Often I swear as I cross one thing off the list two more turn up to take its place.

Meantime one blog post down, a review to write, orchestra rehearsal tonight, and more fun with Marcus and Joel, my guys from The Eros Note.

I’d love to know how others manage life, the universe, and everything.

Brunch At Gotham – Anne Barwell

Being a Kiwi MM author I do 99.9% of my interacting with other authors online. While there are a few MM authors who live here, we tend to live in different parts of the country.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting another Kiwi MM author for brunch. Gillian St Kevern and I had met years ago online through fandom, and then in person when she came to Wellington to stay over for Armeggedon which is our local pop culture expo. Since then we exchanged a few emails and after she moved to Japan we lost contact for a while. Then I received an email from her telling me about this vampire book she’d read. The writing style—and the fact one of the characters was a Kiwi and into graphic novels and in particular Nightwing—reminded her of me and she thought I might like to read it. Ben’s ringtone was ‘Slice of Heaven’ which was also the name of a Kiwi fandom site we’d set up together about fifteen years ago. The book was Shades of Sepia and I’d written it.

As a fun aside and a discussion as to whether we actually shared a brain in some form – she’d also written a vampire novel with a character called Ben called Fangs and Thorns. What are the chances of that?

When she contacted me to say she’d be in Wellington for a few days for a family wedding we decided it was long past time we met up again. With both of us being huge comic book fans, and especially DC and the bat family, with a side dish of Kon aka Superboy, we naturally decided to go to brunch at a local café called Gotham.

Gillian wore her Batgirl T-shirt especially for the occasion.

We spent a lively four hours catching up, and comparing our planning notebooks—both purchased from Typo! I really enjoyed being able to talk to someone about my writing process and plans for books face to face, and I can’t wait to read the books she is planning to write. It was a wonderful experience which I’d love to be able to do more often. The staff at Gotham were great too. They were very friendly, and kept us well supplied with water and tea. We went through two bottles of water and two pots of tea, not to mention the delicious food we had for brunch.

Apart from the digression into comics, and a discussion about Tim/Robin/Red Robin and Kon/Superboy, one of the big things that came out of the morning was that we both felt strongly that we needed to do something about a regular meet for MM authors in New Zealand. Given geography and leading busy lives, we’d love to set something up online first with it hopefully leading into the opportunity to meet up in real life. Stay tuned for more on that front, and in the meantime if you are a Kiwi MM author, we’d love to hear from you.

There And Back Again – Anne Barwell

At it’s almost the end of another year, I like to look back on the year that was, and forward to the new one.

I always get to the end of the year and wonder at where it went, as I swear they’re going faster these days. I’ve found that one way to put things in perspective is to think back on what I’ve achieved in the year that has just gone, and to make a note of what I’m aiming for in the new one. I’m a big fan of lists, and I guess this is another version of that, but on the plus side it reminds me that I have achieved more than I thought even if I felt as though I spent the year swimming up a steep stream.

I’m going to focus on positive stuff, as we’ve lost far too many people this year, and for me, that includes members of my family too 🙁 And, with news we received this week, the new year is promising more of the same.

2016 was the year for 2nd editions for me. With shifting my WWII Echoes Rising series from Dreamspinner Press to their DSP Publications imprint, that meant the first two books in the series—Shadowboxing and Winter Duet—got re-edited, polished up a bit and republished. Shadowboxing was my second published book with the first edition having come out in 2012, so it was nice to revisit it again.

Re-editing both books was also very useful in re-checking continuity as I wrote the third and final book in the series—Comes a Horseman—this year too. As I tend to average one to two books a year, given that I work full time and have other commitments, I’ve never been writing a book before while the previous ones in the series have been in edits. I kept having to double check where I was in the timeline!

On the flip side of working on historical novels in 2016, I co-wrote Sunset at Pencarrow with Lou Sylvre for Dreamspinner Press’s World of Love series. The novella is contemporary and set in Wellington. I loved working with Lou, and we had a lot of fun conversations while Nate and Rusty looked on, most probably rolled their eyes, and then did what they wanted anyway like all good characters do.

Trying to fit edits, promo, and deadlines into a limited time frame is always a challenge, but I got there in the finish. I figure that’s an achievement in itself considering the other stuff I do that isn’t writing, such as orchestra concerts, SF Club and everything else. And working at the library of course.

I also managed to get through a few books in my review pile, and joined Top2Bottom reviews this month as a guest reviewer. I figure the move is a win-win as it means when I do review those books will reach a larger audience, and it also gives Top2Bottom more reviews for their site. So many good books out there I want to read and not enough time. Occasionally I get the silly idea that I’ll catch up and then reality hits. If someone finds a TARDIS—preferably with a Doctor onboard—send it my way, will you?

2017 is going to be just as busy, if not more so, and I’m already looking at deadlines and thinking ‘yikes’. But along with that feeling, is one of excitement and looking forward to what’s to come.

Sunset at Pencarrow is being released from Dreamspinner in June/July and Comes a Horseman from DSP Publications in August. I see my life being full of edits and lots more promotional blog posts.

I’ve also started work on The Right Note, which is a contemporary romance for Dreamspinner’s Dreamspun Desires series. Lou and I are also aiming to finish our co-written novel, The Harp and the Sea, which is an historical with a dash of magic set in 1745 on Skye.

After that I’m heading back to Astria to write the sequel to A Knight to Remember. I didn’t intend to take so long to finish this series, but unfortunately RL and other books got in the way. I’m looking forward to tying up loose ends and giving Aric and Denys the HEA they’re been waiting for.

Add to that the usual other stuff already in my diary like orchestra concerts, SF club and movie nights, and Armeggedon (the pulp culture expo not the four horseman), and 2017 is looking to be an even busier year than the one preceding it. Finding new anime such as Yuri!! On Ice and Psycho-Pass isn’t helping, but down time is important too, right?

I’ll just sneak in gardening and housework in my spare time! Plus knitting for the new grandchild on the way.

And for something different and exciting I’m going to the NZ Romance Writers conference in August with Gillian St Kevern, as it’s in Wellington this year. That, I suspect, will be the topic of a blog post all on its own.

Wishing you and yours all the best for 2017. *raises glass of sparkling grape juice* I hope it’s a good one for all of us.

Community – Anne Barwell

I live in Wellington, New Zealand. Just over two weeks ago we experienced a 7.8 earthquake centred in Kaikoura, which is on the east coast of the south island, 180km north of Christchurch. Although the aftershocks have lessened, I swear I can still feel the earth swaying on occasion.

One day later the region was hit with a bad storm, and houses were evacuated and roads closed due to flooding.

As I write this post we still have malls closed, and there is a growing list of buildings that need to be demolished in the city because they aren’t safe if another earthquake hits.

One thing that came across very clearly through these crises was the sense of community amongst not only those hit by these natural disasters, but people further afield. Everyone rallied together, neighbours checking up on each other, and helping out where they could. On particular poignant story was of a couple who had been in Christchurch when the big quake had struck there in 2011 and resettled in Kaikoura for a fresh start. The news story showed them using their experience of one earthquake to help out in another, rather than dwelling on the fact they’d lost everything yet again.

A sense of community is also one of the things I love about being online. Writing isn’t the solitary occupation it used to be. Not only are there writing communities online, but people who understand and listen to when we need advice or help us find the reassurance to pick ourselves up and keep going after a setback. Although I love writing and I couldn’t imagine my life without it, it’s not all smooth sailing. There’s a lot of hard work and disappointment. Not all stories find their audience or are even given the opportunity to do so, nor does it pay that well for the amount of work put into it.

Being able to talk through stuff with someone, or just make a post on a mailing list to ask for suggestions when things don’t pan out the way we’d hoped makes a big difference. Getting back on that figurative horse isn’t easy—whatever the situation. Sometimes I’ve doubted I have the resilience to do it yet again, and probably would have given up if not for the support of others.

Thank you to everyone who makes a difference, whether it’s knocking on a neighbour’s door after an earthquake, or listening to someone let off steam when they need to, and everything in between. We might not see much of each other when things are going well, but I wouldn’t be without any of you.

The Bare Necessities – Anne Barwell

The theme for this month’s blog comes from a friend at work. Thanks, Louise. She asked: how much time (book time) do you put in towards the everyday necessities like eating and sleeping? Characters need to eat and sleep, but how much of them doing that needs to be shown in the story?

The short answer is that it depends on the book. For a contemporary story set in our world a lot of those details can be skimmed over, as readers already know how that kind of thing works here, although I might include something local to a specific region depending on setting. For example in Sunset at Pencarrow Lou Sylvre and I had Nate and Rusty eating lamingtons and other local New Zealand fare.

As a writer I often need to figure out where the characters sleep and what they eat in order to ensure the continuity of my timeline. However, the final decision about whether those details making it into the book usually depends on whether they’re necessary to the plot and drive the story forward, or slow it down. Often it’s a thin line between the two.

For an historical, especially if the characters are doing a road trip, it can be a little more difficult working out the details of these everyday necessities. For example, if they’re being pursued across occupied Europe during WWII, they’ll need to find somewhere safe to stay and a way to find the food they need.

Buying food could be a problem especially if the area is under surveillance, and whatever they eat needs be accurate for the setting and time period. In Winter Duet Michel and Kristopher spent the night in a barn on a bed of straw after sharing a meal of Eintopf—thick stew full of beans and spicy sausage—with the older couple who own the farm. Later at another safe house, the meal is stew again but this time out of a tin. Being war time tea and coffee isn’t readily available either, and often what passes for it isn’t very palatable.

With that book being partly a road trip across Germany in 1944, I also needed to figure out where they could sleep without risk of being arrested. Keeping in mind what was going on at the time was important too as Germany was being bombed by the Allies. Having them staying in a town that had been destroyed a few days beforehand wouldn’t have worked very well. Instead I had them at ground zero taking shelter in an abandoned apartment building and sleeping on the floor when the bombs dropped. This helped to drive the story as they needed to get out of there quickly and find somewhere to shelter until the raid was over.

Coffee caused more of a problem than I thought it would in
Shades of Sepia
. Ben, a New Zealander, is working in a cafe in the fictional city of Flint, Ohio. Here in New Zealand, we’d go into a cafe and ask for a flat white. That doesn’t work in the U.S. Ben explains:

I had no idea serving coffee could be so complicated.” He’d referred to coffee with creamer his first day on the job as a flat white. The woman had looked at him blankly and asked why he was talking about house paint. In hindsight, he should probably be thankful he hadn’t handed her the coffee and called it a straight black.

On the subject of coffee, it’s weird that many of my characters are fixated on it, yet I don’t drink it at all.

If anyone else has topics or questions they’d like answered in future blog posts—within reason and I reserve the right to avoid spoilers—I’d love to hear from you.

This month—25 Ocotober-22 November—at Authors Speak we’re offering a rafflecopter giveaway. For more information, check out the post here.