Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writers on Wednesday: Please Welcome Sasha Cottman

I'm delighted to bring back my Writers on Wednesday feature with Sasha Cottman, author of Letter from a Rake.  I ask writers to tell me what inspires them, and Sasha was willing to share her most recent conference experience.  For lots of fun, read on!  My head is still spinning at imagining the writing material one would amass while visiting 55 countries!

About the Author
Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Five years ago, Sasha accidentally enrolled in a romance writing course. Other than Pride and Prejudice, she had never read a romance book before. She soon discovered that the world of historical romance allowed her to combine her love of history with the passion of romance writing.
Sasha has an MBA as well as post graduate qualifications in electronic media. Having worked as an accountant in a media group for many years, she now finds herself in the unique position of having seen both the business and creative sides of publishing.
Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.
When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.

Letter From A Rake description from amazon

The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn't long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home.

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy's handsome brother, 'Alex the Great' and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.

Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness...

Can Millie and Alex overcome the obstacles in their path to find true love? Or will one miscommunication ruin everything? 

You have just returned from the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference.  Can you tell us about the experience?

I think the first thing that I have to mention is how tiring conferences can be for attendees. The week following the 4 day conference is usually a complete blur; and I know from talking to my friends who recently attended the RWA America conference in Atlanta it was the same exhausting experience. Fun, but a 4 day rollercoaster ride.

This year the conference was held in Perth. For those of you not familiar with Australia, the vast majority of people live on the East Coast in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane while Perth is a 4 hour flight across the continent. Perth is considered to be the world’s most isolated city. It has a population of around 1.7 million people and it is currently the center of a major mining boom.

The two hour time difference also tends to cause problems when you try to ring home to Melbourne late at night. When my daughter sent me a text early one morning it was only 4.30 am in Perth.

What did you enjoy the most about the conference?

The Friday writer’s workshop this year was presented by Kim Hudson, author of The Virgin’s Promise. Previous all day workshops have been run by Bob Meyer (I abandoned my first manuscript on the middle of his Melbourne workshop. He said your first manuscript is for learning how to write. You should put it away and leave it alone. A completely radical thought, but I had wasted 2 ½ years on that particular book and the sense of relief I felt when I gave up on it was astonishing.
Within a year I had completed another manuscript and submitted it to a publisher. That second manuscript became my first novel Letter from a Rake.
Debra Dixon did the Friday session a couple of years ago and her Goal, Motivation, Conflict book is still at the top of my constantly reread pile.
Kim Hudson’s workshop dealt with archetypes and the Virgin’s Journey (as opposed to the Hero’s Journey). There is nothing better than sitting in a writer’s session having the light bulbs go off in your head. I had raced out of the session and bought her book within the hour. I read the book the whole way home on the plane, which is something I never do.
When I got home I cut 8000 words from my current manuscript. Fortunately my editing style is that of a pirate with a knife held between her teeth. If your words do not drive the story forward or are just fluffy, then they have to go. The ultimate goal is a better book.
Books, Books and Books.
I must admit I enjoy watching first time conference attendees squeal with delight when they see how many free books they are given. The final day of the conference is then spent trying to get all those lovely books into your suitcase. Some clever people bring prepaid post satchels and post their books home. I actually gave away quite a few books to a friend in Perth who was thrilled, but I still was crack on the weight limit at the airport.
For the first time this year a number of publishing houses were giving books away on USB data sticks, which is a fantastic idea as a lot of my reading is now eBooks.
Every year I promise myself I won’t pack as many clothes as the previous year, but with all those party costumes, gowns, pitch outfits etc. I usually take too much. The laptop always comes in the onboard luggage, having nearly lost it on a trip to Vanuatu, I make certain never to let it out of my sight.


One of the biggest problems with writer’s conferences is the amount of food you find yourself having eaten. All those morning teas, lunches and big award dinners soon add up. Please don’t ask me how much champagne and wine I drank over the 4 days, but suffice to say I slept well each night. Comfortable clothes are an essential, as is trying to get out of the hotel each day for even a short walk.

The food was great, but I think whomever thought that soft cooked egg and bacon muffins was a good idea needs to go back to the drawing board. As soon as you bit into the muffin the egg dripped down your hand or down your favorite shirt.

Chocolate. One of the ongoing sponsors of the RWA conference is Baci chocolates. I think I personally hold the record for how many of them I can stuff into my suitcase to bring home. Needless to say I do get frisked as soon as I get in the door. The desserts at the awards night were amazing, fortunately I stayed up until the early hours to dance off all those calories. I am still apologizing for my rendition of ‘I want to rock and roll all night’ at 1.30am. Kiss Rocks is all I can say in my defense.

Other things from the conference.

I think a lot of what you do at a writer’s conference depends on where you are at in your writer’s journey. This year was the first conference I have attended at a published author. I was so pleased not to be pitching a manuscript to an editor or agent, it allowed me time to feed my writing muse. Then again I was fielding questions for advice from aspiring authors, which was a huge transition from where I was only a year ago.
Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books was another guest speaker. Her sessions on blogging, Facebook and social media were fantastic. The takeaway from those sessions is that authors need a website, a Facebook Author page (Facebook is where romance readers are most active) and a lively regular blog. She noted that Twitter was useful if you are comfortable with it, but not to use to continually send out ‘Buy my book, Buy my book’ messages. Twitter is, like Facebook, about relationships but just in 140 characters.
Pinterest doesn’t sell books, it is an aspirational site where we put up pictures of how we would like to live. I found that a really interesting point of view as other writers have been pushing me to get on Pinterest. Social media is great, but a major time trap for writers.
Julia Quinn was keynote speaker, and yes I am not ashamed to say I had a fan girl moment when I met her. I love her Regency books. She talked about how messy her office is and that the only To Do List she prepares is one she can achieve. i.e. Pick up the dry cleaning, have a coffee. I liked the way she thought.
Laura Bradford from the Bradford Literary Agency gave a great talk about being professional on social media. Basically she said, what you put out on the internet will eventually come back to you. If you say horrible things about people it always comes back to bit you. I am big believer in Karma, so I whole heartedly agreed with her sentiments.  Social media is not the place to pick fights.
Sorry if this is a little bit of a ramble, but one thing you do find at writer’s conferences is that you become a giant sponge absorbing everything which is happening around you and your mind works at a hundred miles an hour. I always carry a pen and note pad to take notes. Some of the most useful pieces of information are picked up over a coffee and donut at the session breaks.

Tell me about Letter from a Rake

 The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn't long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home. 

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy's handsome brother, 'Alex the Great' and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.  Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness...

It’s a bit of a fish out of water, a stranger come to town theme.  Millie was born in India to an English family, and now finds herself half way around the world in Regency London. She is not a conventional beauty and would never imagine that someone like Alex Radley could possibly fall for her. The best way to describe Alex would be the Brad Pitt of his time.  Rich, handsome and a future duke. He still does manage to make a complete mess of things with Millie which I found quite endearing. While he is your typical Rake, he has times when he fails as an Alpha Hero.

How did you come up with the title?

The original title was The Blue Sapphire, (because Millie the heroine is from India and has deep blue eyes) but my publisher said it needed to be more Regency, especially as it was being released as an eBook.
We kicked around a few ideas, but I am pleased to say I came up with Letter from a Rake and they were happy to go with it. I am hoping to keep the ‘Rake’ theme with the sequel which I am currently writing.

What’s Next?

If you read Letter from a Rake, the sequel is set up in the final epilogue. I love reading romance series, and so I had always planned to write the Radley family as more than one book. The next book is David and Clarice’s story.

Where can readers obtain a copy of Letter from a Rake?

Letter from a Rake is Sasha’s debut book.
You can find Letter from a Rake here:
Also available at Google Play, Readcloud, Angus & Robertson and

You can follow Sasha and find out more about her and her books on her website:
Follow her on Twitter

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Revisionist History by Christine Locke

I don't think I've ever done this before: I'm revising two different manuscripts at the same time.  Can't say I would want to do it again, either!  But it's got me thinking: What's your most effective revision strategy?

Here's mine in a nutshell:

The first time I read through a story, I read for plot holes and glaring errors.  I may also edit as I go, but it's not my primary concern.  Ok, I'm a little compulsive, so I DO edit as I go.  But I don't get bogged down--I want to know if the story WORKS, so I can't fiddle with the language much at this point.

Then, I repair the plot holes I find.  This makes me feel like I'm repairing potholes in a road, making the story journey more pleasant.

The second time I read , I'm looking for tension.  Do I need to keep turning the page?  If not, what can I do to give the story urgency?  Again, I'm going to do a little editing, but it's not my primary concern.  I want to see if the story makes me want to read

Time go go back through with my notes and add tension, or spread tension out, to make the pace of the story feel great.  This is like regulating the speed limit on my story "road."

Ok, NOW it's time to get down to editing.  At this point, the editing will not be too depressing or overwhelming because I know I've patched the plot holes and regulated tension, so now I'm just fixing grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

I edit two or three times.

I'll tell you a little secret.  I was on my last run-through (maybe the fourth editing pass?) of the novel Open Door when I found a glaring error.  Mallace Mansion has no electricity.  It's a rather significant part of the plot, and I make a big deal out of the lack of electricity at the mansion.  In the final scene, when Carin serves tea to her mother and friends on the veranda, I had electric ceiling fans twirling overhead!!  I could not believe it.  How many times had I read that description without realizing what I had done??  I had a good laugh and fixed it.  Then I did another edit before I sent my novel to beta readers.

Beta readers get to read the novel.  That's right.  They don't get to read it until I have done all this.  It's true.  And then, yes, they find errors, or they tell me the introductory chapter is not quite right, or they tell me a certain interaction is inauthentic.  Beta readers always find things I was too close to spot.  They and the time they give to reading my stories are invaluable.

Go back and fix the errors my beta readers find.  Now, I might not agree with everything they tell me.  I might not make every change they want.  But, if I don't want to do what they say, I'd better have a darn good reason.

Now, other than a final editing pass through by yours truly, that's been my strategy.  I publish after the betas.  However, I'm strongly considering a professional editor next time.  What do you think?  What has been your experience with professional editing?

It's back to the editing desk for me...Out of Place, the final chapter in Carin's story, is coming soon....