I Have a Really Good Excuse

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It started when the county chopped down my favorite half pink, half white dogwood.

It’s the end of March and I know that means it’s time to report on my month’s doings (or not doings, as the case may be). But really, I have a good excuse for this month’s slacking off. Come to think of it, I have several good excuses.

As I mentioned above, there was the whole tree cutting debacle. The county is widening a main road up the street from me and it was bad enough when they took out enough pines to build a small village of log houses. But The Special Dogwood that makes me smile every time I pass its blooming March splendor (and I pass it a lot)? How could I be expected to write through such a blatant disregard for my tree?

Then I had that SCBWI conference, and there’s a ton of stuff to get done before a conference, right? Totally legit excuse for not getting the writing going.

And then I also had a reception in Athens at the Georgia Children’s Book Awards and Conference. Not for my books; SCBWI was there to promote our regional authors, the ones who like to network and get those school visits. Also a totally legit excuse because there was also a lot of stuff to get done before the reception.

I did manage to get several books read even though I had that very bad, horrible, no good cold (also a legit excuse for lollygagging, by the way). Let’s see, I think the total read was five, so I’m still a couple of books ahead on my Goodreads goal. I had to wait two months to get Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir by J. D. Vance, but it was well worth the wait and my good read pick of the month.

I got fired up about a picture book idea after the conference and I’ve written a rough first draft so there’s that. And I managed a couple of blog posts, too. Which brings me to today’s post over at The Muffin where I talk about “When You Don’t Want To Write.”

March was…challenging, remembering how the Beneficent Mr. Hall was so great about shoring me up during the March conference craziness. But sometimes, just when you think you want to throw in the towel, someone comes along.

So a big thank you to Lovely Lisa for a long lunch. And for being there, just when I needed shoring up. I can highly recommend long, long lunches with a writer friend for those times when you need a good excuse for whatever ails you.

And here’s hoping your March was delightfully full of words and writer wisdom; I’d love to hear all about it. It also shores me up when I hear about my writer friends’ successes (and yeah, I could use some fall back good excuses, too, just in case April slaps me upside the head. The county is not nearly done).

Makes Me Want To Shout!

It’s a sharing-the-good-news kind of day here at Cathy C. Hall because so many of my writer friends have been so very busy! Shout-outs to…

Linda O’Connell, who’s joined the team of instructors over at Coffee House for Writers! Linda, aka the Queen of Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, will be teaching the fine art of essay writing and I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task. If you’ve been trying and trying and trying to get your essays published, try taking this class. I promise you’ll improve with Linda leading the way to publication.

Suzanne Lilly, who’s just released the last book in her California Argonauts series, Gold Rush Barons, and it is a gem of a story! (See what I did there? Gold…gem? Well, I am a writer.) Gosh, I hate to see the story of George and Lucinda come to an end…they’re such strong characters. And I learned so much in this riveting historical fiction, too; I’ll bet I could easily win the “California Gold Rush” category on Jeopardy!

Lisa Ricard Claro, who’s also just released a book–Love to Believe, the second romance in her Fireflies series! If you’ve been missing Maddie and Caleb, then it’s time to catch up–except this time around, you’ll want to know how Caleb’s sister, Rebecca, fares in a man’s world. And you’ll be dying to know what secret she’s keeping from handsome lawyer, Sean Kincaid. Or is it Sean keeping secrets from her? Hmmm…I guess you’ll just have to read Love to Believe for yourself!

Nanci Turner Steveson, whose charming middle grade novel, Swing Sideways, is set to release any day now! Oh my, I loved this story of two unlikely friends spending a summer on the chase for wild horses and…you know what? Go read it before I spill the whole plotline! And when you finish Nanci’s book, check out Janet S. Fox’s creepy good Gothic thriller, The Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleBoth Nanci and Janet were with me at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop (Nanci in the classes; Janet as an instructor) so I can say that I knew them when.

Though, honestly, they were already gifted storytellers and writers even then. And I’m thrilled to see all the good things happening for them, as well as all the friends I’ve mentioned here today.

It really does make me want to shout, y’all.



Back with a Bang (And Lisa Ricard Claro)

Wait a minute.

Wait just a dang minute. Is it January 19th already?

Well, before we get all “Sunrise, Sunset”, let’s join my very special guest today, Lisa Ricard Claro (who, I might add, is well worth the wait we’ve had here).

Lisa Ricard Claro-300x481If you’re a regular reader at the blog, then you know Lisa. She comments all the time, and I suspect many of you have followed her, just because you’ve enjoyed her wit and warmth. You also know that she released the first novel in her Fireflies romance trilogy last year (and you may even know that her second book is due to release  in a few weeks). But did you know that she’s parlayed her writing skills into yet another writing venture, as an editor?

Yep, Lisa’s got a new gig: Ricard Writing and Editing! And she’s here today to give us the scoop. (And a surprise!)

1. How and why did Lisa the Writer decide to add a Lisa the Editor hat?

Hi, Cathy. Thanks for inviting me to be here.

My editorial business grew organically. Other authors requested my services as a copy, line, and developmental editor, and as a writer of back cover blurbs, queries, bios, etc. Eventually, it became apparent that I had developed a viable business. More than that, I love doing it, love helping other authors.

2. Editing is  so challenging, though. What’s the hardest part about your work as an editor?

My type-A personality is my biggest foe. I perform my editing work at a snail’s pace because I’m a perfectionist and don’t want to miss any detail. My speed doesn’t affect my clients, because I meet deadlines and don’t charge by the hour, but by the page. It sure makes for sore eyes at the end of the day, though!

3. I’ll bet! But there has to be a favorite part of editing work, right?

I love helping people! I’m honored when an author entrusts his/her work to me. As an author myself, I understand what a gift that is. Helping others succeed is fulfilling in ways that nothing else can match. And honestly, I love doing it.

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4. So who are the writers who need your services? What do you tell a writer who has a critique group or partner about spending money for editing services?

All writers will benefit from the skills of a good editor. Authors are too close to their work to view it with the objectivity required to search and destroy those things that weaken it. Also, authors submitting work to agents/editors want to be sure they’re sending polished manuscripts.

Industry fees vary widely, so it isn’t surprising that authors balk. It’s tempting to trust your critique partner(s) to set you straight. But do those trusted associates know the correct use of em dashes to denote action in the middle of dialogue or why the incomplete sentence you think is brilliant slows the pace of that third paragraph in chapter three? Beware, especially, of critique groups where everyone has a differing opinion.

Example: A client asked for a comprehensive edit on her novel. I sensed she wasn’t ready for that full service and suggested a ten page test (recommended for new

clients). After completion of this, she opted to trash the whole manuscript and return to her original version of the book. She had made so many changes based on the opinions of people in her critique group that she had subjugated the theme of her novel. She benefitted from one pair of eyes that cut through the layers to see the story she wanted to tell.

5. Excellent answer, Lisa! Now here’s the next next tough question: do you have another hat in store for 2016? Lisa the Publisher? Lisa the RWA President? Lisa the Sommelier? 

Have you been reading my diary?

Publisher may happen. I’d like to self-publish a Fireflies novella for Christmas, but that’s just a gleam in my eye. As to RWA president—you are an optimist! I’d be honored to hold that position, but it’s nowhere on the horizon.

No new hats for 2016. I don’t have room for any. My novel, Love to Believe, book #2 in the Fireflies series, releases January 30th, and book #3 releases July 30th. I’ve been contracted to write a first grade book for an educational market, and I’m in the middle of my current WIP, a romantic mystery. As for the editorial business, I’ve got jobs in the queue and am, of course, open to new clients.

The only new thing is a workshop proposal for the Georgia Romance Writers conference in October. No word on approval yet. Since launching my editorial business, I’ve learned that a lot of authors are unaware of the different types of editors and editing. I know of one author who paid hundreds of dollars to an editor only to discover that the service she received was primarily copy editing. She assumed “editing” meant the whole enchilada—copy, line, and developmental. She was wrong. The workshop I’ve proposed will arm authors with the knowledge required to hire the right editor for the service they need. I believe it will be valuable to most. Maybe that’s a question for your readers: Does this sound like a worthwhile workshop?

If your readers have other questions, they might find the FAQ on my editorial website to be helpful, or they may send me an email. I’ll answer questions in the comments here on your blog, too, Cathy.

Thanks for having me here!

Thanks for dropping in, Lisa! I need a little of whatever you’re having to get my work done!

And now for the surprise: she’s giving a 10% discount until the end of February for any of you who mention you read about her business here at the blog (and that’s on top of her regular discount for military). Wheee!

I’d say best of luck to my wonderful friend in her new business, but you don’t need luck when you have mad skills. So get that writing done, and then go take a look at Lisa Ricard Claro’s to find what kind of editing you need. And be sure and tell her that Cathy C. Hall sent you!

The December Blues

Snowman familyDecember is a funny month for me, and not funny ha-ha. (Though I will watch Elf , maybe more than once, and laugh like crazy.)

As much I love the holidays, I feel more keenly the people who’re no longer around when December rolls in. And I’m not necessarily talking about the loved ones who’ve passed on, though I miss them dearly.

No, it’s the friends who were once in my life and now have moved away. And for me, most of those friends are writers.

Which is a good thing, I guess. I can keep up with Janice Hardy over at her Fiction University. Whenever I read Debra Mayhew’s blog posts, I can hear her voice. And Robyn Hood Black’s over at Artsy Letters, creating one-of-a-kind literary gifts and I see her in each one of them.

But it’s not quite the same as a long, chatty lunch or a night of writerly talking at an SCBWI conference, is it? And before I know it, I’m stewing in a big ‘ol mug of Blue Christmas.

Oh, great. Now I’m missing Elvis, too.

I think I need to pull myself up by my little Elf shoes and be thankful for all the lovely times I’ve been blessed to have with all kinds of writer friends, no matter where they are now.

And maybe call one of my writer friends who lives right down the road. Yeah, I think a long, chatty lunch with Lisa Ricard Claro will be just the ticket. She can tell me all about her next book in the Fireflies trilogy and I’ll celebrate with her by stuffing my face with Christmas cookies.

But I’ll watch Elf, too, just to be on the safe, holly-jolly side. So how about you? How do you dispel the December blues and get your holly-jolly back on? ‘Cause honestly, I’m starting to think about lots more writers I’m missing. And you’re probably one of ’em.

Five Questions With Debut Romance Author, Lisa Ricard Claro

LBTL-Final-188x300On Tuesdays, I usually toot my horn for Cathy C. Hall but not this Tuesday. This Tuesday, I’m celebrating my friend and debut romance author, Lisa Ricard Claro!

(Honestly, I wanted to put at least ten more exclamation points there, but that might embarrass Lovely Lisa.)

Lisa has written Love Built To Last and…you know what? I’m going to just zip over and grab my review from Goodreads for you ’cause a. I kinda like my review, and b. it sums up the novel nicely!

Another man might be put off to find that a pretty, young widow believes her dead husband still communicates with her. But not Caleb Walker, the handsome and hunky carpenter that Maddie Kinkaid hires to renovate her kitchen. He’s a widow, too, and though he’s protective of his son, he’s not quite able to protect his heart from Maddie’s charms. But Maddie’s torn between the new feelings stirred up by Caleb and the comfortable feelings she carries still for Jack, the man she lost. And just when Maddie thinks this new romance might work out, catastrophe strikes. Is Maddie’s dead husband, Jack, keeping them apart?

Or is it Maddie?

In Lisa Ricard Claro’s debut romance, LOVE BUILT TO LAST, the author deftly crafts a sweetly Southern story of holding on and letting go. And you’ll want to hold on to Maddie and Caleb, plus the whole cast of characters, including the charming rescue pooch, Pirate, long after the last page. (Good thing it’s the first in the Fireflies series!)

And now, on to the five questions! (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers, just juicy tidbits and writerly tips!)

I know that LOVE BUILT TO LAST was originally a short story—a story that garnered a first place award!—but still. How did you take 2,000 words and grow them into a 90,000 word novel?

First, thank you for inviting me to your blog!

You know how your best ideas come to you in the shower, Cath? For me, it’s immediately upon waking. I’m an early riser—4:00-5:00 a.m. whether I want to or not. I’ve found that after I wake up, if I snuggle back down and think about my stories and characters, the ideas roll freely. Whole scenes and dialogue play like a movie. One scene leads to another and the next thing I know I’ve got some great key scenes, and I’m ready to outline and flesh it all out. My only complaint is that sometimes I’ll play out great dialogue in my head, but then I can’t remember it later. *sigh*

(Well, duh, it’s FIVE IN THE MORNING, LISA.)

So, one of the bigger plot points revolves around your female protagonist’s belief that her dead husband communicates with her. Is this mostly fictional, or do you believe that loved ones will always find a way to communicate with us?

Both. I do believe that our loved ones don’t completely leave us. I want to believe that they will communicate with us if they can, though I’ve never experienced it myself. I wrote a blog post about this recently, and a few commenters mentioned dreams. I hadn’t really thought of dreams as being part of that communication, but after thinking about it, I have had some dreams involving my parents that I’d like to believe were gentle visits.

In Love Built to Last, as in the two books that follow, I carried that element through as part of the theme. In each case I tried to present it in such a way that it is left up to the reader to decide if Jack—the deceased—is really communicating, or if it’s wishful thinking by the characters. I’ve asked a few readers what their take was, and the split is about 50/50.

Lisa-Ricard-Claro-pic-2sm-247x300You also have a rescue animal (I love Pirate!) that plays a major role in the story. Did it just happen as you wrote the story or did your own love of animals guarantee that you’d somehow get a rescue in there?

I have a huge heart for rescues and animal companions are natural characters in my world. I believe that in fiction, as in life, you can tell a lot about people/characters by how they treat animals. So, yes, I made the decision to incorporate rescued pets in every book. In Love Built to Last, the rescue of the mutt, Pirate, figures prominently, but in the third book, Love to Win, Pavarotti the cat is already in his forever home. His rescue is mentioned, but only as backstory.

Your three-book series is with Black Opal Books. Can you share a little about this publisher and how you came to connect with them?

I learned about Black Opal Books on the RWA (Romance Writers of America) PRO forum. Black Opal is a small publisher, has been around about seven years. Before signing with them I contacted a number of authors who had published with them—a few who were in the midst of working with them, and a few who had published books with them but had moved on to other publishers. In all instances I received only positive feedback. Now that they’ve published my first book and I’ve been through the process with them from start to finish, I can honestly say they’ve been professional, cooperative, and quick to respond to questions and/or concerns.

Thanks for the insider info, Lisa! Speaking of those three books, I’m sure it was a challenge to get your first contract and end up with a series! How have you managed this challenge, and would you do things differently next time around?

To say I was surprised to be offered a three book contract is an understatement. In many ways it took the pressure off. Even though I was then committed to writing two more books in relatively quick succession, I felt a certain freedom with them. I didn’t have to worry and wonder if I would ever be published again. I knew going in that these three books had found a publishing home, and I could focus on the writing without stressing over the query/submission aspect.

As far as what I’d do differently, that’s an easy question to answer. I’d spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the process. When book two releases this fall, and then book three in early 2016, I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control. Instead, I will open a nice bottle of wine and celebrate!

(And I, as one of your closest and dearest friends, will join you. Um…you might need one of those BIG bottles.)

Big thank you to Lisa for sharing all her writer wisdom and behind-the-scenes info! Now, often, I give away books I’ve read. But I’m sorry, y’all, I can’t give away Lisa’s book. It’s on my Friends-Who’ve-Written-Books Shelf, and it’s waiting to be signed. But I know where you can get your own swell copy of Love Built to Last!

To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last in eBook or print, go to AmazonBarnes & NobleBlack Opal BooksKobo, or AllRomance.

I hear that romance is good for your heart, and it sure makes my heart feel pretty darn good to see Lisa Ricard Claro’s book out there. And honestly, you’re going to love her book, too!!! (So I added a few more exclamation points–Lisa’s probably blushing, but I’m okay with that.)