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  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday Featuring Diane Michaels

    1/14/2018

    Writers on Wednesday

    Diane MichaelsDiane Michaels is a professional harpist living in New Jersey. Her career has taken her from Carnegie Hall to the wedding hall (she has played at least 1000 weddings). Her articles on establishing and sustaining a career as a musician have appeared in Harp Column and Allegro. When not performing or writing, she and her husband make up songs about and for their miniature poodle, Lola.
    1. What was the inspiration for your latest novel?
    My newest novel, “Ellen at Sea,” follows Ellen aboard a cruise ship where she will work as a harpist. I’ve borrowed a little of my own biography for this novel, having performed as a harpist on both the QE2 and the Seven Seas Navigator. Cruising is awesome, as is working aboard a cruise ship. I hope my readers enjoy taking a vicarious cruise!
    2. When did you take up writing?
    I always dove into my creative writing assignments back in elementary school. When I was seven or eight, I wrote a parody of “The Night Before Christmas” as a Thanksgiving present for the relative who was hosting our family dinner. It was so fun to write, and I loved sharing it with my relatives.
    3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
    Whether a novel is set in an exotic locale or someplace more familiar, I want to bring the reader into the world I’m creating. Plot may drive a novel, but as a reader, I love taking my time to savor the words authors choose to set a scene.
    4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
    Hmm… One character I found especially fun to write was Sheldon, an older gentleman and pianist who torments Ellen with his unsolicited though immensely valuable advice.
    5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
    Best may be too hard to pin down. “Just write,” for starters. My ninth grade English teacher taught us there is nothing new under the sun. When I grow frustrated that I can’t prove her wrong when I’m looking for ideas for a novel, I turn to this quote by the composer, Igor Stravinsky: “Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.” This is why my first books are about a harpist: I’m stealing from myself. Write what you know, they say!
    6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
    I prefer to write in the middle of the day. I often get a lot of ideas — or work through ideas — while I’m at the gym after breakfast. I take a few months off from writing during the year as I’ve found writing and practicing the harp sap the same sources of inspiration and energy. If I have a lot of concerts to prepare for, I’ll shift into an editing or marketing phase.
    7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
    I am a plantser – a hybrid between plotter and pantser.
    8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books or recent reads?
    I’ve had a lot of fun reading Kate O’Keeffe’s Cozy Cottage Café series. I enjoyed David Sedaris’ “Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002.” He has a gift for understatement and misdirection in his humor.
    9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
    I’ve just begun to write book three of the Ellen the Harpist series. But I keep distracting myself with ideas for a different novel.
    10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
    ​Just write. No, there are a lot of other things worth doing, too. Read great books in the genre similar to the one you want to write. Understand why they work. You can read about writing, too, but it’s important to go to the source. The biggest mistake I made with my first novel was not building an author platform. I kept my work on the manuscript private. No one was expecting (or waiting for) my novel when I set her free.

    Ellen at Sea
    Ellen at Sea - Cover​​Who a harpist brings with her for a four-month long gig aboard a cruise ship:
    Her best friend. A lock-picking pianist. And a blow up doll.

    Who she leaves behind…

    When Ellen’s boyfriend Josh goes on the road with a Broadway touring production, Ellen takes to the high seas. Can tropical destinations, a busy performance schedule, and cheap booze in the crew bar distract her from the heartache of her separation from Josh? Or will her mother’s devastating news and her best friend’s antics send her overboard?

    Excerpt of Ellen at Sea
    ​Halfway through my last set of the night, an older man in a tuxedo with velvet lapels and a ruffled tux shirt entered the lounge. He leaned against the wall, staring at me with a laser-like focus. Atop his head sat a jet-black hairpiece of such girth, I was sure it had a heartbeat of its own. His skin was a well-seasoned shade of tan. It stretched tightly from side to side, pulling his mouth and eyes into horizontal lines. His eyes never left me. I shuddered. Tapping the lower right corner of my tablet to turn the page when I finished Embraceable You, I smiled in anticipation of playing the next tune, Adele’s Someone Like You.

    The arpeggiated pattern of the intro soothed me. I plucked the ascending and descending notes with my left hand and floated the melody line above it. My new fan was having none of it.

    “What are you doing? You’re going to lose your audience. Look around. Who do you see?” He asked, his tone implying I possessed a less than agile mind.

    A group of guys my age was doing shots at the bar, their laughter and playful swats at each other indicating this wasn’t the first round. People my mother’s age filled most of the tables near me, but none had paid any attention to me since they came into the lounge.

    “The guests want to hear something lively. Play Under the Boardwalk.”

    Who did he think he was, instructing me what I should or shouldn’t play? “I don’t know it.”

    “You’ll learn it.” Mr. Bossy Pants pounded out the bass line on the piano and called out, “I’m in G. Play this pattern. Good. Keep the rhythm going.” I plucked along for two bars before he came in with the melody. The room came to life. People sang along. A boisterous round of applause broke out as we ended the tune. Rather than allow me to savor our success, he commanded me to play something else.

    I scrolled through my repertoire list on the tablet, struggling to think of a tune he’d approve of. “What’s taking you so long? Just play anything. And who told you to put the harp like that? Here.” He grabbed the column of my harp and tugged it to face into the room. How dare he move my harp without asking! Doesn’t he know how expensive it is? I grimaced at him through lowered eyelids as I readjusted my bench and stand to my harp’s new position. Fearful of frustrating my tormentor further while I mulled over what tune to play next, I turned off the tablet and played Eleanor Rigby from memory.

    “Well, now you’re playing the right music, but the guests can’t hear you. Play the right hand an octave higher. That will cut through the room noise.” I jumped my hand up the strings, wincing at how my new arrangement sounded like a track from the Chipmunks’ Beatles tribute album.

    I endured fifteen more minutes of his harassing interference until 9:30 finally arrived. Even while I covered my harp, he refused to leave me alone. “I’m Sheldon. I’ve been doing this since before your parents were born. Everyone in New York knows me. I’ve played in every club, I’ve played with every great musician, and I’ve played for everyone who matters. I’m the real deal. I’m too old now to perform like I used to, but I like to work aboard a ship once a year for a month during the holidays. You have a lot to learn. I want to teach you how to be an entertainer because I see something in you. You’re great at playing the harp. I will train you how to be great at playing for people with drinks in their hands. Now get this harp out of here. It’s blocking the seats around the piano.”

    Where to Buy Ellen at Sea
    Amazon
    iTunes

  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – finding a writing space (or how writers really write)

    6/3/2014

    People are often fascinated by writing space. Where does a writer work? How do they work? How is their sacred space laid out?

    I’m sure it would be nice to have such a space but above is a small slide-show of a few of the places I’ve written over the past few weeks. They vary from my dining room table (my regular haunt), to the local library to the beach.

    The truth is most writers are just trying to carve out a niche in their family home and da to day life to write. Finding the time to write is a huge issue and finding the space is another.

    I know lots of writers with young families who write on laptops in front of the TV pretending to be enamoured by Ben Ten or Pepper Pig or Superman. Some of them have a space but no one will leave them alone long enough for them to use it.

    I know people who write wildly o the train as they commute from the outer suburbs to the city. They find a space between the thrumming music of their fellow traveller’s headphones, the newspapers and the school students to scribble in their notebook or tap out a few words on their laptop.

    I know others who spend their lunchtimes in cafes, libraries and parks trying to keep the story moving forward daily with only forty minutes to spare.

    There are writers who share a desk with a teenager and others who have an armchair and a coffee table.

    Of course there are many writers with a desk and an office just for them. A constant and regular place to develop good habits (or tear their hair out) and most of them are extremely grateful to have it.

    I myself am usually perched on the end of the dining room table which is a total pain when we have visitors and we do that pretty regularly. I load everything in an archive box or my backpack and tuck it away. At the moment we’re doing some renovating so my space is dusty and noisy. It’s hard to write to the dulcet sounds of an angle grinder.

    You will often here people say “I have no time to write” and “I have no space to write” but just like exercise or watching Game of Thrones or following a football team, if it matters to you then you find a way. You sacrifice one thing for another. In the case of writing space often what gets sacrificed is good posture and ergonomics, in the case of time it’s one of these other pursuits.

    So for the next few weeks as the dust flies and the contents of my kitchen remain scattered around my home I guess I’ll have to be creative about my writing space.

    Writing Space

     

    Writing Space - Group

     

    Outside Writing Space Coastal

     

    Writing Space Library

    Laptop

     

    Comments

    Betty
    6/3/2014 11:48:37 pm

    I totally agree. “If it matters to you you will find a way”
    I am always impressed by how tenacious you are about writing and how much you get done.
    Reply
    Monique
    6/8/2014 05:59:47 pm

    I’m not sure how tenacious I am when I see what some people achieve but I do try.

    louise wise
    6/8/2014 05:50:55 pm

    I’ve write where I can keep an eye on things: the dinner, kids, delivery guy and on some kind of installation being carried out. But because of that I don’t think my writing is being taken seriously by my family. To them it’s ‘just a hobby’. Grrr

    I long for an office that I can call my own, so I’m waiting for my 20 year old son to move out and then I’ll claim his room!

    Oh, I’m so baaaad!
    Reply
    Monique
    6/8/2014 06:01:21 pm

    I’m sure I get a bit of the same treatment honestly Louise. In theory I have a desk in the office but I can’t write when my husband is in there and it’s not really a big enough space for two…in a perfect world we would add an extra room but in the meantime one must make do.

  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – Guest Post by Georgina Troy

    5/28/2014

    Georgina TroyMy Writing Space

    This is a picture of me writing in one of my favourite places, the Winston Churchill Memorial Park in St Brelades Bay where I live in Jersey. The park has several tiers with a magnificent waterfall, fountain, flower borders, and incredible views through the huge pine trees across St Brelades Bay.

    If you don’t wish to sit on one of the benches, there’s the lawn, overgrown patches of wild grasses, old tree stumps where trees have come down, leaving comfortable seats. Despite it being a favourite place for people to walk, or sunbathe, there’s always a quiet spot with an incredible view where I can sit and lose myself in my work in progress, or gaze out across the beach if I need inspiration. A pretty beach with cafes and restaurants is just below the park, and occasionally I’ll arrange to meet friends for coffee after a few hours writing, or go there to enjoy an ice cream, lunch, or simply for a quick dip in the sea – this usually means going no deeper than my knees, because the sea is usually far too cold for me to actually swim in it.

    I’m lucky that I live in such a beautiful island, it’s a never ending source of inspiration for my romances and there are so many gorgeous places to set scenes. Jersey might be small – only 9 x 5 miles in size – but there are many hidden coves, beautiful cliff paths for walks and endless reminders of the history that has played out here over the centuries – perfect inspiration for writing. I suppose my writing space is where ever I choose on a particular day.

    Amazon.com – A Jersey Affair & A Jersey Kiss:

    Amazon.co.uk – A Jersey Affair & A Jersey Kiss:

    Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GeorginaTroyAuthor

    Twitter:  https://twitter.com/GeorginaTroy

    Website: http://www.georginatroy.co.uk/

    Blog: http://georginatroy.blogspot.com/

     

    A Jersey Affair - CoverBlurb – A Jersey Affair:

    When shoe designer Paige Bingham is jilted she decides to enjoy her honeymoon-for-one in Sorrento. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a mysterious entrepreneur, Sebastian Fielding, when she gets to Italy. He helps ease the sting of rejection as he introduces her to the beautiful sites he knows and loves.

    Unfortunately, not long after Paige returns to her small island home off the coast of France, she discovers that not only is this charismatic man’s company taking over the struggling store where her business is based, but that her concession is probably surplus to his requirements.

    How can Paige stop her fledgling shoe design business from going under? And what can she do to fight the gossip now that the paparazzi have published their untruths about ‘A Jersey Affair’?

     

     

     

    Georgina Troy with her booksAbout Georgina

    Georgina Troy lives in Jersey near the sea – well, most people do in an island only 9 miles x 5 miles in size. She’s always wanted to write and being an impossible romantic is always falling in love with heroes both real (hopefully), in fiction (definitely) and those of her own creation (absolutely).

    A Jersey Affair is the second in a series of stand-alone romances based in Jersey, which Georgina hopes you’ll read, enjoy and maybe tell your friends about. The first book, A Jersey Kiss is out now.

     

     

     

    Comment

    Georgina Troy
    5/28/2014 04:31:14 pm

    Thank you very much for featuring me on your fantastic blog, Monique!

  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – Louise Wise

    4/30/2014

    Louise WiseI thought I’d add a new feature to the blog Writers on Wednesday – where guest authors guest post about their writing process or influences or motivation.

    My first cab off the rank is the lovely Louise Wise.

    ***

    Mental Illness: Nurture or Nature? By Louise Wise

    Mental illness and chick lit don’t go together, so I took a gamble with Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! but the book wrote itself (only another writer will understand that statement!), and it wasn’t until I’d finished that I realised I’d done it again—written about loneliness. I have a similar premise running through each of my four books. Maybe that’s my ‘thing’? If there is such thing as ‘a thing’!

    It certainly wasn’t a conscious factor and I’m not lonely. What I am interested in is the mind, from how a gut feeling tells you not all is well with a friend, to knowing that danger is approaching i.e. you’re about to cross the road but you just know a speeding car is going to hurtle around the corner. Ever had one of those moments? Is that a sixth sense, I-see-dead-people, type of thing?

    Personally, I think it’s basic survival instinct but you can dress it up if you want. I can’t explain the gut feelings.

    With Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! Valerie, the main protagonist, feels she has to remain lonely to protect herself from a curse, and the curse is her mental illness. Sounds straightforward but bring in a meddling older friend and a playboy that fancies the pants off of Valerie, and you have the nitty-gritties for a romantic comedy.

    Researching the book made me so interested in the power of the mind that I signed up for an on-line course on cognitive therapy! It made me realise that the brain can have so much wrong with it, and only needs a slight trigger, be it emotional or an injury, for it to unravel.

    The mind can make a rational person believe everyone is looking/laughing at him (paranoia). Make you over-think about germs (type of OCD). Schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders… the list is endless and it all begins with a chemical imbalance in the mind. You are not always born with mental health problems and they sometimes ‘run in families’ so could it be that they develop because of nurture, rather than nature?

    Valerie Anthrope in Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! was brought up by her neurotic mother, who unfortunately had her bipolar undetected, and died a confused and unhappy woman. It was a disorder that transferred to her daughter.

    Because Valerie doesn’t understand the enormity of her problem she tries to ignore it, and it takes an interfering friend to see it for what it is, but Valerie doesn’t want to believe even when it’s pointed out and prefers to continue to ignore it, and of course, the problem escalates.

    Her depression is the result of her loneliness and not vice versa but because this book is a comedy romance, albeit a black comedy romance, it’s her caustic tongue and the sub-characters tiptoeing around her that lighten the tone. Although I feel I must add here that not once do I invite the reader to laugh at the illness.

    Because of the theme, I wanted Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! to be different so it has the secondary character’s voice, Lex, throughout the novel in alternating scenes between him a Valerie. Valerie’s voice is told in the first person, and Lex’s in the third.

    I needed the reader to be with Valerie on her journey through the book and could only do that properly by allowing the reader to become her, with Lex, I also wanted the reader to get inside his mind, but felt able to hold something of him back, hence his character being in the third person.

    Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! is on a sale for 99c/77p all spring.

    Oh No I've Fallen in Love - CoverExcerpt

    As soon as I entered, the music, balloons and smiley waitresses wearing festive hats, and the entire Christmassy atmosphere made me realise I’d made a mistake. I should have faked a migraine.

    Paul spotted me first and stood up. ‘Yoo-hoo! Over here, Miss Anthrope.’ Paul, his wife Milly and Tim sat around a table where above floated coloured balloons, their strings attached to a weight in the centre of an equally bright tablecloth. I made my way over and immediately spotted a stranger – and a scam. Ellen guided me over and insisted I sit next to the stranger while she sat the other side of me. The man had a ready smile, and beautiful eyes. They were the brightest blue, and totally wasted on a male. I was immediately interested despite the set-up.

    ‘This is Jon. Jon, Valerie,’ Ellen introduced us.

    I nodded, removed my coat, which a passing waitress took. I sat down and smiled at Milly. ‘Nice to see you again,’ I said.

    ‘Ooh, can I have your red straw?’ Milly said to Ellen. ‘I’ll swap you my black one.’

    There was little doubt this was Paul’s wife. Ellen swapped straws, and winked across at me. ‘Jon’s an accountant,’ she said.

    ‘And you’re a financial broker,’ Jon said, tapping me on the nose with his finger on the word “you’re”.

    My interest vanished in a puff of oh-my-God-he’s-a-jerk smoke and I sent multitudinous angry thoughts to Ellen, but straight-faced she looked back at me and said, ‘Well, we’ll leave you two love birds alone while we eat on the next table. Come along, you others. Let’s leave the youngsters to it.’

    Then they all got up and left me with Jon the accountant. Gobsmacked wasn’t a word I often used.

    Fucked, was better.

    The night was going to be extremely long.

    You can find the book here:

    Amazon

    Kobo

    Nook

    Apple iStore