Dublin’s best museum: a must-visit for writers and readers

Back in March, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with my husband’s Irish cousins in Dublin.

For my husband, his dad, and his cousin, it was a big rugby weekend. The men in my family are big Ireland rugby supporters (I can’t bring myself to tell them the hero in my novel First Aid for a Broken Heart plays for England), and that weekend Ireland smashed Scotland.

But tickets are expensive, so I watched the match on TV with my mum-in-law and cousin’s wife. You get much better close-ups of players getting their shorts ripped off that way.

Chester Beatty LibraryAnyway…the day of the match, my mum-in-law and I had a girl-date. As a belated birthday treat for me, she took me to the Chester Beatty Library, and I’ve been urging people to go ever since.

Here’s the story:

Chester Beatty was a New Yorker, born in 1875. He studied mining and started his career shoveling rock in mines before going on to become an engineer and then consultant.

But Chester’s main passion was collecting. As you’d imagine, he started off with minerals as a kid, but as an adult he branched out into European and Persian manuscripts.

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Tools for culling repetitious words from your writing

Before I started working in charity communications, I spent four years teaching English as a foreign language in Prague and London.

One of my first classes was full of Czech bankers who gave up their Saturdays to learn English. They were an intermediate-level group, so they could make themselves understood but were far from fluent. They were also one of my favorite classes to teach because every single one of them was enthusiastic and fearless, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into every activity I planned. We spent our Saturdays laughing together.

Half-way through the year, their boss (who was paying for their classes) visited to find out what they thought of their teacher. She interrupted my class with no warning and spoke with them in Czech, so I only understood the gist of what was going on. The boss asked them a question; my students smiled at me.

“Awesome!” one of them shouted, giving me a big thumbs-up.

“Yes, she’s totally awesome!” another agreed, also with a thumbs-up.

Thumbs up
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It was the moment I realized I always praised them in the same way. “Awesome answer, Jiri!” “Your pronunciation was totally awesome, Pavel!” Big thumbs-up from Katrina.

Yes, I’d just moved to the Czech Republic from Los Angeles. And no, I didn’t claim to be teaching them proper English.

We all have words that slip into our speech more than others. When they infiltrate our writing, it becomes a problem. There are certain words my readers nail me for over and over. When Kaki Warner read an early draft of my second manuscript, she noted how many times I referred to my characters’ stomachs and bellies. That’s where they carried all of their emotions. (Her stomach clenched. His belly knotted.)

These repetitions are usually invisible to me – of course they are, otherwise I wouldn’t let them survive the first edit. But once someone points them out, I see how obvious they are.

I’ve found a couple of fun ways to visualize my writing and help me cull repetitious words.

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Dealing with writing contest disappointment

Last week calls went out to a few dozen special romance writers – finalists in the RITA and Golden Heart contests, put on every year by the Romance Writers of America.

I didn’t get a call.

Broken heart
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Rejection is always difficult to accept. When a creative project you’ve spent months – or years – working on is rejected, it’s agonizing.

I love the day the RITA and Golden Heart calls go out. For a romance writer, it’s the most exciting day of the year, even more so than the night when the winners are announced. Everyone starts the day full of excitement, and there are massive amounts of congratulations across Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

But as the day goes on, people begin to lose heart. At least, that’s how I feel. I see my category filling up with finalists, and I check my phone for missed calls. I cheer for my friends and for complete strangers, but inside I die a little.

So how do you deal with contest disappointment? Here’s what I do.

1. Remind yourself that the contest isn’t your actual goal.

The Golden Heart is amazing. Thrilling. And it can be really tempting to think it’s the ultimate goal since it’s so much fun. But my goal is to be published. The Golden Heart would be one step on that path, but it’s not the only way to get there. And it’s not my end goal.

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The real pirates of the Caribbean: Guest post & giveaway by Shana Galen

Shana GalenI’m so happy to have historical romance/adventure author Shana Galen here today talking about some of the fascinating research she’s done on pirates. She’s giving away two copies of her upcoming release, The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. I’ve read and LOVED it, so make sure you leave a comment by Tuesday January 31st!

Take it away, Shana!

Hello! I’m thrilled to be on Reader, I Created Him today. This is the first stop on my tour for The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. What a great way to begin! I want to thank Kat for inviting me. I met her in New York over the summer, and if you don’t know her, be assured she is really as nice and smart and talented as this blog would indicate.

English: Johnny Depp at the Pirates of the Car...
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This is my second paragraph, and I already have a confession. My book isn’t actually about Caribbean pirates. The Rogue Pirate’s Bride is set in 1802, which is a little past the heyday of the Carribean pirate. But there were still Barbary pirates operating in the Mediterranean, and they were based primarily in the ports of Tunis, Tripoli, and Algier (aka the Barbary Coast). But that wouldn’t have worked as a title, and the Barbary Corsairs had a lot in common with their Caribbean counterparts.

My pirate hero, actually he prefers to be called a privateer, is Sebastien Harcourt. He’s captain of a ship named Shadow and frequently takes on the British Navy. His men are loyal and tough. They have to be. Pirates slept in the smelly lower deck, all packed together in hammocks along with the extra supplies. Bastien, of course, has his own cabin, but his ship is small (and subsequently fast), and he’s the only one with the luxury of privacy.

I read quite a few books about pirates when I was researching for this book, and I learned some interesting facts. Bastien’s enemy, Jourdain, has a shaved head. Pirates often shaved their heads to keep their hair free of lice and bugs. Jourdain also wears gold earrings as does Ridley, Bastien’s bosun, shorthand for boatswain. A bosun is sort of like the deck supervisor. But the interesting thing about Ridley and the other pirates who wear gold earrings is that they wore the earrings so that if they were thrown from a ship during a battle or storm, and their bodies washed up on shore, the earrings would be valuable enough to provide them with a burial. Some pirates wore earrings to symbolize survival from a shipwreck. If I were a hiring captain, I might be wary of hiring any pirate with more than one earring. He could be bad luck, and pirates are very superstitious.

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Winner of the Kaki Warner giveaway!

Colorado DawnThanks to everyone to commented on Kaki Warner’s guest post, One woman’s tips on writing in the male point of view. What a fun post!

The winner of a brand-spanking-new copy of Colorado Dawn is…Amel Armeliana!

Congratulations, Amel! I’ve sent you an email asking for your address.

U.S. readers, this week you have the chance to win Lisa Dale’s contemporary novel Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier.

Have a great week!