header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Writing Life Archives – Kristen Koster
Sep 072016
Finalist Badge for 2016 Pages From The Heart Unpublished Author, Historical Category

JACK OF HEARTS by Kristen Koster
2016 Pages From The Heart Finalist
Unpublished Author, Historical Category

You know how they say you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play? That holds true for a whole lot of things in life. If you don’t put yourself or your work out there, how can you expect any recognition?

A couple of months ago, I submitted the first 25 pages of JACK OF HEARTS to two RWA Chapter contests. I got the scores back for one of them a while ago and had one really glowing set where the judge loved it. The other two judges were far more critical. So, I figured the other contest would come back with similar scores.
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Nov 012014

Some people think you need a machine like H.G. Wells’, or Dr. Who’s TARDIS to travel through time. Others believe all you need is to stumble into a faerie ring.

Me? I think all you need is a good book!
Today, the Historical Romance Network is celebrating National Author’s Day and the end of Daylight Savings Time today with a special #FallBackInTime event on Facebook and Twitter as well as Tumblr and Google+ to share their love of the historical romance genre. So if your social media is flooded with pictures of romance books, don’t grumble and ignore it, TRY one!

I had trouble picking just one book, so I chose Lynn Kurland’s A Dance Through Time because I felt it best fit the spirit of the ‪#‎FallBackInTime‬ hashtag. Time travel, thematic title and a great read! However, you can see from the shelves behind me, that my historical romance keeper shelf (6 ft bookcase, 40″ shelves, double stacked) is overflowing! Somehow, browsing through my kindle reader isn’t as fun as running my hand over the spines on this shelf.

The variety within the historical romance genre these days is amazing. From Medieval, Vikings, Scottish Highlands, Elizabethan, Georgian and Regency, Victorian, the Wild West and Colonial America, Edwardian, WWI, The Roaring 20s, WWII, to ancient Egypt and ancient China (GO read Jeannie Lin now!)! You can escape almost anywhere you’d like and find plenty more to read along the way.

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So, what do I like about Historical romance as opposed to other subgenres of Romance? I like the slower pace of life and the distance and perspective shift away from the craziness that invades my everyday life. Everyone in those long carriage lines as everyone arrives at the balls are patient and the drivers aren’t stupid or rude, they’re just part of the process. Unlike the drop-off lines at school where I swear I need a doctor’s note to show my kids that I’m not allowed to go in there because of the effect on my blood pressure. You’d think by high school these people would know what was expected of them and it’d be calmer and more orderly. Not!

Anyway, I digress…

I tend to read a lot of Regency set romances because I like the fairy tale aspect of the balls and the titled men. Oh yes, and the cravats! Mustn’t forget those! But honestly, I’ll read a bit of everything. I started out reading fantasy and science fiction in the very early 80s, and naturally also found my mom’s stash of romance novels. She read a lot of cowboys, Native Americans, Dukes, Earls and Viscounts. The worlds that historical romance opened up for me were very similar to the fantasy and science fiction I was reading, but also very different. There was a guaranteed feel good ending. The Happily Ever After. Now she also read mysteries and contemporary romances, but those didn’t spark for me then. I like mysteries, but they’re not my first choice unless they’ve also got a good love story attached!


I hope if you don’t read historical romance, you’ll give it (another?) try! And if you read a book you enjoy, regardless of genre, post a review to help spread the word or drop them a note through social media and make their day. It’s a fabulous way to thank an author!

If you need a recommendation, check out my post: 13 Repeatedly Reread Books or my Historical Romance Shelf on GoodReads or check out my Interviews section!

Get Ready to #FallBackInTime!

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Oct 262014

The Historical Romance Network, a group of over two hundred historical romance authors, are working to raise the visibility of the genre, to understand & breakdown misconceptions about the genre, to show the relevance of historical romance to the modern reader, and to help readers find the excitement these stories hold.

Next weekend when many in the U.S. is thinking about setting their clocks back and getting an extra hour of sleep, the Historical Romance Network is hosting an event to raise awareness and show off the variety available within the genre. On November 1st between 10am and 12 pm CST (or as close as you can!) post a selfie or a shelfie with your first, favorite or newest Historical Romance and include the hashtag #FallBackInTime! There’s something for everyone! So come and escape to the pleasures of the past!

Flyer for Historical Romance Netowork's #FallBackInTime Event on Nov 1st

May 292014

I’ll be teaching my SECRETS OF A RESEARCH NINJA online course next month for my local RWA Chapter in San Diego. It doesn’t matter if you’re a romance writer or even a writer at all, the class is open to everyone! So, if you’d like to improve your google-fu, this is the class for you.

Secrets of a Research Ninja

Everyone’s Googled something at least once, right? But there must be ways to make your searches more efficient, effective and accurate, because no one wants or needs pages and pages of endless irrelevant results.

Would you rather spend more time writing than on a frustrating search for that proverbial needle in an ever-growing haystack?

By the end of this two week class, you will:
– write better basic Google searches,
– recognize good & bad results,
– use advanced Google searches,
– learn about specialized Google searches, and
– have resources other than Google to use.

*Please note Google does not give all countries, Canada for instance, the same access to some options or advanced search methods covered in the course.

Online Course: 2 weeks of MWF Lessons & some light homework

Date: June 16 – June 27, 2014
Cost: $20.00 (RWA-SD members) / $25.00 (non RWA-SD members)
Open to: All

Click here to Register.

Hope to see ya there!

Last Chance! Research Ninja Class Starts Monday!

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Oct 052013

In case you missed signing up last week, you still have time to register for my SECRETS OF A RESEARCH NINJA workshop! Starts Monday!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the class was being delayed one week and will begin on Oct. 7th and run through Oct. 18th.


Dates: OCT 7, 2013 – OCT 18, 2013
Cost: $25 San Diego Chapter Members: $20
Instructor: Kristen Koster
Click to register on the RWASD Workshop page.

Everyone’s Googled something at least once, right? But there must be ways to make your searches more efficient, effective and accurate, because no one wants or needs pages and pages of endless irrelevant results.

Would you rather spend more time writing than on a frustrating search for that proverbial needle in an ever-growing haystack?

By the end of this two week class, you will:
– write better basic Google searches,
– recognize good & bad results,
– use advanced Google searches,
– learn about specialized Google searches, and
– have resources other than Google to use.

It’s shaping up to be a small-sized class, so you can ask lots of questions and get personal attention.

Upcoming Class: Secrets of A Research Ninja

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Sep 262013

It’s not to late to sign up for Secrets Of a Research Ninja, Class Starts Monday

You can register with PayPal, don’t know why it chose that text to “call out” as important.

Hope to see you there!

Feb 012013
My Writing Schedule Spreadsheet

My current writing schedule spreadsheet. I clipped my notes off on the right side. Gray boxes equal planned non-writing days and the ones with the dots masking the day mean I know I’ll have multiple interruptions. The numbers counting down in the purple column are working days left until my deadline. Click on the image to enlarge.

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “Do you have a writing schedule? How do you get stuff done?”

In many ways, I’m fortunate to be a stay at home mom. My biggest time suck is that I run taxi service for my kids back and forth to school. Thankfully this year they’re back in the same school and I don’t have to do the morning run twice, an hour apart. So this leaves me a huge block of time from about 7:30 am until 2:15 pm as my time. I do have some regular scheduled interruptions, the dog always seems to want to go out and there’s always something cropping up — it happens when you have two kids with different chronic health issues — hey, it happens when you don’t too!

That block of time is what I generally have reserved on my writing schedule during the week. There are times when I also need to work in the afternoons or evenings, but those should be the exception during the week. On weekends, I usually get up before everyone else and use that time on Saturdays for writing. Sundays are usually my free day.

I have a DayRunner planner that I jokingly call “My Brain”. I’m horrible about remembering stuff if I don’t write it down. However, I’ve also discovered that its calendar format isn’t flexible enough for me and I forget to check the book all the time. I noticed that the calendar sheets in it dated from 2007. Oops! I had been keeping my todo list in my weekly goals post on our group’s forum, which made looking ahead difficult. So my day runner is now a glorified checkbook and outdated address book holder.

This year, I decided I wanted to try something different. I know I’ll eventually want to juggle multiple projects so I wanted to try an ACT ASK IF exercise. I took an Excel spreadsheet and ran a column of dates for 2013 and another for week of the year broken up into 13 week sections. Then I have a set of columns for Drafting that includes word count information, a blog schedule, a set of columns for Revising — this quarter is focusing on devising my Revision plan that I talked about last week, and a set of columns for Brainstorming. I’ve also been tracking things like weekly word count, major distractions or scheduled appointments to work around.

I think one of the biggest things that this format let me see that a normal calendar system doesn’t is large chunks of time at once. I can look at the whole quarter and instantly see the blocks of grey which note planned off days and school vacations.

It also lets me see what impacts my daily routines and if I have set up a writing schedule that works for me.I was really worried looking back at the 2nd week, when I had 4 zeros and 2 days with less than 100 words written. This was the result of burnout from being excited and writing 900 words the week before when I hadn’t written that many new words in the previous month or so.

I’m sure this schedule will continue evolving as I determine realistic time frames and settle into my process for revisions. I like how I can look across the day’s line and see what needs to be done, but also as I’m writing up my Weekly Goals post on Sunday, I can easily see what’s coming up in the next week and beyond.

This is working really well in conjunction with Milestone Planner that my accountability group is using so we can see each other’s upcoming deadlines more easily.

YOUR TURN: Do you schedule time for your creative pursuits? Is it working for you?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Expand Your Comfort Zone With 4 Ideas

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Jan 112013
Photo of several sections of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Expand Your Comfort Zone -- A Photo of a section of the Berlin Wall at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. by Kristen Koster“What will you be doing this year to expand your comfort zone (in your writing or real life)?” is the question asked this week in my accountability group’s How I Write series. We’ve touched on this topic before and you can follow the progression in my thinking from my post “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” last June.

I chose this photo not simply for the restrictive and limiting symbolism of the Berlin Wall itself and how rigid some of our own comfort zones can become, but because of the empowering graffiti that surely helped bring about such liberating transformation: “YOU ARE POWER”, “STEP BY STEP”, “ACT UP”, and “CHANGE”.

Tell yourself, “YOU ARE POWER”

If you want to expand your comfort zone, don’t assume you’ll fail before you try. Most of the time we’re our own worst enemies because we sabotage our efforts before we even start. How many times have you thought, “Oh, I could never do that…”, “They’d never go out with someone like me…” or “What’s the use, that’ll never work…” We tell ourselves these things enough times and they become self-fulling prophecies. More like self-defeating nonsense. You’ll never know until you try. Flip those negative thoughts around! Instead, ask yourself questions like, “What if I could…”, “What if I were the type of person who…” and see what happens.

I’m not very good at this one yet, but I’m getting better at it. My first thought about submissions and pitches is no longer, “I can’t do this! They’ll hate it!” Agents and editors love books, they love discovering new ones they want to share with the world. The reason I say I’m not very good at this one is because my first thought is now, “What’s the worst they’re gonna say?” My fears answer “‘No.'” But that answer isn’t as scary any more. You know why? Because if you never ask, the answer is ALWAYS no. And one of these times I might find out that a “yes” might mean even more work and stress than “no” ever did. But that’ll be ok too.


Give yourself permission to try something new. Tell yourself “It’s ok. Just do it once, if you really hate it, don’t do it again. But at least you’ve tried.” Each step past the line is that much farther you’re stepping out and will expand your comfort zone. They don’t have to be huge steps, baby steps will expand your comfort zone just as effectively. As long as you keep taking them.

I used this one last year with RWA’s National Conference, 2 contests and pitching/submitting to some agents and editors. The verdict? I’m trying to talk myself into going to Nationals again this year! Not because I didn’t have a good time, I had a blast! It was overwhelming, but not nearly as bad as I’d feared. I didn’t final in the contests, but that’s ok, I did get some useful feedback! I did get some passes on the submission, but I also got a full request out of it. Now I need to finish another manuscript and do it again! But taking that first step would have been impossible, if I hadn’t given myself permission to only do it once.


Take some massive action! Take a risk! But make sure it matters. Attempt some outrageous feat that is scary, exciting and is a bit intimidating as well. It doesn’t have to be public at first, it can be private. But the important thing is to conquer it. Break it down into manageable steps, rehearse, visualize success. Then go do it! But remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at the first attempt. You tried and you only gain self-confidence through action. Thinking about your goal, talking about your goal. They’re good, up to a point. Some time you have to DO.

This one is a work in progress for me too. I like making plans and organizing projects, often to the point where that is more fun than completing the actual project. Last year, I decided I needed to step up my game. I jumped in at the deep end by attending the RWA National convention and, instead of hiding behind a query letter, pitching my manuscript in person, not once but twice. I survived. I wasn’t comfortable at times, but I pushed through and was rewarded with positive feedback and a chance to get my work read. How I’m going to top that this year remains to be seen.


Change is hard. No one likes it. Everyone tries to resist it. But often it’s not achieving a particular goal or level of success that defines us, but the changes you have to make along the way to expand your comfort zone in order to achieve it. You have to change your thoughts and actions to be those of the type of person you want to be in order to become that type of person.

Another one where I’m struggling to keep working at the changes in a consistent manner. One of the things I’m doing this year is attempting to keep a log of the time I spend writing and doing writing related things. I’m historically bad at logging things. But I want to see the progression from writing when the mood strikes or life allows to becoming an author, someone who writes books (plural) and to do that, I have to have something quantifiable to measure and become the type of person who logs things. Even minor changes can lead you outside your comfort zone in surprising ways.

Your Turn: How do you expand your comfort zone? Have you ever been really surprised to find something you really enjoy after having dreaded it previously?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Hello 2013 Goals, Thanks 2012!

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Jan 042013

Photo of hydrangea by Kristen Koster on flickr.comMy accountability group just kicked off a new year with new goals and are continuing with our How I Write series. This week, the question asked was, “What is one thing you’re going to do to refocus your 2013 goals that you learned in 2012?”

Each year I always seem to bite off more than I can chew. Always with the best intentions, of course. And always in the name of balance. I’ve tried several different methods of organizing my goals and what seemed to work best was a breakdown by quarters.

Last year, I had great plans to write a book along with my local RWA Chapter’s challenge participants. Life had other ideas. I’m refocusing on that book this year, but instead of just jumping in and running, I have a concrete step by step plan to see it all the way through.

Likewise, I did really well with my Project365 progress up until a certain point last year. I had worried about keeping up with such an ambitious project every day, but had settled into a comfortable routine until, it broke. This year, I will be focusing on one photo post per week, taking a lot of the pressure off.

This year, in pretty much all areas, I’m focusing on quality over quantity and approaching everything with a plan before execution, taking smaller bites. I’ve also learned that I absolutely must put my writing at a higher priority and I can’t be content to stay safe in my comfort zone.

So far, the momentum is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to keeping it building through out the year. Stay tuned, there are 51 Weeks to go!

Your Turn: What are you going to do different this year to reach your goals?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is changing this year based on lessons learned, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Jul 312012

I’m going to stray a bit from the typical Tuesday Regency Primer post, today. Last week, I attended the annual National Conference for the Romance Writers of America. The day before the official conference started, my online chapter The Beau Monde held its annual mini-conference which included breakfast, a general meeting, a variety of workshops. But the best part of the day was the Beau Monde soiree that evening, complete with refreshments, period dancing and card tables.

I managed to miss the breakfast and general meeting but made it for Candice Hern‘s workshop on Accessories in Regency Era fashion prints for everything from bonnets and caps to ridicules to muffs and shawls. I loved how it was organized by year and we got to see how the styles changed over the years. Everyone was laughing over the bonnet brims that looked like mail boxes around 1807.

After that, came lunch and Delilah Marvelle (she of the A Bit o’ Muslin blog fame) was our keynote speaker. Her story was amazing and emotional, but while I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, she also inspired and encouraged each of us to work through our struggles and convinced us that they can only make us stronger, as people, as writers.

Image of Apron-Front gown before show & tell started =)After lunch, Isobel Carr’s presentation was on How Clothes Worked, and included a bit of show and tell. She passed around a pair of stays, which really were nothing more than a long bra/foundation and were much softer in construction than I had originally imagined, except for the busk (the ivory, bone, or metal insert that insisted on correct posture at all times). When we got to gowns, the static photo of an apron-front or drop-front gown with its multiple layers and numerous ties proved too much for pictures and a simple verbal explanation.

Isobel Carr dressing Delilah Marvelle in an Apron-Front GownDelilah volunteered to be dressed in one that Isobel had brought along. Her white dress caused a few to remark how she already had her chemise on and would be perfect for the part. The inner bodice pieces tied in the front in a double-breasted fashion. Then, the front of the gown has two long ties that go around the back and tie in the front, but get tucked inside the front of the gown.


Almost done, just need some pins! Finally, the part hanging down like a bib at that point, would be pulled up over those ties and the inner bodice pieces and pinned into place. This, Isobel explained, was most likely the type of gown worn by ladies who needed to dress themselves and the most easily lent type as it was very forgiving in matters of size, although length was more of an issue for Delilah than anything else. If you see the dress in pictures from the soiree, another member, Suzy Kue, is wearing the dress. She’s much taller than Delilah and said she was taking notes on what all she could and couldn’t do while wearing the stays with the busk under the dress.


The Beau Monde SoireeThat evening, we regathered for a soiree. As all good ton events must be, this was quite the crush. A dance mistress was brought in to teach and lead several country dances while a string ensemble played in the corner. Several tables were set up around the room and multiple games of cards ensued. A table of refreshments was also provided, and thankfully not a drop of weak lemonade was in sight.

The Beau Monde (Chapter) SoireeActually playing whist against three other humans instead of computer AI’s was exciting. Next time, I definitely need to be able to describe the why’s and how’s of strategy while playing, otherwise it’s a bit much like a modern game of SlapJack to see who had the highest card and take the trick. But all in all, it was a fantastic experience to be surrounded not only by over 2000 romance writers, but to mingle, rub elbows and socialize with that many Regency Romance writers who all had similar knowledge and appreciation for the genre.