Monday, December 26, 2011

Prepping the Resolutions




I'm one of those people who loves Christmas in the weeks preceding, but is ready to pack up the decorations and shove them into the nearest closet once the festivities are over. And now in the remaining week of 2011, it's time to set your 2012 goals.

You have a week. One. Most people aim at losing weight, paying down debt, quitting smoking, getting more exercise. While all fantastic goals -- and while one such target sits on my "to do" list -- I found it very beneficial last year to set a writing goal for myself. Something to aspire to in the months spanning December 2010 to the present. And it just happened to be one of those resolutions I fulfilled, and damn if that's not a good feeling.

So I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, but it's December 26, and time to at least think about where you want to be next year, when it's a week from 2013. What do you want to have accomplished? And how exactly can you get there?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!


From all of us at Romancing the Muses!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's the Most Frustrating Time of the Year

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t seem to find the time to get anything done recently. Shopping, parties, families, wrapping, children’s plays, concerts, workplace gatherings, and so on and so on and so on. Even if you don’t celebrate a particular holiday over the season, it’s easy to find yourself stampeded by the number of external events that occur this time of year. This unfortunately comes with the side-effect of getting little to nothing accomplished when it comes to writing goals.

For this reason, in preparation of being overwhelmed, I decided to give myself December off, excepting my editing responsibilities. Aside from Christmas, I have a December birthday, a grandfather with a December birthday, and then my split family to arrange our plans around, my husband’s split family to arrange plans around, and then our work schedules/parties. It gets a little crazy. And after NaNoWriMo, I knew any hope of getting a significant amount of writing done in December was a pipe dream.

So if you find yourself trailing in your goals, it’s okay. It happens to the best of us. Just sit back, enjoy the holidays, and don’t blanch at the stack of work waiting when you get back to business in January. We always find away to muddle through it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Life's like something or other.

I’m not a fan of coconut, nor am I particularly keen on stringy caramel. The sort of caramel you get when you buy a Milky Way or a Snickers; I’ve come to the realization I like caramel depending on the form it’s in. Solids are good, stringy gak-like substances remain rather nasty, in my humble opinion.

Anyone here remember that popular movie from the 1990s? Bit saccharine now, if you go back and re-watch, but it remains an entertaining piece of American cinema. There was a line about a box of chocolates, life, and not knowing what to expect. Fortune cookie wisdom as it may be, there is a good amount of truth in the anecdote.

The publishing world comes with its coconuts and its peanut butters. Time, patience, and perseverance seem to be the key in success. You might have all the Internets gabbing about your latest release, only to receive dismal sales numbers. You might spend a lot in promotions, including merchandise such as bookmarks and print copies, but wait years before you make back the cash you invested. You might take yourself for an emotional roller coaster ride in writing the book, yet watch it get largely ignored by your readers.

Then again, you might write something fluffy and trivial only to have it be a sales dream come true. The truth is, you can’t know what’s going to do well. If there was a recipe for a success, believe me, we’d all be millionaires. All you can do is hope your work resonates with those who read it, enough that they come back for more. It might take years to develop a loyal readership; in the meantime, relax, unwind, and remember for every bad chocolate you eat, there’s one of a different flavor with your name on it. You just need to know when to suck it up and chew or spit it back out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing For The Market

Let's face it: All aspiring authors want to be successful. There is nothing wrong with that. However, I've recently seen an increase in authors who have decided to write in particular genres, not because they enjoy them or have a great new idea but due to the fact the genre sells. While this is totally up to the individual, I wanted to address how writing for the market can sometimes be a devil in disguise.

I've found that the books I've created that are most popular are the ones that come from the heart. These are stories that don't fit a mold but have to be told. I'll sit down, hammer the story out, and when I'm done I have a odd sense of accomplishment. However, I have written stories in the past that were a part of an anthology. Although I wrote the material, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the result. Why? Because it wasn't organic. Due to this I decided it wasn't in my best interest to dip my toes in anthology waters in the future unless the story I want to tell is mine and mine alone.

Each of us have our own ideas and interests that excite us. I think that when we write these things our enthusiasm shows on the page. Consider this when you're deciding what it is that you want to write. Sales are well and good but keep in mind there is no guarantee that just because you write in a genre that your book will be a hit. Luck, promotion, and word of mouth play a huge role in this; something you can't control. What you can control is what you put out there for the world to enjoy.

Just something to think about.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season! Here's your eye-candy of the week!

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog For A Public Service Announcement

I know this is a break from our typical topics, but being that it is the season for depression, I thought I’d do something a lot different for those who might need to hear it.

We’ve all heard the statistics regarding depression and the holidays. Heck, there’s even been a catchy little acronym coined to describe the sentiment – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. No one is safe from S.A.D. There might be routine victims – people who know to expect it – or it might hit someone out of the blue after umpteen years of being jolly and festive during the winter months. S.A.D. is difficult to understand as many of its sufferers, myself included, absolutely LOVE the holidays. The knowledge the season is one of your favorites and therefore should inspire joy can only worsen the effects of S.A.D., and if you don’t understand it, it’s hard to get over.

S.A.D. is commonly thought to be caused by lack of serotonin. The sun is a natural provider of serotonin, and in winter, when the days are shorter and the weather is often dreary, the sun has no way of transmitting this important chemical. Among other things, low serotonin levels are “believed to be the reason for many cases of mild to moderate depression which can lead to symptoms like anxiety, apathy, fear, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia and fatigue.”

Serotonin is hardly linked just to S.A.D. I take two medications to boost my serotonin levels as part of my treatment for OCD. Learning what you can about these important make-or-break brain chemicals, even knowing there is a cause, can be the difference between having happy holidays or a Blue Christmas. I highly encourage everyone who has suffered or is suffering from S.A.D. to do some research.

I promise we’ll be back to normal next week. :o)

Read more on S.A.D. here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock

This is it, folks. My last post of November. NaNoWriMo’s winding to a close, local radio stations have begun their solid playlist of nothing but Christmas music, Black Friday is now 2011 history, and many of us in the western hemisphere have exchanged our shorts and tank tops for sweaters and snow-boots.

That’s right. We are one month – one freakin’ month – away from kissing a whole year goodbye. Is it just me, or didn’t we just yesterday start proclaiming Happy New Years and checking off those goals we wanted accomplished by the end of 2011? We have less than a month until Christmas arrives, and if your family is anything like mine, that means time in December to do anything writing-productive will be preciously sparse.

One month. How close are you to your yearly goals? Did you meet them, exceed them, or were they just a hair out of reach? Most people will make idle goals they really intend to see through—lose weight, get a handle on their spending habits, and so forth. I’ve done every cliché resolution one can muster and have decided, rather than disappoint myself, to apply my resolutions to things I know I can and should accomplish if I just keep on keeping on.

So check your watches. Mark your calendar. If there remain things you needed to accomplish in 2011, the clock is ticking. 2012 and a whole new set of goals will be here before any of us can blink.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaNo ... veteran?

I've just stopped long enough to read the last few posts about
NaNo - clearly I've been too involved in NaNo to stop and
read much of anything for the last oh, 22 days.

I guess I'm a NaNo veteran because I've been doing it since
2008.  Not as long as some out there have been, but long
enough to know just what the month of November means to
a writer involved.   My first year I was smokin' !  Having enrolled
late, somewhere around the 9th of the month and finishing early.
Obviously my 'day job' at that point didn't take up a lot of my
time. lol   The book I wrote that first year was actually published
after many months of fixing it.   The next few
years weren't as fast paced as the first, but I have still managed
to slide across the finish line with no recollection of what day or
time it was.

This year I've been pushing it to the limit trying to get it done
while working full time and completing a month long book tour.
It's been exhausting, but still invigorating to do.  I reached
40k by the half way mark so I could coast for the last half, knowing
my motivation and energy would dwindle for the home stretch.

I have a friend that signed on this year and she's been struggling
quite a bit.  She's been too focused on that big 5-0 at the end.
I told her my secret to getting there without losing all sanity and
from the last few posts on here, I think I'll share it with everyone
at RtM too!

Don't look back.  That's the main thing I do to cross that finish
line before December 1st.  I write, with minimal corrections - only
those newly created typo words get fixed as I go (what can I say
they flash at me like beacons).  Each day before I pick up where
I left off, I take ten minutes (no more) and read what I blundered
onto the page the day before, mostly to pick up the same flow I
had going on ... then I just write.  Corrections can be done in
December!  Little plot oops's can be fixed in December!  I've had
to scrap entire chapters in the following months because my brain
and characters were all over the place.

I also carry a notebook with me everywhere when I'm not writing -
yes I can be found hiding in the back room at work scribbling like
a mad scientist in a notebook - if your plot is rolling and your characters
are willing to run for you, then write it down!  Guaranteed if you have
that 'great idea' for the story when your nowhere near the computer, it
will vanish like free chocolate if you don't jot down enough to bring
the scene back to you.  Somedays I'd never get any word count posted
if it wasn't for translating that scribbling into scenes.

Last thing I do - I don't watch that word count thingy!  I set a goal -
write a chapter a day, two chapters, 500 words or 1000 words...
set your own goal and plod ahead towards your goal.  Before you
know it you'll take a peak at that nifty little graph in your NaNo stats
and see that your doing just fine.

In my eyes, anyone that signs up and attempts to complete this thirty
day marathon .. is a winner!


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Importance of a Creative Nap

For the first time in what feels like longer than it actually was, I did nothing all weekend.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did put “THE END” on my NaNo project, which ended up 15k more than I planned, but still 10k short of the actual NaNo goal. At any rate, I’m calling it a win. It was my novice venture into the national writing month, and I consider it an overall success.

As well as draining beyond belief. Can you say holy cow? I’m ready to sleep until 2016. I'm sure other NaNoers agree...whether or not you've crossed the finish line. I definitely have new-found respect for those who make this an annual event, as I hope to do...though I must say, the thought of going through it again right now? Yeah, I'll need a year before it sounds feasible.

Which brings me to my point. Writers, if you need a break? If you've been working day in and out for the past however long? If you've forgotten what the sun looks like? Push your chair back from the computer and go on a walk. See a movie. Take a nap. Do something for you that you don't consider work.

For as much as I harp about constantly getting the words out, it is important to treasure your downtime. It’s been forever, as I lamented to the hubs over the weekend, since I read a book just to read it. I’m always writing or editing; reading for the sake of entertainment and relaxation does not come easy anymore.

During this holiday week, to all who celebrate, make sure to take some time for yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need your rest if you want to meet your goals.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNo Fatigue

This is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I gotta say, I was steaming along quite nicely until I remembered breathing is essential in any race, and I’ve been holding mine far too long.

This is the middle of the month. As of tomorrow, you better be at least ½ through your NaNo goal to be considered on track. For those aiming at 50k, that would indicate your current word count should be around 25k, which mine is. And unlike the standard NaNo goal, I’m working specifically on a submission call for one of my publishers, and I didn’t intend for my project to go too far past 25k. I’m looking now at maybe 10-15k more before I can stick a fork in it, and I can tell you, I desperately want this project finished if only to give myself a moment to catch my breath.

For those of you career NaNo writers out there, how do you do this? What techniques do you implement whenever you’re feeling draggy or have reached the incline? I feel like I’m on the business end of a shotgun, walking a mile-long stretch of rising hill with no plateau in sight. Granted, I am pleased with what I’ve written thus far, even if it will need ample revision in the coming weeks before it’s ready to be submitted. I just need to keep the momentum going.

Is the best advice just to keep moving even if your creative muscles are dying for rest? No pain, no gain? Please share your wisdom. I know I won’t be the only one listening.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Editor

At one point or another, we all receive a particularly heinous markup. For many of us, this markup is the first of many. For some of us, it’s a wake-up call. This is a manuscript you submitted returned to you with so much color you can’t even tell what part of the book is yours anymore. If you’re anything like me, some of the first thoughts that rush through your head are, “Oh. My. God,” “Why did they even contract this?” and “I am a complete failure.”

We’ve all had that markup. Some of us have had it more than once. And if you haven’t had that markup, you’re either a fantastic, flawless author who defies error, or you haven’t yet had a good editor. The point being this—a good author will go, “I need to fix this,” and get to work, all the while trying to pick up on those things that could be incorporated into a future project to avoid such problems. A bad author will make the changes without trying to pick up on how these things could be avoided. Some authors, like myself, might be mortified the MS had such glaringly obvious and easily fixable mistakes. Even if your editor prevents you from embarrassing yourself in front of readers, the sensation of receiving a markup noted with obvious flaws leaves one feeling as they might if someone caught them with their pants down in public. It doesn’t matter that most everyone didn’t see you; the knowledge that someone did is enough.

Some people will, as I said, be mortified. Others will simply be angry.

And why shouldn’t we be angry? Writing is different from most other professions. It’s personal, it’s hard, it’s us on a page. To see so much of what you poured yourself into being marked as flawed, corrected, or demanded changed can be one nasty wake-up call. If your editor is the sort to leave comments, you might even start assigning a certain voice or tone to how you imagine they intended it to come across. How you imagine they gleefully cherry-picked your words and intentionally took things one way instead of another just to make you look foolish. After all, this person came through your manuscript like a hurricane, finding words you missed, seeing things you feel you should have seen, and acting all superior-like as if the book is theirs and not yours. Why not make them the bad guy? How would they like it if someone trashed all over their work?

The simple answer is this: editors have a job to do. Their job is not to make you feel bad, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, defensive or any combination thereof. Their job is to ensure they are the last person between you and your readers who sees the manuscript with its warts. They are there to help, not hurt.

Now, does this mean there are no bad editors? Of course not. Some editors will look through a sorry manuscript and change nothing but a comma here or there. Does this mean there are no vindictive editors? Of course not. All this means is when you do receive a manuscript that is marked from start to finish with corrections and comments, give your editor the benefit of a doubt. Look at what they say, and try to read it with some degree of neutrality. Unless they come out and say, “This book is a piece of fucking shit and you couldn’t write your way out of a burning paper sack”, they probably don’t mean the things they say in the tone you ascribe them. If anything, that tone you hear is more likely the way you feel about them…or the work itself. At the very least, don’t jump to conclusions. Just take a deep breath and push onward, one step at a time. And if all else fails, contact someone. You and your editor are on the same side, and you have the same endgame. You want the book to be its best.

At the end of the day, communication is key. You just have to decide what sort of author you want to be: the kind to immediately become defensive, or the sort to look through the work while taking a hard look at yourself at the same time. A thorough markup, unless it is plainly obvious, just means the editor cares about the book, cares about the author, can cares about their work. It means they did their job.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'll take some editing ... please...

Recently I did something that I was probably crazy to do -
my time is so limited on a normal basis that when I pondered
this idea I left out 'sleep time' on the list of calculations.
But I did it and as soon as I recoup from too many late
nights and not enough sleep I may still do the happy dance.

What did I do?
I took some previously published works and put them together
and brought them back out through Amazon.  Doesn't sound
complicated I know, but trust me I have a new found respect
for what our publishers do for us as writers.

There were hitches along the way - I didn't read html (required for some
formatting) and I'm not a cover artist - not to mention I am in no way shape or form an
editor.  In fact I cherish editors for taking my ramblings and
honing in on the good parts and weeding out the stuff that shouldn't
be there.

The result of my hard work was this : Two books. One with two related
novellas (previously published) and a third related story added to make
it a complete mini-serious under one cover.  The second book with
a popular (previously published) story and then a second story of
related topic but not connected.

I hired an editor for the two new stories, deciding that the other three
had already undergone several rounds of edits, line edits and copy edits -
and surely there would be no more editing required after all of that, after all
in reviews no one had ever mentioned a problem with it while they were
on the book shelf.  As I said before I am no editor and while I can spot the
obvious issues all the little rules still escape my attention.  I did re-read my
own stories and if I changed anything it wasn't something that would affect
it as far as editing goes.

So after four months of taking on this extra brilliant idea, I heaved a huge sigh
of relief when the second one came out a month after the first.  Then I moved onto
a month long tour for both to "get them out there".

Not all things are going as well as I'd hoped...

According to reviews, the stories are loved, plots are original and
intriguing, characters are rooted for ... but editing falls way below the
standard.   I was shocked and needless to say a little miffed by this.
I trust the reviewers would know good or bad editing, as they read
numerous books and would see when editing falls short.

Where do I go from here?  Is what I've been wondering for the last
few weeks.  If it were my car or any other product you can bet your
last dollar that I'd be demanding it be done properly - but how do
you go about demanding your words be fixed right this time?  Was it the
first editors that made the error or the service I paid quite a piece of
cash for?  I haven't determined the answer to that one yet and a part of
me doesn't want to know.  I had three people, including myself read
these works in their completed form prior to releasing them - so are we
just blind or are the reviewers extremely picky?  Again, I don't know.

Do I write a huge disclaimer stating 'editing may or may not be present' or
just chalk it up to a valuable lesson and carry on from there?   As writers /
authors we are trusted that our works are 'original' and in no where 'borrowed'
from others ... so shouldn't we be able to trust the editing that it is complete
and done properly?   I would like to think so, but again maybe I'm just
reaching too high.

This won't deter me from doing this again in the future, if the opportunity
arises - I will however have to find a way to ensure the editing has been done
...  well, I'll work on that issue when it comes around again.

For now, I am just going to focus on the crazy tour schedule, the three
contracts I signed, NaNoWriMo, polishing my two WIPS, my work
schedule and of course my family ... maybe sleep somewhere in all of that too.

*pats self on shoulder for not turning this into a rant*

:)






Monday, October 31, 2011

On your mark, get set, WRITE!

Tomorrow begins National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it’s more commonly called. And for the first time ever, I intend to participate. Why? Well, why not? It’s our month, after all. A month for writers to celebrate the joy that is writing—and get a manuscript ready in what seems to be record time.

During NaNo, the idea is to just write. Get the words on paper. Don’t stop to edit, the only thing you have to beat is the clock. Write until you can’t feel your fingers, and then rest up because tomorrow brings more of the same. The word count goal is 50k, and though my ambitions aren’t quite as high, I’m not cutting myself any slack. 50k/30 days = approx. 1667 words a day. Yes, this is a daunting task…especially to those of us with jobs, children, and other interruptions. However, it is likewise not unattainable, and if you tackle it with the idea of 200-300 words here and there throughout the day, the goal is easy to come by.

Regardless if you participate in NaNo, the principles behind the month-long event are those to keep in check at all times. Writing the novel is key to everything else. Editing comes later. Don’t think. Just do it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy almost Halloween! I know it's not quite the 31st yet, but what can I say, I party early and often!

Since I'm still under deadline mania, I'll leave you with this spooky moon picture I took outside my house a couple years ago and a question:

How do you celebrate Halloween? And if you don't celebrate this particular holiday, which holiday is your favorite?

Happy Halloween everyone!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'll Take Mine Tall Dark and Deadly, Please

I was recently asked to guest blog as a part of a weeklong event celebrating the thrills and chills of Halloween. I decided to write about my love of vampires—what attracts me to them, and why so many of my works involve a vampire hero. Many authors have a niche, and while we might occasionally stray, it’s difficult to let go of something for which we have such passion. Personally, while I enjoy short writing interludes or novellas with characters living in the “real world,” I much prefer fantastical backdrops, characters, or both.

For those of you who have a niche, what is it? Why do you find yourself drawn there again and again? What attracts you? For me, it’s the dark, redeemable character, so long as he’s sans the angst prevalent in a lot of vampire novels. Not that there’s anything wrong with it—it is popular for a reason—but I like my heroes to be confident, snarky, but not infallible. Waiting for the right woman to turn them to mush. I can’t explain it—other than it terrified my mother until I met my sweetheart nerd of a husband.

We write what we want to read, and writers tend to read what they want to write. So what draws you to your favored genres and heroes? What gets your muse cranked? What gets you excited? How did you find your passion?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keeping the Faith

This very long, meandering blog is cross-posted at both Romancing The Muses and Three Wicked Writers Plus Two because a) I think (hope) it is useful for the readers of both sites and b) me coming up with two blog posts this week=impossible. My apologies.

I've told the story often about how I worked on my first book for 16 years. Nope, that's not a typo. I started it the summer after freshman year of high school, and finally in 2011 the story it evolved into, Insatiable, was published. I was 35 when it hit the virtual shelves. (If you're wondering about the difference in years, there were several where it sat on my hard drive, unedited, while I worked on other projects.)

Way back when, I didn't get how a person wrote a book. Putting in a cohesive beginning, middle and end, keeping things entertaining, adding in a strong conflict, ensuring there was a character arc…wha?!? I didn't get it. So I kept starting my story over again, sure I'd found a better way to write it. The book even had a different hero for about ten years.

I learned how to write with that book. After every craft book I read, every article, every time I put down a Nora Roberts book and said, "damn, I want to do that," I returned to that story. And as much as I dreamed of one day being a "real writer",  deep down, I honestly didn't believe it would ever happen.

Until it sort of did.

Truthfully, I don't know if I consider myself a real writer yet. There are all sorts of internal benchmarks that qualify that status to me, and I don't think I've hit them. But I can at least say that people I don't know have paid money to read up my made up stories and whoa, nelly, that's the most awesome thing ever. I regularly pinch myself that I've even come this far. So many people I know aren't happy in their jobs and work just to make the ends meet - and while I do have a day job, writing has never felt like work to me. Yes, it's hard. Often. But it's what I love to do, what I wished for…and experiencing even a fragment of my dream has been unreal.

Reminding myself of all this also allows me to let up a bit on the pressure I put on myself. I finished my first book in 2007. Since then I've finished 11 more short stories, novellas and novels. I've started probably another 10-15 more that are in various stages of completion. I've come so much farther than I ever expected when I couldn't even figure out how to get past that saggy middle. And how did I do it? It's simple, but so difficult. I sat my butt in the chair and kept going.

The doubt crows circled, I kept writing. The rejections came in, I kept writing. Even when a new shiny plot bunny scampered up to my desk and demanded I write his story now, I kept writing. That was the only part of this process I could control. And through writing, through pushing through the sticky parts and the boring parts and the scenes that seemed to go for 100 pages without a point, I learned. I developed a voice and a style and eventually the drive that had been buried under all the self-doubts started to rear its persistent little head.

I'm not one of those people who has a million degrees and has found success in ten different careers. Writing is my THING. This is the thing I need to succeed at, the thing that keeps me up at night. And though everyone's definition of success is different, I'll know it (I hope) when I get there.

The reason I didn't have enough brain left to write two blog posts this week is because I sort of agreed to write a novella in 2 weeks. Thanks to edits on other books, that two weeks has become one. Who knows if I'll make that deadline, but that I even have a fraction of the tools needed to make that possible is very cool indeed.

I just wanted to hopefully encourage some of the newer writers out there with my story. Sometimes it seems like everyone got on the bus way before you did (happens to me all the time) but we're all still learning and growing. Writing is something you can always improve at, but I'm not sure you can master it. There are always new benchmarks to hit, new goals to strive for. And we're all striving together.

To sum up this very long-winded and possibly pointless post - in the immortal words of U2's Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me… it's all about "believing in yourself almost as much as you doubt." Struggling to tip the scales in your favor is a day to day fight, at least for me.

Do you have a THING? Doesn't have to be writing or even something you want to do for a career. Sometimes our hobbies are our things, and that's awesome too. I'd love to hear about that THING that brings you joy and passion and makes you want to do your best.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The start of a marathon

No, I haven't taken up running.  I wish I had the
time and energy left to even consider running.  My
exercise requirements are more than full filled when
I'm at my job, where most days I don't sit or stop
for at least eight hours.

The marathon I am involved in is that promotional
one authors have to do to be found.  Found by
readers that is.

I've been such a good girl lately and listening to all the
publicity words of wisdom and have been doing at
least some of the social media requirements of
getting your name out there.  I may not have the time
to post and update as often as I should, but I'm trying.

For some reason when my first book was published I
thought the hardest part was over- the writing and editing.
I'm a little red in the face now that I know that's the
easy part!   I've just signed on for a month long
virtual book tour for my release that came out last
month and the one coming out in two days time.

So now all I have to do is fit in (while still working six
days a week) the answers for interview
questions, record the interview with the host for the
radio podcast, prepare promo's and fun giveaway ideas
for the live chat, think of and write several guest blogs,
hold my breath and hope for the best on all the
reviews stops,  make sure I'm at all of the stops
throughout their scheduled day (netbook will be
accompanying me to work for a month) oh and
remember to tweet about all of it along the way!

It's a good thing I manage a cafe or my kids might
starve in the next four weeks.

I guess the question all authors need to ask
themselves after they're published is
"How bad do you want your work out there?"

Of course Murphy's law- or I suppose being the
blog that this is that would be more appropriate
to say Rhiannon's Law **waves at Jaime and hopes she
laughs at the promo for her I slipped in**
 ... states my edits for other contracted books WILL arrive
during all of this around the web in a month fun!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Momentarily winded

I know this topic has been covered before, likely ad nauseum, but since we all have short attention spans, it seemed safe to go over it again.

One day you’re running a mile a minute; words can’t appear quick enough on the screen, you’re typing them so fast, desperate to catch them before they disappear. The streak seems impossible to break, even if you do miss a day at the keyboard. You’re speeding along too fast to notice you’re tired, and pushing through fatigue is as easy for you as it is for MacGyver to disarm a bomb. You’ll find a way.

Recently, this was me. I was writing so much I could hardly keep up with myself. I finished a second installment in a series, and proceeded to the prologue of the third book without breaking stride. I alternated between stories, desperate to keep up with myself. I wanted to get half of the next book complete before even thinking about the other book’s publication. And all was going great until the real world I was desperate to ignore came crashing in. Suddenly I had my schedule packed with a book to edit, a move to complete, a missing coworker at work, CPs, more edits, and on and on we go. It’s no wonder my hot-streak abandoned me. Truly, it was only a matter of time.

I hate not writing. I hate the “I’ll do it tomorrow” mentality, because I know tomorrow won’t fare any better unless I make myself do something today. I’ve preached before about not forcing words when they won’t budge, and while that’s true to a degree, there is also something to be said between recognizing the difference between block, fatigue, and simple losing of one’s footing. I think mine is a mixture of the latter two. The one thing that comforts me is the knowledge it won’t last. Just as a hot streak can’t stay hot forever, nor can a lapse in productivity. Eventually, as any writer will attest, stories, characters, and words can’t help from pushing on the corners of your mind until you have no option but to let them loose on paper.

In the meantime, try some writing exercises. Read, go on walks, do those things you normally do when inspired. Eventually the pieces will fall back into place…just be ready for the words to come rushing out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Subjectivity

If there's one thing I've learned as an author, it's that when it comes to books opinions are subjective. What one person loves another may hate. As someone who loves to read, I know what it's like when I fall in love with a novel and have people ask, "Why in the hell did you enjoy this?" A good example is my favorite book, Never Let Me Go. Some people have loved it. However, a vast majority don't understand my emotional connection with the characters. Understandably, it's not a light read. I've read Never Let Me Go over a dozen times and always find something new to love. It just goes to show that not everyone has the same experience when they settle in and embark on the journey an author wants to take them on.

It's very important as a writer to remember this when it comes to submissions and rejections. Just because someone doesn't like what you're putting out there it doesn't mean someone else won't. I recently had a release that I wasn't sure would ever be published. It wasn't that "I" didn't like it, rather it appeared that the first couple of publishers I submitted to didn't. Determined to give things one final try, I submitted the book to a publisher I really wanted to be at, crossed my fingers and, what do you know, received a contract offer. Consequently, my editor wanted to see all of the manuscripts that were unpublished and offered contracts for those after reading them. She's an enormous supporter and fan of my work. And the best part? The reader response to the book has been extremely positive, I'm currently working on the next novel in the series, and my editor and I are extremely excited about the project.

I think it's very important to remember how subjective things are when it comes to publishing. Sometimes it's best to keep pushing, to search for that one person who "gets" you. Trust me when I say there is no better reward than finding an editor who believes in you, your work, and wants to make you the best author you can be.

Now for the eye candy of the week. He just so happens to be on one of my soon-to-be-released covers. I didn't know it at the time, but he's extremely popular and one of the best known romance cover models in the industry. It's not difficult to see why. *grin*

Monday, October 10, 2011

Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under 't.

I recently revisited a local used bookstore that, as a child, I frequented almost daily. My brother and I would walk the half mile with a packed lunch, spend hours combing through the stacks of books, and eat on the steps outside the store. The owners know me well, having watched me grow up, and as a writer have advised me toward authors in my genre.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I began bonding with one of the owners over our mutual love of urban fantasy and paranormal romances. During my last visit, I discovered this particular bookstore was rewarded a high honor by Romantic Times. When I began discussing my works, I was advised, very urgently, not to place my works with Publish America.

Hopefully most, if not all, of us, would classify this is a no-brainer. Even those who are relatively new to the scene have heard horror stories about PA. I was, at first, somewhat offended that this woman with whom I had a fairly good relationship would think I’d be desperate enough to get a book published that I would go with just anyone. I politely informed her that I was very familiar with PA and assured her I do my research when it comes to publishers. I then, promptly, stuck my foot in my mouth in discussing e-publishing…of course, as a bookstore owner, the subject of e-readers is slightly touchy. We left on good, if slightly awkward terms.

In the weeks since, I’ve considered her warning against PA, as well as my initial offense. Logically, she was only looking out for my best interest, and doing her part in ensuring a young author didn’t get duped as so many have. She even told me about someone she knew who was struggling with PA after having signed a contract. The thing is, to most of us, Publisher America is anything from a horror story to a bad joke. Yet it became that way because of those who had a book they loved and wanted to see it published. The reason Googling Publish America auto-fills in “scam” is people were scammed in the past, and continue to be scammed now because they don’t know how to research.

Writers want their books to be liked. We want our work to be accepted. We want to see our names, our titles, our characters, our plots, our words in print. Getting that first yes is a rush unlike anything I can successfully describe to a layperson. Some of us write for money, others for the love of it, and many for both. When I was shopping with my first novella, admittedly I could have been someone duped by PA. I was gullible, naïve, and believed as long as I got the finish, whatever else is worth it.

That’s not true, of course. An author should never feel like a commodity. If a publisher wants your book, it should be because they see something in it, something in you. There are many ways bad contracts can happen to good authors, but from my observations, the most prevalent are the following: the author doesn’t believe in him/herself, the author doesn’t do their research, and the author isn’t assertive enough to state what they want.

Having a fantastic manuscript at a subpar, sleazy pub does nothing for you. So do yourself a favor: before you submit, make sure you have exhausted the numerous resources at your disposal. Email authors from that publisher and inquire about their experience, dig up info at Absolute Write, Preditors and Editors, Piers Anthony, etc. Google the publisher name and pay attention to the most-searched key terms, ask as many questions as possible and be sure to listen to all the answers. Don’t end up in a situation you weren’t prepared for. You owe it to yourself and your writing to make sure you have every opportunity to succeed.

And for those of us who are a little more seasoned than the others, when someone offers friendly advice (no-brainer as it sounds now), don’t get offended. We were once the new kids on the block, and some of us still are. Getting tips like, “Avoid Publish America,” might seem a little on the nose, but once upon a time, it was news to us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

There's No Business Like Show Business

Promotion.

Don’t bother trying to run; it won’t do you any good. We’ve touched upon this topic several times here at Romancing the Muses, most recently just a few weeks ago when Jacquelyn had over a guest poster to discuss the nature of the beast. Unless you’re one of those people who loves pushing their product out into an already saturated market, promotion is likely the bane of your existence. It’s certainly the bane of mine. And yet, with every release, you have to ask yourself: “How can I expect people to buy it if I don’t let them know it’s there?”

When you’re a relatively unknown author, even if you do have a handful of past publications to your name, you can’t rely on notoriety to sell your book for you, especially in a market where every story has been written eighteen different ways, and that’s only since yesterday. But here’s the kicker: good promotion is like fine dining – it usually ain’t free. You’ve heard in order to make money, you must spend money. In order to clean up, you need to make a mess. That’s the way it goes. You spend on bookmarks, collectibles, gift cards for giveaways, shipping and handling, hard copies, conventions, and so on. What you pay might triple what you make, but in the process you gain readers, fans, meet fellow authors, develop business contacts, cultivate groups, and so on. The payoff might take a while to see, but I promise it’ll be hard to miss.

The best promotion, however, is being available. Twitter, Facebook, emails, blogging, etc. Make yourself the person everyone wants to meet. And, of course, writing. Developing a backlist is essential. Write so much a reader can’t visit a new website without seeing a new upcoming release with your name on the cover. Try to conquer the fear of over-saturation. Make that your challenge, and I can damn well guarantee you’ll see results.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Rest" Is A Four-Letter Word.

Last week, I likened my move to outlining to make sure those ideas you get at random points throughout the day don’t get left behind in the frenzy to get words on paper. This week, I’m going to use the same analogy, only on the other end.

So I’ve moved. My husband and I boxed, trucked, transported, and unloaded all our earthly belongings. We did it in less than a week, and I must say, I am most impressed with us. Of course, I am achy and tired now, and don’t want to consider the boxes I have now to unpack and the various items that now need a new place. I mean, I did the hard part, right? Isn’t a break in order?

In the writing industry, there are no breaks. Sorry. Unless you want to stop seeing your name on Coming Soon lists, you don’t get to pause. If it’s not writing, it’s editing. If it’s not editing, it’s promoting. If it’s not promoting, it’s writing. Writing is just Phase One. Finishing the manuscript feels fantastic, certainly, but don’t let yourself get too comfortable. You still have to read through the damn thing again, send it to CPs, make adjustments, tweak out unnecessary words/scenes, make sure your characters’ eyes stay the same color throughout, write a blurb, condense your manuscript into a 3-page synopsis, send it to the publisher(s), sign your contract, fill out cover art forms, meet your editor, complete edits, and then when release day hits the real work begins.

Seem like a lot? It is. But if you’re serious about what you do, you’ll look forward to each step.

I suppose the trick is to take it in installments. For me, I’m handling my move with one box at a time, one room at a time. It’ll take a while, but I’d rather go slow and cautious than wonder where the heck I put my laptop power cord. It’s also important to get a checklist or filing system in place, that way you can cross off the hurdles as they come. Promotion? Review sites? Publishers? I have a folder for each in my email box, and with as handy as folders are, there is no excuse to remain disorganized.

For many people, writing is a job. That doesn’t mean you don’t love your job—I love writing, and while I could take or leave the rest, I have to recognize its value. And yes, you get to set the hours and determine when you’re going to show up for work, but unless you have put in the hours, you can’t realistically expect your first paycheck to be spectacular.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.

Right now, the downstairs of my townhouse is in complete disarray. For the past few months, the hubs and I have been looking at houses, duplexes, and luxury apartments; over the weekend, we found the one we wanted. Perfect location, perfect price, perfect size – the full nine yards. Being that we don’t want to pay double rent, we must motor in order to get out of our current place by the end of the month. Thankfully, we had the foresight to go month to month well before our lease was set to expire/renew; all that’s left is the actual approval of our application and notifying our current landlords that we won’t be here in October.

In the meantime, we have a week to pack. Well, the big stuff, at least. The townhouse is a freakin’ warzone. Donating two trash bags, two suitcases, and one plastic tub full of clothing, not to mention selling enough DVDs to bring in over $300, has done little to dent the amount of stuff the hubs and I have collected over the years.

Being scattered, disorganized, frenzied, and without direction obviously isn’t unique to moving. We have a goal: get the hell out of our place and into the new one. Writers also have a goal: take an idea, nurture it, build upon it, watch it mature, and turn it into a coherent piece of literature. If you think this task is any less daunting, you’re kidding yourself. Piecing scenes, characters, plot arcs, twists, conflict, relationships, and resolution into an entertaining, captivating, well-written story that any publisher would be proud to brand is downright terrifying.

Even for you pantsers out there, there is no harm in keeping a small notebook close at hand for when inspiration strikes. You could be standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart and suddenly know how to dig yourself out of the hole you’ve managed to land in. By the time you sit down to write it, though, the finer details might have escaped you, so you’re back at square one. And please, from someone who has learned from experience do not rely on your memory to keep things in check. I don’t care how sharp you think you are, you are bound to forget where you packed what. This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping a detailed journal (as I do), but scribbling coherent notes will save you a lot of searching, and notes are not set in stone. My aunt once lamented over the fact she had taken the time to write a quick two-word descriptor for a project, yet without reference or reason, had no idea what she meant when she got back around to it. I know myself too well to think I can keep everything locked in my mind, and my memory has been lauded by friends has being freakishly accurate.

If you find yourself staring down a monstrous undertaking, take a deep breath. More often than not, things have a way of working themselves out…no matter how unlikely it might seem at the time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Will Improve

I've talked about this before, but I felt like touching on the topic again. It's not something that's easy to write about, because it reveals the insecurities authors experience (at least me, anyway). I'm referring to the projects that aren't quite "there." The short stories, novellas, or full length works that are decent after completion but seem to turn to uber-trash when release day is near and an author realizes the entire world will be able to read them.

I've never denied that I don't like much of my work. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy writing them -- very much, in fact. However, that elated feeling I experience always sours when it's time to get the book in shape for the reading public. Perhaps it's due to edits, which will make anyone's confidence deflate. Or maybe it's due to the fact that authors do become better at their craft with each book they write.

The truth is earlier works will "probably" show inexperience -- at least to the person who wrote them. Although an author is attached to a story, they are usually the first to see mistakes when they open the file and give it a read. Perhaps it's passive voice, or repetitive word choice. Whatever their weaknesses at the time, I can guarantee an author will spot them time and time again when they go over their stories. I've spoken to  authors who are as guilty of this as I am. Once you start nit-picking, it's difficult to stop.

So what's the point of the blog? What message am I trying to share?

Keep writing.

You will get better. You will improve. If you're tempted to revisit an earlier work, do so understanding that you're continuing to evolve, therefore you might not be pleased with things you wrote a couple of years ago. If you're feeling down about a manuscript, remember this: Look forward, not back.

Now, for the eye candy of the week!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Live and Let Die

So for the past few weeks, I have barely written 500 words. This wasn’t a byproduct of a creativity drought or anything of the sort—I have stories I want to tell, yet obligations piling upon obligations, and finding time for the self and the muse becomes more and more burdensome. Needless to say, edits arrived, and I’ve been buried in them.

It’s somewhat unique to be in the middle of a serious edit on someone else’s manuscript and receive edits for one of your babies. I am immensely pleased overall with the changes suggested by my editor, Ruby Green, for today’s release. I feel she more than did her job, especially considering the story was such a short one. It’d be easy to do perhaps two rounds and say “good enough,” but she didn’t. And I’m glad, because I’m confident the product that hit the e-shelves was the best version of the story out there.

On the other hand, I received these edits while editing a new manuscript by an author with whom I was unfamiliar. I won’t go into details here, but needless to say, after completing edits for my release, completing the first markup on this assignment, and sending it back to the author, switching back into writing mode proved a little difficult. Often when I’ve been editing a project for some time, it’s hard for me to break from an editor mindset. I find myself second-guessing every word I put on the page. I suppose this experience was exacerbated by the fact that I had not only spent hours pointing out areas of concern in another’s work, but had my own short story picked apart (and well). Therefore, the issues I began seeing with each fresh word compiled to a point of “WTF was I thinking?!”

This sentiment was familiar, which likely contributed to it being short-lived. Here’s the thing: writing and editing, while related, are two completely different fields. If you try to merge them, it doesn’t work. There will be time for me to go back and apply the things I’ve learned over the past few weeks to current writing projects after the words are on the page. But worrying about how it sounds as I’m writing it won’t do anyone any good.

Rereading is important. Implementing things you’ve learned along the way is important. But you can only do these things if you manage to find the words in the first place.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Show v/s Tell

Hi, everyone!

Since I'm taking care of a sick kidlet and time is short, I figured I'd do a blog about show v/s tell. As it's impossible to write anything with a child in my lap, I decided to provide a few resources for you instead. I hope they help clarify the difference between show and tell. Trust me when I say it's extremely important to know and recognize the difference between the two. While "show" is fine here and there, "tell" really brings a story to life.


On Show v/s Tell:

CLICK TO REDIRECT

CLICK TO REDIRECT

Thanks to my fellow muse, Rosalie, for helping me with links. I'll be back next week! Now for eye candy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It seems any author I talk to out there has the same gripe,
issue or in my case whine - "Do we really have to promote?"
and the other half of that is "Where do I start?".

Yes I know I need to promote, but unfortunately I am already
about 30 hours short on time each week so how do I go about it?

I don't have the right answers so I found someone that can lay it
all out pretty and have it make sense!

I'm thrilled to have Author / Reviewer / Publicist Roxanne Rhoads
here today to share with us some of the how's and why's to this
world of writing and selling.



Promotion and Authors
By Roxanne Rhoads

Promotion- it’s a bad word for many authors…downright evil… but a necessary evil.

A small percentage of authors revel in the spotlight and have no problem talking, promoting, and selling.
But most of us…well we’d rather be writing. And not writing about our books or ourselves, just writing the books.

What happened to the days when the reclusive author typed away in their little hermit like abode, sent the manuscript off to a publisher who handled everything and the author sat back and got rich while writing more books?

I think that image is a fairy tale, I’m not sure if that was ever a reality at all but when I was young that’s how I envisioned the author’s world. Then I started writing books- and thought that once a publisher accepted and published my work the hard part was over. Boy was I wrong.

Thanks to the internet and technology more books than ever are being published every day- and it’s very easy to get loss in the ever growing a sea of pages and book covers.

What can an author do to stand out from the crowd?

Promotion.

Yes, there’s that damn word again but honestly it’s what can make or break your book. The other, I swear, is simply luck, and maybe a pact with the devil.

I’ve seen amazing books totally tank in sales and crap books, poorly written with sentences that run on and are hard to read, make the bestseller list on Amazon, repeatedly.

Why? Promotion.

For the past several years I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about the book business and book world, from all angles- author, editor, publicist, reviewer, book blogger, even publisher (I self-published a short story collection this year)- and I’ve learned a lot.

So what words of wisdom can I share with authors who are looking for the secrets to book success?

First of all- web presence.

What’s the first thing many people do when they hear about something- whether it’s a book, business, or new product?

They Google it.

That’s why an author should have a website- a good one, a professional one that showcases their author/book brand. If you write paranormal books your website should have a hint of the paranormal in it- should it showcase screaming skulls and blood dripping fangs? Probably not. Keep it tasteful and professional while  making it clear you are a paranormal author, or romance author, or whatever.

Your website can sell you and your books 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world. Nothing else can reach as wide an audience 24/7.

The author website should have 6 key things to be successful- a way to contact you, your bio, your bookshelf (if you write in different genres or have a couple different series then you should have separate pages for each genre or series), a calendar or schedule of author appearances whether in the real world or online, a page of fun stuff and/or links that relate to your books, and your media page which should contain an author photo, media ready bio, sample author Q and A, and your most recent book cover and blurb.

I also suggest having a regularly updated blog and newsletter that readers can subscribe to.

Also be sure to utilize Author Central at Amazon, you can add your links and blog feed to your author page.

Which brings me to the next thing an author needs to utilize…social media- Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads- these are some of the most popular social media outlets for connecting with readers and other authors. The idea is to build is solid foundation of reader and author followers. Do this by posting fun and informative tweets and updates- not just promo. And you can link all your accounts together through apps at Twitter and Facebook or through outside apps like HootSuite.

An author should also stay up to date on what’s popular and working in the online book world- for example: book trailers, book soundtracks, Twitter parties, virtual book tours.

Do book trailers or soundtracks sell books? In my opinion no, but they are great tools for sharing your book (these would fall under that fun stuff category above to include on your website).

Virtual book tours, however, are one of the best ways to spread the word about your book. You can reach a worldwide audience without ever leaving your home at a tiny fraction of the cost of a real world book tour.
The goal is not just book sales but reaching out and gaining new followers. After a book tour you should see the subscribers list to your newsletter has grown, you have more Twitter and Facebook followers, and the number of blog followers you have has increased- and hopefully your book sales have skyrocketed.
So what do you do during a book tour? You’ll write guest posts, fill out and interviews, and sometimes participate in live chats and podcast and radio interviews at different blogs and sites around the web. The book tour company will schedule everything.

The key is choosing the best company for your book- find a company that has handled many books in your genre and that shows a good track record. If you only see one or two previous tours done by this company perhaps you should move on to the next book tour company- and new ones pop up every day. Do your homework before laying down the cash. While no book tour business can guarantee sales or great reviews they should be able to provide you with proven capability, organization and a certain amount of tour stops based on what you paid for.

Are real live book events things of the past? No, not at all.

By all means go out to local book stores, libraries, seasonal and holiday events and set up signings, schedule fun events that will bring people in- work with other authors to create group things that draw a crowd.

For instance if you write paranormal books- get out there at Halloween events and sell your stuff. Set up tables for sales and signings at Halloween reading and parties at local libraries, (schools too if your book is kid oriented), hayrides, even haunted houses. Work with your community to promote your book. You might be surprised at how many local businesses and event planners will be thrilled to have something unique and special (like an author) be a guest at their holiday event.

And be sure to bring business cards, bookmarks or even the hot new thing in real world book promo- book trading cards, to all your live book promotions. Pass them out at local libraries and bookstores too.
The key is- get out and promote. You are not going to get anywhere as an author being a hermit and hiding in your house tapping away at the keys of your computer.

Publication is only the beginning of the process…promotion is the road to success.

~Roxanne Rhoads is a publicist for Entangled Publishing, the owner of Bewitching Book Tours and is a paranormal romance author, book blogger, and book reviewer.


Thanks again, Roxanne!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day!

I'm editing my own stuff, other stuff, and trying to squeeze some writing in there, but I did want to take a break to say the following:



Do it so I can live vicariously through you, mmkay?

And tune in next Monday for an actual post. :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

I never make a complaint, 'till it's too late for restraint

Note from Romancing the Muses: Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Hurricane Irene’s warpath. Please stay safe.

Simultaneous submissions. Most all publishers, on their submission information page, include a note about their policy regarding simultaneous submissions. It’s rare nowadays to find a publisher that all-out states they don’t want a manuscript if it’s being considered elsewhere, but even then you want to be careful to whom you submit if you’re planning on more than one publisher.

Here’s the rub. Sometimes your manuscript resonates with more than one publisher, and even more so, sometimes the publisher’s response time is a little off. Sometimes when you hunker down for a 12-16 week wait, you hear something within ten days. And then you’re in a pickle.

Yes, this is a personal story. I completed a manuscript about six weeks ago that I figured I’d be lucky if anyone wanted, since it’s darker and has elements of dubious consent. Well, blow me down. I got two offers on the same freakin’ day, each from a publisher I’d be fortunate to have behind the manuscript. So obviously, the question became…which one do I choose?

Granted, there was nothing wrong with being in this situation, especially since I had alerted both houses that the manuscript was being considered elsewhere. The trouble came in playing the “pick the publisher” game, weighing the pros and cons, and knowing that no matter which venue I chose, I’d always be chased with the question of “what might have been?”

I’m not going to preach against simultaneous submissions, because even though right now I have promised my crit partners and myself to never put myself in that situation again, I know I’m impatient. I know I don’t want to play the waiting game just to receive a rejection letter, then start all over with another waiting game. My point is this: be careful what you wish for. It’s awesome, yes, knowing your manuscript is in demand…but saying no to someone isn’t easy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are you a perfectionist?


I think all writers are, to some extent. It’s hard not to worry when you have something that’s going to be on the shelves forever, virtually or otherwise. Your stories will be hopefully read, and with that comes dissection. And then the stress begins. Will people understand what I’m trying to say? Will they even care?

Sometimes that worry’s healthy and productive; sometimes it causes a writer’s production to grind to a halt. Perfectionism is one of the biggest creativity killers I’ve faced. You’re so stressed that every word must be “right” you lose the ability to even get words down. I’ve suffered from this myself—often, in fact. Especially when I’m working on something that scares me a bit because it’s out of my comfort zone and I really want things to go a certain way...i.e. I’m focused more on the end result than the story. And the story’s the thing. Without giving it all your attention, it becomes a lot harder to write a meaningful piece. And if it’s not meaningful to you, if you’re not connecting with it, it becomes a lot more difficult to snag your readers’ attention as well.

Trusting the process is really tough in this now-now-now society. We want results yesterday, but building a story takes time. If you rush it, likely you’ll wish later on you hadn’t. Deadlines must be met—that’s a given. Even so, for today, I’m trying to focus on the book I’m writing, the characters I’m breathing life into on the page, and letting that be enough. The rest will happen when it will.

Are you a perfectionist, with writing or otherwise? Or have you wisely figured out how to let go and go with the flow? (If so, man, do I envy you!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Better Late Than Never!

I almost didn't get to post today's blog. My apologies. It's been insane at the casa, which means time is short.

As many of you know this year I attended Authors After Dark. It was exciting to meet readers, authors, and publishers at the event. There were multiple opportunities to sit and listen on the panels available, as well as mingle with people that inspire you. I was awed by many of the authors I met for the first time (and I won't name drop, although I'm very tempted!), which brings me to the topic of the blog.

Your brand.

Once an author's brand would probably be a symbol--not the authors themselves. It was about the books, the material, the WORK; not the person behind the screen. That has changed. It's the time of the internet. Connecting with authors, publishers, and agents is as easy as sending an email. What does that mean? Pretty simple. An author has to be aware of what he/she puts out there for the world to see. When you're under a microscope of sorts--and you have to pay your bills--it's best to think before you react. No longer can you vent your frustrations without ramifications. Once something has been said online (and boy, have I learned this lesson) it's there 4-eva. No going back, folks. The WWW has a permanent paper trail.

Once I was extremely vocal about certain issues. Now? Not as much. It doesn't mean my opinions have changed, it just means I've learned it doesn't really help to pull out the soapbox when those listening haven't done anything wrong. Don't misunderstand, I think everyone is entitled to a good speech from time to time. I just approach everything thinking:

How will I feel about what I've said a week from now? A year?

If I'm okay with it, then usually it's okay to say my piece. If not, I'll let it go. The same can be said for the conversations you have online, the relationships you form with others, and how you market yourself and your work. While some people have no qualms about sharing certain information or presenting an in-your-face-attitude, I truly feel an author can--and will--lose readers if they are unapproachable or offensive. With the way the writing industry is evolving, it's good business sense to remain as professional (and gracious as possible).

It's time for me to jet! As always, the eye candy of the week. I shamelessly stole this image from the awesome author and Twizzler sharer I met at AAD, Allison Pang.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Cross The Streams



In Season One of The West Wing (one of the greatest shows ever, by the way), President Bartlet, while lecturing his youngest daughter about security detail, sprouts off a horrifying scenario to drive his point home. Since Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers, I’m going to let you guys read this for yourselves.

ZOEY: We talked about this. I'm entitled to this part of my life.

BARTLET: You're getting this part of your life.

ZOEY: I'm entitled to a normal...

BARTLET: Oh please.

ZOEY: Don't 'oh please' me.

BARTLET: Look, the Secret Service...

ZOEY: The Secret Service should worry about you getting shot.

BARTLET: They are worried about me getting shot. I'm worried about me getting shot. But that is nothing compared to how terrified we are of you. You scare the hell out of the Secret Service Zoey, and you scare the hell out of me too. My getting killed would be bad enough, but that is not the nightmare scenario. The nightmare scenario, sweetheart, is YOU getting kidnapped. You go out to a bar or a party in some club, and you get up to go to the restroom, somebody comes up from behind, puts their hand across your mouth, and whisks you out the back door. You're so petrified, you don't even notice the bodies of two secret service agents lying on the ground with bullet holes in their heads. Then you're whisked away in a car.

It's a big party with lots of noise, and lots of people coming and going. And It's a half hour before someone says, 'Hey where's Zoey?' Another 15 minutes before the first phone call. Another hour and a half before anyone even THINKS to shut down all the airports. Now we're off to the races. You're tied to a chair in a cargo shack, somewhere in the middle of Uganda. And I'm told that I have 72 hours to get Israel to free 460 terrorist prisoners. So I'm on the phone pleading with Benjamin and he's saying, 'I'm sorry Mr. President, but Israel simply does not negotiate with terrorists, period. It's the only way we can survive.' So now we've got a new problem, because this country no longer has a commander in chief, it has a father who's out of his mind because his little girl is in a shack somewhere in Uganda with a gun to her head. DO YOU GET IT?!


For anyone watching (or reading) who then thinks, “Hey, this would be a pretty neat idea!” Well, you weren’t the only ones. Sorkin has admitted he wanted to write that very scenario immediately after the scene concluded. This isn’t surprising. Rules are almost always established to be broken, though I honestly don’t know if that’s just plot device or a combination of humans’ natural tendency to push to see just how far we can go. I certainly know I’ve written rules that I had no intention of breaking. It just happened that way. You start with a basic no-no and the devil in your mind asks, “Well, what WOULD happen? And how could you make it work?”

These clues can be subtle or obvious—it depends on which way you go. Anyone could tell you, even before watching Gremlins, that the rules of “Don’t get them near light, don’t get them wet, and don’t feed them after midnight” would be the focal point in the movie. Heck, Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and what did they do?

Now, with certain movies and shows, rules are established with the clear intention of doing the opposite. Yet the driving force behind visual media are the writers who craft the stories together. Rules are made to be broken, and writers are made to test themselves—tease themselves—feed themselves with plots for something on the horizon. Be it “don’t feed them after midnight” or giving oneself a killer plot arc without realizing it.

Plot-driven writers strive to break the rules and see how the world can be altered or challenged. Just make sure you have a plan on getting out. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a very strange place.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Song Remains The Same

This has been discussed in the past, but sometimes refresher courses are necessary, if only for the sake of hammering it in.

The publishing industry is very interesting right now. In moving forward into a new generation of e-readers and royalty-based online publishers, unagented authors now enjoy opportunities and even benefits over those who submit their work to larger presses. Sites like Amazon that pioneered e-reader technology, and while many mainstream houses are trending toward ebooks, the time has never been better for authors without publishing experience to dip their toes in the water. That’s how I got here. I had absolutely zero experience publishing, but I loved writing and being an actual published author was pretty much my main ambition. So I submitted, and I got accepted.

I was one of the lucky ones. You should never expect it to be that easy. Just because publishing houses are opening their doors to unknowns and unrepresenteds doesn’t mean you’re in. Quality still matters. Story still matters. Ensuring your story fits their house standards and expectations still matters. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your writing isn’t good, rather the story itself isn’t right for that publisher. Right now, the trend seems to be more toward form rejection letters rather than a lengthy explanation, which saves face for the publisher if the author gets belligerent. However, should the acquisitions editor take the time to explain how or why certain aspects of your manuscript didn’t work, take it, absorb upon it, and reference it when you next submit. Also, thank them for their time and consideration.

What works for Publisher A won’t necessarily reflect what works for Publisher B, C, and D. Some houses specialize in GLBT, where others have an emphasis in ménage, BDSM, interracial romance, paranormal, and so forth. Look at the material that has been accepted and do your homework. Read books published by the place you’d most like to see your work. And most importantly, even if you do all these things and the publisher still rejects you, don’t lose heart. Taste is subjective, and larger e-pubs typically have more than one editor reading new submissions, and different people react differently to different manuscripts.

No matter what, don’t take a rejection personally. To you, your manuscript is your sweat, blood, and tears. To a publisher, it’s just the next in a long line of submissions.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?

On Friday night, while sitting in the media center at the fairgrounds, I received some exciting news regarding one of my manuscripts. I immediately began flailing—both internally and externally—and jumped across the room in excitement. Nikki London was with me, as we always babysit the media center together when the fair is in town, and when I told her I expected this particular manuscript to be rejected, her response was, “OMG, really?” See, as my BFF and one of my CPs, she naturally thinks the sun shines out my ass when it comes to all things writing-oriented. When I explained my reasons for doubting the manuscript would be accepted, her response was something along the lines of, “Well, if someone like you gets nervous about your writing, I guess it’s even more okay that I do.”

Understand, Nikki London has been my bestie for over a decade—has has been mentioned in other posts—thus she is a little blinded when it comes to an opinion of my awesomeness. Regardless, this sentiment surprised me. When it was echoed elsewhere, I saw a pattern emerging.

Everyone has doubts. In our industry especially, doubts are commonplace. Most of us aren’t household names, and unless you’ve had incredible luck each and every time you’ve hit “send” on a submission, most of us have dealt with rejection. Once you send a manuscript to a particular publishing house, you play the waiting game with fate. Who, of the acquiring editors, will select your work for the inaugural read? Some places have just one such editor, so if you get in once because he or she likes your voice, you might feel more comfortable submitting again. Sometimes you submit directly to your editor when you’re in-house, and other times you use the same system you would if this were your first rodeo. In those instances, it just depends on who picks up your work and how it resonates with them. What works for one editor might dramatically turn off another. Regardless, no matter if it’s your first time or one hundred and first time, feeling anxious is normal, and likely better for your ego than thinking your shit don’t stink. That way when you do get accepted, it’s like rediscovering an old song and remembering why you loved it in the first place.

So, yes, Virginia, we published authors live with the same fear as the rest of you. At least when I celebrate a new contract, it’s completely genuine. No matter how seasoned you are or how many titles you have to your name, there is someone out there who might say no. You better just hope your manuscript doesn’t land on their desk.