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


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


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.