Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Successful Author Talk With Vicki Leigh & Fear Of Failure

Todays guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Vicki Leigh. Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. Vicki's debut, CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is available from Curiosity Quills Press.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m in the middle. I need some sort of backbone to know where my plot is headed, but when I write, I let my characters drive the story. And, more times than not, the story changes as I write. My favorite planning tools are the 7 Point Plot and Save the Cat. Then I pants my way through each plot point!

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt, it usually only takes me about 2 months to write a first draft. Then I do my revisions, send to my first-round CPs, revise again, send to my second-round CPs, and revise one final time. Then it’s off to my agent, and I revise again! So, when all’s said and done, from the moment I type the first word to when my agent tells me we’re ready to go…it’s about 4 to 5 months.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I only work on one project at a time. I personally believe that writers would do well to take an acting class, because you really have to become your characters when you write. And I find that if I jump from manuscript to manuscript, I lose my characters’ voices. So, if I am bombarded by an evil plot bunny -- a character or a plot line screaming to be written -- I’ll take a second to jot down the idea in a document, but then I get back to the story I’m working on and try to set the other one aside for later.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Failure. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so failure has always been my biggest fear. Even now, when I sit down to work on something new, I have to fight the desire to give up before I begin – because it’s easier to give up than put 150% into something and see it fail. But, I remind myself that giving up, by default, is failing – because I failed to write a book. And so, that keeps me going.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Just one, thank god. I’ve heard horror stories of authors who have, like, ten or fifteen manuscripts stuffed under their beds. I have to give those authors some serious kudos for not giving up, because I totally would have. But yes, I have one that will never see the light of day. It’s super, super awful; I cringe every time I read it. It deserved every rejection it got!

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency. I got a “yes” out of her via a traditional query; however, I did already have a publishing contract in hand! So, a little a-typical. But Sarah did still pull me out of the slush, read my manuscript quickly, loved it, and within just a few days, we were having “The Call.” In talking to her, I knew she was the agent for me, and a few days later, I wrote her to let her know I wanted to be on Team Negovetich! ☺

How many queries did you send?

Altogether, I think I sent out twenty queries. Five resulted in full requests. Three of those ended up passing, and I respectfully pulled my manuscript from the other after I signed with Sarah.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Don’t give up. I know everyone’s heard how subjective the business is, but it’s seriously true. Just compare your own reading likes to your friends. My bet is: they’re very different. It’s the same with agents. They have their likes and dislikes, just like the rest of us. So, one agent might not enjoy your manuscript, and another will adore it.

Exhaust your spreadsheet of agents before you decide to shelve your novel – though, send out your queries in small waves (like, send to five agents at a time) and pay close attention to the reasons your manuscript is getting rejected. If you have five to ten agents all saying your plot line doesn’t flow, odds are you probably need to look at your plot again. Fix it, then send to your next group of five agents.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Because I’m with a smaller house, I got to work a little closer with my cover artist. I sent an original cover idea to both him and my marketing team (what I’d hope to see on the cover, what emotions I’d like people to feel when they saw it, etc.), and then I okayed the stock photo before he immersed it in the full design. I then saw two in-progress versions, gave my input, and then he finalized it. That being said, I still didn’t have final say – that went to the marketing team – but I was still grateful I got as much input as I did!

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

That publishers really are approachable. To be honest, when I started this process, I kind of pictured publishers as these “big bosses” that you only came in contact with a few times – kind of like a corporate CEO that you saw maybe once every few months when they wanted to check up on their investments. But they’re really not like that, at least, not from my experience. I became good friends with my editor and my marketing director, I chatted regularly with the production guy who oversaw my book from the beginning stages to print, and I was in regular communication with the managing director of my publishing house who ensured the entire process ran smoothly.

In reality, your publisher wants your book to succeed as much as you do. And I was happily surprised that I wasn’t just “another author” on their roster.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

Because I’m with a small publisher, a lot of the marketing falls on my shoulders. The unfortunate reality is: small publishers don’t make the kind of money that the big publishers do; therefore, they don’t have the budget to assign a PR person to every author. We have a small marketing team of maybe three to four people who oversee all of us authors. So, while they do some things, like call stubborn book stores on our behalf to flash their publisher cards, we authors have to do most of it. But, if I’m being honest, I’m a control freak, so I’m okay with that. ;)

I do have a website and am on Twitter, and Facebook. You can also find me at Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, G+ and Goodreads.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

In my opinion: before. Although it’s not necessary if you write fiction (non-fiction’s a different story), it’s still good to build up a following so that when a publisher does acquire your book, you have people already excited to read it. And while an agent will still sign you if your book is good, they do look for authors who have already established a platform, because in this day of social media and e-books, your readership is global, and it’s important to market yourself and your books on the internet.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely! Social media gives authors a chance to connect with their readers in ways that could never happen before. For me, I love when I’m able to talk to my favorite authors and feel like I know them as a person, not just a name on a book cover.



Monday, November 24, 2014

The Stuff Of Dreams

If you visit this blog or read any of my interviews you know that the concept for NOT A DROP TO DRINK came from a dream that I had. Sometimes inspiration comes like that, in a bolt from the sky that you can't ignore. The words pour out, and anywhere from a weeks to a few months after that lightning strike you've got a finished (messy, but finished) first draft in your hands.

And... then there are the other times.

There are the times you sit in front of the laptop and nothing happens. The screen glows accusingly, and there's not nearly enough black streaking across all that white. There are the times when people ask what you're working on right now and you have to answer honestly... nothing.

I don't believe in writer's block. I honestly don't. I think writer's block is what happens when you're too scared to sit down and force it, resulting in procrastination that is rooted in our self-esteem, not our capabilities.

But I do think that concepts can't be forced. They have to happen organically, like that storm in your head that suddenly delivers a story you can't stop spinning, or a dream that delivers your next novel, gift-wrapped.

Here in Ohio we had a short blizzard, followed by an ice storm this weekend followed by... thunderstorms today. Let's hope all the meteorological dust up sinks into my mind.

A lightning strike would be much welcomed :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Nerine O’Shay has two goals in life. Goal one: qualify for the U.S. Olympic dive team. Goal I don't think you need to use the word "Goal" in either of these places two: finally I think the use of "finally" and "life-long" are both implying the same thing, that it's been going on for awhile. For the purposes of a query you should practice a little more word economy. However, the premise is coming across strong and it definitely has an interesting, fresh, idea persuade her father that his life-long search for the lost Spanish Galleon, the Dama de Oro, has failed. The search has cost them everything – her mother, his reputation,  and now the family’s marine salvage business. Then there's the Curse that has stolen a life from her family whenever treasure is found. Nerine is convinced the next big find will kill one of them, and she'd  like to actually have a life before she dies…preferably one in which fellow diver, Jason Fernandez, plays a huge part.

On the day Nerine qualifies to compete at Junior Nationals, her father finds a reef made of silver like the actually reef is made of silver? or is covered in it? If the former, what does that have to do with the ship? The wording here is a little confusing. in the waters of the Florida Keys. And there’s a lot more. Turns out the tales of the fabled Dama de Oro are true: it really was carrying a king’s ransom of gold bound for the New World. The treasure soon attracts a storm of media attention and her mother, who shows up for her share of the loot. Then the Curse strikes, sending Nerine’s carefully ordered plans into chaos, and making her realize the things money can’t buy are what she wants most.

This is a good query, overall. You've got your plot front and center, with its uniqueness in the spotlight. The one thing I would say is that if it's a straight-up contemp the idea of a Curse might raise questions about whether there's a paranormal element at work here. Other than that, clear up some word usage and phrasing in that second para and you're looking pretty good.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Talk: VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD by Lauren Sabel & Giveaway!

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Six months after losing her mother to a brutal murder, Hollywood teen-star Vivian Divine is trying to piece her life back together amid paparazzi, an absentee father, and a cheating boyfriend. When a mysterious package arrives with a death threat, Vivian's bodyguard trusts no one. With a new haircut and no makeup, Vivian jumps on a bus for the border,

But Hollywood sets never prepared her for real life, and Mexico is more than she bargained for. When her bag with her passport, money, and instructions for meeting her next handler disappear after the bus breakdown, Vivan has no choice but to attach herself to the only English speaking person she can find. Not that she minds. Nick has a better body than her movie star boyfriend, and even though he mocks her American princess ways, she can't help but notice he's sneaking looks at her ass every once in awhile.

With a mysterious scarred stranger on her heels, and a dead FBI agent in her wake, Vivian tries to keep a low profile while she makes her way across the Mexican desert to reach her cemetery meet-up point by The Day of the Dead.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I have a recurring nightmare that there's something growing behind my ear and I don't discover it until it's fairly large.

2) Hair smells funny.

3) I think everyone who complains about long flights or car trips should try traveling in a Conestoga.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lauren Sabel Talks Second Novels & VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD Giveaway

Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest is Lauren Sabel, author of VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD. Lauren learned to mind dig while getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa, a Buddhist college in Boulder, Colorado. Before Naropa, Lauren studied film in Rome, where she developed her love of crypts and other beautiful creepy things. She also worked in the film industry in New York and San Francisco, focusing mainly on film festivals, as she can never pass up a good party. In San Francisco she worked for Chronicle Books, where she was inducted into the fascinating world of book publishing. Most recently, Lauren lived in London, where she helped plan social events for the London Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s International’s UK Branch.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

My second novel came pouring out of me in a few months. It was like a fever. I was reading about this group of psychics who worked for the government during the Cold War, and the main character just appeared; poof! After several years of working on Vivian Divine, I was happy to move on at that point.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I actually didn’t do much promoting of my debut. I was so caught up in writing my second book that I completely forgot my debut book was coming out. My husband organized a book release party for me, and when I showed up, I had forgotten to even choose a passage to read from the book. When I get obsessed with a writing project, it’s all I can think about – and I could only think about OUT OF MY MIND (out in 2015). I’m just now doing the promoting of VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD with any real seriousness. Wish me luck.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

Definitely for me. I wrote most of the book without showing it to anyone, so I had no idea if anyone would even like it.  But now that I’m getting a lot of positive responses to VIVIAN, I can’t wait to see what people think about OUT OF MY MIND. I think they’ll like it even more!

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

Yes. I have to learn how to wear two hats at once: I can do writer, and I can do promoter, but I have trouble doing both.  But in our current society, I need to push the book that is out in the world already into people’s attention, and, at the same time, also write the one in my head into being.  I suppose it’s like having a baby and taking care of a toddler all at once.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I wrote an outline and tried to follow it. I came up with a solid writing schedule, and stuck to it. I saw revision as a chance to improve the manuscript, not a criticism of how badly written it was. I almost woke up to reality, but luckily, I caught myself just in time.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Donate to Cavalcade of Authors West & Mindy Will Love You, Always

So, I mentioned last week that I'm going to be crawling into my cave to write now that winter has arrived (and boy did it arrive - I'm off school today, the big, fat, flakes are falling, and the plow hasn't even touched my road yet). One of the first things I'll be emerging from my cave for is Cavalcade of Authors West, a young writers workshop that will bring teens in touch with the writers they read.

COA West is in their first year, and they could use a boost. 17 authors - including myself - will be there to share our love of literacy and writing. If you can share the same in your own way, COA West would appreciate it - and so would I!

What is a Cavalcade of Authors?

Cavalcade of Authors is a conference for students made up of two components: 1) students reading novels from 17 featured authors, and 2) a writer's conference led by these authors to be held on May 2nd, 2015. We are collaborating with Pacific Lutheran University to present a literary/writing conference for 450 middle level and high school students in Pierce County, Washington. COA West is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Cavalcade of Authors West is in its first year, modeled after the Cavalcade of Authors established in the Tri Cities of Washington in 2009.  We want to bring the rich experience of working with authors practically one-on-one to western Washington students.

Adolescent literacy is a significant need in our community and this program promotes reading and writing skills in an engaging and unique way. The response from students, teachers, and authors has been positive and encouraging. It is our hope that the program will grow and expand to become a truly regional event that draws students from all around Pierce County.

Our five founding board members have a vast amount of teaching and literacy experience as classroom teachers and librarians. We have each contributed to a number of boards, conferences and events of various sizes and scope. Above all, we all have a passion for students, authors and literacy; this conference will allow us to combine all of those pieces to deliver a unique and meaningful experience to the students of our own community.