Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

I've always thought that bucolic sounds like a bad nasty disease, but it actually means something quite nice. For those of you who don't know, it means of, pertaining to, or suggesting an idyllic rural life. noun. 3. a pastoral poem. 4. Archaic. a farmer; shepherd; rustic.

So how did we get such a gross word for something awesome?

Bucolic is from the Greek boukolos, which means herdsman.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

JB Lexington On Balancing A Writer's Ego & Insecurity

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is JB Lexington, a romance writer based out of Toronto, Ontario. Her first romance novel, FOREVER EVE is available now and she is working on the sequel and another series. JB lives with her husband, 2 kids and 2 dogs. When she isn't writing JB can be found at the gym, strolling designer boutiques in her neighbourhood or sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio at a local restaurant.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of past life and have more than a handful of times experienced Déjà vu so intense that I felt viscerally transported to another place. It only made sense for me to write a story about one’s past life experience and how it translates into their present.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

When I came up with the storyline I could visualize every moment in my characters lives. I knew how I wanted it to begin and how it would end and everything in between was literary gravy. Every now and then I would think “wow I just wrote that line." We writers are a balanced dichotomy of ego and insecurity ;)

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper? 

Not yet. Forever Eve is my first published novel and I’m currently writing the sequel. With these two stories the plot was firmly in place but with the help of my amazing editor’s suggestions the storyline underwent a metamorphosis from the cocoon it started as into a beautiful butterfly.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come to me often and quite clearly, unfortunately I’m struggling with finishing them all now. I haven’t dedicated much time to my writing lately so I have a few half finished stories that I need to resurrect.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?  

I’m usually quite organized in life, and some people I know might actually suggest that I have a tad bit of OCD, but when it comes to my stories I might as well be chasing butterflies. I have about 4 stories on the go now and I jump between all of them, depending on my mood or any elements that may have influenced me throughout the day.

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?  

If a glass (bottle) of Pinot Grigio counts, then I most definitely have a writing buddy ;) Otherwise my doggies don’t stray too far from me so I can always count on them for company.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. In fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Recently a follower filled me in on an interesting tidbit. Lake Erie figures into my novel NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and the original name for Lake Erie was actually The Lake of the Cat, which I just love. Why was it the Lake of the Cat? The original inhabitants of the area were the Erielhonan Indian people, which means People of the Cat in their language. When the French showed up, they referred to the nearby lake (Lake Erie) as the Lake of the Cat.

And you know what else? "Cat"in Gaelic is... "cat." It hasn't changed, like ever. God bless you Irishfolk.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Peter Hoffmeister On Being Rejected Even As A Published Author

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. 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 for the SNOB is Peter Hoffmeister, an author, rock climber, public speaker, outdoor expert, and athlete gear-tester for Ridgemont Outfitters. He teaches at South Eugene High School:  Literature, creative writing, outdoor pursuits, and survival. He also served as the spring 2015 Writer-In-Residence at Joshua Tree National Park.

He is the author of two books of nonfiction and three novels. His current novel, Too Shattered For Mending, was released this fall by Knopf, Random House. The New York Times Book Review wrote that Too Shattered was “A portrait of the heart and will that's so tragic and beautiful it singes.” Hoffmeister lives in Eugene, Oregon and is currently at work on his sixth book, An American Afterlife, a novel that will be rejected before it is published.

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

There are two answers to this. First, if you like how your first novel turned out, then yes, it’s hard to leave it behind and focus on the second. Change is difficult. But more importantly, you should already be working on that second novel. During every glacial delay in the publishing process (for example: while your agent is reading a draft, or while your editor is reading a draft, or while you’re waiting for copy edits to be returned, or while you’re waiting for the publication date, etc.) you should already be working on your next book. Since the whole publishing process takes one to two years, I always aim to have a draft of the next book by pub date. It doesn’t have to be a great draft, but have a full-length draft, ready to revise.

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

This is something I’m not good at and I’m trying to learn from my mistakes in the past. So I’m spending more time promoting my current book, rather than focusing on and stressing about my next book. In the past, I’ve mostly left my current release alone and moved on completely. But it’s good to find a balance: Work for at least an hour every single day on your next book, but also spend some time each week to promote your current release. Also, go on social media and build community, message other authors, and post about books you love.

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

That’s also a good question. As a writer, you have to write the story that you’re passionate about. If you’re not in love with your idea, no one else is going to be. But publishers are fickle, and they won’t just pick up any old thing that you want to write. So expect rejections at this point even though you’re already a published author. Your publishing house might reject a next book proposal or a partial draft. Even if you have an option, they might reject three proposals in a row. But keep after it. This is maybe one of the most unexpected things in a publishing career. Everyone talks about rejections before you get a book deal. Not many people talk about the hundreds of rejections after you get a book deal. I have five books out now and have been fortunate enough to get starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get rejected all the time. I had two essays and a story rejected this week. As a writer, rejections are something you’re going to face for the rest of your life. So write the story you want to write, but realize that the market will always be tough.

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

Yes. For example, I never got interview requests until I was a published author. But the specific demands depend on how much money you’re making, how much marketing is being done by the house, and how much publicity you’re hustling on your own. If you have a huge book deal (and most of us don’t) you’re being flown all over the country, going to every conference, and constantly doing events. For most authors though, it’s 10-20 interviews or essays a year and 3 to 5 events. So time management is really about maintaining the daily discipline of sitting down to write at your own desk. If you want to move on to a second novel, then you have to keep getting in that chair every day. Set a daily word or page goal and hit that goal.

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

Since I’ve published with four different houses, I’m sort of eternally working on my “second book.” I’ve never gotten to the place where my editor pledges her eternal love and a house just keeps renewing my contract. So I go through the same process over and over. I write, revise, edit, submit, get rejected, revise, and submit again. From what I know of other authors’ careers, this is more common than you’d think. The days of authors staying with single houses for entire careers are mostly gone. A few authors are that lucky, but most are not. And – truly – none of that matters. In the end, you have to ask yourself, “Do I love writing stories? And am I excited about the revision and editing process?” If so, if you’re in it for the long-term, things will work out. Just keep writing.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

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.

Carla Dubrov has fought all her life against the voice inside her head, her father’s true daughter. Confusing sentence structure. Is she her father's true daughter b/c she's fighting the voice, or is the voice inside her head belong to her father's true daughter?

Despite the feud between their families, Carla falls in love with Anthony D’Cartey. When their love is discovered, her father condemns her to death, but Anthony gives his life to save her. His murder turns the smoldering feud into the war Carla’s father has long yearned for. Shattered by Anthony’s brutal execution, Carla’s grief turns her into the very killer her father wishes her to be; a killer he molds into his most lethal weapon, a killer he is proud to call daughter. This para itself is great, but as of right now this could be a fantasy, or a historical. I don't have a grasp on the setting or genre. Also, I don't know what this has to do with the voice inside her head? What is it saying?

Tough thought? she escapes from under her father’s control, her Shadow still resides just underneath the surface. Now, more than ever, she must keep her darkness at bay. What is this darkness? What is a Shadow? Her life has finally porous again. No idea what this means. His name is Jason. He is Anthony’s brother, and the secret son of her father’s sworn enemy. Carla knows her father wants nothing more than to bring D’Cartey to his knees by killing his second son as well. Carla can finally honor Anthony’s sacrifice by saving his brother.

As her father’s assassins close in, Carla realizes her father used Jason to lure her into his trap. If he kills Jason, her heart will be shredded again, and her grief will push her back into the darkness controlled by her father. He will use her against the very ones she's trying to protect.

But before she can face her father, Carla must find a way to overcome her own darkness. The voice that grows ever stronger craves the same things as her father: death and destruction. Her Shadow’s voice.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult urban fantasy novel with series potential, completed at 83,000 words.

I think the biggest thing here is that we don't know much about the setting. Is this in a normal world with magical elements? Or a different setting entirely? Why are these groups fighting in the first place? What is a Shadow and what does the voice in her head that you lead with have to do with anything? 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: MURDER TRENDING by Gretchen McNeil

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

BEING FISHKILL Author Ruth Lehrer On Stumbling Into Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Ruth Lehrer whose debut YA novel, BEING FISHKILL, is set against the stark reality of an impoverished rural landscape, and offers a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.”

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Several years ago my partner’s mother was sick and we were commuting to Queens NY every weekend for months. Up and down the Taconic Highway, several times a week. Both ways you see the exit sign for the towns of FISHKILL/CARMEL. “Wouldn’t that be a funny girl’s name?” I said, “Some deluded mother naming her kid Carmel Fishkill ...”  Once she had a name, Fishkill easily stepped out into the world. 

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I didn’t really build the plot. I was lucky enough to have the characters, Fishkill and Duck-Duck, knock loudly on my creative door. I wrote the first sentence in the car outside a writing group and then wrote the first couple pages when I went inside. Fishkill and Duck-Duck were fully formed people who walked up and pretty much dictated their story.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

The plot of Being Fishkill shifted in small ways during the process of writing and editing but my second book, which I am in the process of writing, is a squishy slimy animal and seems to change every time I sit down to write. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Poems come to me often, mostly whenever I sit down and let them. (They’re not always good poems, but hey ...) Story/novel ideas are harder to come by. I wish I knew where that particular place was where characters like Fishkill are just waiting to latch onto an author. I seem to have stumbled there once. Maybe it will happen again? 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Usually I have one main project I’m working on and various stray poems. I don’t seem to be able to juggle more than one novel. I envy folks who can. 

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

No cats, no dogs, no birds, no lizards. Sometimes I write with a human friend, either in person or virtually. I have a drawing of an owl on the wall near my desk. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Welcoming Pat Zietlow Miller To The Podcast!

I'm excited today to bring my first ever picture book author to the podcast, Pat Zietlow Miller, who has received multiple awards for her many picture books. Her titles include SOPHIE’S SQUASH, WHEREVER YOU GO, SHARING THE BREAD, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, and the newly released WIDE-AWAKE BEAR. Pat joined me to talk about how querying a picture book is different than querying a novel, the misleading ease of each project being 700 words or less, and why a children’s book writer who wants to be traditionally published should not seek out an illustrator before submitting their work.



As always, if you find the podcast helpful or just enjoy listening, please consider donating by visiting Go Fund Me or clicking here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

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.

One sketch from Laurain Hart and two humans fall in love. Oh, nice hook.

Thirteen-year-old Laurain wants nothing more than to continue spending the afternoons with her mystic classmates, drawing pictures that create an enduring romance. Ah, so Laurain herself is not human. Got it.

When an ancient enchanter casts a spell disrupting the order of the calendar days, Laurain’s visions vanish, so it's her visions that allow her to do the drawing? What's the connection there? starting a countdown to the day when humans can no longer discover true love. Paired with a time-traveling leprechaun, who is more interested in stealing gold than helping, Laurain must locate the rogue enchanter and restore the missing day. Slightly confusing in that you said the days were "disrupted" before (I thought, out of order, maybe) but now we learn there's one missing? Why would that cause a chain reaction that has anything to do with love?

She travels across the human and mystic realms battling gruesome ghouls, hostile witches, angry elves and, scariest of all, finds herself developing a crush on a teenage human boy. To make troubles worse, Laurain develops the powers of an enchanter. So being an enchanter is bad? It's not just that one bad apple? If the other mystics find out, she’ll never be allowed to draw her visions again. How long can she keep it a secret?

With time running out, Laurain must learn how to control the gold-hungry leprechaun, come to terms with a new, magical ability that could get her expelled from school and defeat the most powerful enchanter who ever lived—all while lying to a boy she may be falling in love with.

THE STOLEN DAY, a middle grade fantasy complete at 38,000 words, introduces us to the mystic realm, providing a behind-the-scenes look at how much work goes in to (one word) protecting humans.

Overall, this is good. Interesting premise with a fresh take. Clear up the questions I have above about cohesion and you're in good shape.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: DEVILS UNTO DUST by Emma Berquist

Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people—shakes—attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Last week I was racing around securing anything that could blow away outside and referred to it mentally as battening down the hatches. Because I'm a major dork, I immediately wanted to know where that came from, even though there was a chance I would freeze to death before learning the answer if I stood outside too long wondering.

I knew it was from sailing (and man do we get a LOT of stuff from them) but I didn't know specifically how it applied. A hatch I've got covered because I watched Swiss Family Robinson a lot as a kid. For those of you who aren't so blessed, a hatch is basically those little wood gratings that flip up, leading down into the underbelly of the ship where the men sleep. It's grated instead of having a solid cover because... well, because men smell bad.

The battening part comes in when a storm is expected. Everyone goes below deck and the grated hatches are covered with a tarp to prevent the water from coming in, and the edges of the tarp were weighted down with wooden strips called battens

After learning all that, my next question is... if everyone is below deck, who does the battening???

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Debut Author Sarah Henning on the Power of Social Media

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Sarah Henning, who has worked for The Palm Beach Post, The Kansas City Star and The Associated Press, among others. Her debut, SEA WITCH, releases July 31st from Katherine Tegen Books.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’ve always said I’m a decent hybrid of the two. I generally start with plot points that are pretty spread out and then allow my gut take over from there. I’ve found that my gut then surprises me with things I didn’t see coming between plot points, and if I’m surprised, my reader will be too. That said, the more books I write, the more I can see the forest for the trees in what I’m setting up. This has lead to more rat-a-tat-tat plot points before I write, but I still let my gut lead the way and change my plans at will.

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

My first drafts generally take anywhere from three to five months, depending on how complicated the plot is and how busy I am in the rest of my life. I also consider my first drafts to be pretty fully formed, so I’ll typically only revise for a week or two after that before shipping it off to my agent.

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

I used to be a one project a time type-of-gal but having a book deal has changed that. I’m always working on something while waiting to work on something else, it seems. I think it keeps me sane to have a project to come back to while navigating rounds of edits on something else.

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

Nope. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. I spent most of my early career in newspapers as a reporter and copy editor, so I’m used to having to come up with something solid in a very short amount of time. This seems to translate to fiction writing in that I’m never wandering around a scene, trying to figure out what I’m doing. I also tend to revise a lot as I go because of my journalism background. I like having my “first” draft as close to final as possible.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

I had two that I wrote as an adult (and countless that I wrote as a child) that won’t ever see the light of day. The third book snagged me an agent, but the fifth book was the one that sold first. Publishing is definitely a long-haul journey.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have one that I didn’t finish and I think it’s just because I’m still not sure how to write it. I know what I want to do but not the best way to tell the story. I’ll figure it out, but for now, it’s just got to sit and marinate.

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

My agent is the lovely Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. She is rainbows and sunshine but a complete pit-bull when necessary. I was lucky enough to be a mentee in the very first year of Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars contest. I received four offers as part of the contest and loved everyone I talked with, but Rachel just seemed to get my goals the most. She signed me for adult crime fiction but the first book we sold was a young adult fantasy—not every agent would’ve been down for such varied writing interests, but she has been, 100 percent.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

The first two trunked manuscripts didn’t really get off the ground. I had the oldest of my two kids after I wrote those and they just kind of sat there while I tried to figure out the whole parenting thing. When I was ready to query that third book, I only did one small round before being chosen for Pitch Wars. 

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

Do your research—if you can afford it, a subscription to Publishers Marketplace is so invaluable in knowing what’s selling, to who and by who.

How much input do you have on cover art?

For SEA WITCH, I made a private Pinterest page with images of characters, places and symbols in the book and sent it to my editor at Katherine Tegen, the wonderful Maria Barbo. Maria has an MFA in painting and a fabulous eye and so I knew that wherever she went from there would be great. I didn’t worry a second. In the end, Maria and the Harper art department found this amazing artist named Anna Dittmann who drew the perfect cover art for it. PERFECT.

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

I don’t think I really understood anything about the way rights worked before my deal. I mean, I knew enough that I could ask questions, but I didn’t understand how nuanced subrights could be. It’s one of those things where it’s hard to understand until you’re out of the hypothetical situation and into a real one, I think. Unless, of course, your day job is as a lawyer!

How much of your own marketing do you?  

At the moment, I do it all myself. I probably spend the majority of my time on Twitter and Instagram. My husband is a web nerd, so he set up my website, but it’s nothing fancy. 

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

This is a trick question for me because I was a features reporter in my town before I ever got my agent. I covered food and even though it’s been years since I left the newspaper, I still get recognized at the grocery store by people who used to read my articles, columns and blogs. So, for me, I have a sort of weird tangential local platform. About a third of my Twitter followers can be attributed to my former life and the rest are writing-related.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I think it does. Honestly, after SEA WITCH’s cover was revealed on Twitter and Instagram, I had people from all over the world reaching out to me in a way that wouldn’t have happened without those two platforms. I also think Instagram is especially helpful in the YA book world because so many of our YA books are just SO BEAUTIFUL that people want to take pictures of them. I know I do and I know a lot of book people I follow do. And I think a well-done Instagram picture of your book's cover can go a long way in helping it find an audience.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Think Of Self-Publishing As A Business Endeavor, Not A Creative One

I'm welcoming in the New Year of podcast guests with Alex Lidell, author of THE CADET OF TILDOR from Penguin, as well as the TIDES series, which she self-published. I've known Alex since 2013, when we debuted together, and have watched her flourish as a hybrid author.

I invited Alex onto the podcast to share her wealth of knowledge when it comes to self-publishing, but many of her insights transpose to traditional publishing as well. Listeners of all types will gain a lot by tuning in, and be sure to follow through to the end... Alex likes to give things away.




If you enjoy this episode - or any that aired in 2017 - please consider donating so that I can keep the podcast on the air.

I started this blog shortly after landing my first book deal. I decided to pay it forward by hosting a blog where I asked published and agented authors all the questions I'd had when I was aspiring. The blog has been regularly updated for seven years now, taking a lot of my time and attention, with no monetary return. Often I have thought it was time for me to hang it up, but whenever the thought crossed my mind I would get an email from a follower who let me know how the blog had helped them on their publishing journey.

In 2017 I decided that if the blog was going to keep existing it also needed to grow and offer my followers something new. The Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast came from that idea. I have been broadcasting weekly since March of 2017. With 40+ episodes aired, over 1200 followers and almost 10k downloads, I can call the podcast a success.
It is however, not a monetary success.
Costwise, I pay $108 for hosting and $240 for recording software. These are revolving costs, and while not high, the real expense comes from the time involved. This is a one-woman show. I set up interviews, record, edit, and go through post-production with each episode. I'm putting in anywhere from 5 to 8 hours with each epsiode. Weekly episodes means I'm putting nearly 400 hours each year into the podcast. That's something I can't maintain in 2018 without compensation for my time.
If the blog or podcast have been of any assistance to you in your writing life, I would very much appreciate monetary support so that I can continue to produce them.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

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.

Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. Unfortunately, his wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. Why? What's the connection? Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace. Is there? That's a very specific corner of hell. I can't imagine it heavily populated. And I had to untie the sentence to figure out who was assigned to this corner - him or her. 

If HarperCollins publishes his memoir, Mark and Denise's private life will be paraded before strangers. Well, yeah, but how many? Memoirs don't typically explode. It might help put more vavoom on this if we know what is in the memoir that 1) makes it publishable and 2) his wife doesn't want in public. He owes his wife better. Already he's worn her out on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as (a?) lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher.

That last one, teacher, almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had leaned on another woman to get through it all. Not a complete sentence... also why was he fired? And "leaned on another woman?" - He had an affair? Is that what she doesn't want people to know?

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. Confusing timeline - after the affair? Isn't that already in the past? Is the affair in the memoir? What's the connection? He also sweats out a face-to-face with Principal Rodriquez to help a friend. Why? What friend? We have no connection to this to know why it matters. No monster there, just an ex-boss who chased him from where he didn’t belong. Confused on the point of this sentence.

Mark is sure that he must betray either his wife or himself: publish the book or hold onto the only woman he has ever truly loved. But forgiving Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way.

We definitely need clarity on the connection between the book, his wife, and Ms. Rodriquez. Right now this reads like a series of unconnected things and the reader can't inuit from this query what holds them all together.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

1) What do people who live in urban areas or apartment complexes or condos do with their pets when they die? I lost sleep thinking about this last night.

2) It's currently -10 here in Ohio. I think this is the best possible environment for humans in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Assuming that the undead can in fact, still freeze solid.

3) It's cold enough that I'm pretty sure my ear wax froze. I am unsure as to whether this is a pro or a con.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Romance Author Mary Ann Marlowe On Starting A New Project

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 Mary Ann Marlowe, a central Virginia-based contemporary romance writer who works by day as a computer programmer/DBA. Her debut novel, SOME KIND OF MAGIC, is scheduled for release with Kensington in February 2017. Its sequel is also contracted for later release.

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

Let me start by explaining that I’m answering this for my third book, which is my second contract, because I sold two completed books at once, and my second novel was already finished. My “second novel” blues got transferred to a book I sold on proposal with a little more than six months from contract to deadline. I’m writing this book currently, and the pressure is real.

I’m leaving behind a pair of companion books to work on a standalone. It’s always hard to start a new project for me, but it wasn’t particularly hard to leave behind my first published books. Publishing takes a long time, and the advice is to focus on writing to get your mind off all the things you can’t control. So between signing my first and second contracts, I wrote four more books, and only one of those was in the same world as the first books. All of those finished books were rejected by my publisher, but together, we came up with the premise for the next book they wanted me to write on proposal. 

What I find challenging is writing for the first time toward someone else’s specifications. There’s a benefit to having set requirements since I don’t have to wonder if what I’m writing will ever see the light of day, but the knowledge that it must conform to the agreed upon terms can be a bit paralyzing. Still, it’s an interesting experiment, and I feel fortunate to have been trusted to run with an idea.

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

Promotion is a low-level constant once a book is in the world. There are conferences and book signings that crop up. Or the book goes on sale and you don’t like the graphics that didn’t work last time and want to make new ones. Writing is for me a high-level constant. I like to hard core draft a book every three or four months and then revise in the interim, so those habits helped me with turning my attention to the new manuscript while juggling the promotion for the debut and the second which is about to release. The amount of time needed to get everything done seems to grow exponentially with every book. 

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

I wrote the first contracted books for myself and my close friends with the dream of having readers and hopefully fans one day. Since this next one was contracted, I’m writing it for my editor first, but also for other authors and readers since it’s about a bookshop owner and debut author who makes the fateful decision to respond to a negative review. (Don’t do this!) I wouldn’t have been able to write this book if I hadn’t gone through the experience of publishing my first book. Life is strangely imitating art right now since, like my MC, I’m racing against a deadline for one book while another is receiving advance reviews already. Having reviews crop up while trying to draft can mess with your head if you let it, which is yet another thing I didn’t have to deal with while writing the debut novel.

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

Absolutely. It’s so important to make time for the writing. But there are many more commitments, especially early on as you’re trying to learn what works and what doesn’t. I spend a lot of time talking with other debut authors about promotional opportunities, growing newsletters, maximizing ads, booking interviews, scheduling signings, requesting reviews, writing blog posts. All that is in addition to the volunteer work a lot of us do to pay forward whatever help we’ve gotten from authors a little further along the road to publication. It’s easy to let all of that eat up writing time. I try to use down time at my day job to do a lot of this work or it will eat right through my writing time.

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

I’m much more aware of marketing this time around. I’m cognizant that my title, cover, and novel need to present as a whole, so I bear in mind what readers are going to expect going in and try to adhere to that expectation without becoming predictable. I’ve learned that you want to find your audience more than just any readers, because attracting the wrong audience – that is people who want your book to be something it isn’t – leads to disappointment and bad reviews. I’m very focused on making sure my next book will follow through on the promise of the title and hook. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

10 New Year's Resolutions for Writers

Regular readers know that it took me ten years to find an agent, and another six months after signing with her to land a book deal. During that time, every New Year's Eve I'd stare down into my drink and resolve that this year I was going to get published.

That is not a good resolution. I'll tell you why.

A writer has very little control over whether or not they become published. Nuances of the market, trends, financial belt tightening in the industry, a book too similar to your own that breaks out... all of these things are beyond a writer's control. You might as well make your New Year's resolution that this year you're going to win the Westminster Dog Show - as the dog, not the handler.

(Side note - it's not impossible. In 1903 unaware Victorians named a lemur best in show for the Foreign Breed Class at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in London)

On New Year's Eve of 2009 I looked down into my drink (they were getting bigger) and told myself to come up with a better resolution, because the old standby of "get published" wasn't coming through for me. I decided instead that I would join an online writer's group.

And that changed everything.

My forum of choice was AgentQueryConnect. First I lurked, occasionally sending direct messages to posters whose commentary I enjoyed. Then I began posting, throwing myself into the world and meeting people that I continue to interact with to this day. Next I found a few posters that I thought would be a good fit for critique partners, and made that personal connection leap.

And as Frost says, that has made all the difference.

I continue to use the critique partners that I met on AQC, all of whom have gone on to become published writers as well. Through AQC I learned how to write a query that works, format a manuscript the right way, write a synopsis, and navigate the industry in general. I learned how to take control of the little things that could add up to "get published."

So here are some writerly resolutions that I suggest for 2017, ones that are entirely within your power to execute.

1. Join a writer's group or forum. AQC is my touchstone, but there are some other great ones out there such as AbsoluteWrite and the forum at Writer's Digest.

2. Get serious about tracking those queries. Sure, you've had rejections, but do you remember from who? Or even why? QueryTracker.net is indispensable, and I highly recommend going for the paid version. It's worth it.

3. Find a critique partner that isn't your mom or a friend. If you want a real critique it needs to come from another writer - not just a reader. Finding someone online to give you feedback takes out the awkward quality of a friend who might not want to tell you something isn't working, and also allows you the freedom to go ahead and cry in front of your computer without them ever knowing you did. A good CP should be at about the same level you are in terms of craft and career. Get online, find someone in your genre, and trade manuscripts.

4. Pay for membership in a writer's group that fits your needs. Whether you write mysteries, sci-fi, picture books or adult literary, there is a professional group that fits your style. Most groups offer different levels of membership depending on whether you are published or pre-published. Examples are SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), ITW (International Thriller Writers) and RWA (Romance Writers of America). You can learn a lot from these communities and their publications.

5. Scout out local opportunities. I've met with various writer's groups that home-base out of a local library or private home. Ask your local librarian if s/he knows about any such groups.

6. Subscribe to a professional magazine that seems like your style. I highly recommend both Writer's Digest and Poets & Writers (even though I totally hear Adam Sandler's "Hoagies & Grinders" in my head every time I get a Poets & Writers in the mail).

7. Learn about what's going on in the industry itself. Yes, I know. You're a writer, not a business person. In this day and age you must be both. You can glean a lot of information about the industry from both online forums, writers groups, and professional subscription listed above. However, if you can afford a subscription and want to mainline industry info, Publisher's Weekly is the way to go.

8. You need to know what's selling if you want to position yourself and your work in the market. A subscription to Publisher's Marketplace will tell you who's buying what, and what agents are selling right now in your genre. This is not a necessity, but it can be a good tool.

9. Go to a writing conference in your area. I only attended one as a pre-pub - and it was romance centered - but it was close, convenient, and affordable. It gave me the opportunity to sit down at a table with agents and published authors, and most importantly, I learned how not to approach time by watching other people make snafus.

10. Lastly, write your book. Yes, that's what I put last. Everything above is instrumental in getting your work published, and most of them are actionable before you have something to show and share. If you have a finished manuscript, most of the above goals will help change and craft that ms during the road to publication. If you haven't started yet, you can still dive in and learn as you go.

Best of luck to everyone writing in 2018!