Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Rely on Your Memory!

Ever since the weather has finally gotten nice I’ve been having a heck of a time writing. For the current book I'm writing I had this great code worked out somewhere in my grey matter, and started writing a chapter with it a couple of months ago. Trouble is that I got sidetracked for awhile doing some cleanup on another project. When I got back to my WIP I couldn’t remember what the heck I was thinking! Number one rule: when you get an idea OUTLINE IT!!

But of course I didn’t follow my own advice. After brainstorming with my husband and youngest son I came up with new ideas--now outlined and saved-- and am back into it and doing well, thank you very much.

I’m not much of an outliner but have discovered that it’s important to take notes, lots of notes, about your plans for your writing. Even names you come up with should be jotted down. Trust me; don’t expect to remember these great ideas later. I’ve even taken to keeping a notepad by my bed. I’ve learned the hard way that those great things that come to you in the middle of the night won’t necessarily be there when you wake up!

I also like to write a brief synopsis (usually around ten pages) of where I see the story going. It’s not carved in stone though. As any writer can probably tell you, as you write the characters claim their own lives and often tell you what’s going on in the story. That’s one of my favorite things about writing; how the story lives on it’s own! You think one thing is going on, and then something else happens.

When I was writing my novel In the Company of Women, one character in particular was intriguing to me. Jane was a young woman with a secret. I knew she had a secret but I didn’t know what it was. Her pain was evident to me, and as I wrote the story I described her as someone with something to hide; something that was drastically affecting her life.

Then one day as I wrote, she whispered to me what her truth was, and suddenly things became clear to me and I was able to see why she acted the way she did, and also how the other characters would be able to help and support her. It was an exciting experience for me as an author, and hopefully for my readers too.

So now, as I work on my next Maeve and Kate mystery, I’m trying to document more the ideas and thoughts that come to me as I work on their latest adventure. I want and like things to be revealed to me as I go along, but not to the point that I can’t support what is actually happening in the book.

I guess I’ve learned my lesson a little too well!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who Says You Can't Get Something for Nothing?

Just to let you know that I have a selection of short stories available at Smashwords for your e-readers. They are free of charge and available in a wide variety of formats. Please feel free to check them out:

ELIZA AND MRS. FRANK  Left alone in the 19th century sea captain’s home she and her husband bought on the northeastern coast, Eliza finds that vestiges of the original owners surround her. As a storm rages and waves crash below, it seems she and Mrs. Frank, the widow of the sea captain who’d built this house for her, may have more in common than Eliza first thought. http://bit.ly/fOrUM1

TEA AT THE BILTMORE The stately old Biltmore Hotel was once the site of the social events of the year. During afternoon tea two women have a chance meeting that isn’t exactly what it seems to be. http://bit.ly/hGGNzP

FAMILY TREE As an amateur genealogist and an apricot farmer, Ruby Gillingham has learned the value of good lines. Known for the quality of her apricots and getting on in years, Ruby calls her disreputable nephew Lawrence Pratt to the family farm. Intent on getting his hands on his aunt’s fortune as his aunt is on pruning the family tree, but who will get the upper hand? http://bit.ly/hDpdjF

THE BOOK CLUB A group of women meet every month to discuss a book, until one summer evening when the monotony of it all inspires them to try something new ... with some interesting results. http://bit.ly/ifnpFy

I hope you get a chance to read some of my stories and if you do I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: A Job from Hell

I guess I should state at the outset that my only previous experiences with paranormal romance was Twilight, which I really, really disliked. However when I was in junior high I was a big fan of Dark Shadows, which was a love story about a dreamy vampire too. So picking up A Job from Hell, the first book of Jayde Scott’s YA Ancient Legend series, was a big leap of faith for me and I can happily say it paid off.

A Job from Hell is the story of seventeen-year-old Amber who takes a summer job as the housekeeper in a Scottish estate as a way to earn money for college. Her boss is young, handsome and rich Aidan McAllister who also just happens to be a 500 year old vampire. Unable to deny that she feels an attraction for her employer, Amber soon finds herself in a situation that leaves her surrounded by all sorts of characters that she never knew, or believed, existed outside of the imagination.

When she stumbles into an ancient race and wins the prize, a supernatural power that everyone seems to want, Amber finds herself being stalked by paranormals from succubus, to shadows; and counting as her ally’s vampires and even the daughter of the devil himself.

There’s plenty of intrigue and subterfuge and the young heroine often finds herself wondering who, exactly. she can trust. The romance between Amber and Aidan is hot and heavy without being offensive and the two lovers exchange banter that is lively and entertaining.

One of my pet peeves in books is conversation that feels false. The characters say things that don’t feel true to the age or situation, or it feels stilted and unnatural. Ms. Scott’s narrative, told in first person from either Amber or Aidan’s point of view, is so good it feels as if they are standing in front of you telling you what happened.

I would call A Job from Hell a real page turner, except I read the ebook edition. I was caught up in it from the beginning and found myself charmed by this book in a way I wasn’t expecting.

I highly recommend this book. I know it’s billed as a YA novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s been a while since I was a young adult. Ms. Scott is an excellent writer, and I think I’ll be reading more of her work. Luckily book two will be released June 30th!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review: Fergyville, Episode 1

Fergyville: Episode 1, The New Plan by Katina Ferguson is a novelette and the first in a new series. Ferguson is able to keep a finger on the pulse of marriage and life in suburbia, showcasing the banality that marriage and parenthood can have and giving it a twist that is left unresolved at the end of this short novel.

Frank and Catherine have been married for a while and have three small children. Catherine struggles with keeping a home as well as her good humor while she deals with the challenge of motherhood. Her day is portioned out into parcels of time that lead her up to her husband’s return home when she will get some relief in dealing with the constant demands of the kids.

Frank, on the other hand, has put some of his professional dreams on hold as he works to maintain a life for his family. As he deals with clients and coworkers his thoughts often drift and he finds himself daydreaming of other situations and possibilities that take him out of the humdrum job he has.

Then a series of strange events impact both Catherine and Frank. Cars don’t start, doors don’t open, children don’t cooperate and you are aware that something is going on that isn’t quite right.

Frank arrives home fearing the worst and questioning his ability to deal with it. Mentally reviewing the possibilities of what he may be facing leaves you wondering how things are to be resolved. And since this is a beginning of the full story, we must wait until the next installment to see where this story is leading us.

Ferguson is an excellent story teller and a good writer. Her writing is taught and bright. She obviously has some experience in dealing with the same situations as her characters which gives the story a feeling of authenticity. I’m hoping we don’t have to wait too long for Episode 2 in this tale. I for one am anxious to see what happens next!

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Case You're Interested

Recently I’ve had a couple of aspiring writers approach me and ask about getting published. I find this interesting in light of the fact that I have gone the non-traditional route of self-publishing my books.

However, I did try the established way for a few years. I wrote my books (four) and sent out queries. I even had an agent for awhile who tried to sell one of my books for me. With the economy taking hits and the publishing houses tightening their belts and being less inclined to take on new authors, I made the decision to take on the task myself.

But for those of you who are interested in signing on with an agent and seeing if you can get your book published, here are some things you need to know.

First, if you are writing a novel, you need to finish the book before you start finding an agent. Agents may want to see partials or full manuscripts if your query letter interests them. Telling them you have a great idea for a book doesn’t work.

After you have written your book and before you start sending queries, make sure it is the best it can be. Edit it. Put it away for awhile, then pull it out and edit it again. Give it to beta readers and listen, really listen, to what they have to say about it. Revise and edit again. Make your book as polished and finished as you can.

Second, you need to write a really great query letter. Several agents have blogs/websites where they give you examples of well written queries that will help you get noticed. If you don’t know, a query letter is a letter that is sent to literary agents that tell them, in a single page, who you are, what your book is about, and why they might be interested in representing it. It’ll probably be the most important letter you write.

Third, never send your manuscript to a publisher. With very few exceptions publishers only accept manuscripts from agents. And when an agent asks to see your work, send them only what they’ve asked for. If they wish to see six pages, send them the first six pages of your book. Don’t select six pages at random that you feel shows off your writing style. If they want 50 pages, they want 50, not 49, not 52.

Another point I think is important is when an agent asks for the full manuscript, they often ask for exclusivity. My feeling was to send it with the stipulation that they could have it exclusively for a set amount of time, say four or six weeks. I made the mistake once of sending it exclusively to an agent without this.  They kept it for a couple of months before I contacted them and told them I would be taking that back and sending it out again.

And when you do give an agent an exclusive you must honor that. You must not send out your book while they have it as an exclusive.

Remember the publishing world is a small one. If you treat an agent badly, even if they do not represent you, word will get around about you. If your book is rejected by an agent, don’t send off an email or letter blasting them for not liking your book. Your book will not be loved by anyone the way you love it, and you need to develop a thick skin if you are going to be a writer.

Agents/agencies blogs and websites are the best place to find an agent. Send your novel to agents who represent your type of work. If an agent doesn’t represent YA books, don’t send your techno-thriller to them! Agent Query is a good starting point. (There is a link to them on this blog.) You can search for agents by genre there, and if that agent has a website there should be link to them for you to check out what they are looking for and how to submit.

Every agent is different. Find out about them and what they are looking for before sending something off to them.

Finally, don’t give up or get discouraged. Believe in yourself, believe in your work. Being a writer is not something that happens quickly or easily, and getting an agent, publishing and marketing are harder than writing the book itself. Don’t give up. It’ll happen.