Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ideas Galore!

I need to shut off the ideas. I get frustrated when they pile up like my TBR stack. I have an idea file on the computer, but also jot them on napkins, in notebooks, and in my Blackberry. If an idea really grabs me, I’ll whip out a short synopsis or a rough draft of the first chapter. I have a lot of very rough first chapters. Frustration galore!

I wish I had learned early on to view my ideas as possible short stories. I just don't think that way, even though lately I'm having fun with flash fiction.

What do you do with your ideas? How do you hang on to them? How do you stay excited about them? I’m not going to ask where you get them—probably the same place I get mine. Newspapers, TV, eavesdropping and church.

I read in the August 25th issue of USA Today that “Budget cuts are forcing police around the country to stop responding to … .” Take a LOOK and see what you can do with it. Novel or short story? I have my idea. Uh oh, where did I stash it?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Showdown at Juniper Pass

My good friend Kent Conwell has a new western hitting the stands. It's his fifth book published by Leisure Books and the third Jake Slade novel.

Here's the blurb:

When halfbreed Jake Slade and his Apache brother, Nana, ride into the High Lonesome to bury their brother, Paleto, they are sidetracked in the Sangre d' Cristo Mountains when a band of scavengers hurrah the town of Juniper Pass while waiting for a hundred thousand dollar gold shipment.
This fast paced story is filled with action that takes an unexpected twist at the end. Showdown at Juniper Pass is available at major book stores, online and will come out on Kindle.

Kent also has another Tony Boudreaux mystery coming out with Avalon called Murder Among Friends, and just signed on the dotted line for another Avalon western, Retribution at Dead Apache Springs.

When does this guy have time to play with the grandkids? :)
Kent and I used to be in a critique group together along with novelist/travel writer Rogayle Franklin, our now-deceased friend Lela Davis and a couple other writers. We met weekly. Meeting every Thursday kept us writing. To our amazement and sometimes our frustration, Kent never quit writing. We'd critique one or two chapters for him and before we knew it, his book would be finished and on it's way to the publisher. I've never figured out his secret to writing fast but whatever it is, it works for him. I asked him once how he plotted his books. Here's what he said:

Along with a premise, I like to know where I am at the beginning and at the end. I try to follow the precept of H. Bedford-Jones, king of the pulps back in the 20’s and 30’s. “Get your hero in danger and keep him in danger.” I usually have an outline, but it is more of a device to make me think in the beginning rather than a rigid guide.

A former educator, Kent told us that even when he had cafeteria duty, he'd be writing--with one eye on his laptop and the other on the students. He may have been kidding, but I believe it! Just look at his titles:

Western titles from Avalon Books:


Here are the titles in his Tony Boudreaux mystery series:


Take a look at Avalon Books HERE. Read Kent's blog HERE.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Book Trailer Debut

Well, the time has come for my book trailer debut. Talk about fun and focus. It's been a long time since I've focused to this extent.

First of all, I took my class from author Kris Tualla at SavvyAuthors and her instructions were excellent. They were step by step with nothing left out. The class was $25.00 and well worth it.

To put together a movie trailer, you need PowerPoint, text, pictures, and music. You're lucky if you're a photographer and have an abundance of beautiful people at your fingertips. I'm not and I don't. I love taking pics, but the one picture I took looks quite inferior in comparison to the ones I purchased. Please notice that beautiful blond hair on Miranda--just like my daughter's hair. :)

Okay, I purchased most of my pictures. I loved them so much, I purchased the ppt converter software to put the thing together. You do have the option of not purchasing anything but you'll have copyright notices/banners plastered across your product. When I recognized my handsome hero, banners across his face was not an option. Searching the pictures for your characters is a challenge, but when you find one that works well with a specific scene in your book, I promise you'll be soooooooo excited. :)

Once I found and fell in love with my characters, I didn't want to short-change them so I bit the bullet and spent the cash. My expenses (not counting the class) came to $102.65. You'll have to determine if it was worth it or not. I believe it was. I know you're asking, "Why? What's the point when you're book isn't even sold?"

Answer: Because I got to know my characters even better, and because I'm more enthusiastic about my book than ever before. I've always believed in my story--regardless of the rejections that come back with "...too much angst" or "too issue-driven." Creating this book trailer has motivated me to hang in there, find the right editor, the one who'll be as enthusiastic as I am.

Yeah, I know, it might never get published, but ... it might.

To me the most difficult thing about putting together a book trailer is selecting the music. Watch, read, listen ... to the very end ... and then tell me what you think.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Broken Promises and Deep Holes

I always enjoy my husband's advice and words of wisdom. He's funny, and he's insightful.

Some time ago we attended a writer’s conference where we listened to a really interesting author tell us the secrets of her success. By the end of her talk, we were so motivated if she’d handed us a laptop we’d have sat right down and started writing. The lady was pumped! And she knew how to pump her audience. We went to her next session too. She was on more of a role—even showing us her private PowerPoint files: charts for creating backstory, characterization sheets, color-coded plotting secrets. We were actually looking inside her writer-brain.

The more we oohed and ahhed, the more revved up she became. By the end of the session, she had passed around a sheet of paper to all 40+ attendees, getting our email addresses so she could share her private files with us. She promised!

That was months ago. Has she done it? No. Not a whisper from her. I didn’t really expect her to--just hoping. I was raised to expect nothing from no one so I would have been shocked if she'd followed through. I did go to her website a few days after the conference, tell her how much I enjoyed her sessions, ( very true), impart how much I looked forward to getting the valuable info she was so willing to share.

Nothing. No response.

Months later, what do I remember about this author? I can’t recall one single bit of writing advice she dished out unless I consult the notes I took, but I do remember her promise. A promise she didn't keep. We didn’t ask for all those files—it was completely her idea.

My husband gave me this bit of advice: If you fall in a hole, make sure you’re not the one who dug it.

Too late. I'm guilty of falling into holes I've dug. Now I know exactly how it feels.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Favorite Quote

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
~Dale Carnegie

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Trailers: Business or Fun?

I’m taking a course on how to create book trailers. Why? Well, much to my husband’s chagrin, I like taking courses—all kinds of courses. Secondly, I love book trailers. I’ve wanted to learn how to create them for several years now. Finally got up the nerve to give it a try. I’ve resisted only because I’m not very techie and didn’t think I could keep up. So far so good. During the past week I’ve created my so-called script, researched some professionally made trailers, worked at identifying their weaknesses, and studied various fonts. There’s a lot more to learn. If i'm not too embarrassed, I'll share it with you when it's completed. Maybe. :)

Book trailers are probably the equivalent of a back cover blurb come alive. The trailers that annoy me are the ones that don’t tell me anything about the plot of the book. I don't want to see flashes of hero and heroine looking sexy; I want to know what the book is about. Also, it’s a little disconcerting when the hero/heroine look different from the beginning of the trailer to the end. Not enough pictures of the same model? It’s tricky portraying a young heroine then showing her again as a mature woman. In trailers—just like in our writing—every word counts, but every picture counts too.

We writers complain about writing synopses or pitches or back cover blurbs. Seems to me creating a book trailer is excellent training for just those things. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the book trailer should belong to the unpublished. There! I threw it out there. What a great way to pitch to an editor or agent, by showing them our mini-movies of our books. Can’t you just see agents going to a particular site, viewing trailer after trailer after trailer, then requesting the full manuscript based on how well we've shown them our book? A visual query.

Book trailers are definitely fun, but yeah, I agree, questionable: really, who are they for? What are they supposed to do? Does anyone actually run out and buy a book based on the trailer they just viewed? Can they turn a potential reader away from the book?

I think book trailers are supposed to be fun for everyone involved—the fans and the authors. From a professional view, consider this: publishing is reaching a point where we authors are going to have to beef up our promotion big time. I know it's always been that way but seems to me even moreso now. We need to shine the spotlight on our books like never before. Self-published books rarely make it out of the author's home town. POD and eBooks can certainly get lost in the shuffle if no one has ever heard of the publisher; they do little promo. It always comes back to the author and how we get our names out there. When you look at the magnitude of publishing, can’t you see how we fall through the cracks?

Book trailers are one more way to get ourselves attention. Yes, I believe they can help sell our books--but only if we make them exceptional. Yes, they can turn a reader away if we don't put as much thought, time, energy, professionalism in them as we do everything else we create--our synopsis, our query letter, our blurb, our pitch… even our business card. There’s an art to creating the book trailer.

To study book trailers by the dozens, go here. You can also Google your favorite authors to see if they’ve created trailers for their books. I ordered Guilty by Karen Robards a couple of days ago, based on THIS TRAILER. Why? The trailer's not exceptional but it did show/tell me just enough that I knew Guilty is the kind of story--threat of the past--I like to read. This is a pretty powerful book trailer advertising Walking On Broken Glass by my friend, Christa Allan. Do you have any favorites? Share them.

Don’t let your education of book trailers stop here. Investigate them and make them work for you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This, That and The Other

Okay... remember I told you I entered a short story contest and placed in the top 100 out of 300 submissions? I didn't win. After reading the winners, I understand why. And since I've never been a short story writer (a successful one, anyway) I'm really wondering how I made the top 100. Here's the site if you want to check out the winners. And if you'd like to crit my one page short story and compare to the winners, just let me know. I'll send it to you. You'll probably wonder how I made the top 100 too. No self-deprecation here. I just don't think my story is really a short story. I'm sure you'll agree it's a little slice of life without a beginning, middle and end.

On another note: Hanging out on Chuck Sambuchino's blog has lots of advantages. I learn a lot, and last week had the opportunity to leave a comment and be tossed in the hat for a chance to win the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents! Yep... congratulations to ME.

By the way, I am writing, and I'm thrilled with my rewrites on my novel. I love, love, love the prologue and yeah, I know prologues are a no-no, but I'm not listening. Creating a prologue helped me move right into my first chapter in a new and more exciting way--with more action. That prologue is like hanging my theme on the end of my nose and keeping it there so I'll remember it. Click on agent Scott Eagan to learn what I'm talking about.

Can't remember if I mentioned that I took an online course from Lois Winston, an author and a literary agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Lois has a super course called The Submission Process. I learned so much, stuff I'm actually able to apply to my writing. I highly recommend this course--and no lurking allowed. If you don't participate, you really don't learn. That comes from Queen of the Lurkers, the voice of experience. Lois does not allow lurkers. :)

And speaking of the Ashley Grayson Lit Agency. Check out this interesting interview I came across. Love it! When asked what writers should never do when they query her, Ashley Grayson's answer is priceless.

She said: Number one no-no: describing their book in terms of two movies or TV shows; or describing their book in terms of two books that have no relationship to each other: "in the tradition of Twilight and Rich-Dad, Poor Dad."

These kind of novel descriptions leave me blank, and feeling like a dummy. Example: Roy Rogers meets Pretty Woman (well, actually that sounds pretty good, doesn't it?) or Three Days of the Condor meets Strictly Confidential. What does that mean? What kind of books would they be? I can't describe my novel this way, and I can't figure out my writer friends who do.

Comments? Hey, I love 'em. Don't pop in and be silent. Say something!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Our Ever-Changing World - Hang on!

It's happening. It's really happening. There are rumors that Barnes and Noble will be closing their doors. Oh, I know those whisperings have been around awhile but today, at my writer's meeting, they sounded real.

Not rumor, Dorchester is going digital and POD only. Read this blogpost. You won't find their authors in bookstores. Bookstore? What's that?

There are 129 million different books published in the world. Who is trying to digitize them? Yes, ALL of them.

The book world (the publishing world) as we know it is coming to an end. Feels like things are moving pretty fast. How do you feel about it? Will you make the change work for you? Are you going to dig in your heels and refuse to purchase that Kindle--even if your kids try to buy you one for Christmas? Do you all ready have one and L-O-V-E love it? Why do you love it?

Share your publishing plans for the future. Let me know your thoughts. These little girls show you mine. I feel sad. I feel like it's time to dig out those jewelry-making kits.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CFBA Presents Fatal Loyalty by Sue Duffy

is introducing Fatal Loyalty Kregel Publications (April 23, 2010)
Sue Duffy


Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. Her first novel Mortal Wounds was published in 2001 and she has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children. Find out more at http://www.sueduffybooks.com/


Where do you run when you know you cannot hide?

Andie Ryborg has nowhere else to go. Her father's campaign for governor and his aggressive war on drugs has chased her from their family home. Drawn to Miami's exotic Coconut Grove, Andie hopes to find a quiet refuge where she can discover herself apart from the public eye. But even in that seclusion, even with an officer assigned to protect her, Andie's privacy has been violated. Someone is watching

Evan Markham's entire life has been a tug-of-war between what is and what could be. He is drawn to a life that is beyond his reach and emotions have clouded his judgment. Evan knows that earning someone's trust isn't easy, especially when he plans to break it. But in the secret corridors of the criminal underworld, he knows what must be done, and he is determined to see it through. Whatever the cost

When enemies close in, a sudden turn of events leaves them both questioning. Where is God in all of this? Who is this enigmatic stranger who offers to help? They both know their lives are in danger. But what about their hearts?

If you would like to read the Prologue of Fatal Loyalty, go HERE.


I never know what I'm really expected to do on one of these blog tours. It seems a total waste of my time not to be upfront honest if I've actually read the book. My intention is not to hurt anyone...just to share my opinion. Writing is hard work and everything is subjective, so please know that the following is just my opinion.

I came away from Fatal Loyalty thinking this author tackled a very ambitious project. I'm not quite sure she pulled it off to my satisfaction. I've given much thought to why I felt dissatisfied, what I would do different if I'd written this novel and here's what I came up with. I'd work on characterization. It took me about 100 pages to really get into the book and want to finish it. I felt no allegiance to the characters of Evan and Andie. I couldn't SEE them. They didn't seem real to me, and Evan didn't come across as likeable. The character I felt the most for was Leo, the bad guy. Duffy did an excellent job of showing multiple sides of him. Still, because her chapters were incredibly short, at least in the very beginning, I felt as though the author had one foot on the brake and one on the gas. In the first half of the book, there was a stop-start-stop-start feeling as she switched POV.

But, I did finish the book, didn't I? That counts for something because when I'm truly disgusted with a book, I toss it aside and never go back to it. I attribute my reading to the very end to Duffy's storytelling skill. Fatal Loyalty came alive in the last half of the book--when the characters really started talking and dealing with each other. Maybe there was just too much setup in this book--at least for me.

Sue Duffy is a good storyteller. Overall her writing is excellent and there wasn't one typo in the entire book so the editing and proofing is good too. Yes, that makes a difference to me. I like clean books.

I encourage you to pick up Fatal Loyalty. You may have a completely different take on it. Yes, I would read another Sue Duffy book. Duffy has big, good ideas--she just needs to grow into them. I want to watch this author grow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Decision Making: What Would You Do and Why

Okay, let’s suppose you have around $2500 to spend on your writing this year so money is not a problem. The problem is … exactly how you should spend that money. Read on:

You’ve sent her manuscript to an editor you found in a writer’s magazine. The editor looks at the first three chapters and tells you your manuscript is close enough to submit. Do you trust her and begin submitting? Why?

You pay a reputable editor to read the novel and give you her opinion. She tells you she feels the book is marketable and identifies a list of items that might need tweaking. She strongly suggests a line edit, which would cost $1500. Is this the right thing to do? Do you pay the $1500 for line editing? Tell me why.

You’re tempted to trek off to the Writers Digest Editors Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. You’ll have to submit 50 pages of your manuscript before the conference. You’ll attend a one day workshop on marketing and social networking and also learn what they like and dislike about the submissions. The next day you’ll get a thirty minute meeting with an editor to go over your manuscript. You might even come away with a good feel for where your manuscript is. Cost of conference, air and hotel will be around $1100 plus. Would you do this? Tell me why.

You have an opportunity to attend the pitch and shop conference in NYC at the end of September. This conference is by invitation only and is limited to 60 writers. Their main goal is to teach you how to pitch your novel to the right people. They’ll help with weak points in your work so you can improve it. After intense, rigorous training on pitching your novel, you get 15 minutes each with four well known editors who have the power to hook you up with publishers and agents. It is reported that 1 out of 3 attendees get a request for the full manuscript. It is by no means a guarantee to publication but is as close as you can get to the big fish at a conference. The networking, agents, editors and writers are top notch. The cost of this conference including air and hotel is in the 1500 to 1800 range. Would you take advantage of this? Tell me why.

Sometimes we writers get incredibly impatient. We don't know if we even have a marketable manuscript--not matter how many critique partners say we do. We second guess ourselves when it comes to investing in ourselves. Your answers will help friends of mine make decisions on just how to spend their hard-earned money. Be honest... be wise. Share your wisdom with us.