Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm A Guest Blogger At ...

Sorry I've been away so long. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I'll tell you more about mine in my next real post. In the meantime, I'm a guest blogger over at Southern Writers Suite T and would love for you to pop in and leave a comment.  Go HERE.

More later.
jess

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Short Cuts ... or Not

Can you remember what it was like to create your novel using a typewriter? Challenging, wasn’t it? Some of you probably don’t even remember typewriters.  I had--still have--four of them. They’re packed away. I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. What if I needed them someday? 

I can remember using White-Out like crazy--before the self-correcting days. I’ve also been guilty of typing revised words on paper, carefully cutting them out and pasting them over the offensive errors so I could Xerox a clean copy to send to an editor or agent. What lengths I’d go to so I wouldn’t have to retype the entire page.
I remembered my typewriter days when I came across Ken Follett’s website. He has a Master Class with writing instruction.  Follett doesn’t edit his first drafts. Sure, he uses a computer but he says pulling the first draft up on the screen makes him lazy. He keys in (yes, retypes) every word of his novel forcing himself to rethink his sentences.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Reading the way Ken Follett writes makes me realize how spoiled I am. How lazy. I took short cuts with the typewriter and I’m still taking short cuts.  Maybe that’s why I’m no Ken Follett.
How about you? Do you give 100% all the time, or are you prone to taking a short cut or two in your plotting, your characterization; choosing a blah sentence instead of one that paints a very visual action?

By the way, check out Ken Follett’s MASTER CLASS, then come back and share with us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dialogue

My husband and I have some pretty weird conversations. Here's some telephone dialogue; it might make you wonder about us.

Husband: Do you remember when we watched The Three Stooges and they ordered food.

Me: No, I don't remember.

Husband: Two of them ordered good food but Curly ordered a rotten egg and other inedible stuff.

Me: Why?

Husband: He said he had a tape worm and didn't want to feed it good. Isn't it funny how we remember things from The Three Stooges?

Me: You remember things from The Three Stooges.

Husband: Too bad they didn't teach math.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rejection & Acceptance

7th Heaven dad, and author Stephen Collins said, “You need to develop, somehow, a huge amount of faith and confidence in yourself, because there's a lot of rejection throughout an actor's life and you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else.”

That applies to writers too. We have to believe in ourselves more than anyone else does. How do we do that? Without being, feeling, acting arrogant, I mean? I suppose continuing to write after receiving rejections is one way. I guess.

I heard from two submissions this past week. They both came in on December 8th. A rejection from an agent. Major compliments on my query letter and my strong hook. She even commented on my “intriguing” idea. I paid more attention to what she didn’t say--absolutely nothing about my writing. I’ve read and re-read the rejection, trying to conjure up what she really said. Do you try to read between the lines, analyze or are you smarter than I am and give your rejections a cursory glance before getting back to what's important: your writing.

A few hours after receiving the rejection I got an acceptance from 5x5 Fiction: Stories told Loud and Clear. The editor gave me wonderful compliments. I can live on them for a month or two, or three--at least until another rejection comes in. My 25-word story will be in the fourth issue of 5x5 Fiction. Watch for it. There are still a handful of spots left for the fourth issue; read guidelines HERE. These little stories are tricky.

Also, see a few of Stephen Collins' writing credits below and check out his books HERE. I always liked this guy! :)


Double Exposure a novel published by William Morrow, May, '98 (hardcover).

Eye Contact a novel published by Bantam, July, '94 (hardcover) and May, '95 (paperback).

Super Sunday a play produced at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, directed by Paul Benedict. Starred James Naughton, Faye Grant, Marilu Henner, and George Wendt. ('88). Revived at The Moth Theatre, Los Angeles, directed by Jamie Wollrab. ('11).

Water Hazard a short story in a collection of golf-related suspense stories edited by Otto Penzler.


Now tell me, how do you REALLY feel when you get a rejection? Be honest--it’s Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Something To Think About

I love quotes. Here are a few I found today that made me think, wonder, shake my head.

Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I remind myself often that I have exactly the same amount of time as Stephen King. I'm always a little shocked by the thought. 


Talk uses up ideas ... Once I have spoken them aloud, they are lost to me, dissipated into the noisy air like smoke. Only if I bury them, like bulbs, in the rich soil of silence do they grow. ~Doris Grumbach
I have a friend who used to share with me every detail of the novel she planned to write. Color of the heroine's hair. Dimple in the hero's cheek. Plot points, conflict, black moment. Minute details. And then she'd sit down and write the book. She sold about eight or nine Silhouette Romances before she quit writing. I wonder if she was 'verifying' her story before she committed it to publication.

Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do about it.  ~Maxwell Perkins
And when I do this, I have the biggest mess. Revision has turned into a real challenge for me--at least with the book I'm working on now. I think it's because I've taken a Christian romance and tried to change my characters for a secular audience. I've quietened their prayers and they aren't too happy about it. Then again, maybe I'm not skilled at revising. I'm doing more than revising. I'm adding scenes, twisting, turning, manipulating. And I'm not accomplishing anything.

Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.  ~Mark Twain
This quote actually makes me angry. I hate that fiction really does have to make sense.

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.  ~ Cicero [106 B.C. to 43 B.C.]

This is hilarious.
 What's your favorite quote and how does it speak to you? Share.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest Blogger: Wayne Zurl on Audio Books and More

You may remember Wayne Zurl, my Flash Fiction winner. When I learned that Wayne sold novelettes to audio books, I invited him to be a guest blogger and share his experience. I hope you learn a lot, give this market a shot and check out Wayne's website.
 
 
Publishing Audio Books & eBooks at the Same Time
or
How to Sell Virtually Unsellable Novelettes)


            Playing second fiddle to James Patterson shouldn’t be all that troubling to a new author still trying to peddle his first novel. And for me, it wasn’t. It was educational.

            I finished my first book, A NEW PROSPECT, late in 2006 and began making the rounds, querying agents interested in mysteries and police procedurals. As the rejection letters trickled in, I wrote shorter mysteries for practice.

            The rejections just kept on trickling in and I kept writing. After I had a half-dozen stories stacked up, all of them in the 8,000 to 11,000 word range, I developed a bright idea. I’d try to sell them, too. So, I tried Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Strand , and a couple others. No takers with the first one. Okay, says I, try a different story. Still no takers, but one acquisitions editor did have the courtesy to write back and tell me why no one wanted to buy what I was selling.

            He said most mainstream mystery magazines wanted short stories, preferably less than 3,500 words. What I submitted was a novelette. (Defined as between 7,500 and 17,500 words) He further stated, “Everybody writes novelettes and we do publish them, but only one a year.” That offered a little hope. Then he unloaded his full compliment of bombs. “But if we’ve got a bunch of them sitting here and it’s between you and James Patterson, who do you think we’re going to pick?”

            Enough said. These people are in the business of selling magazines not giving new guys a break unless they can make a buck at it. So, I took the hint, continued to try and interest someone in A NEW PROSPECT, and I kept on writing for practice.

            Then somewhere, I can’t remember where, I ran across Mind Wings Audio. They were looking for authors who could supply novelettes between 7,800 and 11,000 words destined to translate into fifty-five to seventy minute “commuter” audio books on compact discs. I blinked a few times and thought something had just been dropped from heaven.

            I looked at their retail website at www.mindwingsaudio.com and saw a list of CDs in many genres, my field of mystery & crime and detectives being only two. And not only did they offer these audio books as CDs, but also as MP3 downloads (I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I learned) and more formats of eBooks than I knew existed.

            At that time Mind Wings was less than a year old, but I thought it looked promising and I had nothing to lose, so I jumped directly to their submissions site at www.miwishorts.com and began filling in the blanks on their submissions template. I gave them a 100 word summary, a short biography, and copied and pasted one of my Sam Jenkins mysteries called A LABOR DAY MURDER. Then I sat back and waited.

            A month or two later I received a greetings letter. No, I wasn’t being drafted again; I was being welcomed to the Mind Wings family and offered a contract. And yes, I accepted it.

            This is what I learned about the operation:

            Mind Wings is NOT an organization selling services to independent authors who want to produce audio books. They are a publishing business that only makes money if your stories sell. The literature they choose to produce is read by professional actors— members of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and is simultaneously published and marketed in various eBook formats. The authors pays nothing to see their works as audios or electronic books.

            The process begins with a professional editor sprucing up your manuscript. Authors are asked for opinions on the corrections and suggestions made by the editor. Once the manuscript is finalized, a finished copy is sent to an actor to read and record.

Then the author reviews a “proof’ recording and comments on what he or she hears. This is the time to correct any pronunciation errors or make suggestions or requests on accents or other vocal characteristics.

During the edits and recording process, an artist draws up one or more possibilities for the cover art. Here again, the author has input on what’s used. I think the artist Mind Wings uses is exceptional and so far I’ve been pleased with all the covers assigned to my books.

After the CD is “cut” (notice how I’m getting into the industry lingo?) and the release date arrives, you receive a printed copy of your novelette and five complimentary CDs.

What happens next? Do you have to take your audio/eBook and format it and load it into a bunch of seller’s websites? NO. Mind Wings does that for you. They’re the professionals—you’re the writer. And remember, you don’t pay for anything. (Unless you want more than five CDs and then you may purchase them at an author’s discount) Remember, you only provide the writing and get paid 8% of the selling price after a purchase is made. I receive my checks faithfully every quarter and a 1099 form just before income tax time.

Why produce an audio book? Do people buy them? From my experience, yes. And I believe it depends on locale to determine how many will sell. People in New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington DC and other big towns spend hours in traffic going to and from work. Many of these commuters like to hear stories while they drive. They buy one hour audio books. People in Cody, Wyoming may only take ten minutes getting to the job. They may be content with the local news and weather.

My statements tell me people buy more MP3 downloads than CDs. They are less expensive and apparently everyone but me knows about this technology and has an MP3. The eBooks also sell very well. At less than two bucks a pop, these novelettes are a bargain. I’ve found mine formatted for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, blueberry, gooseberry, and other things about which I have no comprehension.

Getting listed on some sites takes longer than others. Amazon appears immediately. Kobo requires more than one title be submitted at a time, so that shows up later. But basically, sooner or later, my stuff appears at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Omni Lit, Books on Board, Apple, Sony, Smashwords, Kobo and maybe a few more.

Was it worth the effort? There was no effort—apart from writing the story and doing your share of the post-publication marketing. The more places your stories are sold, the more chances Mind Wings has to recoup their expenses and start collecting the full 92% of their piece of the pie. They have as much vested interest as you.

Mind Wings has sent me contracts for ten Sam Jenkins mysteries. Eight are already in circulation and two more are in the hopper. Coincidentally, today I finished a 10,400 word story called HURRICANE BLOW UP which I’ll submit after proofreading it a couple more times. It’s a story about how east coast evacuees fleeing Hurricane Irene ended up in the Smoky Mountain region, the place where Sam Jenkins leads the eleven men and one woman of Prospect PD in their fight against the evils of modern crime. I coupled that concept with an actual incident where a detective I knew was murdered. I twisted the story a little, tossed in a red herring or two, embellished & fictionalized it. Of course, I transplanted it from New York to Prospect, Tennessee, and changed the names to protect the guilty. I hope the people at Mind Wings like this one, too.

Am I making a huge amount of money? No. But my royalty checks allow me to take my wife to lunch whenever I want. And my ego is constantly massaged. Thousands of people have heard what I have to say.

Three of my novelettes made it to the publisher’s best seller list. A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE remained there for thirteen months. SCRAP METAL & MURDER is there now and was the biggest seller yet, according to a recent royalty statement.

Would I recommend that other authors submit their stories to Mind Wings Audio? You bet. What have you got to lose? If you’re not selected, you spent only minutes on the computer—you haven’t spent a dime.

If you are one of those chosen, you can make a quick trip to the Office Depot and, with a clear conscience, get business cards printed calling you a published author.

By the way, A NEW PROSPECT was finally picked up by a small independent press and was traditionally published in hard copy and eBook. In May 2011, it won an Indie and was named best mystery of the year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Learning From Football (Players)

Instead of a picture of a turkey or big platter of dressing, I thought I’d leave you with a thought or two to ponder.  
Meet five of my favorite guys: Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Mike Strahan, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long. 
Hubby and I come in from church every Sunday, settle back with our veggie burgers and enjoy Fox NFL Sunday. Specifically, these fun five. They seem to genuinely like each other. If any one of these guys left the show, I'd probably quit watching. You can’t imagine how much I love their interaction--their personalities. And how much I learn from them about writing.
A few weeks ago Howie said, “There’s a lot of ways to become a great quarterback.” Of course, when he said quarterback, I heard writer.

There are a lot of ways to become a great writer. There are a lot of ways to become a selling writer. Well, obviously, we have to write but what else?

To quote Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Packers: "We defeat ourselves. We have to go out there hungry."

How hungry are you to be a good writer? A great writer? A selling writer?

Think about it and share your words of wisdom. 
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Visionary by Pamela Thibodeaux

Yikes! I'm running behind schedule with today's post. Today is blog tour day with my friend Pam, author of The Visionary published by Five Star.

Everyone who comments will have their name tossed in a hat to win a copy of The Visionary. And I'm sure Pam wouldn't mind answering questions if you have any.

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Learn more about Pam by reading an interview I did with her back in 2008 HERE and by visiting the following links: 
THE VISIONARY - BLURB:

A visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disturbingly prevalent in today’s society. Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives? Find out in…The Visionary ~ Where the power of God's love heals the most wounded of souls.


If The Visionary sounds like a story you can't resist, then head over to Amazon  or Barnes & Noble these links and purchase a copy.

Read more about Pam and The Visionary in the following interview:

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
Answer:  When I first wrote The Visionary in a 5-subject notebook (where most of my stuff began way back when) I had in mind a sweet romance featuring m/f twins and their love interests. When I first typed the novel, I thought, “this is my light romance!” which was a great relief after some of my other work which dealt with subjects like domestic violence, grief, and betrayal. However, one day I sent off the first 3 chapters to a friend and her response was, “these twins are awful close, you need to be careful.” Of course that made me wonder Why? What happened to them or between them to make them so close (I couldn’t seem to tone down their intense feelings for one another). Then one day I walked out of my office into the living room where my husband sat watching a popular talk show. In a heart-wrenching scene the young man on the show apologized to his sisters because he couldn’t stop the abuse they suffered at the hands of their father. I swear, every drop of blood drained from my body and I began to argue with God…. No! Not that! Anything but that! I can’t write this! I have no experience in this! I’m not qualified as a minister or therapist! God….PLEASE….no. Three days of wavering, three days of arguing, three days of not being able to sit down and write a single word and God finally confronted me with…. “Who are you writing for anyway?” I capitulated and wrote the entire story in 4 months during the busiest time of year for a bookkeeper/tax preparer (Jan - April).

Question: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Answer: The hardest part of writing The Visionary was depicting the gruesome abuse the twins suffered as children and then realistically portraying the healing available through the awesome power of God's love and their struggle for relief from a past too horrendous to live with any longer.

Question: How did you come up with the concept and the setting?
Answer: Characters came first then setting for The Visionary I wanted to do a book around a set of M/F twins, don’t know why, just thought the concept would be interesting and I hadn’t read anything similar so I thought it would be something different. My family history goes back to the early settlers of Lake Charles, and I’d visited the old ‘LeBleu’ homestead so the idea that these twins would be hired to restore/remodel this home back into its previous grandeur and was supposed to be a light-hearted story until the twins revealed to me the horrific abuse they suffered as children. This has been my most difficult—yet most rewarding—books to write.

Question: Is any part of The Visionary factual?
Answer: Yes, the research Taylor uncovers about the LeBleu estate is factual as I actually did the research into the family history myself. However, that homestead no longer exists—the family sold the property to a pipe manufacturing company.

Question: How much research did The Visionary take?
Answer: Other than the research into the LeBleu estate –which I enjoyed immensely—actually very little, after all, the book is set in the area where I grew up so the setting was very easy to incorporate.

Question: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?
Answer: That regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done the awesome love of God has the power to heal the most wounded of souls and to forgive the ugliest of sinners.

Question: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Answer: To what or whom do you credit your success?  
Answer: Many people have a love/hate relationship with their muse. My muse is the Holy Spirit and I accredit every ounce of success to the grace of God because without HIM I seriously doubt I could write a single word, much less stories that bring hope and healing to so many.

Question: What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Answer: Unlike many writers, I'm not strictly disciplined. Sometimes I feel I need to be because I haven't written anything new in quite a while. I've completed a couple WIP's and edited existing projects, but nothing brand new—and how I long to just throw everything out and start fresh LOL! However, when I am actively writing, I write—very little editing, or working on other projects, limited time online, not much networking or blogging, sleep comes only in snatches, meals are scarce and light, and definitely no playing!

Question: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?
Answer: After years as a closet writer, penning stories in 5-subject notebooks, I'd have to say when I purchased my first, USED word processor and started typing in all those handwritten manuscripts I really began to feel like a writer.

Question: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?
Answer: There is really no one person to whom I can attribute this to, so many have helped me along the way. I’d have to say that my love of reading has influenced me the most. Reading opens doors to the imagination, takes you places you’d never be able to go otherwise and improves your visualization and vocabulary skills. Now, I’m able to implement all those things into my own writing.


Question: What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Answer: The biggest challenge I face is not having my work accepted by the “Christian” publishers. As one reviewer said, “though undeniably Christian, it is never dogmatic or insular; offering faith rather than religion.” (Review of Tempered Dreams by Elizabeth Burton for Blue Iris Journal) My books deal with issues in a way that is unacceptable in the traditional CBA market. Now that is not saying that my books are better than those published through traditional CBA publishers, only different. As I’ve said many times, everything that gives God glory deserves to be praised!

Question: What are a few writing tips you could share with aspiring writers?
Answer: The bible exhorts us to “study and show yourself approved.” Keep studying, keep writing, keep learning, stay open to constructive critique and NEVER GIVE UP! Writing is both gift and talent given to you by God. Don’t hide your gift or bury your talent. Whatever you write, write well. Strive for excellence. Stay teachable, pliable, and flexible. Never believe that you know it all because knowledge is power and the more you know the more valuable you become. Above all share what you learn with others and make someone’s load lighter to bear.

Question: Any marketing tips?
Answer: Marketing is an intricate part of the publishing business and publishers today expect authors to do their fair share. However, marketing/promotion can be overwhelming as the more you learn, the more there is to learn. For every thing you accomplish, there are hundreds more you can do. My motto is: Do something every day and your best then let God do the rest and remember it takes time to build a career.

Question: What is your goal or mission as a writer?
Answer: A committed Christian, I firmly believe in God and His promises. God is very real to me. I believe that people today need and want to hear more of His truths wherever they can glean them and I do my best to encourage readers to develop a personal relationship with Him. The deepest desire of my heart is to glorify God and to get His message of faith, trust, and forgiveness to a hurting world. My hope is that all of my stories will touch the lives of everyone who reads them and - in some way - bring them a truer knowledge of God and urge them into a closer walk with Him.


GREAT interview, Pam! Thanks. I'm looking forward to reading my copy of The Visionary.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BWG Writing Conference 2011

Our BWG conference is over. I enjoyed it this year because I wasn’t on the conference committee. I didn’t work the door, the book room or anything. I was able to truly listen and not worry about anyone having a good time. There’s joy in being a spectator.

Here’s a little summary from the notes I took. Let me warn you—I’m not a good note-taker. I tend to collect quotes, phrases with a nice rhythm to them, sayings that will look great on  bumper stickers. BTW, the pictures were taken by my friend Sylvia.

D.B. Grady told us, “To write is a sacrifice.” Can’t you visualize that on a bumper sticker? I’m sure David isn’t the first to say it—and we all know it, have lived it, but I wrote it down anyway. David’s advice and encouragement was laced with sardonic humor. He’s come a long way since his Red Planet Noir, a combination crime fiction and science fiction novel, was publishing in 2009 by Brown Street Press. His nonfiction book will be out late next year.
Agent Anita Mumm--actually a literary assistant--was a delight; very approachable, friendly, encouraging, but at the same time, professional. Anyone looking for an excellent speaker about queries and proposals, I encourage you to consider her. She’s the gatekeeper at Nelson Literary Agency. Bad queries and manuscripts do not get passed her. Anita said her agency receives 100 queries a day (minus holidays), 35,000 queries a year. Only 952 sample page sets went to the next round. 85 full manuscripts were requested and six new clients were signed – these are 2010 numbers. Do you see how important it is to hone our query writing skills? Anita told us we have to sell our book in two or three paragraphs within our one-page query letter. Yes, it can be done. “Even War and Peace has a blurb,” she said. She suggested we read the blurbs from the back of books—not new advice, but are we doing it? I am!

Mark Harris has been writing about pop culture for 26 years—since 1985. He said, “No one wants to read a writer that says the same thing all the time. (This hit home to me; sometimes I feel like a record hung on the same spot, playing the same thing over and over and over again.) Mark said we should look for subjects that have the potential to surprise us. He was talking about NF writing but I think we can apply his suggestions to our fiction too.  He really spoke to me when he said, “Your writing should be an extension of your passion for the world.” And “Don’t be afraid to risk being wrong.”

The best way to enjoy a conference: Don’t work it. Let everyone else do the worrying. Sit down, listen, be a sponge then go home and write.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard at a conference? Share!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bridge to Publication - Bayou Writers' Group - Lake Charles, LA

Tomorrow is our Bayou Writers' Group annual conference. We have an interesting line-up this year. Check it out. You can get more info from our website: http://bayouwritersgroup.com .


   D.B. Grady is a Correspondent for The Atlantic co-authoring Secrets: What You Need to Know About What You’re Not Supposed to Know with Marc Ambinder of National Journal (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). His debut novel, Red Planet Noir, won the 2010 Indie Book Award for Science Fiction.


  Mark Harris is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and a columnist for Entertainment Weekly. His first book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, won the 2009 Theater Library Association Award and a CODES Notable Books Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book and the year’s best nonfiction book by Booklist Magazine.

  Anita Mumm, of Nelson Literary Agency (www.nelsonagency.com), is the first reader for all query letters and sample pages that come in through the slush pile. She takes pitches from writers at conferences across the country. Mumm has picked a number of exciting new authors for the company, including Jennifer Shaw Wolf, whose edgy young adult, Tigerseye, will be out in early 2012.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Relocation

Remember when I told you we’d be moving to Columbus, Mississippi? Didn’t happen and not going to.

2012 will be spent in Oklahoma. Dodging tornados. Hopping over cracks caused by earthquakes. Slipping and sliding on icy roads. I don’t even own a coat because we don’t need them here in SW Louisiana.
The way it looks now, we’ll be relocating sometime in January.  The job will actually be in Yukon, about 17 miles west of Oklahoma City. Don’t know yet where we’ll live.

In case you aren’t familiar with Yukon, it’s the home of Garth Brooks but best of all, one of my favorite old cowboy actors lives there. Remember Dale Robertson, Tales of Wells Fargo? He’s around 88 now. And yes, I will definitely look for him and recognize him. No one had a smile or voice like Dale Robertson. Surely he meets up with a bunch of pals for coffee. 

When we face a relocation like this, I can't focus on anything else. So many unanswered questions. All I know about Oklahoma would be a drop in a thimble. I have a writer friend there—but of course, she lives just far enough away that we won’t be able to have daily meets. We have family in the Tulsa area. That’s more than an hour away.
There are many, many writers, writer groups, and conferences all through Oklahoma so why can’t I get excited about this?  Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a new adventure, but I’m past the age for really enjoying new adventures--unless it's coffee with Dale Robertson.

Any of you live in the Yukon-Oklahoma City area?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Flash Fiction Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my flash fiction contest and signed up as a follower. I recruited three judges and they have spoken. My judges liked the energy and voice in the winning entry as well as the use of dialogue. So the winner is:

 A Halloween Collar by Wayne Zurl
Wayne Zurl is a retired New York police officer who lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara. Wayne has been getting good reviews on his Sam Jenkins mystery series so it isn’t  surprising that he can also whip out a little flash fiction. His latest release, A New Prospect, was named the year’s best mystery at  the 2011 Independent Publisher’s Book Awards. To learn more about Wayne, visit his website HERE.  My friend Sylvia Ney did an interesting interview with Wayne HERE.  And he was a guest blogger for Sylvia HERE.  If you like series characters, check out Wayne’s books on Amazon and make note: they’re print, some are audio and some are digital.

Now, read Wayne’s winning entry:
A HALLOWEEN COLLAR

“I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it,” I said, and smacked the kid on the back of his head.
The ghoul mask fell from his hand to the floor.
“Up yours,” he said.
I grabbed his nose and put my face an inch from his ear. “The next time I hit you, sport, you’ll lose your teeth.”
His eyes strained to look at me. I removed my fingers from his beak.
“I chased you four blocks,” I said, “and ripped my pants going over that fence. I am not a happy policeman. I’ll ask again. Where did you get those fireworks?”
“I forget.”
I smacked him again, this time a little harder.
His hand went defensively to his head. “I’ll have your badge for that, man.”
“I doubt that. Blowing up a mailbox makes you guilty of a felony. Where did you get the
M-80s?”
An arrogant smirk crossed his face. “From my father, the chief inspector.”


Wayne will receive a print copy of Southern Writers Magazine. Thanks everyone!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest - 159 Words! (CLOSED! CLOSED!)

The contest is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered my Flash Fiction contest and signed up to follow my blog. I had eleven entries and they're all so much fun to read. A couple made me laugh out loud. One made me cringe in pain. Some made me look over my shoulder when I was in the house alone.

I'll be shooting them off to the judges and will get back with you soon. I hate, hate, hate choosing just one winner, but those are the rules. 


Winner will be posted soon -- I hope!
Jess



I’ve enjoyed reading (and writing for) the new Southern Writers Magazine . The pages are packed with encouragement and advice from voices of experience. The articles and interviews share secrets of success by experts in book marketing, promotion, branding, blogging, screenwriting, songwriting, conferences and more—all with a touch of Southern hospitality, of course. I want you to sample this great magazine so I’m hosting a writing contest. The winner will receive the latest issue of Southern Writers Magazine—a print issue because I want you to see just how wonderful it is. The color is vivid. The pages are thick. The print is comfortably readable.


Contest Rules:

"I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it."

Using the Groucho Marx quote above as your first line, write a story in 159 words or less. (The quote serves as the first nine.) No profanity because I don’t like it. No erotica because you need to keep that good time to yourself. Put your name and email address below your story then post your 150 words in the comment section. There must be a minimum of ten (10) entries and you must add yourself as a follower of my blog. Deadline: October 31st.

All entries will be judged by selected members of my Bayou Writers lunch bunch. Sorry, only one winner will be chosen. The winning entry will be posted on my blog with gushy, flattering comments from the judges.

I repeat—in a nutshell:

You must add yourself as a follower of this blog if you aren’t already.

Your first line should be: "I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it." (No modification)

Story must be 159 words max. Any kind of story—romance, western, scifi, fantasy, horror, etc. No profanity/No erotica.

Post your story in comment section with name and email.

A minimum of ten entries or contest is cancelled.

Deadline: Midnight, October 31st

Winner announced November 4th (or shortly thereafter)

Winner will be published on my blog and receive the November issue (print copy) of Southern Writers Magazine. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at jessy31writer (at) aol (dot) com

This will be the first contest I've hosted -- hope it's fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet Michael Lamendola and his eBook Guide

Last week I purchased The eBook Formatting & Publishing Guide by Michael Lamendola.

I came across Michael on Twitter. He’d made some mouthy comment that capured my attention so I looked at a few more of his tweets. Someone was raving about his eBook guide. I checked it out. For 99 cents, why not?
Many of the books I purchase don’t deliver—or totally overwhelm me with info, so much that I can’t comprehend. Michael’s book was right on target. When he says step-by-step guide, he’s not lying. I read the entire thing immediately, highlighting all pertinent info. Yeah, I said pertinent. You see, Michael has a lot of commentary that doesn’t have to do with his step-by-step; he has jokes, derision, profanity--some of it's funny, I guess. I cracked a smile now and then, but alot of it was distracting. And some of it just got old. At least for me. It's nothing the kids don’t hear on the playground, but then, I’m not a kid so I don’t like that kind of stuff. I waded through it, highlighting all the way.
In spite of the ‘filler’ Michael really does share valuable info in an easy to read, easy to understand manner. In fact, there were times I wanted to reach out and hug him because he shares info that I haven't read in other how-to books. It’s as if he’s sitting right there at your desk with you, telling you to do this…do that, but in real-talk. Once I memorize his instructions (make my notes) I’ll see what I can do about getting my own book on Kindle. And if his instructions don't work, I'll let you know. Oddly, I have faith in Michael's book; something about his tone, his friendliness, his being there at the desk with me, built trust. If you read this how-to book, you'll know what I mean--you'll feel it too.
At the end of the how-to, Michael includes a few chapters of his two novels. Of course, I can’t read them. Profanity is an issue with me. But he’s an interesting guy. Did I tell you he’s a cruise ship singer?  This author/actor/singer has a lot going for him.

You can listen to a podcast HERE . He discusses his reading/writing history. Verrrrrry interesting.

Check out his novel Dirty Work HERE. This is the first in the Red Fox series.
and his second book in the series is:
Thrift Store Bounty Hunters HERE:
If you like hilarious, fast-paced thrillers, these books are getting great reviews.  Michael Lamendola might be your next favorite author.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Part II: Marketing--More Secrets of John Locke's Success

Back in July I posted Marketing: The Secret of John Locke's Success by Randy Ingermanson but never followed up with Part 2. Here it is for those who have contacted me. And for the record, How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months is now 2.99 on Amazon.

Marketing: More Secrets of John Locke's Success

Last month I began an analysis of John Locke's lastest book on marketing fiction, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS, which you can get on Amazon for $4.99.

Locke has some great ideas, and my goal here is to organize them into something we can all can use -- a set of steps to follow when marketing a novel.

As I noted last month, there are six main tasks you need to accomplish in creating and marketing your
fiction. Locke doesn't list these anywhere in so many words, nor does he give you time estimates for how long they ought to take. So here's my list:

* Define your General Target Audience (days of work)
* Create your book (months of work)
* Create your platform (weeks of work)
* Launch your book (one day of work)
* Grow your platform (ongoing effort for years)
* Market your book (ongoing effort for months)

Let's look at these elements in turn:


Defining Your General Target Audience
_____________________________________

I talked about the first of these, defining your General Target Audience, in  last month's marketing
column. If you haven't done this task yet, there's just no time like the present, so go have a look now. All back issues of this e-zine are archived here: http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com/ezine


Creating your book
__________________

Creating your book is of course a topic I've been teaching in this e-zine for years. Most of what I teach
is summarized and organized in my best-selling book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES.

The one main point that John Locke makes which I believe is different from most authors is that he very consciously writes a novel that he believes will delight his General Target Audience -- and nobody else. He really doesn't care if he offends everybody else.

There is real freedom in writing just for a chosen few readers. Make them incredibly happy and don't worry about anyone else. That's the Locke strategy, and I think it's exactly right.

As a matter of fact, you might write a book for some subset of your General Target Audience. This would be the Specific Target Audience for that particular book.

Locke has done that with his western novels, which aren't for all of his fans -- they're only for those of
his fans who love westerns.

Creating your platform
______________________

There are certain standard elements of any writer's platform, and John Locke has nothing new to say here. His platform uses the same basic parts as anyone else's.

Here are the basic elements of a platform. Again, I'm giving time estimates for how long each of these
elements should take:

* Create a web site (weeks of work)
* Create an e-mail list for your fans (one day)
* Create a blog (about a week)
* Create a Facebook page (less than one day)
* Create a Twitter account (less than one hour)

All of these are standard parts of your platform. You don't have to have all of them, but most writers have several of these elements. I've listed them in the order which I'd suggest doing them, although there's nothing sacred about this order.

Since we're trying to understand in this article what John Locke is doing differently from everybody else, I'm not going to go into details about how to do any of the above. I've written tons of material in the past in this column on web sites, e-mail lists, and blogging.

You can find excellent books on all of these topics.
Launching your book
___________________
You can launch your book in one day, simply by announcing it to your platform. Add a page to your web site with all the details about your book, including an excerpt and directions on where to buy it.
Send an announcement to your e-mail list, giving them a good reason to buy the book right now.

Post a blog entry announcing your book. Ditto for Facebook. Tweet your book.

There, your book is launched. Again. John Locke does this the same way everybody else does.

Grow your platform
__________________
It's not that hard to grow your platform. You do this by adding good content to your web site, answering your e-mail, and posting on your blog and Twitter and Facebook.

Your goals are to increase the amount of traffic to your web site, the number of fans on your e-mail list, the number of people who read your blog, the number of fans you have on Facebook, and the number of people who follow you on Twitter.

This takes time and happens slowly. It pays off whenever you launch a new book, because over time
you'll build an increasing number of people in your General Target Audience who now know about you.

By definition, your General Target Audience is the set of people who LOVE your work, so each book launch should get better as the years go by and your platform grows and grows.

Locke really doesn't say much about the mechanics of growing your platform. He does say that he answers all his e-mail himself, and he encourages fans to sign up for his e-mail announcement list. And he tweets a lot, building what he calls his Friendship Circle.

So what is it exactly, that John Locke is doing differently than everybody else? From our analysis
above, it's clear that he's doing most things the same as most authors.

The answer is that he tackles the final main task differently. Let's look at that now.
Market your book
________________

Marketing is an ongoing effort that begins the day you launch your book and ends when your book goes out of print.

Locke does some blog interviews, just like most authors. He considers this to be mainly an exercise in
building name recognition, and he's probably right.

He also listens to his readers, and this is key. What is he listening for? He's listening to what it is they
like (and don't like) about his books.

By listening to readers, Locke is continually refining his understanding of his General Target Audience.

If a reader likes his book, Locke asks himself what it is in that particular reader that makes her like the
book.

If a reader hates it, Locke asks what it is about that particular reader that makes him hate the book.

Where does Locke listen to his readers? He reads the Amazon reviews. He reads his e-mail. He reads the comments on his blog. He reads what people say about his books on Facebook and Twitter.

I think this is where Locke differs from most of us.

Most authors read a glowing Amazon review or a fawning e-mail and think, "Wow, I'm amazing!"

Locke thinks, "Wow, I understand my General Target Audience better now!"

Most authors read a scathing Amazon review or an angry e-mail and think, "Gack, either I must be awful or this reader is a jerk."
Locke thinks, "Well, that person sure isn't in my General Target Audience! I guess I understand who I'm NOT writing for a little better now. So how can I revise the marketing copy for the book to attract more of my General Target Audience and scare off those who aren't in it?"

Locke does two other things for his marketing, and these seem to me to be unique. Certainly, these are the things he considers to be different from what everyone else is doing:

* He writes "Loyalty Transfer Blogs."
* He taps into the "Viral Circle" on Twitter.

These are going to take some time to analyze, so I'll talk about them next month. They're related, so it
makes sense to treat them as two parts of the same basic idea. If you're in a hurry to learn about them
right now, go ahead and grab a copy of his book, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS.

Here's a quick link to his book on Amazon, and of course this link includes my Amazon affiliate code,
because I think the book is darned good and therefore I highly recommend it: http://amzn.to/ndd258

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love is ... Writing, Reading, and Getting the Mail

Saturday was a great day for mail. Yes, in spite of email and instant gratification, I still get excited about going the post office and finding all kinds of wonderful stuff. I’m probably the only person you’ll ever meet who can get somewhat excited about junk mail. I actually browse through it—especially if there isn’t anything else wonderful. Saturday was a major coup.
Hubby got his contributor’s copy of Love Is A Verb. I think when he saw the beautiful hardback book, he was sufficiently impressed. Until that moment, I was the one thrilled--he didn’t realize what a compliment, what an achievement it was to be accepted. If you happen to purchase a copy (and believe me it will make a great Christmas gift), check out his devotional. He’s April 4th.

He also finally got the first issue of his birthday subscription to Mystery Scene magazine. That’s really a great publication for mystery writers. Educates and informs.

And, I got something too! My copy of Wishcraft by Barbara Sher w/Annie Gottlieb. Hey! Don’t laugh at me—this is a great little book, originally published in 1979. If it’s still in print (I have the 30th anniversary edition) there’s good reason. Forty-six WONDERFUL reviews--go over and read them!
I’m taking a course from Kara Lennox over at SavvyAuthors called Aim High, Shoot Straight: Achieving Your Writing Goals. Author Kara presents her plan for focusing on what you really want from your writing career, then shows how to formulate concrete, achievable goals and develop a step-by-step plan for achieving them. She also shows how to manage your time and your fears; and instructs on proven problem-solving techniques and tips for staying motivated.

Kara also writes as Karen Leabo. She's written 50-plus contemporary romance novels. Kara's books have been nominated for major romance industry awards as well, including the National Readers' Choice Awards and the Holt Medallion. She won a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for best Harlequin American Romance in 2003. She has also been a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the RITA competition, the Romance Writers of America's prestigious peer award. In the world of screenwriting, Kara has written ten feature screenplays, three of which have been optioned. And these credits are just the sprinkles on her publishing cake. She's an actress too! So yeah, the lady knows how to focus and achieve those goals and dreams.
The course has been great so far; I’ve learned a lot about myself; mainly, that I’m not aiming very high and I’m not shooting very straight. And why.

Do YOU have a career plan and steps to achieving your dreams? Do you know what's standing in your way or what diverts you from your goals? SHARE with us, please!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Write The Book You Want to Write -- Really?

Last week my friend Christa Allan came to Lake Charles to speak to a book club and at the library. I always enjoy hearing Christa speak. Even though she’s had a couple of books published and several more contracts to fulfill, she still has a certain amount of naiveté about her when it comes to talking about/dealing with the publishing world. Translated, that means honesty.

I met Christa several years ago when she evacuated from South Louisiana to Lake Charles because of Katrina. She was here when Rita hit so she actually experienced two hurricanes. Last week she told us how she put her manuscript in a zip lock bag when she evacuated. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
During the time Christa lived here, we brainstormed, critiqued, judged contests and enjoyed getting to know each other. I was sad when she moved back to Abita Springs. Selfishly, I wish she was still here.

Christa has a quirky personality. Well, quirky is probably putting it mildly. She's really quirky. I suppose you have to be if you successfully teach high school English. On second thought, quirky helps the writer too, doesn’t it?

For her first two books, Christa mined from her own life, but she’s quick to say, “You don’t have to experience everything to write about it.”

Christa’s simplified progression to getting published is this:
“Write the Book * Go to a conference * Network * Sell it”

Basically, that’s the way you do it with a little of this and that thrown it. The this and that is—and I witnessed this with my own eyes—negative critiques, bad advice, low scores from contests and discouragement.

Christa was told in critiques and from contest judges to cut the prologue of Walking on Broken Glass, which turned out to be her debut novel. She was told that no one reads or likes prologues. Thankfully, she didn’t listen.

She was told not to write in first person—that readers/editors don’t like first person point of view. She didn’t listen.

She was told that she would never sell a book about an alcoholic; she didn’t give up. She didn’t listen.

Christa says, “It’s all about story. Story trumps everything else.”

It would have been so easy to throw the book away and start from scratch but Christa says she knew she wasn’t the only recovering alcoholic who was also a Christian.  She searched Christian fiction for real life struggles but the subject of alcoholism was like an elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge.

Below, read the heartfelt prologue that everyone wanted to cut. These words were taken from the personal pages of Christa's own journal. 

from WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS, Prologue:

If I had known children break on the inside and the cracks don’t surface until years later, I would have been more careful with my words.


If I had known some parents don’t live to watch grandchildren grow, I would have taken more pictures and been more careful with my words.

If I had known couples can be fragile and want what they are unprepared to give or unwilling to take, I would have been more careful with my words.

If I had known teaching lasts a lifetime, and students don’t speak of their tragic lives, I would have been more careful with my words.

If I had known my muscles and organs and bones and skin are not lifetime guarantees that when broken, snagged, unstitched or unseemly, can not be returned for replacement, I would have been kinder to the shell that prevents my soul from leaking out.

If I had known I would live over half my life and have to look at photographs to remember my mother adjusting my birthday party hat so that my father could take the picture that sliced the moment out of time—if I had known, if I had known—I would have been more careful with my life.
                            

Christa’s second novel is just as honest and straightforward as her first. As if she's taller than her five feet, two inches, she goes nose to nose with hate and prejudice.

About EDGE OF GRACE:

When Caryn Becker answers the telephone on most Saturday morning, it’s generally not a prelude to disaster. Except this time, her brother David’s call shifts her universe. Her emotional reserves are already depleted being a single parent to six-year-old Ben after the unexpected death of her husband Harrison.

But when David is the target of a brutal hate crime, Caryn has to decide what she’s willing to risk, including revealing her own secrets, to help her brother. A family ultimately explores the struggle of acceptance, the grace of forgiveness, and moving from prejudice to love others as they are, not as we’d like them to be.



One reviewer says: Allan awakens compassion for the gay Christian as well as his loved ones whose paradigm he wrenches.

Most Christians argue there’s no such thing as a gay Christian while others say, “We’re glad man doesn’t choose who goes to heaven.”

Christa walks a tight-rope in her writing—with the Christian Book Association and the ABA.  She is the Catch-22.

Writers like Christa Allan pave the way for those of us who don’t have the guts to write what we want to write or haven’t yet found our voice. 

Above all else, we have to write what we want to write—from our heart—whether it is Christian fiction or that story of a serial killer that publishers call a cliché that is of no interest. Don’t listen to negativity. If we believe in ourselves and write the best story we can write, someone will buy it. Someone. Some day.

Christa says, “I didn’t get published because I’m the best writer; I got published because I didn’t give up.”

And we can take that bit of advice to the bank!