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.

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


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
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 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 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.