Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Go for Gold

Tip of the Day: want something fun to eat while watching the Olympics? Try some of these dishes from Taste of Home.

It's nearly impossible not to have Olympic Fever right now, so there's not much else on my mind. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that sometimes being an author feels similar to how an Olympic athlete must feel when they have to wait four more years to see if they can make the Olympic Team. And based on the performance of the gymnastics team so far this Olympics, I'm realizing athletes and writers have even more in common.

No tale of sadness at this Olympics has seemed quite as frustrating as Jordyn Wieber being left out of the All-Around competition in gymnastics. Just watching her break down on national television caused me to tear up myself (which isn't saying a whole lot, considering I teared up during the Love in the Wild finale last week...but still). She was slated to possibly win Gold, but instead made a few minor faults and placed third on her team during the qualification round. Of course, athletes make mistakes and it's incredibly heartbreaking not to get the opportunity to achieve something you've worked your whole life for. It's nothing new. But what's makes this tale particularly frustrating has to be the fact that she qualified for the competition--as I'm sure you've all heard by now--finishing fourth overall, while the top 24 athletes move on to the All-Around competition. However, a rule states that only two athletes from each country can compete, and since she finished behind two of her American teammates she was out. Which just stinks and seems to add fire to her wound. 

It's not that she wasn't good enough--well not entirely at least--it's just that she wasn't better than two of her teammates that day.

So how is this like writing?

How many of you have heard stories of writers not being published, not because they weren't good enough, but instead because a certain publisher might have just bought a similar book... or because one editor wants to aquire the book but can't get it through acquisitions for whatever reason? Or even because what you are writing is not in trend at the moment, even though you know tons of people that still read it. There's so many reasons why books don't get published. Many times it has to do with the fact they aren't very good or sellable, but there's plenty of other times when it has nothing to do with the quality of the book or even the content.

Which can be unfair.

Exactly how I'm sure Ms. Wieber feels completely cheated right now at the rule that seems slightly unfair.

Well at least her consolation prize is that she has a chance to win Gold with her team today (unless it's already happened--in that case if you already know the outcome, no spoilers in the comments. I'm sick of turning to NBC by accident right before an event is broadcast only to learn who already won on the Nightly News....on the same network.)

Happy Olympic Watching!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Outlining Madness #3: Time Keeps On Slipping

Tip of the Day: Taking a long family vacation? Buy Dramamine before you go. It can be tough to find it on the road.

As you outline your new story, think about when the story takes place and for how long. Your outline can be your guide as to how much time will pass in your novel, but the time of year is so important to your setting. For example, here are the last two novels I read:

Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett: Tempers are high as the city suffers through a record heat wave. The summer drought allows people access to subterranean tunnels that are normally underwater.

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson: Fake bees used for springtime pollination show how the main character reacts to pain, an important plot point. Later, spring rains cause the main character to use a city-provided raincoat, marking him without him knowing as part of a certain caste.

So think about the time of year and the weather and how it directly effects your characters. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

1. Tie the weather to your location. Snowstorms in Montana are different than snowstorms in Virginia, and they can both be very interesting. Don't concentrate on making the weather convenient for your characters or putting your characters in a neutral weather season. Let the weather screw them up.

2. Use holidays or upcoming family gatherings for deadlines and tension. My last novel takes place on the Moon underground. No weather, but the book opens with my store-owning family needing sales stock for the Christmas season. Holiday plot possibilities are endless: Halloween, a Bar Mitzvah, a family wedding, Valentine's Day, birthdays ...

3. Where are your characters at a certain time of the year? If your characters are in high school, you may be avoiding summer for a school story, or placing your whole story in the summer to avoid school. Rather than completely avoiding a subject, try to start with a natural beginning. A summer job story might start with the job interview rather than the first day of work, for example. Why does your character need this job?

4. Not sure when to set your story? Research. Let's say you want to write a story about a farming community. Each of the four seasons on a farm has a different rhythm. Which is best for your story? Even if you grew up on a farm, you might need to brush up on different crops or time periods. Reading will give you fantastic ideas. Maybe your Dust Bowl idea would be best set in the summer, but your modern factory farming idea would work best in the fall.

Have a fun time with this part. Maybe your characters celebrate birthdays in a quirky manner. Maybe they have a unique religious observance people would love to learn about. Maybe they get stuck in a tornado shelter. Maybe your story takes place over several years but Valentine's Day always sucks. Maybe your story takes place in the future when the planet is hotter or colder.

So be specific, do some reading and research, and come up with a definite "when" for your plot. It will add another layer of interest and give you fresh plot ideas.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 27, 2012

Traditional Publishing is Dead? RWA Conference Notes

Tip of the Day: Need to boost your writing output? Pretend you're in the Writing Olympics - time yourself in 1,000-word sprints. Try to beat your own record. Remember, you can always go back and revise. ;)

The Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference is happening this weekend. I'm not a member. I'm not even there. But, boy, am I being flooded with emails about what's happening at this conference.

Interesting tweet #1: "@Jennie_Lucas: #rwa12 holy cow. Stephanie Laurens just said traditional publishing is dead. What an amazing, gutsy speech."

Who is Stephanie Laurens? She's a New York Times bestselling author.

I have to admit, I was STUNNED when I read this tweet. Who would stand up at RWA, an organization who doesn't recognize self-pubs, and say this in front of a crowd of agents, editors, and writers?

Luckily for us, Ms. Laurens posted her keynote online. You can read it here. In her defense, she never said "traditional publishing is dead." Here's the crux of the speech, the part I think you'll find the most interesting:

"So my last words to you are these: Seize the day. Go forth with that same exuberance, joy, and passion in your heart - and write your stories. Seize the day - because for authors there is no danger in this new era. Take your passion and make it happen. Seize the freedom, embrace the opportunity, because one thing is absolutely certain - in all the millennia, there has never been a better time to be a storyteller."

I agree with her 100%. It's what I've been screaming to anyone who will listen. Write with passion. Publish with purpose - in the way that suits you best. I also think she's telling people to get over their hatred of self-pub because it's not evil.

Now back to the other statement I made above about RWA not being self-pub friendly. I have writer/friends who are members of RWA and have long complained that no matter their level of success, they can't get RWA to recognize them as PAN (Published Authors Network) members. It frustrates them as much as it frustrates me as a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). I have more sales to my name (and far more income) than many SCBWI members, and yet I'm not automatically granted PAL (Published and Listed) membership. I'm fighting for PAL membership. It's a good fight, I think.

Anyway, back to RWA.... Now self-pubs WILL be able to get PAN membership.

Interesting tweet #2: Courtney Milan ‏@courtneymilan
AGMnotes #rwa12 Golden Heart next year will be entirely electronic; $5000 self-pub earnings make you PAN eligible.

Wow. Did you hear my jaw drop on the floor?! WOW, WOW, WOW! I checked RWA's website and couldn't find confirmation of this. It's possible the announcement was a surprise and won't be put on the website until after the conference.

If it's true, and I totally believe it is, then RWA has made amazing strides. I want SCBWI, my writing organization, to do the same. Self-publishing is not a black hole of crap. We work our asses off. We love writing. We love readers. We should get validation too. Hats off to RWA for recognizing this!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Being an Author is Like Riding a Roller Coaster

Tip of the Day: Check out this blog post from author Susan Kaye Quinn about Penguin purchasing the vanity  publisher, Author Solutions.

We went to Great America on Monday and I've realized that I don't like roller coasters anymore. I'd  loved them since I was a really little kid and first tall enough to ride. I always wanted to go on the biggest ones with the most flips. But maybe it's something with my age (I'm 36 now) but the thought of getting flipped upside down made my head hurt before I ever got near the ride. I did go on a few rides (small. Think pirate ship turning around type stuff) but even on those I had to keep my eyes closed. Luckily, with 4 kids there was always one who didn't want to go on a ride or one who was too short for it so I could keep taking that kid(s) and do smaller stuff while my husband had to do the big rides. :-)

Anyway, all the roller coaster stuff made me think about this career I have as an author. I've had lots of other jobs. Aside from all the random stuff I did as a young teen through graduating college, I've worked in technical support, was a technical writer for years, and an instructor at a university. All of these jobs were pretty stable. You knew what to expect from day to day. There weren't dramatic increases or decreases. My emotions weren't up one day and down another. With being an author there are A LOT of ups and downs. And twists. And flips. Just like a roller coaster.

You never know what's going to happen and each high is great and each low sucks. I've had times where I was notified hey, you were a bestseller this month! And I'm jumping up and down excited. Only to get a scathingly awful review from a major reviewer the next day. I've been given a national reward for one book and then had promo taken away for another book. I've sold foreign and film rights on one book and then gotten dozens of rejections on a different book. And the upside down flips are the worst. I've gotten close with sales a number of times-- revising several books for different editors (going up the big loop) who loved those books only to have something happen, like others on the review board turn it down, and the project gets passed on (coming back down the loop). It can be rough. It's definitely emotionally unlike any other job I've had.

I guess with time you get more used to the ups and downs and they don't bother you so much. Or maybe it's that I keep trying to flatten the track and not get quite so excited about the good stuff and not so devastated about the bad stuff.

I still don't like roller coasters but it's part of the job.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obviously Not (or Sometimes You Just Need to Work Hard)

Tip of the Day: Proof that the truth can be stranger than fiction -- an entreprenuer from my city -- The Snuggery. What are your thoughts?

One of my pet peeves is when a problem in a fiction work is solved too easily, or too obviously, almost like the author didn't want to work a little harder to find a creative, unique solution that would surprise and delight the reader while adding more to the story.

For example, my 3-year old badminton net was totally falling apart and I had people coming over to my house to play lawn games. Options were:

1. Leave the net loose, flopping in the breeze, with a bent plastic post.
[[This, however, would not solve the problem; equivalent to an author not addressing a plot problem, inconsistency, or factor that the main character herself would not ignore.]]

2. Run to the store and buy a new net.
[[This would be a boooring solution, and could cause an unnecessary scene change (the store) and chapter to get there and back when the action we're getting ready for takes place in the lawn.]]

3. Scramble around the house to find bits and pieces of already owned items to rig up something that adds to the story/characters:

[[Like the shepard's hook pole (from main characters' wedding decorations), yarn rigging (from MC's home knit socks), and barbell pole (from MC's husband's weight set...that he obviously does not use). Plus now there's room for lightning to strike the net and set fire to the drought-ridden yard!]]

Look at all the story possibilities that can be added when you work just a little harder.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dream Land or Bust

Tip of the Day: never stop dreaming!

A few weeks ago, Tina posted that your life won't change drastically after you publish a book. Before she did I was actually thinking how wonderful a little extra money would be. Even though she did bring me back to reality, I still enjoy living in Dream Land, so I'll continue thinking of all the kick-butt things I would be able to buy once I sell any of my books.

Now to be fair, I don't write for money. If I did, I'd have quit many years ago. But on some level money would be nice as a validation of all the hard work. Writing a book isn't easy, so to accomplish that we all totally deserve something fun.

When my time comes, here are just a few things I'd spend my extra Benjamins on...

1.)  A maid: now I'm not talking about a live-in maid or anything. I won't be that spoiled. But a visit from Merry Maids every other week or so would feel like a god send. Because clearly seeing dirty dishes and stepping in piles of dog slobber and hair is not nearly as motivating to clean as it once was, especially after a particularly grueling writing session.

2.) Portrait-orientation computer monitor: of course after just recently getting new monitors, I saw that there are now ones that can be turned to portrait orientation. Why oh why did I not see these before? These would be perfect for a writer!

3.) A trip: really nothing in my life is complete without travel involved. So I would totally reward myself with a trip. Preferably to a continent that I have never been. Machu Picchu in Peru is sounding particular good to me right now.

4.) Debrands Ice Cream Sundaes: in my city we have one of the best chocolate shops out there, but they can be a bit pricey. They make sundaes that are to-die for. If in my Dream Land, I also wouldn't have to be worried about calories, then I would totally get one of these every week. Actually, I'd probably get one once a week, regardless of the calories--and make myself actually get off my butt and exercise--that's how good these are.

5.) Doggy Day Care: my dog's been through just as much torture as me during difficult writing days, since my office turns into a doggy obstacle course with paper thrown all over the floor, the poor guys needs a bone thrown at him--in more ways then one. We tried to get him a dog playmate, which didn't fair very well, so I think he'd enjoy a day out every week. And it might help me feel slightly less guilty every time I see his sad face when I leave in the morning. And if he's away from my house once a week, maybe there would be less hair on the floor and our Merry Maid wouldn't have to visit so often.

So back to reality and back to work, so all these dreams can come true!

But in the mean time, what would your Dream Land look like?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 23, 2012

Outlining Madness #2: Is This Plot Any Good?

Tip of the Day: Check out The Interns Query Tips (Twitter hashtag #querytip) and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=484093844953373.

So, I've been outlining plots and I keep wondering: do I have this down right? Because I have a habit of outlining important plot points with one sentence. In my last novel, my main character has to find her boyfriend, who is guarding a high security facility. So my outline says something like "She finds boyfriend, has him sneak her into facility." But then I started writing and realized that there was no way in hell she'd ever get her boyfriend alone. He's a 17-year-old security guard. He's outside of a heavily guarded factory. He can't follow a distraction and go off alone. He at least has to have a partner. So my main character couldn't get in the facility without interacting with the partner. Now I had a new character and had to rewrite the last 2/3 of my novel because I didn't think through that one sentence.

So after you write your outline, study it.

Do have any huge, multi-chapter events summarized in one sentence, such as "they escape"? I'm outlining by scene now, and I realize that what I now think is one scene may end up being two scenes. But I need to look for those red flags where I may have to hammer out more logistics or I'll end up with six scenes.

Is there always adhesive for the main characters in every scene? James Scott Bell uses this term in his popular craft book Plot and Structure. Basically, you should never have a point where any of your main characters could simply walk away and be okay. They have to be stuck to the plot: have so much at stake that they can't change their minds and leave the book.

Make sure reactions are realistic. Once something big happens, make sure you've left room for your main character to react. Big events should change your main character's direction. When she has a huge setback, don't start the next scene as if nothing's happened.

Think about how you can increase the tension between characters. Your characters should not be getting along. Best friends, family, lovers ... put them at each other's throats. Don't rely on your main character starting arguments because she doesn't know what's really going on, though. I like to think of ways the person the main character thinks she needs the most will turn against her. I may not use it, but it's a great exercise in torturing your characters. If you have a character who only exists for moral support, get rid of him or her (or change him to create more tension).

So I think I might list out my characters and write a note about how each of them is making life worse for my main character. This will give me lots of great plot ideas.

Here's a great tip from Rhonda Helms's plotting class: Resolve your subplot before you resolve the main plot. Don't try to wrap them both up at once, and especially don't outline this by writing something like "last chapter: tie up all loose ends." Decide how to resolve each subplot and where, and resolve the main conflict last.

Any other ideas to solidify your outlined plots?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 20, 2012

Find Free & 99 Cent eBooks You'll LOVE!

Tip of the Day: Today is the last day to enter my Big Bash on my blog!

I hear it over and over and over and over again: "Free ebooks suck! I wouldn't ever buy an ebook for 99 cents because, clearly, a cheap book is terrible and a waste of money!"

I'd venture to say this isn't true.

I can tell you exactly how to find a free and/or cheap ebook you'll have a great chance at loving.

1. Don't download an ebook that has mostly 1-star ratings. It's a logical statement, but you'd be surprised how many people see the word "free" and can't stop themselves from taking it anyway. Imagine you were at a food fest and some random dude walked up to you and said, "Would you like to try this deep-fried goat tongue, sprinkled with the essence of eel farts?" Would you take it? Doubtful. So don't download the ebook with all 1-star ratings.

2. But if you like deep-friend goat tongue, sprinkled with the essence of eel farts, then go ahead. Look, here's the thing - not everyone is going to like everything. Read the reviews. They are there for a reason. If everyone hates goat tongue, but you have an affinity for essence of eel farts, then give it a try.

3. Don't blame the author if you don't like the subject. I write YA fantasy. It's a little bit of romance, a little bit of snark, a little bit of silly, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of adventure. It's NOT Lord of the Rings. It's NOT classical literature. It's NOT for everyone on the planet. I want my books to find their audience, but that target audience isn't every breathing human who knows how to read. Only download ebooks with decent reviews that speak to the topics you like. Don't blame me if you wanted erotica - you're not getting it from my books. ;)

4. Ask your friends for a recommendation. Want a new book to read on the cheap? Ask your friends what cheap books they've read and enjoyed lately. Word of mouth is the BEST way to figure out what to read next. Just ask on Facebook. Trust me, you'll get a ton of responses.

5. Sample, sample, sample. Before downloading an ebook, sample it. Yes, most ebooks (at least the cheap ones, which are quite likely self-published or from small presses) allow you to sample the beginning for free. Read the first chapter or two. See if you connect with the writing and voice. If you hate it, don't download the ebook even if it's free. I think I'm back to that whole goat tongue/eel fart concept here.

So, there you go. A simple, but succinct, guide to navigating free and cheap ebooks. Are some of them terrible? Probably. But I'd wager the majority of them ARE NOT. Take a risk on a new author. You never know what you'll find!

*If you like romance, adventure, and magic with a teen protagonist, then try my first novel, Anathema. You got it, Anathema's free. ;) If, however, you enjoy high-brow, sophisticated, or contemporary romances or intense fantasy with a journey and many weird, magical creatures, then Anathema is not for you!

Want a free book from another genre? Take a look at this list on my blog and enter to win a $10 Amazon.com gift card while you're there.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to Break Up with Your Agent

Tip of the Day: Check out this funny list of common break-up lines and their agent rejection equivalent.

A friend recently asked me how to go about breaking up with her agent. I broke up with an agent once a couple of years ago. It's not fun. Even though technically your literary agent "works for you" and dropping an agent shouldn't be any harder than say, getting rid of your Realtor who hasn't sold your house in six months, it is. Breaking up with your agent sometimes feels like breaking up with a friend or a boyfriend. You're nervous, you don't know how to break the news, you have to give back his CDs and Varsity jacket. :-) It can be awful. But if you really feel like your author-agent relationship isn't working (lack of communication, lack of sales/or publisher contacts, or maybe the passion is gone for your work), then it's time to break up.

So how do you go about breaking up? Well, I can tell you, don't tweet, facebook, or text the news. The best thing to do is first check your agent-author agreement and see what it says as far as terminating the relationship. There may be a clause in there that says you have to give 30-day notice. And if it says that, be sure that you don't start querying new agents before that time period expires. (And note: NEVER query a new agent while still in a relationship with your old agent. Like with boyfriends, that's not cool!). Then the next best thing to do is call your agent and have a talk. Again, like boyfriends, there's a chance your agent is already feeling the same way. After that, put it in writing. Some people like to send a registered letter to have a paper trail. Some like to send a simple e-mail and get confirmation that it was received.

And regarding the termination wording? Keep it short and simple. Don't go off on a tirade on what isn't working in the relationship. Thank your agent for the work they've done for you. Even if you're not happy at the moment, your agent has worked hard for you and if there hasn't been any sales well then all that work has been for free so far. Thank him or her. Then, tell the agent that your relationship isn't working out and briefly mention why if you'd like. But I'm serious when I say be brief. Something like, "due to the communication issues we've had I feel it's time that we part ways." After that be crystal clear in your letter's intent. Something like, "This letter serves as termination of our agreement." would work. And then end the letter simply after that. Wish your agent well and sign off.

Hope this has been helpful! If you have questions put them in the comments and I'll answer as best as I can.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer in the Library (or YAY! My Shelves are Empty!)

Tip of the Day: Emily may have said yesterday that Wendy's summer beverages are delish, but for those lucky enough to live near a Wegmans, their organic lemonades are addicting!

I love summer time in the library! Let me count the ways:

1. Kids and teens are exciting about reading! Yes, we also bribe them with Summer Reading prizes and parties, but they love talking about the books they've read.

2. Teens are done with exams and have time to read so my YA shelves are nearly bare. YAY! I love it when stuff is checked out, especially my new book shelves! Not kidding. Probably 100 new books checked out. Sweet!

3. It is so busy that the time on the reference desk flies by.

4. It is air-conditioned.

5. I can sit outside in the shade during my lunch breaks and write without shivering.

6. Natural vitamin-D for better patron/staff moods.

What are you favorite things about summer at your local library?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can authors live like characters?

Tip of the Day: the berry lemonade at Wendy's is delicious!

People say reality is stranger than fiction. Even so, fiction is much more fun to write!

As I've been writing fiction for longer and longer, it feels like it's starting to sink into my everyday life. Not only with the stories and characters themselves, but with how I write in general.

Working in public relations, I write many articles for the newspaper or a newsletter on a weekly basis, but more often than not now I just want to make up a quote that someone said; infuse a deep murder mystery into the most mundane of topics, like the color of the wallpaper chosen for the new library; or make all my stories take place in Europe-which would be much more exciting then writing about events at my library in Indiana, even though those are pretty cool too.

Being able to make up characters and general exaggerations of reality would make my articles much more exciting to read. Blog entries included.

I have a feeling this is why some people have resorted to using pen names: it feels much more freeing to not-be-yourself. I wouldn't feel bad if I assigned myself fake friends and went into detail about them on a blog entry: because I'm a "fake" author to begin with. I wouldn't feel like I'd have to be truthful about how I spent my day: because the person I’m pretending to be doesn’t even exist.

Do you think authors with pen names actually do this? Make up real life too?

Just curious, because I would wager that many snippets of information that celebrities put out into the universe is partially made up to fit their "persona." So I'm not sure if authors could get away with that too. Or even if readers would care.

Just something to ponder if you are considering having a pen name: it could be good for you on more than one level. It's either that, or the con artist book I’ve been revising right now is making me think of strange things. It's possible my character that enjoys changing her identify and personality every time she moves has been seeping into my mind so much that I'm starting to think it’s real and want my real life to reflect it.

Either way, I still think fiction is much more enjoyable to write, and I think I'd have a ton of fun if I decided to make up an author pen name with a completely unique life. And I'd imagine my readers would have more fun with it too. It's seemed to work for people like Lemony Snicket just fine.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Outline Madness #1: The Three-Act Structure

Tip of the Day: Check out Megg's Big Freebie Bash to win free Amazon gift cards and get free ebooks.

Yay, it's another writing series! I haven't done one of these in a long time. This series is all about outlining. This is my summer of Outlining Madness--I'm outlining a trilogy and a few other books to decide what to work on next and learn the craft of pre-plotting. So come, pull up a comfy chair and learn about Outline Madness on Mondays.

What's the Three-Act Structure?

It took me years to get a Kate definition of this in my head. I went way off-outline in my last novel. As I printed it out, though, I found that the first third all took place in one location; then there was a plot twist. The two-thirds point of the novel brought my characters to a huge crisis. Have I absorbed the three-act structure without really trying?

As I develop a novel idea in my head, before I write a word, I have a succession of images: exciting things that could happen to my main characters. The meaty scenes I really want to write. They may not connect together perfectly yet. The three-act structure is about connecting them together. Something exciting is going to happen one-third of the way through the novel. Something else exciting is going to happen two-thirds of the way through the novel, something that will lead to the exciting climax in the third act. And if you're like me, you've probably figured out how the novel ends before you've figured out most of the rest.

So basically:
-- Something happens to kick off the novel
-- 1/3 of the way through, here's an awesome scene I really want to write
-- At around the midpoint, I'd better plan out something else to keep you interested
-- 2/3 of the way through, here's another awesome scene. After this, it's all downhill to the climax.
-- Toward the end, the climax scene resolves the main conflict

And then, you know, just fill in the gaps between the scenes so they happen in logical order.

So what's one-third of the way through? Depends on what you're writing. A 60K word novel, you've got 20K words to work with. How many scenes or chapters that breaks down to depends on your writing style.

Yeah, But That's Not a Plot, Is It?

No, it's not. It's a structure. I still have to figure out what the plot is. What does the main character want? How would I describe this novel in a sentence or two? Actually, it helps to figure out the plot before you try to plug it into a structure.

So, my main character wants a pony, but she's opposed by the fact that ponies have been crossed with lions and are now bloodthirsty predators.
-- Kick-off: My MC meets the pony of her dreams
-- 1/3 of the way through, pony of her dreams kills her neighbor's dog
-- At around the midpoint, MC and pony run away to the Outerbanks
-- 2/3 of the way through, the Federal Board Against Ponies comes to flush them out
-- Toward the end, the MC rallies the ponies to fight back
-- The climax is resolved when MC goes to live in a protected pony habitat she founds

See, I wasn't even really trying there.

Okay, But That's Not Necessarily a Great Novel, Is It?

In other words, just because I have an outline doesn't mean I'm not going to come up with a better plot as I write. How do I know that my outline is the best possible outcome for the bloodthirsty pony world? Or two months from now, will I realize that the book would be immeasurably better if, instead of a Federal Board Against Ponies, there were hunters killing the ponies for sport? And now I have to rewrite the damn novel. How does my outlining method prevent this?

And that will be the topic of my post next week!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 13, 2012

Technology & Writing

Tip of the Day: My birthday is next week! I'm going to give away a whole bunch 'o' stuff on my blog. It should go live sometime on Sunday. Check it out!

When I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I pulled out my parents' 900 lb. typewriter. I found some really old blank paper that was browning nicely around the edges (my mom hoards paper and pens - it is any wonder I'm a writer?), I measured and cut it to be the same size as a page in a paperback book. I carefully rolled it into the typewriter and pounded out my latest masterpiece.


Once I was a little older, like 9 or so, I realized that wasn't how books were made. Instead of wasting my time cutting (I really sucked at using scissors and had to be taught separate from the other kids, using specialized scissors - true story), I filled up page after page after page in notebooks. My parents were pretty tech-forward and I graduated to an Apple IIe soon enough. I printed out pages upon pages of my stories.

(I don't remember my parents even once telling me I was using too much paper - thanks Mom & Dad!)

After high school graduation, I bought my first computer with help from my dad. The rest is history. It couldn't get any better, right? That's what I thought.

Now my writing arsenal is filled with tons of great technology. It's a dream come true.

Today I own an iMac. It's my main hub. I was a PC lover my entire life. While I have to say that I do love my iMac, I really don't find it any more useful than my old PCs. Probably because I was very good with computers (my ex was a computer science engineer - I could build a PC from scratch if I needed to). There wasn't much I didn't know about PCs. But, the iMac makes my integration a tad easier.

I also have an iPad. I convinced my husband I needed it to write. Little did I know how handy it has become. I can write on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. I can easily sync files between my iPad and my iMac.

I also have a Time Capsule, that serves not only as a backup to my computer, but also a wifi router in my house. Now I don't have to worry about losing my work if the iMac dies.

It's so easy for me to write anytime/anyplace with pretty much any of my devices - including my iPhone which I use to take notes (text & voice) when I'm away from home.

Now before you start whining that this sounds like a commercial for Apple, trust me, there are PLENTY of ways to do the same thing with PC devices. I just don't own them and am speaking from personal experience.

Bottom line - There is always a way for me to write, whether I'm at home, on the go, or hanging out in my car waiting for my children. There's no excuses. Now Apple just needs to invent a device that helps me block all of this out so I can have a break once in a while. ;)

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Warning: Your Life Will Not Drastically Change

Tip of the Day: Looking for a job in editing in the Chicagoland area? Albert Whitman just announced an opening for a children's book acquisitions editor.

A facebook friend's post made me think of this week's topic. In it he said that he was writing a book and that if you (his friends reading this post I assume) aren't there for him now during this initial writing process then you sure as heck better not ring him up when he's published and rich and famous.  

Published and rich and famous. Hmm.

Well, I guess I've got to break the news. Getting published isn't going to change your life. Much. Sure it's fun and exciting and book covers are shiny and all that. But unless someone just bought your book for a million dollars and you're going to be getting the top marketing treatment that only very very few authors ever see, then you're still going to have to cut the grass tomorrow, lug the kids to soccer, and clean the toilets.

I met a debut author at a reception not to long ago and he asked me too-- is my whole life going to change after this? And I told him the truth. Nope, not really.

At the last book club event I did with 4th and 5th graders they asked me questions like, are you a millionaire? Do you live in a mansion? Do paparazzi follow you around everywhere you go? I thought their questions were awfully cute but yeah, it's really not that different than before my first book came out.

I think people hear you're an author and assume you're making Snooki book money but that just isn't the case. The majority of the time advances on books are pretty low-- maybe $10,000 to $30,000 per book. $100,000 if they really want the book. But even if it's the $100k, break that down-- take out agent fees, taxes, and split it up over the years that it takes the book to come out (for me it took almost a year to write and revise the book and then another 2 1/2 years from the date I sold the book until it published) and you're making what your local part-time crossing guard is making. Agent Mandy Hubbard does a brilliant job breaking down how an author gets paid in this 2011 post.

After saying all this, I have to tell you that I DO love being an author. It's the best job I've ever had (and I've tried lots of jobs!). But the reason is because I love writing. I love telling stories. And I think that's the key, loving what you do. If you're looking at being an author because you want to be rich and famous, well maybe try out for a reality show instead because the chances are slim. But if writing makes you happy then stick with it. But don't quit your day job. :-)

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An Interview With My Sis (or A Writer and a Massage Therapist Walk Into a Bar...)

Tip of the Day: Interested in the lives of massage therapists? Check out my sister's blog. I know there's a story in here somewhere....

My sister, Andrea Lipomi, an LMT based in Las Vegas and the author of CONFIDENT RELAXATION MASSAGE: ADVICE FOR THE BUDDING MASSAGE THERAPIST, asked me if I would be willing to interview her for her own blog.
Of course I said yes -- and that I would ask questions related to publishing so I could cross-post it here. What a win-win situation! I hope you find this interview interesting and informative in the areas of writing non-fiction, self-publishing ebooks, and creating related course work to your non-fiction topic.

DL: As a writer myself, I was excited to learn that you were writing a book in 2010, and then even more excited to read it and help with your line edits! But as a writer of fiction instead of non-fiction, I'm not as familiar with the process of writing "how to" books. Can you talk about the market research you did before committing to your CONFIDENT RELAXATION MASSAGE: ADVICE FOR THE BUDDING MASSAGE THERAPIST project, and how you figured out how to structure the contents?

AL: First, let me thank you again for all of your help with the editing! You and Darren (our scientist brother) are amazing, and I know that CONFIDENT RELAXATION MASSAGE: ADVICE FOR THE BUDDING MASSAGE THERAPIST wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well as it did if I hadn’t been able to pick your brains.
Back in 2007 I dabbled with the idea of writing a massage therapy tell-all – think WAITING, but with less food and more creepiness. The more I got into it, the more I realized that the bulk of I had to share with the reader was the “uncommon common sense” stuff that I learned the hard way – through making mistakes, trial and error, and utter embarrassment! We’re talking everything from upgrading services from Swedish to deep tissue, to dealing with the smell of onions in the massage room, to handling requests for happy endings (figuratively, of course).

I wanted to write a book about spa-style relaxation massage that would appeal to massage hobbyists and students, in addition to licensed professionals. I’d read a lot of great massage books over the years that were written with a specific audience in mind: people who had never performed a massage in their lives, independent practitioners in need of marketing advice, massage professionals looking to add new modalities to their toolboxes, etc., but I couldn’t find any books out there that focused on performing high-quality relaxation massage in a manner that would appeal to both newbies and seasoned massage therapists. I found my niche!

The structure evolved as I compiled my content. What did I advise my friends to do when they interviewed or auditioned for a massage position? What would I have wanted a friend to tell me when I felt alone and discouraged during my tenure in massage school? What have I shared to bolster a friend’s confidence when they were struggling to assert themselves or struggling to find balance?

There’s a clear distinction between chapters in CRM. This way, someone who’s already comfortable with performing a full-body massage can easily skip over the step-by-step instructions that make up that one particular chapter, for example. I don’t like taking a “one size fits all” approach to many things in life, including my writing.

DL: You also offer online continuing education courses for LMTs. Are they required to purchase and read CRM? How are the course assignments related to the contents of the book?
AL: I have written a continuing education course for massage therapists called AMERICAN SPASPITALITY, and I have another course in the works. It’s completely different from CRM, so to answer your question, MTs do not need to read CRM to take my course.
What these projects DO have in common is that both can be found on smashwords.com. AS is free to download, and if people want CE credit for answering the quiz found at the end of it, they can pay me $48 through my website, ConfidentMassage.com. CRM is $3.99, can be found on smashwords.com, BN.com, and amazon.com. There’s not a quiz or CE option with CRM.

DL: In the arena of fiction for children (the audience I write for), authors often try to find ways to provide lesson materials on their websites that relate to their books; the hope is that they will encourage teachers to use the book in schools. Did you find that sales of your book went up after you provided the additional content, i.e. the "lessons" for your course?
AL: Since my CE course and CRM ebook are totally separate, there isn’t a correlation between the sales of either one. CRM ebook sales spike when I receive a favorable mention on a social media platform, like when Allissa of massage blog Writing A Blue Streak read CRM and gave me a shout out. Her facebook audience, for example, is made up of different people than mine (as we travel in different circles – both regionally and professionally), so it was very cool to be “introduced” to all of these new people through the magic of social networking.

DL: What book are you working on next, and will it relate to a new LMT course?
AL: I am working on a fun new ebookcourse that I hope to roll out within the next month. I’ll keep you posted!

DL: Will you ever try to traditionally publish a book on massage? Or on any other topic?
AL: Traditionally? Probably not. I like the relative immediate gratification and control that come from independently epubbing. My time is best spent working on my next project, whatever that happens to be at the moment.

DL: What is your typical week like? When do you fit in your writing?
AL: I work three 10-hour shifts every week at a resort spa here in Las Vegas. On those days, I sleep, eat, shower, try to stay out of trouble at work, and that’s usually it. I get the bulk of my writing done on my four days “off”, and can usually be found at Starbucks or The Beat (a fabulous indie coffeehouse in downtown Las Vegas) where the distractions are limited to loud cell phone gabbers (as opposed to laundry piles, dirty dishes, and husbands).

DL: What ways have you found to promote your book and course that have worked well?
AL: Marketing is an adventure for me right now. I’ve been tinkering with Google Adwords to promote AMERICAN SPASPITALITY, and the results have been wildly varied and interesting. When my new course comes out I’ll blast my facebook page(s), twitter, local networking groups, etc.
CRM shows up as an “also bought” on Amazon for a lot of people who buy massage books, since there really aren’t that many out there. Amazon is totally where it’s at for me income-wise on the ebook side. I love Smashwords for their free ebook capabilities, multiple formats, and indie-friendly vibe. Deena, I know you love your Nook; unfortunately Barnes & Noble is my least lucrative ebook outlet right now.

DL: What platform do you use and/or prefer to read ebooks?
AL: I usually read ebooks on my smartphone. If I purchase an ebook, it’s usually from Amazon and I read it on the Kindle app on my DROID. If I download a free epub formatted book from the public library’s digital catalog (which I encourage EVERYONE to do), I use the OverDrive app on my DROID. I also love to use OverDrive to download free MP3 audiobooks from the public library and listen to them when I walk or work out. It’s motivating because you have to finish listening to the audiobook before it returns itself in three weeks!

DL: Your husband is also an LMT; did he offer any insight from the male perspective for CRM?
AL: Here and there. We talk about the challenges faced by male MTs all the time. I keep (half) joking that we should record our rants and host our own massage reality show. It would be fantastic.
I have a blog post idea percolating in the recesses of my mind regarding the hardships faced by male MTs: discrimination by clients and employers, false accusations of a sexual nature, assumptions that male MTs always deliver deeper pressure than female MTs, the list goes on and on. I’ll probably bust out on the laptop after I finish working on my new CE course, because I do get worked up emotionally when I consider the BS that some of these hard-working MTs have to deal with, just because they were born with a Y chromosome.

DL: And for our fiction readers, what is your favorite novel that features a massage therapist? Is there one? If not, what story line would you like the LMT to have?
AL: I’m not aware of one, but I’m really out of touch with what’s going on in the world of fiction. The last several books I’ve read have been about massage therapy, primarily ethics and business-related non-fiction, with a dose of old-timey anatomy and dissection non-fiction for good measure.
I would want the massage therapist character in a novel to be realistic. Authors, please do not follow the model set forth by Jennifer Love Hewitt in ‘The Client List’, or Phoebe in ‘Friends’. We may be weirdos, but most of us are ethical, intelligent, hardworking individuals who would love to read a smartly-written book about one of our own.

DL: Any final thoughts?
AL: Deena, thanks so much for interviewing me! If anyone on either one of our blogs would like to ask me pretty much anything about massage therapy, life in Las Vegas, or having an awesome sister, please contact me and we’ll chat. My website is www.ConfidentMassage.com, my email address is helpinghands (at) ConfidentMassage.com, or you can add me on facebook or twitter. OK, time to drink my lemonade iced tea and work on the next project…

Thank you so much, Andrea! This was very interesting and informative. I have a thank you gift in the mail for your time (think library book donation.... :)). Readers, feel free to leave any questions for Andrea here or on her blog! I really need to get going on a massage therapist novel since it seems to be untapped territory....

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Can writers be as cool as musicians?

Tip of the Day: music playlists can be a great way to inspire you for the book you are working on. I never like to listen while actually writing, because I'm not that talented to do both at the same time. However, I enjoy listening to the playlist before working on a project to get me in the mood.

Last weekend I was in Cleveland and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'm not a huge music person, in the sense that I don't constantly follow new bands or current trends. I'm just your basic music appreciator who loves to sing in the car as loud as possible--usually the wrong lyrics--just for the fun of it. But even though I'm not a die-hard rock and roll fan, I still love being surrounded by anything creative and find it incredibly inspiring.

Not only were the clothes and memorabilia fabulous to look at, but I particularly enjoyed watching videos of those that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Anyone that can have a career for decades and start an entire genre of music is completely fascinating to me.

From what I gathered here are the two main traits of what a musician or any one in an artistic field needs to have for continued success:

1.) You have to have a good grasp on who you are as an artist and always stay true to yourself.

2.) But at the same time you have to have the ability to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant to your fans and the general public as a whole.

It sounds like an oxymoron. How on earth can you stay exactly who you are, but at the same time reinvent yourself?

And I'm sure if we could figure it out, we'd all be famous.

But I do think it's possible and I think we as artists need to strive for that if we want to keep being able to produce books that people want to read.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to Sell 20,000 eBooks

Tip of the Day: Enter to win a copy of Shari Brady's new book Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye on my blog!!!

You can buy ebooks on marketing your ebook. There are a lot of them out there. Or you can read this post and I'll tell you the top three things I've done to get to 20,000 ebook sales.

When I posted on my Facebook page that I broke 20k in sales, I received many emails, PMs, posts, etc asking me how I did it.

I know some people think I should keep my marketing strategies a secret. I call BS. Seriously? I'm happy to tell you what I've done.

Unfortunately, there isn't a magic bean. I wish there was, because then we'd all be sipping sweet tea on a beach. However, I can tell you some steps I've taken to increase visibility of my ebooks:

- Set the first book in a series free -

This is the same tactic they use at Costco. Have you ever tried walking through that place without eating enough sample food to fill you up for a week? If it's yummy, you might even buy it. It's the same with ebooks. Yes, Anathema has been downloaded, hold your breath, close to 2,000,000 times (thanks mostly to Wattpad and Amazon).

Don't tell me my sales suck. I'd guess there are tons of people hoarding ebooks on their ereaders, assuming someday they'll read them. I know, because I'm one of the hoarders. I'm really proud of my sell-through rate. The fact that anyone buys my sequels is encouraging!

- Get mentioned on the right websites - 

There are some incredible websites that advertise ebooks. Some charge money for ads. Some will list free ebooks. All four of these are the right place to be. Yes, I'm sure there are more great ones out there. If you know, please share them below in the comments.

Pixel of Ink (my favorite!)
Kindle Nation Daily
eReader News Today
Kindle Fire Department

- Befriend book bloggers -

There's nothing better than someone who loves your books and will tell the world about them. This is where bloggers come in. These readers are happy to devour your book and then tell the world how much they love it.

I'm not going to list my favorite book bloggers because the blogger you query should be targeted for your book. They don't all like fantasy, they don't all like contemporary. Find the right reader for your book and ask them if they're interested in reading it.

But do me a favor, treat them kindly. You aren't entitled to a review, or even a good review. Let them have their opinions. They don't owe writers anything. However, a friendly relationship can go a long way.

Just yesterday a blogger sent me interview questions. She actually apologized for them, assuming many of them would be repeats from the hundreds of other interviews I've done. My response: I'm happy to answer any questions, no matter how many times I've been asked. Just because other people know the answers, it doesn't mean her readers do.

These are the top three tips I have for you. There's always discussions on getting into the right categories, promoting on Twitter (which I suck at, so don't ask me about it), promoting on Facebook (I generally use it as a way to connect with readers who already know about my books), etc.

You could try the spaghetti method (you know, throw it against the wall and see what sticks), or you could do the obvious: write, edit, write, edit, write, edit.

Take these words of wisdom from Hugh Howey (WOOL) in his Huffington Post article on snagging a film deal with Ridley Scott:

"My inbox lately has become sprinkled with missives from other independent writers asking me for any advice I might have. So I tell them what you have taught me: Please the reader. Write your best works for them; make those works affordable; interact with your fans; and take their feedback to heart. Without a single dime spent in advertising, a short story I wrote and didn't even work to promote climbed to the top of the Amazon charts. It drew the attention of Hollywood. It landed me an agent and half a dozen foreign book deals. All because of word of mouth. Because I happened to please you, and you told someone else, and they spread the word further."
Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stocking Up On Experiences

Tip of the Day: Happy INDIE-pendence Day! Today's the last day of the INDIE-pendence celebration over at the Indelibles blogClick through the list of participating blogs and learn about great Indie authors and have a chance of winning some cool prizes.

This week my son had a boy scout field trip to a rock quarry. I could have just dropped him off with the other scouts and picked him up two hours later. After all, it was freaking hot out (104 degrees according to my car) and I had my other three kids with me too. But I thought hmm, I've never been in a quarry. What if I can use this in a book someday? You never know. I can have a scene where my main character has to sneak into a quarry to meet a mysterious guy. Or hide a body. Whatever. :-) So I decided we should all stay and take the tour with them. And it was so cool! We took a bus down into the quarry, saw the massive trucks hauling limestone, saw the machines shooting the stone up from underground (they're mining underground now), fed the huge catfish in their lake, and picked up pretty crystal rocks. It was basically awesome and I'm so happy we decided to stay.

What about you guys? Do you ever make yourself do something thinking you might someday use it in a book?

Below are some pics from the day.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Teen Me v. Adult Me (or Am I Becoming My Father?)

Tip of the Day: Don't stay up too late watching the Olympics Trials! (Or, conversely, stay up late watching the Olympics Trials to prepare for staying up late to watch the Olympics!)

For our male readers out there, I had to do an "Am I Becoming My Father?" post to accompany the similar post about my mother from two weeks ago.

In some ways, as an adult I am more like my father than my mother. For example, the following used to embarass me when my father did them, but now I also:

1. Can't keep my mouth shut when I find something ridiculous/hypocritical/dumb, even if I'm in front of a crowd (fortunately this trait got me off a murder trial jury).

2. Talk (too much?) to restaurant servers and other service providers (still not as much as Dad because I know from experience that they are too busy to chat forever, but I do get yappin').

3. Have food sensitivities to ridiculous things like iceburg lettuce (I need my lettuce green, thank you very much).

Are you more like your mother or father now as an adult? And which parent used to embarass you more?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Technology: your best friend and your worst enemy

Tip of the Day: for all of you social networking fans, there's a newer site called Riffle that Publisher's Weekly has called "the Pinterest of book discovery." Tara Lazar did a good summary post about it here.

This weekend my power was out for almost a full four days, thanks to the storms that passed through the area. Luckily, I already had an extended weekend trip planned, so I missed most of it and it didn't effect me much. But the one day I was home, it was a good reminder of how dependent I am on electricity.

So much so that's it's slightly frightening.Without my iPhone I might have gone crazy with no access to the Internet or email.

Every time we experience a blackout I can't help but think of the book Life As We Know It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, partially because while reading the post apocalyptic book we ironically suffered a blackout in my town and the last half was read using a flashlight in the pitch dark. Every time this happens my mind starts to wonder what life would be like if we were faced with these conditions or at the very least we had no power for an extended period of time.

If I had no power, I have no clue how I could continue writing my novels.

I don't think I could write long hand. I've heard many people speak of the wonders of writing this way, but it isn't for me. I despise writing anything of length with a pen or pencil. Mostly because after two sentences my hand feels like it will fall off. Though typing with the same hand does not effect me that way.

So I suppose if I was without power, I'd have to find an old typewriter. Or I guess maybe just resort to composing stories in my head and be content with sharing those instead of writing them down.

What about you? If you were without power for an extended time, do you think you'd still need to write in some capacity?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Goals (Not an Oxymoron)

Tip of the Day: My Chautauqua writer friend Juliet Bond blogs with Swagger Writers. Check out her post on Scholastic's gender oriented non-fiction at http://swaggerwriters.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-be-really-daring.html.

Hi all! As a writer, guess what I hate to do the most?

Read rejection letters? Okay, that's it. But I mean besides the obvious.

It's outlining. I hate outlining. Yet somehow, I've committed to myself to create FOUR outlines this summer. That sounds crazy even if I liked outlining. Why have I committed to such insanity?

Here's the thing: I have to start a new project. I've had lots of ideas brewing while I finished my last novel, but none I've explored fully. I have 3 promising ideas, and I'd like to write one of them. But I have a misgiving about each idea. The horror idea seems too edgy in a sex and partying way. The science fiction seems too middle grade but I can't see how to make it into a middle grade completely. The weird western also seems too middle grade, too save the world from a bad guy, but that might be the nature of westerns. Western definitely equals research.

So I'm starting out by outlining a novel I would like to rewrite. I think only the beginning third needs a rewrite and the rest just needs to be revised. But I feel like an outline would reassure me that the plot is on track, and also give me practice in writing a good outline. I plan to use Rhonda Helms's outlining method, as she describes to people who take her plotting workshop. Then it's time to write the three outlines for the books that don't exist yet.

If I get tired of outlining (and I will, I will), I'll have the rewrite to distract me, so I can take a break between outlines. And hopefully, by the end of the summer, I'll be able to do one last revision on the novel I just finished revising and send out queries.

And hopefully hopefully, I'll know which new novel to take on. I actually have a fourth idea for a contemporary that may be too quiet, but how many outlines can one person write? And will this work for choosing the next project to spend a year on? I guess I'll keep you updated!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages