Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Glimpse Behind The Scenes

Jennifer talks about her writing life…

Lots of people ask what it’s like to be a writer, and I usually answer that question with all the work that goes into getting a book published and out in front of readers. It’s a lot of work, and can feel like you’re in the middle of a thunderstorm—deluged by to-do lists, rattled by deadlines and illuminated by hope that all will go well on release day.

But what about afterwards? What’s it like to be a writer on those other days, after the book has been released into the world?

Well, for me, it’s filled with emotions and requires time management skills. Once my book has been released, I’m monitoring sales, tracking reviews and of course writing. Monitoring sales can be frustrating, since I personally don’t get an accurate daily picture and usually have to wait until my publisher posts them on their internal website for me to see. While people tell me they are buying or have bought my book, I’m never sure until I see the numbers. This time around, sales seem to be good, although they’re better for Addicted to Love than In the Moment.

Then there are the reviews. No matter how much I beg, I don’t get many. And when I do get them, there are always a few that aren’t great—after all, reading is subjective and not everyone will like everything I write. I take comfort in the fact that I do get positive reviews, and any negative ones I get don’t complain about my craft. And I develop a thick skin. J


Finally, there’s writing. Even though I love to write, I get distracted—by life, by the crazy world and by my family. Writing is great because it offers me an escape from the politics and fear out there. But it’s also hard to concentrate on writing when the craziness gets overwhelming. And as much as I like getting away from the stress, sometimes my stress gets the better of me and I can’t sit still. Added to that are the doubts—maybe I’m not really as good as I should be; maybe this story is going to be terrible; maybe that reviewer keyed into something I just can’t fix. To combat that, I try to divide my day into chunks—I have my early morning time where I get ready for the day and make sure the world is still turning; my time to get errands done for my family; my time to do book marketing and blog writing; and my time to write and edit. I try to keep my focus on the task as much as possible. Some days are easier than others. Some days I realize why I fall in love with my heroes. And some days I console myself like Scarlett O’Hara—tomorrow is another day.

If you're looking for a Halloween read, my book, Skin Deep, has a great Halloween party, thrown by the costume department of a hit TV sitcom. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

After the release of Stormy Hawkins

Ana muses about the world after the release of Stormy Hawkins

      I used to press my nose against the glass, trying to peer inside the world of a published author so I would know what to expect, and what to do, when --if-- I became one.
      Late last month, I did. I'm trying to catch up and keep up.
      I now have an author FB page (@authoranamorgan). I joined eight FB western romance readers groups and their companion author groups.
      I have an author twitter handle (#anamorgana) and retweeted for the first time the other day.
      I've done some guest spots on other authors' blogs and have more booked. I'll give away a copy of Stormy Hawkins to a rafflecopter winner. I entered Stormy's cover in an upcoming contest, and I'll be part of a author promo hop next month.

      Right after Stormy Hawkins released, it rose to #71 on Amazon's western historical romance list. It has three five-star reviews on Amazon and two five-star reviews on Goodreads. As more reviews come in, I know some will be less complimentary. I'm okay with that. In my day job, one customer can swoon over a soup mix, and the next customer swear they hated it. Tastes differ; people love to give their opinions. (Fortunately, with my soup mixes, the likes far outweigh the dislikes. Hopefully, that will also be the case for Stormy.)
      The biggest thrill for me, so far, was opening an Amazon recommended promo and seeing Stormy Hawkins heading the list.

      I know every other published author has had these same chills and thrills. Many times over.
      I also know the best promo a first-time author can do is Write-the-next-book. I've started book 2 in the series and am limiting Stormy promo to one request or post per day.
     Now I know what life is like after the release of Stormy Hawkins.
     
     
   

Monday, October 2, 2017

Going for It

Debra is almost ready to submit her latest WIP.

A few months ago when I posted I was having a bit of a dilemma. I was debating on where I wanted to submit my WIP. I've had it in my mind for a while now that I'd like to branch out in an attempt to launch the next phase of my writing career by submitting to a new publisher. At the time (about two months ago) my biggest issue was the word count of the mss. The publisher I wanted to submit to required a word count of 85,000. My mss wasn't even at 65,000 (Although it was close.)

I solicited a bunch of opinions and had an author friend do a beta read for me. She gave me some very helpful suggestions, which I incorporated into the story. After doing my own hard-copy read-through, I found a bunch of places where additional scenes were needed. I found a lot of phrases like "In the six weeks since she'd been at the ranch..." Or, "With just a few weeks left to go in the cast..." Or even just mentions..."She'd gone for a horseback ride that day." Or "He showed her how to ride the ATVs." Lots and lots of places where I told instead of showed and hurried the time line. In the process, missing out on many ways to deepen my story.

So I decided to make those additions, as they would definitely add to the story and not just be filler. At this moment, my mss stands at 85,590 words. I'm in the process of minute edits. Getting rid of 'that', 'seemed to', 'tried to', 'to him', 'to her', etc.

I have a punch list of items to check: time line, checking chapters are sequentially numbered and spaced correctly, etc.

Per the guidelines on the web-site, I've also written a synopsis, author bio which includes previous books written, and brief descriptions of other books I have planned.

Even though I read through the guidelines for submission to the new publisher with a fine tooth comb, I was a bit uncertain if I should submit a query or the full mss as a submission. I e-mailed the editor this weekend for clarification, not expecting to hear back for a few weeks (as stated in their information). To my surprise and excitement, I had a response this morning already. She said to send the full along with a synopsis and brief descriptions of other planned books.

My first reaction was to get the sucker out ASAP. I'm heading out of town the end of this week for a conference for work and then on a family vacation over the long weekend. My knee-jerk reaction was to send it out before leaving on Wednesday.

Then rational thinking (thank goodness) kicked in. I don't want to rush this. There are still things I need to make sure are A-okay before submitting. So I'm going to do what I can in the next two nights. Let the project sit while I'm gone for almost a week. (Which will be good since I've been looking at it everyday for months and months now.) Do a final read-through when I get back, and THEN submit. I've waited this long to submit this particular project, waiting another week certainly won't kill me, AND probably makes the most logical sense.

So, I'm going to put myself out there and go for it. Like Wayne Gretsky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bare Chests

Paula explains why she dislikes bare-chested males on book covers.  

Whenever I fill in a cover art form for one of my novels, I always stipulate, ‘No bare chests please,’ I have a real antipathy to bare muscle-chested males on book covers, and will probably never buy a book with a cover showing a bare-chested man. If the man is clutching a half-naked woman, that makes a double reason not to buy the book.

Why not? Because these covers give the impression that the story relies heavily on physical attraction and, invariably, sex.

I write romance. I write about a man and woman being attracted to each other. Yes, maybe physically attracted in the first instance, but if that’s all there is between them, then the relationship is shallow. I much prefer an emotional connection rather than a relationship based solely on physical attraction and/or a need for wild sex. Any bedroom (or elsewhere) scenes in my novels are the result of a blossoming love, and not simply because the characters want sex with someone they happen to find physically attractive.

There seem to be more and more covers with bare chests but I’m not sure why some authors choose to have these bare chests or scantily clad females on their covers. Titillation maybe? Hoping that readers will buy the book, hoping for sexy (or even erotic) scenes? Am I weird that I don’t find these covers – or bare chests particularly attractive?

I know people raved about Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt clinging to his chest or about Poldark’s bare chest, but those images did nothing for me. In contrast, attractiveness to me could be a smile, or an intense look from dark eyes, or even twinkly brown eyes (yes, I admit I once fell for a man whose eyes really did twinkle when he smiled!). After that comes the character and personality of the man. If all that doesn’t turn me on, then his chest, bare or otherwise, certainly won’t. That applies in real life – and also applies to the men on book covers.

However, there seem to be a lot of covers around with bare-chested men – so does that mean I’m in a minority?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Dreaded Research

Jennifer is starting a new series...

Research.

It’s the reason I don’t write historical romance, even though that’s my favorite genre to read. The research scares me. While I’m an intelligent human being, the amount of research necessary to accurately portray the appropriate time period, while also keeping the language accessible so as not to pull the reader out of the story, is daunting. And then there are the reviewers, who will be quick to point out that a certain cravat knot wasn’t fashionable or known for another two years after the time in which the story is written. Writers need thick skins, but I just can’t do it.

So I stick with contemporary romances, ostensibly to avoid some of that research. Except when I can’t.

I’m in the very early stages of writing a new series. One of the books in the series has the hero as the CEO of a cyber security firm and the heroine one of the computer programmers.

Have I mentioned I’m an English major? There’s a reason why I avoided math and science in college.

In order to correctly portray them, make their job sound legitimate and provide the secondary plot that runs through the book, I need to know a lot more about cyber security than “they work with computers.” Luckily for me, a girl I went to high school with works in that very field. Thanks to Facebook, we’ve kept in touch for years and she has generously agreed to answer my questions. So as I go through my first round of my own edits, I’m making notes about all the things I don’t know about cyber security and will put them into a hopefully coherent list of questions for her.


And then I’ll translate all of that and weave it into my manuscript in the hopes of making that part of the book realistic. Of course, all mistakes will be my own.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stormy Hawkins' Debut

Ana stands on a hard-to-reach plateau and marvels at the view. 


Twelve years ago, the idea that I needed to write a book bubbled up. The urge had been simmering for years in the recesses of my mind, but I spent every waking hour of my day either building my soup business or caring for my family. I barely had time to read, let alone write.

The urge grew more insistent. I decided I had to tag it 'important.' I took a community ed class. Ordered books. Enrolled in an online course and spent a year writing Stormy Hawkins. Sent the manuscript off to agents, sure it was ready to be published.
The form-letter rejections were blunt.

Bruised, I read more romance books, signed up for another course, and embarked on a second story. When I thought it was ready, I sent it off to publishers, stamped, self-addressed envelopes enclosed. Most never responded. Several sent back form rejection letters.

I looked around my rural community, hoping to find a supportive writing group, but romance was looked down upon. Memoirs, poetry, short stories--only those were good. If there was a romance writer out there, she was in hiding.

So I wrote essays about living on a farm and gardening columns for a local newspaper and regional magazine. I studied how-to-write-a-novel books in private and finally discovered romance writing groups on the Internet. I joined and eagerly embraced--and tried to radiate back--the warmth and generosity that I found. I joined this blog. The discipline of writing was joyful. But, despite my efforts to master the art of telling a story, I couldn't seem to get it right. Some contest feedback was encouraging; more was harshly critical. I gave up in defeat multiple times. Maybe I didn't have what it took to be a writer.

Then my primary online chapter, From the Heart Romance Writers, appeared to be low on contest entries. To support the chapter, I dusted off and re-polished the first three chapters of Stormy Hawkins. To my surprise, the entry finaled in the unpublished historical category. Then in the final round, to my complete shock, the entry won. Two publishers requested full manuscripts.

Nine months later, Stormy Hawkins is about to be released by SoulMate Publishing.
It's available for preorder now at Amazon. http://amzn.to/2wXgykQ
Free read in Kindle Unlimited.


Blade Masters has finally spotted his ideal Dakota Territory ranch, where he can live alone, forget his cheating ex-fiancée, and bury the shards of his shattered heart. All he needs to do is sweet-talk the ailing owner, and his spitfire daughter, into retiring.

If she weren’t desperate, Stormy would never hire a cowhand. She’s learned the hard way that she’s happier working her family’s ranch alone. But, the greedy banker who holds their mortgage just demanded payment in full—or her hand in marriage.

Will this handsome drifter protect her? Or does he have designs of his own?




Monday, September 4, 2017

The Editing Process

Debra is deep into edits, revisions, and rewrites.

It's been a long time since I've been so immersed in the editing process. I guess that's what happens when you haven't been writing for a long time...no words on the page equals nothing to edit. LOL

But over the summer I really dug in and committed myself to finishing the first draft of my current mss. About midway through August I got to what, then, was THE END. It felt great. After a long dry spell, to have actually completed an entire full-length (65K) word mss was nothing short of miraculous.

I really thought I'd set the mss aside for a bit, what with heading back to work I really didn't feel like I'd have time to work on it. And as I mentioned in last month's post, I was still trying to figure out what to do with it. Where I was going to submit it. Then along came my local RWA chapter's 90 Words in 90 Days Challenge. #CN90wordsfor90days For me the Challenge is doing just what it was intended to do: get my butt in a chair with my fingers on a keyboard or with pen in hand each and every day.

With the long weekend (It's the Labor Day Holiday here in the States.), no major plans, and allergies that are keeping my indoors a good deal of the time, I cranked out over 100 pages of edits since Friday night. I got to the end of the mss yesterday afternoon. I edit in hard copy, printing out a copy of the mss and putting it in a binder, always with sticky notes, highlighter, and scratch paper close at hand.

Now, most of my pages look like this:


I'm in the process of transferring all of my written notes to the computer. Along the way I'm still employing plenty of sticky notes to mark sections needing a tweak or some added research. Last night I was so pumped up and motivated to keep moving that I got through about 80 pages of transfers. Sometimes it goes quickly. Other times trying to decipher the notes written any which way in the margins is quite difficult. And, once I've added lines to various pages, the page numbers no longer match those on the computer doc, so finding my place each time isn't always easy.

I also have notes, scribbled on anything I can find lying around when an idea strikes, tucked into the front and back pockets of the binder. I'm trying to keep everything in one place.


One thing I've discovered is I need to replace the notepad next to my bed. I used the last sheet of one a couple of weeks ago and could only find a tiny pad (like we're talking two inches by three inches) in the drawer the other night. Which, I've used several times when I was desperate to not forget something that popped into my head.

I've found several places where there are some fairly major gaps in the story. This is what happens when you're a pantster and, to top it off, don't always write chronologically. So, I definitely will be doing more writing to add to the story. I've also found places where the characters' actions and reactions aren't quite 'right' for a particular scene or moment, again due that whole writing-out-of-order thing I do.

All in all, I'm having a blast with this. It's really, really nice to feel like a writer again. And for the moment, I'm keeping up with work, other projects, and writing. Hopefully that will last. I'd like to say my goal is to have this done, polished, and submitted before the end of the year. That seems like almost too much time, but I really want to make sure this one shines, so I'm going to take my time with it and not rush to get it done. Which, at this point, is really hard to have the patience to do sometimes. I keep envisioning it all done and on the shelves. Whether that's cyber or real is still yet to be known.

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or Writing or Editing),

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com