Monday, May 22, 2017

Bitten by the writing bug

Ana muses about maximizing the time she has to write, now that winter is over.

    I used to welcome spring, especially after moving to Minnesota. Winters here are long and harsh. The shades of green on the budding trees are much easier on the eyes than the reflective gray-whites of ice and snow.
    But since I became a writer, the equinox means I will have less time to compose my thoughts for six months.
    Work at the soup building gets busy as we fill orders for stores that cater to the influx of tourists and summer residents who seek tranquility in the northern woods and walleye in the deep blue lakes.
    My hubby needs help on the farm: today he summoned me to help raise a line of old fenceposts so he can reset them away from the sprawling pines that were barely knee high when he transplanted them into the windbreak row.  I wrapped the heavy chain around the base of each post and held tight while he raised the bucket on the tractor. The posts either broke off or came out. He has to get done, for next week the neighbor is delivering fifty heifers to graze for the summer.
    My garden needs tending. So far, I've direct seeded carrots, spinach, beets, baby lettuce, cilantro and potatoes. I transplanted 300+ onion plants, which I started indoors from seed. I still have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, pickling cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash and Red Kuri winter squash, basil, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and head lettuce in pots in flats that I set out every morning and carry indoors every evening. I still need to plant sweet corn. We're not out of frost danger yet. And I still have three 200-foot long rows of raspberries to prune of last-years' canes. Hands and knees work, with a side serving of thorns and scratches.
    Planting and pruning is just the beginning. There's the weeding, mulching, watering, deer-proofing, not to mention the picking, eating, canning and freezing. I savor the produce and love even more watching my grandkids delight in freshly pulled carrots and plucked berries.
    I know my muscles need the exercise, and my lungs need fresh air, but I still long to sit alone with my laptop and write. Indoors, because tick season turns into mosquito season turns into fly season.  
   And then there is a glorious month of fall colors, when hoses need to be rolled up. Pea fence and support posts taken down.
    Work can't be postponed for long here. The seasons turn relentlessly. I have to pay bills.
    When the edits for Stormy Hawkins finally come, I will get up earlier and stay up later. I will nail my back blurb, get up a website, set up a Facebook author page.
    You hear that, Spring? You came too soon. I've been bitten by the writing bug.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Beta Reads

Debra ponders Beta reads.

Recently I did a beta read (along with some line edits) for a sister of a friend of mine. I've done beta edits for another author friend of mine as well. They are always grateful for feedback, and it's nice to know I was able to help them out.

I am not as good at receiving help. When I used to attend my local RWA meetings, I always took advantage of our critiquing sessions, bringing the first chapter of all my new stories to be read and critiqued. But after that first chapter read, I tended to loan-wolf it. Since I stopped going to meetings, I rarely enlist the help of fellow authors for critiques or beta reads before submitting a mss to my editor. I'm not really sure why that is. Do I want the story to be a surprise for everyone? Am I able to dish out advice but not take it? Or is it just that I haven't found anyone to give me some solid, usable information?

Unfortunately, I think I fall into the middle category. When I first submitted my Fourth of July story, my editor asked for some tweaks, and wondered if I'd given it to a beta first. I had to confess that I hadn't. So, I passed it along to a writer friend, who gave me some good ideas. But I was reluctant to use them. I was stuck in the mindset of 'this-is-my-story-and-I'm-going-to-tell-the-the-way-I-want-to-regardless-of-what-anyone-else-says'. Not good. Any successful writer knows it's important to listen to and take into account sound, professionally given feedback. I definitely need to be more open to this kind of thing.

Something really great (In addition to getting to read a fabulous story.) that came out of doing the recent beta read was it has me chomping on the bit to get back to my own writing. Just reading someone else's pre-published writing made me think of my own WIPs. It was interesting that some of the things I was commenting on in her writing were things that I always need to strengthen in my own. (I even found myself editing and commenting with my own editor's 'voice' in my head.) But I think that's a common thing. It's so easy to spot 'issues' in others' writing and so hard to do it in our own. Which is another reason for a beta reader.

However, getting back to my own writing is not going to happen for a few weeks at this point. The end of the school year is fast approaching (Yay!!), and my sister is getting married on Friday (Double Yay!!!!) So there are a million things to do before I can really sit down and give my writing the credit it's due. It's been a long time since I've been motivated at all, so this is encouraging.

My goal is to have my current WIP finished by the end of the summer and close to ready to submit. Or at least ready for a beta read, because I really do need to be better at getting on the receiving end of those.

So how about you? Do you use beta readers? Critique partners? How do you take your mss to that final step before you submit?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Starting Again?

Paula reflects on a life-changing event.  

4 weeks ago, just before I was about to set off for a day in London, I received an email which turned my world upside down. Rebecca, my publisher, who has had some serious medical problems, had very reluctantly decided to close down her business. Everything will be wound up by the end of October, which means that all books will be removed from distributors at the end of August, so that the ‘final’ royalties can be calculated and paid.

I know I don’t need to tell you how devastating this news was. Although I tried to enjoy my day in London (including the show we went to see in the afternoon), my mind was working overtime all day as I wondered what to do.

And it has continued to work overtime. Without really thinking it all through, I sent a query to a UK traditional publisher, explaining the situation and asking if they were willing to re-publish my novels. They asked me to send the synopses of my first Irish novel and one of my other contemporaries. I haven’t written a synopsis for about 6 years as Rebecca only wanted a two paragraph summary of the story, so that was my first headache. However, once I sent the synopses, they asked for the full ms. In one case, the request for the full came just 90 minutes after I emailed the synopsis.

However, I now have to wait at least 2 months, because every submission is sent to a panel of 10 readers. It seems that all the positive reviews for these books on Amazon USA and UK (plus several thousand sales!) don’t count for anything.

All this has made me feel like a newbie author trying to get my first acceptance, and has left me feeling very depressed. If (the big ‘if’) they accept my first Irish book, I will probably have to go through the same process with the next 3 books in the series, which means it could be 2 or 3 years before they are all re-published. I was part way through a 5th book in the series when all this kicked off, but now I have no motivation to continue it.

Several people have suggested self-publishing, but that is a total no-go area for me. Mainly because I have never yet paid anything ‘to be published’ and don’t intend to start now, by having to ‘buy’ cover art etc.

So do I hold out in the hope of being accepted by the traditional publisher, mainly because it gets its books into stores, supermarkets and libraries? Or do I try another indie publisher, in the hope that they will re-publish my novels more quickly? That’s my dilemma at the moment, and I honestly don’t know what to do.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On Your Mark, Get Set...Wait

Jennifer is waiting for the next step...

I’m in the “hurry up and wait” stage of the publishing process. I have two books with my editor. One has been fully edited and galley-proofed and all I’m waiting for is a release date. The other has been fully edited and I’m expecting to see a cover for it momentarily. In the meantime, I’m waiting on galley proofs for it.

The waiting is killing me. Now, before I say anything else, I’m not blaming anyone for my wait. It’s part of the process. I’m in the queue and when it’s my turn, I’ll get my release date and I’ll see the cover. But knowing those things are coming is what’s getting to me.

Anticipation is always the hardest part.

Once I have a release date, I can get started on my extensive marketing to-do list: sending out postcards to everyone I know, contacting bloggers, setting up social media tours, putting together my newsletter. But until then, I’m sitting on my hands and looking at my reminders every day.

Getting a cover is always exciting—and nerve-wracking. I’m dying to see if what I described in my cover art sheet translated well. Since they did such a great job for the first book, I’m have high hopes for the second one. But I’m still nervous.

In the meantime, I’m helping others promote their books, getting to know fellow authors, reviewing other manuscripts to get them ready for submission and doing all the things around the house I had to let slide while I was editing.

It’s a roller coaster, but a fun one (I hate the real ones), and I know I’m very lucky to be on this particular ride.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ana clears a hurdle!

Ana clears a hurdle!

Normally, I am not a hurdler. I am nowhere near a sprinter. But a few weeks ago, I finally reached a new plateau: 
I received an offer for my western historical from Soulmate Press.
The acquiring editor requested a full after judging my first three chapters in the Pages of my Heart contest. (She was raised on a cattle ranch in South Dakota and loved my setting.) More importantly, she loved the characters and the story.
I just submitted the cover art information form (took two tries to make it succinct.)
I wrote a 68-word bio and a 111-word bio. 
My first stab at a blurb missed the mark, so I am still on that.
Soon, the edits will arrive. (I'm excited to see her suggestions!) 

I embarked on my publishing adventure after I read a western historical by a well-known author. The ending was awful, as if she'd crashed into a deadline. Or someone had deleted the second to the last chapter, so there was no connection between the black moment and the lovers' reunion two thousand miles away. I said, "I can do better than that!"

Fast forward eleven years. My story may not be as good as that famous author's, but it is better than the first two drafts. 

And it's mine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Recent Travels

I recently spent a week in the Caribbean on our annual Spring Break cruise. (And apparently my brain is still on vacation, because I totally didn't realize it was my week to post until late apologies.)

Last year's cruise was one of those that if something could go wrong, it did. We had so many troubles. We seriously considered not taking a cruise this year, but I'm so glad we didn't follow that impulse because this year...everything went swimmingly. It was smooth sailing (no pun intended) the whole way. Although we did actually have one REALLY rocky day at sea. Luckily I was prepared this year with my seasickness meds, so it wasn't too bad. We had only one brief spot of rain (for about fifteen minutes while we were shopping), and all of the other days were gloriously sunny.

It was one of those vacations where I could literally sit and look out at the waves and do nothing and be perfectly content. I brought my Kindle, but didn't read much at all. I brought a notebook in case inspiration struck, but I didn't write anything in it. At home, I would be bored out of my mind just sitting around. On this cruise, it was the perfect thing to do. Most years, we can't wait to get off of the boat and back home. This year, neither one of us wanted it to end.

So, I thought I'd share some photo highlights of our trip. As you know, I'm very fond of armchair traveling, so I invite you to sail away with me from the comfort of your own home!

Conquest at anchor in Grand Turk

The turquoise waters and blue sky of Grand Turk

Plaza Independencia in the Dominican Republic

The view from San Felipe Fortress in the Dominican Republic

Sunset off the port side as we headed toward the Bahamas

Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor in Nassau

Last night at sea with my virgin daiquiri

Air boating in the Everglades

We certainly had a lovely time. The total picture count was 599 (It was REALLY tough to narrow it down to the ones posted here.) so we'll be able to relive all of the memories we made and the sights we saw for many years to come.

Until next time,

Happy Traveling!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Video of Paula's books

A couple of weeks ago, Rebecca, my publisher, asked me to send her some of my favourite photos of Ireland.
The reason was that her granddaughter, Taylor, enjoys compiling videos, and Rebecca had decided to let her make a video about my books.
My first reaction was 'How do I choose my favourites?' I've been to Ireland about a dozen times in the last 10 years, and taken hundreds of photos!
I started to go through them all, choosing the places that featured in my Irish novels, rather than photos of places like the Giant's Causeway or Derry. I wished I could pop over to Ireland to take more photos of some places like the wonderful views from the Sky Road near Clifden, or even Clifden harbour.
My first list contained over 50 photos but Rebecca only wanted between 5 and 10. 
Gradually, I whittled them down. Yes, that photo of the Cliffs of Moher was better than that one, and yes, that was definitely my best shot (out of about 6) of Killiney Bay.
In the end, I went mainly for scenery rather than cities or towns, even though I was loath to abandon all my photos of Dublin, Galway, Clifden, and Dalkey (and various other places).
Eventually I was down to about 20, and ran them past a friend who was very honest and said things like 'That one' or 'No, that doesn't do anything for me.' Her objective eye helped me to pick out my final ten photos.
A day later, Rebecca sent me the first version. I made a couple of suggestions which her granddaughter then incorporated in the video.
So here is the end result which is now on YouTube. Hope you like it!