Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, April 30, 2010

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown --an awesome book by an awesome author!

Here I am in Soda Springs, Idaho and guess what-- hahaha, our room has internet access! So even though I promised my husband I wouldn't blog I just had to write this quick post (and he agreed) to tell you all that we got to hear John Brown (yup that's his real name lol) speak at the library show.

He spoke about how fiction, especially fantasy and sci fi is like a drug to the brain, so that makes the librarians drug dealers. I thought that was LOL funny. Why was I the only one laughing? I don't know, maybe they didn't get the humor but I thought it was hilarious and so so true! Reading a great book, an exciting book can be like a drug to a kid, especially when it's in their genre, which for so many of them now is fantasy and sci fi.

John Brown also spoke about his writing journey which I found fascinating. I won't recap here as I think a lot of that is on his website, but I just hung on every word. Afterward, I spoke to him at his table, and bought a copy of Servant of a Dark God (don't you love that title?) which he autographed for me (of course). He was there for most of the show and I didn't see a crowd buying his book, which surprised me. (There were no crowds buying my books either, so that made us somewhat alike in that aspect lol).

Anyway, this isn't my genre and I wouldn't have bought it otherwise. But because I heard the author speak, then met him and chatted for quite awhile (he also asked about my books which I thought was nice & friendly), I bought his book and was happy to do so. And I most certainly will read it. It will be the first book published by Tor that I have ever read!

Just goes to show, all of you authors and prospective authors out there, it's the personal touch that counts. It's US and OUR personality that sells our books. Crazy, isn't it?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing a Novel in Thirty Days

I used to think that NaNoWriMo was a bad idea. Who can write anything of worth in such a short time? Okay, it won't be ready to submit professionally, but there are reasons why a quick start is helpful.

* Writing that fast will help you keep your tone and voice consistent.

* An outline and/or clear structure diagram is a must to stay on track.

* When your mind and pen wanders and drifts, time will force you to rein things in and return to the story.

* The forced discipline will stimulate your imagination.

* In preparation, you'll take time off work, prepare meals ahead, stay home weekends--whatever will free up time for the writing frenzy.

* Once the thing is written-- first draft done, story and characters in there somewhere-- you can take your time revising. All year if necessary.


Robert Penn Warren said, "Some people pour it out and it is fine; some people pour it out and it's awful. And some people grind it out very hard, and it is awful; and some people grind it out very hard, and it's good."

But after the writing, whether you pour it out or grind it out, comes the critical thinking, the analyzing and revising. Not during. After. Then you go back to it, take your time and create something real out of that hectic, mad thirty day rush of awful words strung together. That's when you go back and find the story and the people, like a sculptor with his clay. That's when you create art.

Almost makes you wish for November, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some sweet, sunshiney, prolific, awesomesauce blogs to crow about!

Time to pass out a few awards I've been hoarding and to share links of some amazing bloggers! Okay, now I can't remember specifically who gave me what when, as I said I've been hoarding these babies, but what I'll do is pass them out and list awardees after and hopefully this covers everything. First is the sweet little bear And this goes to some sweet bloggers who I hope you will check out and follow if you're not already:

Sweet Glynis is taking time off from her blog to spend more time with her very ill friend.
Faith Hough is so sweet she helped her writer husband set up his blog.
Ann at Inkpots and Quills always seems to write with a smile!


Now for the sunshine award:

Old Kitty always brings sunshine into my life with her posts and her comments.

Melissa J. Cunningham
is the sunniest, happiest person ever!

Suz Korb is sunny AND funny!

Alex Fleetwood brightens my day with updates on the goings on in Hampshire. She's another British blogger I love to visit!

Now here's the award I keep getting, cuz maybe I'm a little wordy and over the top in my blog posting lol?

So check out these prolific bloggers because they are so cool!

Jen at unedited blogs a lot AND writes a lot! Full of energy is this girl! Her blog is so fun.

The Alliterative Allomorph has been writing daily A - Z posts that are insightful, interesting and intense (how's that alliteration?) AND she lives in Greece!

Theresa Millstein
writes daily about teaching, writing, and so many fascinating topics and always has fantastic quotable quotes to boot.

Fran's posts are fresh, hilarious and did you know she went on vacation to Tenby?

All of you are awesomesauce but I had to force myself to pick and choose, oh so hard to do!


If you haven't checked out Plain Jane's blog yet you must! Because she is a nonwriter (she says) who loves to follow writer blogs. She posts about ordinary things in a funny cute way.

Kimberly Franklin
is funny and energetic and funny and cute. And did I say funny?

Mary McDonald's blog
is one of my new discoveries and I love it for her refreshing honesty. She even admits to not caring much about shoes!! You gotta respect that!

Barbara Scully's awesomesauce kitchen table is one of my favorite stops in Dublin!

Now for the writer blogs who I think seriously are going to have something to crow about some day because they are incredible writers!! Actually all of you can take this one and crow your heads off because you are amazing, but these are the ones I picked today:

Crystal Cook

Susan Fields

Jayne at A Novice Novelist

Brigid at sort of writing

Amy Saia, and her post on tornadoes is here, if you missed it.

If I missed passing out any awards that were bestowed on me, I apologize. And I apologize for not giving the links of those who gave me the awards, but I get easily confused in my dotage and so thought it would be best to simplify. Go check out these blogs, they are all fantastic!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Here's what makes it all worthwhile....

So I wake up this morning and see this on my sidebar-- BOOK REVIEW-- UNCUT DIAMONDS. Barbara Scully, my 100th follower who won a copy of my novel, has read and reviewed it and liked it! Not only that but in a comment on one of my previous blog posts, she said that her mom read and loved it as well.

Please go to Barbara's lovely blog, From My Kitchen Table, and tell her thank you from me! (After reading the review of course, lol!)

I'm pretty sure neither of my two books currently out will ever make a bestseller list. (Although Farm Girl was the best selling title for several months in the local Red Cloud, NE book store. Does that count?) I'm pretty sure that I won't be making mortgage payments from my royalty checks. But what matters to me more than money is to hear from a reader like Barbara who says it's the kind of book she can wrap herself in and "I just love the main character Marcie McGill."

This kind of response makes it all worthwhile to me-- all the writing, revising, editing and rewriting, until finally miracle of miracles, I hold a book in my hands that scares me to death. What if people don't like it? What if they don't get it? What if, like one publisher who rejected it said, they think "the Seventies are boring. No one wants to read about them."

And who knew that my demographic would be Irish women lol? Or as Barbara herself said when she chose this as her prize, "I'm a child of the Seventies who loved the Osmonds, so of course Uncut Diamonds is my choice!"

Thanks, Barbara! You made my day!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I hate word verification

I follow a lot of blogs. Enough, I think, then I find another bunch of really great ones to add to my list, and of course I like to comment on everything and when I'm following prolific bloggers (which is pretty much any writer who blogs), that makes for a lot of reading and commenting.

Word verification adds twice as much time to my blogging, and I hate it. That's time I could spend in doing way more productive things than typing randomly funky letters into a box. I hate it hate it hate it. There. I told you how I really feel.

I took it off my blog about 4 months ago and have had absolutely NO problem with spam. I've seen bloggers who have it who still complain about spam, so why bother? I think it's a big waste of all our time. I see absolutely no point to it. Not to mention, I got way more comments on my posts once I got rid of it.

What do you think? Has anyone noticed a difference between spam and non spam with word verification?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The wrong demographic

I love this blogging thing but I'm pretty sure I'm not reaching my demographic here. Many of the blogs I follow are YA or romance authors, many are under 30, seeking an agent, deep into the process of writing & revising fiction.

This provides a wonderful writing support group and community, but as my marketing director said to me today: "What are you doing to reach your demographic?"

Me: Uhh, nothing? Presentations? I've done a few of those.

Her: Do you even know who your demographic is?

Me:
Uhh, yeah, I think so.

Her:
How old are you again?

Me: Do you like my hair this color? (No, just kidding, I really did stop and think about what she was saying.)

Her: You are my toughest case. You aren't even trying, are you?

Me: I blog a lot. I have 157 followers. I'm exploring the opportunities on social media.

Her:
But what good does it do if it's not your demographic? Is your demographic 20-something YA authors working on their first novel, who like to blog about nothing, regardless of how interesting or funny it is?

Me: (In defense of all you awesomesauce writer/bloggers who are of a certain age and write a certain genre) But it's fun!

Her: Well, fun schmun. You won't be selling any of your books this way.

And then she proceeded to tell me about the book Crush It, and how hard someone has to work to realize their dreams. That it's not just fun, but you have to stay focused and energized in the right direction.

So I ordered the book with the Amazon coupon I won from Christine Danek's contest. Soon it will arrive in my mailbox, then I'll read it and learn how to crush it! Crush what? I'm not sure. But it sounds interesting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's your dream? Can you see it?

I believe in visualizing, imagining, dreaming. We cannot realize it unless we first visualize it. Can you see yourself submitting a complete manuscript to an agent or editor? Can you visualize an acceptance email or a phone call? Can you see your book in print, see people handing over money to purchase a copy? Can you imagine a room filled with strangers coming to hear you talk about your book?

Okay, stop right there, because yes, I'll be honest, that is my current visualization. The last presentation I went to, someone in the audience asked me, "What goals have you set for your writing? What is it you want?"

I knew the answer as soon as he said it. My response: "I want to see a room like this filled to capacity." It was a large conference room at a library, full of chairs, with three short rows occupied. In my mind's eye, I could see it full. Standing room only.

It's what I want. I visualize a room full of strangers coming to hear me talk (about my red shoes lol) and to buy my books. I added, "And then I want to go on Oprah!" This got a laugh and one lady said, "You'd better wear those red shoes of yours when you go on Oprah." Hooray, she was visualizing it, too! The more people you can get to share your dream, the more powerful it is.

That's me, what do you want? You're on a path to something-- what is it? And in your mind's eye, how far ahead can you see yourself on that path?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Of Bookstores, Signings and Presentations

This weekend I went to the launch party for fellow WiDo author David J. West at Borders in Murray, Utah. He had another signing the following day at Borders in Provo, Utah, and I was at that one, too.

David did very well for an unknown author publishing a debut novel with a small, unknown press. He had publicised both signings through his extensive social media network (blog & twitter), and although not everyone showed up who said they would, it was still pretty darn good. And I bought three books in Provo. Already reviewed one of them, Eat Pray Love, on my other blog here. (I already have a copy of David's book, which is awesome amazing and incredible btw, so I didn't buy that one.)

I don't do bookstore signings anymore. It feels too much like my 8th grade graduation dance. You sit there hoping someone will notice you, hoping your friends won't desert you and later when you get the pictures back, you realize you didn't look as cute as you thought. The hair's gone flat, the outfit just didn't work, and yes, it's true, the camera adds ten pounds. No wonder no one wanted to dance-- er I mean-- talk to me.

So yes, I find them incredibly painful on a deep and disturbing level. However, I do enjoy presentations, where people I don't know come on purpose to find out about me and/or my books. Those are a bit nervewracking at first, but once I'm there and see that yes, people actually DID show up, I relax and feel good. I talk about random things (my red shoes, Jane Austen, the economy, my family, whatever I'm in the mood to tell stories about) and somehow relate it all to my books.

And more of my books sell at presentations than at the sit-at-a-table-in-a-bookstore signings. Of course it might have something to do with my attitude. One is sitting & waiting, the other is sharing & storytelling. So much more fun! I mean, really, don't you agree? Which would you rather do?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Golden Egg and Lavender Drops

Yesterday my husband asked me, "Has your blog reached its tipping point yet? You know, where you don't have to work so hard at it and it just keeps going and getting new followers?" (Read-- You sure spend a lot of time blogging.)

I said, "Why, Mr. Gowen, you are much too droll! How could I entertain the possibility of restraint on an activity which provides me with such pleasure?" (Read-- I'm having way too much fun with blogging to stop, and last night I finished Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen so this is how I talk now.)

Just the same, it reminded me of the realities of life, that it's not all fun & games. How my involvement in social media is supposed to be helping me sell my books and promote myself as an author. Sales and marketing! How terribly dull and pedantic! (oops, there's Jane Austen again, sorry folks)

Can I just say that I despise marketing? Hawking my books? Tonight I have a presentation and I don't want to talk about my books. I'd rather discuss Jane Austen. The weather. My red shoes. My son leaving for basic this morning, saying goodbye to his wife and three little kids for nine months. My other son in Africa. Brave people. Women's voices. The garden we need to plant. My heart and soul went into those two books. Buy them. Read them. Yadayadayada.

Remember the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg? Everyone is looking for that goose and that golden egg. Everywhere you see all these great ideas on promoting yourself and your books. Yes, they're great ideas. But there is no golden egg, no magic formula. It takes hard work and pushing yourself past your comfort zone. Over and over again.

Or as Jane Austen would say, "...but no attitude could give her ease, and in restless pain of mind and body she moved from one posture to another, till growing more and more hysterical, her sister could with difficulty keep her on the bed at all, and for some time was fearful of being constrained to call for assistance. Some lavender drops, however, which she was at length persuaded to take, were of use..."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Welcome new blogger Ann Best and win books!


Ann Best, who has been struggling to get her blog on word press for some time, finally took my advice and came to blogger. (I love it when people take my advice lol.) So in honor of her exciting, new blog I am giving her the Blogger Buddie award, which was given to me by Talli Roland and Christine Danek, two other buddies whose blogs I just love. And now I'm passing it on to Ann, because I know I'm going to love her blog, too! You can find her over at Long Journey Home.

And now for the contest! Visit Ann's blog, add yourself as a follower, leave a comment for her and then comment here and tell me you did and that makes you eligible to win these awesome YA books:

Yes, the amazing Hunger Games, and also its sequel, Catching Fire. And IN ADDITION, I will give away Ghost Waves by W. Everett Prusso! Yes, 3 amazing YA books to ONE lucky winner!

Now here's how it works. Every ten followers Ann gets, I add one of these books to the pot. When she gets thirty followers, then Bingo, I pick a winner to win ALL THREE BOOKS! Now, remember, you need to comment here on this post so I know you entered, as well as commenting on Ann's blog to welcome her. Which means she and I will have to get AT LEAST 30 comments, for the full 3-book-giveaway. A lot of commenting but at least you don't have to add anything up! Except your three new books if you win!

Have fun and good luck! I know how much we writers love to get books in our mail boxes! And someone could get THREE! (Outside the US is eligible.)





Thursday, April 8, 2010

How Virginia Woolf Became a Novelist


But to tell you my story-- it is a simple one. You have only got to figure to yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. She had only to move that pen from left to right--from ten o'clock to one. Then it occurred to her to do what is simple and cheap enough after all--to slip a few of those pages into an envelope, fix a penny stamp in the corner, and drop the envelope into the red box at the corner. It was then that I became a journalist; and my effort was rewarded on the first day of the following month--a very glorious day it was for me--by a letter from an editor containing a cheque for one pound ten shillings and sixpence. But to show you how little I deserve to be called a professional woman, how little I know of the struggles and difficulties of such lives, I have to admit that instead of spending that sum upon bread and butter, rent, shoes and stockings, or butcher's bills, I went out and bought a cat--a beautiful cat, a Persian cat, which very soon involved me with bitter disputes with my neighbors.

Then I grew ambitious. A Persian cat is all very well, I said; but a Persian cat is not enough. I must have a motor-car. And it was thus that I became a novelist--for it is a very strange thing that people will give you a motor-car if you will tell them a story. It is a still stranger thing that there is nothing so delightful in the world as telling stories. (from Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf)

So fast forward to today's writer who does pretty much the same thing:

Write

Finish something

Submit it

Be grateful (hopefully) when someone actually pays money to read our work.

That's the best part. Not so much the money, since it's never enough anyway, but to know that people have paid money for your book. And to recognize, with gratitude, that "there is nothing so delightful in the world as telling stories."

Don't you love little tales like this that make it all sound so easy? Well, it may not be easy but it is simple. Write, finish, submit, and be grateful for every small success!

P.S. I am grateful for the prizes I've won lately on blogs, and here's another one I'm entering over at Lola's blog Sharp Pen Dull Sword Go check it out!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Calling All Seanchaithe

Thank you to Brigid who visited my new blog and taught me an awesome word when she left this comment: "you are a true seanchai (pronounced shan-key) who kept family and village stories alive through an oral tradition. They never wrote them down, just kept their audience spellbound."

I'll stay active here posting about general issues relating to writing, editing and publishing, while my Shadows blog will be more specifically geared to those who want to write from life.

Are you a seanchai? Or perhaps you can sense seanchaithe in the shadows whispering stories to you? If so, come join us at From the Shadows to the Page.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It Takes a Village to Sell a Book

Writing the book may be a solitary activity, but selling it is a different story. Let's quickly move past the agent, editor, marketing team, publisher, distributor, bookstore-- all those involved in selling a book in its various stages of production-- and cut straight to the author. Yes, you. Even if you haven't finished your manuscript yet. Even if you haven't found an agent, editor, marketing team, publisher. YOU are the most important element in selling your book.

I see writers like Talli Roland and Susan Fields (who btw are holding 100 follower contests on their blogs today-- yay I just earned extra points!) who personify exactly what I'm talking about. They're building that village who will help them sell their books. In fact, Talli is doing it so well, that she'll hit 100 followers within a month of starting her blog! And Susan hits 100 in less than six months from when she started hers. These gals know what they're doing! Along the way to that happy day when Talli and Susan hold that book in their eager arms, the village will be rejoicing with them:

"You got an agent? Cool! Hooray for you. You deserve it, you've worked so hard!"

"Omigosh, you're getting published! I am so excited for you. I'll be the first one to buy your book when it comes out!"

"Can't wait to read it! Will it be available in the UK?"

"I live in Germany. Can you send me a copy? It's easier to buy direct from you."

You get the idea. There's your village-- supporting you, following your journey, waiting eagerly for the book's release.

Don't wait until you have a contract before starting your writing blog. Don't wait until you have a book cover. (I waited until I had two books published and in stores before I started blogging-- dumb me--I had no village waiting eagerly for my book's release, just a few friends & family, most of whom I gave copies to anyway. No sales there lol!)

Don't think you need a woo hoo la di da "professionally- designed writer website." That stuff is all so passe, unless you're a celebrity author. In that case, you need it to get some space from your zillions of fans. For those of us toiling in relative obscurity, it's all about social media--blogging and all that other stuff you guys do so well as you interact with your village. Who cares about a dull, static professionally-designed website? That is so five years ago. Bor-ing! Do like Talli and Susan and get into the fray with a blog that is fun, that is you, that shares your writing journey with all your new and wonderful friends who are doing the same thing over on their blogs.

You've heard the words, "building a platform" (very important, btw), and "attracting followers" (so exciting to see that number grow!), but basically it all boils down to one thing-- You are creating your own village and as it grows and grows, they will encourage, share, cry and rejoice with you along the way. And ultimately they'll not only buy your book, they'll help sell it. (For an example, check out Krista Jensen's blog, where she interviewed David J. West whose debut novel is soon to be released.) Your village will interview you, post reviews on Goodreads, tell everyone they know, and generally do more good for your sales than the bookstore owner who's struggling to stay in business and focusing largely on whatever is the bestseller of the day.

This is how it works people. We are building something here, populating the blog world with all of our fun and original little cities, full of fun and interesting inhabitants. We call them followers, but in reality they're our village. They help us, we help them, and we all need each other.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seven Self-defeating Author Attitudes

I was given this award by beautiful bloggers Niki and Brigid.


But I'm cheating on the rules and instead of saying seven interesting things about my dull self, I am listing seven self-defeating attitudes for authors. Because you are all beautiful writers and need to not think any of these things, because it won't help your career goals one bit if you do:

>1. I can't take rejection. (Yes, you can. And you will. Again and again and again. If you want to be an author, you gotta pay the dues!)

2. There are too many books out there already. I have nothing new to offer. (That's crap. Yes, you do. Stop it. Want a little cheese with your whine?)

3. I won't submit a query or a promotional plan with my first three chapters. My writing speaks for itself. (An agent or editor likes to know the person they're going to get into bed with for the next how many years. That cover letter introduces you. Make it good. And a savvy promotional plan shows that you understand your market and how to reach it.)

4. Any agent is better than no agent at all.
(Absolutely untrue. Would you say that any lawyer is better than no lawyer at all? Like if you were facing a murder rap? Do your research.)

5. Any press that takes unagented submissions is out to get the author. (A small press can be an excellent way to break into the market. They accept unagented submissions because they pay small or no advances, and agents won't go there. Doesn't mean they are unsavory. Trust your instincts. If you've done your research and carefully reviewed the contract, and feel like it's fair, it probably is.)

6. "POD" means the same as "small print run."
(POD means print-on-demand, and is used when the title is intended largely for internet sales, not bookstore sales. A small print run means the publisher isn't sure how the book will do in the marketplace and so they don't want to risk printing 10,000 copies to sit in the distributor's warehouse.)

7. It's not my job to promote my books. That's up to the publisher. (Who are you? Ernest Hemingway? This isn't the Forties-- get out there and twitter.)

I could have come up with way more than 7, but I'm going with the blog award idea. Now I pass it along to these beautiful bloggers who I always enjoy reading:

Ellen at Pink Tea and Paper
whose post today unlocked the pages icon for me.

Dominique at En Violet who is always clever and thoughtful in her posts.

Barbara at My Kitchen Table
, who already got it but is so interesting I want to know more.

Pat Tillett who writes incredible snippets of his fascinating life.

Steena Holmes at Chocolate Reality
who has awesome shoes & lipstick with the chocolate blog.