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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My First Editing Gig

My first assignment editing for WiDo Publishing was with a young man named Gardner "Bud" Browning. He had submitted a long work of about 130,000 words that had exciting potential. First, however, the submissions editor asked him to cut it down by quite a bit (like 50k words!) and change the focus to YA. He graciously complied *note to prospective writers wanting publication* and before long, she had this ms. in hand that was much improved and more in line with how she saw its focus and demographic.

A contract was offered and signed. "Cerulean Isle" by G.M. Browning was scheduled for publication by WiDo, and yours truly asked to edit it. Yay!!

A brief summary of "Cerulean Isle":

Jacob, a Cuban boy, is sold into piracy where he discovers a rare talent with the dagger that gives him a chance for escape. He and his friend Grant, a young pirate with a thieving background and a desire to belong, embark on an adventure that takes them to Cerulean Isle, the abode of a supposedly mythical tribe of Mer People. YA novel CERULEAN ISLE by G. M. Browning is a captivating story of love, loss, adventure and fantasy.

As we approach final edits, I encouraged Bud to get involved with social media, one effective way to help find an audience for this excellent and exciting book. Being the gracious person he is, willing to try whatever his editor suggests, *note to writers currently in editing* he immediately set up his blog, Fiction Addiction. In his first post he introduces himself, mentions his amazing editor *ahem* and talks about his time as a professional wrestler.

I hope that many of you will visit this multi-talented guy at his brand new blog and welcome him to the wonderful world of blogging writers!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waiting for blogger.....................aaargh........still waiting........!!!!...........

Message to my blogging friends:

Is it just me or is anyone else having trouble with Blogger lately? It's taking forever to load and can I just say I am FRUSTRATED. One of the joys of my day is taking a break from work and popping around to visit you guys, read your posts, make my rather inane comments, you all know the routine. It's fun isn't it? I'm not kidding, it's the best part of my day, and I have to watch the clock or it could be my ENTIRE DAY!!

But now it takes me forever to do this fun little thing. Waiting for blogger to load. Waiting...waiting...waiting...omigosh why is it taking so long??!!! Emails are fine, Facebook is fine, even stupid Twitter is fine. The problem seems to be with Blogger. It doesn't seem to be a problem with my internet or my computer. Anyway, until blogger works things out, I may be somewhat absent from your comment sections. Because like everyone I have limited time and unfortunately I can't spend it WAITING FOR BLOGGER!!

Message to Blogger People:

You guys have sucked us in, you can't mess with us now. We are counting on you to be there for us. To be speedy with opening blogs, speedy with posting our comments. This is how we connect with our friends. We need our friends. We need to talk to them. We need to hear from them. We need you, Blogger, to get your stuff together. Because we all have lives outside of blogging and our activity here already eats into it quite a bit. Most of us can't afford to have you waste our time even more than we're already wasting it ourselves. Believe me, I can waste plenty of time on my own, I don't need any help from you people thank you very much.

So please Blogger People-- fix whatever needs fixing so you can be speedy again.

And Blogger Buddies, if I'm absent from your blogs for a time, now you know why! *Grrrr to Blogger*

Friday, September 24, 2010

Updates from Allie the Acquisitions Editor

For those of you who entered the Lettuce Write Submission Contest, Allie wanted me to let you know some stats.

27 25 entries left to review

4 full manuscripts requested (in addition to the winners)

Some honorable mentions so far--

         Most fun narrative voice:  Suz Korb

         Most intriguing plot line:  Theresa Millstein

         Favorite main character:   Jared Larsen

         Best opening paragraph:   Amy Saia

         Best tight, spare writing style:  Amie McCracken

         Most wished for summary so she would know the end:   Steena the Chocolate-lover

Anyway, I thought you'd like to know some of the feedback. When she finishes with all of them, I'll post another update. She has also appreciated those who replied to her comments with a thank you email. Due to the number of entries and her busy schedule, she has only been able to give about 2 brief paragraphs critique.

Don't worry, Allie, a good writer can glean mountains from a few well-chosen comments by an intuitive editor. Thanks for all your hard work!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Woman of Courage

Last post was about me summing up the courage to read my own book. Well, this post is about someone with REAL courage.

Her husband is deployed to Afghanistan. She just had a baby girl a few weeks ago. He wasn't there for the birth. She has two young boys. Money is tight, so she teaches English lessons part time. She wrote a book, a really really good book, scheduled for release on Kindle very soon and print release October 29. She's worried about marketing. She's worried about reviews. She's worried about the cover. And with all the pressure on her, she can't sleep which makes her anxiety and stress level go even higher.

Her name is Tamara Hart Heiner and her blog is Chasing Dreams. Here is her awesome debut novel, a YA thriller, Perilous.


She prays for this book to be a success, like every author does. I have read an ARC, and it's brilliant. I guarantee you won't go to sleep until you finish it. It's a fast read, an exciting, pulse-racing action thriller. It could sell a million copies if enough people know about it. And Tamara stays awake at night nursing her newborn while nursing the silent, lonely dreams of a talented young artist, hoping her book will find an audience.

If you visit her blog, you can follow and keep up with the release of Perilous. You can click on the Goodreads icon on the sidebar to add her book to your list. You can tell her you love the cover, that you can't wait to read it. You can show support for a woman of true courage, who needs some help right now. Tell her KarenG sent you. And maybe she will stop worrying and feeling like the world is on her small shoulders and finally be able to get a good night's sleep.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Courage to Read One's Own Book

When my novel Uncut Diamonds came out, I was too scared to read it. What if I found mistakes? What if it weren't perfect? What if I got embarrassed about it? What if it wasn't as good as my editor and I thought?

So it's been almost 15 months since it's release and guess what, I finally got the courage to read my own book!! And guess what again? It has mistakes. It isn't perfect. And yes, I'm kind of embarrassed by some parts. It may not be as good as I thought at first, but hey it's pretty darn good! Even with all the exclamation points that were left in! The editor took out probably 50, and there's still too many left. Haha! Guess I write fiction like I write my blog!

That was when WiDo Publishing was still new, and there was no real copy editor. Now about 6 different editors look at a ms. before it's published. A year ago, it was me and one editor. So that's how all those exclamation points got missed I guess. I remember taking out about a million, but now that I'm reading it in the book form, I'm seeing a whole lot more that should have taken a hike.

Anyway, I'm glad that I finally drummed up the courage to read it. I thought I better, since I'm currently writing a sort-of sequel. Now I understand what those actors are talking about when they say they can't watch their own films. It can be a painful, anxiety-inducing, humiliating experience. Oh well, who can't use a little humility now and then, right?

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Time to Unite our Villages and Sell More Books

Back when I was Xena, I wrote a post called It Takes a Village to Sell a Book.  It marked a turning point in my understanding of the supportive writing/blogging community. You'd think we'd all be curled up in jealousy over each other's success, right? But instead writers are the most amazing community imaginable.

To quote from my village post,  "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. 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."

 As I wrote that post, I pondered the great question.

How to turn this highly supportive culture of writers into a mutually beneficial association that will help us do what we are online to do-- sell our books.

Many of you may not be published YET. But when that happy day comes you're going to ask-- How Can Authors & Publishers Sell More Books?  Believe me, it's true, even Charles Dickens had to face it. I've been agonizing over this question for three years, ever since my first book came out. At first blush, we're just thrilled to be published. "Aw shucks, if only a few people buy my book and like it, I'll be thrilled."

Until we realize how much we love this job, and how much we really want to make a living at it.  Then book sales become the overriding concern. And let's face it. Writers aren't complete without readers. We need readers to buy our books, to love them and eagerly await our next release. It's what every author longs for. It's why we toil endless hours over our craptastic manuscripts, and do a zillion revisions. It's for the readers.

Okay, enough philosophizing. You already know this stuff anyway. What you don't know is this. A website for authors is coming that's unlike anything out there right now. It will be a place to consolidate and focus this innate desire authors have to support their own. While enabling us to sell more books and make more money doing it. This new website will unite our villages.

I'm not trying to taunt you. It's for a purpose. I need 100 authors with books to sell-- either print or ebook-- ready to go with their profile pages, cover images and summaries set up in advance of the launch.

If you're interested in being part of the First One Hundred at launch, then email me (karenjonesgowen@gmail.com) and I can tell you exactly what is needed to get started. (And don't worry, I won't ask for money or make you purchase a book on how to sell more books lol.)

I signed a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits me from giving out specific details. You can see my dilemma, since it's my assignment to find the First One Hundred participating authors. I'm not allowed to tell the name of the site yet *as you might have noticed* despite the fact that I am tired of pussy footing around this and I am so ready  to shout it from the rooftops.

But I can't. However, I will continue to provide updates as I can. Have I said enough to pique your curiousity, you published authors? Enough to motivate you to write me an email? Or have I just irritated the crap out of everyone with my non-disclosure, still not saying anything, and hinting around until you're all sick of it? I hope not, because I need you to help spread the word, to find 100 authors ready to go. The village has been built, and it is freakin' awesome. It's time to populate it.

So whether you're traditionally or self- published, if wondering how to sell more books is keeping you awake at night, then this could be your sleep remedy. If you are interested in being part of the First One Hundred, shoot me an email. If you know others in the same sleepless boat, send them a link to this post.

We are authors helping authors, and this planned website, currently set to launch in 6 - 8 weeks, is going to make it a whole lot easier for us to do what we're already doing online. So let's get the word out! Share this post through facebook, twitter, link to it on your blogs, let's unite our villages. This is going to be huge. A revolution. And it starts with the First One Hundred.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hi, I'm @KarenGowen, what's your name?

I started this event at the beginning of summer, with a specific purpose in mind. A kind of goofy idea, using lettuce, but it seemed to work. Actually it's been a blast, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. That BBQ was something else. It definitely won the popularity prize and attracted the most people. Wow, it's hard to top that. Especially when all that's left is lame Twitter LOL.

Here's where we are so far on the Lettuce Be Writers Event:

 LETTUCE     WRITE  Top Three: Clarissa Draper, Jennie Bailey & Jennifer Soehnlin

 LETTUCE     READ    Congratulations to Jessica Bell for winning Like Bees to Honey.

 LETTUCE     BLOG    Join the Labor Day Weekend BBQ Blog Party

 LETTUCE     QUERY   Congratulations to winner Candace Ganger for the best query out of 30 entries.

 LETTUCE 
    SHARE   Jemi won Farm Girl & Leah won Uncut Diamonds

 LETTUCE     TWITTER  I'm @KarenGowen, who are you?

 LETTUCE     BUY BOOKS  Congratulations to winner Susan Kaye Quinn: Life, Liberty and Pursuit

 LETTUCE     REVIEW BOOKS  Book Review of Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

 LETTUCE     HOLD & ENTER CONTESTS  Name the Contest Winner: A.L. Sonrichsen from The Green Bathtub

What to do with Twitter? That's what a lot of us say. I swore I'd never go there, but it's not that bad once you get the hang of it. I use it to:

  • say stuff that is too short for a  blog post
  • promote my new blog posts
  • RT (that means retweet) inspirational tweets I see
  • RT a really good post I read
  • reply to an interesting or compelling tweet
  • follow bloggers I enjoy

What I don't use it for:
  • talking about politics, religion or sex
  • tell you about that day old donut I just ate 
  • wasting time (okay I'm kidding I really do use it to waste time)


Here's the thing. When you're an unknown author with a start up press you better do something. Blogging is fun, I enjoy it. Twitter I do mainly to drive people to my blog. And it works. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have as many followers as I do if it weren't for Twitter. Just another way to network People. It's not as fun as blogging or Goodreads, but hey it's what I do here on the internet. If it's social media, I'll explore it. It might be lame but it's still better than say-- actually leaving the house.

So there, Twitter is done, contest is over. Now. What was the point again? I'll get into that next time, this post is already too long. 

But here's a hint-- it has to do with authors supporting authors-- and how to harness this huge power to help us all SELL MORE BOOKS. Next post I'll talk more about it and that's a promise. So come back on Friday and find out more of what all of THIS ---
is actually leading up to. See you Friday tweeps, peeps and blogger buddies! And bring your friends, bring every published author you know who has a book to sell. Print or ebook, either one. Because this is a REVOLUTION-- authors supporting authors and rocking the entire publishing/bookselling industry. Peace Out (sorry I couldn't help myself)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love to Read? Join Goodreads!

I joined Goodreads a few years ago but didn't keep up my account. At the time it seemed like too much trouble, and I wasn't reading much then. (I go through phases, sometimes consuming a book a day and other times going all year without finishing a single one.)

Recently I hit a frantic reading pace, and when I got a Goodreads friend request from a new acquaintance, I said yes, started following her reviews and filled out my own long-neglected list. It was fun. Here was a place to record everything I read, all the books from ages past, and the ones I want to read.

So for anyone out there who isn't yet on Goodreads-- here's the link to my home page. I will happily be your first friend. Or if you're already a member, let's connect and share books and reviews.

If you are a published author who has not yet set up a Goodreads profile page, get busy! It's easy-- one more place to get your mug out there. AND--They now offer this really awesome widget, where visitors to your site can add your book with one click. After a lot of experimentation, I think I've got it. Check it out, yo.

The widgets to add my books to your list are under the twitter thingy on my sidebar. They're looking a bit lonely and neglected right now but hopefully will have many smiling faces showing up soon :) What I don't like about these widgets is that anyone who added a book previously on their Goodreads list, has to redo it here for it to show up. Fix that soon will ya Goodreads people? Because I like to see the pretty faces.
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Goodreads is awesome! Books rock! We should read more books!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blogging vs. Journaling

I've been an avid journal-writer since childhood. (Back then I began each entry with "Dear Diary,") Lately when I open my journal, I write just a bit, then turn on the laptop and check blogs. Maybe I'll write a new post, maybe just read, maybe comment or reply to my commenters. You know how it is. Two hours later, you simply must get on with your day. I used to slam shut the journal and start my day. Now I slam shut the laptop. Well, not really, I don't want to break it after all.

But is blogging better than journaling? Worse? Clearly I can't spend 2 hours journaling like I used to, then another 2 hours blogging for heaven's sake. Something has to go. And it seems to be the journal. At least at this  point. I'm still not sure if that's a good thing, an improvement, or a step backward. Any ideas on the matter? I'd love to hear from others who may be facing a similar dilemma. Has the journal given way to the blog?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Staying Up all Night

I don't know what it is these days, but it seems the only way to focus and concentrate on this novel I'm editing is to stay up all night, when the house is quiet and still. Except for that man upstairs who gets up 5 x a night to visit the bathroom (he probably needs a checkup at the doctor's real soon).

And then there's the soothing sounds of the refrigerator clicking on and off. A few other random fan sounds, the wind outside, and very rarely a car goes by.

Here's what I do not hear:

  • Phone ringing
  • doors slamming
  • doorbell chiming
  • people talking inside the house
  • children playing (yelling) outside the house
  • timers going off
  • anyone telling me they're hungry
  • anyone asking me what's to eat
  • the washer and/or drier spinning around and round

This list, not to mention a few I might have missed (like dogs barking), clearly shows why I have to stay up in the wee hours to write. Unless anyone has any better ideas, here I sit. Pretty soon the family will wake up, and it will be my turn to go to sleep for a few hours.

As my husband says, "Here she comes in from the night shift, ready to go to bed."

When is your prime time for writing? And if any of you can write in the midst of chaos, please give me some how-to tips, because I just can't seem to pull it off.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Creative Cooking vs. Creative Writing

Yesterday I felt frustrated over the writing, so I just hung out in the kitchen for several hours cooking. No one was home, who would eat? I didn't care. I could always take it to the neighbors. I wanted to do something creative that could be enjoyed instantly by people, unlike writing which takes forever to make good, to finish, then it has to be accepted for publication, then it takes forever in editing, until finally it comes out in the form of a book--oh happy day! oh what brief joy!-- for it takes forever for people to read it and decide if they like it or not, and when they do, you are happy, and when they don't, you are sad. And the pay is awful.

Better to take an hour or two in the kitchen stirring pots of unusual combinations and flavors, baking the best chocolate cake ever from scratch, with the most delicious fudge icing. No one complains that it needs more editing, or that it doesn't flow right, or that it's too depressing, or that they can't relate. No one says, "I really wanted to like this, but...." No one says anything. They are too busy eating happily and all is well. This is why I like creative cooking.

Still, creative writing remains in the shadows calling my name-- the Dark Master who whispers, sings, calls out to me, who beckons and I can't say no. Oh, how I hate him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Was that FUN or WHAT?

Thanks to all who came to my big weekend BBQ bearing delicious food and drink! A special welcome to the new followers here. I tried to get around to visit everyone. If I somehow missed you, let me know, I'll pop over to say hi and follow.

It's all about the networking, finding new friends, those we can relate to and communicate with more than about the numbers. Still, the numbers validate what we're doing. No one wants to think they're speaking to emptiness.

On one of the blogs I visited, sorry I can't remember which one in my food-induced hopping haze, I saw this quote: "I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell..." (Richard Wright)

The internet is like the darkness, the comments & followers like the echo. More and louder echoes encourage us to keep at it. I hope the BBQ helped you meet or exceed your follower goals. I'd love to hear reports.

Thank you for the support, the links, the comments and all your amazing and awesome attractiveness! And the food YUM!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Are You Ready to Find a Bunch of Awesome New Followers?

It's time for the Blog Party BBQ to begin!

I've jazzed up my blog with some new color, how about you? Are you ready for a bunch of new visitors and followers? The original party invitation is here, but to recap here's how it works:

* Follow my blog and I'll follow yours cuz that's how it works yo

* Comment on this post telling what food you'll bring to the BBQ, and telling us something about yourself and your blog

* Find at least three new party-goers to visit, comment on their blogs and follow if you like

* Click on the twitter and/or facebook icons at the bottom of this post to invite more people to the party. That means more followers for everyone!

Quite a few left comments with their food *yum yum slurp* on the last post, so you can all go back and click to their blogs plus hopping to whoever comments on this post. And if you commented before, please feel free to do so again here. You might use another blog url if you have more than one, tell us more about yourself, or just check back in to make sure you don't miss any of the fun, food and drinks galore! Oh, and make sure that your profile page gives the link to your blog so people can find you.

This post will be up the entire 4-day Labor Day weekend, giving everyone plenty of time to find new friends and followers. And I plan on making a virtual pig of myself with tons of virtual food!  Mmm, a dream come true-- calorie-free deliciousness. And I'm bringing 6 dozen of my famous chocolate chip cookies!

PARTY ON!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Get a LOT of New Blog Followers

Want more followers for your blog? Well listen up, because I'm having a PARTY! An American tradition is to have a barbecue on Labor Day weekend, to celebrate the workers of the world and the end of summer. So my end of summer celebration, the ALMOST to the END of the Lettuce be Writers Contest Countdown is going to be a BIG BBQ BLOG PARTY.

Some of you remember Nicola Morgan's birthday blog party at the beginning of the year. It will be patterned after that-- a chance for all of us to hang out and get to know each other better and visit each other's blogs. Nicola's was awesome, and I met some great blogger friends who are still my faves. And writers love to blog so  LETTUCE BLOG!!


 LETTUCE     WRITE  Top Three: Clarissa Draper, Jennie Bailey & Jennifer Soehnlin

 LETTUCE     READ    Congratulations to Jessica Bell for winning Like Bees to Honey.

 LETTUCE     BLOG    Join the Labor Day Weekend BBQ Blog Party

 LETTUCE     QUERY   Congratulations to winner Candace Ganger for the best query out of 30 entries.

 LETTUCE 
    SHARE   Jemi won Farm Girl & Leah won Uncut Diamonds

 LETTUCE     TWITTER

 LETTUCE     BUY BOOKS  Congratulations to winner Susan Kaye Quinn: Life, Liberty and Pursuit

 LETTUCE     REVIEW BOOKS  Book Review of Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

 LETTUCE     HOLD & ENTER CONTESTS  Name the Contest Winner: A.L. Sonrichsen from The Green Bathtub

Here's how it works. If you're a follower on my blog, (if not, join now!) you make a comment, say what food you're bringing to the BBQ, what you blog about, and invite people to come visit you. Then you go visit at least 3 new blogs, leave a comment and follow if you like it. Hopefully everyone will find a whole lot more than 3 they want to visit and follow. It's a fun way to find new blogs and get new followers. The more you comment & follow, the more commenters and followers you'll get. When I participated in Nicola's blog party, my follower count practically doubled in 24 hours. It's a great opportunity to expand for new bloggers. For those of us who have been around awhile and might even be getting a little bored with it, it can provide a new lease on our blogging life.

To prepare for the party, you might want to spiff things up, like focus on your platform, make sure your font is easy to read, that you have an interesting bio and post to attract comments and followers. I plan on doing a bit of remodeling on mine, actually looking forward to an excuse to change a few things. In fact, I already started by changing profile photos.

The BBQ Blog Party will begin this Friday and continue through Monday. Not that any Labor Day BBQ I've ever attended went longer than a day, but hey it's the internet, we make up our own rules here, right?

Again, here's how it works:

* Be a follower here

* Mention in your comment  what food you'll bring, what you blog about and any other pertinent info you'd like to share

* Go to at least 3 new blogs of commenters and say hi. Follow if you like it

* I'll check the comments all weekend, visit as many as I can, and follow if I'm not already.

Sound like fun? I think so! Okay, then, see you on Friday!

Oh, and please click the twitter or facebook icon at the end of this post to invite others to the party. The more we have, the more new followers everyone can find.