Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Final-- Top Three Announced

Now we come to the wrap up of summer and of my fabulous (well, I thought so anyway!) Lettuce Be Writers Contest Countdown. This last one was the biggest and the best. Time to announce the winners, in alphabetical order since there's not a first, second & third-- they all get the top prize, which is to submit a full ms. to WiDo Publishing's acquisitions editor for a review and possible offer of publication.

The winners are:

 DARK FOREST by Jennie Bailey


THE SHOLES KEY by Clarissa Draper

Congratulations to Jennie, Jennifer and Clarissa!! Woo hoo!!

Allie will email you with instructions on how to format and where to send your manuscripts. Here are a few comments she had about each of these:

DARK FOREST-- "intriguing, well-crafted, clever, with fairies, and a hint of romance"

THE KENNEDY RENAISSANCE-- "I like the voice switches of the brother and sister, works very well, sounds just like high school without the cliches. Interesting plot development, this is a fun story."

THE SHOLES KEY-- "WOW. Polished, exciting, fast-paced, I didn't want this one to end."

A huge thank you to everyone who submitted. Each will get a personal email with review of their chapters.

Concerning the wrap up to this Summer Countdown, I'll post more later. I have a Big Party Planned so stay tuned!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top Ten Submissions from Lettuce Write

Okay, I know I promised you the winners today, but Allie needs just a few more days to decide for sure on the Top Three, the ones in which a full manuscript will be requested and reviewed. Suspense is building!!

Today, I give you the TOP TEN submissions, listed in alphabetical order:

BREATHE by Lori Johnson

CODE NAME O.W.L.S by Micki Street

DARK FOREST by Jennie Bailey

GLOW by MarcyKate Connelly




THE SHOLES KEY by Clarissa Draper

WARRIOR- MONKS by Matthew M. Rush

WE WHO ARE GODS by Jaimie Teekell

Allie, WiDo Publishing's acquisition editor, chose these ten out of nearly 100 entries because they had elements in their opening chapters that made them stand out and be noticed-- like a strong pleasing voice, intriguing plot idea, engaging writing style, likable well-drawn main characters-- to name a few of the qualities that will make a manuscript appeal to her and want to see more.

Congratulations to these ten very talented authors for stand-out submissions!  The three VERY BEST, the WINNERS, will be revealed next week, I promise!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lettuce Write & Submit Contest is now closed. Winners TBA.

This was a fun contest with tons of entries. Allie has been sorting through them as they came in. The top ten with the three winning submissions will be announced on Saturday, Aug. 28th on my blog. So watch for it!

The Top Three will get to submit their full manuscripts for editorial review, possibly with the resulting offer of a publishing contract with WiDo Publishing. Right now, Allie is especially looking for YA romance and/or fantasy, along with Women's fiction/romance and chick lit. Of course, any really great story is always of interest.

Thank you to everyone who entered and to all those who spread the word. It will be exciting to see who Allie picks for the Top 3!! Also, every submission will get an editorial review, but there are so many that it may take awhile for the reviews to get back to you. Like 4-6 weeks? LOL.

See you on Saturday!

Monday, August 16, 2010

What I Learned Today from Blogging

I've been away from the internet quite a bit lately and today couldn't wait to scroll down my dashboard and visit my friends on their blogs. Here's a few things I learned today from blogging:

* That Theresa Milstein's  husband is as funny and clever as she is. And we're all cheering for her to get that dream job and publishing contract!

* That simply looking at a photo of fish and chips is enough to make me salivate, and seeing 3 or 4 at once on Fran's blog is almost too much to resist.

* And I'm not the only one who thinks Oprah has too dang much power and besides, her book recommendations are pretty weak. Read Kathy's (The Literary Amnesiac) take on The Hype Machine.

* That Amy Sonnrichsen is having a girl who is waving at everyone from the womb. You must see this! Congratulations Amy!

* Kristin Miller explains what makes a successful writer by comparing Angelina Jolie and Katherine Heigl-- her post is must-read brilliant.

* That book reviews make a huge difference. After reading Amparo Artiz's review of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, I'm sold. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered, because YA paranormal is NOT my preferred genre.

* Call her Marsha or Talli, she's fab by any name. Go here to learn her secrets for having a successful blog.

These are just a few of the things I learned from blogging today. Thanks, everyone, for sharing bits of your day with me. I enjoyed stopping by!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Problem with Self-Publishing

It used to be distribution. A self-pubbed book couldn't get into bookstores. Now? Does that even matter at all? No, not really.

The self-publisher can go electronic, promote like crazy using social media and a link on the blog, and sell amazing amounts. Karen McQuestion did just that with her ebook, A Scattered Life, and now it's being published by Amazon (when did they become a big press???) and made into a movie.

A book not making it to the bookstore shelf is mattering less and less as we speak. A recent NY Times article chronicles the problems bookstores, including the massive Barnes & Noble, are facing due to the ebook explosion. And booksellers thought they had it bad back when Amazon took hold. Man, that was nothing compared to what's happening now!

So here's the question. Why bother with a publisher at all? Why bother with finding an agent, getting rejected, looking for a publisher, getting rejected, writing queries, getting rejected, submitting partials, getting rejected? Why not just save time, forgo the misery, and go straight to Smashwords? Or CreateSpace and Amazon?

If distribution doesn't matter, and marketing dollars are scarce (authors are having to promote like crazy anyway), then why not just do it all yourself and end up with a bigger piece of the pie?

A post yesterday on Melissa Cunningham's blog, A Writer's Reality, answers these questions, from the perspective of a debut author. EDITING. Did you hear that? I'm sure you did since I was shouting. EDITING. One more time. EDITING.

Sure you can have your work critiqued, even pay thousands of dollars for an editing service-- but all those people are so easy to ignore when they tell you something hard to hear, like:

These 3 chapters drag and don't add anything to the story--No way! That's my favorite part and is the essence of my book!

150,000 words is a bit much for a YA novel. Better cut by half-- I can't take out that much. Look at the 4th Harry Potter. It sold fine.

Your main character is annoying and will alienate readers-- What? The main character is based on my cousin, and this is true to her personality. I can't change it.

The boy and girl are both named Corey, very confusing-- So what? I like the name Corey.

There's an awful lot of telling in the first six chapters-- But that's because the reader needs to know the background to understand what comes next.

An editing service will be nice, make suggestions, and end up letting you do what you want because you're the boss. You are paying them. Not so with an editor at a publishing house. Who will be a complete jerk may not be nice, who will make unreasonable demands, incredibly annoying requests, give strongly worded direction for the changes that must be made to your manuscript before it can go any farther.

Now if you're an amazing writer with the ability to self-edit with great skill, and the ability to take critique and run with it, polishing your work until it shines-- then you may be an excellent candidate for self-publishing.

I have nothing against self-publishing. Each writer needs to go the route that makes the most sense for him or her. But the editing.... that can be the real stumbling block. So if you're considering self-publishing, just be aware of the editing. Have a plan for that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Novel Done, Soundbite? Handle? Aargh!!

Think writing a synopsis is hard? Try writing the soundbite, the blurb, the handle. This is my least favorite part. Sol Stein defines the handle as "A short description of  the book designed to evoke interest in it." Note, designed to evoke interest in it. Note, short. Note, description. How is this even possible?

A good handle shows how a reader will benefit from reading the book. For instance, the handle for my first novel is:  "Uncut Diamonds is Steel Magnolias with Mormon characters."

What this means: If you like Steel Magnolias, a rambling, character-driven story about women dealing with life's challenges and somehow coming out on top, with humor, tragedy and pathos thrown in, then you will enjoy my book. The clue "with Mormon characters," is meant to pique the interest of those intrigued by Mormons, who have been very much in the news the past few years. This book will give readers an inside look into a Mormon family.

Another thing about a handle is SHORT. Basically 10 to 15 words, max. My handle above is 8 words, a bit short, which can be a problem. Why? Because if it's too short, one has the inclination to expand on it until before you know it, you've spouted off for 5 minutes about your book and eyes glaze over. (As I know from sad experience.) It should be short, but not too short. Mine would be better at 12 words, but I can't figure out what 4 words to add. Adding the genre can be a useful tool in describing the book. YA Paranormal, Chick Lit, cozy mystery, lesbian literary-- these all give a crystal clear picture.

A handle boils down to one enticing phrase that captures the essence of your story, often using a familiar movie or book for comparison. Can't find the right phrase? Try listing a number of phrases that summarize your book's benefits and substance, and narrow it down to that perfect combination. Voila, you have your book's handle. Sounds easy, doesn't it? *laughs hysterically*

Here's a few phrases I've come up with as I struggle with creating the handle for House of Diamonds:

* Two sisters, married with children, are best friends, yet in different phases of life. Can their relationship survive the trials each must face?

* Cindy and Marcie are sisters. Something is wrong with Cindy's baby. Marcie, the experienced mother of seven, doesn't want to say anything and worry her sister.

* Marcie, mother of seven, finally gets an opportunity to realize her dream of being a published author. While her sister Cindy, mother of two, discovers something terribly wrong with her baby.

 You can see why I'm struggling. None of these actually fit the requirements. They aren't short, descriptive or enticing enough. The marketing guru for WiDo is working on this, but anyone who wants to try a hand, please feel free! I'm stumped.

And if you have an awesome handle for your own work, please share it in the comments!

Monday, August 9, 2010


First off, thank you everyone for your sympathetic and encouraging comments for my last post. Every so often I just have to moan. At least it was a short one, and now on to bigger and better things-- a book review for The Freak Observer by Blythe Wooston, a brand new release by one of my blogger/twitter friends. Blythe sent me a copy, and I read it in one night. It's a YA genre but as she says,  "It's short on prom dresses and long on theoretical physics and murdered chickens."

It's also short on cliches (there are none, it's fresh and original) and long on brilliant writing! Here's an excerpt where the main character Loa, who's being brought home in a cop car, describes where she lives:

The road curves around the old pasture fence. There is our barn where nothing lives anymore. The house huddles in the dark, smaller than the barn and almost as empty.

Thin grey light escapes the windows of the kitchen and bathroom. I know the trooper is going to that door, the back door, in the middle of the scabbed-on addition to the main house. The real front door faces the creek because the house turns its back on the road. Nothing good ever comes from that direction. That's what the house seems to believe.

This book is sort of like the female version of Catcher in the Rye. Or maybe it would be what Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird might write as a senior in high school, if her best friend had died, and her world had fallen apart, giving her nightmares and PTSD. Can you tell I'm saying "literary classic" here? Because it really is a brilliant little book. I loved the scientific references, and the classroom bits at the beginning of each chapter were ingenious. 

How lovely to read an intelligent YA novel once again. It had been awhile. Like maybe two decades? I wish The Freak Observer could become a huge hit and bring back the thoughtful, well-written, coming of age YA novel that's been missing from the genre for quite some time.

I'm not thrilled by the cover art, but taking off the flyleaf you have a lovely little red hard-cover book with a cool imprinted graphic on the front. A graphic that would have made a much better cover but oh well, you can't have everything. I just hope the very odd cover graphics don't hurt sales, because this is a book that deserves to be bought and read and re read. And please write more, Blythe. I'm a fan.

Go to Blythe's blog for more info on her and her book, and for ordering information.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maybe Twitter's not so bad after all

I'm having one of those jealous weekends. You know the kind? Where everyone else seems to be doing their stuff so much better than you?

Ever since I got published, I've observed other writers to see how they market and promote themselves and their books. Knowing this is a weakness of mine, I wanted to learn from example. And I've learned a LOT but realize I'm still not very good at that part of being an author. So in a moment of  frustration I wrote this on twitter:  

Following other authors on blogs, facebook & twitter makes me realize that I am CRAP at marketing.

A few hours later when I went back to Twitter, I saw 5 or 6 responses-- other writers in sympathy, knowing how hard it is and just giving the sympathetic nod in my direction. Gosh, that made my day. It didn't sell any books but it sure made me feel better.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reasons for Rejection of a Partial

Since my current contest theme is writing and submitting, I thought I'd do a post on some of the most common reasons your partial might be rejected by an agent or editor. Or what to watch out for when polishing up your manuscript for submission.

Although I generally prefer to focus on the positive in this blog, (unlike WiDo's crabby managing editor Kristine Princevalle), I'll take a page from her book and tell you what doesn't work.

Not a clear demographic. Like this: Opens with an adult main character, brings in an adolescent dealing with YA issues, switches back to adult themes like infertility, while inserting a side story about ice cream.  Who will read this? Who is the demographic?

Weak voice. This will kill a ms. fast. A weak voice is the sign of a weak writer. How to strengthen your voice? Read lots. Write lots. And work outside your creative writing, like journaling, letter-writing, blogging to help strengthen and define your voice.

Boring. This has more to do with writing style and craft than it does subject matter and plot line. Again, I'll borrow from Kristine Princevalle. Here's a brief example she used in a post. Being a huge fan of Agatha Christie, I love this. A brilliant writer can write on a completely mundane topic and make it fascinating; a poor writer can write on a completely fascinating topic and make it mundane.

Makes no sense. Clear, concise writing is valuable and sought after. The meaning must be clear to the reader. The narrative must flow seamlessly from one scene to another, without jarring juxtaposition of words and phrases, or distracting sidelines that have nothing to do with anything. Nothing must interfere with the reader's enjoyment of the story.

Point of view switches. Frequent POV lapses, or even worse-- POV that's all over the place-- are the sign of an amateurish, inexperienced writer. If this shows up in your partial, there won't be a request for a full.

Telling, telling, telling. We've heard this a million times-- show don't tell. It's fairly simple. Telling means author tells the reader what happened or what the MC is thinking or feeling. Showing means you write a scene, with dialogue, action and stuff. If you're getting rejected a lot, try an experiment. Go through your ms. and leave only the dialogue. See what's left of 50,000 words. That might give you a clue.

Too many characters. Introduce your characters judiciously, letting the reader get to know them gradually. Don't throw everyone into the first chapter.

Poorly edited. Anything that looks like too much work for the editor will get rejected.

Preaching and Politics. Characters can be diverse and have opinions, but if the author goes overboard making the reader feel preached to, the love affair is over. People read fiction for entertainment and enjoyment, not to be a captive audience for the writer's soapbox.

These are a few of the most common reasons for rejection. There's a million more. Just a few things to think about as you polish your submissions for this week's Lettuce Write contest. Remember, you have until August 21 to submit, so get writing and good luck to all!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lettuce WRITE (and get your chapters reviewed by a submissions editor)

Contest time again! Here's where we are so far with the Let-tuce Be Writers Summer Contest Countdown:

 LETTUCE     WRITE  Submit sample chapters for editor feedback!

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


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

    SHARE   Jemi won Farm Girl & Leah won Uncut Diamonds


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


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

Now for LETTUCE WRITE! Because writers need to write, right? Otherwise what's the point? I was reminded of that again this morning by Rebecca's post on Diary of a Virgin Novelist. I'm reminded of it every time I procrastinate by spending time doing anything but writing. You all know what I'm talking about don't you? Writing is so easy to put off and so satisfying when we actually buckle down and make it happen. So the #1 ingredient in the writer salad must be LETTUCE WRITE!


Submit the first three chapters from your manuscript. My trusty editing buddy, Allie Maldonado, submissions editor for WiDo Publishing, with my assistance, will review them and pick the top three as winners. She will reply to each entry, whether it wins or not, with a brief review and suggestions for ways to improve.

The prize will be the opportunity to submit a full for Allie's consideration and feedback. She is looking for new manuscripts and promising new authors to publish, so this contest will help her as well as help get you motivated to WRITE.


1. Must be a follower of this blog.

2. Email your chapters to as a pdf. or Word document attachment. Put Lettuce Write Contest in your subject line.

3. Spread the word by twitter, fb, blogging or whatever social media you use and let me know in the comment what you did because after all, this contest is all about writers supporting writers. If you don't do this part of it, you will be disqualified to win.

Easy! Done and Done! So get those chapters polished up and submitted to Allie. Deadline for submission is Saturday, August 21, with prize winners (three winners!) being announced sometime in the first week of September.

Good luck Everyone and GET WRITING!!