I’ve Emerged From the Fog of Querying

No, I haven’t taken a Digital Sabbatical, but I should. In fact, I’m going to blog about that tomorrow over at ANWA Founder & Friends.

My exciting news is that I’ve begun my third novel and it’s set in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s the story of an American teenager trying to hold her family together as the capital collapses into civil war. Since I graduated from high school there (ACS – the American Community School) at about that time and was, indeed, on hand in 1975 when things began to get dicey, I can draw on my own memories as well as my imagination (because, yes, this is fiction…not my family).

As you know, however, from an earlier posting…my memory is rather unreliable. Thank goodness my mom kept a family log all those years we lived overseas. So what did I just do last week? I took advantage of Allegiant Air’s new direct cheap flight between here and LAX and flew down there for 10 days of fun and research. The day before I left, I gathered my parents, my younger brother, and one of my younger sisters and started shooting questions at them. Every now and then I’d have to interrupt all their cross talk (after all, my dad’s got a hearing problem and he’d usually start telling me something in the middle of one of my brother’s responses). My sister found the whole process hilarious. But at least I came away with some great notes…AND the family logs for 1974-77.

It may have cost me $20 to check an extra suitcase on the return flight (these journals are big, thick, and heavy), but it will prove invaluable in the end. And the time with family? Priceless!

Originally posted 2010-08-05 17:13:52.

A Nugget and My Other Blogs

I did blog yesterday. But I didn’t do it here. You see, I’m on two other blogs, as well, and I realized I’d better let you know about them, because I’m sharing some of my golden nuggets from Thursday’s “webinar” on those sites.

My other personal blog, Seized by Words, is reserved for thoughts on the power of words, as well as book reviews and author interviews. I shared my thoughts there the other day on a phrase used by Rachelle Gardner during her presentation and you might want to check it out.

This past week, I was invited to become a contributing blogger to ANWA Founder & Friends, the official blog of a terrific national group of ladies–American Night Writers Association (ANWA). I blog there every other Friday, so yesterday was my first opportunity and I decided to share a bit more of what I’d learned on Thursday about crucial elements in the crafting of the first few pages of your manuscript. Please give the whole blog a look, not just my posting, and consider becoming a follower. Cindy Williams has a terrific post there today about author branding.

My nugget for today: If you’re having a hard time determining the genre of your story, then try to visualize your audience…the readers who will love your kind of story. Consider the other books they read and that’s your genre.

BIG TIP: Better to come up with a more specific genre than “Mainstream.” Rachelle said, for example, that “Women’s Fiction” would be better than “Mainstream” because it defines the audience better and helps the agent categorize your book more easily.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 09:42:17.

Peek Ahead at Jason’s Sixth Grade Science Camp

Present word count of WIP:  51,899

I know. I promised a posting recounting Jason’s pivotal first grade year. Unfortunately, I had to spend all afternoon on something else, and then some other things came up after that, not to mention the fact that my computer kept shutting down. It’s 10:23 pm and my poor husband was begging for lights out (the only drawback to having my office in an alcove in our bedroom), so now I’m out here on my iPad.

I will post about the next part of our journey tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me recommend the blog of a fellow writer, Danyelle Fergusen. She, too, has a child on the autistic spectrum and has been hosting guest bloggers all month in honor of Autism Awareness Month. It so happens that today she posted my essay on Jason’s Sixth Grade Science Camp experience. Due to computer problems on her end, she wasn’t able to include the picture I sent along, but I’ll post a couple of pics here tomorrow to go along with the essay (once I can get back on my computer).

Jason making his way up the rock face

Jason gets some coaching

Jason and I at Pathfinder Ranch

Tomorrow: First Grade!

Originally posted 2012-04-16 22:36:25.

ANWA Writers Conference and Blogging

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

The one place it’s difficult to get any writing done is at (believe it or not) a writers conference. No matter. This has already been a success for me and it’s only been the first day! I sold all my books (of course, I only brought three since I was flying Allegiant and was trying to avoid any extra charges), had two successful pitches (Jane Dystel wants the full of Laps and Lisa Mangum wants me to send her the full of School of Guardians when it’s finished), and…most exciting…Linda Mulleneaux stopped by my book signing to tell me she had started reading “Laps” the other night and LOVED it! I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with her, so I think I may have some more news to share soon (hopefully). I also have a pitch appointment tomorrow with April Mumm for SOG. Wish me more luck!

Now on to Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.

That’s certainly been attested to at this conference. An author’s online presence is very important to agents and publishers on everything from social media to blogs. If you can luck out and get a great review or even a mention from a blog that gets a lot of traffic, your name (and your work) becomes that much better known.

So, I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I have another blog along with this one on my website. The trick is learning to manage it all without cutting too much into your writing time.

I blog Mondays and Fridays, post to FB maybe 3-4 times a week, tweet a few times a week, and try to update on Goodreads once a week. I’m honestly not doing much with LinkedIn…yet.

How do you manage balancing online presence with your writing?

Originally posted 2012-02-24 21:09:12.

The Buzz About Blurbs

Present word count of WIP:  39,288

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

Rather than point you back to my blog posting about that one, I’ll just reiterate it was about the necessity to build a reputation, a blog, a following and connections about three years BEFORE you come out with your masterpiece. Nice, if you have the gift of prophecy as to which of your manuscripts will be the true masterpiece…but, in any case, developing a following and connections is, indeed, a must.

That is one of the big reasons why I go to writers conferences like the one this weekend down in Mesa, AZ — the ANWA “TIME OUT FOR WRITERS” Conference. Many of these fellow authors I’ve only dealt with online and it is definitely time for some face to face interaction.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I can be swayed by a good blurb. What do you all think?

Originally posted 2012-02-20 22:05:18.

Why Do Authors Always Do It Backwards?

Present word count of WIP:  23,516

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

So, basically, he’s saying we need to think about selling long before we have a product to sell. Of course, most authors do it backwards. They build the product first and then think about how to sell it…when it’s probably too late to get the most for our efforts.

Then, again, we don’t pick up pen and paper (or type away at a keyboard) in the first place to make money. We do it for the love of writing and storytelling. But if you’re in this business to make a lot of sales, then it might be best to heed his advice.

With rare exceptions (like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer), it takes most authors a good 5-6 books to begin to have a real following. Why? Because it simply takes that long. Not only is each novel generally improving in quality, but over time more readers are added to their fan base as word spreads from friend to friend.

You might argue that Godin writes nonfiction, and for the nonfiction writer, platform is everything. These days, however, I’d argue that platform is becoming just as important for the fiction writer.

That’s why I’m going to keep blogging away, friending on FB, tweeting (though I need to get a lot more consistent there), writing reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and other places online, and taking every possible opportunity to attend/present at conferences and retreats (as long as I can afford it, that is).

If Godin’s right, then I can expect to be published by 2015 (traditionally, that is…of course, I’m actually hoping for some time this year with Laps). And by then, I should have at least three more manuscripts ready and available for the audience I will have built.

But, then, by 2015 who knows what publishing will look like in America? And on that note, what do you think of the new iBooks Author?

Originally posted 2012-01-20 17:07:18.

Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

Great Blog Contest

I came across a terrific blog contest, hosted by Brenda Drake on her blog, for writers of YA and middle grade fiction. Check it out here. Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d be interested in such a contest, particularly since, up to now, I’ve only written adult fiction. Some of you may be aware, but I’ll explain more fully in tomorrow’s posting. I also promise to clear up the mystery behind my lack of content here over the past two months.

Originally posted 2011-09-07 13:44:33.

Marketing a Must

One of the things I realized coming back from this writer’s conference was that I can’t afford to sit on my heels with my website, blog, and social media accounts. Sara Megibow made it very clear that even if she likes your writing she won’t take you on unless you’re already acting like a professional. I can see her point. I’ve been on Facebook and LinkedIn for years, and I’ve blogged off and on for years, as well. I created my first website back in 2008 and then updated it this past year. I’ve also had a Twitter account for a couple of years, but now I’m determined to get comfortable tweeting and doing a whole lot more on the marketing end. I may only have one book out, but it’s a pretty good book (if I do say so myself) and it’s about time a lot more people knew about it.

My first purchase after the conference was this book: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. You can bet I’m going to be up late nights devouring its pages.

Originally posted 2011-05-12 12:49:14.

I’m Back!

You probably thought I’d died or got lost while climbing Mt. Ranier (Hah! With my knees, I can’t even hike up Badger Mountain behind my house and it’s not really a mountain…more like an elevated hill.)…or…was secretly off on some remote location for the next episode of “Survivor.”

After all, why would a writer stop blogging for three months? Other than my shoulder surgery and recovery, the main reason is this.

It only took about a month (and the help of a very web tech-savvy friend) to get the new Storymakers website up and running, but it’s taken another two to get little things ironed out and get comfortable enough with the routine of site maintenance so that I’m ready to delegate much of it to my committee members.

Just in time, too, because I’m hoping to meet up with all of them at the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference next week in Salt Lake City. There, I can sit down with them and show them the ropes (if they haven’t yet figured it out from my way-too-dense instructional email).

By the way, if you’re a Storymaker and planning on attending, please don’t miss the Meet and Greet on Thursday, May 5th at 8 pm in the hotel. Not only will you be able to meet and socialize with fellow Storymakers and begin to put faces to names, but you’ll get:

  • an introduction to the Board of Directors and its various responsibilities (so that you might be more inclined to volunteer your services for certain positions, such as mine…hint, hint)
  • a brief demonstration of the new site…AND
  • a chance to be interviewed (bring a copy of your latest book, even if it’s 5+ years old) for future placement in the Featured Video section of the website’s home page.

The conference should be awesome and I can’t wait to meet a ton of fellow writers, plus agents, editors, and publishers. (I’m pitching to Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary Agency.)

In any case, no more excuses. I promise to check in at least twice a week from here on out (since I don’t foresee any other website creation in my future).

Originally posted 2011-04-26 09:24:43.