Book Blast for Rachelle Christensen’s “Caller ID”

Present word count of WIP:  48, 579

If you want a great read and a chance to win one of over 20 free gifts, head on over to Rachelle’s Writing Spot and use her special link to purchase her latest, CALLER ID, on Amazon. It’s good for today only!

Among other things, she’s offering books, ebooks, podcasts, tutorials, recipes, website design help, and a Flip Video Camcorder.

Remember, this offer is only good for Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Originally posted 2012-03-22 16:02:03.

A Writer’s Responsibilities

Present word count of WIP:  47,402

While each writer is unique and works in a unique setting and situation, we all share certain responsibilities as I see it:

1. We have to do our best to show the truth through our fiction.

2. We have to work at it regularly, hopefully on a daily basis.

3. We have to support our fellow writers.

4. We have to honor our contracts with publishers and agents.

5. We have to recognize when it’s time to take off our writer’s hat and be a mom, a dad, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a teacher, or a friend.

I could have written a lot more today, but instead I spent my morning working on a Power Point Presentation on Asperger’s that I’ll be giving to a pack of about 20 Cub Scouts. Sure, I could have counted it as writing, but I didn’t. Instead, I took off my writer’s hat to prepare to teach. Why? Because I have a son who’s grown up with Asperger’s Syndrome and I know how important it is for these young 8-10-year-olds to understand better so that they might be more inclusive of those around them they might see as “different.”

Then, this afternoon, as I prepared to put my writing hat back on and make more headway on my WIP, I got a call from a friend–a fellow writer–who needed help with her new WordPress blog. The hat stayed off.

As much as I love writing–and I do–there are things that are more important.

Originally posted 2012-03-19 21:53:40.

I Have a Book Deal!

Present word count of WIP:  47,161 (I know…no increase, but I did finish outlining the entire book!)

I am very excited to announce that Walnut Springs Press will be publishing my second novel, Laps (though the title will likely be different), later this year…probably late summer or early fall! I promise more details as they develop.

I believe I have the recent ANWA Conference to thank for helping to seal this deal. While there, I was able to meet with their editor, Linda Mulleneaux, and I’m sure that my winning a couple of awards in their BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest made a favorable impression, as well. Thanks so much, ANWA!

Here’s a taste of the book (taken from my first chapter) to whet your appetite:

Budding writers could be so defensive, Daphne thought, not for the first time. The women she taught in her graduate tutorial bruised like teenagers, pouting and suffering in silence. Most of the men argued with their jaws clenched—none more so than Reuben. She picked up his short story anyway, drew in a breath, and read aloud his opening sentence.

“Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun.” She paused and looked up at the clock on the back wall. Five minutes to go. “To be honest, this opening takes the reader nowhere. Yes, it may tell us Merrick is lazy . . . or it may not.”

Reuben raised his hand, the muscles in his face already working, and began to squabble with her assertion. Guy, the only truly talented writer in the class, wasn’t there to take her side. So she chewed on the inside of her cheek as Reuben went on and on about the visual quality of “languished.”

When he finished, she said, “I suppose you don’t care about getting published then,” and dismissed the class. As he passed her desk, she heard him call her “narcissistic” under his breath along with another unflattering term. He was wrong. She hadn’t found the right word for herself yet, but she was definitely not narcissistic.

Still stressed when she pulled into her garage a half hour later, Daphne headed straight for her pool. She checked the desert sky. No moon. She’d swim without a suit, then, shielded by the wall of palms, hibiscus, and oleander surrounding her backyard. Since the death of her parents, she’d used moonless nights to such advantage.

As she started to unbutton her blouse, she noticed that one of the four dark shapes she knew to be her patio chairs had been moved back several inches from the circular glass table with the umbrella. A sense of foreboding crept up the back of her neck like a spindly-legged spider, and she shivered. She never left a chair out of place.

For a moment, Daphne considered changing her routine. But she couldn’t. The swim in total blackness wouldn’t soothe if she varied the pattern, and though she didn’t understand the reason, she knew that patterns smoothed out the wrinkles in her life like lotion applied to rough, cracked skin.

She pushed the chair back in and undressed quickly, leaving her folded slacks and blouse on the deck. After stretching out the kinks in her back and running her fingers through her cropped hair, Daphne took her usual starting place at the far side of the pool and sliced into the dark water. Six quick strokes, and she flipped to push off the wall for the return. Ninety-nine laps to go.

She pulled at the water, deconstructing Reuben’s opening line in her mind with each lap.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy. Flip turn.

By the tenth lap, the classroom began to recede from her mind. By the fifteenth, the last memory of the evening’s unpleasantness sank below her consciousness. Buoyed by the night-cooled water, Daphne relished the pungency of chlorine and the familiar numbness spreading through her arms and legs.

If Daphne bowed to any god, it was the god of water—the pool his holy sanctuary, the daily swim her prayer. Water freed her, saved her from a society in which she felt ill at ease. In its liquid cold and calm, her oddities were masked or erased.

At age three, when she’d first ballooned her cheeks to slip beneath its glimmering surface, Daphne had opened her eyes underwater and discovered a world of muted sounds, bluish vision and slower motion. Here, no fly could dart around. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog hushed. Her feet and hands, often so clumsy on land, worked together in water and found a rhythm previously unknown. Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. A coordination so practiced over the decades that now, at forty-one, she slashed through the water without thinking.

Swimming saved her in the dry heat of Phoenix where pools freckled the landscape. No matter Daphne’s schedule at the university, her morning swim came first. It steeled her for a college classroom full of opinionated writing students. And if a day’s teaching drained her, as this had, she swam again in the afternoon or night.

Switching to the breaststroke for her twenty-sixth lap, her right hand brushed against something mid-stroke. She jerked upright, surprised. Had she imagined it? Daphne strained to see in the blackness of the pool, but she could make out nothing. She swept her arm across the dark water. Still not a thing. She inched further and propelled her arm underneath the liquid surface. Contact. Wet cloth over a hard object. When she poked it, it moved away, but only slightly. She reached again. Feathery strands tickled her fingers. She lurched back and gasped. 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 13:36:26.

The Book Business

Present word count in WIP:  47,161

(That doesn’t count the fact that I did write today…I wrote a 999-word personal essay to be posted on Danyelle Fergusen’s blog some time in April–Autism Awareness Month. I’ll let you know when it’s up and link to it. She asked for those who’ve dealt with autistic spectrum disorders up close and personal to share some positive, uplifting stories, so I complied.)

And now for Seth Godin’s last three pieces of Advice for Authors:

17. Publishing a book is not the same as printing a book. Publishing is about marketing and sales and distribution and risk. If you don’t want to be in that business, don’t! Printing a book is trivially easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You’ll find plenty of printers who can match the look and feel of the bestselling book of your choice for just a few dollars a copy. That’s not the hard part.

18. Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it’s way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn’t made, no sale.

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

I love how he covers all three aspects of the business in these last three tips–publishing, marketing, and writing.

Publishing isn’t easy and that’s why it’s so difficult for writers to break into it. They have to build up their writing muscles over time so that the content they offer is worth the publishers’ risk. They have to build up their fan base over time so that, again, the publisher will be tempted to take a chance on them. And then, once they’re in, from all I can observe it becomes like a long-distance race. Either they’re in it for the long haul–all the signings, appearances, marketing, and, most importantly, more writing–or they get left by the wayside.

Bookstores are becoming more and more obsolete because now the reader can go directly to their chosen writer via Amazon.com or another online bookstore. And with the advent of the ebook, who needs shelves? Of course, this is not news. But more and more, I foresee bookstores using their personal touch to compete online with the big elephant. Check out Just the Right Book, for example. Here is a bookseller who got smart, moved her bookstore online and is offering the kind of service Amazon is too big and impersonal to give. If you doubt me, check out the Just the Right Book Facebook page. This is one bookstore, in my opinion, that is not a lousy business. They have vision.

As for his last tip, I readily agree. I always learn more about a topic (and myself) when I have to write about it. Once I can encapsulate my thoughts or the pictures in my head in a well-described scene, complete with realistic dialogue (both inner and outer), I am enriched…and, if I’ve done my job right as a writer, my words will likewise enrich the reader. The most fascinating thing about the writing process, besides the splashes of insight and inspiration, is that no two readers will read the same words with exactly the same result. Why? Because the reader brings his/her own life experience to meld with the author’s. That’s why the author-reader relationship is so valuable.

If you’ve ever been tempted to write your own book, do it!

 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-12 21:22:00.

Consider Organizations, Not Just Individuals

Present word count of WIP:  47,161

Okay, I slowed down on my output the last two days. First, I was bummed yesterday at receiving another rejection. It was so nicely worded, however, and included enough good feedback that I almost felt guilty about feeling depressed. (At least, I know the agent judges me to be talented and would definitely consider future proposals.) Then today, things really began to look up and I simply couldn’t concentrate on writing all morning. I may have an important announcement to make next week, so stay tuned!

For now, Seth Godin’s next bit of Advice for Authors:

16. Most books that sell by the truckload sell by the caseload. In other words, sell to organizations that buy on behalf of their members/employees.

This got me thinking about another way to market my second novel, LAPS, once it gets published. Since a couple of key characters in the novel have Asperger’s syndrome, I could contact local chapters of Autistic Support groups and donate cases of books or, at least, provide them at deep discounts simply to help spread word of the book.

Autism Society of America

Since my son has AS, we have been participating in a study put on by the University of Washington. In fact, we recently gave them permission to share all our data with the National Instititute for Health. They might also appreciate copies of the novel. It’s something to keep in mind, for certain.

Asperger's Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders

How about you? Can you think of organizations that might have a natural tie-in to your most recent or upcoming book?

Originally posted 2012-03-09 16:45:10.

Try the Unexpected or Unusual

Present word count of WIP:  45,249

I’m a day late with this post, but yesterday was so chock full of items on my “to do” list and then my son came home with a time-consuming piece of homework from his Creative Writing class. How could I say “no” to helping him on that? Besides, it made me more aware of my own writing.

The assignment: take a page from one of your favorite novels, photocopy it, and analyze it for sentence length and variation, paragraph length and variation, literary or figurative devices, any unusual punctuation or grammatical devices, and anything else that stood out as far as the writer’s style. I think it’s a good exercise for any of us who write. It keeps us from getting lazy. Sometimes our final version isn’t as “final” or “perfect” as we may like to think.

Buckbeak's response to Malfoy's rudeness

(By the way, the novel he chose was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with a page from the first scene with Buckbeak.)

Now, Seth Godin’s next bit of Advice for Authors:

15. If you want to reach people who don’t normally buy books, show up in places where people who don’t usually buy books are. Media places, virtual places and real places too.

First of all, you have to understand something about Mr. Godin. He’s more about spreading ideas (and he writes mostly non-fiction) than he is about making money. Of course, he can afford to be because he’s already made a name for himself and has a huge fan base. So, he’s always looking to expand that fan base. That’s something we should all be doing.

But this tip got me thinking. Where do non-book lovers gather in the real world and online? I know they’re out there, because I came across one several years ago–a woman in my church who, while helping in a service project to stock the shelves of a new school library, admitted that she never read. “Why?” I asked. “I just don’t like reading.” I know. It’s baffling to me and my kind, but they do exist.

So, where do they hang out? Movie theaters? (She didn’t care for movies, either, by the way.) I, personally, love movie theaters…but mainly when they’re not crowded and going when no one else is there kind of defeats the purpose of trying to gain new readers. Still, could I force myself to do a book event at a movie theater? Let’s say the protagonist of my novel has a significant scene involving a particular movie. If it’s a popular enough movie, would it be worthwhile to rent out a theater for my book launch and show that movie? Hmmm. Perhaps.

Where else in real life? My aforementioned non-book-and-non-movie-loving friend was all about the outdoors. I’ve got people gathering every morning at the base of the small mountain behind my home simply to hike up to the top. Granted, they’re probably the same people every day, but maybe I should set up a small table at the foot of the trail one day and offer discounted (or even free…since they might not be carrying cash) copies of my latest book. (Of course, it would help if my story involved hiking.)

The idea is to think outside the box both in everyday life and in virtual reality. Drop into a whole new Facebook group (say, for instance, Mothers Against Pedestrian Crosswalks…just made that up, but I haven’t checked…there could be such a group) or online forum and make some new friends then gradually reveal that you’re a writer. If they like you, they’ll probably ask about what you write. If they really like you and the kinds of comments you make, they may buy your book.

What has worked for you? Have you tried the unexpected or unusual and seen it work?

I’d love to hear about it.

Originally posted 2012-03-06 08:29:46.

Do Free PDFs Work?

Present word count of WIP:  43,781

I’m almost over my cold and hoping my chapped nose (I knew I was blowing my nose too much!) will have recovered by Sunday. Oh, and if anyone out there can tell me why, all of a sudden, I lost all my Google Followers, I would appreciate it greatly. I don’t think it was because they were afraid I was contagious. Seriously, what’s up with Google (besides that whole privacy issue)?

In the meantime, here’s Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!)

I don’t know about you, but offering free PDFs of my stories would be problematic for me. While I got on the Kindle bandwagon early, offering THE RECKONING on Kindle shortly after it came out as a paperback on Amazon, I didn’t do the actual formatting. I paid the people at BookSurge (now CreateSpace) to do it for me. As a result, I don’t have a PDF version of the final manuscript, formatted for print with all the chapter headings and fancy images.

If any of you know how I might get hold of such a PDF version, I might be interested. But then, you come to the question of the value of your work. How many readers value that which they get for free?

Personally, I’ve purchased some 200-300 books on my Kindle and I’m having a tough enough time getting them read, let alone any free books I may come across. Which books do you imagine I’m going to value more and read first? You got it. The ones that cost me money.

In my opinion, money earned from a book is a lot more meaningful, in terms of gauging your fan base, than the number of downloads. While the idea of no hassles and no time wasted is appealing, it’s not very realistic. True professional authors have to work hard to make a living at what they do…but the reason they continue to do it is because they love the writing.

I stopped myself today in the middle of writing a scene that ended up taking me in a whole new direction and thought, “This is just too fun! I am so glad I can do this!”

Sometimes, Godin thinks too much about the money/marketing end and not enough about the joy of writing.

Originally posted 2012-03-02 13:47:31.

The Effectiveness of Signings and Book Club Appearances

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

Okay, when I blogged yesterday about trying to begin today to make up for my lack of writing over the weekend, I didn’t count on waking up with a full-blown head cold. While I didn’t make any progress on SOG, I did get my full of “Laps” sent in to Jane Dystel (and received a prompt reply from her confirming she’d received it). I also helped edit a friend’s query letter, critiqued another friend’s chapter, and am now writing this post…so, while it doesn’t change the word count of my WIP, it certainly counts as writing!

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

13. If you’ve got the patience, bookstore signings and talking to book clubs by phone are the two lowest-paid but most guaranteed to work methods you have for promoting a really really good book. If you do it 200 times a year, it will pay.

Is it just me, or was he being facetious when he wrote this one? Just kidding…I know he was because of his next piece of advice, which I’ll blog about on Friday.

I can’t imagine using almost two-thirds of every year for signings and book club appearances. When would you have time to write? And any good writer needs to be a good reader, so when would you have time to read?

Since my first book was self-published, I’ve only done a couple of bookstore signings (both local) and they accounted for maybe 10 sales total. I fared far better when it came to visiting book clubs (one here, one in Utah, and two in Southern California), but still only netted sales of perhaps 50-75 books total.

Whether you’re a reader or an author, which do you prefer? Bookstore signings or book club appearances (either by phone, Internet, or in person)?

Originally posted 2012-02-27 21:54:33.

What a Terrific Second Day!

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

Again, I didn’t have time to write and will definitely make up for it tomorrow. But yesterday was even more eventful for me than the first day was at the conference.

It started with next to no sleep the night before but, somehow, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:20 am for a 6:45 “All Star Breakfast” with the editors, agents, and faculty of the conference. The first 20 to register for the conference got this perk, even though I was feeling far from “perky” at that time of the morning. I certainly felt a lot perkier by the end, though!

You see, being the introvert I sometimes am, I headed for the unoccupied table in the back (forcing my roommate, Bonnie Harris, into my introverted ways, I’m afraid…but I think she was grateful in the end) then waited to see if anyone would join us. Susan Aylworth did and then, lo and behold, in came the top agent I’d pitched the day before–Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich–and she makes her way all the way back and sits down right next to me. She had asked to see the full of “Laps” the day before but I wasn’t sure if she was truly interested (after all, I’d submitted it to their agency two years earlier, though to a different agent) or simply being kind and encouraging…which she is. Then, five minutes later, we are joined by Linda Mulleneaux with Walnut Springs. In the course of conversation, Jane was describing her typical day at the office back in New York and I asked about her client list. She said she had approximately 50 active clients and perhaps 250 total, including the inactives.

Then she mentioned that she’d be having dinner that night with one of her clients there in Phoenix. Inside I’m thinking, “What a coincidence, since in my novel my reclusive protagonist is an author whose New York agent comes out to Phoenix to try and talk her into doing a book tour…so I was glad to hear that they really do make visits in this day of cell phones and email.” But I wasn’t about to mention that because we were having a great, relaxed conversation ranging from politics to publishing and I’d already done my pitch.

That was when Linda spoke up and potentially did me the greatest favor. Pointing to me, she said something like, “You know, Tanya here has written a terrific book. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m loving it. It’s got this great beginning with this woman finding one of her students dead in her pool and the poem he’s left her is so wonderful.”

Jane looked more intrigued and seemed to want to know more so I explained the setup to the novel in a bit more detail then added that I also had a NY agent visiting my protagonist in Phoenix in my story. Linda then said something about how excited she’ll be to finish it and see it published. At that point, I turned to Jane and said, “Maybe I shouldn’t bother sending it to you in that case” and she said, “Oh no, I’d like to see it!” She then turned to Linda in full agent mode (this is no doubt what makes her a great agent…she never lets an opportunity for a deal pass by, big or small) and asked what kind of advances they gave. She was surprised to hear they didn’t provide any, but she pressed on, asking about their royalty rate (10-12%).

Linda, recognizing Jane’s interest, told me I should definitely submit it to Jane. Let me tell you, I walked away from that breakfast more than satisfied!

Later that morning when I had my scheduled pitch with Linda (which now almost seemed unnecessary though it gave us a chance to talk about the book more), she was very kind and supportive about my possibilities for a bigger market. If it turns out to be a rejection from Jane, though, I will go ahead and contact Linda, for sure.

I also pitched School of Guardians to Anita Mumm with Nelson Literary that morning and she wants me to submit the first 30 pages when I’ve got it completed. So I headed for lunch, having batted a thousand over the course of the 2-day conference: 3 requested submissions (Jane, Anita, and Lisa Mangum of Shadow Mountain, an imprint of Deseret Book) and a potential deal for Laps with Walnut Springs should Jane turn it down.

Now, I’ve been to enough writers conferences to know that all four possibilities may well evaporate in the end, but at the very least, I know I’m getting closer to my goal. And, as Lisa said in her empowering keynote speech at the close of the conference, our dreams are closer than we may imagine.

At lunch, like icing on the cake, I was announced as the 3rd place winner in General/Women’s Fiction for my beginning of Laps…and the 2nd place winner in Youth Fiction for my beginning of School of Guardians. These announcements were made in front of those editors and agents to whom I’d pitched those works. I was even happier when Bonnie (who also got a request for her full mystery manuscript from Jane) was announced as the Grand Prize winner of ANWA’s first BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest!

The ANWA Conference is getting bigger and better and, needless to say, it was well worth my registration, flight, and a few sleep-deprived nights!

My only disappointment for the weekend: not enough of an opportunity to have a long, deep discussion about LDS fiction and our role as writers who are LDS with Bonnie and my other roommate, Heather Moore. Since Heather’s going to be the featured guest at this year’s Northwest Writers Retreat in November, however, I still hope to have that opportunity.

Originally posted 2012-02-26 11:32:35.

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.