Monday, December 2, 2013

Do you have any favorite Christmas stories?

Are there any books that you always read around Christmas time?  Maybe they are traditional stories that you read to your children, such as T'was the Night Before Christmas, or maybe they are just some of your favorites that remind you of the season.  Maybe you prefer a Christian novel, something that reflects on the life of Jesus.  A friend of mine always reads A Prayer for Owen Meany by Irving.  If I were to pick a story, I'd have to go with Gone With the Wind.  I know it's slightly cliche for your favorite book to be such a classic, but until a book can hold up to the amazing masterpiece that is Gone With the Wind, this book remains #1.  It's certainly not a Christmas story, but the journey the reader experiences certainly touches on many human emotions that connect with the spirit of the holiday.

What about you?  If you were going to start this tradition, what book would you pick?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNo WriMo back on!

I'm happy to report that I'm 27,000 words into a new NaNoWriMo.  I feel much better about this story!  It's a romance, of course :) , but it's not your typical man-meets-woman experience.  I'm looking forward to finishing it up and submitting it to contests in the spring!

Speaking of contests, I'm very excited to announce that I've become a finalist for the Splickety Love Contest!  The judge is......Susan May Warren and the folks over at MBT!!  How amazingly awesome is that!!!??!!  When I found out the news, I actually got teary eyed.  I still can't believe that for one tiny second in the universe, my world and that of Warren's is going to actually intersect!  Thank you God!

So that's the latest news from my writing desk!  Speaking of which, where do you do most of your writing?  I do have a designated "desk", it's actually a fold out table, but I never use it.  Instead, I've taken over the kitchen table for the past two years :)  It's easier because while I right, my son is playing in eye sight in the living room.  But I also have found Starbucks to be one of my favorite spots.  Is that cliche?  I don't care, it totally works for me :) 

What about you?  Where do you write your best work?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And just like that, my NaNoWriMo failed.

One second, I was typing away and the next it was over.  I knew it instantly.  My plot, the characters, they weren't going to work.  Everything I'd worked for since November 1st, completely useless.  I stopped and closed my laptop.  I thumbed through my journal that contains all my notes, story mapping, character developed...nothing.  I sat down with my husband and ran over every possible scenario for these characters, all the ways the story could end and the steps that needed to occur to make these endings reality.  Impossible. 

So just like that, my story was unable to end. 

Even as I type, I'm going through the plot one more time, asking "Well, maybe if I change.....Nope, that won't work.  What  Not that either."

Darn.  Ok, a different less appropriate word came to mind.

It's not like this  has never happened to me before.  I've started and abandoned plenty of projects, knowing in my gut that they simply aren't the "right" story for me to tell.  But I've never gotten so far (almost 25,000 words) into a story nor have I ever set a deadline (end of November) that I really wanted to accomplish.

A part of me is still clinging to hope that I can salvage something.  I tell myself that I'll just put it aside for a while, marinate on it, then when I have more time I can recreate some of the characters and try again.  Maybe it will happen.  Probably not.

I started a new NaNoWriMo, mapped out the entire 16 chapters with each chapter having 2 scenes.  I know exactly what I want to write about in each 1500 chunk.  A step in the right direction but the hit of my failure is weighing on my mind.  Almost 25,000 words, completely unusable. 

And November is ticking away.  I'll have to work twice as hard to hit the 50,000 word mark.  Can I even do it with the time left?

Here's how it's going to work for me.  I don't like to fail, never have, but I've done it enough times to know how to pick myself up, tell my self-doubt to "suck it" and keep moving forward.  So that's what I'm going to do.  Yeah, it's a bummer I put so much time into something that didn't work out, but I learned a lot about drafting scenes, and even though the entire story won't come together, I re-read chapters and individually, it's some of my better writing.  And whenever you write, you practice.  I got practice address the 5 "w's", adding detail, working with believable dialog, and writing historical fiction.  On a side note, I know way more about the roaring 20s and the Polish-Soviet war than I ever imagined I would.  So all isn't wasted.

I'm going to pick up the pace, write fast, work hard and at the end of November, I'll have my NaNoWriMo. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNa WriMo : Conflict

Today, I read through my entire NaNoWriMo.   I’d gotten some really good writing sessions in but I had no idea that I was about halfway through my 50,000 word goal.  Yay!  But then I read through it.  Boo!  I made the classic new writer mistake – one that I pretty much always do at this point – which is not including enough detail.  I’m not really beating myself up too much because it’s NaNoWriMo and the name of the game is 50,000 words.  I can always go back and add detail later. 

I did, however, notice that my storyline is almost over.  So let’s recap. I’m about 25,000 words into my story and I could pretty much wrap it up in another 10,000.  No wonder my first book, A Light in the Darkness was only about 30,000 words.  It’s my lack of detail!  But it’s also a bit more than just that.  It's my conflict.  I need more conflict.
Let me give you a basic idea of how a typical plot works and how we get to our ultimate conflict moment.  You start with a big bang (inciting incident) then back off, then you gradually crescendo until you reach the climax, then you take it another step further, to the black moment, then you finish up with, perhaps, a happy ending.

I’m at the point where things are starting to get really tense.  The black moment is around the corner.  I can feel it coming…but wait!  I forgot one important thing.

Knock the hero down, then kick him in the ribs.

My hero is about to be kicked, without the initial knock down.  This simply won’t do.  It doesn’t create the element of surprise nor does it lead to the level of suspense I’m looking to achieve.  Sure, I could have one turn, one surprise, one big kick to the ribs, but why have one when you could do two?  It makes the book much more exciting.  Plus it creates an emotional roller coaster for your reader that hopefully will make them fall even more in love with your character.

Remember, readers want to connect to the hero/heroine.  They want to feel their pain, laugh at their silly antics, cry along with their distress.  I recently read Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, and at one point, I said outloud, “Oh Markos (the main character)" with genuine sympathy as if Markos was standing in front of me, then got teary eyed at the event taking place (hey, it was a good story, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it brought tears).  I was right there with him, getting knocked down, getting kicked in the ribs.  Sure, she could have only picked one incident, but man-oh-man, the two together blew me away.

Think of some of your favorite stories.  I bet you can point out the ups and downs, the climax, the black moment.  Now look at your story.  What are you missing?  Now roll up your sleeves and get back to work!

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNo WriMo : Premise

Congrats for making through the first week of NaNoWriMo!  By now, you're hopefully settling into a routine and working out your hero/heroine. 

So let's talk premise.

As defined in From the Inside Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel for You! by Susan May Warrenn and Rachel Hauck, a premise is a 2-5 sentence "blurb" that really zeros in on the stakes, fears, dreams, theme and plot of your story.  Once crafted, you can continue to refer back to your premise to help keep yourself on track.

Your premise is a paragraph with the most important aspects of your story.  Even if you don't know everything that's going to happen, it's a good idea to write your premise BEFORE you get too far in your story.  Like I said, it will serve as your compass while you navigate through the many layers of your novel.

So how do you do it?

Your premise needs to have your main character easily identified as well as the character's goal for the story.  Basically, you have to tell the reader what your story is about.  Again, you may not have all the details, but you can still write this with general ideas.  You'll need to throw in the conflict and the stakes.  Then, you need to include the story question.

What's a story question?

It's different than a theme.  A theme is the overall idea of the story.  A story question asks "what if" on a universal level.  It address a "what if" that many people are asking themselves.  It is a question that connects you to the reader and makes the reader want to keep reading.  Think about what your book is about and what you're saying about that subject.

For example, your story may be about overcoming social norms.  The story question could be something along the lines of "What if a group of teenagers where able to see past their social labels?"  You can rephrase, "Can a group of socially mismatched teenagers break through their stereotypes and develop meaningful relationships with each other?"  That would be the story question for the movie The Breakfast Club.  Starting to get the idea?

Take time and really go through this.  A good story question will captivate the audience.  Once you get it, write it down and keep it somewhere you can see it while you work.  Everything in your story will revolve around it.

So now you need to piece it together.  Put all the elements into a paragraph.  Use colorful language and have fun with it!  Like I said, getting the premise down will keep you on track and help when the writer's block sets in later on.  Good luck!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo...Start your engines!

It's here!  Write a story in a month is finally here! 

Who else is super pumped?

Ok, I'm going to be helping you out as much as I can.  I'll be writing my own book, something I've been working on for a few months but haven't gotten past the research phase.  Also, I joined a support group through My Book Therapy, which is a great website for budding authors.  They'll be emailing tips and encouragement throughout the month.

So let's get started with some "how to" pointers:

1.  Map out the basics.  I've written tons of stories, short stories, scribbles and nonsense but I always start with a basic idea of where I'm going.  I don't always know the details but I have a general idea of where my characters are heading.  That sink or swim moment is called the "black moment", it's when their darkest fears are becoming reality and it's good to have a general idea of what this moment will look like.  All scenes lead to this.

2.  Time Management.  Ok, if you're really organized, map out how many words you're aiming for, figure out how long it takes to write 1500 or 3000 words (average length for a short or longer chapter) then you can tell how many hours it will take for you finish the book.  Set aside the hours and get writing.  If you aren't organized, make sure you write everyday, or at least every week day.  Keep an eye on the calendar and aim for 25,000 by mid month, just to stay on track.

3.  No editing.  No going back.  That's right, shut off your internal editor, shut off your self doubt and just write.  Don't worry about grammar, passive voice, verb choice, just write.  Also, if you come up with a new idea mid-story, go with it.  Don't go back and edit the past to fit that story line.  You may end up coming up with a different story thread later and then you'd end up editing twice.  If you're mid-story and you discover a turn in plot, just make a note and start writing the new plot idea.  You'll edit everything later.

Ok, these are three tips to get you started.  Don't forget to have fun!

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to market and sell a self-published book

So you've finished your masterpiece.  You've poured countless hours into your work, drank so many cups of coffee that you're going to be shaking for weeks to come, ignored phone calls, banished yourself from facebook, all in your quest for writing excellence.

And now you're done!  You've self-published and celebrated your success!

But how do you get the book from your hands into the hands of readers?

The first thing you should be aware of, and I've mentioned it before, is that no one is going to care that you wrote a book.  I don't mean to burst your bubble, but it's a truth that you simply must accept in order to start selling your story.  Now-a-days, anyone can be an author, so you writing a book isn't as impressive as it once could have been.  Now how does this info help you?  You need to make yourself special, marketable.  You need to give readers a reason to read your book.

1.  Develop your platform.  A platform, while defined a few different ways, is basically your ability to sell books based on who you are, the personal or professional connects you have, and the social media outlets you use.  This takes time so don't worry if you're at the starting line.

2.  Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).  If you're in business (which you are as an author), you'll recognize this term.  A USP is what sets you apart, what makes you different than the thousands of other romance, suspense, or fantasy authors.  For example, Susan May Warren was a Russian missionary and many of her books have some connection to Russia.  This is something unique to her brand of books.  Your USP may be something to do with your characters, or perhaps your themes, but it should be something that attracts readers and sets you apart from everyone else.  By having a USP, you'll be able to funnel your marketing strategy to those uniquely interested in what you have to say.

3.  Make appearances.  Remember how you used to want to be a writer because it's a solitary profession?  Remember daydreaming about sitting in a room, just you and your computer, writing the next great American novel?  Well, as you know, writing isn't what it used to be and if you're a self-published author, you need to get your name out there.  This means, YOU need to get out there.  This goes back to your developing your platform and USP.  For example, if you are a Christian writer, a member of a church and your USP deals with broken characters overcoming some sort of unique specific obstacle, start researching various religious organizations that welcome speakers.  Make yourself known.

4.  Don't sell your book.  Wait, what??  Ok, hear me out.  When it comes to self-publishing, a common mistake and one I've made is consistently trying to get people to buy your book.  "Hey, I wrote a book.  You should check it out!"  "Hey, Christmas is coming up and my book is 10% off!  *wink wink*  *nudge nudge*"  Nope, not going to work.  After all, when you walk into a car dealership and suddenly get swarmed by sales associates, does that really put you in the mood to buy a car?  Don't sell your book.  Sell your personality, your ideas, your unique characteristics and views.  Do #3, and don't mention your book until the end.  Just tell your story, how you became an author, what you can offer others trying to get started on their own path.  Then, people will be curious about you and check out your writing.

5.  Make a movie trailer.  This is becoming popular and while I still haven't gotten around to doing it, I would recommend giving it a try. 

6.  Get someone to review your book.  This is tough.  Really tough, but start on Goodreads and search for someone willing to read and review your work.  You can also google people who will read self-published books, but just make sure that you submit to someone who reads your genre.  Also, make sure you present yourself in a professional manner.  On a side note, the reviewer is probably going to want a free copy of your story *sigh*. 

This is your starting point to marketing and getting your self-published book sold.  Along the way, you'll come up with other strategies but the main idea is to get yourself out there and put in the work.  Good luck!

Friday, October 18, 2013

National Write a Book in a Month!

Who else is super pumped about November being National Write a Book in a Month?  I've actually never done this before.  Shocking, I know but I'm doing it this year.  I signed up with in order to stay on task, get helpful tips, and possibly even win some cool prizes.
So who wants to be a superhero and sign up with me?  We can do this!  If you do sign up, feel free to leave a comment so we can support each other on our month long journey!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Vintage Books. Ebooks.

I'm a sucker for vintage books.  The feel of their rough paper, the yellowing of their pages, even the smell appeals to me, draws me in, makes me want to take them home and put them on a top shelve to be admired. 

Today I want antiquing, something I do every now and then, just to browse.  I came across a plethora of vintage books by authors I didn't recognize, but I sudden felt the urge to take each of those books home.  I only bought one, which is good for my wallet, but as I browsed a sadness came over me.  These books, the history they have, the stories they tell not only on the pages but in their creases, scribbles, and rips, belong to someone. The stories they contain were important enough for someone to write down and now they've come into my hands.  I'm holding someone's dream, someone's work.  To me, that's pretty special.  But the sadness came when I realized that one day there may not be vintage books to admire.  One day, vintage books will be endangered.

Ebooks.  Don't get me wrong, I love ebooks.  I love the convenience, I love being able to hold tons of books in my hand at one time through my Kindle.  I love the price of ebooks.  As an author, I really love how easy it is to publish and ebook in comparison to traditional paper publication.  Ebooks can be written, edited, submitted to Amazon and published with extreme efficiency and pretty impressive speed.  Paper books need to be approved, then a proof copy needs to be sent and reviewed, then you get your paper books and whoops you see an error.  In order to fix an error on a paper book you have to start the whole process of publication over, including getting another proof book, whereas on the ebook you can simply upload the new version.  Much easier. 

The problem is I love them both.  I love ebooks and paper books.  I know that ebooks are our future, and I'm excited about all the possibilities of this, but I'm still slightly saddened that paper books will lose their appeal.  It's really just the book nerd in me talking :)

Is anyone else torn?  Which do you prefer?  Paper or Ebook?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Help me name a character!

Naming characters are super fun!  I search name databases, look up origins, meanings, popularity, all in the hopes of coming up with a great name.  Now, it's your turn to give it a try!  I'm hosting a contest to allow YOU to name one of my supporting characters in my latest book, scheduled to be sent to publishers or self published summer 2014!

Here's how it works:

In the comments section of this blog, leave your entry as well as a brief explanation for why you picked it.  All entry's received between now and October 15th will be eligible.  Starting October 16th - October 21st, everyone will have a chance to vote for their favorite.  The winning name will be used in my latest novel.

Details and Regulations:

The name must be MALE.
The name must include a first and last name.  Nicknames are accepted as well.
The book is a historical fiction set in the 1920s.  The supporting character will be of Italian decent, although the name doesn't have to be traditional Italian.  A lot of immigrants either willingly had their names changed to fit into American society, or unknowingly had it changed through confusion at Ellis Island.  For example, the character may have been named Lazzaro Rossi but changed it to Larry Ross.
The character will be 22 years old.
The name can not be one that has popularly appeared in the news, movies or other books.  Please no Al Capone, Johnny Two Fingers, Fat Tony, ect.

Deadline:  October 15th 5pm EST.  After that, I'll compile a list and everyone is welcome to vote either through my blog, facebook account or twitter.  Voting ends October 21st at 5pm EST.  I'll tally the votes and announce a winner within 24 hours!

Thanks so much for participating!  I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

Monday, September 16, 2013

My first writing rejection

I've had many personal rejections in my life - the boy in high school who said I was too chunky to be his girlfriend, the college that said I didn't meet their high level of academic excellence, the arrogant rube job interviewer who went out of his way to make me feel small and stupid for even applying for the position.  I've been told I'm too stupid, too fat, too ect...ect....So when I decided to go into writing - I mean REALLY decided to give it a try - I knew I'd be rejected.  It simply comes with the job.

Prior to my launching my writing career, I started my own home bakery.  I LOVE to bake.  Second to writing, it's my favorite activity and if the state laws were more relaxed in my current home place, I'd still have my bakery.  But back when I was operating, I'd participate in various craft fairs / trade shows in order to get my name out there as a baker.  Specifically, an allergy-friendly baker.

Talk about rejection.  Just as I learned (or relearned) when I published my first book, no one really cares when you do someone cool.  For example, just like I have family members who still haven't bought a copy of book, I had family members who never once bought any of my bakery items.  When I sold at craft fairs, I had people complain that allergy-friendly didn't taste as good as regular, and they refused to even try my treats.  I had my cookies called "dry", my cupcakes critiqued as "not enough flavor" then "too much flavor" and my cakes as "way too expensive".  But I didn't take it personally.  Food, like literature, is subjective and not everyone is going to go gaga over what you're selling. (Although I should say that I did get positive reviews, not only back when I had a bakery but currently with my writing.)

So if you're in a subjective field, you need to have a tough skin.  Yes, words hurt, but take the constructive criticism and throw away the rest. 

I received my first rejection today in regards to an article I hoped to get published.  It was a very professional email rejection, nothing terrible.  I simply started brainstorming other places I could submit my article that may be interested.  Just because they didn't like it doesn't mean it's terrible.  It just means it wasn't for them.

In general, the arts tend to boil down to preference which makes it difficult at times.  Or difficult a lot of the times.  But whenever I start to get discouraged, I think of some of the pop singers out there that are making millions who, in my opinion, can't hold a tune.  I figure if there are enough people in the world to make those singers stars, then surely there's an audience for what I want to accomplish.  At least, I hope.

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Interview with Lily Stover

Meet the lovely Lily Stover, heroine of A Light in the Darkness
Recently, we sat down with Brett Byron, hero of A Light in the Darkness.  Today we post the interview with Lily Stover, the story's beautiful heroine.
Me : Lily, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me today.

Lily : It's my pleasure, Nicole.  Thanks for coming all the way out to the ranch.  I hope you didn't get lost along the way!

Me : Oh, not at all.  The Byron land is absolutely beautiful!  Did you fall in love with it instantly?

Lily : When I first stepped foot on the ranch, I did find a certain peace that I haven't experienced elsewhere.  It's absolutely beautiful, especially coming from a busier town, you know? Plus, being able to stay here while my brother Scott went through that difficult time turned out to be such an amazing blessing. Everyone here really made me feel at home.

Me : Are you referring to Brett?

Lily : (Laughs) Um, I wouldn't say Brett was leading the welcome wagon, although we did warm up to each other.  Rebecca, Brett's sister, really went out of her way to make me feel comfortable.  She's an amazing young woman and turned into a good friends.

Me : Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about Scott.

Lily : Yes, Scott is my baby brother.  Well, technically my half brother.  My mother married his father when I was a kid.  She thought she was doing me a favor, you know?  Like everything would be better if I had a father, but as you know things didn't work out like that.

Me : Yes, I'm aware of your past.  I can't imagine...

Lily : It's ok.  I mean, it's not, not really, but through faith I've been able to deal with that chapter of life.  And I think, well, at least I hope, I did the best for Scott that I could.  I know now that no matter what God's in charge, not me.  I've been reminded of that over and over, especially in the past year after what happened to Scott on the ranch.  No matter what, God's in charge.

Me : That's a great lesson, not only for you but for the readers as well.  Is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers?  Anything you want them to know about you?

Lily : Just that I hope they enjoy our story!

Me : Thank you so much Lily for joining me.

Lily : Thanks for having me!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Interview with Brett Byron

In honor of my book finally being available on (, Brett Byron has agreed to sit down for an exclusive interview!  I joined him on his ranch where he gave me a tour then we settled on the living room couch where he graciously answered all my questions.

Meet Brett Byron!!!
Me : Hello Brett and thank you so much for being here.  You're the hero in my book A Light in the Darkness and owner of Byron Ranch in Tennessee.  Did you always want to be a ranch owner?

Brett : (chuckles) Uh, no.  I left home with big dreams and an even bigger ego.  I'm pretty sure that when I rolled out of town no one ever imagined for me to return, but life has a way of throwing curve balls.

Me : Curve balls?

Brett : Maybe that's not the best phrase.  It was more like a punch in the gut.  My dad got really sick really fast and I felt like I owed it to him to come home and help with the family business.  I never thought I'd enjoy it so much or end up running the place, but luckily my sister Rebecca helps out a lot and so does my friend James.  Plus, we've got a lot of hired help that are more like family than workers.

Me : Is that how you were first introduced to the Stover siblings, Scott and Lily?  Did they work on your ranch?

Brett : Scott worked for me until....well, you know what happened to him.  After all, you wrote the book  (awkward laugh). 

Me : True, but could you please elaborate a bit for those who haven't had a chance to read your story.

Brett : It's tough to talk about, even now, but when I walked into the barn that morning and saw Scott...well, it was one of the worst days of my life.  I couldn't believe someone would do such a horrible thing to such a nice guy, you know?  I mean, what did Scott ever do to anyone?  He didn't deserve it.

Me : I'm sorry.  I know it's difficult.

Brett : Thanks. what was the question?  Oh, you wanted me to talk about how I met the Stover siblings.  Right.  Well, I wish I could say I bumped into Lily at the grocery store and we struck up a conversation, but unfortunately we met as a result of what happened to her brother.

Me : You know, some say that in times of crisis people ban together for support.  Is that how it was for you and Lily?

Brett : Oh, I wouldn't exactly say that.  Lily's a bit of a fire cracker especially when she doesn't like you very much.  And boy and boy does that lady pack a mean punch....

Lily Stover enters the living room.

Lily : Brett!  Don't tell her about the punch!  I'm really not a violent person, regardless of what this man has said.

Brett laughs and Lily joins him on the living room couch, trying to suppress her own smile.

Me : And on that note, perhaps it's time to wrap up this interview so I can speak with Ms. Stover.

Lily : That sounds like a great idea.

Me : Just one last thing Brett.  Is there anything else the readers should know about you before they read the book?

Brett : Just that I'm far more charming and handsome than conveyed in the story.

Lily : Oh pleeaaasseee....

Me : Thank you for joining me Brett.

Brett : No problem.

Stay tuned for my exclusive interview with the charming Lily Stover!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I can't come up with a conflict.

My second novel is a slow and steady process.  It's a suspense romance but very different than my first.  When I started writing my first novel, I had the story line down but the characters weren't well developed until I really later.  It's the opposite with my second novel.  I have three characters in my head begging to be unleashed onto paper, but I don't have an awesome story line yet.

The problem is the problem.  Well, the conflict.  Every story needs one and it has to be original, interesting and just flat out awesome.  Figuring out the problem in the story is obviously pretty critical and something I'm having major problems accomplishing.

So what do you do when you're stuck on your first draft?  Watch tv?  Drink coffee?  Surf google and facebook until the wee hours of the night?  Yup, I've done those but I still haven't come up with a conflict and for some odd reason procrastinating doesn't seem to help.

I guess I'll just have to get back to work reading novels by authors I admire and writing until something comes to me.

How do you work through these writing hiccups? 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rules to submitting to a literay magazine

I recently got a flash fiction piece published in Splickety Magazine 2.1:

That's me.  That's my story entitled Amanda's Secret.

It's my first piece of fiction published in a literary magazine.  On the road to this particular moment, I learned several things about submitting works...

Know the style, tone and audience of the magazine.  Really take some time and research the magazine.  Get a feel for the type of articles they typically print and determine if your piece would fit. 

Carefully read the submission guidelines.  Each magazine is different.  Some don't accept manuscripts.  Rather, they want a query and then they'll contact you if they are interested in reading your piece.  Make a check list of what the magazine wants and make sure to follow it exactly. 

Patience.  Most of the time you're not going to hear back before 8 - 10 weeks, so just relax.  Don't contact them asking if they've received your piece.  They'll contact you.

Submit multiple works to multiple magazines.  It's ok to send multiple stories out to multiple magazines while you wait for responses.  It's even ok to send the same story out to multiple magazines.  If you do the latter, you may need to tell the magazines that you intend to shop around your piece.  You can find out if this is required by reading the magazines submission guidelines.  Note that whichever magazine accepts the piece first is the one you have to publish with, so pick your submissions wisely.  Also, when you do get a piece accepted, it's your responsibility to contact the other magazines and let them know that your piece is no longer available for publishing.

Edit exactly as they ask.  If you're piece is accepted, they'll either edit it themselves, or give you notes.  If they give you notes, make sure you address each and every issue.  Yes, it's your vision but they're working to make your piece readable to their particular audience so be respectful and honor their changes.

Brush off rejections.  Some rejects will be pretty standard "we regret to inform you...." while others may include a few pieces of advise.  Either way, brush yourself off and get back in the game.  Not everything you write will fit every magazine, so just keep submitting and trying. 

Read the contract.  You'll get a contract, and while all will be a little different, they'll basically reserve the rights to your piece.  Read through it carefully just to make sure you're comfortable with everything.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!  When you finally get that magazine in your hands, and you flip to your piece, enjoy the moment!  You've gotten something published!  The world can now see some of those amazing and zany thoughts rushing around your writer's brain!

Repeat.  Yup, time to do it all over again!  But we writers know that all the hard work is totally worth it!

Monday, July 22, 2013

At the Starting Line

I am thrilled to be writing again!!  I've been researching for MONTHS, developing characters, writing down then throwing away plot idea after plot idea and finally I have a nugget of a story!  I can begin writing my second novel!

The beginning of a new project is filled with such joy and anticipation.  It's also filled with tons of self doubt.  I've already scratched this project more times than I can count, only to immediately start it again.  My mind is constantly asking, is this story worth telling?  Will it be good?  Will anyone even want to read it?  What if I get half way through and it sucks?

I wonder if published authors have these doubts when embarking on something new.

A big challenge I have at the starting line is keeping a steady pace.  I tend to write quickly, trying to get every idea down as fast as it appears.  My first draft is usually a mess of random ideas with no details connecting the dots.  This makes the second draft extremely difficult because I have to shift my mind from "outline" mode to "expression" mode, which isn't terribly easy for me.

In my first book, I did a much better job of enforcing the "slow and steady" mantra, but I still have a ways to go.  Details are good!  I just need to remind myself of this and let my brain sit on an idea instead of racing from one to the next.

Good luck to anyone else starting a new project!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some Helpful Resources

I'm going to share some websites that have been especially helpful.  Feel free to add your own!

This is a wonderfully witty and helpful site by Catherine Ryan Howard, a self published author.  She's awesome!  Check her out!

Ok, so this is kinda of given, but the writer's digest website is a good place to practice writing prompts, get feedback, and learn what agents are looking for in new talent.

For the ebook publisher:

This is a site by Susan May Warren designed to help emerging and advanced writers get even better at their craft.  There's information about contests, conferences and you can get active in their online community.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Mind of a Writer

I've always known that I'm different.  Well, maybe quirky would be a better word.  Imaginative?  Let's go with that.

For one thing, I have no problem with solitude.  I'm perfectly content to sit alone in a room with nothing but my thoughts.  I know, it's weird.  But that's only because you don't know what's going on in my brain during such moments.  Basically, when I close my eyes a movie that has never been written begins to play.  I see characters, settings, plot twists.  Scene after scene unfolds, and yes, the characters talk.  What would a movie be without some dialog?

Ok, before you hand me over to the loony hospital, hear me out.  The writer's brain is different.  Unique.  It can see a person sitting on a bench in the park and instantly come up with an entire back story of that individual.  It sees story potential in a dying tree, the sound of an ambulance in the distance, or a dog barking in the middle of the night.  Anything can set it off.  It never sleeps.

I've always loved this about my brain.  As far back as I can remember, I've always enjoyed my brain's ability to see a mother and child shopping for groceries and instantly come up with an entire story about their lives.  It's fun and very entertaining.

But it makes me weird.  Odd.  Different.  A bit crazy to those who don't get it.

Usually, these thoughts are just in my head but every once in a while, I slip and express them to the outside world.  When I was about eleven years old, I got locked out of my house while it was raining.  I knew my parents would be home soon so I decided to wait out the storm in our shed.  As I stood in the shed, waiting, I noticed an earthworm on the ground.  My writer's brain instantly set off and before long I had established a children's story about my new found friend.  So what did I decide to do?  I told it to the earthworm, of course.  Before I got to the end, I heard my name being called followed by intense laughter.  My checks turned bright red as I stepped into the pouring rain and saw my neighbor, laughing at me, asking if I wanted to wait out the storm in her house.  It was after that incident that I realized my writer's brain was best confined to my thoughts or paper.

But I share it with you today to let others know, you're not alone!!  About a year ago, I got the privilege of hearing an award winning romance writer speak of how she comes up with her ideas.  She said something along the lines of, "Ideas come rather organically.  I can be shopping and as I hand over my money to the cashier, I start to wonder what her life is like.  I wonder if she's married, if she has children.  Then I just make up her story and roll with it."

Um....that's me!  I can't tell you how excited I was to hear that.  You see, I'm not that weird.  I just hadn't met others like myself!  But now I know, the writer's brain is different.  Quirky.  But fun!  I'm grateful for the craziness, the constant flow of ideas, the never ending imagination that creates stories out of fleeting moments.

So you see, I've never minded solitude.  I have plenty to keep me entertained.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review : In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren

Being a good writer means recognizing and learning from good writing.

I just finished reading the book In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren.  It's a romantic christian suspense novel set in Russia.  Gracie Benson, a missionary in Russia, is on the run from murders who killed her friend.  A FSB agent, who is wrestling with his own demons, tries to keep her alive.  The two end up being hunted by a killer who has been laying in wait for decades.  What Gracie doesn't know is that she she holds a secret that could save millions of lives, but only if she can get out of Russia alive before the killer gets her.

Ok, now I'll go into more detail.  SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Gracie Benson is a wonderfully written character.  She's a missionary who feels as though she has failed God because she can't even convert her best friend, Larrisa.  Her visa is about to expire and while she knows she must leave Russia she wishes for another chance to do God's work.

Vicktor is the hero of the book.  He's Russian and a member of the FSB.  He's got a close knit group of friends who are christians, however, Vicktor refuses to believe in God.  He's haunted by his past, specifically a killer who simply goes by The Wolf.  Vicktor and his father (a cop ) chased the Wolf down into a building.  Vicktor's father said to hold back, but Vicktor didn't listen.  He went into the building, the Wolf knocked him down and ran out shooting Vicktor's father in the leg.  Vicktor's father is forced to retire and he know spends his days alone in his apartment.

The Wolf is back after a decade of laying in wait.  What Gracie doesn't know is that her friends are not as pure as they appear.  A medical miracle was produced that can cure cancer.  Gracie unknowingly has the cure in her possession.  Her friends asked her to send their mail to the US.  In the stack of mail is the cure addressed to a medical facility in the US.

There are a ton of twists and turns in the book that keep the reader thoroughly entertained.  I continually was surprised by betrayals and just when I thought I had all the characters figured out, someone would surprise me.

In the middle of the suspense is the love story of Gracie and Vicktor.  Gracie falls for him but knows that she can't truly give her heart to a non-Christian.   Vicktor falls for her knowing that as well.  But as the book progresses, all this discussions Vicktor had with his friends start to pop in his head.  He begins asking Gracie questions about God's grace and forgiveness.  He struggles with the idea that he could be so easily forgiven but he desperately wants the weight of his guilt off his shoulders.  Gracie leads him and prayer and Vicktor turns over his grief for Jesus.  It's a beautifully written moment when Vicktor becomes a christian and finally feels free.

Once the murder is finally captured (I won't actually say how or give away who the murder is because you really need to read the book!!) Gracie still needs to leave Russia.  Her visa has expired.  She and Vicktor kiss and he promises to see her again.  As she sits on the plane home, holding the miracle cure, he walks down the aisle (he hitched a ride) and surprises her. 

That's the end.

I thought it was an amazing story with characters who you'll easily fall in love with.  The way Susan May Warren instantly draws you into the story is superb.  She delicately weaves a suspenseful story with the message of God's love.

I highly recommend this book!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is a story worth your time?

I have hero envy, which isn't so bad as a writer.  I can live vicariously through my characters without actually running into a burning building or hunting down bad guys.  My next book captures my envy through my hero, a FBI Special Agent, and my heroine, possibly another FBI agent.

I've done about a months worth of research already into the FBI.  Seriously, it's becoming a bit obsessive, but I've learned a lot about what goes into the training, career and mind set of an agent.

And yet....

I still don't have a story.  I have three characters, their names, what they look like, and the rest is sketchy at best.  So how do I continue?  Do I even bother?  Maybe this story will never develop.  Maybe I'm just not this type of writer....maybe my hero envy shouldn't be played out on the page.  But how do I know?

How does a writer know if they're on a good train of thought?

Well, the first thing I do is push away the insecurities and give myself permission to suck.  Yup, I sat down recently, told myself that no matter how bad my ideas are, just keep writing them down.

They were bad.  I won't use them, but it was a good exercise.  I think a huge hurtle for writers like myself, just starting out, is thinking we can't make mistakes.  We can't have a bad idea.  That's a lot of pressure, and in my case, I'm only in the brainstorming phase!  Isn't this when I'm allowed to have bad ideas?

So here's what I suggest.  Go ahead and allow yourself to have terrible ideas and terrible writing.  Run your ideas through some sort of filter, maybe a spouse or good friend or writing critique group.  Let it simmer.  Give it some time on the back burner.  If still nothing....write something else.  Don't stop writing!  I've been writing random short stories while my brain decides if my FBI story is worth pursuing.  Just remember, you get better the more you write, so even if you don't use a story, it wasn't a waste.  You practiced developing characters, working on tone, suspense...whatever.  You worked.  You learned.  That's always worth it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I've made a huge mistake : Self Publishing Gone Wrong

Ok, I've made a mistake.  Actually, multiple mistakes.  Big ones.  Embarrassingly big mistakes.  Learn from me:

I've always wanted to have one of my books published through traditional means.  However, I recently self published my first novel A Light in the Darkness, a Christian romance / suspense. 

After researching self publishing, I've learned many things. 

I don't even know where to start on all the mistakes I've made.

First, let me just say that this book was written specifically for a dear friend of mine for her 30th birthday.  I finished it about two weeks before her big day, frantically put it all together and ordered it as quickly as possible to make sure it arrived in time.  The fact that it came in time was a great accomplishment.

 After I gave it to my friend, I thought I could spice it up a bit.  I fixed some spacing issues, redid the cover, those sorts of things and thought I was all set.   I've been focusing so much time on learning the ins and outs of traditional publishing that I neglected doing the same thorough research for self publishing.

Here's what I learned:

1.  No one cares.  Not really, at least.  Just because you've written a book doesn't mean that the world is going to flock to buy it.  I can look at my lulu sales page and figure this one out.  I didn't really give the reader a reason to buy my book, other than the fact that I've wrote it. 
                    The book needs to have an eye catching cover, something that says what the book is about.  (My mistake #1)
                     The little blip from the story needs to be really awesome. (I could have found a better blip.  Mistake #2)
                     The author bio should prove that you can write.  (Mistake #3 for me.)

2.  Use social media.  (I've done that)  But don't be harassing.  (Mistake # 4).

3.  Do an e-book.  (Mistake # 5)  Getting an e-book together is a little confusing, but clearly not impossible. 

4.  Edit.  Edit.  Oh, and Edit.  If you aren't good at editing, get a pro to help out. (Mistake #6 - I mean, I edited and had others help, but a pro would have been helpful)

Ok, my ego can't take much more.  I've totally dropped the ball on my first attempt!  Wait, that's nothing to be too ashamed about.  It's a first attempt.  We all make mistakes, right?  Now I can go back to my book, fix my mistakes, and re-release it.  That's the beauty of self publishing.  Plus, I've learned a ton about self publishing and I'm only just beginning! 

So please don't make the same mistakes I did when self publishing.  Take the time, research, and do it right the first time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How do I get better at writing?

Read and write. 

Yup, that easy.

Every time I hear a published author pass on words of wisdom, they always say the same thing.  If you want to be a good author, you have to read a lot and write a lot.

So what are you reading right now?

I just started To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander. How about you?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Synopsis

I recently entered a writing contest where I was asked to submit my first chapter and a synopsis of my work in progress.

Easy enough, right?  I mean, sure, I'd never written a synopsis before but how hard can it be?

So I sat down and a whole bunch of hours later felt pretty good about what I produced.  Then, just for fun, I thought I'd go online and see how other authors wrote their synopsis.  Turns out, I didn't write a synopsis at all.  I wrote the back cover of my book.

And I ate a nice piece of humble pie :)

So what is a synopsis?  It's a summary of your book from beginning to end.  Yup, that means you have to know how your book will end.  This was and remains a problem for me since I rarely, if ever, know how a book will end when I start writing.  Perhaps this is amateurish.  Ok, it probably is.  I also wouldn't recommend it since it entails a ton of rewriting. 

Ok, so I need to work on outlining. 

Back to the synopsis.  Here's some helpful info from Writer's Digest:

The Synopsis Format

Friedman gives some of the best tips for formatting a synopsis. She recommends beginning with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist, problem or conflict, and setting. The next paragraph should convey any major plot turns or conflicts necessary and any characters that should be mentioned in order for your book summary to make sense to whomever is reading it. Lastly, she recommends indicating how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph. This ensures a clear presentation of your book or novel and doesn’t leave the reader confused.

Now, the tricky part is following this guideline while enticing an agent and also not giving so much away that there's no point in reading your story.

The synopsis I wrote was 500 words.  Not a whole lot of wiggle room, so make sure every word counts.

If you want to get your synopsis critiqued, Writer's Digest has a service (you probably have to pay). 

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Light in the Darkness

I love to write...clearly.  I just finished my first novel entitled A Light in the Darkness.  It's a Christian Suspense Romance novel about coming to Christ in the face of tragic events.  Here's a taste:

"Her throat started to close. She could barely register the information before a sense of dread coursed through her body, one that she long ago bottled away. She pushed the emotion out of her mind and forced herself to"

 Lily Stover always protects her younger brother from harm, except for now. After receiving a phone call informing Lily that her brother suffered from a viscous attack, Lily travels to the Byron Ranch, the crime scene, intent on revenge. Brett Byron, owner of Byron Ranch, insists on teaming up with Lily and investigating together. Reluctantly, Lily agrees but can she trust this stranger? Can Brett break down Lily's emotional walls that she's spent years guarding? Will they be able to find the attacker before he or she strikes again?

If you're interested in checking it out, or buying my book, please just click on the "Buy Now" icon to the right!  I hope you enjoy the story!

Monday, May 20, 2013


I want to tell you all about a fantastic website for self publishing.  You can do novels, e-books, and it's incredibly easy.  They even have cover art templates.  Just click, drag and you've got an awesome cover!  Check them out!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rough Draft #2....Getting closer!

I still don't have a title for this story.  I never seem to be able to come up with titles until the very end.  Anyways, I know that one of my weakness as a writer is description.  Basically, I have the tendency to outline my work instead of really taking the time and painting a picture.  So that's something I really wanted to focus on in this second draft.

Oh, and there were a few things that just didn't make sense the first time around.  I had been cutting and pasting from previous drafts and things got kinda confusing, so I hope I fixed some of that.

Also, I'm wondering if Jennifer should even bother to throw a ketchup bottle because while I have seen a plastic ketchup bottle explode on imact when hurled toward a wall, others probably haven't.

So yeah.... Here it is...still a working process, but that's part of the fun!

               Jennifer clenched the ketchup bottle and lifted it above her head.  She focused then hurled it toward her husband who ducked just in time.  The bottle hit the wall with vengeance, popped its lid off and then splattered red across the yellow floral wall paper.  No one took notice.  Robert lunched toward the kitchen table where their dinners sat idly, grabbed the innocent pickle jar in his large hand and aimed.  His eyes narrowed, his brows furrowed and in one swift motion, he hurled the glass jar toward her quivering body.
                Jennifer watched as the jar sailed through the air, but managed to dodge to the ground at the last moment.  Shards of glass rained down on her curled up body.  For a moment, she didn’t move, frozen in the fetal position wondering how things had ever gotten this bad.   
                A grunt of curse words escaped Robert’s lips as he took a step closer, maybe to check on his wife, maybe just to get a better look at her crying.  When she weakly met his eyes, she thought she saw regret, even guilt, in his tired expression.  But it must have just been an illusion. 
                “It’s over.  You win,” he said then huffed out of the kitchen, down the hall and out the front doo.
                Finally.  Seven years of flared tempers and constant fighting finally is over.  She let out the breath she forgot she was holding and began to survey the damage.
                 Suddenly, with a burst of adrenaline, Jennifer gathered up the cold turkey burgers still on the table, the cream plates given as a wedding gift, and the new flatware her in-laws gave as a house warming present, and tossed everything into the trash.  She didn’t want anything left to remind her of their past.
                Upstairs, she found a few old duffle bags and started shoving all of Robert’s hundred dollar suits into the small luggage.  She figured she’d put them on the front porch.  He can stay in a hotel for all she cared. 
                “What else?”
                She smiled wickedly as she entered the bathroom and reached for his toothbrush.  Oh the things she could do with this.  Maybe dunk it in the toilet?  He’d never know.  Jennifer laughed.  No, even she wasn’t that evil.  She put his toiletries in the bag then went into his study.  Piles of paperwork and files covered his desk and bookshelf so much so that he’d resorted to stacking his work along the floor.  She hated his job, how many hours he’d put into it since they got married, and considered just throwing everything out, but hesitated.  After all, the more money he made, the more she could get in alimony. 
                Instead of destroying his work, she started shoving as much as possible into the luggage.  Just when she was starting to feel empowered, a small white envelope dropped to the floor.  Written in Robert’s messy handwriting was her name.
                She let out a sigh. 
                “Probably a birthday card he forgot to give me,” she said remembering her thirty-fifth birthday that came and went without so much as a verbal acknowledgement.
                She picked it up and used her manicured nail to pierce the seal.  As she pulled it out, a small twinge of lost hope surfaced.  The card was beautiful, with a light sky background and a purple butterfly in the middle.  Once, in college, Jennifer mentioned that she always loved butterflies, their beauty, their transformation.  Robert used to decorate paper butterflies and leave them on her shoes so she’d find them before her morning run.  That was years ago.
                “Whoa,” she said, surprised to see that the inside was a solid page of print, handwritten just for her. 
                Suddenly her knees began to shake and she delicately lowered herself to the floor. 
                “Dear Jenny,” she read out loud.  He hadn’t called her Jenny since college.
                It started with an apology, one she never thought she’d get.  He wrote about his regret, pain and sadness for taking his job and leaving her alone so many nights.  He wished he had put her, their marriage ahead of promotions.
                He forgave her for the affair.
                Her heart stopped pounding.  Even though she thought about coming clean, she had never actually told her husband about the affair.  How had he known?
                The black ink on the paper started to run.  She hadn’t even felt the tears come out. 
                “Am I moving out?”
                Jennifer quickly raised to her feet, startled to see Robert standing in the door way, his hands in his pockets, his eyes on the duffle bags.
                “When did you write this?”
                He took a deep breath and took a few steps closer to her.
                “About six months ago.”
                “Why didn’t you give it to me?”
                He smiled sheepishly and shrugged.  “I guess I thought it was too late.”
                Jennifer ran her fingers along the edge of the card.  He had a point.  One note wouldn’t erase almost a decade of a terrible marriage.  But maybe, maybe it could be the start of something new, if he really meant what he wrote.  Of course, she had some apologizing to do as well…
                A lump formed in her throat. 
                “No, no it’s too late,” Jennifer said.  “We’ve done too much to each other to just forget.”
                Robert nodded, trying to hide the moisture in his eyes by looking down at the white carpet.
                “I know.  I understand,” he said.  He reached for the duffle bags, his arm briefly rubbing against hers, sending pulses between them.  Jennifer took a step back and watched as he slowly walked toward the door.
                “We made vows,” he whispered just loud enough for the words to reach Jennifer’s ears then fade.
                Suddenly, the relief of divorce was replaced with a heaviness she’d never experienced.  Maybe they were making a big mistake. 
                He looked back to her, searching her blue eyes, but when she said nothing he nodded and turned.
                “Good bye Jennifer,” he said softly.
                “Stay, please,” she said but the words never made it to her lips.  She just stood there, frozen in time, watching the only man she ever loved walk away.