Monday, October 31, 2011

A Little Halloween Housekeeping

This is just a quick mini-post since I will be blogging for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Wednesday.  Today I'm doing a little housekeeping.

First off, Laura Barnes over at Laura B Writer has graciously critiqued my blog this morning.  She’s a marketing consultant with loads of experience in writing, as well.  She was very complimentary and had some great suggestions on how to improve my blog.  Some I will definitely do.  Others I haven’t a clue on how to fix so I’m not sure what I’ll do.  But overall, Laura has been very helpful.  She does these critiques for free so contact her if you want any feedback on your blog.

Second, I’ve been very fortunate to receive a couple of blogger awards in the last two weeks. 

The first one is the Friendly Blogger Award from Gary & Penny over at Klahanie.  Thanks, Gary!  This is a new one for me.  Go check out Gary’s blog.  It’s both beautiful and inspiring.   


The second is the Liebster Award from Rebecca Kiel.  This is an award given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.  While I have received this award before, I still want to thank Rebecca for considering me.  I feel quite privileged!  Last time I received this award I think I had like 40 followers.  Now I have a combined 164 through Blogger and NetworkedBlogs so you can see it really works!  

In response to these illustrious honors, I will quickly list a few blogs I believe worthy of your attention:

Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Casting Call Character Bloghop

Cool, a good reason to come up with another blog post this week!  I’m lucky if I get in one a week, so this is a nice surprise for me.  It seems my good buddy Lisa Regan and fellow writer/bloggers Carrie Butler and Melodie Wright are hosting a Casting Call Bloghop in which we introduce our characters in whichever form we like best. 

Since I’m a film buff and have often visualized my novel as a movie, I thought I would use the actors I believe best embody the main characters in my book, THE MISTAKEN, a psychological thriller.

First, the pitch:

Vengeance tastes sweet the day Skylar Karras pledges his wife's killer to sex-traffickers in the Russian Mafia.  In exchange for the woman, they’ll let his brother leave the business for good—with his debt wiped clean and his heart still beating.  But when Sky mistakenly targets the wrong woman, deal or no deal, he’s forced to protect them all from the very enemy he's unleashed. 

Now, the casting:

The male lead, Skylar Karras, is really a composite of two people, a friend of mine and an actor, Andy Whitfield.  Sadly, Andy past away on September 11th at the age of 39, a victim of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

For the role of Skylar’s wife, Jillian, I think actress Jessica Alba would be perfect.

For Skylar’s brother, Nick, I like Michael Graziadei.  Doesn’t he look a lot like Andy Whitfield?

For Hannah Maguire, the woman Sky has mistakenly targeted, I love Mila Jovovich.

For bad guy and Russian mobster, Alexi Batalov, the suave and debonair Ben Gazzara fits like a glove.  

What about you?  Do you have anyone particular in mind for your characters?   

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad News Isn't Always a Bad Thing

Being a writer is a tough gig.  There’s very little payback and we generally work alone.  Yes, it’s true, this new age of blogging has allowed us to reach out and connect with others, more so than we would have been able to at any other time.  But still, we are pretty much alone, stuck in our own heads, making up strange tales set in strange lands with strange people. 
            We experience minor victories from time to time.  We string together coherent sentences, then paragraphs and chapters, plots and subplots, until, finally, we have a book.  We are so proud.  Not many people even attempt to write a book let alone finish one.  Afterwards, we read and revise, edit and add content.  We scrub and buff until it shines like an uncut diamond.  Then, if we’re lucky, we find amazing critique partners who help us polish our gem until its sparkles like Edward Cullen on a sunny day. 
            When we’re ready, we go through the whole process again with our query letter.  Scribble, scratch, buff and shine.  We are not daunted by the research necessary to find the appropriate agents to send our query.  We compile our list and format our submissions, cringing with raw nerves when we hit the send button.
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  Every time we get a new email, we wonder if it could be the one.  And when it’s not, when it’s nothing more than another rejection, we shrink a little lower in our seats, lose a little more confidence.  We may even cry. 
            But then we get one, maybe even two or three, or—good God almighty—four:  a request for pages, a partial or the whole damn thing.  A happy dance ensues, perhaps a bit of screaming and raising of one’s arms towards God in heaven. 
But not for long.  Gotta get those pages out.   
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  We thought we were tense before, but now with our baby out in the big, bad world, we’re ready to spin like a top we’re so wound up.  Again, every time a new email arrives, we wonder.  But it’s been so long, we almost forget.  Until we see that agent’s name above the subject line with our book title right below.  Our hands shake, our breathing gets shorter and more labored as we open it.
Then the world comes crashing down around our ears.  Utter devastation.  That first rejection of our full manuscript is unbearably painful, but eventually, after days of tears and heartbreak, we brush ourselves off and move forward.
            The next rejection hurts, as well, but there’s nothing really to glean from it because, once again, it’s just a simple no thanks, but good luck to you.  Nothing to tell us we’re on the right track or not.  So, though our pride is stinging and our confidence is waning, we trudge onward, perhaps making a revision or two, just a tweak here and there to make us feel like we’re improving it somehow.  And out go more queries in sporadic bursts. 
            Then we wait.  Again.  But this time, we’re a bit numb.  Our skin is definitely getting thicker.  We’ve learned to put those queries out of mind and get on with life.  And so, when another request comes in, we’re excited, but wary, especially since we know this is likely just a favor from our friend’s agent.  But it’s a request nonetheless.  So out go those pages, one more time.  We sigh, thinking of the long wait before us, cringing at that stupid typo in the very first paragraph on the very first page that we didn’t notice until after we’d already sent it.    
            But then another request comes in.  Hope!  Pages go out.  Another long sigh.  Another long wait.  And then another request.  Even more hope!  Sigh.  Wait.  And wait some more.  And more and more and more.
            Then something remarkable happens.  It’s not a good thing, mind you, but neither is it entirely bad.  Yeah, it’s a rejection and so it hurts a little, but the skin is pretty tough now and the pain is just a tingle of disappointment rather than a ripping out of the heart.  It was improbable anyway.  This was, after all, that favor request.  But this time the email is not a one line denial of interest.  And while the agent is “just short of enthusiastic enough to take it on and fight for it,” she says “there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in there” and “goodness knows, it was very close.”  So even though she suggests a change in the protagonist’s name, it’s cool.  It’s an easy fix.  And if that’s the worst thing she can think of, there’s reason to feel good.  That’s the best rejection letter ever!
            My point here is that we get a lot more bad news than good, but bad news is not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it lifts our sagging confidence, offers a push back onto the road, granted with a little coarse correction.  We know we’re getting closer to our destination.  We can feel it.  The trick is to not give up, even when the bad news is really bad.  You never know when a little ray of sunshine will come along and brighten your otherwise dreary day.  And hey, there are still a few requested pages out there.  And after that, there are always more agents to query.  It’s not the end game yet.           

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward

Today, awesomely cool bloggers Alex Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish are hosting the Pay It Forward Blogfest.  The idea is to introduce all of us to everyone else, to meet and follow as many other bloggers as we like. In our posts, participants are to list, describe, and link to three blogs that we enjoy reading and believe others would enjoy, as well. 

Hmmm…only three blogs, huh?  That might be a bit of a problem, but I’ll try to contain myself.

  1. Lisa L. Regan – Okay, for those of you who already know me, this is a given.  After all, she’s my very best friend and confidant, my number one critique partner, and a fellow thriller writer.  And while Lisa is a fantastic agented writer with two books currently on submission, she also has a lot to offer other writers.  Both her new blog and web page are filled with juicy bits of wisdom as she’s journeyed farther than most of us toward publication.  And what’s more, and possibly most important, is the fact that both she and her agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency, have teamed up to host a variety of book contests with a reading of the winner’s full manuscript as the grand prize!  That’s right!  No querying needed.  Just enter the appropriate genre contest and you have a good chance of having her agent request your full manuscript.

  1. Jennifer Hillier of The Serial Killer Files – I know Jenny is already well-known in the blogosphere, but if you haven’t trolled through her blog archives, you’re really missing something.  Not only has Jenny written a novel, she’s successfully landed an agent and sold her first book, Creep, which, I must say, I’ve read twice now and think it’s freakin’ fantastic!  I know I’m partial.  She’s also a fellow writer of psychological thrillers.  Her second novel, Freak, already sold, by the way, is due out sometime next year.  On a personal note, I’ve become personal friends with this lovely lady and I can’t say enough good things about her.  I owe her BIG TIME!  So here’s a tiny little bit of payback, Jenny!

  1. Julie Musil – There’s a reason Julie has so many followers and that reason is wisdom.  I swear, every time I tune into her blog, she teaches me something new.  Her archives are a virtual treasure trove of valuable literary insight.  She shares tip after tip on her blog.  I’ve taken to copying each one and compiling into a file I call “Great Writing Advice.”  And what’s even better than all that, if that’s not enough already, is that Julie personally replies to every comment I make on her blog.  She cares and takes the time to reach out and touch her followers.  In a word, Julie is amazing!

See, I knew I couldn’t keep it to just 3.  But I’ll make this honorable mention brief…er.

  1. Jami Gold – Now, I don’t know Jami like I know the ladies listed above, but what I do know is that this writer is smart as hell and gifted beyond all get-out.  Her posts hit on what every writer wants to know or really, really should know.  This gal does her research and delves deep into the issues that concern us writers the most.  And damn if she doesn’t manage pull shit out of me in my comments that I swore I would never talk about.  Like I said, it’s a gift.   

I love each and every blog I follow closely.  Why else would I list them on my blog roll?  If you’re a Pay It Forward Blogfest blogger who is new to my neck of the woods, scroll through the left sidebar of my blog.  They are all worth a look and a follow. 

Like me, once you follow them, they follow you right back.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fantasy Novel Hook For Your Book Contest

            Do you write fantasies?  Is your novel all polished and ready to go?  Are you ready to query for an agent?  If so, I have just the thing for you. 
My BFF, the lovely and talented writer Lisa Regan, is hosting another Hook For Your Book contest, this time just for fantasy novelists.  It will be judged by her literary agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency.
            The contest will run until October 17th. That means you have until midnight Eastern Time on 10/17/11 to enter your pitch on Lisa’s blog.

To Enter: 

You must be a follower of Lisa’s blog and provide a link to either a tweet or a blog post spreading the word about this contest.

You must have a completed novel. That means your novel MUST be finished to enter this contest.

Write a 50 word paragraph that is the hook for your book. Basically pitch your book in fifty words.

Post your 50 word pitch in the comments section of Lisa’s Hook For Your Book post with a TITLE and your contact info before the closing date of the contest.

The example Lisa used for the previous mystery/thriller contest was as follows:

Finding Claire Fletcher

Detective Connor Parks, newly divorced, with his career in jeopardy, spends the night with a woman he meets at a bar. The next morning Claire Fletcher is gone; leaving behind a hint of a decade-old mystery. Abducted when she was 15 years old, no one has heard from her…until now. Will he find Claire Fletcher?

Lisa L. Regan

Ms. Pantelakis will choose three finalists. The finalists will send her a synopsis of their book as well as their full manuscript. From those three finalists, she will choose one manuscript and that manuscript will get a full read and a possible contract with Sullivan Maxx.

The best of luck to you all!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

IWSG: Making Progress

           I am ashamed.  Deeply so.  I used to read the blog posts about other writers who just couldn’t seem to push through that wall, who weren’t inspired, who struggled with their plot, who wailed about not being able to create dimensional characters.  And you know what?  I just didn’t get it.  My experience, up ‘til now at least, was so easy breezy.  The words never failed to come.  The plot was clear as a sunny Seattle day.  (Yes, the sun does occasionally shine here and when it does, oh boy!)  And my characters were so alive, I cried over their tragedies on a daily basis. 
            Of course, I didn’t know any better at the time.  I didn’t write to be published.  I didn’t write for any other reason than I had this story in my head and it needed to be released for my sanity’s sake.  And then when I did decide to seek the road to publication, I muddled along and weathered the trials all writers stumble with.  But I never fell down without being able to get back up.  And I never doubted myself either.  I was too naïve.  For whatever reason, I felt there was someone or something outside of myself that wanted this done, who put me on this path with the notion that I would succeed.  A sort of divine intervention. 
            I finished my book and wrote my query and I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.  So now it’s time to move on from that project.  Time to prove it wasn’t just some fluke, that I do have another book in me.  As I was finishing up the first, I had a few decent ideas, one of which I picked because it was intriguing and I’d never read a story like it before.  But all the while, I was worried because, unlike the first time, those words weren’t coming, the plot was elusive, and the characters foggy. 
            Here was the doubt all those other writers wrote about, the kind I never had any understanding of.  I panicked.  I was desperate to prove I was, in fact, a writer with more than one story.  And I know the story is there, but I just can’t see the details clearly.  When I read that one writer I follow took four or five years to write his novel, I cringed.  How can anyone have the tenacity to work on something for that long and not give up, to not lose interest?  It seemed unreal.  Improbable.  The fact that nothing was clicking into place made me question if I could do it again.  Did I have that stubbornness to work through the difficulties month after month, possibly year after year?
            Well, what I have discovered is that, although the story hasn’t been dropped into my lap whole, as was the case the first time around, I do have small details that take shape a few times each day.  I write them down on my virtual “Brainstorming” notepad on my iPhone.  I scribble in my notebooks.  I keep reading in my genre, reading books on craft.  I keep blogging and making connections.  And I keep in mind that the process this time is the same, only slower, much, much slower, that this challenge is what will actually make me a writer, what will prove that I do have it in me. 
            It’s the difficult times that prove our true mettle.  If it was always easy, it wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment.  Am I insecure now?  You bet.  Do I doubt if I can really do this again.  Every single day.  Until the first draft is complete, I will always doubt whether I am a real writer or not.  But I don’t think there is a writer out there who hasn’t had the same doubts.  It’s a battle scar, proof of a hard-won personal war.  I guess I no longer feel like an untested rookie.  It might just take me a few years this time instead of a few months, but as long as I continue to make the slightest bit of progress each day or week, I’m good with that.  At least, I hope so.
            How ‘bout you?  You good with that?                  

Monday, October 3, 2011

We Interrupt This Program...

            Monday is my normal day to post here, but I’m holding out ‘til Wednesday so I can participate in Alex Cavanaugh’s.Insecure Writers Support Group.  Today I just wanted to go over a few brief items.
            First off, did anyone catch Rachelle Gardner’s post today About Author Platform?  If not, I suggest you go check it out.  Then take a gander at those benchmark statistics for Facebook and blog followers and visits.  Yikes!  Really?  We should shoot for 500 Facebook fans and 15,000 monthly pageviews to our blogs?  Well, that all sounds good, and I’d certainly love to have those stats, but they seem a tad unrealistic for the majority of writers who blog, most of whom are still unpublished.  I’m jumping for joy to have 700 pageviews a month.  And maybe someday, when I am agented and on the road to being published, I will have an author page on Facebook, but right now I’m keeping my friends limited to around 125 or so.  Personally, I can’t manage much more than that and I won’t simply collect friends for the benefit of …well, collecting friends.  That seems a bit insincere to me.  All right, you can clearly see the insecure writer in me, huh?     
            Anyway, moving on…Alex Cavanaugh, along with Matthew MacNish at QQQE, have a new blogfest called the Pay It Forward Blogfest scheduled for October 14th.  This blogfest is designed to help introduce us to the many other bloggers out there.  Here’s how Alex and Matthew describe it:  

“We want this to be an easy post that allows you to meet and follow as many other bloggers as you can. In your post, we would like you to please list, describe, and link to three blogs that you enjoy reading, but that you suspect may fly under the radar of a lot of other bloggers. Or they can be famous blogs, as long as they're awesome.

But don't stop there! Certainly visit and follow all the blogs that are featured in people's posts the day of the blogfest, but those don't have to be the only blogs you visit. You can visit everyone who enters in on the fun, and signs up on the linky list. In the interest of time you don't even have to leave comment. You can just follow, and come back another time.”    

            So go to either Matthew or Alex’s blogs linked above and sign up on the Linky List to get your blog listed in the blogfest then participate on October 14th.  This should be another good one!
            Lastly, I would love to thank all of my followers who commented on my post last week about blogging vs. writing vs. life.  It seems I really struck a chord common among writers who blog.  I know it’s helped me just to know I am not alone and that others feel the exact same way.  Well, that’s it for today.  I’ll be back on Wednesday with a post for Alex Cavanaugh’s.Insecure Writers Support Group