Tag Archives: Author

Time Flies and Priorities Change

Time is flying by, even more so that I have a definitive timeline to get this BlurredClockmanuscript finished. My deadline is BBDD. Before Baby Due Date.

With that comes a massive priority struggle. Between my son’s schedule, gearing up for the baby (and picking out a name!), as well as finishing this manuscript and critiquing a friend’s manuscript, blogging has fallen off of my priority list. Not a great first posting for 2014, I know.

But that doesn’t bode well for an author trying to market a recent release. I can’t devote that much time to social media or blogging, because I selfishly would rather focus any free time on writing/critiquing. Come mid-March, free-time will be a fond and distant memory (much like sleep). Writing will become ‘that thing I love, but I need to take a shower and 2hr nap today.’ So the stories in my head will be stuck on the rear-burner. Along with my blog.

BabyandStorkBut I want you all to know that I won’t be going away completely. I promise I’ll still be here. Albeit, a much more tired, ragged version of myself. It will take me longer to respond to emails and hop onto Facebook/Twitter. But I WILL respond. Priorities will shift (they kinda have to!) but I know this blog will still be here when I’m ready.

More importantly, I’ll still try to market AUDREY’S PROMISE as much as possible and attend those treasured conferences and events (between feedings!). RWA National is a major one for me, particularly since it’s in Texas this year. At some point, I’ll have my first book signing!

In the meantime, I follow several blogs that will more than make up for my lack of presence. Feel free to follow these folks and fill your brain with inspiring knowledge and entertainment!

Greater Ft Worth Writers 

Author CA Szarek

Author Kimberly Packard

Author Scot Morgan

The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford 

Taking Stock of 2013

champagneAnother round of New Year’s resolutions and goals. This normally includes taking stock of the previous year.

This past year, I had 1 primary goal: Go with the Flow. It was the first year I didn’t have a list of concrete, measurable and trackable goals.

Considering the circumstances, I think I did pretty well. It was a very challenging year (we knew it would be), with good days and bad days. But my personal goal was to go with the flow when the really trying moments came up.

And then a whole bunch of things happened:

*I sold my first novel, after years of rejection and shredded manuscripts.

*I became pregnant, after several years of no success.

*My 5-year-old would finally have a conversation with me about his day.

There were a million other little victories that happened this year too, mostly centered around my son. I learned more about the world of ASD, and met some truly talented and wonderful people. I learned even more about the madness of insurance, claims, appeals, and benefits depts. I learned how hard parents have to fight to get their children the services they really need, not just from insurance companies. From people who are ‘supposed’ to work in the best interests of the child.

More importantly, I learned how strong my son is. How strong my husband is. I already knew he was an incredible man (that’s why I married him!). But I have a much more thorough appreciation for his hard work, dedication and perseverance after going through something like this. Just proves to me more I really did pick the one man who broke the mold.

There’s one very big lesson I learned this year, on top of all the above. I learned how to ask for help. In certain situations, outright demand it and not take ‘no’ for an answer.

This feeds in really well to my writing. I finished another manuscript and am halfway through it’s sequel. I’m able to shrug off rejections easier, and at the same time identify the difference between criticisms that are nuggets of gold, versus lumps of coal.

2013 was a year full of lessons, and some incredibly wonderful surprises! Undoubtedly great successes. I think my plan of non-measurable goals worked out well. Thinking of going the same route for 2014. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

My grand plans for a farewell to 2013 includes spending a quiet evening with my family, and probably falling asleep before the ball drops (I have a valid excuse: preggo!)

Happy New Year, everyone!new-year-2014

 

Sequel-Hell: About to Commit Manuscript-icide

I’m in that horrible, gut-wrenching place called “Sequel Hell.” Where you frustrated-writerquestion everything about the plot, the characters, even the overall plausibility of the trilogy. My confidence is near bottom on this thing.

I’ve finished the first novel in the trilogy and sent it out to several publishers (it’s a romantic suspense). I have the plot outlines on both the second and third stories, and I’m not quite halfway through writing the second. And I want to rip it to shreds already. Not just rip it to shreds, but make snowflake chains of it and watch it float over the edge of a massive canyon. Call this the edge of Manuscript-icide.

I’m hoping this is just a case of the ‘drastic willies.’ I’ve told a few of my friends who visited “Sequel Hell” recently that they were just overreacting. I helped talk one of them off the ledge of manuscript-icide as well. The stories were fantastic (because they are!!! *Cough* Kim and Chrissy.) But I’m not so confident that’s the case with mine.

My goal was to have the first draft of this novel completed by Dec 31st. Not going to happen. Mild panic attack set in last week when I realized there was only 2 weeks left until that deadline, and I still had a crap load of non-writing related stuff to do. Which takes away from my fragile writing time. Throw in a few minor complications with a pregnancy that requires more doctor visits…bottom line is that deadline is just unrealistic at this point.

So now I have a more realistic goal: finish the first draft before this baby comes.

That is, if I don’t have to start all over again. Which is very possible with the way my brain is functioning right now. *manuscript in hand, approaching the freakin’ ledge*PaperOffLedge

Soundtrack for AUDREY’S PROMISE

I have a strong belief that books should come with soundtracks, just like the movies. Since music is so important to my writing process, why not share that with my readers, too? I’d love for you to know which songs were playing while I wrote specific scenes and what moved me. So for those of you who are interested, below is the soundtrack for my novel, Audrey’s Promise. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1 - “Learning to Breathe” by Switchfoot

Chapter 3 - “Eyes Open” by Taylor Swift (acoustic)

Chapter 4 - “Secrets” by One Republic

Chapter 5 - “Where Are You Going” by Dave Matthews Band 

Chapter 10 - “Be Here Now” by Ray Lamontagne, “You And I” by Lady Gaga

Chapter 13 - “This Love” by Craig Armstrong/Elizabeth Fraser

Chapter 15 - “Titanium” by Madilyn Baily (acoustic)

Chapter 16 - “You” by Switchfoot

Chapter 17 - “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman

Chapter 18 - “Perseverance” by Michele McLaughlin

Chapter 20 - “Walk Away” by Ben Harper

Chapter 21 - “What I Didn’t Know” by Anthenaeum

Chapter 24 - “Pretty Girl (The Way)” by Sugarcult

Chapter 25 - “About Today” by The National

Chapter 27 - “The Descent” by Michele McLaughlin

Chapter 28 - “Home” by Phillip Phillips

Chapter 29 - “Look After You” by The Fray

Chapter 30 - “Gravity” by John Mayer

Chapter 32 - “Comfortable” by John Mayer

Chapter 34 - “No One” by Cold

Chapter 35 - “My December” by Linkin Park

Chapter 36 - “A Thousand Years” by The Piano Guys

Chapter 37 - “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane

Epilogue - “Say (All I Need)” by One Republic

 

Halloween BlogFest for Audrey’s Promise!

Halloween 2013 standard banner copy[1]

I’m blogging over at Long & Short Reviews today about Autumn and favorite pastimes. Click on the banner above and check it out (post will be published at 3pm central)! Awesome prizes and raffles too! Visit the Blog Review site to enter to win a free e-book of AUDREY’S PROMISE!Halloween 2013 Participant[2]

How To Choose a Writer’s Conference

*This article originally appeared in the GFWWriters June 2013 Newsletter*

CoWritten by author C. A Szarek.

So you want to attend a writer’s conference? First time? Even BETTER!HowtoChoose

There are so many great ones out there. Before you make any decisions, make sure you do your research, talk to others that have gone; listen to what they have to say.

Most conferences have their agenda listed with plenty of time to review it beforehand. Read over it carefully so you can plan your conference experience.

What do you want to accomplish? If you’re attending to socialize, you’re not maximizing the resources writers’ conferences offer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with meeting other authors, but it probably wouldn’t be beneficial if this were your main attendance goal.

Authors attend conferences for many reasons, but here are a few main benefits that draw people.

*Pitching: This is a fantastic opportunity that is rather unique to writers’ pitchingconferences. Personal, face-to-face contact with editors and agents who want to give you a shot. Believe it or not, they attend conferences for some of the same reasons as authors, but the positive thing here is these particular editors and agents make time because they are actively seeking quality work.  No waiting in that pesky slush pile email box.  Here are tips on how to create a perfect pitch.

Sometimes these are what we would consider big deal editors from the coveted New York Houses that you don’t get into without an agent. This is a major benefit of a conference. On the same token, agents are not always easy to sign. Speaking to one face-to-face, whether from a big agency or not is a great opportunity. Even if your current project isn’t right for them, your impression can make them remember you.

This alone can be a great reason to attend a conference. But make sure you research well. Some conferences charge extra for this perk, though most don’t.

If you’re a conference virgin, even the thought could have you shaking in your boots, but don’t. Editors and agents are people, too. They enjoy talking to you. Just think of it like this: You can practice your pitch all you want, but if it’s not natural, it can lose appeal even if your words are awesome. So speak to an editor or agent as if you’re telling your best friend about your book. No one knows the book better than you.

Don’t let nerves make you miss out on this conference-unique opportunity.

*Workshops: Most conferences have a variety of sessions that cover everything from craft to marketing to industry trends. This should be a deciding factor in which conference you choose. No matter what stage your career is in, whether you’re pre-published or have several books out there, you never stop learning as an author. The more you write, the better you get.

So, look at the agenda (most will have it available beforehand) and see which would benefit you most. You shouldn’t have any ‘free’ blocks in your schedule. There should be so many interesting classes you just have to attend, how can you possibly choose between them. Research the presenters as well: are they experienced in what they’re presenting? Have they given it before and have others found it helpful? Workshops can be one of the best reasons to attend a conference.

*Book Signings: A perk of many a conference is a book signing that’s open to the public. Hopefully this won’t be your only reason for attending a conference, but it can be a nice experience as well. You get your name and your book(s) out to authors as well as the general public. Here are tips on how to have a successful book signing.

If you are going to take part in a signing at a conference, ask questions. Will they have a sponsor? Will you have to be your own cashier for the books you sell? Will sales benefit a charity? (This is very common at conference book signings) and research what turnout they usually have, if the conference is annual so you can plan the number of books and swag you need to bring.

*Networking: Another awesome reason for attending a conference! Read thevintage-social-networking brochure/agenda to see what headliners will be at the conference of your choice. Then, make it a point to speak to these people. Yes, you really can talk to famous authors! Just like editors and agents, they’re people, too! You never know what kind of friends you could make—for life.

Let your inner social butterfly come out and shine! It pays to talk to people. Writing, like any other industry can depend on who you know. So make contacts! Get business cards and keep them handy. Write down their email addresses or website, and get their Twitter handles.

Other authors, editors, agents, you never know who can be around the corner, at a meal, even hanging out in the lobby at the conference. Make use of free time by being observant. Read name badges. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors what they write. And remember, when someone asks what you write—they really do want to know.

You could end up with a fantastic critique partner or some awesome new reads.

Other factors to consider in choosing which writer’s conferences to attend are:

*Genre Specific: Make sure you pick a conference that includes the genre in which you write. If your stories are mainly thriller or science fiction, then attending a romance based conference won’t be as helpful. There are plenty of conferences that are more specific to a particular genre to which gears many of their workshops and key speakers. Pay close attention to those. But of course don’t disregard the broader conferences like the Writer’s Digest Conference, where many big editors and agents always attend, looking for new talent for their lineup.

*Budget: How much can you spend in a given year on these conferences? Between registration fees, airfare, hotels, food, books, contests, and other miscellaneous items, the endeavor can get expensive. The best conferences are those that do not charge extra for pitch sessions, specific workshops or even parking. Make sure you choose one that has all of those included (unless you don’t plan to pitch your manuscript).  Another tip is to choose conferences that are geographically close, saving you the cost of airfare and/or hotel. Or if you have several friends all attending, split the costs by sharing a hotel room and make a road trip out of it. Most conferences offer an ‘early-bird’ rate, so book early if you can. Some conferences also give out ‘scholarships’ to help ease the cost to a few individuals who present a financial need.

*Attending Agents/Editors/Authors: If you’re pitching a novel or just want to meet the experts in the industry, make sure the ones you’re really interested in plan on attending. Conferences will always list the names of presenting authors, agents and editors on their websites in advance, especially those that will accept pitches. They often include the kinds of stories the experts are actively looking for. So research the editors and agents attending and see if they cover your topic/genre. If you’re spending this much money, make sure it’s worth your while.

Conference Etiquette

~Dress appropriately. No one is asking you to wear an uncomfortable suit or dress or three-inch heels for an entire day of workshops, presentations and pitch sessions. But be professional. Don’t show up in ratty jeans, tank top and flip-flops.

~Don’t stalk agents/editors in the bathroom or just before they present. They are clearly focused on other things and they won’t give you their full attention. And it’ll annoy the hell out of them, and that’s not the kind of impression you want to leave.

~Networking is a must, but monopolizing conversations with constant reminders of your story is a turnoff. Give others a chance to talk, and LISTEN.

What to Bring

~Business cards with your email address and contact info (write the title and genre of your current work on the back)

~Notepad or Notebook and a good pen

~Synopsis/Query Letter

~A prepped 1-line ‘elevator pitch’ of your story.

~A small messenger bag to carry the ‘goodies’ you’ll get

~Cash- for buying books, the cash bar, raffles, tips for housekeeping

~Light Jacket/Sweater- you never know how powerful the air conditioner will be

~Extra Luggage Bag- to cart home the extra books and stuff you’ll get (if you’re flying, and if you don’t leave extra space in your original bag)

~Snacks- if you’re staying at the hotel overnight, do you really want to pay hotel prices for a bag of chips or granola bars?

What to Leave

~Laptop (leave it in the hotel room)

~A copy of your full manuscript. If agents ask for it, they all prefer email. (Why would you want to cart around the extra weight, anyway?)

~Shy or Wallflower Tendencies- this will kill your experience at conferences, and the whole point is to network and meet people who will help advance your career and/or skills

Hopefully this will help you in deciding which conference(s) to attend and how to prepare. More than anything else, remember why you write: what keeps you going back to that keyboard or notepad? Everything about a conference is supposed to help make you a better writer and be more successful. Good luck and keep writing forward.

AUDREY’S PROMISE Cover Reveal

Now for the long-awaited cover of my contemporary romance novel, Audrey’s Promise. My debut novel, and I’m constantly giddy over it.

AudreysPromise_CoverL

Audrey’s Promise will be published Nov 1st, 2013 with the Wild Rose Press.

Audrey Allen is poised to become the youngest Texas Senator, a position she’s primed for with her nickname, “The Peacemaker.” But she’s unable to make peace with many in her hometown, where memories and grudges run deep from a decade-old tragedy. Ethan Tanner, ambitious and tantalizing journalist, joins her home for Thanksgiving for an in-depth look at the promising candidate. But he has an agenda of his own that’s not entirely honorable. Will he stir up more trouble for her budding career, or awaken the deep passions she’s buried for so long? Can Audrey hold on to the promise she’d made?

Audrey’s Promise Official Release Date

No, this is not the official cover. I just love the photo.

No, this is not the official cover. I just love the photo.

I’m thrilled to announce the official release date of AUDREY’S PROMISE, my debut novel from The Wild Rose Press, is NOVEMBER 1st!

Perfect timing, considering that the book takes place over Thanksgiving.

And more good news, I received the preliminary cover art today and am really excited! Which means the final cover should be in my inbox soon! As soon as I have the final cover, I’ll share with the world.

So everyone mark your calendars: November 1st, a brand new novel from yours truly hits the e-shelves!

AUDREY’S PROMISE

Contemporary Romance set in rural East Texas

Audrey Allen is poised to become the youngest Texas Senator, a position she’s primed for with her nickname, “The Peacemaker.” But she’s unable to make peace with many in her hometown, where memories and grudges run deep from a decade-old tragedy. Ethan Tanner, ambitious and tantalizing journalist, joins her home for Thanksgiving for an in-depth look at the promising candidate. But he has an agenda of his own that’s not entirely honorable. Will he stir up more trouble for her budding career, or awaken the deep passions she’s buried for so long? Can Audrey hold on to the promise she’d made?

Darker Side of Writing

I started writing this story that planned to be more romance than suspense. As BookRoseI’ve written further into it, it’s becoming more suspense than romance, but what concerns me the most is this has become darker than I anticipated.

I realized my motivations for one of the major turning points wasn’t strong enough. But I had to get my heroine, Gemma, to abandon everything she knows to join the hero back to his home country. So instead of leaving to keep her home safe, I’ve forced her to leave because her home doesn’t exist anymore (for lack of better explanation, and I don’t want to give spoilers!)

But I’m struggling with how much darker the story has become. I normally don’t write this morbid, but it makes the motivation strong enough for the character. One particular scene had me in tears as I wrote it, but it was crucial.

The reason I’m so concerned is this doesn’t fit the standards of the current publisher I work with. Selling this story could prove to be more difficult than I’d like.

Writers: have you ever experienced something like this? Where a story morphs into a different genre or tone before your eyes? How do you handle it? Or maybe I should finish the thing first and worry about those issues later. Hm, conundrum.

Writing Retreats

Dilemma. Need solutions. Isn’t that the key question to most everything? :) Headhache

My writing muse is firmly stuck in dozing mode. Normally, this is frustrating enough. Yet a few other writing friends of mine are also stuck. In either initial first draft, edits, or the dreaded (but interesting problem) of second-book-curse-oritis.

Aha! Solution: writing retreat. The last one was a great cure to kicking the muse in gear. One can only assume another writing retreat will do the same. Yay! Problem solved.

Oh. Wait. Another dilemma. Finances are critically low. Writing retreats involve overnight stays, which means hotel rates, food, even travel costs depending on how far it is. And my family doesn’t have that luxury right now. Probably not for another 2 or 3 months.

Ok. So we’ll need to condense our ‘retreat’ into a full day. No overnight stays. But where can we go where we’ll be out of the way, free from distraction, and free to brainstorm with each other in peace?  Somewhere that doesn’t cost much, if anything.

I’d hate to take up an entire section of a coffee house for a whole day. I’m sure we’d be kicked out after 2 or 3 hours. Outdoors is too unpredictable – weather, visitors, etc. Hm.

Thoughts anyone?