Tag Archives: Publishing

2015: A Look Back (Happy New Year!)

2015ReflectionWow. Just wow.

Writing-wise, 2015 was a pretty stellar year. I sold the sequel in the Royals of Solana trilogy, went to my first RT Convention and met some incredible authors/friends, attended six book signings, finished half of the 3rd novel in Royals of Solana trilogy, wrote a new short story in its entirety (with ideas for 2 more in the series), and plotted a brand new Young Adult novel. For extra kicks, I finished the first 3 chapters of it, and invested in my public relations and marketing brand with a kick-a** PR company (Y&R PR).

2016 is lined up to be just as big, if not bigger! I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to NewYear Clockstart on those lofty goals!

In the personal side of my life, intense highs balanced some vicious lows.

First and foremost, my husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary! I’m so blessed to have this man as my companion in life. He took me to the Bahamas, where we spent four incredible days scuba diving! Several wreck dives, huge schools of fish, even a shark sighting! Water is a major place of peace for me, and allowed me to recharge with the one I love. Boy did we both need it! (And a huge thank you to my parents, who watched our two angels, despite everyone getting sick while we were gone!)

We also moved into a new house, an seven-year-long savings effort that we finally achieved!

Our seven-year-old started first grade in a new school, and those changes don’t mesh well for someone with Autism Spectrum disorder. Adjusting and acclimating to new surroundings, teachers, and friends was a tremendous challenge for him, and many days were extremely rough. Combine with major hassles with health insurance, including a still ongoing legal fight, my stress was at an all time high in 2015.

Despite all these, there are still so many things for which I am thankful. Our youngest had his cranial helmet removed and learned to walk (actually, went straight to running!) He started part-time daycare and made new friends. A billion more things with my hubby, family, and friends, and all their tremendous support that I cannot thank enough!

2016 is going to have some significant challenges as well. Goes with the territory, but I’m well prepared.

2016 Goals:Remember WhereYouve Been

Continue “Go With the Flow

New mantra: “When you start doubting yourself, remember how far you’ve
come.”

No more soda 🙂 (already 2 days into that one!)

I wish everyone a peaceful and happy New Year. Here’s to a phenomenal 2016!NewYearChampagne

Great Opportunity to Read Free Books!

I know a lot of avid readers out there (myself included) that would hurdle over a semi-truck for this chance to read a bunch of great books like this! BookLove

North Texas RWA is holding a new contest for published books, called the Carolyn Reader’s Choice Awards. Judges will read various Advanced Reader Copies of novels (for free!!!) from up to 9 categories, and score them based on certain criteria.

Here’s the sweet part: they need judges! Anyone salivating yet?

The judges are avid readers who are not members of any professional writing organization or associated with the publishing industry in any way. That means no authors, no editors, no agents, etc… Just people who love to read romance novels! Since these are romances (varying heat levels), they require all judges to be at least 18 years old.

There’s an online application if you’d like to become a judge. You can fill out your preferences for which categories you’d like to read, which heat levels you’re comfortable with, as well as which length novels you’d prefer. Talk about best of all worlds!

Here’s the kicker: there’s a time frame you MUST stick to. You can choose which round you’d like to enter, the first or the final. First round is through March 14th, 2014. You’ll need to read at least the first 30 pgs of up to 6 novels. The final round begins March 31st, and ends May 14th, which means you’ll need to read up to 3 full stories in that timeframe. But that’s not as intimidating as it sounds. With awesome books like these, you should fly through them like a G6 plane!

For more information on the contest, click here

To apply to judge the Carolyn Reader’s Choice Award, click here

2013 NTRWA Logo Full Color

If you’d like to see more about North Texas Romance Writers of America, click here. They’re a local writer’s group full of experience, resources, and fun!

Hope you enjoy!

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.

Changing Face of Publishing, Including Romance

My mind has been preoccupied for the last 2-3 weeks on one overwhelming thought.

I’m not certain I’m writing in the right genre anymore.

Everyone knows the face of publishing across all genres is changing. Dramatically. With the boom of e-publishing, closing of independent bookstores and distributors and the profit squeeze for authors, agents, editors, and publishers (everyone, really), it’s inevitable.

But more specifically, the genres themselves are changing. Not just ‘vampires are on their way out, dystopias are one their way in’ blah blah blah. But the face of romance and it’s intensity has changed.

Just in the last 3 years, I’ve noticed a dramatic swing of editors looking for spicier, hotter, and more descriptive love scenes. Things that a decade ago would have been considered in the erotica lines, but are now mainstream.

I recently had an in-person pitch session with an editor for a newly launched romance line. Half way through my pitch, she stopped me.

“This sounds more like a suspense story than a romance. How much of your story is the romance?”

My reply was 60-70%.

The look on her face told me her answer without another word. But she explained anyway. (Thank goodness).

Their line, as well as most other publishers, are now looking for romance to have 90% or more of the pages be strictly the romance. All thanks to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey craze.’

(Raise your hand if you just rolled your eyes).

Though my story sounded extremely interesting to her, she couldn’t use it for her line.

Another dear friend of mine received a similar response from another publisher, claiming she didn’t have enough ‘romance’ in her romance novel, though hers was dramatically spicier than mine, both in content and frequency.

I’ve been baffled ever since.

I don’t think my writing fits the genre anymore.

I have too much romance to be considered a suspense, or even general women’s fiction. And I have too much suspense to be considered a romance. At least today’s definition of ‘romance.’

So now I’m left wondering: do I change my style to fit what publishers want, or do I keep my style and voice and hope it finds a home somewhere… eventually?

I know I’ve read this same situation on dozens of other blogs and interviews. Particularly with science fiction and fantasy writers.Too much romance to fit in strictly sci-fi or fantasy genre, and too much sci-fi or fantasy to fit in romance genre.

Why can’t there ever be a happy medium? While the romance is important (showing that relationship between two people), but I also relish a good plot. Not everything is about sex. Why can’t I write that in my novels?

First Day of Fall- Where is my Muse?

Today feels like the first day of fall, or the closest you can get to it in North Texas in September.

Rain.

Glorious rain.

It’ll be here for two days.

The unfamiliar sighs of relief from every resident of the Lone Star state have echoed everywhere. Seems like my home has been plagued by a perpetual drought for the last decade. Seattle, Boston, Providence, New York- thanks for sharing some of your commonplace weather with me. They’re worth dancing for here where I live.

My hubby brought back a white chocolate mocha for me from Starbucks. The only things missing are a wood fire and one of my mom’s quilts.

But instead of curling up with a delicious book , I’m banging my head against my keyboard.

That’s right people… I’m stuck.

I can’t get past a certain scene in the manuscript I’ve free-written without any plotting or sketching. And I can’t get my butt in gear to focus on outlining. Not because I keep getting down-trodden from more rejections (I refuse to admit that). But because my muse has decided to hide behind the rain clouds today.

My son’s down for a nap, so I have at least 1.5hrs of free time. And spending it stuck in limbo is as frustrating as a recovering chocoholic in a Buncha-Crunch factory.

I won’t have time later this weekend, since we have a birthday party to go to later today and a bunch of errands tomorrow (and taking time to go to a writer’s meeting).

I thought the rain was supposed to bring out my muse. Why is it hiding? Or perhaps you’re trying to tell me something much more important. That perhaps I don’t want to hear.

Cautiously Optimistic Happy Dance

 

Time for another happy dance, folks…

Yes, I love Steve Carrell

I need to celebrate the little milestones, although this one isn’t so little.

I received a FULL manuscript request from an editor. And of course, the minute I saw it, I started my own little happy dance around my kitchen island. Then called my hubby, parents, posted on Facebook, and texted a few folks.

I know I got a little ahead of myself. This isn’t a request for representation yet or a publishing contract (if only!). But I’ve only had 1 other full manuscript request in my life, so I have to grin about this!

I entered an online pitch contest, where I had 35 words to entice editors to want more. That’s it. 35 words.  ACK!!

Do you know how hard it is to create an entire book blurb in just 35 words? And not just that, but to make the editor/agent drooling for more. I thought writing a 1 page query was tough.

I submitted the pitch, along with 199 other people, thinking that at best I would get a request for the first chapter or ten pages. But a FULL? Sweetness!!!

Granted, there were at least 20 people who received full manuscript requests, but I’d expect that. Because I read through a lot of the other pitches and they were excellent! Really intriguing stories that had me drooling. Clearly, writing a 35-word blurb was easier for them than for me.

And congrats to all the other folks who received requests, as well. This industry is freakin’ tough and anything like this that gives us opportunities, I’ll rave over.

I’ll let you know if anything comes of this. For now, I’ll do my little happy dance and keep on writing.

 

Let Me Write, Flo!

Wow, life is crazy. I’ve not been on Twitter or Facebook much, I’ve not been following many blogs, and sadly haven’t been posting on my own page. Even more unfortunate, I haven’t been writing or revising much either.

With all of the joyous weather trekking through north Texas over the last few weeks (including more coming tonight. Don’t you just love hail and tornadoes), I’ve been more focused on repairing our car, which looks like a golf ball, and dealing with insurance companies, claims, appointments and bills. Contrary to popular commercial icons, it’s not as easy as the cavemen make it seem.

Or Flo. Progressive spends my hard earned insurance money on her hairspray. And that Mr. Mayhem man is true to his word. Insurance companies are the spawns of Satan. They are efficient at only two things: wasting your time and money.

Despite all of that, I was able to accomplish one thing the past few weeks. I applied for an internship at a literary agency. I’m hoping to obtain one of their coveted unpaid spots to help go through their slush piles via email. I made it past the first round of applicants, and went through a quick exercise that I thoroughly enjoyed. I read 10 test queries and let them know which ones I would have asked for a complete manuscript or passed on. And why. I’m hoping this will give me more insight into the publishing industry, make some really good connections, and learn from some new friends on how to write better.

No word back yet if I made it to the next round. I have no idea how many

A beautiful place in which to wait.

applicants they filtered the test queries to, but I hope I impressed them. Either way, it was a lot of fun. I’d love to keep doing that!

Until I hear back from them, I’ll continue with the craziness of my son’s preschool schedule, therapy sessions, juggling insurance claims/ calls/ appointments, and brainstorming more manuscripts in my head.

Meanwhile, I have two manuscripts I need to edit (one is going to sit there and wait for the Beta Readers Program from my writer’s group starting the end of May). The other needs some major overhaulin’ (yes, that show is awesome. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you watch just one of them).

I’m on chapter 10 of about 30. Need to change up a lot of the supporting characters, bitch-up the main character a bit, and make the love interest a little dirty (gonna be fun!) If I can only sit down and work on it.

Protesting a Book, In My Own Subtle Way

Bad editing of a promising book is like finding out your favorite food

Just in case you were hungry, now you're not

is made of dog crap.

I’d expect a few mistakes on a debut author, particularly if it was self-published or an e-book. Sometimes the formatting on E-Books can be the Devil, no matter how many times you proofread it before you hit ‘Submit.’

But this was a Hard-Back book from a major publishing house, written by a New York Times Bestselling Author. (I won’t name the book or author, but its a name every romance reader knows). I read it several months ago and vowed never to pick up another one from them. Then I walked thru the bookstore the other day and found a new release from her. And I scowled. In the middle of the aisle, in a brick-and-mortor bookstore, with other people around me. Actually scowled.

I could have written a better manuscript than what she submitted, but this woman keeps getting more and more contracts, and clearly doesn’t care about the quality she submits. And what’s even worse, the editors don’t even care to call her out on the mistakes. Maybe they don’t even bother reading it. It’s so frustrating. Particularly for someone who’s trying to break into the publishing world.

The book I ended throwing across the room had serious mistakes. Entire paragraphs repeated. What newbie editor doesn’t catch that??? Repetitive phrasing throughout every chapter. I wanted to puke every time I read the words ‘pleasure.’ She used it 3 or 4 times in a single paragraph. Imagine that, EVERY OTHER PARAGRAPH throughout half the story.

Personally, I think that editor should have been fired. If she isn’t going to take the time to respect her job and the publishing industry, then I don’t want to take the time to read anything that crosses her desk. And as for the author, it was clear she didn’t care about the story at all. She was probably so pressed on a deadline and was so far behind, she just vomited words on the page and clicked ‘Send’ in her email. She stopped respecting her own profession. Thereby, I’ve stopped respecting her books.

I guess that’s how I protest things I disagree with. I don’t purchase their products. Just like I don’t buy gas from Exxon Mobile or Citgo (7/11’s). (Exxon Mobile is a horribly unethical company and Citgo is a Venezuelan company and supports Hugo Chavez. Just in case you care to join in my protest.) I don’t buy Lady Gaga music, and anytime Chris Brown songs come on the radio, I change the station.

Before you click away from this posting claiming here’s another liberal, sign-toting, picket-line enthusiast, I’m actually not that liberal. I’m a conservative. Personally, picket lines are pointless. You should be spending that time at your job, or protesting in a more productive way, like donating money to the cause, or even better, taking money away from the target. Nothing is more effective than hurting the pockets of a controversy.

But alas, that means I must add another person/company to the list of stores/products that I will not purchase in my own subtle protest. This one just hurts a little more because someone is succeeding with crap in a business that’s close to my heart.

How about you? How do you react to a bad book? And take it a step further: how to show your disapproval for companies or products that disappoint you?

Researching Villains

Disney Villain Swap

Part of my revisions for my manuscript involve doing more research on villains. Yes, apparently the villain in my novel isn’t developed enough, according to my critique partners, and they’re right.

So I’ve dug around on the internet to find info on the inner minds and psyche’s of our nation’s more recent sicko’s, including reading their personal blogs and websites. (I will leave the specific names of my research subjects out so I don’t get myself into too much trouble on here, but they’ve been plastered all over the national news).

Let me tell ya, if you ever need to do some research to find out how these villains’ minds work, just read their blogs or bio pages. Extremely warped!

Most of them try to excuse their ‘not that bad’ behavior on child hood nightmares, such as bad parents, abusive siblings, traumatic toddler stories, and even violent spouses, and on, and on, and on. There’s always an excuse, never accepting responsibility for their actions and blaming the entire scenario on someone else. And on every single page, they always show how great they are and how much people love them (and so should you, why don’t you love them? You must be crazy, because everyone else does). And the entire situation isn’t as bad as you think.

Really enlightening and scary at the same time!

These aren’t your serial killers, rapists, or sociopaths that you see depicted on old Law & Order episodes. These were supposedly normal, everyday people who ‘snapped.’ Some of them were parents, some of them were spouses, most of them were well-educated. Yet they were able to perform the most heinous acts, and still (to this very day) think there was nothing wrong with how they reacted. If their scenarios were played out again, they wouldn’t have changed their actions. The entire thing is freakin’ scary!

Be careful with your research, because you may not want to leave the house afterwards!

 

Thick Skin For Hire

Every writer, particularly published authors, know that the publishing industry requires a thick skin for anyone who dares enter their dominion.

I thought I had a fairly thick skin before I even started querying my first manuscript.

*insert cackle laughter here*

Now, I know I don’t have nearly as thick of skin as I should, but I definitely have grown a few dragon scales to protect my vulnerable side over the last two years.

I think joining a kick-as* critique group has definitely helped. Also following editors and agents blogs/twitter/facebook and reading their responses to people’s queries also has helped.

I received my first round of major revision suggestions from my critique partners this past weekend and have let their thoughts percolate in my brain. I’m so glad I’ve grown thicker skin. Because now, I actually want that kind of advice. I need to know where they got lost in the story, what didn’t work for them, and realize its not that I suck and should give up writing. They are not flaws in my personality and I’ve dared exposed the weak points in my inner psyche. It’s areas of the story and characters in which I need to fix.

Or perhaps we’re thinking of it backwards. It’s not that people need to grow thicker skin, or regenerate thicker bone. It’s that we need to shed the vulnerable self-conscious layer of invisible shields we humans use as a self-defense mechanisms.

Get rid of your insecurities. Get rid of ridiculous thoughts that whatever suggestions others say is a ding in your personality, or interpretation of ‘they don’t like me.’

Shed everything down the most base level, where we can actually improve on the inconsistencies in our writing. That’s when we’ll notice the biggest difference on our writing style/skills.

So throw your skin out the window and let the air rejuvenate your writing. Completely open yourself up to improvement.

All right, manuscript. Get ready for rejuvenation. Dive in!