Friday, March 29, 2013

Tune Out the Noise & Learn to Adapt

Published or unpublished, there are a lot of industry bits of information to understand and be aware of as writers. I know I have to stay abreast of these current changes, but I can't let it overwhelm my creativity. Otherwise, I won't have any books to market.

And that's what I need to be able to do. Write books so I have a product to market. In addition to having a product to market, I have to develop a marketing strategy regardless of who decides to take a change on my writing and offer me a contract. See, this is me believing it will happen one day. And it will.

I actually have a marketing strategy. I have kept my ear to the ground and learned a lot from those who have gone forth into the great land of publishing before me. However, I liken getting published to having a baby. Before the baby is born, there's a lot of preparation. Baby showers, nurseries decorated, diapers brought in, special birthing classes, and learning how to be a good parent of a newborn.

But I've learned that no amount of preparation can really prepare one for the baby when the baby arrives. The baby has a personality and a constitution of its own that the parent must learn to adjust to and adapt to in order to have a successful parenting experience. The baby grows, becomes a toddler, an elementary school student, a teenager, a young adult. And still the parent must grow and adapt and change as this individual becomes a fully realized person.

There will be bumps along the way. Mistakes will occur. Great moments will happen. Joy and distress. Happiness and pain. Elation and exasperation. They are all part of the great parenthood ride. And guess what, I think that's what becoming a published author will be like.

So in the meantime, while I prepare for my publication career to be born, I am fully aware that I will never be fully ready for it in the sense that afterward my career will grow and change and evolve. All that I can do is adapt and be ready and work on what I can control. My response. And in the world of writing, my best response is to continue to tune out the noise and write my stories and market them and learn and grow and adapt and do it all over again.

And with that being said, here is a great quote to live by as you evolve as a writer on your journey toward publication and after you traverse to the land of the published author:

Every moment spent whining about your writing career is a moment of creative energy lost... turn grousing into energy by WRITING! James Scott Bell

How do you plan to turn grousing into energy today? Me? I'm wrangling a pesky first chapter into shape.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Separation Anxiety: Juggling My Two Worlds

As many of you know, I've been on social media for about five years. Originally, I signed up for the Big Daddy of Social Media because I had moved AGAIN, and I wanted to keep up with my long distance friends. Then my Social Media world grew because I became very active in my writing world. After four years, I created a fan page off of my original site because I knew I'd need one when I finally get the "call." Or the "email" or the "you've done it Sister!" shout out.

My Social Media profile began growing with new contacts via the writing world, the College Kid's friends, the Physicist's family and friends, my new writing friends, and so forth. Pretty soon I wasn't able to see all of my close friends' posts because I had too many people flowing through my newsfeed. And I had all these writing chapter groups that I belonged to and that ate up my newsfeed. I tried to manage it all, but it was becoming very difficult.

Add to the mix the fact that I couldn't mention my kid's name, my husband's name, etc. and it was getting super crazy. I knew I had to separate the Writing World from my Personal World (really, who wants to see posts by my husband's cousin thrice removed about when he was ten?), but I was at a loss about how to do it.

Enter Sarah Wendell AKA Smart B*tch Book Reviewer and an awesome Southern Magic Chapter meeting about Digital Media and Promotion. I expressed my concerns to her and she waved her magic wand of knowledge which gave me the key to untangling both worlds. Thank you very much!!

I came home jazzed about how to untangle my worlds and begin again. But let me tell you, it was hard and I'm still figuring out how to complete the changes. Here's what I have learned:

1. Unfriending people is hard -- it takes a lot of effort and I needed to have two computers side-by-side to do it properly. Then I had to re-friend people on my new personal page. Somehow during the process I accidentally unfriended someone in my writing world, but thankfully that person checked in with me and I explained my issue and we are re-friended. Frankly, I've NEVER unfriended anyone deliberately--even if I have a tiff with that person--because I just don't think relationships should live and die by the push of a button. But that's just how I roll.

2. I'm still not sure I have my original email address for the Linda Howard contest up and running because I had to get a new email addy to create the new personal profile. So I'm running a test on that even as I write this blog.

3. Now I have yet another Social Media world to keep up with and it means keeping my new passwords with me and switching back and forth by signing in and signing out. I manage it right now by keeping one Social Media world on my iPad and the other on my laptop. We'll see how that rolls when I'm traveling.

4. I am enjoying being able to converse freely in both my worlds because they are really important worlds to me. I love my writer friends. They have great senses of humor, are super supportive of my writing efforts, and they matter to me. Many of my "professional" friends are really dear and important to me. But it's also nice to keep my family and long distance non-writing friends in a separate world because now I can say their names, see their news and updates, and be more relaxed about my posts. So it is a win-win for me all around.

Social Media is important. It's part of my life because I love being able to connect with the people I love and the people I admire. So now I'm liberated in both worlds.

How do you manage your Social Media? Do you need to play with more than one profile? Is it a love-hate relationship? Or is it a love-love relationship?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Juggling Books: Act Two

It's hard to believe I started writing books eight years ago. Well, I've always been a writer, but I dabbled in poetry, wrote fan fiction before there was such a thing as fan fiction, dreamt about stories, made up stories, but in the end I never really sat down to write books until I was an adult.

My stats aren't necessarily reflected in My Books page in this blog spot. I have a couple of under the bed books, or "drawer books" that shall remain in the drawer. However, I'm just as proud of them as I am of the ones that I think have real potential to fly. Why? They taught me I could FINISH a book. Do you know how many people say they are going to write a book? Lots. Do you know how many people start those books? Not many. Do you know how many people finish the books they start? Even less.

Do you know how many people keep writing more books after their first "epic novels" are rejected once? A few brave souls.

So if you've finished a novel PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK. Well done. If you've picked yourself up off the floor after your first rejection and continued writing more books BREAK OUT THE BUBBLY. You're a winner in my eyes.

Now comes the tough part. Continuing to write and revise and LEARN YOUR CRAFT while you get ready for your big opportunity and get published. Oh, that leads me to continue to QUERY and SUBMIT. Yes. Query a lot. Submit wherever you can that makes sense for your genre and your career.

Most of all HAVE  PLAN. One cannot operate without a clear, flexible plan in place. I have one. Every year I sit down and make a list of attainable goals (okay getting a New York agent and/or editor to love my work is not completely in my hands, but I can take care of the writing and submitting part, then let it go).

Every quarter of the year, I review my plan. I revise my plan. I reset my goals. As I approach the end of this quarter year, I know I have to be very careful with my time and use it with clear focus. A lot of the places I want to submit to have different requirements than in the past.

I have nine fully written books. I have fleshed out three different continuing series book outlines and have pursued the writing of them during breaks from revising for requests and so on.  I have two new shiny stories to write with interesting characters and premises to flesh out. Seven of my books have pretty strong partials ready to whip out the door (a partial is the first three chapters along with a synopsis--though the synopsis requirement isn't always in the guidelines for submission). I have two strong full manuscripts to send out to the world. They are strong in that my most recent writing eyes, the eyes that have learned a lot of new things, are looking for deeper elements when I read through them. The rest are in the "polish to the best of my ability" stage.

Therein lies the caveat: polish to the best of my ability now. Because I've grown as a writer. What I thought was my "best" a year or two ago isn't my best of my ability now. All this leads to my current juggling act. I've got editors on the hook. I've got interest in my writing. I'm close. Oh. So. Close. Now I'm working on getting my missiles ready to launch by using the abilities I have strengthened within me as a writer and polishing, revising, and polishing again.

The goal? Four books ready to launch. I'm lining them up like rockets on a pad. Lighting the fire. Counting down the minutes until they lift off one-by-one toward the stars I've aligned them to shoot toward. But oh my, is it ever daunting. My head has been spinning with the various books I want to get ready. And I have those two shiny new stories that I want to write. I'm desperate to write them. I want to get to know these new characters, but I must hold back. I have to get my rockets ready to fly.

Yesterday, after polishing all day, I sat down and printed out my calendars for April and May. I also did weekly calendars. Then I marked off the days I know I will be unable to write at all. After that, I made a power plan for which books to work on and when I needed them to be at various stages of revision.

April is a weird month. May is even stranger. Life is happening. Lot's going on: travel, medical stuff for me and the College Kid, and a major contest to coordinate for my Southern Magic writing chapter. But no matter what I've volunteered to do, my writing will always come first. So my schedule has to change to reflect that maxim as well. My blogging has become more sporadic as of late due to the focus on the books, but I still love to pop in and blog because it frees my creative soul. Plus, I love celebrating my debut author friends when they release their first books. Who doesn't love a party?

But in the meantime, just making a plan released me from juggling anxiety. I know I can do this if I remain focused. I know that I may have to readjust my plan should an event pop up that I have no control over (like tornadoes, illness, etc.). But I know that this year the hard work will pay off. I will take charge and make something happen. But I will do it smart. I will do it with clear intention. And I will continue to make something of my writing career because my focus is and always will be writing and revising books to the best of my ability.

What's on your writing docket?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring into Revisions of Stories & Life

March is almost over. We've experienced our first bad day of epic storms. I may have seen a small tornado trying to form over my neighborhood on Monday, but yesterday the skies were blue. Spring has officially arrived.

Tonks has been eagerly nick-nicking in front of the window as flocks of robins, cardinals, sparrows and other birds have migrated through our neighborhood. She's a huntress by nature, but her indoor status keeps my feathered friends safe.

We had a College Kid sighting last week. She came home for half of Spring Break, regaled us with stories of her adventures (oh lord), big piles of laundry which she waited until the last minute to wash, and just a lot of goofing around the house. When she left on Sunday afternoon, the house felt very still and empty and lonely. We're looking forward to seeing her again.

I'm in the middle of major revising. I have written 9 books, revised 3 of them multiple times, and have learned so much in the interim that it's time to bring my new writing eyes to the stories again. It's been difficult to focus with all the other demands of life and shiny new stories calling for me to write them, but I am determined to have 4 fully polished full manuscripts ready to roll out the door into Query World & set sail for Submissions by the summer. So shiny new stories are brought out to play with and have fun only when I'm finished each revision.

It's about getting ready for change. It's about growing deeper roots. It's about building on what I know. I have a clear goal set and a clear mission. I always planned to hit it this way. And now I'm on the verge of making my dreams become a reality. This will be the year. I know it because I own it.

And along the way, I have met some amazing companions. Some have gone down different paths and we've waved goodbye. Others have remained on parallel paths and we continue to converge at odd times. Then there are the few who stand beside me, walk with me, pull me up when I am down and cheer me on when I am in a good place.

Right now. Today. I am in a good place. I feel good about my writing. I feel good about my primary writing friends (who are so much more than critique partners and writers to me). I feel good about the plans I've made.

Where are you in your writing world? Who are your companions?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Break Out the Bubbly & the Dark Chocolate: Celebrating Jennifer McQuiston's Debut Novel WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND

Debut Author Jennifer McQuiston

      Hi Everyone: Please join me in welcoming one of my favorite people in my Georgia Romance Writers of America Writing Chapter, Jennifer McQuiston. She's a wonderful person and now I'm thrilled to announce that she's published her first historical novel with Avon! How cool is that? I'm stoked for her and can't wait to share her writing journey toward publication with you. Pop*Pour*Clinking Glasses and pass the Dark Chocolate now! 

      Welcome Jennifer. Tell me, how did you end up becoming a writer?
Well, clearly I didn’t set out to do this… if I had, I would have gotten here about 20 years earlier, LOL! I followed the science drum, studying veterinary medicine and establishing myself as an epidemiologist specializing in tickborne diseases. Looking back, though, I should have known this was going to be part of my future… I always won the school Young Author’s contest and spelling bee, and scarcely ever did well in Science Fair (I was far too focused on making my display beautiful and my experiment creative to worry about the actual mechanics of the thing.) Around the time my youngest daughter became self-cleaning, I realized I was indulging in a lot more reading, and discovering some truly stellar historical authors. I visited a few of their websites, and many of them had advice for aspiring writers. The bug grabbed hold of me and never let up.
Reading again is what hooked me into the writing world, too. After you finish writing, how do you relax?  
My writing “day” is actually two hours – I write from 4-6am, and then flit off to the day job. Needless to say, by 8pm I am the Walking Dead. So, I relax the good old-fashioned way: sleep. When I take a break from writing and life, I love to travel with my family. We recently took a trip to Belize, and I felt entirely recharged when we returned.
I am impressed with your dedication and motivation to write so early!! Wow. Now that you're recharged from your trip to Belize, what is your current project?
Gorgeous cover!!
My first book, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, was just released by Avon in March, 2013. Many reviewers have compared it to a madcap, Victorian version of The Hangover. In truth, it is somewhat of a “she woke up married” story… only set in 1842 Scotland.
When recent widow Georgette Thorold wakes up in a Scottish inn with a wedding ring on her finger and lacking all memory of how she came to be there, she does what any well-bred lady with a modicum of sense and a distrust of marriage would do: she panics, clocks the wickedly handsome stranger in her bed over the head with a chamber pot, and runs.
James McKenzie, Esquire has either spent the evening protecting a very na├»ve, and—dare he say it—very drunk young lady from the advances of every disreputable character in the town of Moraig, or he has gone and married a pretty, scheming thief. Not that his own head is entirely clear on the matter, but when the woman in question repays his kindness with a knock on the head, the bill for her room, and the theft of his purse, an embarrassed James is determined to track her down and show her she picked the wrong solicitor to swindle.
As Georgette sets out to discover exactly what happened during her forgotten night, she uncovers a man that seems far more a hero than a rake. But when they finally meet, instead of sweeping her into his arms and kissing her senseless, he serves her with a summons, claiming she is a thief. Now the fight is on, and the only question is was it a night worth remembering? Or a mistake they would both rather forget?

Oh, the blurb makes me want to run out and buy this book right away. Sounds like so much fun!! Tell me, what is your next project?
I was fortunate enough to find myself with a three book deal, although that means my last year has been spent in a frenzy of writing (and I am madly marching toward deadline to turn in book #3). My next book, SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, will be released September 24, 2013. Having just finished the copy-edits on Summer is for Lovers, I will confess I am excited to share it. It was a hard book to write, but I am so pleased with how it turned out! This is an unrequited love story set in the Victorian seaside resort of Brighton. The hero is David Cameron, who is actually somewhat of a questionable character in my first book. In giving him his own story, I hope I explain some of the history that shaped him and give him a chance to redeem himself. The heroine, Caroline Tolbertson, is rather unique – she is a swimmer, which is highly unusual for the time period. And boy oh boy, is this unconventional miss going to turn this rake’s world inside out! 
I love unconventional heroines. Can't wait to read the next book!!  How did you celebrate the new book contract?
I celebrated my new book contract in a few memorable ways. The first thing I did was buy myself some Victorian bling… in the form of a cameo ring. This has become my talisman for good things, and I wear it to all my writing events. The other celebratory thing I did was buy my kids a horse.
Jennifer and her children's brand new horse.
Yup. That’s right: I bought my kids a horse. We used the windfall that was my book deal to finance the care and keeping of said horse. I grew up with horses, and my girls are certifiably horse crazy. To be able to give them something like this, simply by indulging in a hobby I love, was one of my proudest moments as a mom.
Awe, how sweet! I'm so glad you were able to reward yourself and  your family for all the hours of sacrifice you put into your writing world. Now that you've crossed the threshold into the publising world, what advice would you give aspiring writers?
The gorgeous cameo ring which inspires Jennifer!
This one is easy: SHOW EVERYONE YOU CAN YOUR WORK!!! So many writers treat this as something secret, and are afraid to show their work to others. I get it – it is hard to risk rejection, hard to think someone will think less of you once they see (and critique) your best work. But if you want to be a writer, you MUST overcome this. After all, the point is to share it with the world. If you can’t share it with friends and the occasional stranger, how will you ever survive publication? You need to become terribly promiscuous, propositioning everyone. And then develop a tough skin, practice wading through well-meant crap and true nuggets of inspiration, and begin to hone your voice. Because in the end, it is your VOICE that will sell your book. And that voice needs to be loud and proud. J

Thank you so much for that very timely advice. I believe that rejections are our badges of courage. The more we send out into the world, the greater chance we have to become published. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!! Everyone, Jennifer McQuiston writes laugh-out-loud Victoria-era romance, and embraces her promiscuity by sharing her work with anyone with a pulse. Her first book, What Happens in Scotland, is available in most bookstores and e-retailers.
Twitter: @jenmcqwrites

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Hope You Dance

If you've been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you'll know a bit of this past weekend's romp. The Physicist and I played hooky from life and drove to Chattanooga. We'd booked a hotel, THE CHATTANOOGAN via a Groupon for only $79 versus the regular night cost of $179. We weren't sure what to expect, but when we arrived, we were very pleased with our choice.

The hotel's lobby was beautiful and well lit with a double glass see through fire place. The front desk and service when we checked in was top notch. And the best part was that we were told about a Date Night Special. We booked a reservation, then went out to explore the area around the Aquarium and eat lunch. We walked a lot, ate Mediterranean food, and explored the bluff artist district. Then we rode the free shuttle back to the hotel and chilled out. We both needed it. We've been dealing with a lot of external stressors since before Christmas and the Physicist had been overseas on a stressful test run of systems which kept him busy for 3.5 weeks. (That's when I truly become feral and give up on wearing makeup. You can read about that here.)

After we lounged around and did NOTHING for a couple of hours, we went down to eat our dinner. Date Night Dinner for 2, 4 courses, a bottle of GOOD wine (Francis Coppola) for only $65. Can't beat that price. Though I'm usually leery about the menu choices in a fixed price meal, this menu didn't disappoint. We had 4 choices of appetizers, 4 choices of salads, 4 choices of entrees and a flight of shot glass filled dessert bites afterward. The wine was a very good Cabernet, but if we had wanted, we could have had a wonderful white wine.

We ordered two different appetizers: duck and a bison meat loaf slider and shared them. They were excellent. Then we ordered our salads which were well, you know, salad. Then we had very good sirloin steaks with excellent side dishes. The steaks were thick, cooked to perfection, and delicious. Dessert was decent. And just right to cap off the dinner. And the wine was worth the meal cost alone. And the service was top notch. Our waiter was gracious and accommodating.

They do this EVERY WEEKEND!! Talk about a steal of a deal.

After dinner, we went to the hotel's martini/speciality drink bar. The FOUNDRY. A jazz group & singer played music while we sipped on designer drinks which were very reasonably priced. And then we danced. Yup. We danced and we had fun and the little floor filled up and it felt so right. You know after all these years of marriage, there just aren't many places to go where we can dance unless someone gets married. And then the mix of music can be iffy. But this was our music, our generation, our time. And we had a blast.

Time slipped and we were young again. Still crazy in love. Still wanting to dance. And still not caring what anyone thought about our movin' and groovin' on the dance floor.

And that's what makes my personal romance world a little brighter. When you are out and about with your personal hero, I hope you still want to dance.

What brings back the romance in your life?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fifty New Things in 2013-The Abbreviated Recap of 1-10

At the beginning of the year, I promised to do 50 new things in 2013. I did go to one new restaurant, and then I blogged about it. But I lost track of time and got busy organizing my writing life, wrangling stories, and coordinating the 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence.

I got too busy to write about all the new things I've done. So without further ado, here is the abbreviated recap of what I've done so far in 2013 that is new to me:

1. New restaurant reviewed.
2. Interviewed editors and agents for the first time. They're really awesome.
3. Was interviewed by someone for the Linda Howard based on my experiences as a LH winner and coordinator.
4. Established a very tight budget and shaved $1200 off my monthly expenses.
5. Became the the Master Scheduler for my fantastic Goal In A Month Group (x4 just rocks!)
6. Learned to schedule tweets to market the Linda Howard Contest.
7. Used extensive network to ask for entries and judges for the Linda Howard Contest.
8. Queried a new publisher with the story of my heart.
9. Helped my CP build her own web presence over the course of 3 days.
10. Discovered I can juggle multiple writing projects while marketing other stuff like the Linda Howard Award of Excellence.

And that's about it for now. There's probably more stuff. I'll keep you posted. I have also tried about a gazillion new recipes, but most of them feature beans and kale and low cost cuts of meat due to #4 on the list.

So what new things have you tried to do this year?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Break Out the Bubbly & the Dark Chocolate: Celebrating Cathy MacRae's Debut Novel THE HIGHLANDER'S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE

My friend and debut novelist Cathy MacRae!!
Hi Everyone! I am so very excited to have my friend and fellow Heart of Dixie RWA Chapter mate on the Veranda today! I was in the meeting when she got the very cool "call" email. Read all about how THE HIGHLANDER'S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE became published today. 
Hi Cathy! I'm so glad you are here. *Pop*Fizz*Pour. Ah, a lovely glass of champagne. Chocolate? MMMM.

Now that we've had a bit of bubbly, tell me Cathy, how did you end up becoming a writer? 
I’ve always loved creating characters and stories for them to inhabit. Joining my local writers’ group solidified my decision to become a published writer.
Wow, that's great. And we are members of fantastic group. Having that kind of support is so vital to new and "old" writers. Cathy, what is your favorite genre to write?  
I am currently writing Scottish historical romance.
I love a man in a kilt! Are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?  
I am a panster! I shy from almost any type of plotting J
Probably better than my current process LOL. How do you relax after a writing day?  
Reading, a movie, a glass of wine…
What do you read? What are your favorite genres? Who are your favorite authors?  
I pretty heavy into historical romance right now, though I like just about anything except horror. I have a HUGE TBR (to be read) stack with a variety of authors in it.
As do I! Now I know you can't be sitting still. What is your current project?  
My current project is a sequel to the book just released Feb. 27, The Highlander’s Accidental Bride. Actually, there is also a sequel to the sequel in the works as well, lol!
Any new releases? 
The Highlander’s Accidental Bride released Feb. 27. Woo hoo!
I love the title. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?  
Most of my story ideas are simply chance remarks or a sudden “Oh, what if…?”
How long were you trying to get published before you got the “call?”  
I started writing historicals 2 years ago. Prior to that, I spent about 4 years learning the craft, discovering my ‘voice’.
How did you celebrate the new book contract?  
I can answer the next 3 questions like this. I was sitting in my local writers’ meeting, listening to the speaker (really, I was), when I realized I had an email from Soul Mate Publishing. I had just sent the acquiring editor a requested revision and was sure the news, coming so quickly, couldn’t be good. But it was a lovely note offering to publish my book, The Highlander’s Accidental Bride! I nudged my friend on my right and she read the email. “Squee!” By the time everyone around me had read the email, we’d pretty much interrupted the meeting, LOL! So, I made the announcement and pretty much floated all the way home! I read over the contract and sent it back a couple of days later.
That was so much fun!! I was glad to celebrate with you. Tell me, do you have an agent? 
No, I do not have an agent.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?  
Write. Learn your craft. Learn your voice. Work with critique partners who will tell you the truth. Keep writing.
I couldn't write without my CP. What encouragement can you give writers who face rejection?  
All writers face rejection. Most still get ideas rejected or at least have to do revisions, rewrite that favorite scene or dialogue. Might as well get used to it. J
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? 
The hardest part is finding all the time I want to write.
Oh, I know that pain!! Not enough hours in the day. What is the most surprising thing you discovered after you received the call? 
Probably the most surprising thing is how much ‘stuff’ there is to do after the book sells to a publisher. My mind is constantly on editing, marketing, the next book…

Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your journey to publication, Cathy. I know we'll celebrate in person again.
You can find Cathy MacRae here: