Monday, December 19, 2011

A Familiar Ring

Well, here are with the holiday season upon us again. I have to confess with as busy as I've been with preparing for the upcoming holiday, as well as the sixteenth birthday of my firstborn, I haven't had much time to write lately. Until a few hours ago, I'd even forgotten I needed a topic for my weekly blog. As I contemplated this, I came to a somewhat sobering realization.

I've been writing this blog for more than a year now. If you've read it since the beginning, you know it was the encouragement of friend and fellow author Patrick Hester that motivated me to do so. That alone isn't the sobering thought. The more sobering thought is that a year has passed and I nearly wrote the same topic today that I wrote this time last year.

At this time last year, I was wishing for one thing. I wanted a literary agent to extend an offer of representation or a publisher to agree to publish my latest novel. I didn't get what I wanted last year, and it appears I won't get it this year.  I have only a few queries outstanding, and this is the time of year when most literary operations slow down.

Thinking about this makes me realize, I'm about to enter my sixth year in the professional writing industry, and I've yet to break mainstream's glass ceiling. The industry has also changed a great deal from the time I started.When I first started out, the e-book was still an innovation of the future. Now there are fewer brick and mortar bookstores as more authors go strictly digital. Case in point, my friend and fellow author Erica Stanciu just had her first novel Electrify Me released last week, and it's digital only. As a purist, I'm a bit sad to see books going the way of the VHS and beta tapes, but I understand. I understand and I digress.

Let me make one thing clear. While I'm sad not to have mainstream publication, I'm grateful for the success I've found on my favorite online site. Still, as the years pass, it feels a bit like my dream slips further away. So, I have to make a choice. I can either allow my dream to evolve with the changing of technology, or I can lament about what I think will never be.

Whatever choice I make, one thing is still true. I want the same thing for Christmas this year that I wanted last year. Hence, the familiar ring, which seems appropriate for this time of year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I am not Alone

Last week, I wrote about a contest I'm planning to enter. The deadline is this week, and I'm in the final stages of polishing my entry so I'm feeling good.  It seems I'd no sooner posted last week's blog than a new contest presented itself.  This contest is one I'm most excited about because of its rules.

The contest is being sponsored by an Australian publisher and is open to young adult writers world wide. The entry must be in English, which is standard for a lot of contests.  Even better, the entry cannot be a fantasy novel. It must be a young adult novel that addresses issues being faced by teens and can include swearing and sexual content provided it's not gratuitous. The publisher sponsoring the contest feels the young adult market is overrun with fantasy novels and it's time to give teens characters they can relate to.

Finally! Someone else feels the way I do. For those of you who know me personally or have had a chance to follow this blog or check out my web site, you know what my dream was when I started writing young adult novels. I wanted to have a line of books that featured disabled teens in leading, romantic roles. I believed (and still do) that it was an area being largely overlooked by authors and publishers. Most agents and publishers I approached with my first offering didn't think the concept would sell.  One agent took a chance on me only to be told fantasy novels were the next big thing and I should write a vampire novel.

You know what? I wrote that vampire novel. I wrote a sappy, sentimental four book series that follows the new formula of vampire boy falls for human girl. When my agent started pitching it, publishers said it wasn't sturdy enough to compete with the likes of Twilight or True Blood.  They agreed I had talent and suggested I try an original fantasy concept.  I not only took their advice, I took it to the extreme.  I penned a trilogy that features the son of Satan as a leading and sympathetic character.

Given the boldness of the concept, I had some reservations about how it would be received by readers. Imagine my surprise to learn they love the story. They've embraced the characters and are clamoring for more each week.  They're open minded enough to realize it's only a story and by no means an expression of my actual belief system. With the support of a fan base that's more than sixteen hundred strong and growing every day, I've developed a real love for writing this genre.  I've even started a new novel and have another concept ready to go as I know I've mentioned before.

Despite the success I've seen with this, I've often thought of my original reason for entering into the young adult genre. In my more melancholy moods, I accuse myself of selling out to sell. I usually let go of that idea pretty fast because I have no right to complain. My fans are supportive and have made me feel good about my work and discover a love of writing again. They remind me writing is more than a business which keeps me writing.

Fan support and success aside, I'm excited for the opportunity this new contest offers. I plan on throwing my hat in the ring and waiting to see what happens. As with most contests of this nature, competition is stiff so chances of winning are slim. Still, it'll be fun to get back to my roots and it's nice to see I'm not alone in thinking the young adult genre is about more than fantasy novels.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Here We Go Again- Part II

I’ve heard it said that contest placements can help boost a writer’s credibility with potential agents and publishers. I don’t know if this is true or not, and I’ve in fact discussed this very issue in a prior post. 

Setting aside whether having a contest win or even modest placement makes a writer more attractive to agents and publishers, there are some contests with rather lucrative prizes. I’m not just speaking in monetary terms either. While some contests do not offer cash prizes to the winners, some offer publication in their magazine or on their web site or both. In lieu of a cash prize, some offer valuable feedback from an agent or editor, which can be instrumental in improving the writer’s chances of publishing that or even another work in the future. There are those organizations with a bigger budget who offer bigger prizes. They offer not only exposure to a larger audience but publication of novels and the cash advances that go along with that.

The size of the contest or the budget of the organization sponsoring it can often determine the amount of the entry fee. Writer’s Digest has rather reasonable entry fees for all of their contests which isn’t surprising considering how well known and respected they are in the industry. For its annual breakthrough novel award contest, Amazon has yet to charge writers an entry fee. Again, this makes sense as they have more capital than the smaller groups who host contests to support writers and gain exposure for them.

It’s often the amount of the entry fee in conjunction with the timing of the contest that drives my ability and willingness to participate. For instance, I always participate in the annual Amazon contest due to its lack of entry fee. That being said, I’m always on the lookout for contests because I’m of the mind that any exposure is better than none.

Last week, on the Amazon discussion boards, I had the good fortune of stumbling across an upcoming contest for young adult writers. Even better, this contest is geared to female authors in the young adult field. As excited as I was to discover this, I was a little leery of participating when I realized the deadline was December 15, 2011. With a deadline so close to the holidays my knee jerk reaction was to say I wouldn’t be participating. After doing a little more research on this contest, I was pleased to discover the entry fee is nominal. Based on this, along with the fact that the winner will have an excerpt of her novel published on their web site and will also gain feedback from three leading agents in the industry, I’ve decided to go for it.

For those of you who don’t know, competitions like these can be stiff.  There are a lot of good writers out there who aren’t getting the recognition they’re due. I like to think I’m one of them, but I won’t know if I don’t try.

So… here we go again! Wish me luck.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Next Big Thing

Not long ago, I read an article in Writer’s Digest magazine in which the author talked about the hole left in the young adult genre. This was attributed to the ending of both the Harry Potter and Twilight series and asked upcoming authors if they thought they could fill that void.

Let me be the first to say I’m no JK Rowling nor would I ever compare my books to hers. As to Stephanie Myer, I can’t say if I could hold a candle to her work due to my long standing Twilight aversion which I don’t want to go into again. It should be noted here that both of these authors wrote fantasy novels about creatures not confirmed to exist. Until recently, I’ve confined all of my young adult novels to true to life situations in a genre best described as teen lit. It was a former agent who challenged me to step into the fantasy and paranormal genres because that’s what publishers told him the target audience wanted. Though I complied, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a mainstream following. I have enjoyed a nice online following but that’s a discussion for another time.

I have to be honest in saying that in the last year, I’ve actually enjoyed writing something different. I’ve also been fortunate that it's been met with a warm welcome from my online audience. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, writing is this genre has also applied the pressure to me. Once you establish yourself in a certain niche that’s what fans expect to see from you. What many people don’t realize is that several authors enjoy writing in multiple genres and do so rather well. The problem is fans don’t want to see Stephen King write a romance or Nicholas Sparks pen a horror novel. Of course, as with everything there are exceptions to every rule. James Patterson writes both intriguing suspense novels and heartwarming romance novels. Judy Blume has written in middle grade, young adult and chic lit. It can be done and done well, but it's rare. 

For those of us who can't crossover and are looking to break into the young adult genre, I'm here to tell you paranormal romance and fantasies are the next big thing. How do I know? I've seen the demand first hand. While looking for a book in Barnes and Noble this weekend, I was blown away to see an entire section of shelves devoted to teen paranormal romance. I can't even recall such a thing existing when I was a teenager. Does that make me sound old? I've also seen what's climbing up the on line rankings of the writer's site I belong to. Not to toot my own horn too much, but fans are clamoring for more of paranormal young adult romance and asking me why they aren't published. 

I don't know why I'm not published, but I tell you what. I'm ready to be the next big thing. My paranormal young adult romance trilogy is complete and I'm working on a new novel in the genre and already have a solid premise for the next one. 

Are you paying attention literary agents and publishers? I have an established following and am prepared to contribute to the exhaustive marketing of my work and am thinking beyond the completion of my sure to be popular breakout series. Your next big thing is here. Just drop me an email!

Think this shameless plea will work? Me either, but you never know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shame on Me

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before in some form or another. The gist of it is that you can give everyone a chance at least once. You can believe what they say once. If they do or say the opposite of what you were first led to believe, the fault lies with them. You didn’t know they’d let you down. Now, if they let you down and you give them another chance only to be let down again, the fault lies with you. After the first letdown, you should’ve had an insight into their character.

After what happened to me this weekend, I think this quote can be more liberally applied. I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t another person letting me down. It was my own carelessness that let me down. It goes a little something like this…

With the three day holiday weekend ahead, I was looking forward to the opportunity to have a chance to write. For the last few months, I’ve been investing most of my free writing time in a new story. Initially the story was slow to get off the ground. Of late, it’d gained quite a bit of momentum, and I had the sense I was nearing the end. If you don’t recall from prior posts, I never really know how my stories are going to end. This isn’t something I plan in advance. Instead, I let the characters dictate how the story will take shape. That being said, this isn’t how I let myself down.

Given the upswing the new story was on, I’ve been very excited about it lately. In fact, I’ve been so excited that I’ve been working on it during my lunch hour at the day job. I want to clearly state that I do not take my employer’s time to pursue my writing. I have a strong work ethic, and I take my day job seriously. However, lunch is my time and I can often be found banging out a new passage of my latest creation during my lunch hour. This was the case on Thursday afternoon. I spent about a half-hour working on a new scene and then saved and closed the file. Then I removed the flash drive from the PC and went on about my business.

I’m sure you can imagine my horror when I plugged the drive into my lap top on Thursday night and received an error message whose basic point was that the file was corrupted and couldn’t be opened. I needed to complete text recovery. On first seeing this, I wasn’t actually too panicked. This was partly due to the extreme case of denial I was already suffering from. The other reason I wasn’t panicked is that I have a computer genius for a husband, and he’s recovered lost files for me before. I thought he could probably get most if not all of it back.

Now is where I must make the shameful confession. I’ve lost one of my files before. I didn’t just lose any old file then. I lost the entire third story in my trilogy, the entire third and almost completed story. After much crying, begging and hair pulling on my part and a lot of painstaking effort on my husband’s part, he managed to get back all but fifty pages of that story. That hurt, but at least it wasn’t the four hundred fifty I was first faced with losing.

Never again, I swore. I was never going to lose a story again. I’d learned my lesson and was going to be more vigilant about making back up copies. My husband pitched in to help. He set up the MS Word program to auto save every ten minutes and to always make a back up copy. He backed up everything on my flash drive onto his PC hard drive as well as my lap top hard drive. And every week, I would dangle my flash drive in front of him and ask that he back up its contents on his hard drive. And every week, he would without fail.

Then it happened. A virus hit my lap top and wiped it out beyond recovery. No problem. I had all my stories backed up. With just a little bitterness, but no concern, I bought a new lap top and my husband plugged it in and I went back to work. There’s a big but here, and no I’m not talking about mine! But I went back to work without setting the auto save and requesting a back up always be made. With the sting of my loss having faded, I grew lazy and complacent. There was always another day or time for me to back it all up.

Wrong! The file corrupted before that time came. The only back up copy we retained was one hundred four pages in length. I’d already gotten to page two hundred thirty four. That was more than half my story lost in an abyss of corrupted files. Again, I begged and cried, but this was different. Something happened to the text in the story. It pulled in text from a different story and read that as belonging to the new story. Don’t ask me why or how. I don’t know enough about computers to tell you, and I really don’t care. All I care about is the fact that I’ve lost half of a story I can’t get back. Yes, I spent my weekend attempting to reconstruct it and have managed to pen fifty pages, but I can’t get out of my head. I keep thinking the other version was better and this is terrible. I keep asking myself how and why I’d let this happen again.

I can’t answer that question. All I can say is shame on me! Don’t let it happen again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Accuracy is Important, Even for the Fiction Writer

 If you ask me how long I’ve been a writer, you get two different numbers.  I’ve been a writer since I learned to put the words to paper, but I’ve been what you’d call a professional writer since 2006.  To see the latter number in print shocks me a bit since it feels like I’ve been in this business much longer.

When I decided to make the leap from writing for fun to writing as a profession, I ran out and bought numerous books on the subject. While I purchased the typical books on how to snag an agent and writing the perfect synopsis and query letter, I also picked up several selections on the process of writing. One of my favorite is a skinny volume from Jack M. Bickham titled The 38 Most Common Mistakes Fiction Writers Make. To this day, Bickam’s book remains one of the favorite in my library.

In his book, Bickham often takes a tongue in cheek approach to assisting writers in seeing the error of their ways. One such chapter is devoted to showing writers the importance of making sure their stories are accurate and their descriptions reflect that. To illustrate his point, he tells of an instance in one of his western novels in which one of his characters used a gun that hadn’t even been manufactured in the year the novel was set. An astute reader picked up on this and fired off an email to Bickham which pointed out the mistake.
This may sound like the reader is being too critical, but the fault lies with Bickham for failing to do his research.

Too often, fiction writers take the approach that accuracy isn’t as important because it’s a story and not a work of non-fiction. As much as it pains me to admit it, I too have recently fallen into this trap. I could go on the defensive and concoct some excuses for the oversight, but the fault is mine. I should’ve been a better editor, and the readers have caught me red handed. In my case, the problem wasn’t with research. My novel is pure fantasy and conjecture and has no root in reality at all. My mistake was failing to keep track of what I wrote so that critical details weren’t changed. The most glaring example I can recall had to do with the introduction of a new character. Character A was introducing Character B to his brother and explained his acquaintance to her by saying they shared a class together. The problem with this was that earlier in the story I told readers that Character A was in all of the same classes as his brother. Therefore, the brother should’ve already known Character B and known how she and Character A met. This is a perfect example of Bickham’s point and my own point that editing is more than correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. Editing also means getting the facts right and keeping your details straight.

Readers become emotionally invested in your characters. This is a good thing. It’s what you want. It means they’re going to keep reading. The flip side of this is that they’re so enamored with the story, they often recall what you the writer would think are minute details. While the readers may point out the inconsistencies, it’s not their job to do so. It’s our job as writers to get it right so that we don’t interfere with their reading experience.

So what’s the solution? I’m sorry to say there’s no easy answer. What works for one writer may not work for the other. It could mean making outlines and charts. If you don’t want to go that far, ask a trusted friend or family member to give it a thorough read, but proceed with caution if you make this choice. It’s sometimes been my experience that my family and friends are hesitant to point out mistakes or admit they don’t like my story for fear they’ll hurt my feelings. Ideally, you should hire a professional editor to catch these things, but who can afford that in this economy? Certainly not the fledgling writer.

Whatever you decide, you must face on thing. Even in fiction writing, accuracy and details count. Ignore this and face the consequences!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Taking my own Advice

Since the inception of this blog, I’ve always confined my topics to writing. The intent has been to show the trials and triumphs of the professional aspiring author. The hope is that I can not only educate budding authors of any age, but I can also serve as a source of inspiration.

Though it’s rare, once in a while, I may include a personal note on this blog. However, my Face Book posts and tweets on Twitter are a little more liberal with this type of information. That being said, I’d like to take a moment to address a topic that’s part personal and part professional. After all, regardless of the old adage about leaving your personal problems at the door of your job, you can’t help being professionally influenced by personal factors.

If you recall, a few weeks ago, I was a bit concerned about my third and final installment in a rather popular trilogy I’ve been sharing in an online writer’s community. To recap, fans were clamoring for the story, and I had some reservations about being able to live up to their expectations. While I’m pleased to report they’ve embraced the novel and are giving it rave reviews thus far, I’ve run into a new problem; something I never considered would happen.

Fans are so rabidly enjoying the work that they devour my chapters in short order and quickly ask for more. In the past, I could meet this demand and was good to upload a chapter every few days. As S.E. Hinton pointed out in the title of one of her lesser known novels, that was then, this is now. I don’t have the same luxury of time I had in the past, which I’ve been upfront in sharing with fans each time I post. Still, I get the tongue in cheek threats to discontinue following me if I don’t post faster or the outright refusal to read any more of my work until I’ve uploaded more. Each time this happens, I have the urge to reach out to each of these people to explain the cause of the delays. Seeing as how that could be rather time consuming, I thought I’d do a one size fits all post. So, here goes.

Writing is not my full time career, though I’d love it to be. Instead, it’s a hobby that’s slowly been blossoming into a secondary career. My proverbial day job is a supervisory position with my local government that requires I be there for the standard eight hour a day forty hour week. I wish I could say I run right home from my job and go straight to my computer to bang out my latest literary creation, but I’m lucky to see the computer on weeknights. As the mother of two daughters, both of whom are active in extra curricular activities, I’m often shuttling them to practices. Days that aren’t devoted to practice are dedicated to competitions in their respective sports which I make every effort not to miss. And for the record, I’m not a single parent. I have a husband who takes an active role in our children’s lives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have parental obligations to fulfill. With a full weekday schedule, you’d think my weekends were my time to pursue my passion for writing. This is true to a small degree. My children have weekend practices and events that my husband and I have to drive them to and then attend in support of them. Weekends are also the time I set aside for grocery shopping, housework, laundry and other domestic tasks.

With this many demands on my time, I’m forced to budget time to write. And you know what they say about the best laid plans. I had a very fine plan to get in a few hours of writing yesterday that was unwittingly sabotaged by a surprise visit from the in laws. Because my time to write is few and far between during this busy season, I guard it greedily. Rather than spend all of my time uploading chapters of a novel that’s already written, I like to work on new offerings as well. After all, when this trilogy comes to an end, fans will be expecting something new that lives up to the standard of this trilogy.

To be fair, I could be in worse predicaments than having my work adored by impatient people. It could be panned by them. Worse, no one could have any interest in it and then my demanding personal life would be moot.

In my day job, I tell my subordinates you can only do what you can only do. That’s advice I need to apply to this situation. I can only do what I can only do. Hopefully my fans will understand.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Thoughts Exactly

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, including my post last week, I’m an active member of an online writers’ community.  Since joining last year, I’ve posted several of my works in order to gain a following and elicit fan feedback. A few naysayers aside, the comments have been largely positive, and I’ve felt rewarded by the experience.

One of the things I’ve taken to doing since in recent months is to post a reader quote of the day on my Twitter feed.  Not only is it fun, but it nets more exposure. For all I know agents or publishers could be following me and could see the tweet and be intrigued enough to investigate, like what they see and contact me to offer me a lucrative writing contract. Okay, that’s a little far fetched, but you get the idea.

With so many readers gushing over my work, I’m often found on Twitter posting a suggestion that I need to get my readers to circulate a petition to send to publishers demanding that my book be published and made available in print. Whenever I’ve made this suggestion, it’s always been tongue in cheek. I don’t expect my readers to do this nor do I believe publishers will be receptive to it. It’s just another in a long list of laments I’ve engaged in on this road to success.

I had to laugh out loud when I saw one of my readers post something quite similar on the recent chapter of my newest novel. To be fair, she could be one of my Twitter followers as well and is echoing sentiments I’ve already publicly expressed. If not, it’s good to know my readers are so supportive of me.

I’ve heard of authors achieving publication in stranger ways than having readers petition publishers on their behalf. In that vein, I suppose anything’s possible. Do I think it’s likely? Not really. Am I flattered? You bet.

All I can say is great minds think alike because those were my thoughts exactly!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Isn't that the Truth?

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Ask anyone who penned this famous phrase, and the hair trigger response is President Abraham Lincoln.  However, this quote was written by poet John Lydgate and later used by Lincoln which no doubt accounts for its popularity and continued use in contemporary settings. While I’m sure President Lincoln had something different in mind than what I do, I like to think John Lydgate and I were of similar opinions being that he was a poet. 

Returning readers of this blog are familiar with my recent foray into the world of on line writing. Permit me to digress for a moment.  As soon as I typed the first sentence of this third paragraph, I made myself smile. It seems such a haughty way to say I joined an on line writer’s group and post my stories there for fans to read. However, for those of you who know me on a personal level, you know I have a tendency to use expansive vocabulary whether the occasion calls for it or not. This was a habit instilled in me at an early age by my father who always placed a premium on being well spoken.  And I assure you, I speak to my own children in much the same way, often sending them running for the dictionary app of their Iphones. Dictionary app! Let’s not go off on that tangent.

Now, as I was saying, I’m a member of an online community that allows me to post as many or as few of my stories as I like. Since joining this group last year, I’ve enjoyed much success and admiration. Fans have flocked to my work to give me validation in a way that agents and publishers can’t or won’t. While I don’t receive any monetary compensation, I think having a fan base reading my work far outweighs that aspect. After all, what good do stories sitting in computer files do me? The result is the same whether I take a chance and share in this on line community or I allow them to sit unread in my hard drive.

Over the past weekend, I posted the final chapter of the first of a four book vampire series I’ve written. Yes, I know, vampires are cliché and overdone, but that’s a discussion best saved for another time. The feedback I received on this chapter was so varied it immediately brought Lydgate’s quote to my mind. Some readers were outraged there was a cliffhanger ending with unanswered questions. Others were outraged the heroine didn’t end up with her beloved. Still other readers loved its originality and praised me for not tying everything up in a neat little package.

Let me be clear about one thing. I value all feedback, whether it’s good or bad. Without readers, I’m a writer with no audience which isn’t very fulfilling. I love to log into the site and see what fans are saying, but I do confess I’m happier when it’s ego boosting. Even when fans are appalled at a plot twist, I relish their input. The fact that they’d be so offended on behalf of their favorite character demonstrates an emotional investment in the story, which gives me a reason to continue writing. Still, with so much variety in the reader responses, it really drives home Lydgate’s famous quote.

As a writer, and in any other role I suppose, I can please some of the people some of the time. I can please all the people some of the time, but I’ll never be able to please all of the people all of the time. You know what? As long as I have fans who are reading my work, I’m okay with that. I can’t be the first writer to run into this, and I doubt I’ll be the last.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy to Help

Until I became a writer, I didn't know how many writers there were in the world. And I'm not talking about the published writer. Walk into any bookstore, if you can still find one open, and you'll see evidence of how many writers have been lucky enough to break into the biz. Instead, I'm talking about the aspiring writer.

Tell people you're a writer and chances are they either know someone who's an aspiring writer or they're writers. As soon as people know you're a writer, there's always a flood of questions that follows. Who's your agent? How did you find an agent? Do you use an editor? What do you think of self publishing? The list goes on and on. To be honest, I'd rather be asked questions like these than have someone ask me what my book's about. It's not that I'm ashamed of my work. I'm just not good at giving the cliff notes versions of my stories. One liners just aren't my thing, and summaries take time.

After asking me a flurry of questions about the business side of writing, most of the inquisitive are humble and even apologetic for asking. I'm always quick to assure them I don't mind helping out, and I'm not blowing smoke when I say that. I truly mean it. Having been burned a few times in this business when I was just starting out, I'm more than happy to help others benefit from my bad experiences. Believe me when I say there's nothing more damaging to your dream than having an unscrupulous character take advantage of you.

Sometimes it may take time for me to give a reply due to my time constraints. Some things I just don't know the answer to and can only offer an opinion. Either way, I'm happy to lend a hand. If I'd known another writer when I was starting out, I would've asked the questions too. Maybe it would've saved me some heartache and even a little money.

Since I can't change what I've gone through, I'm always happy to help those in need.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Pressure to Produce

In the not to distant past, I joined an online group that allows me to upload my work and connect with my target audience. This should come as no surprise as I’ve discussed it on prior posts and mention it daily on my Twitter feed.

Since joining this group, I’ve posted two of the books in a trilogy I’ve written. Given the subject matter of the novel, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s been received. Not only is the work about the son of Satan, but I’ve made him a sympathetic character. With so much of the western world practicing Christianity, I took the proverbial leap of faith that fans could look past their perception of what they think the story is and give it a real chance before passing judgment. To date, I have 1,293 fans that have been more than willing to do that.

The work, entitled The Unholy Trinity series, has been available since March of this year. Books one and two have already been posted, and I’m pleased to say fans are clamoring for book three. While the largest chunk of my fan base are females aged thirteen to twenty-five, my popularity has been gaining among males as well. I’ve also got quite a few readers who, like me, are parents of teenagers and enjoy reading the works. Each day, another fan is added to my list and it’s all because of these books. In fact, I had one just today send me a message to tell me the books are amazing and she couldn’t stop thinking about the main characters after she finished reading.

As much as I love the praise and validation of my talent, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with this sort of popularity. Most of my current fans are panning the vampire series I wrote and asking for something along the vein of The Unholy Trinity series. One fan sent me a message to tell me I made paranormal cool again and to beg me not to write a sellout vampire romance novel.

To be honest, after the completion of the third and final book of The Unholy Trinity series, I’ve been asking myself the now what question. Now what do I do? Now what do I write to make this diverse fan base happy and keep them interested in my work? The question was so perplexing, it kept me up at night. It also kept me from writing. I couldn’t come up with ideas I thought were good enough to follow up the success of The Unholy Trinity series. Even more daunting was the realization of how many well known and more successful authors of late have fallen into that category. Consider the case of Lemony Snickett whose Series of Unfortunate Events novels were wildly popular. Barring the possibility that he’s produced additional works under a pen name, I’ve not seen anything new since the conclusion of that series. While both JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have written books following the finales of their smashing series’, the books were a spin off of the series. If they’ve written books with new characters, they’ve not achieved the accolades of their original works. That begs the question of how I can do it on a smaller scale if they can’t on a larger scale.

There’s also one other thing I forgot to mention. Paranormal young adult books aren’t my normal genre. Before becoming a young adult author, I wrote chic lit novels more in keeping with Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson. When I made the transition to young adult, it was seamless since I wrote teen lit novels. Like my chic lit novels, the teen lit novels had a time tested formula. Boy and girl meet and fall in love but confront obstacles along the way before living happily ever after. The story of how I then became a paranormal young adult novelist is long and convoluted and best saved for another time. The point is that being that it’s out of my normal comfort zone, I’ve really been challenged to come up with something fans are used to seeing from me and quite frankly deserve after being so supportive.

Rather than force the issue by cranking out something substandard, I’ve let it marinate over the last few weeks. In this process, I’ve been able to come up with a few concepts. Some were not so good but a few of them were quite satisfactory; at least I hope they were. Only time will tell the tale. No pun intended.

This whole experience has been an eye opener for me. Until I became so successful, I never understood the pressure to maintain that success. Since trying and failing so many times to break into the business, my mantra has been give me a chance. Now I’ve had that chance. Now I embrace it to the best of my ability.

Let’s just hope I don’t let my fans down. Let’s hope I live up to the hype.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Originality Dead

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, it occurred to me that today was Monday, and I had yet to come up with a topic for my weekly blog. That kept me up for a bit as I debated what to write about. After finally coming up with an idea, I was able to sleep peacefully. When I woke up this morning, I was all set to write about the topic I'd come up with last night. An email I received from Writer's Digest this morning changed my mind.

Having previously entered a Writer's Digest contest, I'm now a member of their email listing. I don't mind at all as they send lots of good industry tips and tricks as well as contest reminders. The email I received this morning was to let me know the deadline for the annual genre fiction contest had been extended. In that email, they made mention of the void left in young adult novels with the conclusion of the Harry Potter and Twilight series. Being an aspiring young adult novelist, that really got me to thinking about my newest trilogy.

When I wrote a book with the tagline 'what happens when the daughter of a mass murderer falls for the son of Satan?', I truly thought I'd hit upon something original. I couldn't have been more wrong. After I posted the first chapter on Wattpad, one of my scenes drew comparisons to one that takes place in Twilight. I can honestly say I've never read this novel nor seen the movies so I have to take the readers' word for it. The concept was also likened to a novel called Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, another I've never read.

In addition to the first two books of what fans call my Unholy Trilogy, I've also posted the first of my four book vampire series. The basic premise is that a vampire prince falls for a human girl who's destined to be his mate. The twist, or at least I thought it was a twist, is that the story contains both day and night vampires. I realize with the Blade movies the idea of day walking vampires isn't unique, but I didn't realize how similar this idea was to something called Vampire Knight.

These two comparisons have really started me thinking. Has originality become a foreign concept? It seems so if you think about it. Many modern movies are remakes of classics and those that aren't remakes follow a fairly predictable formula. Once in a while something comes along that breaks the mold, but it's few and far between. With that in mind, I'd think the same could be said for novels as well, especially in my case.

Keeping that in mind, I've already started to pen my newest novel. I won't go into any details, not because I fear copyright infringement but because I'm content to keep my illusion that it's an original idea.

Is originality dead? Perhaps not in its entirety, but it seems to have taken a beating over the years!

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Never too late to Remember

Ten years ago yesterday, I was late to work.  I was at home, getting ready to go to my dental appointment to have my teeth cleaned.  Back then, I liked to schedule my appointments first thing in the morning and then go to work afterward. I reasoned it cost me less time from work.  Since then, I’ve undergone a shift in feelings. I now prefer to schedule my appointments at the end of the day so I can have both my work day and my appointment over and done with. 

On September 11, 2001, I was finishing up a glass of tea and preparing to leave when my husband called to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Being that I live in California, and I had an appointment to make, I didn’t allow myself to fully grasp what he was telling me. Instead, I recall giving some muted response about that being terrible and I’d talk to him later.  The news still didn’t seem particularly grave when I arrived at the dentist’s office. The tiny office was pretty empty at eight thirty in the morning. I do remember Kelly, my hygienist, asking me if I’d heard about the attack on the World Trade Center to which I could only give a garbled affirmative reply owing to the fact that her hands were crammed into my mouth.

It wasn’t until I got to work an hour later that I began to understand what was happening and just how serious it was. All of my coworkers were gathered around the radio atop one person’s desk. Work was forgotten and the mood was somber as we listened to the reports pouring in about not only the World Trade Center but the Pentagon and the high jacked United flights. It all seemed unreal, and I had no idea the influence it would have on my life as well as my writing career.

Like many Americans, my sense of Patriotism heightened after the nine eleven terrorist attacks. I watched the news reports closely and became more emotionally invested in the United States military. It was that investment that prompted me to join an organization that participates in outreach to deployed service members. I made donations to my local veteran’s hospital as well as the United Service Organization and still wished I could do more. I can only attribute this feeling to the fact that it was the first war of my adult life. The first Gulf war took place when I was a naïve teen with no real grasp on its far reaching consequences. With a little more maturity and experience under my belt, I suppose came more empathy and perhaps even a little fear.

Doing more came just a few short years later. The attack of one of our convoys carrying non combat service members and the kidnapping of Jessica Lynch had a profound effect on me as did the kidnapping and beheading of American civilian workers. Overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, I did what most writers do best when they need a way to express themselves. I wrote. Not only did I write, but I wrote a contemporary chick lit novel entitled Letters from Linc. The crux of the story explores the relationship between twenty-two year old Marine private Todd Lincoln and his new wife, Erica. I wrote the story for me, as a way to purge my soul, and I had no idea just how much it would resonate. So many people felt a connection to Linc and Erica and their story.

Not long after the novel was released, revelations about the conditions of our nation’s military hospitals began to surface. I was appalled to hear our beleaguered hospitals were nothing short of squalid. Overcome with a combination of rage and sadness, I made the decision to donate 100% of the royalties from the sales of Letters from Linc to our nation’s military hospitals, a decision still in practice today.

As a result of this decision, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people I might not have otherwise met and doing things I likely wouldn’t have done. I’ve appeared on radio and television in the name of this cause. I’ve shared it with veteran’s publications who’ve shared with their readers. I’ve participated in events designed to bring awareness to issues our troops are facing and even had the honor of meeting local veterans with amazing accomplishments. I’ve spoken on the telephone with an aspiring congressman keen to improve things for our vets, and I’ve made friends with people involved in veteran’s organizations designed to provide the best opportunities for vets coming home from the war.

Ten years ago yesterday, when I stood in my kitchen, I didn’t know what I’d be inspired to do or what I’d accomplish. Though I’d rather have the ability to rewrite history and undo this tragedy, I can take comfort in the creation of something good from something so senseless. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wonder if it Would Work

As I think I've mentioned before, coming up with an interesting writing related topic each week can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. If I'm lucky, a fabulous idea will strike me a few days in advance. Sometimes, an idea is just dropped in my lap. Others, like today, it's a combination of the two. For the record, I'd planned on posting this topic before starting out my day with a rejection letter. However, given that I did receive the aforementioned rejection letter today, it seems only fitting.

For some time now, I've been attempting to secure an agent for my latest and greatest young adult novel. Having drafted the novel, as well as two of its sequels, and having gotten rave reviews from my target audience, I thought I may as well give it the old college try. After all, it's been some time since I tried to secure an agent so why not go for it again. Armed with my new confidence and matching attitude, I drafted a respectable query letter, complete with the attention grabbing first line. I'm disappointed but not surprised to say the rejections have poured in. To be fair, they've  now slowed to a steady trickle, but they're still coming.

I've long said I wish I could get my internet fans to start a campaign to publishers on my behalf. The idea is that my target audience can show the publishers a demand for my work exists. Then it hit me. Maybe I could revise my query to include their views. Here's what I've come up with:

Dear Prospective Agent:. 

Electronic books are the wave of the future as evidenced by the existence of many fine on line book sharing sites. How would you like to represent a young adult fantasy novel with a huge following thanks to these sites? Before you pass, you should know this is a book that's already amassed more than two hundred thousand reads and consistently ranks in the top twenty of the most popular lists across a multitude of categories including paranormal, fantasy and teen fiction. Still not convinced? Check out what readers are saying. 

This book should be published. I would so buy this book. I feel guilty being able to read this book for free. Why would anyone reject this book? The publishers need to have their heads examined. Vampires are overdone. This is original and so much better. Your editing is always spot on. You leave us guessing at every twist and turn. Each chapter leaves me wanting more. There's just the right amount of action and romance. You're way better than Stephanie Meyer any day of the week. When you publish these, I want an autographed copy. You should be more famous than you are, and your books should be made into movies. 

 Given that I've received thousands of similar reviews, I could on like this for a while, but you get the picture. If you're ready to represent a young adult novel that asks the question: what happens when the daughter of a mass murderer falls for the son of Satan, then this is the novel for you. 

I'll be looking forward to hearing from you. 

Desperate Writer

There it is. So, what do you think. You think it would work? You think I could pique an agent's interest with something so in your face? I don't, but I wonder...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Here's to 1,000 More

First, let me apologize for failing to post a blog last week.  I was stricken with a rather nasty illness and in no mood to do any type of writing.  And you know it’s bad when I can’t bring myself to write! That being said, I’m feeling much better now and ready to wow you once again with my literary prowess.

If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that late last year I joined an online writer’s community. With my young adult manuscripts having been rejected by agents and publishers alike for so many months, I decided I needed to find a way to reach my target audience and see if they agreed with the countless rejections that had come my way.

Though I joined the site in December of 2010, I didn’t begin posting my first story until February of this year. Early reviews were good but slow to come in. I was a bit discouraged until I realized I needed to give a little to get a little. In other words, I couldn’t just post my story and expect the readers to flock to me. Being that I was an unknown author on a popular site filled with an endless supply of top notch stories, I needed to network to build my audience. In all honesty, I should’ve considered this much sooner than I did. If you think about it, networking on this kind of web site is akin to providing an agent or publisher with a marketing plan for your manuscript. Still, the light bulb finally came on and I was off and running. I participated in numerous forum discussions in which authors read and commented on one another’s work. At one point, one of my friends jokingly pointed out I was the eleventh most active person on the site. I never confirmed this, but I believe her.

My zealous approach to gaining exposure for my novel has paid off tenfold. I’ve steadily gained a fan base that I’m pleased to say continues to grow each day. My fans, I’m delighted to say, are rabid in their consumption of my story. Of course that’s a compliment. They devour each post in short order and always ask for more. I never imagined I’d have any fans that weren’t confined to my friends and family so this has been a real treat. Because many of these fans are young and a lot more computer savvy than I am, they maintain blogs and websites in which they feature their favorite authors and books. I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed by three such webmasters which has given me added publicity for my work. I’ve even had the pleasure of one of the site reviewers reading my story and giving it an exceptional review which they posted on their blog as well as Face Book. And speaking of Face Book, I’m always getting friend requests from my fans, which I’m happy to accept.

When I started this journey, I only wanted affirmation of my talent. I wanted someone to tell me I was good and I wasn’t wasting my time. Today, I’m proud to say, I’ve gotten that and so much more. My participation in this site has far exceeded my expectations.

As of the writing of this post, I have 1,005 confirmed fans. Here’s to 1,000 more! Thanks Wattpad.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reality Bites

If you recall last week, I discussed my feelings of dismay for the closing of Borders book store. The loss of my beloved Borders is the end of an era and a damper on my dream of mainstream publication. Yesterday, I saw the reality of this loss first hand.

Like many of you, I wear more than one hat. I’m not just a writer. I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend and so on. It was in my capacity as mother that I had cause to find myself in the vicinity of Borders. I wish I could say it was because my children wanted to get some books before the doors close for good. I wish I could say that, but I can’t. The truth is, my fifteen year old daughter needed a ride to the movies, and the theater is a few doors down from Borders.

When I pulled into the parking lot to drop her off, my eyes were drawn to Borders. Subsequently, my heart sank to see the huge black and yellow going out of business banner draped across the top of the building. Signs taking up every piece of imaginable window space proclaimed amazing deals with nothing held back. As much as it pained me to do it, I went inside. The idea was to peruse the writing for publication and writing improvement section to see if I could snag a few good deals on books to better my craft. Ironic I know.

I was thoroughly disgusted at what I found inside. No, the inventory wasn’t picked over and the place wasn’t in shambles. Instead, it was crawling with people who were no doubt in search of bargains, and this is what steamed me. Where were these people when Borders needed them? Why couldn’t they be bothered to come in and buy books then, keeping not only Borders afloat but keeping authors afloat as well?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit when it came to music and movies, Borders’ prices were inflated, so a fifty percent reduction on these items caught my eye. However, music and movies were only a small part of their substantial inventory. Books were their bread and butter, and their retail was comparable to that of other book stores, though a bit higher than say Target or Wal Mart. That being said, I couldn’t always find what I wanted at those discount chain stores, but Borders rarely let me down. On the few occasions they didn’t have a book I wanted in stock, they could order it for me and have it shipped to their store for pick up so I didn’t incur the shipping cost.   

With the invention of devices like the Kindle, e-books have taken off. In turn, these more affordable and accessible alternatives to the paperback have driven brick and mortar book stores out of business. Borders was just another unfortunate casualty in the reality of evolving technology. I understand, but I still think it could’ve been spared its fate had consumers cared more about the written word than the latest gadget or the cheapest prices. Keep in mind, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Either way, Borders bites the dust and reality bites!

Monday, August 1, 2011

End of an Era

Welcome back, everyone.  For those of you who faithfully follow my posts, you know I took last week off for a much needed family vacation. While there were no computers along for the trip, and I didn’t do any writing, I still had a clear topic in mind for this week’s post. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans and all.

Thanks to the invention of smart phones, my husband and my child still received their email during our vacation and still had unlimited internet access. I have to confess I’m still living in the dark ages with my old pink metallic flip phone, but that’s neither here nor there. It was an email my husband received during our vacation that compelled me to rethink my blog post this week. The email was from Borders Book Store announcing the store was formally closing and therefore having a going out of business sale.

The news of Borders’ closing wasn’t a shock. For some time now, we’ve all known it was coming. Still, there was this tiny part of me that hoped my location would avoid foreclosure. It’s Borders’ fault for instilling this hope in me. Not long after the closures were announced, I was in their store and cashiers were still recruiting customers to join their rewards program. On hearing that, I thought to myself there was no way they’d still encourage people to participate in this program if they were actually closing their doors. Fat chance! I suppose that’s what I get for assuming, since you know what they say about that too.

To finally have official confirmation of the looming loss of Borders is a hard pill to swallow. Ever since I’ve been in this literary game, my dream has been to see my books in print and lining the shelves of Borders. Now that will never be. My one small measure of comfort is that I did twice appear in magazines I was able to purchase from Borders. In 2005, my name was listed in an issue of Writer’s Digest as being an award winner in their annual literary awards. I made quite a fool of myself jumping up and down in the periodicals section when I saw my name in such a prestigious magazine. In 2009, I landed a feature article in Writer’s Journal, a magazine which Borders carried.

It’s not just the loss of Borders that has me reeling. There’s a bigger picture here that I can no longer avoid facing. For a few years now, I’ve been watching industry articles tout e-books as the future of publishing. Likewise, I’ve witnessed an increasing number of e-book publishers springing up to meet the growing demand of Kindle customers and the like. I’ve known it was coming, but like my knowledge of the impending closure of Borders, I’ve turned a blind eye to this trend. It’s the purist in me that makes me do this. For me, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding an actual book in your hands. And e-books certainly don’t have the smell of a new printed book that I love so much. An author can’t sign an e-book. A signed e-book isn’t going to sell at an auction for more than four thousand dollars as did a recently discovered, signed copy of Gone with the Wind. Not to mention, the evolution of electronics in literature seems wholly unfair.

Can you imagine any other industry in which everything will be one hundred percent electronic? How about baseball or football?  Instead of playing on the field with actual equipment, players could engage in a simulated game. Perhaps even from the comforts of their own homes negating the need for stadiums and depriving fans of the joy of seeing their favorite players and maybe even having the chance to meet them. Before you dismiss it as a preposterous idea, consider the evolution of music and movies. In your lifetime, if you’re as old as or older than I am, did you ever imagine a printed book would go by way of record albums or the eight track or the Beta and VHS and cassettes? Remember when camcorders first came out? Besides being costly, they were clunky and awkward. Now, a cell phone can double as a video camera and these devices are absurdly affordable.

Am I overreacting? Probably. Am I being a bit overdramatic? Most definitely, but I think I’m entitled. The closing of Borders feels like more than the end of era for me. Much as I hate to say it, it feels like a blow to my dream of mainstream, traditional printed publication. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Here We Go Again

I'm sure you recall me mentioning last week that I've decided to take the plunge again, the literary plunge that is. I've decided to see if my writing's improved enough to secure a literary agent.  As you know, I've thus far waffled back and forth about whether or not I really want an agent and whether mainstream publication is really my goal. 

Last week, I was cautiously optimistic given that my first foray into this produced an immediate result from a rather reputable agent who asked for the manuscript. I'm disappointed to report I was right to err on the side of caution. It took only a few days for her to respond that she couldn't offer representation as my project wasn't ready for publication. I did find it encouraging that she was amenable to previewing any additional projects I had provided my writing improved. Of course, I found that perplexing too given that my target audience is clamoring for me to publish this book so they can have a copy of their own.

Immediately following this rejection, I received several more in rapid succession.  Most were very polite form replies in which the agents professed to be lacking in time or in passion for my project to take on new clients. Given how saturated with submissions today's agents are, I fully understand this. Understanding doesn't equal acceptance.

Having received one rejection after another is somewhat disheartening. It reminds me that writing is a business and my dream is subject to the whims of another. One of the joys of self publishing is that I maintain all creative control and see a realization of the dream. And let's be honest, self-publishing is no longer as stigmatized as it once was.  Still, there's that part of me that craves mainstream success.  Not to mention, I'd like to see someone else hocking my product for me.

So, in the interest of achieving my dream and setting that example, I suppose I'll forge on for now. And I only have one thing to say.  Here we go again.

Author Note: No blog will be posted on July 26 so this author and her family can take a a much needed vacation. I leave my house and my dogs in the capable hands of the sitter while I leave reality behind. See you in August!

Monday, July 11, 2011

That's What friends are For

As a writer, I'm often second guessing my work. I think it's safe to say I'm my own worst critic. In fairness, what writer doesn't feel this way? I have a friend who's an excellent writer but just can't stop ripping his own work to shreds. In fact, it took him years to work up the guts just to share his work with fellow writers. When he finally did, he was surprised at how well received it was.

How I feel about my writing depends on a number of factors. If I'm having success in other areas of my life, I love my writing. If I've gotten an unsollicited compliment, I love my writing. If I get five rejection letters in one day, I hate my writing. If I enter a contest and don't win, I hate my writing.  And I especially hate my writing when I have writer's block.  Like good writing has ebbs and flows, so do my emotions about this career I both love and hate.

Lately, I've been on a downward trend with the writing. While I've been getting rave reviews on line for my latest offering on my favorite author sharing web site, it didn't win a contest I recently entered.  I also haven't been able to snag an agent for this work. Add to that the fact that I haven't sold a copy of my latest book since September of last year and that makes for a pretty low point in a writer's life.

Just last night, I was sharing these feelings with a good friend of mine. She's a fellow writer who happens to be on her way up.  While I don't fault her for that, I always have that I wish it was me feeling. I've had a number of agents, but I have yet to find that one who can sell my work.  To make myself feel better about this, I have to remind myself one agent was a blatant scam artist while another had some questionable business practices that have earned a number of negative reviews on Preditors and Editors.

As I vented to my friend, I threw out the idea of giving up. Being the supportive friend that she is, she immediately advised against that.  She said all the right things a good friend should say, including the fact that I'm too talented to just quit. I had to smile when she said getting published, even at age eighty, still meant I'd acheived my dream. I had to smile because I'm not even forty yet. That gives me a little over forty years to accomplish my goal.

After listening to my friend last night, I woke up this morning with this realization that she's right. Quitting isn't in me, at least not when it comes to writing. With this fresh resolve, I vowed to start anew.  I logged onto Publisher's Market Place and started combing the agent listing. While I waited to get a prescription filled for my sick child, I dashed off a few query letters via email and waited. You could've knocked me over with a feather when I got a reply today asking to see my whole manuscript. Given that such prompt response is unheard of in a booming business such as ours, I did some research on the agent. I was elated to find she's a reputable agent with a proven track record of success.  I'd say that bodes well.

A request for the manuscript is a far cry from an offer of representation or publication, but it's a place to start. And it's a place I wouldn't be at today if it wasn't for my friend's encouragement yesterday. They say that's what friends are for, but I still owe her a thank you.

Thanks, Erica! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Embracing Freedoms: How about a Little Equality Here?

With yesterday being the fourth of July, it got me thinking about freedom.  In this country, above all others, we’re afforded a number of freedoms.  One of my favorites is the freedom of speech with the freedom of religion coming in a close second. I’m sure you’re asking yourself what this has to do with writing since my posts are typically centered on writing. The answer will soon become clear.

I’m sure you’ve heard me mention a number of times that not too long ago I joined an online community that allows me to upload my work and reach my target audience. The upside of this is the mass exposure I’ve gotten.  The downside of this is the mass exposure I’ve gotten.  Allow me to explain because you may as well know now.

You see, my recent novel is entitled The Unholy Trinity.  The protagonist is a fifteen year old girl whose father is a mass murderer.  The tagline: What happens when the daughter of a mass murderer falls for the son of Satan?  The cover of my novel, designed by my own fifteen year old daughter, is a triangle of sixes bordered by flames. The novel invites readers to explore the romance between the offspring of Satan and a mass murderer and introduces the concept of the need for a balance between good and evil as opposed to the cliché concept that good must always prevail.

As I’m sure you can imagine this has stirred a fair amount of controversy. I have to confess, when I first penned the novel I never expected it to see the light of day. Nor did I expect to share it with audiences via the world wide web.  Likewise, I had some reservations about posting it for the world to see. In my lifetime, I’ve found that some people, Americans in particular, (sorry but its true) tend to be very unforgiving of anything that challenges the notion of the acceptance of God.  I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating now, The Unholy Trinity is a work of fiction. I no more believe its premise than JK Rowling believes in wizards or Stephanie Meyer believes in vampires.

That being said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the mass acceptance this work has gained. Yes, atheists and agnostics love it. So do Wiccans as it seems to follow the belief of balance they’re faith adheres to. You know what? The open minded religious love it too. They’re willing to take a leap and accept it as a work of fiction. Despite the rave reviews it’s garnered, despite the growing legion of fans I have, despite the fact that it’s already spawned at least two instances of fan fiction, and despite the fact it’s well written, if I do say so myself, I’ve had to contend with some backlash.

I’ve been called evil and wicked. I’ve been told I’m a terrible writer who obviously has no talent given the trashy subject matter I’ve chosen.  I’ve been reminded more than once that I will be spending eternity burning in Hell for my blasphemy. I’ve even been accused of being the reason Heaven will be devoid of as many souls.  Funny, but when I wrote a story about a young Marine named Linc, the son of a Baptist minister who used his faith to help him through his first deployment to Iraq, I didn’t suffer those accusations. I digress though. 

This reaction doesn’t surprise me, but I must say it baffles and even offends me a bit. One of the driving forces behind the creation of this country was the notion that people wanted the right to practice their own religion. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right in the United States. I appreciate this freedom and respect those who choose to exercise it.  I don’t expect anyone to justify their beliefs or lack thereof nor do I allow it to play a part in the opinion I formulate of a person. And I certainly don’t belittle or chastise someone whose belief structure differs from mine. Why then should I be subjected to such a thing?

The simple answer is that I opened myself up for this kind of criticism when I posted my work on such a public forum. And let’s be honest, I knew it was coming. I even expected it to come on a much larger scale. What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of support.  There are many open minded readers who adore this story, and its author, who have come to my defense, some rather vehemently I must say. This kind of support means as much to me as the adoration of my work.

In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that freedom of speech and freedom of religion, along with a few others, are inalienable rights granted to Americans.  Enjoy those freedoms, and please if you can, find it in your hearts to allow others to do the same.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Always the Bridesmaid

A few months ago, I began another writing contest journey.  This contest, for young adult novels, consisted of three rounds of competition. Round one was the qualifier.  Round two was the semi finals and round three was the finals.  While I successfully made it to the finals, I’m sure you can tell by the title of this blog that I wasn’t the winner.

To be honest, I’m not surprised I didn’t win. In the last several years, I’ve entered a number of writing contests which I have yet to win. I should qualify that by saying my second novel, Extraordinary Will, was the 2009 Reader View’s Literary Award winner in the romantic fiction category.  That being said, I’m not sure literary awards and writing contests can be lumped into the same category, but I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. In my history of contest entries, I’ve had some close calls. I’ve made it through many layers of different contests, but I can’t quite seem to break that glass ceiling to be crowned the winner.

Whether or not contests actually help a writing career is again another subjective matter. Given that I don’t personally know any literary agents, I don’t know if these types of credentials are better than no credentials at all. I’m quite certain that without a good hook in the query letter, the credentials don’t make a lick of difference. What constitutes a good query letter is a discussion for another time, but I’m ashamed to admit I’ve turned out some terrible ones in my day.

When I send my books to reviewers, I include a brochure in my media kit listing all of my positive contest achievements. For fun, I thought I’d list them here, and yes this list includes my recent contest outcome: 2011 Finalist- The Gatekeeper Post Young Adult Novel Contest, 2010 Quarter Finalist-Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, 2009 Reader View’s Literary Award Winner, 2008 Semi-Finalist- Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and 2005 Writer’s Digest Award winner.

Is that an impressive looking list or what? Of course I’m kidding, but I do hope it sways agents and reviewers when considering my work. I also use this list of accomplishments to remind myself that I do have some measure of talent, which motivates me not to give up. This is particularly important on days like today when I’m reflecting on yet another contest loss.

Another contest has come and gone without a victory. Does it make me a bad writer? I think not or I wouldn’t have made it this far. I could chalk up to the old cliché: always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I don’t think I will though. I think I’ll add it to my growing list of accomplishments and be proud of what I’ve achieved thus far.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Literary Show and Tell

As promised in last week’s post, I want to spend a bit of time talking about how the term show and tell applies to writing.  If you recall, this came about as a result of my rereading the S.E. Hinton novel, The Outsiders, and finding it rife with instances of tell rather than show. This novel was penned when the author was just sixteen, which prompted me to recall how many contemporary young authors seek my advice and struggle with this very problem. Given that I like to help people succeed where I’ve failed, and to do so in the easiest manner possible, I felt compelled to break down what it means to show readers as opposed to tell readers what you want them to know.

Before I go any further, I think it’s only fair to say I too have made the mistake of telling and not showing my readers what’s happening in my stories. Some of these mistakes I’ve shared in prior posts, including my recently diagnosed (and now in remission) addiction to adverbs.

Adverbs are those pesky words that end in the letters ly. Most often, these are used to describe a character’s dialogue. The writer wants to convey anger, sarcasm, fear, disgust, etc and falls back on one of these words.  It goes a little something like this: ‘I can’t stand you’, Mary said angrily. ‘You’re no walk in the park,’ John responded disgustedly. And so on and so forth. For some reason, writers believe the harsh words won’t stand on their own to convey the heated nature of the scene so they fall back on these adverbs. I too was one of those writers. However, since having it pointed out by a diligent editor, I’ve made an effort to cut them back and use them only in moderation. There are occasions when an adverb or two is called for, but their use should be sparing. By using adverbs, writers are telling the readers instead of showing them.

So, how does a writer show a character’s emotions without using adverbs? I often ask young writers how I would know their characters were angry, sad, frightened, etc, if they weren’t allowed to use an adverb to tell me. Many are stumped as to how to answer so I ask a few more probing questions. Let’s use anger as an example. How do I know a character is speaking angrily without the author telling me that’s what she did? Did her face redden? Did she speak through clenched teeth? Did she roll her eyes? Did she ball up her fists, raise her voice, stomp around the room, throw something… Get my drift? Writers need to use their descriptive abilities and describe the emotions and actions as opposed to falling back on those adverbs.

Speaking of descriptions, I often find character descriptions gone awry. By that, I mean authors once again tell the readers what a character looks like. I know what you’re thinking. How else will readers know what characters look like if the writers don’t tell them? There are ways to show readers what your characters look like that don’t consist of the following: John was six feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. This kind of description is dull and can be detrimental if John is the protagonist. When writers start off by telling me what their characters look like, I’ve already lost interest. Instead, I encourage writers to find another way to work in physical description. Instead of just telling us John is six feet tall in this straight forward way, say something like: John had to hunch over to fit his six foot frame in the door or John never could find inexpensive clothes that fit well, owing to the fact that he was six feet tall. There are all kinds of creative and clever ways authors can introduce character traits without boring the reader.

Some authors also tend to take the show and not tell advice a little too far. They’re so keen to show readers what they want them to see, that they end up doing it in a rather telling way. It happens like this: Mary entered the house and saw two blue couches facing each other. On the wall, she saw photographs of Tom’s ex-wife and felt angry. Then she looked at the coffee table and saw the photo album and saw the words Tom and Sue engraved on it in gold letters. Can you pick up the mistakes in the italicized section? There are a couple of them. The glaring mistake is the use of the words she saw to describe the setting. Many authors do this. I can only suppose it’s because they think readers won’t be able to otherwise know who’s seeing things, but they’re missing the boat. Authors need readers to identify with the protagonist and feel as though they could be him or her. Using words like she saw takes that away from readers. Not to mention, it disrupts the flow of the story and insults the readers’ intelligence. Consider the following passage: Mary entered the empty house. Photographs of Tom and his ex-wife lined the painted walls. A photo album entitled Tom and Sue sat atop the coffee table. Mary’s face heated up as she mashed her lips together. Why did Tom still have so many photos of Sue in his house when they’d been divorced almost ten years? Could he still be in love with her? I think you’ll agree the second passage did a much better job of setting the scene and portraying Mary’s emotions without weighing the story down. 

As I've said a few times, I've been guilty of many of these same mistakes. In fact, it pains me to admit but some of my early professional offerings, including my award winning novel Extraordinary Will, are chock full of these issues. Since the beginning of my career, both my writing and I have matured. In sharing this, I hope to spare many up and coming writers the agony of going straight to the slush pile. Can I guarantee following these rules leads to publication? Of course not, but it makes for better writing all the way around.