Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cassy’s Corner—How do Your Stories Emerge?

I apologize for being on a bit of a binge. I’ve been plotting, fussing, worrying about my new book. You’ve read my wanderings over the last few weeks and you know the issues: Is the character BIG enough, are there enough challenges facing her for her arcs to be significant, do you want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next, are her supporting friends and enemies good enough and bad enough, how hard are you rooting for her, do you want to invite her to dinner? The list goes on. Oh, and does she think about having sex in the first 15 pages or do you wait until page 50? These are tough questions.

It sounds so silly to put it in this simple text. But, as I am writing and worrying about my new best friends, I do want them to somehow be like me. NO, not like me but at least understandable to me. So that means a little quirky, a little funny, a little silly but not totally stupid. Maybe that is me and maybe it’s not. But, so be it. I still have to have a long term relationship with them.

Another issue I’ve been thinking through is-- what is the balance between who lives in our stories and what happens in our stories? Do your characters take off and run with the plot? Or, does your plot determine who is going to act it all out? Of course it’s a combination. Yet, there has to be a balance. It’s like driving from Boston to New York. I need to have a bit of a map, but there certainly are many ways to get there.

My current leading lady is fleeing a past life, pregnant and about to start a new adventure. She’s scared and unsure if she can pull it off, yet will try. I don’t know how she’s going to do it. I don’t know yet how many times she’ll skin her knees. But I do know that she and I are having a good time together.

And you? Do your characters drive your stories or do your stories find your characers?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Liz's Lair: Rock Stars in Martha's Vineyard

First off I want to apologize for being MIA these past few weeks. I spent a week with my wacky bunco girlfriends in Destin, FL. (There will be a later post when I get the pictures.) Four days after I got home I headed out to Martha’s Vineyard for a wonderful writers’ event.

Cynthia Riggs, author of the entertaining mysteries from Martha’s Vineyard, is a client of my agent Christine Witthohn. She put together an event at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven that featured Christine speaking about the state of publishing, among other things, before turning the mic over to five of her authors.

Yes, you heard me right. There were five of us, each one writing different genres, who came together on the island for a week of writing, brainstorming, mingling with the local writers, eating and . . .did I mention there might be a bottle or two of booze here?

The Cleaveland House was built in 1750 and has been in Cynthia’s family for 8 generations. There’s wifi but no TV so we had to force ourselves to mingle. Ha! We can’t seem to get enough of each other.

Anyway I digress. Each one of us told the standing-room-only crowd about how we got into writing and where we were in our careers. They couldn’t get enough of it—since most of them are where we were B.C. (Before Christine). It was a wonderful event and we were treated like rock stars (Donna Cummings, Michelle Madow, Anita Clenney, Sheila Redling, and me). Unfortunately I didn’t have a book to sell but several of Christine’s authors did.
To promote the bookstore which was named Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year in 2002 (and you can only win once), each participant was offered a 10 minute pitch to Christine if they bought any book that night. Needless to say, they were lined up. It was a wonderful night for all of us and we came home to the beginning of Cynthia’s generous hospitality.

And I have to tell you about the wonderful woman who stays in the small cottage behind Cynthia’s house. Lynn Christoffers is a curator who divides her time between her job in NY and her newfound photography business in Martha’s Vineyard. She videotaped the program at Bunch of Grapes to be shown in its entirety on the local TV station. On Saturday Lynn videotaped Cynthia interviewing each of the five rock stars, plus Christine, which will also be shown in their entirities one at a time on the local TV station. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s taking head shots of all of us in our most natural moments. But we don't dare run around naked (or without makeup) because her camera is everywhere.

Today is Sunday and we have had 3 full days of getting to know each other. . .sometimes learning more things than we wanted to know. As the pitchees waited for their big moment with Christine, we primed them to make them less nervous. Tonight we are having a potluck supper with Cynthia’s two writers’ groups and that should be fun. Hearing other people’s plots and adventures is really cool. It seems like everyone on the island is a writer or artist or a mixture of all of the above.

My hubby is here with me and I worried about how he would keep from getting bored. I shouldn’t have. This house is so rich with history and you couldn’t get it all in if you were here for several years. There are too many stories to tell. . .unless you want to hear about the outdoor shower and the panties. . .and the growler beer that comes in moonshine bottles right from the hills (not really).

Anyway, thinking about how the Martha’s Vineyard writers were like sponges trying to absorb everything we said, I thought it would be a perfect time to pose a question to you guys since you are all so savvy.

If you had to tell a new writer one thing you wished someone had told you early on, what would that be?

And one last thing, my three chapter line edit on Brenda Novak’s auction ends in two days. Right now I’m at $12. Come on guys, I’m worth way more than that.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Barbie Jo's Bunkhouse: Holiday Weekend

This isn't the post I intended, but it's appropriate I suppose. We had some pretty bad storms come through the area Thursday night (tornado watches and warnings in Central New York, no less!!!). And to wake up to NO INTERNET this morning was just...well...just HORRIFIC!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, it's one thing to KNOW you're going to be on vacation, or visiting family/friends where you will either have NO internet, or random opportunities to hop online. But to expect it to naturally be there, like hot water for a shower, and have there be nothing, well, that's just WRONG.

But now I have come home from errands to find the internet up and running and I am less stressed. Oh, how we have come to rely on the demons of technology!!!

Is everyone ready to celebrate the long holiday weekend???? I'm looking forward to some nice steaks grilled and a glass of red wine on the deck tonight to kick things off. We have plans with some friends and their kids on Saturday. On sunday we are going to the fair grounds for some Brew, Blues & Barbeques with more friends (adult time!!!!). And I think Monday we will be able to just hang out at home and play catch up.

We used to be big campers, and last year at this time we were headed to Canada. I kind of miss it this year, and wish we were going. Maybe next year we can pick up the tradition - although we will have to board the dog for sure. The cabin was waaay too small for 5 humans and 1 very large pooch! But Memorial Day Weekend always kick started summer for me. Still does, but I want the 'routine' back. Maybe I will find us a new place to start the summer fun! (I'm aways up for new goals)

While we haven't forgotten the true reason for the holiday, it IS nice to have an extra day off of work and be able to spend time with friends and family.

What is everyone else doing? Anything traditional that you do or go to every year?

During this long weekend, let's remember and honor our servicemen/women, past and present, our firemen, policemen and women's auxiliary. They are people who care about this country and proudly serve it well.

Enjoy the weekend everyone! And thankyou technology gods for restoring my internet service!!! *amen*

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cassy’s Corner- Precious Things

What touches you? As in The Sound of Music, there are raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. But the question is…. What touches you? What sends you to the safe place? AND, the question stands in reverse. What makes you shy away, not go there?

I’m working on a new book and this quest has been heavy on my mind.

As we write, we touch the tender spots. We know what we love, how it feels to have someone so very special in our life. But we also know how it is to be scared. Are we fearful for our safety, for our fragility, for our success? Or are we totally comfortable with who we are and where we are going? What makes us laugh, cry, have shivers?

These are somewhat trite questions. Yet, as we write we are exploring other people’s lives. The people we create. The people who live with us for 300 pages. Where do they come from?

On this loop there are folks who write about warriors. Some write aut fantasy worlds that exist hundreds of years ago. There are queens and princesses. I have no knowledge of the dragons and the demons, but many of you do. We are drawn to the worlds that intrigue us. My world might not be yours. But it is mine.

Last month when I attended the Brainstorming Session in Matera, Italy, I was totally taken by the diversity of the writers. These were multi-published authors who spent time with mystical worlds, former special ops guys, fantasy creatures and women who were learning to make their own way. These were the creation of these magnificent authors who are able to negotiate their craft. It was an incredible week.

Having said that, I ask you. Who are the people you spend you day with? I am talking here about your writing or your imagination. Who helps you? Who lets you discover another approach to the dilemma you are solving? Who takes your story to the next level?

Thanks for joining in the conversation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kari's Kave: The Long Quiche Goodbye: a Review

Good morning everyone! Todayy I wanted to talk to you about a book I just finished reading.

by Avery Aames

Avery is a fellow Berkley author, and she just won an Agatha Award for Best New Novel with this book. It's also a national bestseller! I couldn't be more thrilled for her. And also a bit curious.

It got me thinking what exactly is so special about this novel? What did she do to earn that kind of honor? Well, let me tell you, her book didn't disappoint! I literally couldn't put it down. That's saying a lot for me. As an author, it's hard to read for pleasure. We constantly analyze everything, so it's difficult to simply get lost in a story. I was pleasantly surprised when that's exactly what happened to me.

Here's the book blurb so you know what the story's about:

Welcome to the grand opening of Fromagerie Bessette. Or as it's more commonly known by the residents of small town Providence, Ohio--The Cheese Shop. Proprietor Charlotte Bessette has prepared a delightful sampling of bold Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, delicious tortes of Stilton and mascarpone, a taste of sauvignon blanc, and for the piece de resistance, a little crime of passion...

Charlotte has barely begun melting like fondue in front of a handsome artisanal cheese supplier named Jordan when a blood-curdling shriek disrupts the festivities. Right outside the shop, Charlotte finds a body, the victim stabbed to death with one of her prized olive-wood-handled knives. As the police leap to conclusions, it's up to Charlotte to find the real killer...

I love this series! Right from page one, I could understand how she became a bestseller and why it won an Agatha. It's all in the details! Aames creates such great characters. They are so richly drawn, you can "see" them clearly. They have quirks and are unique and a whole lot of fun. And her world...she uses amazing details to describe pretty much everything. Her story really has that "big book" feel to it. Cozies are all about a great mystery with a satisfying conclusion, fabulous characters we get to visit time and again, and a really cool setting we'd love to take a trip to. This Cheese Shop Mystery has all that and more, and recipes to boot. My mouth is watering already. I'd like some wine and cheese please :-) Two of my favorite scrumptious treats!

Aames has made me take a second look at my own series, and realize I have to dig deeper and really put everything I have into making my books rich, lavish reads that satisfy all of the reader's senses. Taking that extra step and really polishing a story with rich details makes all the difference. I cannot wait to read her next book, Lost and Fondue! But first I guess I'd better finish book two in my own series Corpse in the Crystal Ball: A Fortune Teller Mystery.

So tell me, people. Have you discovered any new authors or fabulous mysteries you'd like to share? And what do you think makes a story "special?" I'd love to hear all about it. In the meantime, happy writing, and read on my people!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two Reading Hats

Welcome to Anita's Attic

I just read that the pink ribbon hat Princess Beatrice wore for the royal wedding sold on eBay for over $131,000. The only good thing I can say about that hat is that the proceeds of its sale raised money for charity. Quite a bizarre fashion statement, but it got me to thinking about hats; in this case, metaphorical hats. For most writers, our love of stories began as readers. When I was young, I was fascinated by the worlds I found between the pages of a book. I still am. It never occurred to me that I might write one myself until a few years ago. I had been on a reading jaunt that was about as insane as that hat the Princess wore, when it occurred to me that I could write a story. Or so I thought. I found out that writing a good story wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. But I learned and I persevered and here I am, with a Scottish paranormal series and an author hat to go with my reader hat.

When reading for pleasure, I can completely lose myself in a story. Nothing matters but those characters and that plot. I’m not picky about those little technicalities that drive writers and editors crazy. I’m there, living the characters’ joys and their woes. But if I put on that author hat and read, it becomes an entirely different thing. I start seeing the creation of the story, the way the author strung the words together to build the plot, to create characters. Are there too many adverbs, not enough sentence variation, too much telling – not enough showing? Is the writing just not engaging enough? Or did the author do something that was brilliant, that made me gasp in awe and feel the bite of envy? Sometimes that author’s hat gets in the way. Instead of just enjoying a movie, I’m busy analyzing the plot, because as a writer I know where the story should go. It can take away from the enjoyment of books or movies if you’re not careful. But if you’ve hit a wall, that hat can come in handy.

A few times as I was writing Awaken the Highland Warrior, either my warriors weren’t behaving, or my writing just seemed to dry up. I think I needed to step away and look at the story fresh. If I had that luxury, I took it, but if I was pushed for time, I grabbed a book, put on my author hat and read a few paragraphs, and I was back in the game. So I love both my hats, I really do, and I think there’s a time and place for each.

What about you? Do you have a reader and an author hat?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Liz's Lair: Mystery Author Ed Lynskey Talks About Romance in His Books

Today, we get a look into a new mystery series from Ed Lynskey, but first I have some news. Mortal Deception will debut June 6th with a great cyber margarita/tequilla shooter party all day long. There will be prizes every week for four weeks and a special drawing for a brand new kindle on July 4th. Come back then for all the details...and spread the word.

Be sure and mark your calendars for the festivities.

On another note, both Kari and I are offering manuscript critiques at the Brenda Novak auction. Our part ends at the end of May, so hop on over there and check it out. Right now we are the major bargains of the whole shebang!!

Now on to my friend and fellow author, Ed Lynskey.

Ed works and lives near the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. with his family and two cats. Needing a break from writing his PI Frank Johnson series, he wrote Lake Charles, a stand alone Appalachian noir, which is his ninth novel. He also decided to write a small town cozy, Quiet Anchorage, featuring a pair of seventy-something sisters, Alma and Isabel Trumbo. If Quiet Anchorage sells like hotcakes, Alma and Isabel will evolve into a series. So this year, he's offering something hardboiled (Lake Charles) and something softboiled (Quiet Anchorage).

Take it away, Ed.

Brendan Searches for Love in All the Wrong Places Until…

My new Appalachian noir Lake Charles is a suspense novel, as the reviewers and readers have noted, but I also set off my nineteen-year-old protagonist Brendan Fishback on a quest for a lasting romance. Granted the romance angle isn’t the big theme here, but most of my main characters form strong emotional bonds, be it as friends or as lovers. That human quality, I believe, has a vast appeal to fiction readers. They’re able to “like” the main character more strongly. As Lake Charles opens, I put Brendan between relationships.

Things of late have gone south. He wakes up in a motel bed, with the dead young lady Ashleigh after their casual meeting the night before at a rock concert. The local sheriff arrests him for her murder, and later through some dumb luck and legal wrangling, he’s released on bail.

Brendan works as a pressman in the small town of Umpire, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains, but now he’s forced to become a private eye as he goes after Ashleigh’s actual killer. We also soon discover he’s a lonely but hopeful guy. His eyes are kept peeled for the chance to meet Miss Right.

His previous steady, Salem Rojos, dumped him after he refused to ditch his pot habit. Now he regrets his decision, but what’s done is done. Despite his wounded heart, he realizes any reconciliation with Salem only amounts to wishful thinking. I like to show the main character coming to grips with a love gone awry. Nothing is more agonizing as being on the rebound from a failed romance.

The rich party girl, Ashleigh, his next date, obviously proves to be a lousy choice. After her murder, Brendan gets his act together and begins his self-detox. The weaning process triggers his unusual dream sequence where Ashleigh, in spirit, plays his femme fatale, at various times taunting, cajoling, and baiting him. He’s not sure if she’s real or not, but he’s unable to silence her say inside his head, and he even talks back to her. The evil Ashleigh, then, is how I cast the bad girl in Lake Charles.

When not battling the specter Ashleigh, Brendan is trying to help out his twin sister Edna who also happens to be married to Brendan’s best friend, Cobb Wheeler. Edna and Cobb have separated, and Brendan is of the mind they belong together, so he plays their peacemaker. He’s unable to see how he might not be the best advisor on affairs of the heart though his intentions are noble.

Edna disappears during their day outing at Lake Charles, and the two guys go look for her out there in the boonies. After the plot heats up with the mayhem, ambushes, and betrayals expected of a noir, Brendan finds his attention to romance temporarily diverted by other things, you know, like staying alive and out of prison.

But as we all know, romance can blossom at the most unlikely times. Casablanca, anybody? During the third act, Brendan is surprised when the mushy feelings inside him start to churn again. A different young lady—Veera Sutwala—has caught his eye, and despite all the strife raging around him, he’s learned these opportunities don’t swing around very often. He’d better act on this his feelings before it’s too late.

I hail from the writing school contending that noirs don’t always have to end on a downbeat note. I’m not saying the story’s ending has to follow the schmaltzy HEA formula, but good things do happen to us. So, I give Brendan a little credit for brains to figure a way out of his rough seas. He may not get all he wants, but he also doesn’t go away empty-handed. Otherwise what’s the point of reading the entire book?

I intended the romance in Lake Charles to serve a broader role than merely giving Brendan a girlfriend to pal around with daily. He’s a young man with some growing up to do in a hurry, and his maturing emotions tell him a satisfying relationship is what makes life worth living. Readers can identify with that sentiment, too. My aim is they will come to like Brendan and then want to root for his falling in love again.

Excerpt of the dreaded break up scene from Lake Charles:
">I’d lost a little swagger after Salem Rojos and I parted ways. It still smarted. I sighed. Ah, first love so broke our tender hearts. That night we’d relaxed in the lawn chairs. Their portable TV sat on the rear porch step. What did we tune in? Tony Beretta drove screaming after the villains in his gray muscle car. The citronella candles were a joke because I swatted an army of mosquitoes attacking me. Pete and his wife had gone to bed, and Salem and I sat alone. Squirming in her lawn chair, she parked her bright eyes on me.

Here it comes, I thought. We’d been quarreling all week.

“I won’t be at your pot parties, Brendan. Ever.”

“So you told me.”

“Yet you still go. I can smell the pot on your clothes, hair, and kisses.”

With a silent groan, I recrossed my ankles. She’s got to be on the rag, I thought but said, “I never promised you I’d quit.”

“My point precisely, and this is as good a time as any to promise it. Say it. I’m waiting, Brendan.”

What a bitchy nag. “Is it a big deal?” I shrugged. “I don’t miss any time from work. I’ve got no DUIs or arrests.”

“Well, I don’t like it. If you respected my feelings, you’d make the promise.”

“I tell you what. I’ll only come over when I’m straight,” I said, sure that my compromise was a generous and fair one. “How’s that sound?”

“Sounds like bullshit. You have to decide. It’s the dope, or it’s me. There’s no wiggle room left here.”

Resentful anger heated my cheeks and ears over her issuing an ultimatum. “Why did you wait until tonight to whip this on me, Salem?”

“It’s always bothered me. I like Brendan fine, but the pothead Brendan is a turn off.”

The tube picture was jerky. The Rojos watched TV in the backyard to savor any refreshing breezes. Mrs. Rojos had a neurosis that air conditioners bred summer pneumonia. Right now, breezes or no breezes, I sat there stewing. Nobody had called me a “pothead” to my face, and I didn’t like the seedy appellation.

“I’m waiting for your answer, Brendan.”

“Maybe we should take a break from each other.”

“There’s no maybe to it.” She bolted up from her lawn chair and moved to head indoors. She stopped but didn’t look back at me. “Good-bye, Brendan. If you ever grow up, give me a call. I’d love to hear when you’ve turned it around.”

“Hey, I’ll do that sometime.”

But I’d never updated Salem I was powering through kicking my drug habit, and I had a few major laps to go. That’s not to say I liked to live in my hermitage over the taxidermy shop. No nookie was a drag. But hell, I reasoned, I’d meet a galore of other Salems. With its 55,000 rowdy pipeline roughnecks, Valdez was rife with its juke joints, crapshoots, and cat houses all catering to the Good Time Charlies. Sure, I’d take off up north, hunt down Angus, and we’d go set the woods on fire. We Fishback men were babe magnets.

This is Liz talking now!! So guys, what do you think? Do you like romance in mysteries? Personally, I couldn't write one without it, but I have to admit it does complicate things in a series. Let's hear from you guys about this. Ed will give away a pdf file of Lake Charles to one lucky commenter. (That's the only format right now.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Barbie’s Bunkhouse: The artful procrastinator

First of all, I have to apologize for being absent this week. The day job has been insane as summer classes have started. Ugh. These days I think I’m living my very own “Oliver”, except we have the artful procrastinator taking the place of the artful dodger. And yes, that would be me. You see, back in the fall I received some very disturbing, frustrating and downright devastating news about a story that I’d submitted. Now, I’ve had rejections before and they are never easy. But this was supposed to be a done deal. It was like someone cut me off at the wrists. Talk about paralysis! I had hit my darkest dark and lowest low. I know both Kari and Liz have been there, and I’m starting to believe the old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. But still….

It has taken me 5 months now of good days and bad days, zero motivation to wanting to do it all. You’d think the fact that a Hollywood director is interested in a couple stories of mine would kick my keester in gear, but it doesn’t. I normally work wonders under pressure, but not now. Sometimes it’s like the worst case of writers block. My family life (3 busy kids schedules, hubby's inexpected injury/surgery/recovery, and lets not forget the dog!)has gotten in the way on top of me trying to dig myself out of the dumpster. And in the process of all the “issues”, I’m using them really as excuses why I’m NOT writing – instead of being my usual optimistic self and persevering to Git R Done!

Well yesterday, I think I finally had a break through! I know, thank GOD right? Barbie was getting way too depressing and damn it, that’s just not right!

I’d been tossing around some new cozy ideas with my CP and for some reason I couldn’t get them off my mind. So I took a mental health break at work (yup, true procrastination) and did a little research. Once I was happy with the results, I started writing blurbs and working out characters for 2, yes 2, new ideas! And I love them both!!!

I’ve been working so hard on updating my Middle Grade into a YA for so long (research, adding cool elements and details) that I guess I was starting to get stale (for lack of better word). Looking into something NEW and in a different genre was perfect! My mind feels so clear now and I can feel that drive and motivation starting to return, the real Barbie Jo coming back to life!
I know sometimes you have to get to your darkest place in order to get to where you truly need to be, and I’m hoping that was mine.

And just so you all understand, procrastination really isn’t a bad thing. You can think that It’s avoidance, but I think it’s our minds way of telling us to take a break and exercise it differently, kind of like when you reach a plateau with your exercise routine – you just have to MIX IT UP!!! Which Cassy actually talked about yesterday, as she has jumped into something new, too! YAY Cassy, way to go!

So how do you conquer the procrastination? Do you see it as a good thing, or a bad thing? Is your page half empty or half full? *okay, that was kind of lame* But you get my point.

Oh, and I joined Sisters in Crime last night too. Look out Crime Bake, Barbie Jo and Kari will be making a road trip!!!! And we haven’t had one in so long, it’s bound to be quite the adventure. Hmm…we just might need to podcast or something….

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cassy’s Corner- Where to Begin?

I’m starting a new book. The last one needs revisions, but I need a new story. I’m not running away from my dear friend whose words are almost completely memorized, rather, it’s time to start something fresh. And, I’ve decided to push myself in different directions.

This has led me to thinking about how one begins a story. Who are the characters? Where does it take place? What are the journeys each person has to endure? Why does the story even happen? Oh, the list is long. I’m in the middle of it all now.

As a self-proclaimed plotter, I’m also trying this book a little differently. I’ve thought it through, but I haven’t mapped out the scenes and arcs as I usually do. Nope. I’m writing. I do confess, as said above, I’m not without a plan, just not the details I dearly hang onto.

So, it’s a crap shoot.

I’d love to start a conversation about what draws you into a new story. I am taking about writing one, not necessarily reading one. When and how do you decide “that’s” the book?

I have just returned from a few days of lovely time with my husband—long overdue. Over dinner our practice is to catch up. Conversations range from the silly to the serious. This time a fair amount of minutes were spent with me as the subject. “Tell me what you are working on.” “I’d love to read something on……that you could do.” “You know so much about….write it.” Yeah, okay. I love the support, but the truth is, we don’t want to write all that we know. We want to write about what draws us into the moment. What captures us, the writers as well as the readers.

Today my words on the page are different than the ones I’ve done before. They are more revealing, more “me.” I don’t know if they will appeal to the mass market. But, they need to be typed out. I’ll then decide if I hit the delete button or let them live on.

Chime in. How do you start a new project? How do you pick and choose among your “children” when each is screaming to be heard?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kari's Kave: Conference Anyone?

Hello, Bloggerland, it's me...Kari!

Sorry this is up so late. I just got back from driving my hubby and his posse to the airport. They are off on a Myrtle Beach golf trip. They do this every year and love it. I hold down the fort while he's gone, and am happy he takes this time for himself to do something he really enjoys.

So that got me thinking. Why do I go to conferences? In part, I go to promote my books. I do workshops so people will get to know me. I volunteer and moderate workshops so I will get to know other authors. I take workshops because you can ALWAYS better your craft. I network and mingle at the bar to get to know agents and editors, etc.

But mostly I go because it's something just for me and something I really enjoy!

I think we all need that. To do something just for us. Especially as wives and mothers and caregivers, we don't take time out to do something just for ourselves very often.

Then I got thinking that while yes, I conference just for me, it can get expensive. And really, I am now promoting to a different audience. So as much as I love RWA nationals, I really do need to focus on attending conferences that are geared toward what I write. I think we all need to continue to evaluate what will benefit you the most as your career goals change over time, yet still choose something you know you will have fun at. Who says we can't have it all?

This is the first year in a long time that I am not attending RWA in NYC. In a way I am really bummed. It's finally in our neck of the woods. But it's sooooooo expensive anymore. So I am going to the Crime Bake in Boston this November instead. It is soooo much cheaper and it is geared toward what I write. Mysteries!

I want to attend SCBWI one year as well, but the mystery conferences sound awesome. People loved Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. When I go to RWA, I know so many authors, it's a lot of fun. It made me realize I need to meet my fellow mystery peeps. I need to get to know that world, and hell, hopefully my editor :-)

I still plan to drag my "special" peeps along with me, because let's face it, we could be ANYWHERE and still have a blast as long as we're together. But I have to say I am so excited to mix and mingle with a whole new "mysterious" world of writers.

So tell me, why do you all go to conferences? Do you really think about the conferences you attend and who they are geared toward? Do you ever think about attending new ones based upon what you write these days? Any great ones worth knowing about?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Evening With Nora Roberts

After my fairytale booksigning two weeks ago at Nora Roberts' husband's bookstore, I was invited back to Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland for a Girls' Night Out. I had no idea what the Girls' Night Out was about, but I figured if Nora Roberts was involved, that was good enough for me. So Dana, Alethea Kontis and I made our way back to Dame Nora's for a night of food, fun, and chatting, even with Nora herself. She talked and mingled wearing killer high heeled shoes that in my case would've really been killer, since I would have at least broken an ankle, if not my neck. She hung out for the evening, just like the rest of us.

The event was open to the public, and lots of women mingled with authors and artisans who were present. The bookstore doesn't just sell books, but offers a variety of local artisan's works, from jewelry to hand-made lotions and soaps. A massage therapist gave hand and arm massages for free, which for a writer is a wonderful thing. There were door prizes and lots of fun to be had.

Several local ladies told me how wonderful Nora is. She doesn't just "pocket all the money" this lady said. Nora gives back to the community without ever tootin' her own horn about her generosity, which includes scholarships and supporting the local arts and crafts. Her Inn is furnished from the local furniture shop two doors down the street. The food for this event came from the restaurant just up the street. I know how supportive she is to the writing community but I hadn't realized until lately that she does the same with her local community. One of the ladies said that Nora could've chosen any communtity to help, but thank God, she chose Boonsboro.

And yet, she still manages to write about five books per year. One fan asked the store manager, who knows Nora well, how Nora does it. Lots of hard work, the store manager said. She said Nora puts in a full day of writing just like anyone else would put in a full day of work. No ghostwriters, just drive and dedication. You only have to be around her a few times, or see a couple of interviews, to know this woman has a work ethic and determination that is admirable, if not frightening. So my goal in life isn't to be Nora Roberts; there's only one, but I want to have that same drive.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Liz's Lair: Encore Post - The Ten Deadly Sins of Pitching

With RWA Nationals right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to repost this blog. A lot of you probably have appointments with editors/agents to pitch your manuscript. I, for one, think that’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I totally suck at it and pray I never have to sit through one of those ten-minute sessions ever again. I’m agented – she does all my pitching, right?

Wrong, Bucko! She does most of it, I have to admit, but what am I going to say when I find myself in the elevator with Edith Editor from the most perfect house for my next story?

“I’m sorry. Here’s my agent’s card. Call her to find out what I have.”

Ah, no! We all have to be prepared for that golden opportunity in or out of an organized pitch scenario when we’re asked. “What do you write?” As a reminder to myself, I’ve come up with the ten deadly sins of pitching. Here goes:

10. "I have this great story about a lesbian vampire that will be finished sometime in the next year or so.”

NO! NO! NO! If you’re scheduled to pitch at Nationals, don’t waste your time (or their’s.) I guarantee no one will sign you with an unfinished manuscript unless they know you're capable of finishing a book to their satisfaction. Yeah, I know, both Kari and I sold on proposals but not before the editor had already read a completed manuscript that just wouldn’t work for the line.

9. Pull out a two-page, single-spaced synopsis and start reading.

NO! NO! NO! First off, you only have ten minutes, and trust me, you will probably have the editor thinking about Mickey Mouse long before you flip to page two. Keep it short and sweet. A pitch like this should begin with you introducing yourself and a little small talk before she asks what you have. Start with the genre and word count, and be aware, you probably only have the first five sentences to hook her. Make them count.

8. Wear your new skinny jeans and save-the-whales tee shirt.

NO! NO! NO! Business casual is what you need. I'm really jealous you look good in sexy jeans but save them for the night life.

7. “My friends say I write as good as Nora.”

NO! NO! NO! Number one, nobody writes as well as Nora, and number two, you will come across as arrogant. You can, however, say, you’ve read all her books and her style influenced your writing.

6. Pitch an erotica novella to an Avalon Editor.

NO! NO! NO! Do your homework. Know what your targeted person is actually looking for. If it’s an editor, find out some of her published authors and comment on that. For an agent, read one of her client's books. Believe me when I say no one is immune to that kind of extra effort.

5. Go to your appointment a little tipsy.

NO! NO! NO! I always swore I needed a margarita to get me though one of these sessions, but I never followed through. Anybody ever see me after one drink? I am a giggling fool. Don’t chance this.

4. Tell an editor/agent about your advanced degrees and that you are a single mother supporting three kids.

NO! NO! NO! She only cares about this if you’re writing a book about it. Now, if your story is about an undercover CIA agent and that’s in your résumé – go for it!

3. Notice her name tag in the elevator and start rattling off your pitch.

NO! NO! NO! That is right up there with stalking, and she’ll definitely remember you, just not in a good way. Instead, smile and let her start a conversation. Be prepared with your three or four line elevator pitch just in case she asks what you write. If she doesn’t ask, respect her privacy.

2. If she says it doesn’t sound like something she’s interested in, argue the merits of your story to convince her.

NO! NO! NO! Smile and say, “Bummer!” Then ask if she might be interested in something else you’ve written. If she’s not or if you don’t have anything else, ask her questions about her job or how she likes the conference so far. I once pitched to an M & B Medical editor and knew from her pinched brows she wasn’t that into me. “You write too much plot for this line,” she said. “Okay,” I replied. “Now what can we talk about?” By the end of the ten minutes we were both laughing. She might not have remembered my story at the end of the day, but I promise, she remembered me, even smiling when I saw her later.

And the number one Cardinal Sin of Pitching: “You’ll have to read my book to find out the end of the story.”

NO! NO! NO! I can almost guarantee you’ll walk away without a request. A pitch and/or a synopsis is NEVER the place to be mysterious, even if your story is a mystery.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, work on your pitch. Make sure the hook is the first thing out of your mouth after the genre and word count.

“Lonely workaholic CEO hires a prostitute working her way through college to be his escort for a business dinner and ends up with more that just a one night stand.”

Do you recognize this? Is it not the entire plot of the story? Do you want to read it?

Now, go practice your pitch in front of the mirror. Don't be like this guy.If you’re brave enough to post your three or four line pitches, we’ll be glad to rip it a new one –just kidding. My cohorts will have a lively discussion about it and I will chime in from Florida when I can. Hopefully, we can help you make it the best it can be.

If not, just let me know what you think of my list.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barbie’s Bunkhouse: Bringing the story to life

Blogger didn’t feel well this morning, so I’m hoping this post will eventually be up today! 
I know we’ve all talking about outlining and plotting and using music to keep us in the story. Have any of you actually use pictures – drawn out, live photographs or pictures from a magazine. I haven’t done this in a long time, but when I was first starting to write, I took a huge piece of poster board and cut out people from magazine who I felt represented my characters. Then I made notes about them around their picture. I also found pictures of items they might have in their house, or their hobbies, etc… It worked great to keep me motivated and to remind me of key things I wouldn’t want to forget.

For my latest YA, which has a lot of fantasy elements in it, I’ve actually draw free hand pieces of my world and written all around it exactly what this particular item does, or what’s inside it, etc.. just to remind me because it’s just that cool. Sometimes I wish I were a little more creative on the computer so I could bring my hand drawings to life in a real live picture. But alas, I’m not. Nor do I have the proper software, so I guess I will leave it to a professional someday when they buy the book!

Now, I’ve also gotten into the fun habit, when I have time to play around and fantasize, of looking up celebrities who I would want to play my characters if my story was ever made into a movie. Now THAT is much more fun than cutting pictures from a magazine! And sometimes, to my disappointment, my favorite celebs just don’t fit the bill with my characters. (sigh) Which makes me wonder if I don’t need to find a story to fit THEM! (ha!)

Using a musical playlist helps keep the plot alive in my head, and having a visual imagery of my settings and characters helps keep the rest of the story to life for me.

What things have you done to bring your story to life?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kari's Kave: Blog Tour Tips

Good morning, Bloggerland!

As you all know, I'm gearing up for promotion for Tempest in the Tea Leaves which comes out in two and a half months! I think when it comes to promotion, you have to decide what you're most comfortable doing and what is cost effective. For part of my promotion, I decided to do a blog tour. There are some sites that set one up for you for a fee, but I decided to do it myself.

Setting up a blog tour can sound intimidating, but it's really easier than you think. The key is to start early. Bloggers are busy and fill their blog dates quickly. It's also time consuming to set up a blog tour and you don't want to leave yourself strapped while trying to meet a deadline.

To be most effective a blog tour should happen the month your book is out. Maybe start a couple days before the book releases and then fill the entire month. You don't have to do weekends, but Monday through Friday for sure. These bloggers live all over the place and we all know that first month is key for your numbers, so you really want to be everywhere to get buzz going. I think the Internet is the fastest way to spread the word to a lot of people.

* First, you need to research and find a bunch of bloggers who do interviews, guest posts, and reviews. One time saving tip is to go to the authors who write in your genre and see if they've done a blog tour. If they have, they often have links to all the posts on their website. Those are the blog sites you want. Ones with a lot of followers who like your genre. You can also google some, but there are so many it's hard to know which ones are good. Also strive to use reviewing blog sites who are fans and readers, not necessarily authors. This is what they "do" and they all know each other. You can even find more reviewers by checking out their site and seeing what blogs they follow. And make sure you read their review policy so you know what they cover, how to contact them, etc. Once you have enough of them (I contacted around 40 just to get 20something to respond) then you're ready.

* Ideally bloggers will want an ARC or a galley (some will take an e-version) when you get them around 3 months before the book comes out, so the key time to contact them would be 4 months out. If you don't get ARC's, then you'll have to wait until you get your author copies about 1 month out. There are several exceptions who will agree to go first and leave the later dates for those who need more time. Also, many will agree to do a guest post or interview with you first, and then post the review when they are ready. The whole point is to keep your name out there the whole month in any way, not just reviews. Make sure to get their mailing address so you'll know where to send the book when you get it.

* Write a standard email you can use for each of them, but personalize the first sentence or two. Include that you are writing to them because you are in the process of setting up a blog tour and their blog caught your eye. That you would love to have them review your book, and do an interview or guest post as well. Also let them know if you will be offering a book giveaway at the end of the tour to one lucky commenter with a US address (if you don't want to mail something to another country). Then include the title of your book, the publisher, the ISBN, the release date, a book blurb, and quotes praising the book. Finally, let them know you look forward to hearing from them.

* When you send the emails, copy and paste your info and send them one at a time. It's tacky and impersonal to mass email your request. It's essentially what you're doing, but you don't have to blatantly spell it out for them.

* Be prepared when email responses start rolling in. Have your calendar ready and mark the dates if someone agrees to host an interview or let you guest post, etc. That way you also know what dates you still have available if others ask what do you have left? If you have contacted your bloggers early enough, chances are they are pretty flexible because they haven't locked that whole month in yet. So if they choose one date and you already have it booked, you can ask them if they'd mind doing it on one of these dates instead (give them a couple choices not just one), but reassure them if they can't, no worries. That you'll make the other date work. The whole point is to be everywhere, even if it means you have more than one thing on the same day.

* Remember, you will be writing your interviews and guest posts ahead of time, so really, all you have to do on each day is advertise where you'll be on Facebook, twitter, loops, etc. and then just check in a couple times to comment. You don't have to be on all day. And I follow the comments via email so if someone chimes in, my email will let me know.

* Another big tip is make sure your guest posts are different. If you've done this correctly, and you really are everywhere, people are going to get sick of reading the same thing from you. So start thinking early and write up a couple different posts at your leisure. Everything from craft tips to inspirational stories, top ten lists, interviewing your characters, posts from your characters, character's library list or even music playlists, etc. There's all kinds of things you can do. Be creative and have fun. You want your personality to show through.

* Finally, remember to mention your website, social media sites, and newsletter if you have one. This is a great way to collect followers. And keep your blogger list handy for when the next book comes out. You've already done all the hard work.

Whatever you do, have fun. This is an exciting time. Enjoy it. I hope some of these tips help when it comes to setting up your own blog tour.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Juggling Writing, Promotion, and Loops.

Awaken the Warrior is in bookstores. YAY! Finally, after all this waiting through edits, revisions, copy edits, how incredible to have people from all over telling me they see it on the shelves in bookstores. A girl on Twitter sent me a picture of it in her local bookstore. Another girl in Chicago said she went into Barnes and Noble to buy her book club book, saw Awaken the Highland Warrior on the end of an aisle, very good placement, she said, especially for a debut author, and she bought it! Our very own Donna Cummings saw it on a tower in her Barnes and Noble. Of course, there's my local Borders who doesn't even have it in stock yet. They first thought they had 8 copies coming, then 2. Who knows how many or when they'll arrive?

So, I'm thrilled that it's out and I'm trying to do everything I can to promote, but it's taking a TON of time. I'm going crazy with all the loops, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads. I just put an ad on Facebook and Goodreads. I'm doing my second giveaway on Goodreads. But all this time is taking away from writing the third book. I've already pushed back the pub date. I don't want to do it again. As authors, how on earth do we handle promotion and writing. Do we drop the loops? Limit the loops. Sometimes I feel like just saying forget promotion...if the book sells, it sells; if it doesn't, it doesn't. But I can't do that. I have too much of my time invested not to give it a good go.

However, I've heard that Nora Roberts' answer to everything is..."Write the damn book." She's very practical when it comes to things like this. I heard her say in an interview that she doesn't believe in muses and more than she believes in inspiration, you just write the book. And after the booksigning with her, seeing those lines of people who were there primarily to see her, some coming from as far away as Florida and Chicago, I think she knows a thing or two about this business. Every author will tell you, and so does our wonderful agent, that writing the book is the most important thing. If there isn't an incredible book, there's nothing to promote. So I guess I'll take a hint from Nora, back off on the promo a bit--just as soon as this blog tour is over--and just write the damn third book.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Liz's Lair: Being Proactive With Your Health...NOT!

I am getting ready to go on my annual girls’ trip with my Bunko Babe friends. Some of you might recall how these women surprised me last Christmas when they dressed up for a picture and labeled themselves the Sangria Sisters. Seems they are a wee bit jealous of my header picture with my M & M Babes!!

Anyway, there will be no writing on this trip. It is simply a fact-gathering research excursion. You see, I get all my good one-liners from these women and they go straight into my books. Granted, all but one is a grandma and one is even a great grandma, but trust me, they can fire off the zingers. We are going to Destin on Friday where we’ve rented a 6 bedroom house with a pool. For 7 glorious days, we rarely do our hair or put on makeup. We do all the cooking and only get dolled up one night for our anniversary dinner at a nice restaurant. Of course, there is one clean-up afternoon for shopping. The entire week is spent eating, sleeping, playing water volley ball, reading, laughing……and DRINKING.

This year there will be lots of frozen margarita swirls, Kahlua cakes, Baileys hot chocolate, wine, homemade sangria, and even alcoholic fudge. I need to use them as guinea pigs since I want to include the recipe in my next book. Didn’t I tell you it was for research?? I’ll bet I can write the whole darn thing off, like the cruise!!)

Anyway, with that trip in mind, I thought it was important to spend a little time with women's health issues. I got this from Margaret Golla, a friend and fellow writer, and I felt it was relevant to remind everyone how important it is to stay on top of your fitness and medical issues. So here it is. You can thank me later for helping you out.

Important Women's Health Issue:

Do you have feelings of inadequacy? Do you suffer from shyness?

Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

Do you suffer exhaustion from the day to day grind?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Margaritas.

Margaritas are the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Margaritas can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Margaritas almost immediately and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas.

Margaritas may not be right for everyone - women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas. However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:
- Dizziness
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Incarceration
- Erotic lustfulness
- Loss of motor control
- Loss of clothing
- Loss of money
- Loss of virginity
- Table dancing
- Headache
- Dehydration
- Dry mouth
- And a desire to sing Karaoke

* The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
* The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
* The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing and/or dance.

* The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting.

Does last year’s Crime Bake and RWA Orlando pop in anyone's mind??.

Please share this with other women who may need Margaritas. Say hey if you are one of these women!! Oh, and next Monday's blog will be an encore presentation since I will be busy taking care of my womanly health issues!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Reality TV Talk

I was going to do my post on procrastination - since this is the 3rd week I have totally forgotten to do my post ahead of time and I'm scrambling to throw something up on the blog. (I hate when I do this). But then I thought about some of the interesting shows I've caught this week and thought that might be more fun for a Friday!

Reality TV. I've never been a fan since the original Survivor, American Idol, Big Brother era. I thought they were great when they first aired but once people really started to play the game and be nasty...I lost interest. With the exception of American Idol because there is no game to play, it's all about talent - I just cant' get past all the horrible people in the beginning. I know some folks find that entertaining, but I think it's sad that a production company would let someone make a complete idiot of themselves on national TV. I mean, they HAVE to know they suck. So do they sign a waiver agreeing to the rotten judges comments and humiliation? I just don't get it. Take me to the finals, please.

But now, so many networks have reality shows. For a while I still wasn't watching only because I was too busy writing in the evening. But that has changed (for now). And I'm hooked on all the crazy things people are doing. I've talked about my addiction to American Pickers - LOVE IT! But now...it's all about the crazy gator huntin' Swamp People! O.M.G. I find it hard to believe that there are some down home, back woods southern folk who still make a living catching Gators 2-3 mos out of the year. 2 people in a boat, and a shot gun. And they pull the gator in with their bare hands! Holy *%&@!

Just last week Diva and I watched the premiere of The Voice. A different spin on Idol and America's Got Talent. I really like it (at least all of the contestants can sing!) because the actual artists (Blake Shelton, Christina Aguillera, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine) choose 8 contestants each to be on their team. Just this week they all picked their 8 and next week the contestants compete against each other and the field gets narrowed even more and then the viewers start voting (kind of like Dancing with the stars and Idol, etc). I'm hooked already!!!

Which has got me thinking....There could totally be a writer's version (maybe for future conference fun) and it could be called "The Word" or "The Plot" or "The Novel" - and there would be 4 editors in chairs while an author reads the first 3 pages of their book. I don't know, but I think it could be fun, in a writer's mind only kind of way. Hey, they could even put Agents in the chairs for those authors who are in need of one!

So my take on Reality TV is that it has gotten better and there is more variety instead of people being locked in a house together or stranded in some remote location or racing across country looking for clues and getting on each others nerves and being nasty.

This is original, real people and what they do. I'm finding new addictions besides wine and chocolate!

What are your reality tv addictions? What show(s) will you drop everything for to sit down and watch or DVR?

Happy Mother's Day to the mom's out there and have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cassy's Corner

I have always like the fall best. It’s my favorite season. It represents to me the beginning. Yes, that sounds backwards, I understand. But, school starts in the fall. Long yellow pencils, clean notebooks, a new lunchbox complete with a thermos. There are new friends, though that was sometimes a little scary. My family moved many times as I was growing up. I’m visiting my parents right now, hence probably this wander down memory lane. My mother reminded yesterday that they’d moved 20 times. I’m not sure that’s right. I think it might be more. I moved 11 times before leaving for college. But, the moves were always in the late summer just before the fall- or start of school. So, that is the New Year for me.

My parents live almost four hours north of my own house. Four hours equals about two to three weeks of growing season. So, my daffodils are about finished. My tulips have been eaten by the deer and my grass needs to be mowed. Here, it is just beginning. The bulbs are pushing hard to break through the ground. The forsythia is brilliant.

Last week I was further west, though still north. I was in Minnesota. The climate was yet again different. Of course, you say. What a silly comment. But, it caused me to think.

I live on a lake. The seasons are clearly noted. The first goose family just presented their seven fluffy goslings. The swans are still strutting around, making us wait for what they offer to the landscape. I never know about the heron.

In our writing, we have phases. We have seasons. I know this is seeming a tad stretched. But my travel combined with the dramatic differences in the landscape really has me thinking about the influence of geography, climate, and weather on our writing.

We plan, we plot, we write, we edit, we edit yet again, and…well, we keep thinking about out projects until the next one begins. It is not unlike what I am looking at out the window. The change in what we see differs based on where we are. But, isn’t that just like our work? We have the seasons. We plant our ideas, we watch them grown, we trim and weed. Then, we hope they become their own sturdy lovely structures. And, then, we start again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kari's Kave: Beta Readers

Good morning everyone!

I'm coming out of my deadline "kave" to talk about beta readers because, basically, I will need some soon myself :-)

That got me thinking about when to use a beta reader.

So I decided to start at the beginning. Who are beta readers? Well, a beta reader is someone who looks at your work with an objective eye and "hopefully" points out any problems they see. Some people use fellow published authors while others use fans of the genre.

To me a beta reader is not a critique partner. A CP is a writer who can point out plot problems as well as help you clean up editorial polishing problems like grammar and spelling, etc. I like to use beta readers who are not writers, but fans of the genre. Not your mother or sister or best friend, but someone you might know who is a huge fan of the genre. They know the genre and know what they like and what they don't like.

So my plan is to start with my CP's first. Change any plot problems and polish the book the best I can. Then send to beta readers to catch anything my CP's might have missed, especially because my CP's know my story so well. My CP's rock at brainstorming :-) But you'd be amazed at what even they can miss because they already know what's coming.

Sometimes I wonder if I should wait and use my beta readers after I get my edits from my editor. Make all the changes and then use the beta readers as a final pair of eyes before the book is accepted and goes to print. Or maybe the answer is to have several readers. Start with CP's, then a couple first round beta readers. Then edits from the editor and then final round "new" beta readers. I truly think once someone has read the story they are no longer objective enough.

So then the questions becomes how many beta readers do you use and where do you find them?

What do you all do?

Enquiring minds need to know :-)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fairytale Booksigning with Nora Roberts

We all know that the writing business is tough, whether you're just starting out and waiting for The Call or a veteran author, as I learned in my retreat this weekend at the published authors' roundtable discussion. Getting published opens up another set of fears. What if it doesn't sell? What if I can't write another book as good as the first? What if it gets bad reviews? How am I going to promote? What is I can't stay published? And for me a biggie was, what about booksignings? I imagined this nightmarish image of me sitting in a big bookstore, my face pale, looking like a deer in headlights as people walked through the door and past my little table. My experience was anything but.

First, let me start with the day before. My dear friend and critique partner, Dana Rodgers and I headed to Boonsboro, Maryland, where Nora Roberts husband's bookstore is located. What a drive. It was gorgeous, the storms from the night before were fading away. And in the midst of my celebrating, let's all remember the families of those who lost so much. Such a tragic thing.
But this trip had been planned for a long time, so we arrived in Boonsboro. Turn the Page is a small, quaint bookstore owned by Bruce Wilder, Nora's husband. Across the street is Inn Boonsboro, Nora's gorgeous Inn, with each room named after the characters from a great story. It was incredible. The rooms, the décor…the toilets. They did everything from open by themselves to drying your nether regions, after washing them of course, and I’m not kidding. The Inn was gorgeous. The picture above is the back of the Inn. The front is so near the street, they don't really use the doors.

Inside our room, the Jane and Rochester, there was a copy of Awaken the HighlandWarrior waiting, with a letter asking if I could please take a moment to sign it for the Inn's library. "Oh, I think so, Nora." And there was a bag of heather-scented bath goodies for me. We roamed the inn, checking out the library and dining room before heading outside. I've never seen a place like Boonsboro. It was a cute, small town. I've seen cute, small towns before, but no matter what store we entered, they treated us with amazing hospitality. That evening, we met some wonderful fans who were staying at the Inn. They had flown in from Florida and Chicago just to meet Nora. We spent some time together laughing and talking, and now they're fans of mine as well as beta readers.

On the day of the signing, a short, adorable woman popped into the dining room with the
announcement that, "They kissed. It's done." We had no idea what she was talking about until she mentioned the royal wedding. Dana and I were already living a fairytale. We also had no idea that the woman was Shauna Summers of Bantam Dell. People make all kinds of crazy excuses to get an audience with editors, and there we were, alone in the dining room chatting with her and didn't even know who she was. We watched people lining up outside the bookstore, some waiting for hours to get inside. I honestly expected that it would be awkward because I'm unknown. I figured I would only sell a few copies, but I knew I would have fun anyway since it would be a great experience.

I was shocked to see people coming through the line with Awaken the Highland Warrior in their hand, asking me to autograph it, autograph their tote bags, even store paper bags, and some wanted photos with me. I can't even explain the feeling of stopping everything so I could stand up and take a picture with a fan. Incredibly amazing. There were so many wonderful readers and all those great writers, like Alix Rickloff, next to me.

Needless to say, I was stunned when the books in front of me disappeared. I still can’t believe I sold out. Apparently Nora Roberts' table was quite excited about it. I heard she was surprised but pleased because debut authors never sell out at these booksignings. The bookstore manager was shocked as well. She scrambled to see if she could locate more copies elsewhere in the store, but couldn’t. It didn’t hurt that Dana was there with me. They let her sit next to me. She chatted people up and I’m sure a few bought books just because she sold them on how great she thought the story was. I’m telling you, all writers need a Dana. And an agent like Christine. I wouldn’t be here without her.

Then a reporter from Hagerstown MD showed up asking who was Anita Clenney. Me, he was looking for ME!!! He interviewed me and even quoted me in the article. Well, he quoted other people too, but hey, I’m a debut author and he mentioned me first! And how totally cool that when they did the author photo shoot, there was yours truly between Nora Roberts and Sherrilyn Kenyon, with Kristan Higgins behind Nora. A little nobody like me can’t ask for more than that. All in all, it was a fairytale booksigning. And just in time for the release of Awaken the Highland Warrior. It's out!!!! All the hard work has paid off and now it's here. I'll give away a copy to one commenter. Comment on anything. Nora, books, Inns, toilets. I don't care.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Liz's Lair: When Writing Gets Too Hard

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

OMG! That is so true. Initially, I had a hard time with this title and the subject matter. At first glance, it sounds like I need some cheese with my whine, but trust me, it isn’t meant that way. I love being a writer, love that my stories come to life on the page. It’s just that it’s not an easy job. I’ve said it many times before that writing is not for sissies.

I have a good friend who decided to put her pen down (actually she writes on the computer, but this sounded better) a few years ago. She said her heart had gone out of it. She had two stories written, both of which had garnered a potload of rejections.

Now, I know you’re thinking, “Put your big girl panties on and toughen up, sister. We’ve all been there –done that.”

And I can’t say I disagree. Still, it is disheartening to know how much work we put into our stories only to find out NO ONE is interested in them.

Which brings me to another thing. How many more times can I hear someone ask me what I’m planning to do with all the money I have now that I’ve sold my book?? Excuse me?? Patiently, I tell them that’s not the way it happens nowadays in today’s economy. That only about 200 of all the writers in the world make enough to quit their day job. (I have no idea where I heard that, so I can’t verify it with 100 % accuracy, but it sounds right to me.) Most writers are considered midlist and that brings anywhere from 0 to 20 grand advance per book unless you have several books under your belt.
Let’s take a hard look at that. Assuming an author gets $5000 per book which is pretty much the norm for a debut author, the break down numbers are downright scary.

It takes me 6 months to write a book (I’m pathetically slow) and another 2-3 to edit and get it sent out to beta readers. That’s 32 weeks, assuming there are no 5 week months in there.
Again, assuming I get 5 grand per book-------are you doing the math with me?? That comes out to $156 a week.

Are you freakin’ kidding me?? That doesn’t even factor in all the time and money spent promoting and keeping up with my craft by going to conferences and networking with other writing professionals.

I’m beginning to understand why my friend chose to give it all up. She says she’s not a spring chicken (welcome to my world) and she’s not sure she wants to work this hard anymore. Again- been there-done that. I remember telling my agent she had to hurry up and sell me before I kicked the bucket.(No pressure, Christine.) It worked, BTW.

So, I guess all this ranting and raving is for me today. I’m in between books and ready to begin Book 3 (Beginnings are always hard for me.) I know I’ll never be able to retire on my writing income, so why do I knock myself out?

The same reason you do. Let’s face it, if we didn’t love writing so much, we could all go down to Wal Mart and be greeters and make a helluva lot more money…and get health insurance as a beni!!

So, I’ll end the depressing stuff and close with this funny quote I found on the Internet.

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers. – Irvin S. Cobb.

I say, “Amen, brother...and pass the food stamps!!”

Can you guys out there please add your two cents? Am I a lone whiner???