Monday, August 30, 2010

The virgin writer…

Last week was a big week for me. I became a first time published author. Seriously! Name on the cover and everything. My first published book is called Whiteout, an erotic romance published by Cobblestone Press. I'll share my virgin publishing experiences as soon as I'm finished having them. Meanwhile, let's talk about being a virgin writer…

Not quite two years ago now, I woke to an overwhelming urge to write. Not the vague "I want to write a novel someday," type of urge. Heck, a lot of people tell me they want to write a book. No, this was a "Help me! An idea has me by the throat and won't let me go!" full-on compulsion. I sat and started writing. It didn't matter that it was the Christmas holidays and I had a house full of family. It didn't matter that all of my previous writing experience was either academic or technical. The only thing that mattered was the story and the characters that were coming to life inside my head.

I didn't know anything about writing a novel and I had absolutely no interest in publishing, all I wanted was to get the story out of my head and onto paper. Before I wrote the first word, I envisioned a four book paranormal romance set in the Highlands of Scotland. This life-long detective novel queen was now writing about Druids, shape shifters, and the Tuatha de Danaan, as if I knew what I was writing about.

I lived the idea and wrote without an outline and without much more than the beginning, a few major plot points, and the end of my series in my head. The characters continued to speak to me, often taking me in unexpected directions. When the first book was finished I immediately started on the second.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me it might be enjoyable to share my story with others. Since I already belonged to a board that posted fan fiction, I took the plunge and started an off-topic fan fic thread.

I didn't expect many would be interested, but I was wrong. People started reading. They started to care about my characters, discuss plots, take sides in the stories. Readers were dreaming about my characters! I was no longer alone in my fantasy world.

It was then the insidious thought of getting published began to worm its way into my brain. I started researching and found out writers needed agents, agents needed queries, and queries had rules. Not only that, but the query rules were as solid as water and clear as mud. And whatever you do, don't use adverbs.

I am no longer such an innocent and I continue to learn more about my craft every day. But I will never forget those first heady days as a new writer, when every idea was fresh and every story possible to tell.

Other writers, are you out there? Do you remember when you were a writing virgin? Tell me about your first time…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Romance Give away.

All Mother's deserve a bit of romance and boy is this a great chance for you to win the mother of all prizes! Book Binge and several other blogs, plus Forever Romance, an imprint of Hatchette is offering six books to one lucky Mom out there. Hurry though, this is the last day!

http://thebookbinge.com/2010/05/mothers-day-romance-giveaway.html

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spread the Wealth!

What a great way to share a book that you love AND promote a wonderful story to those that might not otherwise discover a powerful and compelling read. Deidre is sponsoring a contest and your entries are based on the number of "Promotional Activities" that you put out there to spread the word about her first book, BUTTERFLY TATTOO.


If you would like a chance to win a gorgeous butterfly watch from Deidre, help spread the word about BUTTERFLY TATTOO. Butterfly Watch Contest

For me, the really good news is, I don't need to compromise anything to put the word out there on my blog, Facebook, or Twitter. I would have done it for free! Thanks Deidre, and here's your shout out!


BUTTERFLY TATTOO by Deidre Knight
Just when the darkness seems permanent, fate flips a switch.
Michael Warner has been drifting in a numb haze since his lover was killed by a drunk driver. As the anniversary of the wreck approaches, Michael’s grief grows more suffocating. Yet he must find a way through the maze of pain and secrets to live for their troubled young daughter who struggles with guilt that she survived the crash.

Out of the darkness comes a voice, a lifeline he never expected to find—Rebecca O’Neill, a development executive in the studio where Michael works as an electrician.
Rebecca, a former sitcom celebrity left scarred from a crazed fan’s attack, has retreated from the limelight and from life in general, certain no man can ever get past her disfigurement. The instant sparks between her and Michael, who arrives to help her during a power outage, come as a complete surprise—and so does her uncanny bond with his daughter.

For the first time, all three feel compelled to examine their inner and outer scars in the light of love. But trust is hard to come by, especially when you’re not sure what to believe when you look in the mirror. The scars? Or the truth?
Now available in print at Borders, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pitch Festival all about Love

It's already time to enter another Pitch Festival, in honor of Valentine's Day. Nephele Tempest, (what a great name!) an agent with the Knight Agency is taking pitches all this week for adult fiction, as long as it contains some romantic element.

Here are the basic rules: (Official rules here: http://nephele.livejournal.com/ )

"A ONE paragraph pitch for your book. I also want ONE paragraph about you--including real name and an email address where I can contact you, and any background info you feel is important. (Notice, she does not include a word count, just asks that we use our judgment and be kind.)

I was all over that, worked hard on my pitch paragraph, and posted it to AgentQuery for feedback from my fellow writers. The problem I have nothing to say in my second paragraph…

Relevant information? What's relevant? I have voices in my head that insist I tell their stories. The only people that may find that relevant wear white coats and dispense medication!

I have a great resume if you're looking for an instructional designer. I'm owned by five kids, 2 dogs, and a cat. I used to have hobbies before I started to write. Now my life is lived on my computer, in the pages of a rich and satisfying fantasy world with manly men and clever women, hidden paranormal powers, steamy looks, and passionate sex.

I'll let you know when I figure it out, and tell you what, if anything Nephele thinks of my pitch.

~Until next time~

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Building Character


When I woke up that fine morning, just over a year ago now, and decided I wanted to write a book, I really had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to create a world populated with people I would grow to know and spend my time with. Not surprising considering I grew up reading a variety of mysteries and much preferred to read serial mysteries, where the same character and sidekicks appeared in each of the stories.

I remember many weekend mornings, sitting at the kitchen table with a Nancy Drew mystery propped on the table while I ate. I loved Bess and George, and of course, I wanted to be Nancy, to be the one to put the clues together. More than anything, though, I wanted to be part of the group, to have friends who were with me through all our adventures, who would always be there for me…and they were. I could always count on a Nancy Drew mystery to get me through a lonely weekend.

In high school, I discovered John D. MacDonald, and his unforgettable hero, Travis McGee, his best friend Myer, and his houseboat The Busted Flush. Again, as much as I loved the hero (what's not to love about Travis?) I felt a strong bond to the characters, their friendship, and my perceived membership in the group.

I loved Agatha Christie, and read her books repeatedly, grouping the Miss Marple books and the Poirot books, so I had a chance to stay with the characters through several books, bonding, getting to know them better over time, just as you would in real life. I love Sue Grafton and Kinsey; Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum, Morelli, and Ranger; Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch; Jonathon Kellerman, Alex Delaware, and Milo; John Sanford, Lucas Davenport, and Sloan; Robert Crais, Elvis Cole, and Pike; Karen Marie Moning, MacKayla Lane and Jericho Barrons. In the YA genre, I was all over Harry Potter and Twilight.

All of these writer's have created characters with whom I want to spend time; more time than is afforded through just one book. I find something about each of them compelling, especially their relationships with others, and I want to be part of that group, too.

Although we all recognize what a wonderful ability it is to weave a story worth telling and to tell it so well that others will pay to read it, I think it is even more impressive when authors create characters that people miss after the book cover closes.

The authors and characters I listed are an inspiration to me, and remind me that, although I know my characters well, I need to share them in a manner that lets the reader develop their own relationship with them. A relationship that exists beyond the cover of just one book.


 


 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who’s Kicking your Cat?

When I was fortunate enough to see master motivator, Zig Ziglar several years ago, he told a story that really resonated with me, about kicking a cat. Now if you've never heard it, don't get too upset about animal abuse, I promise, that's not the point of this story, it's merely an effective analogy.

Mr. Ziglar tells this story much better than I do, so pardon my attempt to paraphrase his great work.

Mr. B was the top dog in a very large company. Every morning, he met some of his buddies for breakfast. One morning, he lost track of time, looked at his watch, and realized he was going to be late for work. He left the restaurant and jumped in his car. He barely had the engine started when he threw it in reverse to back out. He burned rubber leaving the parking lot. As he got on the freeway, he put the pedal to the metal and took off.

As he sped down the highway, he looked in his rear view mirror. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the flashing lights. He pulled over and rolled down his window.

"Where are you going in such a hurry," the officer asked.

"I need to get to work," he replied abruptly, "I'm a very important man," declared Mr. B

"Well, you're not above the law," the officer said.

"I didn't say I was … but shouldn't you be chasing real criminals and leave me alone?"

That was the wrong thing to say, because the officer replied, "I'll leave you alone in a few minutes. Let me see your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance."

Mr. B handed him the requested information. Then he sat there and stewed. As the minutes passed by, he got more and more angry.

The officer came back and handed Mr. B a ticket, along with the rest of his documents. Mr. B grabbed them out of the officer's hand, rolled up his window, and took off down the road.

By the time Mr. B finally arrived at work, he was very unhappy about how late it was. The first person he saw was his sales manager.

"Good morning, Mr. B" said the sales manager with a smile.

"There's nothing good about it," barked Mr. B, "I want to see you in my office NOW!"

The sales manager followed him into his office, and Mr. B threw his coat down on the couch, obviously peeved. "You fell short of your goal last week for the second week in a row. I want to know what you're going to do to get back on track and I want to know now."

"Mr. B," the sales manager objected, "We just talked about this yesterday. We have four big deals. Any one of them will put us over the top and I'm sure we'll get at least one of them."

"I'll believe it when I see it," Mr. B blurted out while looking at some papers on his desk. "You're dismissed."

The bewildered sales manager walked back to his office, and promptly yelled at the his assistant for not having the documents ready for him to sign, despite the fact he'd just given them to her.

The assistant stormed out into the lobby, threw the pile of documents on the receptionist's desk and said "I need these typed right now, and don't go to lunch until they're ready.

I'm sure you get the idea here…

The receptionist arrives home, late because of the extra work she had to do, that wasn't even part of her job. She sees her twelve-year old son, pants pocket torn, lying on the floor in front of the television, and she lays into him. "I work hard all day to buy you clothes, and I get home from work and see you've torn another pair of jeans, and all you do is lie around the house. I would appreciate a little help around here. No more television for you…go to your room."

Muttering to himself about the unfairness of it all, the boy heads to his room, when the family cat unwisely chose that moment to cross his path. The boy kicked the cat, and sent him scurrying from the room.

So here's the question –
Wouldn't it have been much better, for everyone involved, if Mr. B had just gone directly to the receptionist's house and kicked her cat himself?

And here's an even more important question –

Whose cat are you kicking?

This wasn't the blog I planned to write tonight, but I spent a great deal of time at work today feeling as though I was watching this scenario unfold, and trying to interrupt the progression, so no one would go home and kick a cat.

****

There are a number of sites out there for writers to share their hopes and dreams, to post samples of their work and to read and give feedback to others. Occasionally, I see a critique that seems particularly harsh, and it causes me to wonder, who kicked that writer's cat? Did she just get rejected by another agent? Did he receive a harsh criticism about his own work? What causes this progressive thoughtlessness? Or is it simply an increasing tolerance for boorish behavior?

Before I break out into a spontaneous verse of Kumbaya, let me give you two sources where you can find supportive writing peers, who will provide helpful feedback during your query search.

http://www.agentquery.com/

http://www.webook.com


 

 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The First Pitch

Back in the sixties, there weren't a lot of opportunities to play organized sports for girls. Hell, when I was in elementary school, girls weren't even allowed to wear pants to school. Seriously, we had to resort to wearing shorts under our dresses if we wanted to climb the monkey bars. In fifth grade, I had that most rare of elementary experiences, a male teacher. Mr. Parker introduced us to many unusual activities, but the one I remember best was softball.

Now, my Mom was always a big baseball fan, and believe me, being a Dodger fan in Los Angeles in the early sixties was a lot of fun. I'd listened to a lot of baseball on the radio, seen some games on television, and even been fortunate enough to go to some games at Chavez Ravine. None of that prepared me for the first time I held a bat in my hand and Mr. Parker threw a big fat softball my way.

I'd been the last one picked for the team, I'd played the sixth outfielder, stuck out on the asphalt, in case any balls got through, and I was the last one to bat before recess was over. We all knew what was going to happen, before I even picked up the bat. I selected the lightest of the big wooden bats, swung it experimentally, and smacked myself in the ankle while I was walking to home plate.

Just to make sure we all knew what was happening, Mr. Parker called out the situation to everyone… "Two outs, bases loaded, her team is down by one run, and Laura is our last batter." Swell.

I got into what I thought was the correct position, hefted the bat onto my shoulder, and stared out at Mr. Parker, full of determination.

He threw the first pitch; I closed my eyes and swung for all I was worth.

No one was more surprised than I was when, with a resounding crack, my bat somehow made contact with the ball, and it sailed over the shortstop's head.

I ran as fast as I could, my teammates cheering, as each runner on base crossed home plate and scored. The score was now tied, and I was rounding third, headed for home.

This weekend, the agents at Caren Johnson Literary Agency hosted an open pitch invitational on their website. Each author had 100 words or less to pitch their book, with the promise of feedback and some on-the-spot offers to submit their work. I found out about the invitational a scant hour before the deadline. Having never seen a pitch before, and only read about submitting queries to an agent, I knew I was unprepared to play. Did that stop this intrepid blogger? Of course not! I closed my eyes and swung hard at that first pitch.

It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about the art of securing an agent, about the importance of finding the right agent for your work, and about the wretched state of some of the competition. I also learned that really good ideas get turned down for a lot of reasons: poorly constructed pitch, not in the agent's area of interest, timing and the market, or the vagaries of personal taste.

So, in my first, rather playful foray into the world of securing an agent, I received the following feedback, "This is too long for a romance. I'm going to pass."

I struck out.

The important thing though, was I played. Even though I wasn't quite ready, I got out there and tried, did my best with what I had, learned from my mistakes, and vowed to do better the next time. Wow, those sports analogies really fit sometimes.

Oh, and for those of you left wondering about my first at bat…I crossed home plate ahead of the ball.

Till next time,

Laura


 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Greatest Gift


What do famous authors say when asked how someone could become a writer? They pretty much all say the same thing…If you want to be a writer- you have to write. I don't know about you, but that advice never helped me very much. It sounded good, in theory, but the reality of it stunk. Exactly what are you supposed to do with that giant sheet of white in front of you? I shifted writing to my "Someday List," and got on with life.

Imagine my surprise when I woke, the day after Christmas, 2008, with a compulsion to sit at my laptop and write. We had a house full of guests and the usual holiday chaos reigned, yet I ignored it all and grabbed my laptop. Sometime in the night, I'd received the world's best gift: an epic tale of paranormal romance, sprinkled with smutty goodness. Not just one book, mind you, but a series of several books, fully populated with a cast of characters, magick, Druids, and shape shifters.

It didn't matter that it wasn't "my" genre, what did matter was there was now a young woman, Elena MacFarland, living in my head, insisting on having her story told, and told her way. Who was I to argue? I started writing. A year later, I'm still at it, writing every day, and listening to an increasing number of voices in my head.

It has been quite an adventure, join me as I recount some of my favorite character moments, explore the world of publishing, and continue to speak for the voices in my head…