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Seasonal Writing & Goal Setting

  Posted by Jemi , 08 September 2014 · 38 views

As a teacher, I'm lucky enough to have 8 weeks off in the summer. For this summer, I set some goals with respect to writing.

Novel 1 in Series 1
  • Revise about a dozen scenes that felt off
  • Revise to eliminate 10 - 15k
  • Polish & edit
  • Send off to crit buddies

Novel 2 in Series 1
  • Revise to increase the tension - move a major revelation up from the 3/4 point of the novel to the first chapter (this involved a total rewrite after that point)
  • Change/tweak two aspects of the female MC's character
  • Read through the rewrite and make any needed improvements
  • Polish & edit
  • Send off to crit buddies

Novel 1 in Series 2

Start working on a website
  • figure out how this all works
  • get the basics in place
I'm thrilled to say I made most of my goals. The first 2 stories got through their rewrites. The 3rd one did as well, but it ended up being more of a bare bones story and I need to go in and flesh it out a bit. I've never done this before, but it's surprisingly fun and I'm about halfway through. Aiming to add another 5-10k and it'll be done and ready for a re-read too. I'm much happier with it now.

Unfortunately, my writing time will greatly diminish now that the school year has started, but I'm hoping my momentum will help me keep moving at a decent pace!

How about you? Are you a seasonal writer as well? Which time of year is your most productive?


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Holy Word Count!

  Posted by Jemi , 01 September 2014 · 32 views

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about how to make your writing leaner. I know from experience how daunting that can be, but that experience has made me a much stronger writer today.

Probably 6 years ago or so, I decided to write a novel. I knew nothing. NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

But I had read a whole slew (or six slews) of novels, so I wasn't in the least bit daunted.

The story ended up at over 170 000 words.

Yup, you read that right.

Then I stumbled upon Agent Query Connect and started to learn what writing a novel was all about. I learned a lot. Backstory, dialogue tags, strong verbs instead of verb/adverb combinations, echoes, tension, conflict, character arcs...

So I revised. And revised again a couple of (dozen) times.

Eventually, the story was down to 81 000. Less than half. And it was SO much better!

But I wouldn't trade the experience of writing that story in all its over-padded glory for anything. It will always have a safe place in my hard drive. I learned more from writing that story ... and revising that story ... than I could have from a dozen classes.

How about you? Any fond memories of your first serious attempt at writing?

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Helen Lacey and the Author/Agent Relationship

  Posted by Jemi , 25 August 2014 · 34 views

Please welcome the lovely Helen Lacey back to the blog today! Her new book Once Upon a Bride is a lot of fun! I enjoyed the plot, and the characters were complex and intriguing. If you're looking for an enjoyable romance set Down Under, look no further!

***
It’s no secret that the publishing landscape is evolving and shifting at a mind boggling rate. For years there was kind of status quo in publishing – the author wrote the book, sent it to their agent if they were lucky enough to have one or sent it directly to a publisher to languish in the slush pile. Now, with the surge in self publishing and the rise of small boutique publishers, it’s an author’s market. We no longer have to wait for rejection letters or hope for a contract. We can do what we like, when we like, and as much as we like.

I was recently at the Romance Writers of Australia’s annual conference and it struck me that through all the hype and talk about indie publishing and how so many authors, including myself, were now what has been coined hybrid, I was still being asked the same question over and over – why do I have an agent? Why would I give a portion of my earnings away when I could do it myself?

I signed with my agent about six months before I got published. I’d wanted to be published with Harlequin for a long time prior to getting the call in 2010…it was over two decades of submitting and eighteen rejections from this one publisher before I sold my first book to Harlequin Special Edition. I’d had a book in submission with them for over a year when I signed with my agent, and within months on signing I was offered my first contract. True, you don’t need an agent to sell to Harlequin, but in late 2009 I realized I wanted one. Why? Well, writing is mostly a solitary occupation and as a writer who is most defiantly a pantser, and one who just wants to write and has no interest in talking or negotiating contracts, getting agent was right for me.

And that’s what I always stress when asked the question – having an agent is purely a personal choice based mostly on my personality. My agent talks contracts and deadlines with my editor while I get to talk storylines and characters and simply write my books – which is what I love to do most.

I work a day job and have to fit my writing around that, family, friends, pets and general life stuff…having an agent makes the writing part smoother and much less stressful. The important thing is to work with someone who is your advocate. Someone you trust. Someone who shares your work ethic and understands how important your stories are to you. Someone who will work at getting the best from your books and contracts, and also someone who will support your endeavours into indie publishing if you wish to go down the hybrid road. I know an author who has been with her agent for fifteen years, I also know another author who has had three different agents in eighteen months. Not every author/agent relationship will be the rightfit. Sometimes you have to try one another on and see if you work.

Is having an agent for everyone? Probably not. But think about what you want…and then what you need and you’ll quickly work out if having an agent is for you and your career as an author.
Connect with Helen:

Website    Blog      Facebook    Twitter     Goodreads 
 
Helen Lacey’s latest release is ONCE UPON A BRIDE
Happily ever after…?

When Gabe Vitali escapes to a fresh start in Crystal Point, Australia, the former physician isn't looking for a storybook ending. For the first time he's living in the moment. His new five-year plan does not include serious relationships. But he doesn't anticipate his unavoidable next-door neighbor…and an undeniable attraction.

Bridal consultant Lauren Jakowski wants marriage. She's just sworn off love and sex! To avoid getting burned again, she's looking for safe and forever-after. But they're not Gabe's to give–for reasons he can't share with anyone, least of all this pretty complication.

Gabe and Lauren don't figure on a fairy tale. But fate has other plans…
For Kindle: Once Upon A Bride


***
Thanks Helen! Agents can certainly be wonderful assets for writers! 
It's an interesting time for writers and making the agent/self-publishing/hybrid/small publisher with no agent decision is an important one!


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Julie Musil & 5 Scary Things about Indie Publishing -- Plus Solutions to Calm Your Nerves

  Posted by Jemi , 19 August 2014 · 46 views

Please welcome the awesome Julie Musil to the blog today! Julie's latest book The Summer of Crossing Lines is out and about today. Can't wait to read it! Julie's first book The Boy Who Loved Fire is a great story with powerful characters. Today Julie's here to talk about...

5 Scary Things About Indie Publishing--Plus Solutions to Calm Your Nerves


The idea of indie publishing can be overwhelming--even scary. Believe me, I’ve been scared as heck since I took the leap and published The Summer of Crossing Linesand The Boy Who Loved Fire. But sometimes the scariest road is the one we must travel. I’ll share five scary things about indie publishing and what we can do to calm our nerves.

Scariest Thing #1--Quality Writing

What if my books aren’t good enough? What if they’re best left on the hard drive? We all worry about that, right? Readers deserve the best we can give them.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a professional editor

Don’t do this after draft two. You’ll waste time and money. My books had been through several rounds of my own editing. Then through beta readers. Then edited again and again and again. I also cut the word fat, using tips from craft books such as The Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall. If you’re paying per page, why pay for fatty words that shouldn’t be there?

After paring down the manuscript, I hired Bethany from A Little Red, Inc. to edit both books. She was fabulous. More on hiring a freelance editor here. It’s definitely an investment, but totally worth it.

Scariest Thing #2--Book Cover

Confession: I do judge a book by its cover. Fair? Probably not. But it’s something I consider when deciding what to read. Cool covers are important to me.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a professional cover designer

Sure, writers can create their own covers using a laptop and nifty software, but I didn’t want to skimp on this. The cover is a reader’s first impression of your book. I hired designer J. Allen Fielder, who does amazing work for a fair price. More on working with a cover designer here.

Scariest Thing #3--Formatting

Early ebooks were fraught with wonky fonts and spacing, which frustrated readers and helped give indie publishing a bad name.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a formatter or learning to do it yourself

Many authors hire formatters and swear by them. There are plenty of affordable resources listed on the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blogand Susan Kaye Quinn’s blog.

I’m a serial do-it-yourselfer and chose to do my own formatting. I’m so glad I did. If I want to make changes--even if it’s just centering text or changing one word--it’s easy to do. Begin with the Smashwords’ Style Guide(it’s free!). Most guides are created for Word, but if you use Apple Pages, the ebook From Pages ’09 to Kindle Format in Minutes($.99) will come in handy.

Scariest Thing #4--Getting Noticed

It’s crowded out there, and I don’t have the loudest voice. I’m not a salesperson and I’m definitely not a marketing pro.

Calm your nerves by...reaching out to people you’ve connected with

When it came time to spread the word about my books, I asked friends (like Jemi!) if I could spend a little time on their blogs, offering value to their readers. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? We’re writers. We should be used to the word No. (By the way, no one said no. Writers are such nice people). I also mention news on my Facebook Author Page, on Twitter, and on my own blog. Not constant noise, just sharing information.

Other writers hire marketing teams, but I haven’t tried that. The good thing about indie publishing is that you can experiment and find what works for you.

Scariest Thing #5--Failure

We all fear failure...newbies and professionals in all walks of life.

Calm your nerves by...accepting that failure is part of the process

Don’t give up. Keep learning, keep improving, and keep trying. That’s the beauty of indie publishing. If you try something that doesn’t work, you can try something new. There isn’t a publisher breathing down your back, demanding results. You’re free to chill out and have fun with it.

Have you indie published? Did my five scariest things mirror yours? Any questions you’d like answered? Any tips you’d like to share?


Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her Young Adult novels, The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire, are available now. For more information, or to stop by an say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

***
When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody loses control of her orderly life. Her stuttering flares up, her parents are shrouded in a grief-induced fog, and she clings to the last shreds of her confidence. 

The only lead to her brother’s disappearance is a 30-second call from his cell phone to Rex, the leader of a crime ring. Frustrated by a slow investigation with too many obstacles, and desperate to mend her broken family, Melody crosses the line from wallflower to amateur spy. She infiltrates Rex’s group and is partnered with Drew, a handsome pickpocket whose kindness doesn’t fit her perception of a criminal. He doesn’t need to steal her heart—she hands it to him.

With each law Melody breaks, details of her brother’s secret life emerge until she’s on the cusp of finding him. But at what point does truth justify the crime? 

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Apple     Kobo     Smashwords     Print

***
Thanks Julie! Those are great solutions for anyone interested in indie publishing! I won a 5 page edit from Bethany and would totally second your recommendation. She was fabulous!!

How about you? Any tips to add to Julie's list? Does self-publishing intrigue or terrify you?


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Spread the Happy

  Posted by Jemi , 15 August 2014 · 20 views

Sometimes the world is full of sad.

Many recent events/tragedies have been very difficult to understand or believe.

It's easy to be overwhelmed by tragedy and grief and worry.
It's easy to forget that joy and laughter and hope are just as real.
And just as important.

Our news sources have the responsibility to bring us the devastation, but I wish they took their responsibility to bring us the joys as seriously.

Sadness and grief and fear can be contagious.
And sometimes a cycle is created, bringing more and more grief.

But a smile can be contagious too.
So can hope.
So can love.

It's easy to forget that we are capable of changing the world. It's easy to feel small and insignificant.

We're not.

Every act of kindness,
every dollar donated,
every smile shared,
every person reached,
every hand offered,
every compliment given,
every person heard (really heard),
every heart opened,
matters.

Go out and share yours.

Spread the happy.

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Oh, Those Characters

  Posted by Jemi , 11 August 2014 · 15 views

As you probably know by now, I'm a bit of a sports nut. I spent a few days down in Toronto last week watching tennis at the Rogers Cup. AMAZING!

I put some of my People Watching games into action and got all kinds of ideas for new characters. A few of my favourites were:

  • the couple who'd finally got an evening free without the kids and had scooted out in such a hurry, they'd forgotten their tickets (had email proof and still got in) and their sweaters (would have never let the kids out of the house without them!) and their wallets (so were unable to buy sweatshirts). They snuggled all night to keep warm!
  • the couple with two kids who were wide eyed at seeing their heroes up close and who were thrilled to find people who were able to 'talk tennis' with them despite a bit of a language barrier
  • the couple wearing extremely expensive and chic clothing (3 piece suit, silk dress, high heels, wowza jewelry) who brought in a cooler of food and drinks to avoid the high priced snacks. They made egg salad sandwiches at 10 pm!
  • the pizza vendor who insisted I sing a verse of MargaritaVille with him before he'd sell me a slice of his delicious Margarita pizza!
  • the elderly lady with her pompoms, signs and noise makers who stood up and cheered VERY loudly when one of the players changed his shirt during the change over
  • the man who must have asked me 10 times if I'd really driven 8 hours on the highway "all in one day????"
  • the man who stated loudly he was a tennis expert and his date could ask him anything she wanted. He proceeded to make several errors in his tutorials, and despite the giggles around them, no one corrected him and his date appeared to be very impressed with his 'knowledge'
And so many more! How about you? Did you see any interesting characters on your vacations this summer?


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Painful Plotting

  Posted by Jemi , 28 July 2014 · 31 views

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about Plotting. As I'm not a plotter, this should be interesting!

I'm attempting to plot out a rewrite. I love the story and the characters, but there are huge issues with the story - mainly lack of tension between the 2 MCs. It's a contemporary romance so (d'uh!) I need tension. They're both too sweet and nice and get along and... yeah, no tension. There's lots of external stuff to keep it going, but it's not enough. Not nearly.

Hence the need to plot! Hope you'll pop on over and join the discussion - I could use some suggestions!


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Double Negative by C. Lee Mckenzie

  Posted by Jemi , 21 July 2014 · 29 views

The lovely and talented C. Lee McKenzie has a new book coming out!

Double Negative

Hutchison Mc Queen is a sixteen-year-old smart kid who screws up regularly. Hes a member of Larkston Highs loser clique, the boy whos on his way to nowhereunless juvenile hall counts as a destination. He squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. When that doesnt work, he goes to Fat Nyla, the one some mean girls are out to get and a person whos in on his secrethe can barely read. And then Maggie happens. For twenty-five years shes saved boys from their own bad choices. But she may not have time to save Hutch. Alzheimers disease is steadily stealing her keen mind.

Doesn't that sound awesome? Can't wait!!

Amazon (available this Friday July 25th!!)

If you haven't met Lee yet, here's where you can find her:
Website     Blog      Facebook

Want to enter to win? Of course you do!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***
Just for fun, I tossed 3 Favourite  questions at Lee

Favorite beverage: That’s a time sensitive question. Coffee AM. Wine PM.

Favorite season: Summer. I get to eat fresh tomatoes.

Favorite high school course: Don’t laugh, but I loved geometry. Something about those theorums

(I totally get the theorum addiction - I love Math!)

How about you? Love Math too? Or those fresh tomatoes? Hoping Maggie can reach Hutch in time?


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Put Downs or Build Ups?

  Posted by Jemi , 14 July 2014 · 46 views

There often seems to someone on the attack lately. I've been teaching for a lot of years and I've seen lots of attacks on books as well as attacks on people who choose to read certain books.

To me, the attacks are usually a waste of time & energy ... and just a little bit nuts.

Some people become absolutely inflamed because of what they think is in a book.

Whenever a new fuss pops up I think back to a student I'll call Amanda. She was in my split grade 6/7 classroom for 2 years. During our first reading conference of her Grade 6 year, Amanda admitted she'd never actually read a book on her own. Reading was very tough for her and by the time she finished sounding out words she'd almost always lost the meaning of the sentence.

She thought she might like some of the Goosebumps books everyone was talking about. There was a lot of fuss at the time from people who wanted to ban Stine's series from classrooms and libraries. There were people who claimed teachers were 'evil' for allowing kids to be exposed to them. (I question if any of those people actually read any of the books!!)

Being me, I had over 30 Goosebumps books to choose from. She selected 2 and I read them into tapes. She tried to read along with my voice during reading time.

Then she read one on her own.

Then another.

By the time she finished Grade 6, Amanda had read 17 Goosebumps books on her own.

17.

Over the summer and during her Grade 7 year, she moved on to Stine's Fear Street series. And Christopher Pike. And Caroline B. Cooney. Then Lois Lowry and JK Rowling. And many, many more.

Her grade 8 teacher was shocked she'd been a non-reader 2 years before.

Ridiculing anyone for their choice of reading material is yet another kind of put down. The world has enough of those.

I'd rather see the build ups. I'd rather celebrate the Amandas of the world who demonstrate perseverance and are willing to admit to a difficulty and take the risks involved in becoming stronger.

If I only stocked my classroom with my favourite books, it would still be a very large library, but it wouldn't rival the 5000+ books I stock today. The more variety I have available, the easier it is to find those Home Run books for kids and turn them into avid readers. Do I have to personally like the books they choose? Nope. Do I have to support their right to like them.

Absolutely.

How do you feel about the folks who want to dictate what we read or judge us based on the ones we choose?

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J.K. Coi Likes a Challenge!

  Posted by Jemi , 07 July 2014 · 37 views

Please welcome JK Coi to the blog today!

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How this paranormal author started writing contemporaries

When I first started writing, way back when in high school, I wrote about aliens. Specifically, aliens who possessed a teenage girl’s radio pretending to be the ghost of her dead boyfriend.

Now, without getting into all the things that were wrong with that (and all the things that were WAY COOL), it does illustrate the place from which my imagination was born. I’ve always written paranormal, or horror, or some form of supernatural. I’ve had vampires in my books, immortal warrior dudes with commitment issues, ballerina spies with metal and gears for legs, and werewolves involved in satanic rituals. The crazy list goes on.

So why did I suddenly decide to write a contemporary romance about two people starting their own tech companies at an industry convention in Antigua?

Well, the truth is, all the stories I’ve written have one thing in common besides the paranormal aspect: they challenged me in some way. One book I told in first person point of view because I’d never done it before; another book I wrote because I wanted to turn the trope upside down and make the heroine the vampire instead of the hero. I wanted to challenge myself to write a zombie book that could also be sexy. I wanted to challenge myself to write a series.

With IN BED WITH THE COMPETITION the challenge was to write a full length contemporary romance. I’d written short contemporaries before but not a full length book, and I always thought I would need serial killers, or bombs, or something abnormal to make a story about two regular people interesting enough to keep readers with me until the end.

But the truth is…I really liked it.

And now I’m writing another one. I bet you want to know what the challenge is going to be for the next book, don’t you? *grin*

JK Coi (www.jkcoi.com) is a multi-published, award winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance and urban fantasy, who loves writing dark, tortured characters that leap off the page and into readers hearts. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This rivalry is too hot for the tropics…

Elizabeth Carlson and Ben Harrison used to be friends, coworkers...and almost lovers. But that was before Ben proposed mixing business with pleasure. Elizabeth refuses to lose her heart to a hotshot tycoon with a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners attitude. Not with the prospect of starting her own
company at stake.

Driven to succeed in all areas of his life, Ben couldn’t resist the temptation to make Liz his. But then she walked away, igniting a bitter rivalry. Competing for the same contract at a Caribbean conference ignites sparks too hot to ignore, and Ben’s determined to finish what they started, even if it’ll only last a few steamy, tropical nights.

Elizabeth’s resolve begins to crumble under Ben’s blatant seduction. Can she walk away from a hot island fling with the sexiest man she’s ever known with her heart intact, or will losing herself in Ben destroy everything she’s fought to achieve?


Book Link on Goodreads


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Sounds like lots of fun! Can't wait to read it!

I love how J.K. switches genres for a challenge. I wrote my YA Steampunk for the same reason - and that MG sf idea refuses to go away completely!

How about you - do you have ideas for different genres knocking at your skull trying to get out?


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