Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writer's Platform Building Campaign

Just in case I didn't have enough to do with my time, I've added this little challenge!

In the words of Rachael Harrie, the host of this event, "[The] Writers' Platform-Building Campaigns are ways to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, industry people, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.

The Campaigners are all people in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs."

So, in addition to bathing my children and getting the second novel done, my free "alone" time will be spent doing this. I really need to cancel cable!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Win a signed ARC of Ashes

Check out this contest at The book sounds intense!

From Amazon:

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Library Fines Should be Tax Deductible for Writers

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much on library fines every year. The sad thing is, I don’t always get to read all the books I borrow. It’s not that I don’t want to read them, but between keeping up with my genre, actual writing, revising, taking care of my family and trying to get in a few hours of sleep every couple of days, there’s not always enough time left to read the 15 “fun” books I checked out last month. It makes my husband furious.

So, while Congress is squabbling over how to trim the debt without raising taxes, I would like to officially propose that library fines be reclassified as justifiable deductions for writers. Consider it a tax cut for the creative types. Maybe I can even get the NEA to sponsor the proposal. (Wait, that might actually sabotage the whole crusade… never mind.)

Of course it goes without saying that I’ll tell you why I think this is a good idea. It should also go without saying that I will do so in list form.

1.       If the books in question are used for research and a writer needs the research materials for longer than the library will allow, isn’t the fine actually more of an extended rental on the books? It’s not like we’re going to keep them forever. And even if we do, eventually the fine will surpass the value of the book and then, at least at our library, you can swap out the replacement fee for the fine and tada: instant tax write off. Who knows… maybe allowing the fines to be written off will encourage more writers to return the books closer to the date they were due. It could happen.

2.       Writers write. It’s what we do. And sometimes, we get lost in the worlds we create only to be snapped back into reality. It’s hard to keep both worlds straight without a few things slipping through the cracks. I would even go so far as to say writers deserve hazard pay. Yep. I said it. We should be getting hazard pay on top of the money we don’t make until we sell… hmmm. Doesn’t look like hazard pay is an option. Surely allowing library fines to be tax deductible is a reasonable compensation alternative.

3.       Since purchasing books within the genre I write is a qualified deduction, then why can’t the fine be? Truth of the matter is, there are months when I spend less on books than I do on fines, so it’s a win for everyone. The government issues me a lower deduction, thus getting to keep more of my money, and I have more room on my bookshelves.

4.       On that note I present my final reason why library fines should be classified as a tax deduction. This is where the spouses and children of writers will get behind the movement. If library fines are tax deductible, I predict more and more writers will use libraries to get a bulk of their reading materials. (You, in the back, jumping up and down to argue that writers are already a large portion of library patrons… yeah, you. Zip it! I’m doing this for you.) So, back to my point: if more writers are checking out and eventually returning library books, perhaps we can finally get a handle on an ugly illness sweeping through the land: BOOK HORDING. First it was plain horders, now there’s a show about animal hording. It’s just a matter of time before the reality lens turns it’s intrusive eye on the private lives of writers. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Look around your house and then raise your hand if you have any one of the following:
o   A stack of books higher than ten volumes high;
o   Shelves so crammed full of WIP and your prized possessions that it’s almost impossible to pull one book out without the rest toppling down on you;
o   Books piled in any height in the front or sides of the aforementioned bookcase, creating a literary moat around your leaning tower of prose;
o   A nightstand with so many books in your TBR pile that you have to get a clock that projects its read out onto the ceiling just so you can see what time it is;
o   A pathway from your office door to your desk with stacks of books, Writer’s Digest past issues you can’t possibly think of getting rid of.

So that’s it. That’s my proposal for why library fines should be classified as justifiable tax deductions. Feel free to circulate this to your members of Congress and remember, no matter what cause you’re fighting for, real or literal, BE PASSIONATE about it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Writers MUST Face Rejection

Ask any writer who’s ever gone through the query process and they will tell you rejection sucks. It’s hard to have someone else tell you that your work isn’t right for them, especially when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing. Perhaps you’ve left the nurturing of your child up to the household electronics. Or maybe you developed sleep patterns that get you looks of pity from mothers of newborns. Regardless, to write means to sacrifice.
Sometimes rejections come in the form of well-worded, supportive notes about finding the right agent with encouragement to keep writing. Sometimes the rejection is more along the no response equals no interest line. And still others are form rejections. It doesn’t matter how they’re worded. They still deliver a sting to the creative ego.
But I have a theory that the rejection process is part of what makes someone a better writer. I admit, I cried when I got my first rejection, and for the record, I totally deserved it. Still, I had a moment where I thought I was fooling myself. What made me think that I had what it took to be a published writer? I was at a crossroads. In one directions was the easy life of being a stay at home mom and getting a job at a craft store when the boys finally went off to school or I could venture down the avenue where I had faith in my talent and followed my passion.
Some people might think taking the easy way would be the right choice. Except for one thing. I’m a writer. I may not be published yet, but when asked the question, “If you had an entire weekend to yourself with no commitments or obligations how would you spend the time?” I responded, without hesitation, “Write. And when I needed a break, read.”
So what does this have to do with rejection? Everything.
1.      Rejection weeds out the writers with a weak stomach. Those who aren’t cut out for bad reviews and editors who want you to change anything from your MC’s name to eliminating a sub plot that’s not working. This is not to say I think those writers stop writing. I truly believe that, if you are a writer, you can never completely give it up or it will be like letting go of what makes you who you are. But, and this may sound harsh, not everyone is willing to do what it takes to get published, and that’s okay.
2.      Rejection fans the fire in our belly. For those left standing after the first few rounds of rejection, we’re left with the determination to prove the guys who turned us down wrong. Sure, it might not be the current manuscript that lands us the agent or publishing contract, but one day, if we keep fighting, we know it’s going to happen.
3.      Rejection makes us better writers, if we learn to read between the lines. I’ve heard it said that a good query letter can get a 75% request rate IF SENT TO THE APPROPRIATE AGENTS. While I think that’s a little high given the current climate of book sales, I agree that you can tell a good query letter from one that needs work, based on the response. Same goes for the first 50 paged. If you have agents asking to read your work, but they all seem to be passing, maybe those first pages/chapters need revision. After my the first ten rejections, without a request, I put a stop to the query process and spent the next year revising. Now I’m ready to query my YA paranormal, even though it’s going to be an uphill battle. (You know, because there just aren’t enough YA paranormals in the slush piles right now.) Maybe someone will like it enough to take a chance. Maybe they won’t, but through the writing, revising, and query process, I know I’ve become a better writer. (And my non-paranormal YA WIP is evidence of that.)
4.      Finally, rejections induct us into the brother/sisterhood of writers. This is a blanket statement, but one that I’m willing to make without hesitation: no published author got where they are without experiencing rejection. It may be a sick commentary about me, but I actually get a little excited when I meet another writer who’s been turned down by an agent that’s also rejected me. Why? Because that person has literally been sitting in my seat. S/he knows how it feels to get the no thanks response. And because of that we can lift each other up and encourage each other to keep moving forward.
So you see, rejection can be a useful tool in the writing process. It’s not a fun part of the process, but, as I remind my children, you have a choice: you can get mad about it, pout, and waste your creative talent feeling sorry for yourself or you can have a two minute pity party, complete with black confetti, streamers and a cake pop (or two), and move on to the next move in the chess game of writing. Either way, it’s not the agent or publisher who determines what you do next. It’s you, the writer. Whatever your choice, BE PASSIONATE in your decision. I look forward to swimming with you all in slush pile hell, and for those of you who manage to get out of the big pond! Remember to share not only your stories of success, but the stories that came before.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You be the judge

Thanks to all of you who submitted your thoughts on the two versions of my first page. After reading your feedback and tinkering with the original manuscript, I'm going to stick with the first person/present tense. I know, I know, some of you weren't big fans, but honestly, the character wants everything filtered through her eyes and she's kinda stubborn (thank goodness or she would get her butt handed to her on a platter in the book).

Again, thank you for your feedback and wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Moment to Breathe and Reflect

Since returning from the Midwest Writer's Workshop, I have been in a frenzy to get some minor, though important, plot changes done on my completed manuscript. With those requests sent out, I feel like I have a few (stress few) minutes to sit back before pounding away at the keyboard on my next novel.

It has been an incredible and unbelievable ride over the last week. No, I'm not represented (far from it) and I'm certainly not published (even farther from that). But I got a chance to learn from some really incredible professionals in the literary world. I hate to name drop, but I will.

Let's kick off with Kelsey Timmerman. Talk about being a self-starter! He decided to take a self-funded tour of the world to find out about the people who made the clothes he was wearing. And then he chronicled his experiences in a book called, “What am I Wearing?” Now Kelsey is (self-proclaimed) one of the top ten underwear journalists in Indiana, but I would beg to differ. I think he just might be one of the top ten underwear journalists in the country!

Then we move to the agents. For a small conference in a mid-sized Indiana town, MWW has the ability to pull in amazing agents. You know those people you follow on twitter? Yeah, I met ‘em. Between Kathleen Ortiz’s explanation of how to deliver the perfect pitch, Roseanne Wells’ process for developing your world as a character and Jessica Sinsheimer’s session on how to write a query letter, I finally feel prepared to enter into the query arena, armed for battle. Though I was unable to attend Lois Winston’s session on why manuscripts get rejected, a friend was kind enough to share the information and I’m happy to say I am better off because of it!

In addition to gathering as much knowledge as I could, I also got a chance to pitch my novel, The Partizans, to Kathleen, Roseanne, and Jessica. I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous to approach them with my book. But within seconds of sitting down and blurting out my two line pitch, they all managed to put me at ease, asking questions that helped me help them understand the story better. After I was done, there was still time for me to ask questions. And let me tell you, I did. I asked about how I could make my query letter better. (Excellent question, I must add.) I also took a chance to pick their brains on a dilemma I had regarding my next project. Again, they were incredibly helpful and supportive! So, what I have learned about agents is they are, in fact, human. Here are the most important lessons I learned from each of them: Jessica – chocolate covered espresso beans are awesome; Kathleen – cyborgs have a future in YA; Roseanne – do not submit pony driven novels to her. Word to the wise!

Moving on…

Authors… you know the ones who were once writers, but then someone thought, “Hey, let’s print that,” and then they magically became authors. Those people rock. They have been in the same spot I am and have succeeded. Not only that, they’ve come back to mingle among the wannabes to share what they have learned on their journey. I love authors for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fantastic books they have written. They give me hope that, with enough perseverance, patience, and faith in my ability, that I too may take my place among the growing number of authors who found their agents at MWW. Authors like D.E. (Dan) Johnson, Veronica Roth and Kelsey Timmerman. And let’s not forget the people who defy the odds, like Karen Lenfestey, who sold over 20,000 copies of her novel A Sisters Promise though self-publishing/e-books. Something tells me she’s going to have an agent… if she wants one, of course!

But yet, there’s more…

It’s one thing to write a book and another to get it published. But unless readers buy the book, you run the risk of being a “one hit wonder what the heck happened to that guy”. MWW has an amazing relationship with Jane Friedman… if you’re reading this, you more than likely have heard of her. (Or if you ever want to learn anything about how to use twitter or Facebook or any other form of social media, you should check out her blog!) Seriously, go now.

And then there’s Dana Kaye (also known as Marcus Sakey’s publicist). I just have to bow down to this woman when it comes to understanding what motivates people to do things. #1 rule: Keep your tweets relevant to your work and the publishing world, with the exception of rule #2. Rule #2: never be afraid to tweet about your cat, your dog, or your kids. (Thank goodness I have two kids. No way can I handle a dog right now!)

Still more…

I can’t forget the amazing men and women who work all year to put on a conference that allows everyone to come together for the love of writing. They work tirelessly to provide the highest level of faculty, the greatest amount of comfort, and space where creativity can flourish and be discovered. I personally plan to be in attendance for as long as the conference continues… and since I write paranormal, I totally believe it’s possible for me to haunt the Ball State Alumni Center.


I’ve said it before and I stand by my statement. Gathering the grains of knowledge from authors, agents, publicists, publishing insiders… it’s all great. But in the end, when you walk away from the conference, salivating over and dissecting every single interaction, remember that the best moments live in the twitter vault. And the relationships and friendships that you cultivate will nurture your talent, grow your confidence and harvest your greatest creative potential. Stay connected, keep coming back, and BE PASSIONATE! It might not hurt to bribe people with chocolate covered espresso beans. Seriously, these things are a food group within themselves!

PS. Look for a link salad post this weekend!