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Category: My Writing Experience

Pitching an Agent – Someone Please Read My Book!

Pitching an Agent – Someone Please Read My Book!

The Opportunity: Pitching an Agent

All we writers want is that single opportunity to give our book to an agent. To have one person be intrigued enough to ask for a full manuscript.

It’s the first step, to traditionally publishing a book. You don’t interview agents and pick the one you want to work with. You pitch the book with a query letter, and a small sampling of the book, usually the first 50 pages and a short synopsis. If you’re lucky, they’ll respond and ask for the whole book.

I’ve sent cold queries. Lots and lots and lots of them. I’ve come close. I had an agent tell me she wanted to like the book but couldn’t get into the first three chapters I was required to send with the query. I was crushed.

When you find yourself with an opportunity to pitch an agent, you take it. I’ve been set up with agents through friends. I’ve been unsuccessful. I’ve gone to book conferences where I’ve met agents who have asked for more.

It was my weekend activity. I had the chance to pitch my book to several agents, four to be exact. Now the first pitch when badly in that I was all over the board and in the end realized I had mislabeled my genre. Who knew I wasn’t urban fantasy. I am indeed, contemporary fantasy.

But I digress.

The Stress of Pitching: The Reward

The reward is to give enough information about your book that someone will ask for more; more chapters and the ultimate goal, the entire manuscript.

So back to this weekend. I had a total of four pitches. The first not so good. However, the second, third and fourth went better than expected. All agents asked for me to send them a pitch. One wasn’t specific on requirements, I looked them up online. One agent was specific, I sent her what was required; the first 50 pages of the book to the address she requested.

Now the last agent was unexpected. She asked for the synopsis, my author bio and wait for it…. the manuscript. The holy grail of pitching the book. An actual request for the actual book.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath of a successful pitch; there’s a down side. The feelings that come with sending your book to the agent. After hitting send, the feeling of dread that you’ve sent the book off and it wasn’t ready. It sucks. It needs more work. “What was I thinking?” The process is a painful one for writers. It’s sending your baby off to be critiqued, to be hated, or hopefully to be loved.

Thankfully, I was fortunate. Three of the four requested additional info, from synopses, to the entire manuscript.

I just sent my baby off to the agent. I hope she likes it.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Once upon a time…

I had a story to tell, my own story of writing. I sat down at the computer and began to type. My fingers flew over the keyboard and the words poured out of me. And in six weeks’ time, I had a book. The End.
Only, it wasn’t the end. It was really the beginning. After that first draft, I must have made 30 more sets of changes. I was a total novice to this process. I used an online self-publishing site to create my book from cover-to-cover. I self-published the book in 2010. The End.

But this wasn’t the end either. After working on Book Two of the series, I hired an editor who suggested that I re-work the first book and re-release it. It had been widely reviewed and very well received. After a blog tour, my book was #1 in occult fiction on Amazon. The End.

The Writing Process Sometimes Doesn’t End

Only, once again, I wasn’t at the end. I released what was then second book in the series called “She Wulf.”* And the writing process completely stalled. I realized that changes needed to be made to the whole series. I decided to rewrite the ending of The Day of First Sun and finish up story lines such as what happened to all the dead bodies and discuss what happened to the zombies.

As I read through the book, I saw many different things I hadn’t seen before. I added scenes, I added conflict, and in the end, I completely rewrote the last half of the book, putting Annie in some serious situations she’d have to work through.

I also added more changes on the advice of my editor. She told me to put in more of the “beginnings” of the relationships rather than having all established relationships in between the pages.

In the process, one seemingly minor change, set the whole tone of the book with the addition of a dead body outside the bar. This new beginning unveiled the theme of protecting the secret of magic from the non-magical world. Lastly, I added a whole new character to the story that will play a big role in the series someone wanting to expose her and magic.

The Final Product

All of these changes led to a fuller, richer story. At least I hope so. In the end, I’m guessing that there were about 40 or 50 different drafts of the book. The current published version of The Day of First Sun is very different from what I sat down to write in 2009. And the process has been very different from I expected it to be when I had the dream of writing a book. It takes flexibility and the willingness to open your heart to change. It takes the advice of experts and listening to the inner voice within yourself about direction of the story and conveying the truth about the characters that you create. And, of course, it takes patience. The End. (for now…)

* She Wulf was shelved for a time and will be rewritten to fit the new timeline as Book 4 in the series. A new Book 2 was then written and published, Black Market. Click here for more information on this exciting chapter in the Wizard Hall Chronicles.

Editing: It’s Like Sending Your Baby to College

Editing: It’s Like Sending Your Baby to College

Editing a Book – Like Setting a Child Free

The mere idea of sending a book to editing is like sending your oldest child to college. You care for and nurture your child, feed and clothe them, heal their wounds, hold them when they cry. It’s 18 years of care, to unceremoniously drop them off and drive away.

I’m not joking.  Sending a book to the editor is much the same emotional roller coaster. I live with my book, everyday. I craft the story, I nurture the characters with words, I work the plot by adding conflict, I tear down my characters to let them rise up again. It’s an up and down roller coaster of emotions, of story, and it takes a lot of time and hard work. And then you send them to college.

So yes, finishing my book and emailing it off to the editor for editing, is much like raising my children. While I don’t tear my children down to build them up, I do hold them up when they fall and I encourage them when they need it. I’m there to nurture and raise them up.

After nurturing a book for a year (sometimes longer), you set it free. Let another set of eyes share in the story, connect with the characters, offer suggestions on how to improve the book. You know… editing. Sometimes the mere thought of having sent the book makes you break out in a cold sweat, jump on the computer and cry for the book back. “I’m not ready!” you might screech.

My Youngest Book

Though it’s not my last, my latest book was the one that had me up at night. After sending the book to my editor, I kept thinking, “It’s not ready.” “I’m not done.” “There’s so much more I could have written.” I waited an paced, much like I do when I’m trying to reach my child who leaves me an email, “There’s a problem mom,” but doesn’t tell me what that problem is. You pace, you worry, you wonder.

Eventually you reach your child. The editor finally sends you editor notes. The wait is worth it. The product is strong, can stand alone, and your child, much like your book is better than okay.

It’s the same roller coaster, children and writing. Both give you joy, both are pain. But in the end both are worth it.

Look for it! My newest book child is coming soon. November 1, 2018 on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Theme Writing – Saying Something with Purpose

Theme Writing – Saying Something with Purpose

Do My Books Have a Theme?

As a pantser, not a plotter, a writer who writes without plotting the story, I very rarely chose the book’s theme before I begin. I actually don’t think I really planned on a theme for any of the stories. To be perfectly honest, my goal has always been to write an entertaining story, one that leaves the reader happy they spent an afternoon with my characters.

I wanted relatable, real characters, a female lead who would be strong, and vulnerable as she navigated her life. I suppose for all intents and purposes, that was theme I was writing about.

After writing and publishing Black Market, I realized I was writing about so much more.

The Review that Got Me Thinking of my Book’s Theme

Black Market – Beautifully and eloquently
combines themes of empowerment,
social justice, resilience, balance,
strength and vulnerability.
Erin – Good Men Project

Yes, I wanted Annie Pearce to be a symbol of empowerment, a woman in a man’s world, navigating difficult men who called her “girl”, vampires who treated her like a dolt. Set in the world of the police procedural you’d even see the theme of social justice and what does good vs. evil look like.

Wizard War – Book Three – Theme of Justice

I hadn’t realized when I wrote Wizard War, that I so heavily discussed the meaning of justice. What it is and how do you determine if justice was served. For example, it’s much like the debate, the death penalty vs life in prison. Though I’m not here to discuss that, I do examine how the magical world makes deals with the demon to further the course of the investigation.

In this story, was justice served if the investigation techniques fall in the ethically gray area?

My characters aren’t perfect and are oftentimes faced with decisions that affect the outcome of the case or challenge their existing beliefs.

I don’t think I could have planned for the story’s themes to blend so beautifully if I tried. But the reader or in the case the reviewer of the attached quote, saw what had been floating around in my head. A book so much more than an afternoon adventure, one that might even have a message, something important to say.

I’m always amazed by what I see in my stories as it compares to what others take away from the book and I’m glad that I can offer something more complex than just a stake through the heart.

 

 

 

 

If Magic Were Real Would We Have to Share

If Magic Were Real Would We Have to Share

Protecting Magic at all Costs

It’s a common trope in supernatural books: magic must be hidden from the non-magical world, no matter the cost. In Harry Potter’s world, the Ministry of Magic would punish offenders for exposing magic. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, protagonists Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein were threatened with execution when it was thought that they conspired to release a dangerous Obscurus on the unsuspecting citizens of New York City. When destruction and chaos followed, the American version of the Ministry of Magic repaired the damage and removed all memory of magic from the minds of “non-mags”.

There’s a Plan In Place

In the Wizard Hall Chronicles, my characters are also charged with protecting the secret of magic; a theme important throughout the series. The Wizard Guard has a team of experts, led by Graham Lightner, who come in immediately after an event to clean the scene of all traces of the supernatural. In book one, The Day of the First Sun, kicks off with a vampire attack discovered before Graham’s Vampire Attack Unit can conceal the aftermath. In book two, Black Market, it’s a race against time to keep magic a secret as the barriers between the two worlds are threatened.

But even as I have created this world and bought into the theory that the secret of magic must be protected at all costs, it makes me think; what would happen if the non-magical world knew that magic exists? There are so many benefits that magic could bring to humanity – curing diseases, ending poverty, saving lives…Is it fair to hide these valuable benefits from humankind?

Should the Gifts be Shared

This debate really hit me after watching Black Panther. In the movie, the country of Wauconda has prosperity and incredible technology due to the resource that they possess – vibranium . They can heal, build powerful weapons, and protect their people with this element. For generations, they chose to keep it a secret in order to safeguard their way of life. The moral debate: open up their country and share their “magical” secret with the rest of the world. As they heal an outsider from the brink of death, it’s hard to argue that their abilities should not be shared with all of humanity.

Ethics of Sharing

Even in my world, magic has healed severely injured characters. So why not reveal the beauty and power of magic? For me, I think my characters realize humankind cannot really process and accept magic as a safe way of life. Even as far back as the Salem Witch Trials, we have seen that fear and ignorance can be dangerous. Also – there are nefarious individuals in this world – what would they do to have magic at their control? Right now, the magical world of Wizard Hall uses their magic on a finite group that is considerably small. If we added the rest of humanity into the equation, is there enough magic to take care of the billions more involved?

These answers are not easy. What do you think? Does the magical world have the moral imperative to share their abilities with the non-magical world? Or do you think exposing the secret of magic would be a disaster? Share your thoughts with me .

STORIES, THE COMPULSION TO WRITE: BRINGING WORLDS TO REALITY

STORIES, THE COMPULSION TO WRITE: BRINGING WORLDS TO REALITY

The Young Dreamer

When we are young, I think we all made up stories in our heads. Maybe when we were playing with dolls or building forts in our backyards. We made up the good guys and the bad guys. We made up the winners and the losers. We made up the fairies and the elves. We made up the happy ending. But at some point, for many of us, the stories stopped. Life got in the way — We went to college. We got a job. Kids needed to be fed. Dinner had to get on the table. Bills had to be paid. We no longer had the time to create princesses or dragons. The worlds we had created would simply fade away from reality.

Stories Are Still There

For some of us, however, the stories never went away. In fact, the worlds we were building in our heads became more and more solid, more real. The characters we were inventing compelled us to give them a voice. Every spare minute became lost in the world we were creating. Downtime became the cherished moments to let our imaginations reign free. Driving to work, scrubbing in the shower, breaking eggs over the stove – our heads would be writing dialogue, figuring out ways to save our heroine or mapping out the various paths our characters might take to resolve conflict. For us individuals, we became authors – compelled to make these worlds a reality.

So this is how I became an author. I realized that my daily musings were the foundation of a complex, interconnected world, with stories that I felt compelled to forth to others. When I daydreamed about Annie Pearce, it wasn’t just that I thought of a strong, interesting woman who balanced precariously on the seam between the magical and non-magical realms. Her life, dreams, abilities, family, fears, etc. all became apparent to me. I began to develop her story that would eventually span what would be a five book series. I felt compelled to make her world a reality.

How Far it Goes

Recently, I was explaining this frame of mind to a friend. I told her that I knew the back story to every single character – no matter the size of the role they play in my books. I know who marries who, the names of their children, the names of their grandchildren. Their lives have already been mapped out in my head, developed as I washed the dinner dishes or drove my kids to practice. I can see their stories so clearly and I know that they want me to share their journeys with all of you. And I guess that is what makes authors different from an imaginative child – we want our dreams into reality.

Are you still building worlds in your head? Do you want to make them into reality and don’t know where to start? Feel free to contact me I’d love to chat!

Here’s to the Strong Female Character! May we know them; May we be them; May we raise them; AND MAY WE WRITE ABOUT THEM!

Here’s to the Strong Female Character! May we know them; May we be them; May we raise them; AND MAY WE WRITE ABOUT THEM!

March is Women’s History Month

It brings me back to a familiar topic here on my blog – the strong female character at the heart of an interesting, complex story. As a fan, I look to books and movies that feature kick-ass women as their lead. These ladies are the ones who don’t wait until their boyfriends show up to save the day – they kick down the door and take no prisoners.

As an author and as a woman, it was important to me to create such a protagonist. I wanted to imbue Annie Pearce with a sense of fierceness, intelligence and bravery usually associated with heroes like James Bond or Indiana Jones. In MY story, other characters look to Annie for guidance, intuition and answers.

Why I Created a Strong Female Character

Annie Pearce is who I would be, if I could snap my fingers and be anyone. In Annie’s world, magic is a comfortable tool to help her solve crimes. She dares to go in dark, dangerous places to hunt down clues and witnesses – never afraid to step into places like the Black Market filled with vampires, dark magic practitioners, and beasts not seen in our everyday world. When faced by treacherous villains who may have been responsible for her father’s death, she digs deep inside herself and finds the inner strength needed to confront these individuals. When her own life is threatened, she doesn’t wait for someone to come and save her – she finds her own way out of the situation and manages to save others at the same time.

Annie is also compassionate and thoughtful. She has endeared herself to her fellow members of the Wizard Guard and different magical creatures that she meets along the way. She has even garnered the loyalty of some questionable characters that are willing to put their lives on the line for her.

Real Women

You see, strong women have the unique ability to blend the tough and the tender. I wrote the character of Annie to show the importance of both of those traits. Annie is in the front of the battle, but she follows behind to check on those affected by the fray. I hope that she is an inspirational role for young women as they are developing their sense of self. I hope they find the strength to be “Kick-Ass” while being nurturing and loving individuals.

No Matter Her Age, Every Girl Can Be A Hero

No Matter Her Age, Every Girl Can Be A Hero

Hero Search

I search for a hero. It’s my current life’s quest or, in this case, of television time, it’s the theme I’m most drawn to as I clamor for a new television show. Generally I watch television for two reasons: first and simply, to entertain me.  Secondly and more complexly, I’m drawn to shows that resonate with me in some way. Lately it seems, I’m amenable to shows that center around strong female characters, women who fall and rise up again.

Who is a Hero

This could range from the obvious, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed come to mind. But it’s not the obvious I’m searching for. It’s more subtle, based in someway in reality. Stories centered around Queen Victoria or Claire Frasier in Outlander. Or even closer to home, the women of Criminal Minds.

A Hero to Lift Me Up

I fully admit, I’m in one of those valleys in life when things seem impossible, too hard. A time when I feel as though I work so hard without anything to show for the world.

It’s at those points when the search becomes the focus, looking for that story that will inspire me and lift me from the muck. It’s the one thing that can pick me up from this downer I’ve been in.

I’m drawn to stories of women and their struggles. Not because they struggle although that makes me feel better; rather I’m so very curious about how they overcome and rebound and say “Screw you!”

Be My Own Hero

Queen Victoria and Claire Frasier wanted more, wanted to be heard. Sometimes they knew it would have been easier to be born a man. I look to them with admiration whether they are real or just pretend and realize, we all have our issues. Our downfalls. Our time to shine. I don’t want to be them. I want to be me. To be my own hero and prove to myself that I am a good writer, I can do this for a living. Giving up isn’t an option.

I write my own hero in Annie Pearce. A women I wrote to be real, to be admirable. To rise and fall in a real way. I want readers to connect with her, to understand her. To love her and at times hate her because she can be vulnerable.

She is me and I am her and as I work through my ups and downs through specifically sought after television shows, I also channel that energy into a hero of my own creation and hope that someone who needs her, can find her, just like I’ve done in my own search.

Here’s to us, who search for that extra lift. A hero that inspires our dreams and grows side by side with us as we live our real woman lives.

 

 

 

Confidence after Spinning Tires in the Thick Muck

Confidence after Spinning Tires in the Thick Muck

When the Confidence Rut First Started

A few years ago with a lack of confidence, I joked about dying my hair red and calling myself Lola. My plan was try new things, reinvent myself, pull up and out of the mire, regain my confidence.

I came up with a list of things I wanted to try. It didn’t quite work. I still find myself spinning my wheels. Desperate to figure out how to sell my books, to find a better job, to not work so hard for so little reward.

I Shared the Problem with My Therapist

You see, I send out resumes nearly everyday, I join book groups to make contacts, go to book workshops to learn how to handle the business of writing. I plan my social media. And yet every morning, I dread the drive to work, the long hours doing what I don’t want to do, and the having the knowledge that book two is so much better than book one and not being able to get it out to the masses.

The therapist told me that maybe I needed to approach the problem in a new way.

Climbing out of the Funk

So how to you climb out of the funk and change your life when there are so few options because you have responsibilities and little time.

I started looking for ways to change the strategy, the viewpoint, and the outcome.

I stopped forcing myself to write on week nights when I’m so exhausted from a full day of work. Instead, I work on social media, blogs, and other business and if there’s time I write. My goal, 500 words. Sometimes I get them in, sometimes, I fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 at night. I always write on the weekend.

But now I stop at 9 pm. I cuddle up in bed and shut out the world with a book, an easy read that allows me to meld into a different world and think of nothing else. It leads me to a more peaceful sleep.

I’ve been applying to jobs I otherwise might not have. Making a change in hopes that there’s a freelance gig that’s right for me. Less hours in order to give myself time to do what I really want to do–the thing that actually gives me confidence–Writing.

Most importantly, I decided that I physically feel horrible all the time. Stomach aches, headaches, cramping, bloating, and tight clothes.

Sometimes with all the problems, the kids with issues, law suits, jobs that make me unhappy, the last thing that gets taken care of is myself.

So What Now

I can do this. I’m re-starting the eating and exercise plan that I’ve had a lot of success with in the past. It balances the food groups, it balances exercise, and when I’ve done this in the past, I feel strong and healthy.

I’m looking for new opportunities. Different types of jobs and applying anyway. Just in case. I’m writing because it makes me happy.

I registered for a book workshop and signed up to meet agents. Because maybe in person, I can be heard. It might be good, it might not, but it’s interaction with people in the industry.

I’m building a following, a list. Following others. Sharing. A slow sell, encouraging others to read book two. Maybe finding others who like the same things I do.

It’s not about reinventing myself, becoming someone I’m not. It’s about remembering who I am and where I want to go and never loosing sight on that. To do that, I have to try new things, look at the problem with different eyes and all in all, take care of myself. Give myself a break and live a little.

Day one. I’ve eaten all the good things I’m supposed to eat. Without hunger, without guilt. I finally crafted a blog and worked on social media. I even took a nap.

We always have it within ourselves to pull ourselves up and out. We just have to let go of the fear and just say go.

 

 

 

 

The Nobody Girl – The Confidence Game

The Nobody Girl – The Confidence Game

Confidence Comes in Various Ways

Confidence can come by way of kudos from a boss for a job well done, a raise for that job well done, a good book review for a long-awaited book release, a stranger, unprovoked telling me she loves my style and looks forward to seeing what I wear everyday.

There’s a purpose behind that story. I was working on a blog about the Nobody Girl, a reference I make about myself. It’s not intended to be self derogatory, or mean. It was meant to illustrate my place in my life. The girl no one paid attention to, the girl whose teachers always called by the wrong name, even after I corrected them. I was the one who wasn’t picked on, wasn’t noticed, just there.

Where Style and Confidence Collide

I get that fashion isn’t an important priority. There are children who don’t get enough to eat, women who walk miles a day to get their daily water, war, and hate. For now I can only speak to my tiny corner of the world and how clothes transformed, me, the way I walk, talk and carry myself, and why it’s important.

As this nobody girl, my clothes were big, baggy, unfashionable. I was shy, quiet, a with little confidence. Every once in a great while, a great sweater, awesome boots, a good hair cut, could in an instant, turn that nobody, hiding behind anything, could feel fierce, confidence, able to take on the challenges.

The Nobody Girl Finds a Voice

Style, whatever that may be, is a reflection of the person who chooses the clothes and wears them. For me, my life was changed the day I wrote the first word, that led to the first sentence, which led to the first paragraph. It grew to the first page, the first chapter and ended with the first book. It was a transformative experience to achieve the first part of the dream I had since I was seven. It was the start of a growing confidence.

It led to straightening my hair, which changed the way I looked at myself and how I felt about myself. I changed the way I dressed my new self, taking chances, with clothes, shoes and purses, trying on items that reflected a fun, carefree, and fierce individual. What every one else wore didn’t interest me. I wanted to stand out, get noticed, be heard and make sure they always knew my name.

Nobody Girl No More

It was a compliment, that someone took the time to tell me they liked my style. I stood out, I was memorable. That feeling, that feeling that I no longer need to hide, that I will no longer want to accept things just because. I want to be remembered, be heard, make my mark and share my voice.

This is what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I want to write. I want to create. I want to share my voice, my experience. However, I come to that confidence, is important. It just is. Whether it’s a well written book, or a great outfit, I can walk with my head up, my shoulders back and know, some day, they won’t forget my name.

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