Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is it the end of the year already?

2008 has flown by! I can't believe tomorrow is New Year's Eve. It seems like just last week it was Thanksgiving. I can't complain, though. This has been my best year as a writer yet. I survived my first attempt at copy writing, I had two short stories published (one in print, one online), and I signed my first contract (ever) with The Wild Rose Press. I've survived editing and galleys, something that wasn't nearly as painful or difficult as I'd expected. I received my first cover--and I still think Nicola Martinez is one of the most amazing cover artists out there!

With such a great year, I can hardly wait to see what 2009 brings. I already know I'll have to learn more about promoting my work; my rosette is being released July 1. I'm determined to learn XHTML so I can update my own website rather than having to rely on my generous big brother to do it for me. He's already a busy man, and with his first baby due in March, I have no doubt he's going to be even busier. I also want to learn to use Joomla! if I can, because it looks like an awesome program and I'm sure it would make updating my website even easier. Unfotunately, from what I hear, Joomla! can be very confusing and a lot of people have given up on trying to figure out how to use it.

So, what are my New Year's resolutions for 2009? I'm not sure yet. I'll think about it, and post them on Thursday--New Year's Day.

Have a great end of 2008, and I'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope you’re all enjoying the day with your family and friends, celebrating the true reason for the holiday: the birth of Christ. Yes, all of the celebrations, gift-giving, etc. are fun, but we also need to praise God that He gave us His Son to pay for our sins. And even though December 25 is the one day of the year that Christ most likely was not born on, it still serves as a reminder that He was born and spent his entire life giving to others. By dying on the cross at the age of thirty-three, He gave all of mankind the ultimate gift: the gift of eternal life. All we have to do is accept that gift and invite Him into our hearts.

As my gift to you, and as a reminder of the loving sacrifice of Christ, here’s a pattern I came up with for a crocheted cross. It’s a simple design that’s great for beginners doesn’t take long to make. I used black acrylic yarn and a size G hook (because that’s what I had handy at the time), but you can use whatever color and type of yarn you want. Make sure the hook is the right size for the yarn, and remember that a large hook and bulkier yarn will make a larger cross while a small hook with thinner yarn will make a smaller one.

The pattern is written with the following standard abbreviations:

ch = chain
hdc = half-double crochet
sl st = slip stitch
st = stitch

Every ch 2 counts as one hdc.

Without further ado, here’s the pattern for your crocheting pleasure:

Crochet Cross
by E.A. West

Base

Ch 6, hdc in third ch from hook, hdc 2, ch 2, turn

(Hdc 3, ch 2, turn) 3 times

Fasten off

Top and Arms

Ch 4, sl st to base, sl st next three st, chain 6, turn

Hdc in third ch from hook, hdc across, ch 2, turn

Hdc across, ch 1, turn

Sl st in first 5 st, ch 2, hdc next 3 st, ch 2, turn

Hdc 3

Fasten off and weave in ends.

This pattern is untested, so please forgive any mistakes you may find. Also, please let me know if you do find any mistakes so I can fix it and post a corrected version.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I finally have that website I’ve mentioned off and on for months! Check it out: http://eawest.mcphitty.com. I can’t take the credit for the beautiful design, however. I only provided the copy for the site. My brilliant computer science instructor brother built the site for me. He did an amazing job, and yes, I’ve told him several times how much I love it.

One of my goals is to learn XHTML (something my brother says is essential to web design). Until I do, however, my awesome brother has promised to update my site whenever necessary. All I have to do is send him new content.

My other piece of exciting news involves Dreams Do Come True, my short story contracted by The Wild Rose Press. I have a release date! Dreams Do Come True will be released July 1, 2009. I can hardly wait! Of course, I have a ton of work between now and then to learn how to promote an e-book, plus doing the actual promotion. For now, however, I’m still doing the happy dance! Learning promotion can wait until after Christmas.

Have a marvelous week and enjoy this wonderful season of giving and love!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: House of Dark Shadows

Thomas Nelson has published another excellent book, this one for teens. House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo is a wild ride of teenage angst over moving six hundred miles from everything familiar, a new house with weird vibes, and hidden rooms that lead to far-flung times and places. Fifteen-year-old Xander King is convinced his life is over when his parents decide to move the family from L.A. to a secluded small town. While house-hunting, the Kings look at a huge house surrounded by creepy woods at the end of a road. Everyone loves the place, except for Xander. In addition to being surrounded by the creepiest woods he’s ever seen, things don’t behave normally inside the house. Sounds come from the wrong direction, people aren’t where they seem to be, and the house itself makes strange noises.

The Kings move into their dream house and things get even weirder. The linen closet leads to locker one-nineteen in Pinedale Middle and Senior High School. A secret door in the upstairs hallway leads to an impossibly long hallway lined with doors—doors that lead to portals to distant places and times.

House of Dark Shadows is packed with vibrant descriptions that bring the story to life. It’s easy to get drawn into the story and experience everything along with Xander and his younger brother David. And the ending leaves the reader hanging and begging for more. As the last page says, “NOT THE END...” Thankfully, House of Dark Shadows is only Book 1 of Dreamhouse Kings, so those who are waiting in suspense to find out what happens next can read Book 2.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When it's cold outside...

...hope for snow. I love snow, as anyone who knows me can tell you. The other thing they can tell you is that I hate ice. It scares the daylights out of me when I hear an ice storm is headed my way. I've been through too many ice storms that have knocked out my power for two or more days. I don't mind power outages in warm weather, but if there's ice that means it's really cold. No power means no heat. No heat means I'm freezing my toes off. What I wouldn't give for a fireplace, wood burning stove, or pellet stove. I have a kerosene heater, so I won't freeze to death, but kerosene reeks. I'd much rather smell woodsmoke.

Okay, enough whining. If my power goes out with the ice that's coming tonight, it shouldn't be out too long (I hope). It's supposed to be close to fifty tomorrow with rain that will help melt the ice off the power lines.

Now, for something I found this morning that appeals to my sometimes warped sense of humor. Of course, it wouldn't be nearly as funny if the cow had been injured, but the cow apparently wasn't hurt. According to an Associated Press article, a British pilot making an emergency landing hit a cow. Thanks to that article, I found a video that shows it. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. For those of you animal lovers out there (like me), don't worry. The official report says the cow was "apparently uninjured."

Have a wonderful and warm weekend! If you decide to go flying, watch out for cows. They can be hard on your plane.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Celebration

Come join the fun at White Roses in Bloom! Stories, poems, recipes and more are posted every day by the authors of the White Rose line at The Wild Rose Press. The Christmas Celebration runs through the end of the month, so be sure to stop by often for new Christmas-related posts.

Have a happy Tuesday and enjoy the Christmas Celebration!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Too Cute...

To make up for yesterday's rant, and to help you get in the Christmas spirit, here's a video I'm sure you'll love:



Have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What happened to good old sweet romance?

Warning: This post is a rant based on the frustration of an author/reader (namely, me).

It’s no secret that I write inspirational and sweet romance. I also enjoy reading inspirational and sweet romances. Here’s my problem: I can’t find online groups for inspirational or sweet romance authors/readers that are active. The active romance groups...well, that’s where the rant comes in.

I joined a few romance email loops in the last couple of weeks thinking I could use the loops to promote my short story when it’s released. You know, like all the other authors on those loops. When promoting e-books, online promotion is essential. But I got some emails from these groups, including excerpts from the latest release of various romance authors. Nearly every one of the excerpts was labeled adult, explicit, graphic, or NC-17. There were quite a few labeled M/M (male/male) or m/m/f (male/male/female), and one that was labeled f/f (female/female).

Talk about an assault on my sensibilities. Yes, there are people who like that kind of thing, but as a Christian all of that goes against what I believe. I like romances as much as the next person, but what I don’t like is the graphic sex scenes that seem prevalent in so many “romances.” In some books I’ve read, I’ve had to skip over multiple scenes that were graphic about what the hero and heroine were doing. In some of them, the terms used were rather crude. There’s nothing romantic (to me) about that stuff. To me, the romance is the emotional side of the relationship, not graphic physical descriptions.

I’ve heard the saying “Sex sells” and it appears to be live and well in the romance industry. But what about those of us who prefer the love scenes to happen behind closed doors so that we don’t have to read all of those explicit descriptions? I know, there are sweet romances out there, and I appreciate the authors and publishers who have produced them, but why can the active romance groups focus on them? I would love to participate in a group or two specifically for inspirational and sweet romances. As an author, I need to find where readers of inspirational and sweet romances hang out so I can promote my work. But it seems like the word “romance” brings about two groups: those who think all romance novels are “bodice-rippers” (so far from the truth), and those who equate romance novels with hot sex scenes.

I belong to neither group. I see romance as a wonderful genre with so many possibilities for stories. They leave the reader with that warm fuzzy feeling of a happily-ever-after ending, and tug at your heartstrings all through the story. The best romances (in my mind) are the ones where the hero and heroine stay fully clothed (swimsuits are okay if there’s a beach/pool scene) and have to work to resist the temptation to strip and jump into bed together. If there is a love scene between the two of them, I don’t want to see it. To me, that’s a private moment that doesn’t need to be shown. It can be implied in so many ways without following the hero and heroine into the bedroom and giving a blow by blow description of what they’re doing.

So, here’s the question: As an inspirational and sweet romance reader and author, where do I find like-minded people? This country is so focused on sex that it can be difficult to keep the innocence (no, I don’t mean naivety) I prefer. I’m bombarded on all sides by sex (whether blatant or with innuendo) through television, movies, even music that I don’t want to read about it as well. Books are, and always have been, my escape. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding romance groups, forums, etc. that hold the same moral standards I do.

I did find one group that sounds like it’s got like-minded people in it, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also getting connected with other authors of inspirational romance. One things I’ve learned through talking with those other authors is that I’m not the only one having trouble knowing where to promote my story. We’re all in the same boat. We know the readers are out there, we just don’t know where to find them.

If you know of any inspirational or sweet romance e-groups, websites, forums, etc., please let me know so I can share it with my fellow inspirational romance authors. As I said, online promotion is essential for e-books, but you have to know where to direct that promotion.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coming up for air...only to find a world gone mad

I admit it. I've been pretty self-absorbed and out of touch for the last week or so. My life (after my brother and sister-in-law went home after Thanksgiving) has revolved around work and my own writing. Thanks to that, I wound up with four hundred or so emails yesterday that I had to wade through. Plus, the last week has been interesting/scary for the publishing world. The big publishers are having all kinds of financial difficulties. Between layoffs, reorganization, and pay freezes, it's looking pretty bleak for places like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and especially Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Christian publishers aren't immune, either. Thomas Nelson just laid off 55 people, about 10% of their employees.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a huge name in the education market, is one of the scarier looks at what's happening to publishing. A week or so ago, they announced an acquisitions freeze. That means no new contracts. Since then, it appears the acquisitions freeze doesn't affect all departments as was originally reported, but I have no doubt acquisitions will slow to barely a trickle. There are some other things going on at HMH that I haven't had a chance to catch up on, but it's not looking good for them.

I've heard of several publishing executives that have quit or been fired. Some are still in their current positions but looking at other job opportunities. The number of layoffs in the publishing industry continues to grow every week. Random House is going through a restructuring period that's dismantling Doubleday and Bantam Dell and redistributing the pieces to other divisions. Penguin and HarperCollins have put a freeze on all pay raises for now.

Yes, this is a scary time in publishing. As far as I know, nothing like this has ever happened. Everyone thought the publishing industry was somewhat immune to the economic climate, but this wacky roller coaster ride is proof that no one is immune.

However, there is some good news that's come out in the last few days. Fictionwise, a big e-book retailer, has partnered with Stanza to bring something like 40,000 titles to the iPhone. Last week, Pan Macmillian announced they've signed with Stanza as well. A couple of weeks ago, BooksOnBoard, a huge digital book and audiobook online retailer with around 270,000 titles in its catalogue, joined forces with Stanza. This is great news for e-book publishers and authors. We're gaining recognition and the world is finally taking us seriously. Between Oprah endorsing Kindle and Stanza gaining access to huge numbers of titles for the iPhone, I don't see how author organizations (*cough* RWA *cough*) can possibly look down on e-pubbed authors. We're a large community with a voice that's finally being heard.

I've known for years that publishing is an unpredicatable world full of ups and downs. I just never expected it to be this wild a ride. I'm in it for the long haul, however. No matter how scary, exasperating, or confusing this industry can be, it's where I belong.

If you want to stay up on the latest in the publishing industry, I highly recommend signing up for the free e-newsletters from Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace. You can also find a ton of information on the GalleyCat blog at mediabistro.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Patterns on the Page

I've noticed something about my writing, and thinking back over the thousands of books I've read in my lifetime, it's really not that unusual. What am I talking about, you ask? Patterns. Every author seems to have patterns in their writing that all of their stories follow, at least to a certain extent. One pattern that's prevalent in a lot of my writing, especially in the YA written under a pseudonym, is this: girl is in bad situation, girl moves (sometimes to non-custodial parent, sometimes to foster/adoptive family), life improves. I know that sounds really dull, but that's my formula that I can't seem to get away from. Now, out of that I can come up with dozens of unique stories.

How does that work? Well, it's kind of like the romance formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Sounds boring until you look at all the thousands of romance novels out there that are unique and great reads. Just because there's a formula doesn't mean all the stories are identical; only the underlying pattern is the same. You can have an endless number of plots that are at opposite ends of the imagination, yet they follow the same basic pattern.

I guess it's kind of like the old saying that there aren't any new ideas, only new ways to write them. Following a formula is the same way. It's the same old pattern written in a new way. And that new way is what makes great books.

Don't worry if all of your writing follows a pattern. Write the story in your heart. Make it as unique as possible, and embrace your own personal writing formula. Changing the formula that works for you is like trying to change your handwriting: yes, it's possible to do, but you're likely to have an awkward mess that doesn't look natural to anyone.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful for Much

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Well, those of you who celebrate it, anyway. I hope everyone else had a great Thursday. I spent the day with family and enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by my mom (she's such a good cook!). Now, as promised, here's a list of things I'm thankful for:

God loves me
Family (including my furry kids: two cats and two dogs)
Friends
Being able to clearly communicate my thoughts (I had trouble with that when I was a kid)
Working at my dream job
Getting a publishing contract

There are a ton of other things I'm thankful for, such as the gorgeous sunny day we're having right now, but it would take me hours to write them all down. Suffice it to say I have a lot to be thankful for.

Remember, you don't have to wait for Thanksgiving to be thankful. Remind yourself of all the good things in your life or just take a moment to think about what you're grateful for, and it will help you be a happier person. I've learned that from my own experience.

Have a terrific weekend!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Social Networking (Whine and Cheese)

I've entered the world of social networking by joining MySpace (which I mentioned a while ago), Twitter, Facebook, and ShoutLife. I can tell you now each has their own unique qualities, and I think I'll be happy with all of them.

I do have difficulties with each of them, but that's mainly due to my own personality and lack of understanding of social networking. MySpace still intimidates me, but I think I can navigate it fairly easily. ShoutLife's platform is similar to MySpace but less intimidating to me. I still need to figure out if I can use the same layout on ShoutLife that I use on MySpace. Twitter is probably the easiest to use, if I had something to say fairly often, but I'm not that interesting a person (at least I don't think I am). I still don't understand Facebook. I've figure out groups (sort of) and I know how to update my page, but how do you find people who share your interests without joining a billion groups?

My biggest problem with everywhere but ShoutLife is a lack of friends. I'm doing okay on Twitter, but I can always use more followers. My friends list on MySpace is pretty pathetic (I think I have 6). I'm so lonely on Facebook. I have no friends at all, *sniff, sniff*. ShoutLife has been the friendliest site so far. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. In the few days since I joined (I set up my account over the weekend), I've received over fifty friend requests, welcome messages, and even one group invitation from all kinds of people. I think that warm welcome is part of what makes ShoutLife less intimidating than MySpace.

Okay, now that you all know I'm a little inept when it comes to social networking sites, here's an invitation for you. Come find me (search for E.A. West) on any of the sites I've mentioned and send me a friend request. Let me know how you found me, and I'll add you to my friend list. In the case of Twitter, I'll become one of your followers.

Now, for a change of subject. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, I'll post again on Friday. I'll be busy with family on Thrusday. Have a happy Thanksgiving and think about the things you're thankful for. I'll post my list Friday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh my goodness!

I have a cover for my short story Dreams Do Come True with The Wild Rose Press!!! The wonderful Nicola Martinez did an excellent job. Check it out:


I am so excited! This brings me one step closer to having a published e-book. The Wild Rose Press is so awesome!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Facebook loves me!

I signed up for Facebook under my author name, and it's been a struggle to get my author name to show because it involves initials instead of my first name. Over the weekend, I finally gave up trying to figure it out on my own and sent Facebook a message explaining my dilemma. They responded with a message telling my I had to use my full name, which would mean no author name for me since I go by E.A. West.

Needlees to say, I was doing a little beating of the head on the desk.

Yesterday morning, I logged into Facebook to try once more to at least get their system to allow me to use two initials for my middle name. I received the greatest surprise ever when I looked at my name. It reads: E.A. West!

If I could give whoever fixed it for me a hug, I would. I'd send them a humongous thank you if I knew where to send it. I spent two weeks struggling to find a way to get my author name to show and had just about given it up for good (which would have meant no E.A. West on Facebook with any name). Now, thanks to some kind soul, I have my author page and am extremely grateful to someone (either an administrator, a programmer, or both).

Moral of the story: If you're having problems, ask for help. They just might be able to solve your dilemma, even when all seems hopeless.

Thank you, Facebook! You guys are awesome!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guess what I learned to do!

A while back I mentioned my goal of learning to knit before the end of the year. This week, I made a successful step toward reaching that goal. I can knit I-cord! I know, all you knitters out there probably don't understand my excitement over accomplishing such a simple task, but you haven't seen my many failed attempts at knitting anything that turned out right. Trust me, being able to knit I-cord and having it look normal is an amazing feat.

Now, if I could just figure out how to go from I-cord to anything else. It looks like I'll be spending some time on YouTube looking for how-to-knit videos. I'd ask a knitter to show me how it's done, but I only know crocheters. Crochet I can do and have been since I was twelve or so.

In case you haven't figured out yet, I love yarn. String is cool too, but I love to make things with yarn. At some point, I want to learn to weave on a backstrap loom, but that's going to take more work than learning to knit. I have yet to find a person who even knows what a backstrap loom is, let alone how to use one. Maybe I should check YouTube for backstrap weaving videos...

Have a great weekend and make time for yarn!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eek! Sent the revisions...

I sent my revisions to the editor yesterday. I had to rewrite a tiny bit, so I hope she likes what I did. With any luck, the story won't need much in the way of editing at this point. I think it looks pretty clean now, but I'm the author and have a hard time stepping back to look at it objectively. That's one reason I love editors. They catch the myriad little things an author is bound to miss.

I've decided to try my hand writing short romances and other stories to sell to a variety of markets. I found one in Australia that looks pretty good and they accept international submissions. Yay! Of course, the odds are great that I'll get rejected, since they get a ton of submissions every year and have a much smaller number of slots to fill. Still, the only way to guarantee I won't get something published there is to never submit. I learned a long time ago that the only way to become a published author is to submit, regardless of how long a shot the market might be. If I never submit, I can guarantee I'll never get published.

I'm on the look out for more paying markets for my short stuff. I went the non-paying market route and had some success there, but like so many have discovered, if I'm going to put in the hours to write and revise a story, I think it's only fair that I get paid for that work. Now, that doesn't mean I'll never submit to a non-paying market again. Sometimes that's the perfect market for a particular piece. But for now, I need to try to get paid for my writing. Blame it on the economy.

If anyone knows of paying markets for short stories (500 words and up), please share! Writers helping writers is what this blog is all about...well, that and my sometimes crazy life. Have a great week and check back Thursday for an update about my learning-to-knit adventure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ah, the wonders of pets...

This picture from I Can Has Cheezburger sums up every pet I've ever owned, especially the cats and my recently acquired shih tzu:


funny pictures of cats with captions

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wowza!

One of my crit buddies got a contract! I am so excited for her! I haven't read the story that's been picked up by a publisher, but I know from reading some of her other work that she's a wonderful storyteller and her writing is great. I'm sure she'll go far as an author with the way her stories draw the reader in. I know if I were a publisher, I'd be glad to have her as one of my authors.

For my own "wowza" news, I received the signed copy of my contract yesterday. I knew it was coming (they confirmed receipt of the contract with an email) but actually receiving it and holding it in my hands makes this whole fantastic experience real. Squee! I still want to do a happy dance just thinking about it.

Of course, with my story actually being under contract, I have deadlines. I need to finish a round of edits this week. Since it's a short story, it won't take me long to go over it one more time (I've already been through it twice). I just have to find the time to get to it. I have a couple of work-related deadlines this week, too, and it's going to be interesting getting everything done by Friday evening.

Have a great week everyone, and stay tuned for Thursday's post!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh, the forms...

Have I ever mentioned that I don't like filling out forms? Who does, right? Well, I've been filling out forms in the last couple of days, all of them related to my contract with The Wild Rose Press. Don't get me wrong; these forms are far from complex and aren't intimidating, and there are very few of them. My problem involves things like writing a brief bio.

Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to write about myself and not make myself sound more boring than a rock? Fiction is so much easier. So is writing about anyone other than myself. But, after about ten tries of varying degrees of failure, I finally came up with something that sounded good and captured my personality...I hope. If you're dying of curiosity, you can check out my bio on my MySpace page.

My profile isn't that exciting yet, since I haven't had much time to work on it, but the About Me section is done. I haven't had a chance to find friends, either, so right now my only friend is Tom. As anyone who's signed up for MySpace knows, yes, it's that Tom. The one who automatically becomes the friend of all new members. It's so nice to have a friend as soon as I sign up, but I really need to find more friends. There's something about seeing all these profiles with hundreds or thousands of friends, and then looking at my own profile and seeing only Tom.

Ah, well. That's what I get for not spending enough time on MySpace. Maybe I'll rectify that situation over the weekend. In between working on edits of course. It's so exciting to finally work on my own manuscript while knowing it's under a contract!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and fear forms no more. If I can survive them, anyone can do it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woohoo!!!

I am so excited!!! (hence the extra exclamation marks) Yesterday, I mailed my first contract! That short romance I've been focusing on for the last couple of months has been accepted by The Wild Rose Press. There are so many things that make this great. Here are some of them in no particular order:

1. The Wild Rose Press is a royalty-paying publisher

2. They are great people to work with (just ask their authors)

3. I've never had a contract before (even though I've published two short stories)

4. I'll be getting paid for my writing for the first time ever!

I'm doing the happy dance this week, celebrating with joy. I still have work, but it's a whole lot more enjoyable because I have a short story being published for which I will get paid. That's what I consider success: getting a contract from a royalty-paying publisher. Not everyone will agree with me on that, but my goal for years has been paying publication. Thanks to The Wild Rose Press, I've achieved that goal.

My next goal? Getting a full-length novel published. That one's a little more difficult, especially given the current economic climate, but someday it will happen. I can be very persistent and patient, two things that generally pay off in publishing.

Have a great week, everyone! I know I will.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Exciting News!

As you longtime readers know, I already have the most adorable niece ever. I love her to pieces, but in the next few months I’m going to have a couple more little ones to shower with my auntie love. My sister and her husband and my brother and his wife are having little boys!

I am so excited for all of them, and I can’t wait to meet my nephews for the first time. I love being an aunt, and I’m planning to crochet cute things for both boys. I already have a cute crocheted thing started for my niece. I can’t leave her out! I’m an equal opportunity spoiler.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I have a crochet hook and some yarn calling my name.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jouranlistic Responsibility

It seems everyone is writing about current events these days. It’s great that so many people are interested in what’s going on in the world around them, but I’ve noticed something concerning: a lack of journalistic responsibility.

What do I mean by “journalistic responsibility”? That’s simple. If you’re going to write about events like a journalist, you need to check your facts. Don’t state opinion as fact; use facts to support your opinion. A lot of people use the internet to share their opinions on everything from the best taco sauce to the state of the world economy. Which people get the most attention and have the most influence over others? The ones who have obviously done their homework and present their opinions in a logical manner.

Coming across as irrational or uninformed is a fast way to lose all credibility with potential readers. Sloppy writing and parroting what we’re fed by the mainstream media will also discourage people from listening to what you have to say. People turn to the internet and alternative news sources to get the rest of the story, the things the evening news doesn’t have time to talk about.

By blogging or getting into a discussion about current events on a message board, you’ve become an alternative source of information. That’s why journalistic responsibility is so important. The whole point of those discussions and blogs posts is to inform. Make sure you’re spreading true information and not misinformation. Half-truths or outright lies are generally easily exposed by a little research. Don’t lose your credibility by skipping the essential step of checking your facts.

I know what you’re thinking; all of this trouble just to write your opinion on biofuel? Look at it this way. If you go to all of the trouble to make sure you have your facts straight, not only will you have a more informed decision, your opinion will carry more weight with people just by the simple fact that you really do know what you’re talking about.

So, check your facts, write your thoughts in a clear manner, and show the world you know your stuff and can back it up with research.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fact-check...Always Fact-check...

There's nothing more frustrating than thinking you've reached the end of the revision process only to discover you have a big inaccuracy that affects the whole story. Enter yet another round of revising with some rewriting to correct the problem.

The moral of this story? Always fact-check early in the revision process. Even better is to do the research before you ever write the story to make sure you have dates and other information correct. Trust me, it save a major headache later on. The earlier you do your fact-checking and research, the easier it is to deal with revising the manuscript for accuracy. That way you're not having to rewrite pieces of prose you worked so hard to make perfect.

Inaccuracies are always annoying. I'm the first to admit it, since my writing over the years has had enough of them that I've had to correct. Thankfully, I'm getting better about researching before I write, or at least in the early stages of the manuscript, so that my writing is much more accurate than it used to be.

Now, keep in mind I'm talking about fiction here. Non-fiction is a different animal entirely, and accuracy is even more essential. Readers of fiction are a little more forgiving (sometimes, anyway) of miniscule inaccuracies. Any inaccuracy or misinformation in your non-fiction can kill your writing career and any credibility you have. Obviously, you want to do in-depth research before ever starting your non-fiction manuscript. That will save you not only headaches down the line, it could very well save your reputation and writing career.

So, in addition to the million other things you should keep in mind when preparing to write and writing your first draft, you also need to be aware that your work should be accurate. Don't let that scare you, however, and keep you from ever writing a word. Like every other part of writing, you can always revise later, after you've written your first draft and let it sit for a while. Just remember to do another round of fact-checking before you decide your manuscript is ready to submit. You don't want to send it off then realize you got something wrong.

As the title of this post says: Fact-check. Always fact-check.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Have I mentioned that I love writing-related webcomics?

I already new about Unshelved and Tales from the Slush Pile. Now I've learned about another whose posting isn't quite as regular, but it's still great: The Adventures of Comma Boy.

The first couple of strips are political, but once you get past them and get to the writing-related ones, particularly the ones about people preparing queries, it's hysterical and sounds like so many submission horror stories I've heard from agents and editors.

If you know of any other writing or publishing-related webcomics, let me know. I'm always up for adding to my list of ways to waste time on the internet.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's been a year already?

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog! I'm so excited. When I started this adventure last October, I knew nothing about blogging. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to keep it going until the end of 2007, but here it is one year later and still going strong.

I don't know much more about blogging than I did then, but what I'm doing seems to be working fairly well. For those of you who don't already know, I update this blog every Tuesday and Thursday. The topics range all over the place, but I almost always tie them into writing or some other part of the publishing industry.

Now I'll give you a chance to boss me around. What have I done in the past year that works for you? What did you absolutely hate and hope I never do again? Are there any topics I've covered that you'd like to see more on? Or maybe there's a writing/publishing-related topic I haven't talked about at all that you'd like to see a post (or series of posts) about.

Tell me what's on your mind. This blog is all about you, the reader.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Call for Submissions

Romance publisher The Wild Rose Press has put out a call for submissions. They accept all romance genres in any length from 3,000 to 100,000 words. They also publish everything from sweet romances to the hotter than hot romances. They even have a YA line, so if you have a sweet love story between teenagers, you can still submit!

The Wild Rose Press is an e-publisher, but they also do print for full-length novels (40,000 words and up). They're a very author-friendly company, with weekly chats where authors, readers, and prospective authors can chat with editors and sometimes the Editor-in-Chief. Most submissions receive a fairly quick response, though depending on an editor's work load it could take a little longer. If you happen to receive a rejection, it will never be a form letter. They always send out personalized rejections, usually with a few hints on how to improve your story. If the editor feels strongly enough about the story, they may invite you to resubmit after you revise. This is all part of the company policy to grow writers, not just books.

For more information about submitting to The Wild Rose Press, check out their submissions page. Look around while you're there, explore the site to learn more about the company, its authors, and the books. If you visit The Greenhouse, you'll find a wealth of information on writing, both general writing information and romance-specific. These articles have been written by multi-published authors and some of The Wild Rose Press' own editors.

Though a small publisher, The Wild Rose Press is respected among authors and has been recognized by the RWA. Good luck with your submissions!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Off, off, and away! And how long should it take?

Well, I sent off my short romance manuscript yesterday. Now I get to wait and worry about whether the editor likes it. I'm sure she will, but you never know. As I've said often enough, publishing is very subjective and what one person likes, another will hate.

I have to admit, I don't like waiting for a response any more than the next writer. But I understand that it takes time to review the dozens of submissions that publishers receive every week. Then a decision has to be made, and most publishers require approval from at least two people before offering a contract. That takes more time.

Publishing is SLOW. Yes, e-publishing is faster than print publishing, but edits take time. You still have the back and forth between editor and author as they work to make the manuscript perfect. Then there's the production process. That adds more time to the length between contract and release.

Would I mind a release a year after signing the contract? No way! It's better than the two years that's so common among the big New York print publishers. And if the e-publisher waits until the edits are done to assign the release date, I know I'm not going to be told the date has to change because the manuscript needs more work. Hallelujah, a release date that's all but set in stone! Every author's dream, as it makes promotional a whole lot easier if you know for a fact your book will be out on such and such a day.

It appears I'm in a minority, however. I've heard countless authors complain about the length of time it takes for their book to come out. It doesn't matter if it's an e-book that's out in a year or less or a print book that takes up to two years to come out. The complaint is the same. Why can't my book be released sooner?

Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. The ones you as the author can control are the condition of your manuscript when you send it in and the length of time you take on revisions. When you submit to a publisher, make sure you have that manuscript polished until it shines. The more perfect the writing, the less editing it will take, thereby cutting down on the length of time between contract and release, at least with most publishers. If it's a great story but the writing isn't up to par, it takes more work to get the manuscript whipped into shape so it can go into production.

The other time consideration is how long you take on revisions. Now, I'm not saying you should rush through the revisions your editor requests just to get the manuscript back to the editor faster. Rushing tends to lead to mistakes and that makes the editing process take longer. But you should always meet the deadline your editor gives you. If you find a few things that could be improved that the editor didn't comment on, by all means improve them. That may save the editor a step in the next round of edits. Don't completely rewrite the book, however, because the story you have is the one that's under contract. The improvements I'm talking about are taking an awkward sentence and smoothing it out, adding a bit of description to a kind of dry area, things like that. Small changes to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Now, the thing you can't control is an editor's schedule. Yes, your manuscript is one of his priorities, but he likely has several manuscripts under contract that all demand his time. Plus about a million other little things that add up to keep him busy beyond belief. Try to be patient with your editor. He wants to see your book released as soon as possible (just like you), but it takes time. Assuming you've gone with a reputable publisher, they'll get your book out to readers as quickly as they can.

I know, none of this helps if you're looking for instant gratification for your writing. If you're one of those people who absolutely cannot wait longer than a week to hear what people think about your writing, consider starting a blog. It may take a while to build up a readership, but your work will be out there instantly for the world to see. Another option is self-publishing, but that takes money. A lot of times, you won't get the same quality of editing that you'd get with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher; you may not get any editing at all. That lack of editing is likely to cost you in terms of sales, but your book will be out fast.

Remember the moral of the fable The Hare and The Tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's finished...I hope

I finally finished expanding a short story into a longer short story. Last night, I completed revisions on it. I'm going to give the wonderful people from my critique group the opportunity to look it over, then on Monday I'll send it back to the editor who requested the expansion.

I can never say enough good things about critique groups. I thought my writing was great several years ago. Then I joined a terrific critique group (the one that helped me with that short story) and learned that I knew next to nothing about writing. Their gentle guidance and helpful words have brought me to the place I'm at today. Two short stories published and an editor interested in a third. Through critiquing others' work, I discovered a love for editing and honed my skills to the point where I now work as an editor.

I've become a lot busier in recent months and my participation in critique groups has slowed way down. I try to keep up with the emails and help out when someone has a tight deadline. This weekend, since I no longer have that story hanging over my head, I'm hoping to spend some time critiquing chapters for those who have been kind enough to critique my chapters. I doubt I can ever repay all of the people who have helped me on my writing journey, but as I get farther into the publishing world, I hope I can provide some insight that might help my fellow writers succeed.

I'm still far from my dream of having a novel published, but I'm getting closer all the time. I hope to finish revising a couple of manuscripts and start submitting again soon, but it's okay if it takes me longer than originally planned. One thing I've learned through studying the publishing world is that it pays to be patient. The more time I spend polishing my manuscripts and making sure they're as perfect as possible before sending them out, the better my chances of gaining the interest of an editor and/or agent.

I'll update you all on the short story I'm sending out Monday just as soon as I hear anything from the editor. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and praying that this publishing house is where God wants my story to be. I have a good feeling about it, but we'll see what happens.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and check back on Tuesday for a new post!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taking a Crochet Break

I have an admission to make. I enjoy crocheting a great deal. Now, that won’t be surprising to anyone who knows me. I’ve crocheted for years. But here’s something not everyone knows, mainly because I made the decision Sunday afternoon. I’m going to learn to knit. My goal is to know at least the basics by the end of the year. As awesome as crocheting is, I would love to be able to make a cable-knit sweater. I rarely find sweaters that are long enough for my tastes (mid-thigh is my favorite length with sleeves that fall to my fingers) and cable-knit looks nifty. I doubt I’ll be able to knit cables by the end of the year. I’ll be happy if I can knit and purl with the same ease as I can crochet.

I know, I normally connect everything to writing or editing. This time, however, there’s no connection to my writing. Needlecrafts are something I enjoy when I take a break from writing. Taking an afternoon to crochet or work on cross-stitch leaves me feeling refreshed when I go back to working with words.

All writers and editors need the occasional break from the written word to keep from getting burned out. If you always write and edit and never do anything just for the fun of it, you can lose your excitement for written words. An afternoon away from the computer is a great way to come back to your work refreshed and enthusiastic once more.

Crocheting is one of my favorite “downtime” activities. What do you enjoy doing when taking a break from words?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Wild Rose Press is giving away a SONY eReader!

Romance publisher The Wild Rose Press is giving away a SONY eReader to one lucky person! The rules are simple:

1. Buy a story by one of the sponsoring authors

2. Send in a copy of the order number, the title of the story, and the date you purchased it. If you order several stories, even in one order, you can send in as many entries as you have titles.

The Fall 2008 SONY eReader giveaway runs from September 22, 2008 to December 15, 2008. For more information, including a list of sponsoring authors, check out the contest page at The Wild Rose Press.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Summer colds...

Summer colds are the worst kind, in my opinion. They seem to hit harder and take forever to go away. I caught one last week (at the very end of summer; how unfair is that?) and every time I think I'm getting over it, it comes back. This morning in particular, I feel about like I did last Friday. Am I worried? No, because I know several other people who have or had the same cold and they're going through the same thing. It takes forever to go away, but every "relapse" is a little lighter and a little shorter. Maybe by next week, this cold will be gone completely! One can always hope, anyway.

Here's the fun (haha) part of having a cold right now: Not only am I trying to expand a short story (as requested by an editor) I also have a ton of other work to do as well. Work stops for no cold, though there are days I wish it would. But deadlines continue to march forward with no regard for a person's sinuses.

So I'm off to work and try to shake this cold once and for all. Check back Thursday for a more interesting post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

100th Post!

Post number 100 has arrived at long last! This is a major milestone for me, since this is my first blog. Regular readers will know that I've blogged about a variety of topics from writing and editing to searching for a job and taking care of my niece. It all comes back to writing and the writer's life since writing is my passion and a huge part of my life.

Being able to share what I've learned about writing and editing in the last eight years is an amazing experience. Sharing my struggles on the road to publication so other writers know they're not alone is an honor. Publishing is far from simple and can be a difficult business to break into. But if you're willing to put forth the effort to learn and revise and learn from rejections so you can revise again, you're ahead of the writers who refuse to accept that their manuscripts might need a little more work. Persistence is everything, especially if you combine it with patience. This business is notoriously slow, but as you know from past posts, it's a business I love and hope to stay with for a very long time.

Thanks for joining me on the journey to this 100th post. Here's to another hundred posts and beyond!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wow, there's a lot of movement in the agenting/publishing world!

In the last couple of weeks, I've heard about several agents and editors moving from one place to another, getting promoted, etc. Here's a brief rundown of the agent moves I've heard about. If I tried to do the editor moves as well, I'd never finish this post.

Emmanuelle Alspaugh, formerly with Wendy Sherman Associates, has moved to Judith Ehrlich Literary Management.

Sheila Crowley left AP Watt to join Curtis Brown UK.

Anne McDermid & Associates in Canada will use British agency Rogers, Coleridge & White to represent their authors' rights in the British and translation markets.

Mollie Glick has left the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency to join Foundry Literary + Media.

Mary Cummings, former McKnight Award in Children's Literature administrator and organizer of the Festival of Children's Literature at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, will represent children's books in association with Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises.

Melissa Jeglinski, formerly senior editor of Harlequin's Silhouette Desire line, has joined The Knight Agency as associate agent/submissions coordinator.

Michelle Andelman has left Andrea Brown Literary Agency to join Franklin & Siegal as a children's book scout.

Will Francis, formerly of Greene & Heaton, will join Janklow & Nesbit UK September 22.

Kathleen Spinelli, co-founder of agency and packager Brands-To-Books, has been hired as publisher of custom packaging at Quarto's art instruction and activity book subsidiary Walter Foster Publishing.

Trena Keating, editor-in-chief of Dutton, has been hired by Endeavor as an agent in the New York Office.

Thanks to Publishers Lunch for all of this great information! If you'd like to sign up to recieve the free Publishers Lunch newsletter (where I learned about all of these agent moves and so much more), just visit the subscription page and follow the instructions.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering

Today is September 11. It's been seven years since the terrorist attacks that killed nearly three thousand people in New York City, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Is the world a safer place now than it was then? I have no idea. Our country's security is stronger, but the world at large is still pretty unstable. There will likely always be security problems all over the world. Human nature is a wacky thing that tends to think violence is the answer for disagreements. As I've said for most of my life, violence doesn't solve anything. It only exacerbates the problem.

That said, it's important to know that while I may hate war in general (I don't know of anyone in any country who likes war), I think going to Afghanistan and Iraq were necessary moves for our government to make. Through the effort and sacrifice of the brave men and women not only from the United States but several other countries as well, two countries who had been suffering under tyranny are now democracies. Those military operations destabilized both countries, but they now have a chance to rebuild into better places to live than they were when ruled by tyrannical dictators.

Today is the perfect opportunity to remember not only the nearly three thousand lives lost seven years ago, but also all of the men and women who have sacrificed everything to serve their country. Thank you to everyone currently serving to make the world a better place. A big thank you also goes out to the men and women who have served in the past. You and your families all have my gratitude for the sacrifices you've made in the name of freedom, not only freedom for our country but freedom for others as well. You are appreciated.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dogs and Toddlers

I adopted a one-year-old shih tzu over the weekend and I've learned something very important in the short time I've had him. There are a lot of similarities between young dogs and toddlers. They need attention often, they get hyper, they need naps, and they need to be taught everything. My favorite is the fact that if either the dog or the toddler is quiet, you better find out what they're getting into.

I love this little dog who's the size of my cat (he weighs about four pounds more than the cat, so he's a little stockier). It would be nice if he'd sleep later or go back to bed, though. I am not a morning person. I've never been a morning person, I've always been a night owl. My new dog likes to go to bed about eleven and get up at six or seven. This morning, I woke up to a furry little attack of licking and snuffling because my dog needed to go out. There are worse ways to wake up, I admit. But did he want to go back to bed when he came in? No, of course not. I tried to go back to bed and the little fuzzball had a massive hug attack. When I finally gave in and got up for the day (at 7:20...grr...), he was the happiest pup alive.

Obviously, we're going to need an adjustment period to get used to each other. I love this little dog, though, and he seems to have become my dog almost instantly, so it's all good. Now I just have to get used to early mornings, hug attacks when I'm in the middle of something, and checking to see what he's getting into when it gets quiet. Boy, does that last sentence sound like something I once said when my two-year-old niece came to visit.

I figure I'll be in great shape when my niece comes to visit again. My little dog should have me well-trained to deal with a toddler again. Hopefully, I'll have him just as well-trained by then and he'll know the meaning of the word "sit."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's Font-tastic!

I needed to find a certain font, so I went to a couple of websites that had been recommended to me. I didn’t find the font I needed, but wow! There are some awesome fonts I never knew existed! One of them would be perfect for a Halloween promotion. The letters have skulls decorating them. One site had an entire category labeled Horror Fonts. The fonts people create amaze me. Not only can you find your standard Arial or Comic Sans, there are hundreds—possibly thousands—of nifty fonts out there.

Until today, I didn’t know I could download a font that looks like it might be used on a store sign in Tokyo. Want to add a little Celtic flair to your words? There’s a font for it. You name it, you can probably find a font that looks like it or at least comes close to what you want. There’s even a font with creepy little faces full of fangs for kids. I can picture elementary school age boys in particular loving that one.

One thing I learned in my browsing through a multitude of fonts is that I can download a Mkhedruli font. That’s the modern Georgian language, which I think is beautiful. Something else I learned is that if I have the time and patience, I can insert the Georgian letters using Arial Unicode MS. You can do the same thing with several other alphabets, including Bengali and Kannada. How cool is that?

I never did find the font I was looking for, but that’s okay. I found an entire art form I didn’t realize existed. The designers of the fonts I saw today are such creative people and sometimes downright artistic. If you’re looking for an awesome font to liven up that flyer you need to make or your website, or you’re just looking for something fun to do, I highly recommend checking out some of the free font sites out there. My two favorites out of the ones I visited today were Fontstock.net and Simply the Best Fonts. I’m sure there are dozens more out there with free fonts as well.

Have fun looking through all the fonts. I plan to go back to those sites and download a couple of fonts myself. As I keep saying, those font creators have done some awesome work!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wahoo!!! (And Yay for Critique Groups)

I'm so excited! I received an email last night to let me know the newest issue of The Chick Lit Review is up on the website...with my short story in it! Spunk is my first successful attempt at first person writing as well as my first successful attempt at chick lit. This has to be the perfect way to start a week.

I ended last week on a good note as well. I submitted a short romance story a few weeks ago and heard from the editor Friday. She likes the plot and everything, but it needs to be longer. After reading her note, I understand what she means about it needing to be longer. All I have to do is lengthen it and make sure it's as perfect as possible, then resubmit. My writing life is good.

I'll be honest. When I first got that request to lengthen the story it scared me a bit. I had no idea where to take the story next to make it longer. I'd originally written it until the ideas stopped flowing and it came to a natural conclusion. After a day and a half of beating my head on my desk to try to come up with a way to make the story longer, I finally did what I should have done in the first place: I sent a message to one of my online critique groups. Four people volunteered to take a look at the story and see if they had any suggestions. By yesterday afternoon, they'd sent their ideas and those messages sparked off ideas in my mind. I now have another short scene written and I have a fairly good idea of how the story ends. All I need to do now is write a scene or two to go in between, then I can revise the story and send it off once more.

This is a perfect example of why I'm such a supporter of critique groups. If I hadn't belonged to this group, I'd probably still be beating my head on my desk. Other writers in the group have been stuck or needed something critiqued on a tight deadline, and I've been there for them. It's nice to see the group work the way it's meant to...writers helping writers, providing encouragement and support during the writing and submitting process, offering sympathy when someone receives a rejection, and celebrating when someone is published. They're also there to offer moral support during difficult times in personal life.

I wouldn't trade this group for anything. They're my writer buddies, and a couple of them have become friends, even though we've never met in real life and probably never will. I'm sure an in-person group is just as great, but I've never found one in my area to know for sure. I can guarantee there are great online groups for those of us unable to meet with a group in person. Of course, just like anything in life, you're liable to find groups that don't meet your needs or that you just don't click with. I've been lucky so far. The first online crit group I joined turned out to be a great place with wonderful people.

Now for a bit of encouragement for anyone feeling like they'll never make it as a writer. This good writing news of mine? It comes after years of writing, learning more about the craft, and countless rejections for various projects. I also thought I'd never be able to write a good short story since I'm mainly a novelist. Obviously, I was wrong since I've had two short stories published and an editor interested in another one this year alone. I encourage you to expand your writing horizons. Not only is the change of pace refreshing, you just might find success in the new branch of writing while you continue to work on whatever area your heart truly lies in.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What am I writing?

What am I writing? This is something I often ask myself, not because my writing is that bizarre or incoherent, but because I'm trying to figure out how to categorize it. Some things are easy to figure out, like whether it's contemporary or historical. Age group is usually pretty straightforward as well.

So, once I know whether a story is contemporary or historical and what age group it's for, then comes the more difficult task of figuring out the genre. There are a lot of genres in the book world, and a lot of them share similarities. Take the manuscript I'm currently preparing for submission. The main character is in her early twenties, independent, and meets a guy and falls for him. This instantly brings to mind three genres: chick lit, women's fiction, and romance.

The relationship between the main character and the guy she falls for is more of a subplot than the main plot, so the story isn't a romance. It doesn't have the lighthearted, cosmopolitan feel of a lot of chick lit, either, so I'm calling it women's fiction.

Of course, if we take a closer look at the story, that brings in more possibilities. Since the main character is an immigrant and the story involves two cultures (at least on a cursory level), some people might consider it multicultural. Given the content and some of the situations I threw the main character into, others might consider it social commentary. I'm sure if I kept analyzing the manuscript, I could find more genres it might fit in. After a lot of thought, I'm sticking with the women's fiction label because I think that's the one that fits best.

Now that I know it's contemporary women's fiction aimed at the eighteen to thirty-five age group, I have one last thing to decide. This last category is possibly the most important since it has a strong bearing on where I submit and how I word the query. Is it Christian or mainstream?

This is one I struggle with a lot. I tend to write from a Christian perspective, because I can't get away from my own faith. I don't want to, either. The problem comes in because my main characters aren't always Christian nor do they necessarily become Christians by the end of the book. But there is generally at least one Christian in the story who is important to the main character, either as a good friend or a relative. Sometimes my main character will attend church or just live by Christian values (i.e. live a moral life). However, my stories rarely include an obvious Christian message. I prefer to have a subtle, show-your-faith-by-living-it approach.

Which leads me to my submissions dilemma. Is that subtlety Christian enough for the Christian market? Are the subtle message, occasional Christian character, and possible church attendance too Christian for the mainstream market?

As much as I love Christian fiction, I feel most of my writing is better suited to the mainstream market. I have a few manuscripts that I know are destined for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) when I get them revised to my satisfaction. The rest of them, however, leave me feeling like I'm sitting on a fence between the CBA and the ABA (American Booksellers Association). Depending on which way the wind blows, I could fall either way.

I know that's not really how it works. Book publishing isn't left up to chance. Plus, even as I struggle to know which market my writing belongs in, I have one comfort; God knows exactly where each manuscript belongs. And when the time is right, it'll be published by that publishing house, whether it's in the ABA or the CBA.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homeschooling and Publishing...

I know, the title sounds like two completely unrelated things. But in my experience, they kind of go hand in hand. I was homeschooled through high school graduation and I became a writer thanks to a creative writing class put on by a homeschool mom. Since then, I've learned a lot about editing and in January of this year, I finally achieved my goal of becoming an editor.

In the past couple of years, I've noticed something. I'm far from the only writer or editor connected to homeschooling. I know of at least two editors who are also homeschoolers and I've run into countless writers who homeschool. Is there some peculiar phenomenon that draws homeschoolers into the publishing world? Perhaps it's the love of books. I have yet to meet a homeschooler who doesn't love books. Some of the most avid readers I've met in my lifetime were homeschoolers or homeschooled kids.

It would be interesting to know if there's any research on the connection between homeschooling and the publishing industry. I wonder, are there any other careers with a high incidence of homeschoolers? If you know of one, let me know. This has really piqued my curiosity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's live!

I'm so excited! The short e-book I mentioned on Tuesday is live and for sale in the Kindle Store on Amazon. The title is Basics of Writing: Point of View by E. A. West. It gives a basic overview of point of view and offers suggestions for overcoming POV difficulties. Here's the description:

Point of view, commonly referred to as POV, is something many writers struggle with. New and inexperienced writers can find it particularly challenging. Basics of Writing: Point of View is designed to help both new and veteran writers master POV.

So, if you own a Kindle (or know someone who does) check it out and let me know what you think!

A quick side note: Literary agent Rachelle Gardner kindly ran a writing contest on her blog that ended last night. Of course I had to enter. I posted my entry August 20, 2008 at 9:47 AM if you want to read it. Be sure to check out all the other great entries while you're there!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Waiting, Waiting...

Last week was good, even if I did end up blogging a day late. I heard a response on a short story I submitted to a website a couple of months ago. It's getting published at the beginning of September! I'm ecstatic. I'll post a link to it when it's up on the site.

I played around with Amazon's Digital Text Platform over the weekend. It's remarkably easy to use and a great way to self-publish for the Kindle. I just have a little more to do, then I'll have a short e-book for sale in the Kindle Store. Yes, I'll post a link to that as well for you Kindle owners.

Now for the reason this post title mentions waiting. I submitted a short story at the end of last week, and now I have to wait for the response. The waiting is the worst part of submitting. I'm crossing my fingers that I hear good news on the submission. I'd like to think I'm on a short story roll. If you remember, I had a short story published in Cantos earlier this year.

One thing that's going to keep me busy while I wait for a response is revising a women's fiction manuscript. My goal is to have it done by October, but at the rate I'm going, it may be October 2009. I'm determined to get that thing done so I can submit it. I'll update you every once in a while to let you know how it's going.

Have a great week!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oh, cool!

This is my 90th post! Ten more posts, and I'll really have reason to celebrate.

Please accept my apologies for not posting yesterday. Between an overabundance of email and work, I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment. I'll try to remember what day it is next week and post on Tuesday and Thursday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keep It Real

What makes readers fall in love with a story? There are many things, but the important one for me is realism. If it doesn't seem like something that could actually happen, I can't get into the story.

I hear all of you asking about fantasy and sci-fi. How can that stuff seem like it could possibly happen? That's where suspension of disbelief comes in. The important thing is to keep your reader from reading a passage and snorting with laughter as he says, "That is so not possible!"

No matter how far out there your plot, world, or characters are, they need to feel realistic even when the main character has three heads and a pet dragon.

Now, I'm going to stick with contemporary and historical fiction, since those are the genres I'm most familiar with. One thing I've run into a lot in my own writing is wondering how to make the setting realistic or give a realistic portrayal of an ethnic group and people in certain occupations. I can't experience everything firsthand. World travel is expensive and to gain the knowledge I'd need of various cultures would be prohibitive time-wise. Plus, if I'm working on an historical, I obviously can't travel back in time.

So here's what I do. I read books, watch documentaries, do a ton of research online. I talk to people who have the knowledge I need. The trick is not getting so bogged down in the research that I start writing non-fiction or, worse, don't write at all. My solution to that is to research when necessary as I write the story. Since I write by the seat of my pants (no planning or outlining before I begin the story), I never really know what information I'm going to need until I come across it as I write. Depending on the story, I may do some preliminary research to give me enough background to write the first scenes believably, but the in-depth research comes later when I need something more specific than the general stuff I've already learned.

Here's an example of what I mean. I've absorbed a ton of information on the military, returning veterans, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through news reports, articles, and documentaries. In true writer fashion, my mind started going "What if..." and I had an idea for a story. I started writing with my limited knowledge, asking a few questions here and there, then my story took a turn I hadn't expected. I suddenly needed more than a brief overview of PTSD and what life is like for American soldiers in Iraq. I went online and started utilizing the wonderful search engines out there.

I've spent a lot of time on the Army's website and the Veterans Administration site, as well as reading soldier blogs and blogs of their family members. PBS has been an invaluable resource as well. They've shown a few documentaries about soldiers, including one called "Voodoo's War" that sent cameras with a unit when they deployed to Iraq. The series "Carrier" also helped, even though that's Navy instead of Army. And I can never say enough about how great "Frontline" is.

I know I still have more research to do, and I'll probably find a veteran or two willing to read my story (if I ever get it finished) just to make sure I've accurately portrayed everything. Since PTSD plays a role in the story, I'm also considering finding a psychiatrist with the VA who'd be willing to look over the manuscript. Research is great for a writer, but nothing can compare to the insight of people who actually have experience with what you've written.

I'm sure I'll be rewriting several times, and in fact already know of one spot that needs some rewriting, but the extra effort is worth it for the sake of realism. If I can draw a reader into the story and have him experience everything with my characters no matter how far outside the reader's realm experience it is, I've done my job and made it realistic.

Those of you who write fantasy or science fiction and still achieve the goal of realism, you have my admiration. I couldn't do what you do.

Keep writing and remember to keep it real!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What Am I Writing?

Have you ever started a story with one idea in mind, then suddenly realized your story was heading in a completely different direction? I go through this on a fairly regular basis, but that could be because I'm a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of her pants). Of course, I've heard from plotters (people who outline and plot before ever writing a word in the story) who get surprised by their characters.

Just a little while ago, my sister told me she'd started a story she thought was going to be a fantasy, but it was turning into a romance. She's never written a romance that I know of and I'm pretty sure she doesn't read them. I've talked enough about the romance genre (since I edit for a romance publisher) that I'm sure she's picked up a few basics. She didn't seem too thrilled about inadvertently starting a romance story, but here's the advice I gave her: just write the story and let it go wherever it wants to go.

She's a panster like me, so it's fairly easy advice to follow if she's willing to just let the words flow and not try to control the characters too much. One thing I've learned through my 13 years of writing fiction is that the characters can easily take control of the story. Once they do that, you just sit back and watch the story come to life as you type. If you try to get the character to do something he doesn't want to do, the story stalls out.

When you write like I do, and like several writers I know, you have to be flexible. If you have a set idea in mind for what your story is going to be and you're not willing to change that when the characters seem to have other ideas, you're going to spend a lot of time frustrated. I know, I've been there and done that. Once I let go and just wrote what I didn't want to, the words flowed freely and I fell in love with the new tack my story took.

So is it important to have some idea of where your story is going? Sure, because it'll give you a goal to work toward. But you also need to be willing to adapt your ideas as necessary or you're likely to end up with mechanical writing. Just because you want your story to go in a certain direction doesn't mean your characters (once you get to know them a little better) will want to go in the same direction.

Be flexible. Work with your characters' personalities and reactions to situations instead of against them. Your writing life will be easier and your readers will enjoy the story more if you don't try to force your characters into a story where they don't quite fit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Storms, Storms, and More Storms

The one thing I don't like about summer (other than the high temperatures and humidity) is thunderstorms. Don't get me wrong, I love a good thunderstorm when I don't have to work and it's not the middle of the night. But we had storms yesterday, which cut into my work time since I work on a computer, and then last night we had more storms with a ton of lightning. Have you ever tried to sleep through a strobe light with an occasional clap of thunder? Not easy, I tell you.

I did manage to get a few hours of sleep. I woke up this morning planning what all I needed to do today since thunderstorms kept me from getting everything done yesterday, and guess what greeted me almost as soon as I opened my eyes? Yep, more storms. The weather is not my friend this week.

As you can tell since I'm writing this post, the storms are gone...for the moment. I have no doubt they'll be back soon. Probably right when I'm in the middle of something. Hopefully, the power won't go out before I can turn off my computer. That's already happened twice in the last month, and I lost data both times.

So, before the next rumble of thunder comes, I'm off to work. Have a great day and stay cool!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Writing Life

Just a quick update on Tuesday's post. By some miracle, I made it through all those emails, even though they kept coming in as I went through the ones already sitting in my inbox. There's nothing like an empty inbox to brighten your day.

Now for today's topic. If your writing life is anything like mine, it's crazy. Between work and family, I find myself writing and revising late at night and on weekends. Sometimes, writing feels like a full-time job all by itself. But I belong to a couple of great online writers groups, and the members face some of the same struggles I do. We all have our own personal struggles to overcome to get the writing done and prepped for submission.

But once that manuscript is ready to go, where do you send it? Is it even really ready to go? These are questions that plague a lot of writers. We spend every free moment working on our masterpiece only to finish it and realize we don't know where to submit it. Even if you've carefully researched markets and have a list, how do you decide where to send the manuscript first?

My method is far from fool-proof, but it works for me. When I make my list, I put my dream agents/publishers at the top. Once I've submitted to them, if I receive rejections, I go on to the next name on the list. All of the markets on the list are reputable and good (I make sure of that while putting the list together) but there are always at least a couple of agents or publishers I'd love to work with more than the others. The best comparison I can think of is when a high school kid is looking for a college. He researches various colleges and universities, which are very good institutions but not his first pick. He knows which school he wants to attend, but various circumstances may prevent him from going there. If that's the case, he has the rest of his list to apply to. The point is to avoid placing all of your hopes for your manuscript in one place because what you think is the perfect fit might not be quite right.

Of course, I've noticed something else as I write with a goal of publication in mind. There are a lot of opportunities for writers out there. Just in the last week, I've heard about half a dozen or so. Here's my problem. Not all of them are right for me, but of the ones that are usually would all work for one particular manuscript. If all of the opportunities look good and they all have similar deadlines, how do you choose which one to submit that manuscript to? I'm still trying to figure that one out. I think I've got a plan that will work for me, but with my luck another excellent opportunity will come along and I'll have to rethink that plan again.

These things are all part of a writer's life, at least one who's aiming for publication. Those who write for the fun of it and never plan to submit anywhere have it easy. I write for the pure enjoyment of it and because I want to entertain others with my writing. This means looking for a publisher and marketing and all sorts of things that will limit my writing time further, but I think it's worth it.

What do you think? Is writing for publication worth the occasional headache and time-crunch? Or do you write for yourself and not worry about another person ever seeing your manuscript?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Inbox is Flooded...

Almost 100 emails this morning. The number just keeps growing as I try to take care of the half dozen things I need to do ASAP. I'm dreading the moment when I have to wade through those emails, responding as necessary, deleting as possible, and giggling over the latest installment of my favorite webcomic. Unshelved comes to my inbox every day and is what helps keep me sane. That brief bit of entertainment is a great way to relax and completely worth the extra piece of email.

Have you ever been inundated with a ridiculous number of emails? How did you handle it, aside from setting aside an entire day to get through them all? I'm close to doing that now, but with just under 100, I might get away with just blocking out a couple of hours. Of course, if I get very many more before I have the time to deal with email, I may be spending tomorrow on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Writing Woes: Revision and Overused Words

Have you ever looked back over your "great" manuscript and wanted to cry? I have. I've also laughed when I looked at something I thought was great when a wrote it a few years ago. How could I ever think something that poorly written was great?

Because I was a beginner and didn't know much about writing. I revised my little heart out on those early works, making them perfect to my poor inexperienced mind. No wonder everything I submitted was rejected. Now that I've learned a ton more about writing, I'm shocked I ever let those manuscripts out the door.

But I did get over my fear of submitting and getting rejected thanks to those early manuscripts. I know that when I submit something again, it'll actually be in good shape because I now know how to really revise and what makes good writing.

This doesn't mean revisions are any easier. It just means the end result is at least close to publishable. If I could find the right person for the manuscript.

Now, to give you a laugh and a glimpse into what I deal with as I revise an older manuscript (yes, I'm in the middle of doing that now), here's one problem I constantly come across in my writing. Repetitive word usage. All writers do it at least occasionally, but I seem to do it often. Want to know the most overused word in stuff I wrote two or more years ago? Smile. That's write, my characters smile A LOT. So, thanks to my apparent addiction to the word "smile," I have to go back and get rid of as many occurrences of it as possible or have people think my characters are grinning lunatics.

Another word that gets deleted quite a bit during revisions is "that." You'd be amazed at how many times "that" appears in a manuscript and it isn't even necessary most of the time. And I'm not just talking about my own manuscripts, either. Nearly every writer I've ever come across has overused "that" in at least one manuscript. The one that really makes me cringe (so thankfully I don't think I've done it in my own writing) is "that that." As in "You should have known that that construction is annoying."

Please excuse me while I shudder. Here's a much better version of that poor example: "You should have know that construction is annoying." Or, my personal favorite, "That construction is so totally annoying." Can you tell I also write YA fiction?

So, if you feel like you're the only one who struggles with revisions and overused words, know that you're not alone. All writers struggle with this stuff at some point. We just learn to suck it up and put a little elbow grease into the work. Oh, yeah, make sure to revise clich├ęs out of your manuscript. It'll make editors happier.

Before you think I'm a perfect writer who no longer makes those same old mistakes I made in the beginning (don't I wish), I'll let you in on a little secret. I had to revise this post as I wrote it because I realized I was overusing "a lot." Some things never change, but at least now I know to watch for them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Frustration...

Grr...it's one of those days where nothing seems to work out the way I want it to. I guess you could say it's a Murphy's Law day; you know, one of those days where if it can go wrong it will? The one good thing is that our power is staying on today. It went out yesterday--while I was in the middle of editing a manuscript.

Today's major source of frustration: people. I want peace and quiet to work, and everyone decides to talk to me or come to wherever I am to have a conversation with someone else. A couple of times I wanted to talk to someone about something, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise.

Sigh.

Life is far from perfect. I know this, just as every other human being knows this. I think even my cat knows it. In his case, if life were perfect, the weather would always be in the mid-seventies and sunny and not humid so he could spend hours outside doing whatever it is he does when he goes out. Considering the weather's been in the upper eighties to low nineties and really humid and a little stormy, he hasn't been going out much or for very long.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and I came across this verse (Psalm 27:14):

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

It seems like I always come across this verse when I get impatient or frustrated. And that little reminder that everything will happen in God's time helps. Of course, that doesn't keep me from getting frustrated, as evidenced by most of this post. I'm human, after all, and the first to admit that I'm far from perfect. But there's another verse I ran across again this morning that helps me when I feel like I can't deal with everything on my own (Deuteronomy 31:8):

"And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."

What a relief to know that God is with me! He knows I'm frustrated. If I'd do the smart thing and ask for His help in dealing with the frustration first until waiting until I'm ready to scream, my life would be a whole lot easier. But I do like most people and try to take care of it on my own before praying about it. You know what? As I've learned repeatedly over the years, what I can do on my own is nothing compared to what happens with God's help.

So, now I'm offer to pray for the strength to deal with this latest round of frustration. I may be saying that prayer a lot as new frustrations appear, but I know God hears me. I just need to remember to follow that old saying, "Let go and let God."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela!

Today is Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday. To learn more about the South African nationalist and statesman, visit his entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Point for Kindle...

I learned through Publishers Lunch that more Christian publishers are making their lists available for Kindle. You can read the press release from Amazon.com for more details.

While making more Christian books available to Kindle owners is a very cool move, it makes me wonder how long it will be before the Christian publishers and others turn their lists into ebooks compatible with other readers. Kindle is huge, it's been all over the news and internet, yet it's not the only e-reader out there, though it is one of the most expensive I've seen (there was one more expensive, but I can't remember what it was).

I'd love to have an e-reader that allows me to read manuscripts and take notes on them, but the current version of Kindle has two major drawbacks for me: the price and several...I guess you could call them glitches that would drive me insane in a very short time. The more affordable e-readers I've seen don't have the keyboard the Kindle has and not all of them allow you to transfer Microsoft Word or text documents to them. Personally, I'll wait for a later version of the Kindle, which should be more affordable and will (hopefully) have the design flaws corrected.

If you're thinking of buying a Kindle, there are reviews of the thing everywhere. Most either praise it profusely or tell readers how bad it is, but there's one that gives both the good and the bad pretty equally. Literary agent Nathan Bransford recently bought a Kindle, and as a kindness to his blog readers, he posted what he's learned about it since getting it. I think his review gives a good picture of what the current version of the Kindle is like and provides enough information to help someone who's considering buying one make an informed decision.

How Nerdy...

I ordered some books last week and expected to receive them late this week. Imagine my surprise and joy when I received them yesterday. Here's the part that makes me a nerd:

I got excited over my new dictionary arriving.

Yes, I couldn't wait to remove the plastic and open it up. I looked up a couple of words, ecstatic that it tells me when most of the words came into usage (very helpful when writing or editing a historical novel). It's beautiful.

If that's not nerdy enough, wait until you hear about the other two books: another dictionary and a style manual. My reference library has grown, and I'm happier than a little kid on Christmas who got everything she asked for and more.

I admit it, my geek is showing. But why would I want to hide it when my geek is what got me the career I'm in? That love of books and the English language is what led me to become a writer and an editor. The books I now have will help me in both of those jobs.

Now all I need to do is buy about a dozen more reference books (a list which grows and changes on a regular basis) and wait for the next version of Kindle, which will hopefully come down in price to something affordable and have the minor design flaws fixed. Books and technology...you can't go wrong, even if it does bring your nerdiness to light.

Nerds (and geeks) unite!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Agent at Foundry Literary + Media

According to Publisher's Weekly, Lisa Grubka has moved from William Morris to Foundry Literary + Media. Before working at William Morris, she was at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. A quick check of Agent Query told me the genres she represents. Fiction: Literary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women's Fiction, Humor/Satire, Historical Fiction, Short Stories, Offbeat/Quirky Nonfiction: Sports, Food & Lifestyle, Science, Memoirs, Travel, Pop Culture, Narrative, Psychology, Health & Fitness, Humor, Journalism

Agent Query has her listed as still working at William Morris, but I'm sure the information will be updated as soon as she has the time. I would imagine she's unbelievably busy with her job move, so you might want to wait a little bit before querying her.

Now for the update I promised. I picked up my pen Tuesday evening and started writing, slowly at first, then faster as I realized there was no reason to be afraid of writing this particular story. Between that slow start and life intervening, I only wrote four and a half pages, but that's four and a half pages more than I wrote in the previous two days.

I am officially past whatever was holding me back from writing. Now I just have to find the time to write and I'll be in great shape.

Have a happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writer's Block

Okay, so my problem isn't exactly writer's block. I mean, I have ideas for what to write, I know where the story is going, I even know what sentence should come next. The problem for me is the actual writing. For one reason or another, I can seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write the words floating around in my head. The best I can figure is that fear is keeping me from writing.

Afraid to write? Sounds pretty bizarre. But it's true. I don't know if it's fear of failure, as in "What if this turns out to be complete garbage?" or fear of success, "What if it gets published and I have to navigate the promotional waters?" or something else entirely, but I know it's fear.

Believe it or not, writing can be a scary thing sometimes. You wonder if anyone will like what you write even half as well as you. You know your words could impact someone's life and you want to have a positive impact rather than a negative one. The thought of dealing with contracts and marketing at some point in the future is downright intimidating.

So what do you do? How do you get past that fear and write your story? To borrow Nike's catchphrase, "Just do it." Even if you know what you're writing is bad and will have to be rewritten or deleted later, getting the words down is the important thing.

I'm sick of letting fear control my writing, even though it's only been going on for two days. Today is the day I get back to writing, with or without the fear. During breaks or after work (or maybe both) I'll be working on the story that has me completely stalled. I may have to rewrite everything I write today, but at least I'll have written something. Letting fear keep me from writing will never get me published. As others wiser than me have said, the best way to guarantee you won't get published is to not write.

Something else that goes along with that, also said by people wiser than me: If you submit your writing, you risk it getting rejected. If you never submit, you'll never be rejected, but you'll also never get published.

But fear of submission is a topic for another post. For now, I'll concentrate on writing. If you're like me and fear is holding your writing back, make today the day you break free of the fear. Even if what you write has nothing to do with your current WIP (work in progress), write something. Anything. Just to get past the fear of getting those words out of your head and onto paper (or computer screen). Then, once the words are flowing, even haltingly, pull out your WIP and add a couple of sentences to it. If just looking at that manuscript strikes fear in your heart, write anyway. Don't let the fear control you. You control the fear.

Check back Thursday for an update on how well I followed my own advice.