Sunday, November 29, 2009

She Called me an Award Winning Writer!

My writing buddy, Drue Allen, just interviewed me on her blog about how it feels to have Second Time Around nominated for a 2010 EPIC Award.  So I told her!  Here's the link to the interview:

I must say, I truly appreciate her adjective, "award winning."  Let's just hope she's right!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Why do You Write?

The hoopla with Harlequin's new self-publishing venture got me thinking about two really important subjects.
  1. Writing is a creative effort; publishing is a business effort. 
  2. My desire to write is totally independent of my desire to be published.
I'm one of those people who began writing when I was a kid:  I recall creating a story in grade school about a frog named Throckmorton.  Puberty contributed greatly to the death of a number of trees and reams of maudlin poetry.  I completed my first romantic suspense novel in the late eighties:  St. Martin's Press loved it but said it was too formulaic.  The editor suggested I send it to Silhouette.  Silhouette loved it and said it was too mainstream.  Sigh.  It's sitting in a box with my next four novels.

When divorce, remarriage, and several other signifiant life events seriously curtailed my fiction writing, I spent years writing in trade.  No, insurance magazine articles are not my favorite things to write--neither is a business column in a newspaper.  Since I'm one of those people who writes because I have to write, that's what I did.  When life once again permitted me the time and freedom to pursue writing fiction, I did so with a vengeance:  hence the completion of Second Time Around.

Publication, now, that is an altogether different thing.  It involves ego.  It involves validation.  It involves knowledge of the publishing indistry.  It also involves a great deal of business savvy--either one's own or the kind one can hire in the form of an agent.  Preferably both.  Since I have a healthy ego, a competitive nature, and a desire for approval, seeking publication has always been the next step after I complete an article, short story, or novel.  It will always be the next step.

I may never publish another novel.  If that becomes an unfortunate reality, it will not stop me from writing.  Heck, I kept at it for twenty years, I can do it another twenty!

Writing is a pursuit unto itself.  Which is why I do it.

Publishing is a business.  It's a choice.

I believe that many writers who've written for years without achieving publishing success do not fall into the category of being lousy writers.  My opinion is shared by a  prominant published writer (I'm pretty sure it's Lawrence Block, but don't quote me here) who said in his writing-advice book that he believes more mediocre writers with excellent business marketing skills get published than do excellent writers with mediocre business marketing skills.

Choosing the route of self-publishing because you've been rejected numerous times is NOT the way to go.  If you can't get the attention of a NY agent or publisher, try a small press before you pay someone to publish your book.  If you've been writing for years and have never joined a professional writer's organization, I've got a hint for you:  JOIN ONE OR THREE!!!  The members and resources of professional writer's organizations provided me with more information and insight into the publishing industry, both the creative and business ends of it, than the sum of all other resources combined.

You might also want to seriously consider why you write.  If it's because you have to, pursuing the goal of publication should be the icing on the cake,

Yeah, being published is sweet.  No doubt about that.  But if you're like me, the meat and potatoes of writing keep my belly full, not the icing on the cake.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is it Better to Write with Pen and Paper?

At the moment, I'm thinking the answer to this question is a resounding, "YES!"

I've been writing for so many years, I remember the world before computers and word processors.  I preferred writing on lined filler paper because typewriters sucked.  (Or was it my typing skills?)  I'd buy those thick 1-2" expandable folders and dedicate two to each book:  one for the actual chapters and one for the notes.  I should also have bought stock in the Bic company--I loved those pens.  Blue, never black.

Anyway, I pretty much follow the same procedure on the computer.  Except for when it crashes on me or shuts down for no apparent reason.  Fortunately, I back up faithfully.  Still, I'm thinking of going back to doing my rough draft by hand. 

Twice this weekend, TWICE, the damn laptop shut down in the middle of my WIP.  The document recovery software worked both times, thank God.  But you know what they say about the third time being the charm.  (I know, that's a cliche, and I should avoid them at all costs.  But I was married to a guy named Murphy for 16 years, so I know whereof I speak.)

I carry notebooks with me all the time:  in my DayTimer, in my briefcase, in my car, in my purse.  I'm constantly jotting notes down on paper.  Should I just bury the damn laptop?  Write by longhand and then transcribe it onto a PC when I'm through?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Whats Your Take on Harlequin's New "Self-Publishing" Deal?

There is LOTS of talk about Harlequin venturing into self-publishing; here are a few links to what people are saying:
What do YOU have to say?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Second Time Around FINALS in EPIC's 2010 eBook Competition!

I received word this morning that, Second Time Around, my debut mystery, is a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense Fiction category of EPIC's 2010 eBook Competition.

EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) is a professional organization of published and contracted eBook and print writers.  Their annual awards, formerly called the EPPIEs, "showcase the best and brightest in today's electronic published writing and cover art."  The winners of the EPIC awards will be announced at their annual conference, which is being held March 4-7, 2010 at the Sheraton New Orleans, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I share this honor with my editors, Herb Holeman and Judy Goldman, and all the people at ePress Online who helped bring STA to both eBook and print format.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Check Out Forever Friends

Check out my new blog, Forever Friends, and be sure to submit your item for posting!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Do You Need to Narrow Your Focus?

I do. In fact, I've spent the past several months figuring out precisely how to do it. This is what I've come up with, and it's working!

The first step is realizing you've spread yourself too thin. Here are some clues: You write anything anyone asks you to--a magazine article, a newspaper column, or a press release for a non-profit--even when you'd rather be working on your novel. You accept contract jobs that involve travel because of the enormous potential for the growth of your business, mistakenly convincing yourself you'll get tons of writing accomplished during the flights or--God, how naive (aka stupid?)--during the airport layovers. You fiddle around on Facebook, surf the net for obscure facts of interest that don't pertain to anything you're working on at the moment, read your 47 favorite blogs, get caught up in an old movie you've seen six dozen times before... You volunteer at the PTA, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the local animal shelter. You offer the use of your office conference room for committee meetings of the non-profit whose board you sit on--which means you just stole two hours of personal time from yourself. You getting the picture yet?

The second step is prioritizing. As in having this dialogue with yourself: I write because I have to. Writing consumes me. I have to put my writing before everything else that consumes me LESS than my writing--otherwise, I'm miserable. Only one person bears the responsibility for my lack of writing time or success--it isn't fair to blame other people for infringing, especially not when I alternately welcome and invite interruption. For me, the priority list goes like this:
  • Family and loved ones (including my puppies and kitty)
  • The [necessary aspects of my] career
  • Me
  • My writing

Housework no longer appears on the list. Neither do grocery shopping, Christmas cards, dusting (this is not housework, it's a form of torture), or anything else I really don't want to do. You see, the category of "Me" is both broad and vague. I get to decide what fits into it. I do admit that not everyone is pleased with my seemingly arbitrary categorization of what fits under "Me." Unfortunately [for them], I was a writer before I met them and they accepted the "side effects" of my writerly personality. I was not always this callous and selfish; becoming published created the monster. There's something about realizing my dream that made me want to repeat the performance--it helps me narrow my focus.

The third, and final, step is implementation. When I received a request for contract job in Boise, Idaho, I turned it down. I love teaching there--the people are terrific. But because of the fact that you can't get there from here (not directly, anyway), the trip will involve two days of travel for the one day of paid teaching. Since I've learned [the hard way] that I don't get ANY writing done on planes or in airports, not only am I losing time from my day job, I'm losing precious writing time.

One final bit of advice: E-mails, Facebook, blogs, and reading books (not necessarily in that order) are pursuits that can be as addictive as writing. I've learned to schedule these activities into my schedule. I permit myself either a set amount of time, or only certain times of the day, for their enjoyment. I own two businesses so, as my own boss, I can do whatever I want whenever I want. However, in order to take care of the number 2, 3, and 4 items on my Priority List, I do not allow myself to visit Facebook at work, nor do I check my personal or writing e-mails at the office. Take a guess at what's more enjoyable: insurance or Facebook? Insurance or e-mails from my friends/family? What, you're wondering, does that have to do with writing?

Well, you see, it goes like this: the longer I spend at the office, the less time I have at home for writing. If I kill half an hour fiddling around on Facebook or with my non-business e-mail, I'm responsible and professional enough to make up that time at the office. So who loses the half hour? Me? Nope--I'm still going to play with the dogs and cat, eat my dinner, and do the things at home that I want to do. It's my writing that suffers.

If my writing suffers, guess who else suffers? You've got it--everyone!

Seriously, figure out your priorities and be sure NOT to leave yourself off the list. Don't martyr yourself by eliminating the things you like to do (i.e. blogging, IMing, FB)--that's cruel and unusual punishment--make a date with yourself to do them. If other people are important enough to fit/schedule into your day, so are you. And so is your writing.

What are some of the ways you've found to narrow your focus? I'd love to hear them and I'm sure everyone else will too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

READERS & WRITERS: What's Your Take on Series Novels Versus Standalones?

When I wrote Second Time Around, I didn't actually plan for it to be the first in a series. Sure, I realized some readers like series books, but I didn't realize how many of them did.

Within a month of publication, a great number of people who'd read STA asked me when the next book in the series would come out. I told them I was working on it (titled Two-Timed) but was also working on another mystery. You'd have thought I'd given away my firstborn to aliens.

No, no, no! was the resounding response (at least from those who liked the book), you need to continue the story of Jack and Timmie. Well, to tell you the truth, I tend to want to move on once I've finished a book. But readers don't want to hear that. And, as a writer with an ego and head for business, I have to rethink my position. If readers really like my characters and want to read more, who am I to deprive them?

Seriously, what's your preference when it comes to reading series books versus standalones--and why? I'm interested in the perspectives of both readers and writers. If you'd prefer not to leave a comment here, feel free to e-mail me at