Monday, June 05, 2017

Tackling That To-Be-Read Pile

Three weeks ago, my debut novel, ALL THINGS NOW LIVING, released. It's been an exciting time, and I've been satisfied with the attention and sales my book has been receiving. One thing that hasn't been easy, however, is getting reviews, and because they are so vital to sales, it is a must-do.

Which leads to me my to-read pile. I have dozens of books piled around my house and loaded on my Kindle that I want to read, but haven't gotten around to yet. As a recently published author I am looking at those piles with fresh eyes. Somewhere out there a new author is anxiously waiting for me to finish her book so I'll post a review. Or she used to wait. I'm sure by this time she's given up. Some of the books I bought new are now completed series, and though I own all the books that followed the first, I've yet to dive into any of them.

I decided last week to be kind to myself and other authors. I love reading, and authors love reviews. Win-win, right? So I made a plan to read more:

1. Read more than one book at a time. I know, a lot of other people do this all the time, but it has always driven me crazy. I wouldn't watch 45 minutes of a movie then stop, watch something else, and finish the movie later. But if I was going to read more, I was going to have to read more than one book at once. For me this meant one audio book, one digital book, and one paper book going at the same time. So far, it's actually worked out really well.

2. Read what you can, when you can. I typically don't read books, I devour them. I've never been a one-chapter-a-night person. It's all or nothing, but I've decided on no more nothing. This is still quite frustrating. I don't enjoy pesky interruptions like having to go to work, but I have read more.

3. Read with my husband. My husband isn't a big reader, so usually for relaxation we watch a movie in the evening. It's our social time together, and I enjoy watching movies, but every night is a little much. It's valuable time I could spend reading!I've talked my husband into giving a few books a try, and while our social time is quieter on those nights, it's been really fun.

How big is your to-read pile? How do you get around to reading

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Exactly is Christian Fiction?

My book, coming out May 15, 2017 is being published by Written World Communications, a Christian publisher. This has lead to a number of people asking me if ALL THINGS NOW LIVING is a Christian book.To be honest, I don't have a simple yes or no answer. What is considered Christian varies from person to person, but I'd say in recent years two types of Christian literature have emerged:

Overtly Christian

In these books, the main character is usually a Christian. If not, they will undoubtedly become one before the story is finished. Bible verses are liberally sprinkled throughout the text, and prayer is an essential element. Often there is what I like to call a "Come to Jesus" moment. 

Written from a Christian World View

These books may have no mention of God or Jesus at all. Words like "clean", "sweet", and "cozy" are often used as descriptors. They typically offer a positive message while avoiding graphic depictions of ideas, concepts, or behaviors Christians may find offensive.

So, which is ALL THINGS NOW LIVING? I would have to say it falls into the second category, as there is no mention of Jesus, no conversion, no bible verses, and limited prayer, but ALL THINGS NOW LIVING is a spiritual coming-of-age story. This make it heavier on religious content than many of the "Written from a Christian World View" books I've read.

What do you consider a Christian book?  Do you regularly read Christian literature, or is it something you avoid? How do you feel about "Christian" books that lack overtly Christian content?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

So, Are You Writing a Trilogy?

Book One
Probably the most frequent question I get asked when people hear I have a YA book coming out is if I am writing a trilogy. I understand why, my first book clearly indicates it is Book One, and there have been a lot of trilogies released in the last few years. But no, I am not writing a trilogy. Here's why:

Story should determine itself, not how many books you want in your series. My series will actually have four books, because that is how many are needed to serve the story. Not the other way around.

Each book should be able to stand on it's own. I've read a number of very frustrating "trilogies" that were, in fact, only one story broken up into three parts, beginning, middle, and end. In other words, there was no conclusion at the end of the first book, or the second. Too bad for you if you didn't want to read all of them, or if you had to wait years between the release of each volume. While there is an overarching plot that is threaded through all four of my manuscripts, I have worked very hard to have distinct plots for each, and I hope readers will find them satisfying in themselves.

If you are writing a book, don't feel pressured to come up with a certain number of books. Sometimes the story is best told in one. Other times many more are needed. Do what works best for you and the story you are telling.

Monday, January 09, 2017

That Time of Year - Picking Writer's Conferences

Time to plan the year!
Every January I look over my calendar to decide which writer's conferences to attend. I wish I could go to a lot more than I do, but, like most of us, I don't have unlimited funds or time.

The first conference that gets circled on my calendar is my local writer's group annual conference. Not only is it the least expensive, it is close by and only lasts one day. While it's focus is on self-published authors, I have learned more about marketing from this group than any other. Definitely worth it!

The next conference I chose is regional.  Not as expensive as national conferences, these conferences still often attract top speakers, editors, and agents. Because they are smaller than national conferences, there is often a better chance to meet the speakers as well as to get to know other authors.

National conferences are the most expensive, not only in fees but travel and accommodation costs. I don't go to a national conference every year. Although they are a lot of fun, they really don't offer more opportunities than the regional conferences, and sometimes less. This is why, many years, I will attend two regional conferences instead of  going to a national conference.

Not only has attending writer's conferences improved my writing, I would say having the chance to interact with other writers and learn from the best authors, editors, and agents has kept me writing.

Will you be attending a writer's conference this year? Which ones would you recommend?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Writer

A small look into the brilliant mind of JK Rowling.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the best selling book of 2016. Some love it, others feel betrayed, but what does it say about writers?

(Warning: Mild spoilers ahead! Stop reading if  you don't want to know anything.)

Okay, the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plot revolves around a time-turner, the creation of alternate universes, and things happening to characters we love that differ from the timeline in the first seven books.

You may not know this, but every author has a time-turner. As we write, there are thousands of different directions we can take our stories. When we delete, we change our fictional character's lives. I have written three very different "first drafts" for the second book in my series. I mourn story lines and characters I had to leave behind. Hopefully readers will never discover what "could" have been, but I will never forget. For me, all of my stories feel like they are full of alternate universes, things that once happened, but are now gone forever.

Now, I don't know how much of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came from ideas that were once part of the original series and were rejected for one reason or another. Maybe none of it. But it is a clever look into the writing process and the emotional turmoil most of us authors go through.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment & Delays - Going with a Small Press versus Self-Publishing

To self-publish, or not to self-publish.

A year ago I had decided I was going to self-publish my novel, ALL THINGS NOW LIVING. A number of agents and editors had told me it was good enough to publish, it just wasn't for them, and several of my friends had had quite good success self-publishing. I thought my book would be better off out there than languishing in a drawer.

Then I got the call. You know. From a publisher who wanted to publish my book. Granted, a small press, but still, a real, traditional publisher.


I was flattered, but didn't sign automatically. I had already begun the self-publication process, but as I reviewed what my self-publishing costs would be, including edits, proof-reading, design and formatting, etc, I realized it would be very easy to spend thousands of dollars to put out a professional, high-quality product.

So I signed. And I was thrilled! I had always wanted a traditional publishing deal, and I had one.

Then came the delays. I wasn't too upset about missing the original release date, as it had always been tentative, but when my second, solid release date passed without the book being finished, I went into a writing funk. I stopped working on my sequel. I didn't post on my blog. When people asked me about my book, I wanted to drop to the floor and curl into a little ball.

The other day a friend asked me if I regretted signing with a small publisher instead of self-publishing. Honestly, even in the midst of disappointment, the answer was no. Even though my book has been delayed, it is still coming out. The edits I got made the book so much better, the design is beautiful, and the formatting is coming along.

I know there are a lot of people out there who have the time and talent to do everything themselves, but that route wasn't the best for me. I am still happy to be with my "little publishing company that accomplished so much and then seemed to go into hibernation", as my editor described her company. Sometimes little things grow big, and slow starts don't mean slow finishes.

Monday, May 30, 2016

What the Novelist Can Learn from Other Artistic Disciplines

The arts inform us and each other.
A few years ago, I went to a writer's conference with my son. I thought we'd go to different sessions, as I was working on my novel and he was interested in screenwriting, but he was quite young at the time, and unwilling to attend the sessions he was interested in by himself. I ended up going to all the screenwriting sessions that conference. They were fantastic! No, I didn't end up writing a screenplay, but in addition to learning about what has become one of my favorite writing books, SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, I finally understood how to show and not tell.

Since then, I've gone out of my way to attend sessions I initially don't think are relevant to my writing, classes on poetry, acting, song writing, and illustration. Some of those sessions have been the best I have gone to, and have done the most to improve my writing.

Which really shouldn't be surprising. All art is the expression of human creativity. Learning more about different art forms can't help but improve our own expression.