31 January 2012
Today, an interview with best-selling Indie-author, Tori Scott.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first one I wrote was way back in grade school. Needless to say that one doesn't really count. Then I wrote one called Goddess of Fire back in 1992 after a trip to Hawaii. It's still buried in the bowels of an old Word processor that I'm afraid to throw away in case I ever figure out how to retrieve the contents.
What led you to try your hand at Indie-publishing?
I'm a member of a group comprised of 2003 Golden Heart Finalists. Several of them were braver than I was and launched their Indie careers in 2010. They were having great success and it got me excited about writing for the first time in a few years. I wanted to try it and see if I could do it.
Would you recommend the Indie-route for everyone? If not, why?
For really good writers, yes. By that I mean those who know how to write a full novel, don't need a heavy-handed editor, don't need a lot of proof-reading. Those who have written several novels. Until a writer has reached that point, they still need the guidance of an experienced editor. But for those who've written several, have gotten good feedback on them from editors and agents but just can't get their foot in the door, it's a great opportunity.
Where do your ideas come from?
I have no idea. Most of my ideas come out of the blue as I'm laying down at night. Lines of dialogue start running through my head and before I know it, I'm back at the computer typing as fast as I can to get it all down. I'll usually write 5 pages or so before I can go back to sleep.
How did you come up with the idea for Superstition?
During a visit to California, we were standing on the Santa Monica pier and the wind was blowing really hard. The though popped into my head that it would be really hard to scatter someone's ashes in that kind of wind and...voila, a story was born.
Do you have any more paranormal romances in the works or finished?
Not at the moment, but there will be.
Will there be a sequel to Superstition?
Yes, that's second in line after I write the sequel to Blame it on Texas. Can't wait.
To learn more about Tori and her writing, visit her on the web at: Tori Tells All
Now, an excerpt from Tori's exciting paranormal romance.
Gage Deveraux curled his fingers around the amulet, felt the incredible energy sealed within the hammered brass, and shuddered. In the wrong hands... He would just have to make sure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands. “Thank you,” he said to the old cleric who had placed it in his hands with great care. “I will guard it with my life.”
“No!” the old man shouted. “Do not guard it. Destroy it. Take it away in your helicopter and drop it into the depths of the ocean. Do not keep it. It will destroy you.”
But Gage didn’t hear him over the roar of the blades that churned up the desert sand and flung it into his face. He waved and jogged toward the chopper, scrambling aboard as it lifted into the air and swung away towards the base camp.
He settled into the seat next to the pilot and watched as the old man grew smaller, merely a speck against the sand. Something nagged at him, but he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. How had the old man known he’d be in this place, at this time? Why had he entrusted him with an ancient Babylonian treasure that supposedly held such tremendous power? And what was he going to do with it, now that he had it?
“ETA twenty-seven minutes, Captain,” the pilot said through the headset.
Gage nodded without taking his eyes off the amulet. It still pulsed within his hand. Heat radiated from it, warming the skin of his palm. Maybe the best thing would be to destroy it so that no one could ever attempt to use its power. But this entire mission was about stopping those who were stripping Iraq of treasures just like this one. He would be going against orders if he destroyed it.
Still, even a strong man could be tempted by power such as this...
It was a terrible day to scatter ashes. The night was rainy and cold, miserable with the storm whipping the ocean into waves that thundered and crashed against the shore behind her. But Caitlyn Deveraux had missed the last two chances because she hadn’t been ready to let Gage go. Now that she’d made up her mind, it had to be tonight.
She couldn’t stand to look at the urn on her mantle until the next full moon. A full moon, exactly at sunset. He’d left precise instructions in his will.
Standing at the end of the Santa Monica pier, Caitlyn clutched the cold brass vase to her chest as a gust of wind tried to blow her back from the railing, yanking at her coat and tossing her hair around her face. She brushed it out of her eyes and tucked the strands beneath her collar. The rain soaked her face, mixing with the tears on her cheeks, numbing them. Cold. So damned cold. Drawing on the courage of her ancestors, even though she continued to pretend they didn’t exist, she removed the lid and looked inside. Ashes. All that was left of Gage. All that was left of her family. Of her life.
It was time.
Caitlyn leaned over the railing, fighting the dizziness. She hated heights, even though there was a sturdy rail between her and the water, and only her love for Gage kept her in place. It took two tries to let him go. Before she could lose courage again, she turned the urn upside down, shook it, and spoke the strange words he’d written. Words of the Anasazi, the lost ones--who couldn’t be lost enough as far as she was concerned.
As his remains drifted toward the ocean, a gale-force gust of wind took her breath away. The ashes blew back in her face and she gasped, inhaling the acrid residue.
Caitlyn dumped the last of the ashes from the urn and fled, gagging, back across the pier, stumbling along the boardwalk to her car.
Oh God. To breathe in her brother’s ashes...
She wrenched the door open and grabbed her water bottle to rinse her mouth. Not enough. When she tried to take a drink, a coughing fit sent the water spraying across the driver’s seat.
Caitlyn dropped the bottle and collapsed in a heap on the ground, giving in to tears until she had none left to shed.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, but the moon was full and rising when she heard the scuff of shoes and whisper of fabric. She forced her eyes open to find a man in a dark suit towering over her. He crouched beside her and she cowered against the cold steel of her vehicle.
Where had he come from? Could she make it into her car before he could grab her? No, there was no way. She had to get on her feet. She was at too much of a disadvantage on the ground.
“Are you all right? May I help you in any way?” His voice was deep, husky, concerned. He didn’t look like a man intent on hurting her. But you couldn’t go by looks.
“No.” She shook her head and sat up straighter. Trying to appear confident and unafraid, she maneuvered to her knees. “I’m fine. Really. Just got a...a little emotional.”
“Ah, I understand.” He picked up the urn, rubbing it between his hands. “It is very difficult, saying goodbye. A family member?”
She shoved her hair back from her face and tried to stand. His hand immediately appeared and she looked at it, weighing the risk. No, better to avoid contact. She ignored his silent offer of help and pushed to her feet. “My brother.”
“I am so sorry. It is hard to lose someone so young.”
“Yes, it is. He was only thirty.” Her voice broke on a sob and the man offered her a crisp white handkerchief. “Thank you.” She mopped her cheeks and handed it back.
He refolded it and held it toward her face. “Lick this.”
“You have smudges on your cheeks. I was simply going to wipe them away.”
Not a chance. He seemed harmless enough, but still...“I have a water bottle in the car.” Caitlyn pulled it out and squirted the last few drops of water onto the cloth, leaned over to look in the side mirror, and scrubbed at her cheek.
“Much better,” he said. Before she could move, he reached out and lifted the chain around her neck. “This is an interesting necklace.”
“Thank you.” God, she had to get away before she completely fell to pieces. “I have to go. Thank you for being so kind.” She gave him a small smile, climbed into her Ford Focus, and shut the door. Damn, she’d left the window down earlier. Before she could start the car and roll it up, the man laid his hand on the open window frame. Nerves hummed throughout her body and she berated herself for not being more diligent about her safety on this isolated stretch of coastal highway.
“I will follow you to see that you get home safely,” he said.
“No!” She struggled to control her voice, to not show how terrified she was. “No, please. That isn’t necessary. I’ll be fine. Thank you again, but I don’t want to trouble you any further.”
Caitlyn started the car and drove away. When she checked her rearview mirror, he was nothing more than a dark shadow outlined by the full moon. She stepped on the accelerator, picking up speed to put more distance between them. Now that she was safe, she wondered who he was. He reminded her of Jamir. He had that same intense gaze through eyes dark as pitch, the same ability to approach without making a sound.
A set of headlights followed her for miles along the coast, through the outskirts of Los Angeles, and even through the streets of Pasadena. Or maybe it was just her imagination. There were hundreds of cars on the highway, so what made her think it was the man from the beach?
Instinct. Stronger than she’d ever felt it before. But she couldn’t tell if he was watching over her, or if he meant to hurt her. She thought it was the former, but her instincts had been wrong before. She didn’t know if she should trust them now.
He stayed a couple of car lengths back, neither threatening nor comforting.
“You remind me a lot of your brother.” The voice echoed in her head, but sounded as though it came from inside the car.
She jerked the wheel. Who said that? Horns blared all around her and she realized she’d swerved into another lane.
“Whoa. Careful. Can’t afford to lose you now that I’ve found you. Settle down. You’re almost home.”
Who the hell was that? She looked in the rear view mirror, over the back seat. No one, yet the voice had been distinctly masculine, and it was close. Very close. Almost right inside her head.
“There, that’s better. Now, take it easy and pay attention to your driving. Then maybe we will both arrive in one piece.”
Nausea clawed at her stomach and her hands trembled. Think. What would Gage do? If someone followed him, he’d lose the tail by cutting through alleys and side streets. As long as she was on the freeway, she was easy to track.
Having a plan helped her push the fear aside. She could do this.
Her right foot punched the gas pedal and her car shot off the highway at the next exit, cutting off a car as she changed lanes. Her pulse kicked into overdrive, pounding in her temples. She heard tires squeal behind her, the clash of metal against metal. “Take that, you son of a bitch.”
Tori's giving away a free download of Superstition to one of our lucky BTV readers. Just leave a comment to this post, and make sure we have your email address. One winner will be chosen at random.
To buy Superstition, visit one of the following links:
Barnes & Noble
30 January 2012
|No matter where we are, writers are always alone when we write.|
28 January 2012
Hang in there. Being an author isn’t about making loads of money and gathering fame. In fact, for ninety-nine percent of us, it’s anything but glamorous or our ticket away from our regular 9 to 5 job.
No one ever told me how brutal the publishing business can be. And I am grateful. If they had, I probably wouldn’t have written one word. The hard truth is that being an author requires putting your heart into a book only to risk having your heart ripped apart.
My first book came out in 2005. I was, of course, excited, jubilant, and ready to see my name on the bestsellers’ list. Okay, maybe I didn’t dream of the bestsellers’ list, but I did think I’d found a way to make decent money while staying home with my child.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, for the first two years of my publishing career I went into the red. That’s right. I lost money. Not because my books didn’t sell (by then I had five eBooks out), but because I’d made every mistake a newly published author could make.
Think that was bad? I did at the time. Then the real blankety-blank hit the fan. My publisher filed for bankruptcy. Not only were my books no longer available for sale, but worst of all, the publisher still held the rights to my work.
Fortunately, the something-something deep inside me that makes me write wasn’t squashed by all this bad news. Plus, I had a husband who supported my dream and wouldn’t let me quit. So I kept kicking, found not one, but two different publishers and started writing again. I’m proud to say that today I am definitely well into the black.
So, here’s my point. Publishing is hard enough when you know what you’re doing. But it can be absolute career suicide if you don’t. Take a few hints from me so you don’t go down the same path I did.
Learn the business. Publishers don’t change the rules for you. You have to do it their way. Study their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Read about other authors’ experiences. Check out your targeted publisher’s website and note which books sell and which don’t. Take classes to improve your writing.
Watch the money. Don’t go wild with advertising. Find out what really works by talking to other authors. I hate to say it, but most advertising isn’t worth the dollars thrown at it.
Take it slow and steady. Although you’re itching to sign that first contract that comes your way, check it out. Read it thoroughly, preferably with either an agent or a lawyer. If you don’t have one of those, find an experienced author to look it over. Check out samples of good contracts (you can find a few on the internet) and compare them to yours. Most of all, understand exactly what you’re signing.
Keep aware of what’s going on in the business. Join a critique group. Join an organization like Romance Writers of America. Talk to other authors whenever you can. Ask for suggestions, recommendations from published authors. Read trade magazines. Keep abreast of the latest trends.
Keep writing. If you hit a snag—and you will hit many along the way—don’t give up. If you get tangled up with a bad publisher or agent, cut the ties and move on. Don’t look back. Don’t mourn what you’ve lost. Just keep learning and writing.
It’s a strange thing, but publishing changes while remaining the same. eBooks have changed the face of reading, but most publishers still do business the same way they have for years. So hang in there. If you’re meant to be an author and willing to do the work to get published, you’ll get there.Beverly Rae
27 January 2012
I started the road to publication with a complete manuscript -- SECRETS AND SHADOWS. An editor for a particular Harlequin line -- yes, the heart of category romance -- loved it. But. That was a BIG but. I revised. Waited. Waited. Heard she left the house. Sobbed. Waited some more. Got a lovely rejection letter from her successor.
The entire process? About a year and a half, maybe two. It's all a blur. But I remember it felt as if I had flushed a big chunk of my professional life down the drain.
I was left with a good, very polished manuscript that was too short for other houses; one not-great finished historical romance; and several fits, starts, and ideas for stories. What to do?
I heard about Samhain Publishing opening up. I still wasn't sure about "selling out" to publish digitally. BUT, it sounded promising and I refused to rewrite that book for the sake of meeting a word count minimum. My writing friends were excited at the prospect. Most e-pubs at that time seemed strictly aimed at erotica, so Samhain was something new. They wanted everything!
Long story short... SECRETS was snapped up. I was elated. I then had to explain to my family that yes, I was with a 'real' publisher. Oy. We still go there, believe it or not, three novels later. :P
I had other stories along the route, too. Sweeter, funny stories pubbed with a tiny e-press. It was a great experience and I loved writing those down-to-earth romances. They seemed more 'real' to me -- like old friends. That publisher struggled -- don't all small businesses? -- and finally closed. I was left with more finished stories without a home.
These events -- plus a painful rejection letter, life interference, and a monster case of writer's block -- led me to the Indie-publishing idea.
Re-publish my own work? That's outrageous! Sacrilege! Not to mention narcissistic. I balked at the whole idea, believe me. Until I saw a talented friend take the plunge. And her plunge led to a huge splash as her stories rocketed to the bestsellers' lists on Amazon. It changed her life. Literally.
Wow. That's pretty cool. Could I dare? I mean I'm a good writer. I have these polished stories ready to go. Hmmm....
Yep, I dared. Not many houses want to re-pub stories by a virtual unknown. Don't blame them, really, it's a business. And so I jumped in to the Indie world, with my friend's guidance. Just ankle deep, however, I'm a cautious swimmer.
I wish I could say my wading turned into a tidal wave of sales. It hasn't. But I'm okay with that, really. I know there are a lot of ebooks out there. A LOT. And readers are understandably cautious about spending their money on the unknown quantity.
What have I learned in my journey? A few things:
#1) Write what you love, not what you think will sell. Otherwise you'll lose your love for it. Why bother writing if you wind up hating the job?
#2) Publisher's may be necessary for many of us. We don't all have the resources, patience, talents, knowledge and connections to do it all on our own. But if you decide to try the Indie-route. Do it right. Don't sidestep and do NOT put out an inferior quality product. Readers will notice.
#3) The publishing business is a living entity, changing and growing dramatically along with technology. It's exciting and scary all at once. It allows us to find otherwise undiscovered talented writers. Let's face it -- publishers can only put out so many books a year. They have to be selective. They have to pick and choose. If a story doesn't make the cut, maybe it's just the market and not the story or writing. How many times was Harry Potter rejected? Think about it.
Instant gratification is a very seductive beast. It's hard not to find a thrill in publishing a story one day; selling copies the next; and receiving monetary rewards two months later. In the traditional publishing world, you're lucky to see anything up to a year after the contract dries.
Although it might be tempting to look down our collective noses at independently published authors, we shouldn't. Indie-publishing is NOT narcissistic. It's not evil or lazy. Honestly, there's much more work involved for the writer who publishes their own books. I've also seen that this route is sometimes the only way really good stories by good writers can get a chance.
If you're willing to work and the traditional road seems too daunting, too limiting, or has failed you one too many times: check out the Indie-tide. It's a little dark and murky. It's a little frightening. But there are many resources and folks to help along the way. Whatever road to publication you choose to follow, just remember:
Success rarely happens overnight.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
If you need to write, do it. Never give up. Eventually you'll find your audience.
Indulge your senses...
25 January 2012
1) Turn on Phineas and Ferb really, really loud.
2) After you point out you're trying to write and they can't watch TV right now, sit behind your recliner and fight, making sure to jolt your favorite writing chair repeatedly.
3) Try to read over your shoulder because they are "bored". And one of them can't even READ, so she has to ask you what it says.
4) Let the cats out when the cats aren't allowed to be out and then run around yelling about it, which of course scares the cats even further from the safety of the front door.
5) Break stuff in the kitchen when getting the cats a "treat" to lure them back into the house.
6) When being punished with a time out in their bedroom for not behaving while you're trying to write, fall off the top bunk.
7) Pretend they have broken a body part when there is nothing actually wrong.
8) When being punished for pretending to have broken a body part when there is nothing actually wrong, hurl themselves onto the couch so repentantly that the couch cushions ricochet into the floor. Totally accidentally.
9) Pile up the couch cushions and use them as a springboard to leap onto the couch, where they are supposed to be sitting quietly since they are being punished.
10) Stick a foot through the bottom liner of the couch underneath where the cushions are supposed to be and scream with intense fear and pain as if their foot is being eaten by an alligator.
11) Argue with--let's call it "great passion"--that the ripping and tearing of the couch is not in any way their fault because all they were trying to do was sit quietly while they were being punished, but the couch cushions are too stupid and stupidly refused to stay on the couch where they belong, necessitating the behavior that resulted in the ripping and tearing. Which was not their fault.
12) While being punished for arguing with--let's call it "great passion"--and the use of certain words in reference to their parents' IQ, slump in sullen silence in your writing chair because the couch is, after all, ripped and torn, and the bedroom contains that evil, possibly limb-breaking bunk bed, and the kitchen floor has broken stuff that needs to be vacuumed up, and the dining room is really just an extension of the kitchen, and no way in hell are they having their time out in YOUR bedroom, because it's the only place left in the house outside the bathrooms where you can possibly get any peace.
13) Lock yourself in your bedroom with computer, in your NOT favorite chair, and realize you absolutely cannot write a sex scene, because it could possibly result in your hero and heroine getting pregnant, and you want them to have a HAPPY ending to their book.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com
PS: No children were harmed in the writing of this Thursday Thirteen. Can't say the same about the couch.
21 January 2012
19 January 2012
So how’s the view from here?
The more I know, the more I learn that I need to know. As much as I know about writing (active voice, action tags, story craft), I find I still have more to practice. Each time I go through a manuscript to edit, I think, “This is the time, it’ll be so clean I won’t have to touch a thing.”
I’m wrong. Routinely.
Humbling experience, that.
Each time I think I “know about the ebook publishing industry,” someone will mention a new-to-me publisher that’s been in business for years. It’s not that they’re so small I’ve never heard of them, it’s that I’m not well versed enough on the businesses playing in the industry yet.
So here’s what I do know:
Concentrate on the basics and on what you can control.
1. Write daily or as often as you can. There are many prompts available on the internet (type “writing prompts” into Google and poke around). Experiment with a new one every day for a month. Write with a pen and write on the computer, see how the different mechanics work with your creative process.
2. Practice your writing skills. Get a book on grammar from the library or buy yourself a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Wrestle with comma usage and the dreaded semicolon; become an expert in verb tenses. Learn about the “story arc” and the seven traditional plots. Get yourself a copy of Fiction Writers Workshop by Josip Novakovich or take a fiction class through a local writing group.
3. Meet other writers. Find writing friends online through magazines like Writer’s Digest or The Writer, and make local connections using your local newspaper or Meetup. Exposure to others working on the same things you are is helpful for the learning process and can also inspire you to try new things.
4. Attend regional writing conferences or even a national one. My own writing organization, Evanston Writers Workshop, holds our annual conference very year during the third weekend of August. We bring in authors, publishers, agents, and have an awesome time learning and playing with words for three days. There's a lot you can learn about traditional publishing and the ebook publishing industry, and how the interrelate and augment each other from the authors' perspective. It's no longer enough to ignore ebooks; we as authors need to understand it because that's how a lot of newer authors are being published.
5. Stay humble. No matter how much you know or learn, remember there’s always someone out there that can teach you something. Be teachable.
6. Keep writing. Through it all, remember to keep writing. This is surprisingly easy to forget, in fact. I meet writers through Evanston Writers Workshop who have all sorts of dearly-held opinions about publishing and writing, but when asked what they’re working on, the answers “oh, this manuscript I’ve been writing for twenty years.” One manuscript for twenty years is not a good track record for knowing the publishing industry. One of our speakers, author Jody Lynn Nye, has published over forty books and over a hundred short stories. I think THAT is the track record of someone who knows the publishing industry, don't you? Everyone has opinions, and it’s easy to forget that our job description is “writer,” not “pontificator” or “prognosticator.” If you have the urge to do either of the latter two things, DO IT ON THE PAGE! Whatever you do, write.
16 January 2012
My fifth release comes out next Friday, ITS SWEETEST FORM, and at least two others will see the light of day this year. That’s seven published works and yet, I can’t tell you a thing about publishing from the inside. Why? Because I’m on the outside of it. And that’s okay.
What puts me on the outside? Well, I don’t have an agent, I haven’t won any contest, I don’t belong to any chapters of anything, and I refuse to stick to a single genre, or to conform to the strictures of the genres I cross into. I write multicultural casts, but I don’t write Ethnic fiction. I write bisexual and sexually fluid characters, but I don’t write LGBTQ fiction. I write polyamory almost exclusively, but I don’t write erotica per se. I write paranormal elements in everything, but the focus is the human story of the non-human characters.
None of this in intentional. Not a single thing. I write the stories I want to read and the stories that I think need to be told. I write them the way I see the world and I don’t know another way to do it. To be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to learn another way if I could. So where does that leave me?
Well, people who love me and get me, REALLY love and get me. People who like me, really like me and seek me out. But people who don’t get me, put up signs and tweak their submission guidelines to keep me and my ilk away. You think I’m kidding...
Publishing is like any other business, they have a product and they have to sell it. The publishers are in competition with each other, so inventive and unique is a bonus. But it’s a very small trip from inventive and unique, to strange and indefinable. A publisher won’t contract what it thinks it can’t market, and therefore sell. For those of us on the outside, that means starting small and building up with proof of sales, or going indie and proving ourselves there.
I’m not the indie type. I appreciate the path and I’m sure there’s an indie release in my future, but I’m not an indie author. I currently lack the editorial skills, or the money to hire those with editorial skills, to turn out a product that does me proud. That means staying in this publishing game of horse shoes and waiting to get close.
So far, I don’t mind the ride. I’m learning every step of the way. I know the when to take criticism that will benefit a story, and when to ignore something that would fundamentally change a manuscript and my voice for the worse. I know the different between someone trying to elevate my work and someone trying to make me a clone of something easier to market. And that’s valuable, all of it. The process, even at it’s most subjective, adds something to the author every time, be it strength, patience, perseverance or plot ideas. Taken in the right stride, even with rejection, you walk away with more than you had before you began. And write to get better, right?
Seeya on the inside, Kittens!
15 January 2012
14 January 2012
But if you’re here for “Business As Usual”… (User cracks knuckles.) Honey, pull up a chair.
As you may have gathered from my contributions to this blog, my usual in this business qualifies as everybody else’s “peculiar in the extreme”. There was the editor who wanted a story about dragons and bacon. Yeah, that one fried a few synapses. The story finaled in the 2011 WSFA Small Press Award, which fried even more. Then there was “Personal Demons”, a short story which was rejected with prejudice by every male editor in the business. Ten years after it first started making the rounds, it found the female editors of Hellebore & Rue, and is now collecting rapturous reviews. Ten years! For a story everybody suddenly loves—go figure.
What you may not realize is that this pattern was set when I was very young, and as I have lately learned, it’s set in stone. You might call it destiny—my karma, even. Though I’m scared to think about what kind of past life could account for it. I know exactly when it started, too.
You can blame my passion for writing on the comics, specifically Lois Lane and Brenda Starr. They taught me early that reporters had the best of all possible lives. They were smart, good-looking, had great wardrobes (and shoooooooes!) and got paid to satisfy their overpowering curiosity. (The hot guys who ran after them weren’t exactly a disincentive, either, but I digress.) In pursuit of a reporting career, I wrote for everything my elementary school, junior high and high schools had to offer.
When I was fourteen, I knew I was on the verge of my big break. Considering what would become the pattern of my publishing life, it was only natural the opportunity came from the unlikeliest of all possible sources: my ninth grade German teacher. In the late Mesolithic when I attended middle school, a German-American cultural organization called the Karl Schurz Society published a magazine for high school students. The magazine sponsored an annual essay competition, and my ninth grade German teacher promised an “A” for the quarter to any student who finaled in the competition.
Given that we’re less than a month away from the holiday season, you can be forgiven for looking for parallels with A Christmas Story. As it happened, this teacher strongly resembled Miss Shields in full Wicked Witch of the West mode, only with a German accent. The prospect of an “A” for anybody in her class was so slim, everybody in class submitted something. Then we waited, and waited, and waited for the results. By May, four months after the contest deadline, I figured somebody had to have heard something, even though all traces of the magazine—which had formerly been required reading for the class—had vanished from the classroom and the school library. So I asked my German teacher. She snarled and told me I was insubordinate for presuming to bring up the subject of our class’s complete and utter failure. We were stupid! Useless! We broke the magazine! I swear, her maniacal cackle echoed all the way to Oz.
Fast forward to a year later. My dad had retired from the Army, and we’d moved to Pennsylvania. My new German teacher was as different as could be imagined from the Wicked Witch in everything from gender to accent. It was a few days before school let out for the summer, and we were mostly goofing off, catching up with German-American student newspapers and translating articles in popular German magazines.
I was deep in Der Stern, when one of my classmates called across the room: “Hey, Jean Marie, you used to live in Texas, right?”
“Yeah, San Antonio.”
I tried to cock an inquiring eyebrow at him and failed. At fifteen, my eyebrows skills were decidedly limited. “Robert G. Cole. It’s the base school for Fort Sam Houston.”
“Why didn’t you tell us you finaled in last year’s Karl Schurz contest?”
I told him he was nuts, and I believed it…until he shoved the magazine in my face. Did I mention that the teachers of students who finaled got something more tangible than an egoboo from the contest? That was something elseI learned that day.
The experience only made me more determined to succeed as a writer. Throughout high school, college, my gigs as a freelance journalist and my first government jobs, I submitted novels, short stories and poems to any venue foolish enough to publish its address. Since I adored Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, I made a particular effort to get published in the small press magazines specializing in sword and sorcery, magazines like Weirdbook and its spin-off Eerie Country.
I even subscribed, though I knew the ratio of Brian Lumley stories to Fritz Leiber stories was something like twenty to one. I confess, I didn’t read all the magazines I subscribed to. I read enough to get a feel for the stories they liked to publish, but beyond that, what was the point? Face it, there’s only so much Brian Lumley a girl can stand. But I saved them all, just in case I had a spare hour or ten someday.
Fast forward to last month. After thirty years, I finally resigned myself to the fact I was never going to read that much Brian Lumley. So I stacked my collection of small press magazines next to my computer and started cataloguing them for sale on eBay. Being something of a closet librarian, I diligently scanned the contents for writers and stories that could be selling points for potential collectors.
There weren’t any surprises until I opened Eerie Country 4. On the table of contents under “Poems”, between William Scott Home and Joseph Payne Brennan was a listing that shouldn’t have, oughtn’t have, never ever could’ve possibly been there.
But it was: “The Soft” [by] Jean Marie Ward.
Making a high, thin noise that sent the cat running for his hidey hole under the bed, I turned to the page indicated. There, in all their awful glory were five lines of free verse that had my juvenile writing fingerprints all over it. I didn’t keep a lot of the poems I wrote in the late Seventies and early Eighties. In fact, I tried to forget ever having written most of them. They were that bad. I have many reasons to be grateful to the editors who rejected them and consigned them to oblivion.
All except “The Soft”, that is.
When? How? What? Why didn’t somebody tell me?
Where the hell’s my contract?
Okay, ignore that. Unlike the episode with the Wicked Witch of ninth grade German, this was most definitely NOT a case of malice aforethought. Nobody made any money on magazines like Eerie Country, especially not on 21-word poems. It was all about the publication credit. I’m quite sure it was a case of the paperwork being lost in the mail, and if I’d read the magazines like I was supposed to (having subscribed and all) I could’ve cleared up any confusion, oh, thirty-one years ago.
Holy rhyming crap, Batman, I’ve been a published poet for thirty-one years!
The really sad thing is the kink in my karma that causes these slip-ups isn’t done with me. Last year, a writer/editor I know, like and respect made the leap from editor to agent. Like everyone else, I’ve got a novel that needs a home, and there are a lot of places where you just can’t submit without an agent. So I queried her in September, and she asked me to send a partial. Then…nothing.
I let it go until the end of the year, when I asked if her non-response meant she wasn’t interested. No harm, no foul, regardless. I’ve been in this business a long time, and a lot of the folks who’ve published me have also rejected a story or two along the way. But as it turned out, she emailed me requesting a full after Thanksgiving.
Nope, I never got the email. It never made it to my inbox, my trash or any of my filtered boxes. I checked. But there’s no question she sent it.
Like I said, business as usual.
11 January 2012
So, I guess in January we're talking about publishing. Which is always kind of interesting, at least to me. In fact I just had a conversation with my agent about what publishers seem to be looking for and what they're tired of, at least in YA. Based on that, and the state of the industry talk I heard back in June at the NJSCBWI conference, which corroborates what my agent told me, here's what's Hot and what's Not in YA for 2012:
Vampires and Werewolves. As if there was any doubt in our minds. Apparently agents and editors alike are sick to death (pardon the pun) of bloodsuckers and werewolves, and of course the flood of Twilight clones that have been coming across their desks.
Paranormal in general is also said to be on the way out, but who knows?
Dystopian: This is not to say there's still not a market for a really good, original dystopian, but again, the flood of books and manuscripts trying to ride the coattails of The Hunger Games has editors pining for something maybe a little less apocalyptic. Lighten up, people.
Historical Fiction: it's not really anything currently flooding the market, but straight-up historical fiction (NOT historical romance or fantasy) is almost always a tough sell. The market share is small, and it must be meticulously researched and impeccably written.
Fallen Angels: After Hush, Hush, and a bunch of other stories about angels, I've heard editors say they're tired of seeing those stories. But that's not to say that the right story wouldn't find a home.
Super-dark stories: I'm hearing that editors are looking for a little bit of hope, a little bit of light, and less...death, despondence, and despair.
And it goes without saying that stories about The Chosen One, wizard boarding schools, and any other number of Harry Potter repeats is probably on this list. At least for now.
Steampunk: hot and getting hotter. The neo-Victorian historical fantasy genre has taken off, bolstered by novels like Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, Scott Westerfield's Leviathan series, and the upcoming The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent. With no clear mega-hit to spawn a bunch of clones, and as long as there are a good long list of different and original stories, Steampunk doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
Re-told Fairy Tales: Just after I started writing Smoke and Mirrors, the fairy tale retelling/steampunk novel that snagged me my agent, I discovered a whole host of re-issued, re-vamped, re-imagined fairy tales lining the shelves. Apparently this trend hasn't quite run its course yet, fortunately for me.
YA Romance: Romance is always hot, and there seems to be a surge in romance for Young Adults.
Upbeat contemporary: There seems to be a need for really fun, upbeat, coming-of-age but having a good time doing it stories. Go figure.
Mermaids: I have no idea where this trend is now. It seemed to be picking up steam last year, but I think it's sputtered out. I read a couple of mermaid books, and very few of them caught my fancy.
And the one thing that is always hot:
A good story.
Don't take this list as gospel. Don't write to fit a market trend, because by the time you are done, the trend will be over. MAKE the next trend. Write the story you want to write, the best you know how to write it. That's how YA is going to move forward.
09 January 2012
A little tidbit most people don’t know about me—I have a degree in Business Economics. Weird, huh?
How many Business Economics Paranormal Romantic Suspense Authors do you know? Because of my background, I look at the state of the Publishing Industry and get all excited because it combines my two worlds with a great glorious bang.
Ready for Publishing Econ 101?
Did you just roll your eyes? Stay with me here, Economics can be…dare I say it?...fun.
I am going to attempt to explain why the rise of digital books is a good thing for readers, authors, and the industry in general.
To do so, we need to travel back in time. Way, way back, say five years, or at the most ten, to the days when you and I didn't own an ebook.
In the pre-digital era, the majority of books you and I could buy in our local bookstores were published by New York's Big Six. The gold-standard for an author was to be published by one of these houses. Combined as one group, the Big Six operated like a monopoly.
And monopolies are not good for consumers.
Why? Because the monopoly, not the consumer, controls the quantity, content and cost of books.
· The amount of books released each month was established for the individual lines in each house. Once the set number was collected, editors were forced to either turn away books or push them further out into the future. This meant that readers had to wait for fav authors and new authors had a tough time breaking into the established line.
· Books were produced in accordance with the requirements for each line. If a book didn't fit those requirements, it was turned away. If a trend became hot (vampires, Regency...) new lines in the house had to be created, which obviously took time. If a trend slowed down, lines were cancelled and books that were written to fit a particular line suddenly became the equivalent of publishing pariah (Chick Lit).
· Cost of books were set by the Big Six. Prices were roughly the same depending on the type of book (paperback, trade, hardcover).
Fast-forward to the digital-age.
The advent of eReaders created something that was missing in the Publishing Industry--Competition. And competition is good for consumers. Suddenly, we have choices. Writers don't have to submit to New York to be published. Readers have a choices in all sorts of digital formats.
Now we are moving toward a free market where:
Quantity - More and more writers are increasing the supply of books and chipping away at New York's control of the product. Authors no longer want to wait two years to see their words in print if they can self-pub a story in days. And they don't have to fit their stories into a predetermined box (house line). I am thrilled to see Chick Lit on the market again. My friends are self-pubbing Chick Lit books and readers are snatching these books up like candy. What a great supply and demand lesson!
Content - New York had a system of vetting out the not-ready-for-publication authors. Today, pretty much anyone can write a book and throw it into the pool. Readers are complaining about purchasing books that have not been professionally edited. I think this will get sorted out by supply and demand as well. Readers will look to review sites, author testimonials, Goodreads (and similar places), and the publishing houses themselves to find good quality books. If an author doesn't produce a product that stands up to the consumer's demands, they will not sell many books. Free trade at its finest!
Cost - When supply increase, price goes down. Cha-ching Economics!
Are you worried about the Big Six? Don't be. They still own the majority of the market share and I am sure they are figuring out how to play the game with the new world-wide-web rules. They'll have to learn how to produce faster and cheaper books while keeping the quality high. We are experiencing a market flood and although it has been said that creme rises to the top, so too unfortunately, does crapola. Publishing houses might be the experts that the average reader turns to to find a good book in the sea of books. Maybe, maybe, they will go back to the old model of helping their authors with promotions to distinguish them above others.
It is an interesting time for change. But one thing will never change--readers will want to read good books and authors will want to write them. Somehow, we will come together, no matter what.
Now that's a great love story.
What are your thoughts about this amazing in the industry? And don't you love Economics?
04 January 2012
Change scares people. I know it scares the hell out of me. I hate it. I want things to stay the same. I like the comfort of always knowing what's going on. But let's face it, living like that is like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. If I can't see you, you can't see me. If I bury my head against change then it won't affect me.
We all know that can't happen.
And I think we've all heard the doomsayers when they claim publishing is changing and will never be the same again. I suppose that's true. The internet and the promise of immediate gratification is intoxicating. People want books now--hence the reason ereaders were the hot item this past Christmas. On the flip side, authors want their products out there immediately--hence the rise in indy publishing.
But as much as things change, things also stay the same. Readers still want their paperback books. There will always be those hold-outs who refuse to embrace change. As an author I appreciate all those different types of readers.
I was ecstatic when I heard Amazon sold one million Kindles a week during the month of December. One million! A week! Each of those four million Kindles will need books. Possibly hundreds of books. That bodes well for me where most of my sales are ebooks.
So what does all of this mean for authors? I think this is the best time ever to be an author. There are so many more avenues open to us. No longer do we have to rely on the big NY publishers to decide if our book fits into their schedule. So many epublishers have filled the void, realizing there were so many good books out there for readers looking for something a bit different. And now we have indy publishing--authors striking out on their own without a publishers backing. I'm in a critique group with an author who has done amazingly well in indy publishing. Better than a lot of established authors with big publishers.
The field is wide open for not only us but for readers as well and I think that's wonderful.
But one thing hasn't changed. Whether indy published, paperback published or epublished, a reader is still looking for a good read. Something that will take them away from their everyday life and into a different world. Regardless of what publishing format an author chooses to distribute his or her book, the book still has to be well-written. In the end, nothing has really changed when it comes to actually writing the book. We all still have to sit down to a blank page with a blinking cursor and create a world in which people want to go to.
Wishing you all happy reading in 2012.
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02 January 2012
We begin a new year. Bright and shiny and full of opportunity, 2012 stretches out before us with all its good and bad. There will be opportunities this year, and to take advantage of them we must be ready. It is said that knowledge is power, and that has never been so true as now. Especially in publishing. Our theme for this month is Business as usual: inside publishing.
Unless you spent the last few years on Gallifrey, you know that the world of publishing is in an upheaval. What was true five years ago may not be true today. There are doomsayers claiming that New York publishing will soon vanish. That paper books and libraries will soon be outdated and everything will be digital.
Before we all panic and start burning books (shudder), let’s take a step back and look at this logically (yep, big Spock fan). First, I don’t see paper books going the way of the 8-track anytime soon. Digital is great, but paper is useful. I’m thrilled that a lot of trees will be saved by increased use of digital, but are we really going to have coffeetable e-books? I like doing research with paper books. Flipping through is helpful, seeing pictures and diagrams is useful, and spreading books all over the kitchen table gives me a warm, happy feeling.
OK, I’m a nerd, and you might wanna lookout for the apocalypse. This traditionalist got pulled away from her paper books kicking and screaming—but I now have a Kindle. It was a gift. Yes, I love it. Bite me.
I’m still reading The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler in paperback and happily flipping back to diagrams.
For what it’s worth, I believe there is a time and place for both formats. I’m old enough to have seen the world go through the wild swinging of change. And yes, in its time, the 8-track player was state of the art. A few years from now my laptop—and my Kindle—will be outdated and sad. It’s human nature, folks.
My advice to writers? Don’t put all your books in one place. Traditional publishing, e-first, e-only, self publishing (electronic or print), all options. And there are many options within those wide parameters. Just do your homework. Don’t listen to only one side of any argument. Then go with what’s best for you and your work. Just don’t let your fear decide for you. Don’t skip submitting just because you can self-publish and never be rejected. Rejection can be the best thing that ever happened to you. It was to me, every time. Rejection hurts, but it’s part of the job. It happens to all of us.
Be informed, be careful, and take care.