Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: A Good Note to the End of the Year

Happy (almost) New Year, everyone! I hope 2011 was a good one for you - it certainly had its ups and downs for me. I'm happy to share some good news on the eve of 2012, though:

I just contracted One Night in Boston, One Night in Napa, and Summer's Song with AudioLark, so they'll be released as audio books in the summer of 2012. Very excited! My other 2 novels, One Night in Memphis and Lost in Paradise, have already been with them for over a year, and I have to tell you, it's been a really positive experience all the way around. Though royalties were slow to start, they've increased steadily. More than that, though, the owner of the site, Jennifer, is a FANTASTIC person to work with. She's personable and professional and dedicated to running a smart business.

Authors, if you own the audio rights to your books (check your contracts on this one), I recommend checking out AudioLark for audio book production. I think you'll be pleased at the reception you get there.

AND...(drum roll...) I'm happy announce the winner of my "Keeping Warm in Winter" blog contest: GladysMP! Thanks to everyone who stopped by all month long to share your thoughts.

Happy 2012!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Those Opening Pages...

The last few days, I've been thinking a lot about story openings. This is not really unusual, since I just finished judging entries for my local RWA chapter. We run a "Hook, Line and Sinker" contest which is a little different than most romance contests in that we ask for only the first 3 pages of your manuscript.

Yes, that's it. Just 3. So imagine all you have to do in those few pages to hook a judge/editor/agent/reader! Establish setting, character, conflict, and have a voice that's either enjoyable or engaging enough to make me want to read on. Oh, and better not have any mechanical problems either!

This was followed up by a Savvy Authors' newsletter I received that featured an article called "Packing in the WOW." What did they have to say? It was so good, I'm sharing the highlights with you:

Establish a viewpoint character, and indicate what sort of person he/she is
Establish a mood/tone
Reveal the setting
Reveal what type of book this is. What are the stakes?
Divulge an immediate conflict (Not necessarily THE conflict.)
Grab the reader with a hook

(If you want to read the whole thing, just click the link above. It's well worth it, I promise).

I have to say, I've written a lot of books, and gone over the openings for those books more times that I can count, but reminders like these are always valuable to have. If you don't catch a reader in the opening pages, no matter how good the rest of your story is, they may not give you the chance to share it.

So there it is, fellow writers. Hope these tips have given you food for thought - may your writing (and especially your opening pages) be powerful and engaging and hook every reader you want - and then some!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Mentionables: After the Rush

Ah, the day after Christmas. The house is quiet, the tree is still up, the gifts are unwrapped, and the dishes are put away. Though some might see December 26th as a bit of a let-down, I'm enjoying the quiet of the morning after a VERY BUSY weekend. See, because we don't have kids, my husband and I are the ones that travel. We spend Christmas Eve with our niece and nephews, Christmas morning with good friends (and now their growing family) and then we do host my in-laws on Christmas night for dinner. And I love being surrounded by family, I really do. I love all the food and drink (though I'll pay for it when I step on the scale this week!), the festive decorations, and picking out the perfect gift for others. But I will also admit that I love the quiet hours when it's all wrapping up, too.

So now I have a relaxing week ahead of me. I need to score some contest entries for my local RWA chapter (I always enjoy seeing what other people are writing), but most of all, I need to work on my own projects. Some revising, some brainstorming, some promoting - all in the plans. And yes, some cleaning up around the house and putting away those decorations, though I'm not in any hurry.

This is the last week to enter my "Keeping Warm in Winter" contest, so remember that every blog comment earns you another entry. And just for fun, a question: if you have a tree up for the holidays, when do you take it down?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Merry (Almost) Christmas!



"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"




Merry Christmas, everyone! Blessings to you and your family!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Murder New York Style



Today, in the true manner of Writers' Wednesday, I'd like to give a shout-out to the 22 authors of the recently-released anthology Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. If you can't tell by the title (or the cover!), it's a collection of mystery/crime short stories, all written by members of the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime. And all the stories are set in or around New York City.

I had the pleasure of attending a reading this past Monday, and the 4 authors who were there offered great insight regarding their inspirations, their writing process, and the stories themselves. It was great to hear them read and great to be around fellow writers. (Although one of the audience questions was "Since you write about murders, and people always say to write about what you know, have any of you ever experienced a murder?")


Crickets...

But beyond that, it was a lovely evening, and though I don't normally read this genre, from the taste I got Monday night, I'm really looking forward to checking out these stories. Are you a fan of crime fiction? You might want to give this anthology a try! (Best part about short stories: less time to read all the way through one, which is great for this time of year when free time seems to be at a premium)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Two Chances to Win Today!

Less than a week until Christmas...are you ready??


Well, in case you're still looking for gifts - for yourself, that is - today you have not one but TWO chances to win one!

Over at The Romance Studio, my contemporary romance novel Summer's Song is being featured as part of the Book-a-Day Giveaway, and all you have to do is enter your email address for a chance to win!

Then, I'm also guest blogging at The Long and the Short of It (10 am EST) as part of their "Stuff Your Stockings With Books" holiday contest - there are tons of books and gift certificates to be won, and every comment earns you another chance!

So...join me at one (or both) sites today, and wish yourself an early Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Visit Me!!

Hi everyone! Come over to Janet Walters' blog and visit me! Yesterday I blogged about my writing style and strategies, plus I celebrated my birthday :) I'd love to hear from you!

Oh, and happy weekend too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: What's in a Name??

Okay writers, let me ask you: how do you choose your characters' names? Do they just come to you? Do you have a resource book you use? Do you page through the phone book? (Do you still own a phone book?) Do you wander around graveyards and look at tombstones for inspiration (no joke, I have a friend who's a playwright and he does just that). There was a great article in Writer's Digest about the importance of names, and a few points are worth mentioning:

~Some names resonate as "miniature poems" : Holly Golightly, Atticus Finch, Scarlett O'Hara
~Some names are ironic: give a clumsy, awkward guy a name like Powers or Strong
~Some names are symblic: John Singer, a deaf-mute who's a prophet in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (but don't go too far! Avoid giving your hero the initials J.C.)
~Some names tap into connotative suggestions: Draco Malfoy (taken from root words suggesting dragon and malice)

Having said all that, I need a strong last name for my current hero. His first name is Lucas - he's about 6'7", beefy, ex-football player, and he's pretty introverted. The story takes place in a small New England town, and his family has lived there for three generations. Any ideas?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Dealing with Rejection

Happy Monday everyone! Remember, every comment on a blog post this month earns you a chance to win my "Keeping Warm in Winter" prize package!

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about dealing with rejection. I think some people are under the impression that once you publish, you never have to worry about rejection again. All your book ideas and proposals will find a contract, and your editor will love everything you submit.

Wrong.

First off, authors change editors and publishers A LOT. This means that you'll have different people buying your books, and if they like your style/ideas/genres, great. If they don't, well...not so great. Take it from me: this has happened a couple of times. And going from working with an editor who knows and likes your writing to submitting to an unknown commodity (especially as industry trends change) can be challenging and disheartening.

Best-selling authors talk about this in the current issue of Romance Writers Report. Their advice: have a routine to deal with rejection. Whether that includes a hot bath, a glass of wine, or calling a friend to vent, make sure you have a way to soothe your ego.

Then, try not to take it personally. The market changes. Sales change. Editors change. This is a business, and you are part of that business. Look at the market, your writing, and current hot genres and decide whether you want to change, shift, or keep on doing what you're doing (all valid choices, by the way).

Finally, realize that there's a certain freedom in rejection. Yes, freedom. You don't have a deadline hanging over your head. You don't have hours of promotion and social interaction to keep up with. What you do have is the time to play around with your writing, your ideas, maybe even the crazy notion for a brand new story that you never had the time or courage to try out before. Now you do.

Rejection happens, even to published authors. And rejection hurts. But it can also be empowering. Keep that in mind, and forge onward.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Three Random Websites

Hello everyone! Happy Friday!! Today I wanted to share with you 3 completely random and unrelated but also otherwise cool (in my opinion) websites. Check 'em out:

For Writers: Writer's Digest Successful Queries - For anyone who's struggled with writing ther perfect query letter to nab that perfect agent, this blog post is full of query letters that worked, along with detailed commentary from agents about why they did. This is an author's must-have resource link!

For Shoppers: I loved this link, posted today on MSN, about how to shop for the holidays with less stress. Sadly, Christmas time has become such a rush of materialism for so many people - even in this economy, which is tough to believe. So this list of ways to bring happiness to those on your list for less $$ and less hassle was perfect. Best tip: On December 16, 2011, over 100 online retailers will be offering free shipping! Now that's reason enough to check this article - and mark your calendars!

For Everyone: www.age-me.com is a fascinating website that allows you to take a picture of yourself and age it - 5, 10, 20 years into the future - and add the effects of weight gain, sun exposure, and more. I actually read about it in a magazine at the eye doctor's office earlier this week, in an article about planning for retirement. The claim was that if you're young, it's hard to picture yourself at retirement age, so it's harder to save for it. Anyway, I thought it was a cool (though a little scary, to be honest) way to see how you might look after years of sunning yourself poolside with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other...or not. I haven't tried it yet (it costs $4), but I might this weekend. Just to see. You know, for research or something like that...

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Holiday Stories

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Remember, every blog comment between now and the end of the month earns you another chance to win the "Keeping Warm in Winter" prize package! Today I wanted to share with you a couple of books links:

First, one of my fellow romance authors, Diane Craver, has a wonderful holiday story called A Christmas Gift (and don't you just love the cover??). Why not try out a new author and new story this holiday season?




Second, one of my publishers, The Wild Rose Press, is giving away free books right now - all you have to do is head on over to their website and see what's new today.

And speaking of which, do you have any favorite holiday stories? I do love Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," both the written and the multiple movie versions. Do you have a particular story that puts you in the holiday mood?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Holiday Traditions

Happy Monday everyone! (Remember, every comment during the whole month of December earns you another chance to win my "Keeping Warm in Winter" gift package!)

Over the weekend, we celebrated an early Christmas with my side of the family in the town of Skaneatles, New York - which was extra-charming because every weekend in December, the village rewinds to Charles Dickens' times, and wandering Victorians carol and re-enact scenes from "A Christmas Carol" and generally remind you of a much simpler time. My favorite photo:



The woman's sign says "Where there's drink, there's always danger!" (Of course, I think to keep warm in Victorian England a lot of people drank a lot of liquor, but at least there were a few teetotalers like these women around to post warnings!)

Anyway, we had a great time, and now that our house is mostly decorated for the holidays, I'm feeling in the mood! We'll probably get our tree this-coming weekend, though it seems like a lot of people already have theirs up. What about you? If you have a Christmas tree, do you put it up at the same time every year? And when is that? Do you have a tradition for putting it up and taking it down?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Favorite Holiday Songs?

OK folks, now that it's officially December, my month-long Keeping Warm in Winter blog giveaway contest is open! All month long, every time you comment, you'll earn a chance to win:

~Signed copy of my novel Summer's Song
~Signed copy of debut author Liz Matis's steamy novel Love by Design
~Warm woolly socks
~Gourmet hot cocoa
~And a few other surprises tucked inside!

Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, the winner must be a US resident.

So, to set the holiday mood, let's talk about holiday music. What are some of your favorites? I love many of the traditional Christmas carols, especially "Silent Night" and "Whose Child Is This," but when it comes to contemporary, these are 2 of my favorites:










So, what about you?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Mentionables: A Guest Blog and a Contest!

Happy Monday everyone! Today I'm guest blogging over at Savvy Authors, all about trimming the deadwood from our writing. I presented some of this info at a Savvy Authors mini-workshop over the summer and got a lot of positive feedback from the participants, so I'm bringing it back with some changes and additions.

And...a sneak peek at my December blog giveaway: everyone who comments, either here or on any of my guest posts this month, will have their name put in the running (for EVERY comment)for a chance to win a "Keeping Warm in Winter" gift package:

~Signed copy of my novel Summer's Song
~Signed copy of debut author Liz Matis's steamy novel Love by Design
~Warm woolly socks
~Gourmet hot cocoa
~And a few other surprises tucked inside!

Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, the winner must be a US resident.

Even though this contest officially begins on Friday December 1, I'm counting all comments from today forward. Join me over at Savvy Authors today!

Finally, I want to wish my mom a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY today!! (I won't give away her age, because you probably wouldn't believe it if you saw her anyway. Hope I get her longevity genes!)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Black Friday Here We Come!

Happy Black Friday! Anyone brave the sales this morning? Anyone brave the new-this-year midnight sales at many of the big stores? My husband and I go out each year, usually leaving the house between 4 and 5 am, but we tend to avoid the huge/crazy places like Best Buy and Walmart (we aren't big electronics consumers, anyway). We made it a point NOT to shop the midnight sales this year because, as you probably read, many employees and consumers thought it was somewhat insensitive & disrespectful to start the shopping on Thanksgiving night, a time that's really meant for spending time with family.

Anyway, I think a lot of people must have disagreed, because the stores were virtually empty by the time we got there this morning. Our luck, though - we still managed to find everything on our lists, this year with a lot less stress!

December is right around the corner, which means, among other holiday happenings, I'm going to be running a month-long blog giveaway contest right here...and I'm also going to be guest blogging in a few different places as well, so stay tuned for your chance to win! Monday will have all the details of what's in store...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ten Things I Am Thankful For

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope (if you celebrate the day) that your Thursday is filled with yummy food, time spent with loved ones, and happy memories being made. Today, 10 things I am thankful for this year:

1. My and my husband's well-being after our scary car accident earlier this month
2. The Good Samaritans that stopped right after said scary accident and helped us on a busy highway in the middle of rush hour.
3. My two jobs - I love teaching, and I love that I can write (and make money doing it) on the side!
4. My love of, and ability to, travel and see so many different places, both in this country and in others.
5. My family, both immediate and extended, even though I don't see some of them as often as I'd like to.
6. My friends. I am blessed to have wonderfully smart, funny, and supportive friends in many different areas of my life.
7. My health and fitness. I'm so happy that, at almost-41, I'm in better shape than I was 20 years ago. Love the gym!
8. Music. Just because there's always a song for every mood, and I can't imagine life without it.
9. My inner strength that allows me to deal with hard times and hurt.
10. The roof over my head, the food in my refrigerator, the fact that I can speak my mind, vote, wear what I want to, practice any religion I choose, and stand up for myself and for those less fortunate than I am without fear of punishment. It's a great country we live in, flaws and all.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Mentionables: For Readers and Writers

For readers: Who's looking forward to seeing the movie version of recent blockbuster YA novel The Hunger Games? I'm not usually a fan of books-turned-into-films, but I did enjoy the tension and interesting storyline of this book, and I think I'll probably check out the movie. Here's the trailer, if you're interested:




For writers: The Long and the Short of It is running a "Stuff Your Stockings With Books" blog giveaway in December. Here's the forwarded info:

We need authors who want to guest blog around the holidays! It doesn't cost you anything but a prize – what could be better than free promo on a really busy site?

It's easy to participate. Simply send us a COMPLETED blog post that is holiday themed (can be winter, Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, New Year's, etc) and NOT pure promo (no posts that are only excerpts, etc) along with an author bio, website links and ONE book cover to use as promo. Also tell us what you'll be giving away in your spot. It can be a book, a GC, or other prizes (please be as specific as possible).

The posts will go up on our guest blog pages sometime between 12/19 and 12/30 (we'll tell you your date when we schedule you) and each author will be responsible for doing a drawing for their prize from the comments on their post and then posting the winner in the comments.

Email us your blog post and other information along with which site it's appropriate for (WC or LASR) with `STUFF YOUR STOCKINGS BLOGFEST' in the subject header to lasreviews AT gmail DOT com – and we'll do the rest!

We'll accept posts up through December 14, 2011.

Short week of work for me, just 3 days this week, and then it's off to celebrate good food and good times with family. Happy Monday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Fun Facts

Random thoughts on this Friday morning:

~It was 20 degrees here last night. Brr! I'm thinking about running a "Keep Warm in Winter" giveaway for the month of December, to include a copy of Summer's Song (of course!) as well as other goodies to remind us of those long-gone days of sunshine and heat. Stay tuned as next month nears!

~Since my car was totaled in my accident of 2 weeks ago, we found a replacement this week. The same car, same year, fewer miles, for just about the same price as insurance gave us to replace the other. Different color (not race car red...sigh...), but that's ok! It's safe, as we now know from experience, which is THE most important thing!

~I recently joined The Romance Studio again, after a membership lapse of a couple of years. It really is a great bang for your buck if you're a romance author - they offer tons of promo opportunities and ways to connect with readers. In terms of price, I think they're one of the best sites around.

~One of my students said yesterday, "Do you think that when e-readers become really popular, everyone will bring them to class instead of books?" I said, "Aren't they already popular? And wouldn't you like to have all your heavy textbooks loaded onto a single e-reader so you don't have to haul them to and from class all the time?" Answer: "Oh, yeah. Huh."

Happy Friday everyone! Anyone planning on tackling the Black Friday sales one week from today? Or are you just thinking as far as turkey and stuffing right now??

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Trying to Predict the Market

The latest issue of Romance Writers Report featured an article "Industry Insiders Give Their Predictions" - which, of course, is nearly impossible to do, but it was interesting to read all the same. Among the points mentioned:

~Upswing in acquisitions of dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories (this is a tough one...writing a happy ending in a notably unhappy world situation...hmm)
~Erotica and paranormal romance markets are fairly saturated (which is not to say you can't sell in them, but you need something a little different & fresh)
~Upper YA is becoming more popular: think heroines between 18 and 25 (hey, that's a terrific but terribly fragile time for many women...great potential for both conflict and happy endings!)
~Contemporary romance, esp. those with small town settings, may see an upswing, along with the idea of "gentle fiction", set in places with a slow pace and charming, small-town characters

Of course, this last one interests me the most, since I just (finally! it's about time!!) finished the second draft of my contemporary/small-town romance, Beacon of Love. It's off to a beta reader now while I figure out where to send it (agent, publisher, etc) and what project I want to tackle next. Let's hope these predictions ring true in 2012...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: News for Writers and a Thank You to Veterans



Well, because I missed Writers' Wednesday this week (I've been knocked out by a bad sinus infection...think my immune system after last week's stressful accident was a little, um, depleted), I wanted to share a couple of pieces of news:

Fellow romance author Leanna Hieber announces a brand new release, DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul, "the first in a new Victorian Paranormal series set in 1880 New York City, full of adventure, love, faith, mystery, mayhem and plenty of spooky stuff." Leanna is a doll and I've signed with her on a couple of occasions. If you're looking for something new and different to read, check out her works.

And All Romance Ebooks has a slew of promo opportunities for writers, from ads to free to reviews and more. Check out everying they're offering by clicking here. It's a great time to take a look at your promotional plan for 2012 and start booking spots NOW (this message is for myself as much as for any other authors out there!).

Finally, I'd like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all our veterans on this day, who have served and continue to serve to protect our country, most especially my own father-in-law, who fought in the Vietnam War.

Happy 11-11-11, and Happy Veteran's Day. We honor you :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Everything Changes in the Blink of an Eye

"There but for the grace of God go I..."






It's a familiar saying, right? How many times do we read stories in the newspaper or hear something tragic on the radio or drive by an accident on the side of the road and think that? But it's also all relative, too, because that's what I'm saying today after my husband and I were involved in a car accident last Friday night. I hesitate to call it a "serious" accident, though if you look at the picture of the car, you might say I'm crazy. I guess I don't consider it serious because we both walked away from it unhurt. But for a couple of seconds, though, it could have ended much differently, and that's why I think that even though we WERE that couple standing on the side of the road next to wreckage during rush hour, it could have been so much worse. The grace of God did help us out of this one.


I pray no one has to experience a car accident at all; it's a terrifying feeling in that split second when you realize someone else is going to hit you and the only thing you can do is hold on and press the brake pedal to the floor and pray the car will stop without hitting anything else. And it is absolutely true, how time slows down in a moment like that. I'm sure it was only a second or two between impact and when we stopped, but it seemed like many more, 5 or 10 or 15 seconds at least. And it's odd, the things you focus on, the sounds or the sights, and then the things you do or don't remember.


Anyway, we're fine. But it certainly does make you stop and take stock of things in your life in a moment like that one. I don't need the holiday of Thanksgiving to say prayers about all the things I'm thankful for right now~

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Talking About Book Trailers

I didn't have a chance to post on Writers' Wednesday (busy week!) but I wanted to let you know that fellow author Liz Matis has a brand new book trailer for Love by Design! Click here to see it

I always really enjoyed making trailers, both for my own books and fellow authors'. Whether or not trailers translate directly into sales is tough to know for sure, but another marketing strategy is never a bad idea. Remember, your "brand" (your name, your title, your website, your concept, etc) has to be in front of someone 7 times before they remember it - this is a marketing FACT. So a trailer combined with other marketing strategies (especially if you can make it yourself, or have someone do it for you, inexpensively) can be a good idea.

I looked back through my own book trailers and decided my two favorites are for Lost in Paradise and Summer's Song. Take a look:










Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Mentionables: A Freak Snowstorm

Yes, the HUGE Nor'easter that moved its way up the East Coast over the weekend hit us, but good! We were super-fortunate not to lose power (many people in our area did), but we did get about 10 inches of snow when it was through:




Funny thing, to see leaves and snow on the trees. You never can tell what Mother Nature has in store for us (case in point: it's supposed to be in the 50s this week!)

And just because it's Halloween, and in honor of the snow and one of the most talented modern-day storytellers, here's a clip from The Shining. I don't know which is scarier, the book or the movie, but I definitely can't watch it (or read it) when I'm home by myself! Happy Haunting :)







Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Fun Facts

Fun (?) Fact #1: It snowed here last night. Yes, really. Sigh...and it's only October. Wonder how long THIS winter is going to be?

Fun Fact #2: Hubby and I are going to be spending spring break at a race track in Salt Lake City, where he will get to drive a very fast car at very fast speeds and I will get to...watch. Hey, I'm thinking it will be good book material, right?

Fun Fact #3: I'm now more than halfway through my revision of Beacon of Love and seeing, maybe, a glimmer of the light at the end. Incidentally, I'll be looking for a couple of beta readers for the story when I'm through. If you're at all interested, shoot me an email at allieb@allieboniface.com and let me know.

Have a great weekend, and happy writing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: It's a Guy Thing

I'm in the middle of revising my latest WIP, Beacon of Love, and I'm finding it interesting that my hero, Lucas, has really become the central character at this point in the novel. Don't get me wrong, the heroine, Sophie, is holding her own, but Lucas has somehow developed this complex backstory that (for me anyway) is enriching him as a character. I hope this doesn't turn off some readers; I know that usually in a romance the heroine is the one with the central conflict and journey. But this time, it seems as though it's going to be the guy.

Here's an excerpt from the chapter I revised last night, and even though it's told from Sophie's POV, it's still more about Lucas than about her:
*********************

“Hi there.”

She stopped in her tracks, halfway between the kitchen and the parlor. “Damn, Walker. Looking good.” The combination of dark blue button-down shirt and faded jeans suited him well.

He colored. “You ready?”

She nodded. He reached for her hand, and her fingers tingled as he tucked it into the crook of his elbow. Scratch that. Her whole damn arm – okay, the entire right side of her body, spreading fast to the left and all parts south and lonely – tingled. Could we maybe skip dinner and go right to dessert? she wanted to ask. Instead she just breathed in his cologne and led him lead her down the front steps.

“Hey, no hat!” she realized as they walked to his truck. To be fair, she’d only looked up a few seconds earlier. The parts of him on her level – broad back, wide shoulders, ass that filled out his jeans in just the right way – were more than tempting. But the rest of him up top was pretty nice too.

“No hat,” he admitted.

“I like it. I can see your face.”

He grinned but didn’t say anything, just helped her into the cab of his truck and closed the door behind her.

“So what’s the name of this place again?” she asked as they headed for the highway. He adjusted the radio to a jazz station.

“The Cove.” At the cross out by the city limits – for Barbie Collins, Sophie remembered after a minute – Lucas slowed. For a minute she thought he was going to stop, maybe say something or get out and pay respects. But he didn’t even glance at the cross, and then she wondered if the slowing was almost subconscious, a reflex that happened every time he went near one of the memorials without even realizing it.

How do you measure grief? Watching Lucas, Finn, the Walkers, even Shannon O’Brien, the answers were beginning to come to her: in little pieces, minute actions, the slightest change in the everyday ways people adjusted their lives after a loss.
****************

What do you think? Do you have a certain expectation when you read a romance novel that the heroine is going to be the focus? Do you want her story to be the focus? And, would you care if the hero had at least as central a role as the heroine?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Don't Forget About Audio Books

Opened my email to a pleasant surprise this week: my royalty statement from AudioLark, where 2 of my books are available as audio books. I released them in that format over a year ago, more interested in the process than thinking that the additional format would bump my royalties. And for the most part, the payback has been very, very small.

However, most of AudioLark's titles are now available on Audible, the biggest audio book website out there, and what a surprise to find that my sales of One Night in Memphis saw a terrific boost over the last quarter! In fact, it was a nice reminder to me not to forget that I should be marketing those books as well (hint hint...the holidays are coming). I clicked on over to my page at Audible and found a listener rating of 3/5 - not great, but I was more pleased by the fact that the average was based on 22 ratings. Not too shabby!

So...if you're a reader/listener, consider purchasing an audio book or two, either for yourself or for a friend. Remember they're great for riding in the car, listening to while you're doing housework, etc. And if you're a writer, consider putting your work into audio book format (provided you have the audio rights, if you're previously published). You never know how many additional fans you might get!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Words and More Words...

Funny story for the week:

One of my students wrote a recent essay about the causes of the rise in teenage pregnancy. A primary cause she cited was sex education programs in schools, especially those that only teach absence. Uh huh. Absence. At first I wanted to correct her spelling - then I realized I really couldn't. Then I wanted to correct her word usage. Then I thought that maybe, just maybe, she was onto something. Maybe "absence" is actually a better form of birth control to teach than "abstinence." I mean, if you aren't even there, you can't commit the act, right?

Gotta love when people mix up words :) Maybe not in the books we read, but in student writing? Yes, it makes me smile.

(A close post-script to this essay was the one that also cited school sex ed programs for the rise in teen pregnancies, though this one said that students were more at fault, specifically those students who don't care, don't pay attention, and thus don't really know how to use a condom and just "slap it on." Uh huh. Really, I don't make these things up.)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Blogging at Samhain Publishing

Hi everyone! Today I'm blogging over at Samhain Publishing, about why I'll never quit my day job (yes, even once I get that million-dollar advance...). Please join me there!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Finding Time

Just finished reading a great article in the October 2011 Romance Writers Report that talked about finding time to write (because we can all find time to put it off, right?!). One of the things I realized after a hectic start to the school year, and then taking a few days off to visit Iceland, was that even a week or two away from my WIP makes it that much harder to get back into the swing of things. I forget where the plotline is, I forget the subtleties of my character development, I have to spend time reading backwards instead of time moving forward.

So....write! Every day! Yes, every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. Some tips from the RWR article, which I whole-heartedly agree with:

~Find "hidden pockets" of time. You don't need a stretch of a few hours to accomplish something on your WIP. Believe me, you don't. Even if it's only 10 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever, there are still pockets of time in your day you can take advantage of. Figure out your best "natural" time to write (are you a morning person? or do you function better late at night?) and then carve out time when you don't have to be devoted to 5 other things then, and use that time to write.

~Focus/minimize other distractions. This means (as I tell my students in English class) don't have your Internet browser open, turn off your email notifications, turn your phone to silent. You'll be amazed at how those simple things can give you more time and attention to your WRITING.

~Just write. This is the age-old "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard" mantra. Don't worry whether it's any good. Don't edit and re-edit as you go along. Just write. When you go back the next day, you'll find that it isn't nearly as "awful" as you might have originally imagined. Better yet, you'll have something to work with - and something is always better than a blank page of nothing.

~Turn waiting time into writing time. If you know you'll be sitting in a waiting room, or standing in line somewhere for a while, see if you can use that precious time to your advantage. Even if you can't type, can you use pen and paper to jot down thoughts for a next scene? Or a new project? Creative juices can flow anywhere, if you let them :)

~Schedule time drains. Are you a Facebook or Twitter junkie? Find it impossible to stay away from the latest season of "Dancing with the Stars"? Figure out which of those activities you must have in your life, and then schedule around them. Again, as I tell my students in English class, you don't need to spend 30 minutes at a time updating your Facebook status or commenting on your friends' 67 pictures from their trip to Disney. Give yourself 10 minutes and move on. Do you really, really, need to get sucked into watching a brand new sitcom (I know, there are a few tempting ones on TV this fall)? Or would that half-hour at the end of the day be better served to writing a page or two?

~Keep track of, and celebrate, your successes. It's hard work to write a novel! (or a novella or even a short story) Lots of people talk about doing it - far fewer succeed. So definitely give yourself credit for the milestones you reach. Your first draft of a 20K-word story?Awesome! The mid-way point of your first full-length novel? Awesome again. Finally getting through that first kiss scene and liking the way it turns out? Hooray!

Yes, writing is tough work. But you can do it - and I hope some of these tips inspired you the way they inspired me. Now I'm off to write~

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: The Debut of Liz Matis & Love by Design



Exciting news!!! My very good friend and fellow writer Liz Matis has announced the indie publication of her debut novel, Love by Design! And check out the yummy cover...isn't it to die for?

The hot prime time TV show, Design Intervention, starts the second season with its own surprise makeover. Interior designer Victoria Bryce must break in her temporary co-host, Aussie Russ Rowland.

Victoria, former socialite wild child hopes the reality show will give her the clout to launch her own design line without her family connections. Russ, former bad boy Australian TV star is using the show to launch his acting career in the States.

Sparks fly on camera as they argue over paint colors and measurement mishaps leading to passions igniting behind the scenes. But when their pasts collide with the present will the foundation they built withstand the final reveal?


You can find it on Amazon right here, for the very low price of just $2.99. So support a newly published author, and raise your glass to cheer her accomplishments!

Congrats Liz!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Mentionables: A Contest Worth Entering

Calling all writers! The Hudson Valley RWA's Hook Line adn Sinker Contest is going on right now and is a terrific way to get feedback on the opening pages of your story for a minimal entry fee. Official info:

Hone your skills in hooking an editor or agent by entering Hudson Valley RWA's Hook, Line & Sinker Contest. Three HVRWA members, at least one published, will critique the first three pages of your manuscript. The five entries with the highest scores will be ranked by Harlequin editor BRENDA CHIN! Entries must be received by November 1. Only $10 to enter. Click here to find out more.

And if you're not sure whether it's worth it to send just your first 3 pages, chapter member and multi-published author Shoshanna Evers blogs about the value of hooking a reader here.

Happy Writing!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: A Fun Vacation in an Unexpected Place

OK, so last weekend I was in Iceland with my mom, celebrating an early birthday for her! I know what you're thinking: Iceland? Really?

Yes, really. It's only about a 5-hour flight from New York, and we got a great deal on TravelZoo (I recommend subscribing to their "Top 20" email list which comes out every Wednesday with the best travel deals around the world, of all kinds). Anyway, we decided to give it a try. What a great trip! Iceland is beautiful, it's charming, it's small and laidback and easy to get around. They have geysers and glaciers and waterfalls, all within about an hour's drive of each. We even tried out a steam bath (outdoors, of course!) in the middle of a gray, rainy day! And if you want a little European culture, the capital, Reykjavik, can be walked in ab out 15 minutes. We just loved it.
So yes, I recommend going there if you ever have the chance. One caution: save up your $$! This place is super-expensive, especially its food and drink. But well worth it!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: The 50/50 Project

Hi everyone! Just a quick one today, since it's a busy, busy week for me:

Reminder that the WRITERS WHO CARE 50/50 project is now up and running! For a $50.00 donation, you can receive a critique of 50 manuscript pages from a published author...AND contribute to a wonderful cause, raising funds to aid Somali refugees. Here's the official link.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: A Message from Abroad

Happy Friday!

I'm actually writing this blog post a couple of days early, because when Friday Sept. 30th rolls around, I will be out of the country with my Mom, celebrating an early 70th birthday for her. Where to, you ask? Shh...it's a secret - but I'll be back here on Monday with pictures and (I hope) a great report!

In the meantime, something cool that that happened this week:

One of my students did her monthly "reading review" (every student has to read a book of her/his own choice every month) on my novel Summer's Song. This is the first time that has EVER happened, and while it was neat, it was also a little weird to hear her talk about it in class. Anyway, she did like it, and she even said "I liked the inspirational message about moving forward and not living in the past" which was a totally cool thing to hear about your own work!

***

And one of my favorite lines from Beacon of Love, my current WIP:

"He’d never realized how loss could take your heart, fracture it, then rely on time to paste it back together again. Not the same way, of course. Different pieces ended up next to each other, curving and overlapping the way they never had before. All there, yes, but not quite whole. Not quite the same."

Happy weekend ~ have a great one!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Something for Readers and Writers Alike

Hi everyone! A few tidbits for both writers and readers today:

Long and Short Reviews and Goddess Fish Promotion are planning a Haunting Halloween Weekend for the end of October, and they've put out a call for paranormal romance authors who'd like to blog as part of the festivities. Always a good way to promote your name, so email the folks at lasreviews@gmail.com if you want more information.

Dreamspinner Press is offering 25% off on all their titles over at All Romance Ebooks - but only through this Friday, so check it out if you're interested!

And finally, Drunk Writer Talk is blogging about Banned Books Week, including a link to the most challenged books of 2010. Amazing, right??

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Memory: June 1, 1995 - September 13, 2011



"And that, ultimately, is the most unselfish act of love we can offer: To end a pet's suffering, we must choose to accept our own." (Moira Allen)

Had to say goodbye to my buddy of 15+ years last week, Smooch. Boy, it's tough to let go of a pet, especially one who's been with you for so long. I adopted him when I lived out in Cleveland (actually, the week after my then-boyfriend left me). He was with me during my grad school/single girl days, through my new (now current) job, new life, engagement, marriage, my father's death, my first publication, ups and downs, two different apartments, two different houses, and the acquisition of two additional kitties in the years that passed.

But he will always be first and dearest in my heart. Miss you lots, my sweet cat. See you again sometime xoxoxoxo.......






Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Some Tips from a Book Festival

I spent 3 hours at the Brooklyn Book Festival yesterday, and while the networking was better than the sales, it was still a trip worthwhile. It's always interesting to talk to fellow writers (and readers!), and I thought I'd share a few insights I gained in the process.......

1. Authors have to do most of their own PR. Yes, even the best-selling ones. If you think your publisher will do all the legwork for you, think again. The more you can promote yourself, the better your sales will probably be.

2. Readers generally won't turn down a free bookmark. Make sure your author info (at the very least, your website) is clearly written on it.

3. Readers love getting anything for free, and that includes excerpt booklets (one of my favorite marketing devices) and magnets.

4. Do your research into publishers before you submit to them. Small presses have both advantages (they'll know you personally, some of them are roaring in the industry right now, they love the ebook industry) and disadvantages (lower sales, the potential to fold amid the competition).

5. An agent does not = sales. I spoke to 2 authors yesterday who both had signed with their agents over 2 years ago. One had 1 sale, to a small press that doesn't require an agent for submission. The other hadn't sold yet.

6. The best place to sell your books is through your publisher's website (if this is an option). Selling through Amazon or other 3rd-party distributors reduces your royalties.

7. Giving away free reads can be a good marketing technique, but don't overdo it. Don't give away EVERYTHING you write. You worked hard on it! Sell it!

8. Many people still won't admit to reading or liking romance. Or, they aren't really familiar with what romance is, and they're surprised to learn that some of their favorite suspense/comedy/etc authors are filed under "romance."

9. Bring along a tablecloth, pens and duct tape whenever you go to a signing. I've always used all 3 no matter what.

10. Be nice. It's amazing how far a smile and some good conversation can take you. No matter if you don't get a sale that moment, that day. You never know what might transpire down the road...

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Writers Who CARE

I know I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, and now I wanted to share the link to the Writers That Care blog. Here's some more specific information:

FIFTY PAGES FOR FIFTY DOLLARS: That's the 50/50 Project.

How will it work? Slated to launch at CARE INTERNATIONAL on October 1st, 2011, the 50/50 PROJECT will allow anyone who makes a donation of $50.00 to submit 50 pages double-spaced of a work-in-progress for a 1-2 page critique by one of the participating authors. When the project goes live on October 1st, 2011, the link to CARE INTERNATIONAL to make a donation this this project will be posted on the MAKE A DONATION page above.

Please consider participating - or at least, please share this information with others. It's a great cause!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Brooklyn Book Festival This Weekend!

Just a quick reminder: I'll be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday! Look for me at the Big Heart Writers booth from 10 - 12:30! More info here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Mentionables: The Week in Review (in Pictures)

Ahhhhhhhh....I know I was absent from here all last week! Between flying back and forth across the country, starting school (boy that alarm clock goes off early!), and losing Internet service due to flooding from Hurricanes Irene and Lee, I just couldn't get here.

To make up for it, here's a Monday morning photo montage. Enjoy!




At the official Ernest Hemingway Memorial in Sun Valley, ID



At the unofficial Hemingway memorial - his gravesite



Hiking in Sun Valley, ID (at about 8000 feet elevation)




In memorial of 9/11: Damaged sphere from one of the Twin Towers + the eternal flame in Battery Park




One of the roads I take daily (but not that day last week) on my commute to work each day...






Friday, September 02, 2011

Frioday Fun Facts: A Long Flight West

So I'm heading to Idaho for the long weekend, to visit my sister. Yes, Idaho. Anyone ever been there? Anyone ever live there?

I'll post pictures and a report when I return ~ who knows, maybe I'll be inspired...One Night in Boise??

Enjoy your holiday weekend - write like mad!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Tips from Maass

My favorite tips from Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel (yes, has a workbook as Marianne mentioned on Monday, that I want to tackle next):

1. Layer your premise. Don't give in to stereotypes or the "easy" plot turn or obvious choice. Choose the non-obvious option when it comes time for plot and character development.

2. Make the stakes high - and then higher. What happens if your character fails in his/her journey? Is it big enough? Make it bigger. This doesn't have to be "world-ending." But it should, in some sense, be the end of the world as your characters know it. Give them discomfort. Make the risks huge, and worth it.

3. Make your reader care about your characters. How? Give them WIT, SPONTNEITY, FORGIVENESS, AND SELF-SACRIFICE. What great qualities, really. How can you work them into your own novel?

4. Give the beginning high tension. The ending should somehow, someway, be suggested in your opening sentence/paragraph/section. Make the reader want to continue. What tension exists? Draw the reader on. This is a tough but crucial one.

So...I went back to the drawing board and am tackling the opening chapters again, with these thoughts in mind. I think it makes a difference - it seems to so far. We'll see!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Surviving the Storm

Well, did everyone survive Hurricane Irene? Here north of NYC, it wasn't nearly as bad as they had predicted. Lots of evacuations helped, I think. We had some moderate flooding in places (a couple pics below) and a lot of power outages, but nothing too bad. At our house, we escaped even losing power!


Today I'm a little stir-crazy and need to leave the house, though. What did I do all day yesterday? Well, I did try and be productive: read Donald Maass' book on craft, Writing the Breakout Novel and made 3 pages of notes for revisions as I tackle my WIP, Beacon of Love. I'm sure at least some of you have read it as well; if you haven't, you're missing out! He gives great, concrete advice and examples on how to amp up all areas of your novel. Definitely gave me some good places to consider. Wednesday I'll share some of my favorites :)

So, what does post-Irene look like in your neck of the woods?




Parking lot of a local mall, flooded




Highway in my area, flooded (I did NOT take this picture - I wasn't crazy enough to be on the roads in that weather!)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Assessing the Workshops

So this week I've been giving 2 workshops at the Savvy Authors Summer Symposium, one on Prose Tightening (just finished) and one on Query Letter writing (just began). I have to say, I've really enjoyed the experience so far. I was a little nervous at first, because I'd never given an online writing workshop before, but the folks at SASS run this SO well, with support from all sides, that it's been a breeze and a pleasure!

Trivia: it seems as though the most interesting/helpful "tip" I offered in the Prose Tightening workshop was on avoiding Delay of Subject and Forms of "To Be." If you're an experienced writer, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. But if not, I'm going to re-post here to share them with you. Maybe you'll find another tool to add to your revision tooolbox :)

Delayed subjects
As much as possible, avoid sentence structure that begins “There is/was/were…” This is called DELAY OF SUBJECT and can add wordiness to your writing. It moves the subject away from the beginning of the sentence and weakens the overall impact. Example:

Delayed Subject: There was so much for Fanny to do when she got home, but all she wanted to do was crawl under the covers and disappear.

Better: Fanny had so much to do when she got home, but all she wanted to do was crawl under the covers and disappear.(Now FANNY, who is the subject of the sentence, leads the sentence – stronger writing).


Forms of “to be”


Generally speaking, verbs like is/are/was/were and their variations are weak words. Of course you’ll have them in your writing, but examine your use of them and see whether a stronger verb would make a sentence more interesting or appealing:

Weak: The giraffe is a beautiful animal, with a coat that is like the colors of the sun and a body that is taller than a flagpole.

Strong: The giraffe is a beautiful animal, with a coat like the colors of the sun and a body taller than a flagpole. (Notice that the opening phrase of this sentence maintains use of “is” – it isn’t necessary to eliminate all of them.)

Weak: Robert was standing by the fire, waiting for Sophia to notice him.

Strong: Robert stood by the fire, waiting for Sophia to notice him. (A simple change in verb structure here eliminates was + and “ing” verb, to past tense, which doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence)

Weak: Felicia was a gorgeous woman, Stanley thought, though she was so intelligent and witty the night he met her that he never dreamed of approaching her.

Strong: Gorgeous, intelligent, and witty, Felicia first struck Stanley as the kind of woman he’d never have the confidence to approach. (Notice the total change of sentence structure here, which puts an emphasis on the qualities of Felicia)

OR

When Stanley first met Felicia, she seemed so gorgeous, intelligent, and witty that he didn’t dream of approaching her (Notice the different sentence structure here, with a focus on their meeting and Stanley as the subject of the sentence).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Join the Writers who CARE 50/50 Project!

For both published and aspiring writers, here's an opportunity:

Author Kathy-Diane Leveille is working with CARE International to organize a project for writers to raise money for the Somali refugees facing starvation:

"At this point I'm putting out a call to published writers to volunteer their time. Proposed to launch October 1, 2011, "Writers who CARE: 50 for 50 Project" will offer anyone making a $50 donation the opportunity to submit 50 double-spaced pages of a work-in-progress to be critiqued by a published author (chosen from the participants listed on the CARE event page). Within 90 days of receipt, the published author will provide a 1-2 page critique (no line editing) which will consist of a general overview including voice, style, character, plot, setting, markets etc at the author's discretion. If you are a published author and would like to volunteer to do a critique, contact Kathy-Diane Leveille at shadowsfall@kathy-dianeleveille.com with "Writers Who CARE" in the subject line, providing your published name (as you'd like it to appear on the event page), brief bio (max 100 words), and a link to your web site. This is a GREAT PROMOTION OPPORTUNITY and a WAY TO GIVE BACK. Writers who are looking to make a donation and receive a critique can also contact me and I will send the link to the event page which will contain all submission details once it's posted."



Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Back from Vacation with a Craving to Learn



Yes, I took an entire week off - hubby and I spent time in the Outer Banks, NC, with a group of friends. (The picture is of sunset over the dunes at Kitty Hawk, home of the famous first flight of the Wright Bros.) We had perfect weather and relaxation the whole time. Just what I needed! Though I didn't do any writing, I did do some reading and some thinking, both about future and current projects. One of my goals in the next 6 months is to take a writing workshop. Yes, I'm giving two this week as part of the Savvy Authors Summer Symposium. But we never stop learning, right? And I'm feeling like I need a jump start to get some of my creative juices flowing again.



Any recommendations? Alternately, any good writing books/workbooks/resources you've found helpful?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Tackling a Sequel

Yesterday I started playing around with a second novella to follow Tequila Sunrise, my 23K word story about 2 people who meet on a cruise ship and have to go back to very different worlds after 4 days at sea. Early on in that one, I thought it might be fun to write a second story using some of the minor characters. It's the first time I've ever done that, though readers often ask if/when I'll write a sequel to one of my novels.

It was interesting, to begin chapter 1 when I already knew a lot about the characters and the setting and the situation. Actually, it gave me some freedom to just jump into the first scene completely in the middle of action that was happening in the first book. Eliminated all that introductory stuff (the way you're supposed to, ideally), even though I know I do have to fill in a few blanks if people haven't read the first one.

Still, it was fun...in the opening pages, anyway. I know series/trilogies are very popular with readers, so it will be interesting to see where this goes. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Sign up for the Symposium!

Two weeks left until Savvy Authors' Summer Symposium begins! Have you checked out all the offerings? My workshops, Prose Tightening 101 and Crafting the Query, will both run for 2 days, with chances for on-going discussion and Q&A from all participants. There is a huge variety of discussions/workshops from which to choose all week long, in addition to raffle prizes for all registered participants. Hope you'll take advantage of it! great way to jump-start and/or refresh your own writing :)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Finishing, Researching, and Waiting for "The Help"

Finished my current WIP today, "Beacon of Love"!! Well, finished the first draft, anyway. But at 72K words, I'm thrilled with the way it turned out, especially the ways in which the characters developed. I have to give credit, again, to this page on agent Donald Maass's website. Every so often if I was feeling stuck, I'd peruse one (or a bunch) of his suggestions to deepen the scene/emotion/character/conflict, and inevitably it got me through some writer's block moments. Once I get some kind of blurb written for it, I'll share it here so you can get the gist of the story. I'm really happy with it :)

***
In other news, the RWA Golden Heart (unpublished) and RITA (published) winners for 2011 were recently announced, and in the name of research I downloaded a few sample pages on my Nook of some of them. What better way to see what's selling and what's being loved by readers than to check out some big-time winners, right? Besides, I'm going on vacation next week and also have a couple of long plane rides coming up in September, so I need my Nook fully loaded! Any must-reads you'd recommend?

***
Speaking of must-reads, I'm so excited that the movie version of "The Help" is coming out this week! Best book I read this year, hands-down. I can't wait to see how it translates to the big screen. Here's the trailer:



Happy Monday!



Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Thoughts: Giving Yourself "Permission" to Write What You Really Want To

Last week I had the opportunity to give a writing workshop at my local library. We talked about the romance industry, various sub-genres, my own journey to publication, and then we focused on character development & first meetings between hero/heroine. I asked them to do a brief character chart, fleshing out some questions and qualities about characters in their WIP, and then we discussed them. One of the best parts of the evening came when almost everyone there said something like "Now I know what I need to work on with this" or "I'm inspired to go back and work more on my story now" or "I never knew this about my character before!"

The most interesting part for me, though, was a comment from one woman who was talking about a short story she'd written (not really a romance, as you'll see in a minute). In her story, a man and woman meet on a hiking trail, strike up conversation, and have a relationship that ends up being a few years long. In the end, though, they get into an argument and she throws a microwave at his head and kills him. (!) In rather Alfred Hitchcock fashion, the story ends with her painting her nails and bemoaning the fact that she can't have popcorn because her microwave is broken.

She said, "I really do like the story, but I feel like I can't write everything the way I want to because it's too dark. Too evil. I feel like I can't give myself permission to write this story."

We all immediately latched onto that thought and talked about how often that can happen in writing. We don't feel comfortable writing profanity because we don't speak it. Or we don't feel comfortable writing explicit or kinky sex because it means we are thinking about it (or maybe even doing it behind closed doors!). When we write about acts like murder or infidelity, does it suggest we condone them? Of course not. But I think for many people, we do stumble when it comes to writing about things we don't personally live or accept.

BUT THAT'S OK!

This idea of giving ourselves "permission" to write anything our story calls for needs to exist. In the workshop, I suggested this woman write under a pen name. That way, when she sits down to tackle a dark story, it isn't "her" writing it, but another author. Maybe that will free her. I don't know if that will work, but I think it's worth a shot.

Thoughts?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Savvy Authors Summer Symposium




Time to sign up for the Savvy Authors Summer Symposium (and yes, I'm giving a workshop and donating some prizes for the raffle too!)




*****************************************

Savvy Authors SUMMER SYMPOSIUM
sym·po·si·um (sĭm-pō'zē-əm)
1. A meeting or conference for discussion of a topic, especially one in which the participants form an audience and make presentations.
2. A collection of writings on a particular topic, as in a magazine.
3. A convivial meeting for drinking, music, and intellectual discussion among the ancient Greeks.

Join us for five days as we talk craft - from plot and character, to dialogue, suspense, theme and story question (with a bunch of stuff in between) in chats, Q&A forums and mini-workshops. Our presenters will be sharing what works - whether it's worldbuilding or setting or layering in back story; or even if it's technical detail and the fruits of research, they'll be exposing the craft that underlies a good story. We'll also be talking about publishing and promoting, offering pitch opportunities to the attendees and raffling off books on craft from folks like James Scott Bell, novels, gift certificates, workshops, 3-chapter critiques from published authors and more.

WHEN: August 24th - August 28th
Cost: The conference is FREE to Premium Members! Basic and Non-members may register for the conference for $30. (But really, why do that when annual Premium Membership costs the same?)




REGISTRATION: Click the image below

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Upcoming Writers' Workshops

This coming Wednesday, I'm giving two writing workshops at the Phillips Free Library in Homer, NY:

1:00 - 3:00 pm Romance Writing for Teens

5:30 - 8:00 pm Composing Sweet Confections (for adults)

In both workshops, I'll be focusing on the following, using some well-known romances as well as a few of my own:

~Elements of a romance
~Creating chemistry between characters
~First meetings of Hero/Heroine
~Using conflict to enhance/accelerate the romance
~Achieving more with less (explicit description, that is)

All the participants will do some writing and sharing, too. I'm looking forward to it! The workshops are free and open to the public - just contact the library to reserve a space. And if you'd like a copy of my notes/handouts, email me at allieb@allieboniface.com and I'll send you one. Happy Writing!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Try an Audio Book





Traveling this summer? Taking any books with you? Print version, or e-reader? Or...what about an audio book or two? Don't forget that downloading an audio book is a terrific way to take a story with you on the plane or in a car and requires even less space to store than an ebook!






And why am I mentioning audio books? Because two of my earliest stories, Lost in Paradise, and One Night in Memphis, are both available now from Audio Lark. I always forget to mention them when I'm doing promotion, so here's my big shout-out! And yum - I love these covers as well - don't you?


Or, if you've already read (or heard) my books, why not give another one a try? Enjoy your travels and free your hands - buy an audio book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Two Helpful Links

I'm about halfway through my latest WIP, Beacon of Love, and though I went through over the weekend and made some major plot changes (and a character name that just wasn't working for me), I'm surging ahead now and trying, trying to get to my goal of 60K words by the end of the month.

But...

I wanted to take a moment to briefly share two links with writers today.

The first is Goddess Fish Promotions, partner site to The Long and the Short of It and run by two of very talented writing/reviewing/promoting friends. (That's not why I'm chatting it up though). They have some great options when it comes to promoting your new release. If you'd like to guest blog or do some online appearances but aren't sure how or where to start, they will set up the whole thing for you. Great price ranges, too. Check them out here.

And the second is Savvy Authors. I'll be doing some workshops for them later this summer, but as I was perusing their site I discovered that they have the AWESOME opportunity for writers to pitch to agents and editors, on a fairly regular basis. This week alone, agents/editors from Larsen Pomada, Sourcebooks, Judith Ehrlich, and Ethan Ellenberg have been/will be there. So check it out!

Now I'm back to the keyboard...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mentionables: A Successful Saturday!



Thoughts on my Saturday signing experience (4th time I've been at this craft fair in my hometown):


1. The "Local Author" angle is a HUGE draw. For the first time I had both a sign and a framed copy of an article that had appeared in the local paper a couple of years ago. The number of people who stopped by simply because of that probably made up at least half of my total sales - and these weren't people I knew, but people who just lived locally who thought it was cool that I had grown up there.


2. But don't discount the word-of-mouth-it's-who-you-know angle. A woman who turned out to be a mother of a classmate of my sister's (are you following this?) was so tickled when she found out who I was that she bought all my books!


3. Online/social media contacts do matter! One person told me they got my electronic newsletter so they knew I'd be there; another saw my post on Facebook about it. There are never too many ways to spread the word!


4. Being friendly (but not overly so) makes a difference. I chatted with one fellow vendor who was making the rounds. She asked which book was my favorite and I recommended Summer's Song, which she bought. About 4 hours later she came back because she was up to chapter 4 and wanted another one of my books! That was probably the highlight sale of my day.


5. Make yourself & your books appealing. One teenage girl asked me if I'd save her a copy of Summer's Song because she had to run home to get more money. I told her I would try, but that one was going fast (truth, I wasn't trying to play hardball). She took her last $12 out of her purse to buy it!


So yes, it was a successful author appearance (I sold 27 books total) - and I would really recommend taking advantage of any place where you can be the "local author" - people love to know/live next door to/shop with someone who's written a book or two!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: First of a Few Summer Appearances

OK, the summer signing season is upon us, and so I'll be at the Holiday in Homer craft fair tomorrow, Saturday, from 10 am - 4 pm. Please stop by and say hello if you're in the area! Always a great day :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: The Dreaded Sagging Middle

Well, I've been moving right along, writing about 2000 words/1 chapter a day on my latest WIP, but yesterday I found myself slowing down. Badly. Struggling to care about my scene. My characters. And having no idea what comes next.

Ugh. It's Sagging Middle Syndrome.

To be fair, I'm not quite at the middle yet, but the pace is getting bogged down and I know it's coming. I thought I'd blog today about ways to tackle it, but I still struggle with that myself, so last night I went Googling in search of some help.

I found it on the website of agent Donald Maass, a widely respected agent in the business who gives workshops on, most notably, Writing the Breakout Novel. And this month, he's posting (and Tweeting about) ways to move your novel from so-so to breakout level. Just what I needed to give my sagging scenes a lift!

Here's the link - as of last night there were 40 tips listed for ways to jump-start your writing. A couple of my favorites:

What miracle does your MC pray for? Make it impossible...then make it happen.

Find a corner, crossroads or dark object in your story. Invest it with eeriness, unknown portent or dread. Go there three times.

Before a new character debuts, give your MC an expectation or fear. Make the reality three times better or worse.


Now, go check out the whole list - and be inspired! Happy writing......

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: A New Book

Well, I started a new work/project/book a little over a week ago, and I'm happy to report that I'm making steady progress and meeting my word count goals...so far...I wanted to write 2000 words a day - not impossible, certainly, but that definitely requires the Butt-in-Chair-Hands-on-Keyboard approach, since it takes me anywhere from 1-3 hours to write that much.

What's the story? It's tentatively titled Beacon of Love and it's about the host of a travel show, Sophie Smithwise, who comes to a small town in Connecticut to do a piece on the haunted lighthouse there. She meets Mitch Thomas, all-around good local guy, handyman, volunteer firefighter, and sometimes-cameraman. He steps up when one of her cameramen gets sick - but the real conflict here is that the fifty-year old murder-suicide that took place inside the lighthouse, and supposedly began the hauntings, belongs to Sophie's grandparents.

Something like that.

I haven't planned out the entire plot - unusual for me - but I'm just writing and letting the story happen. So far I like where it's going. I mostly like how the hero and heroine are interacting. She's a smart ass, and he's low-keyed but keeps up with her in more ways than one. I also like (and this always happens, such a great part of writing fiction) how the characters do things I would never have predicted, or how plotlines turn based on conversation that I didn't intend when I sat down at the keyboard.

Okay, I have 2000 words to go write. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Self-Publishing Still the Kiss of Death?

Self-publishing: to many people, it's still a red flag. In a nutshell, some think if you can't get your book published through traditional channels, then it probably isn't good enough to be published at all. Thus, if you decide to take on the kiss of death and self-publish, you're trumpeting to the world that your book wasn't good enough to make it any other way.

Or are you?

These days, it seems, ebooks and the ease of digitally self-publishing have taken away that stigma, at least to some degree. Lulu, of course, has been around for a while for authors who want to self-publish a print version. But that requires a certain amount of cash up front, that authors may or may not recoup. But Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program (as well as Barnes and Noble's PubIt) allow authors to upload a file, format it, and have it available in digital form almost immediately - with very little financial output (excluding, of course having an editor go over your work and/or having a cover artist design your cover). Royalties through KDP are 70%, which is higher than you'll find with any other publisher. Of course, keep in mind that you are solely responsible for all marketing of your work - and that can be hugely time-consuming, especially if you don't have a reader base already established.

But what if you do? This is where things get a little interesting, in my opinion. What if you're a published author, with a fairly solid reader base, and you have a work or two that either doesn't fit with your current publisher, or is a backlist title that you have the rights for, or is simply a short work you want to have available to readers in between releases of your full-length works?

I'm friends with an author who's in just that situation, and last year she formatted and uploaded one of her previously-released books when her publisher folded and she had all rights returned to her. She spoke of the process as being very easy (esp. since the book had already been edited, and she's savvy enough to create her own cover). I emailed her last week to ask about the whole experience, and she couldn't recommend it highly enough. Since then, she's uploaded 3 of her works (2 previously released and 1 new work that had been rejected in a few places - yes, established authors get rejected too), and along with her regular sales through her publisher, those titles have brought in a solid chunk of cash.

So....it's something to consider. For a new, unpublished author, self-publishing through one of these channels might be a way to test the waters, or a way to finally get that work out in the public eye. For published authors, it might be an interesting way to supplement your backlist, especially when you don't have anything releasing for an extended period of time. Am I thinking about it? Maybe. I'll keep you posted!

Until then, I'm interested in anyone's thoughts or experiences with KDP or B&N's program. Done it? Recommend it?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Monday Mentionables: Happy 4th of July!!!

Happy Independence Day, to all my friends and readers in the United States!



Wednesday I'll be back here to talk about self-publishing through Amazon's Kindle program - it's becoming more and more popular, for already-established authors as well as new, unpublished ones. Is it something to explore and consider? Seems like maybe it is....I welcome your thoughts!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: A Review of The Hunger Games

All year long my students read and devoured The Hunger Games, the dystopian YA novel by Suzanne Collins that's the first book in a trilogy (and coming out soon as a movie). I finally got a chance to read it last week, and though futuristic fiction isn't my usual favorite genre, I did enjoy it, for a few reasons. The story itself is clever - when publishers talk about wanting a "high concept" novel, this is what they mean:

In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

Interesting, current, compelling.

I thought the book did a great job (though maybe didn't go far enough) in exposing our current society's fascination with reality TV and the huge/sometimes awful influence of the media. The pacing itself is also one of the book's strengths. From the opening pages, it moves along at lightning speed, and since you know that the ultimate ending of the book means the death of every character save one, you read on wanting desperately to know who that will be. There's also a romance included between the two main characters, though it's more a device of the Games than an actual love story (depending on which character you identify with).

Downsides for me? A couple of plot devices that I thought forced the conflict of the story where the author didn't need to. I won't give them away, but they're responsible for the ultimate outcome of the Games. I also wasn't crazy about the ending, since it's obvious that the author meant for the story to continue in another book. There are minor conflicts introduced that felt "tacked on" in order to set up the next book in the series, Catching Fire.

Also, just a warning: there's a lot of violence in this book, especially for a YA novel. It's integral to the plot, of course, but younger readers (and their parents) might find it pretty strong and nightmarish. I've also read quite a few scathing comments about Collins' "stealing" the plot from a Japanese story, Battle Royale. Authors do borrow - nothing's original, people always say - but I can see that perhaps using SO many plot elements/tropes from another work might rub some readers the wrong way. As always, read at your own peril!

Anyone else read The Hunger Games? Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: A Couple of Writing/Promo Opps

Yes, I did take Monday off - the first day of summer vacation! From a teacher's POV (and of course from students' too), it's better than Christmas :) Now I just have to remember how to relax....

Writers, here are some opportunities that came through my email inbox the last couple of days. Remember, any chance you have to get your name in front of readers (or fellow writers, or editors, etc....) is one to consider. Weigh the time, effort, and cost involved, see how much it will take you away from your own writing, and then perhaps select 1 or 2 that are good fits for you:

Savvy Authors Summer Symposium: We're looking for workshop presenters, chat, and Q&A hosts on topics related to any aspect of writing genre fiction as well as raffle prizes to give away on the last day to the registered attendees. Prizes can be books - novels or books on craft or other topics of interest to authors - magazine or site subscriptions or best of all a 3-chapter critique. (**Note to blog readers: email me directly if you'd like more, and I'll forward the entire email to you)

Just One Bite Anthology: Authors wanted for All Romance's Just One Bite Short Story Contest! Thirty-two of the paranormal romance short stories submitted will be deemed "Semi-Finalists" and released onto the AllRomance.comand OmniLit.com websites on October 1, 2011.

Readers will vote for their favorite short stories during 5 rounds of voting with the field being narrowed at the end of each round. The first prize winning author will receive $1000 US.

Submissions will be accepted between July 1 and September 1, 2011. Each title must be an original, never before published paranormal romance work between 2,500 and 3,000 words.

I'll be back here Friday with my (very informal) review of The Hunger Games, a wildly popular YA novel that my students devoured this year and that I finally got around to reading.....Hope to see you then!