We Get By With A Little Help From Our (Writer) Friends

I took the first step in this journey as a writer alone.

The only person who knew I was writing my first manuscript was The Missus. No one else. I had this strange fear back then, that if I told a bunch of people I was writing a book and it was never finished, never published, never sold any copies or whatever, I would be be considered a failure. It was a silly fear, I can admit that now, as my friends and family aren’t horrible people and wouldn’t look down on me for trying something that didn’t ultimately work out, but that’s how I felt at the time. And if I’m being honest, I was probably more worried about failing and disappointing myself.

And thus, I wrote my first manuscript pretty much in a vacuum. I had no idea about the publishing industry, about trends in genre, about the appropriate word count for a first time manuscript (hey this story is kinda like Game of Thrones, those books are super long and they’re super popular, surely this can be as long as I want it too!)

Castiel_eating_Supernatural_gif

But most unfortunately, I had no idea there was a community of writers on Internet that were in the same boat as me. In hindsight, I probably should have gone out searching for these folks, but I was so insulated and focused on JUST GETTING IT DONE, I didn’t think there was a need to find other writers until I actually had a book finished I could share. A bit of social anxiety had something to do with it too. I’ve actually met a few of my now Writer Buddies in real life (which was AMAZING) but starting out, there was (and still is) something uniquely terrifying about putting yourself out there – you and your creative work – to strangers on – even on THE INTERNET – for the first time.

It was only after I had the first draft of my manuscript done that I told anyone I’d been writing a book. The response from all friends and family were very positive and most of the questions were “Are you going to get it published?” Well of course I was! That’s why I wrote this damn thing!

And it’s just that easy isn’t it?

Franco Interview WTF

So after typing “how to publish a novel” into the ol’ Google Machine and reading about one hundred million articles about getting an agent, and how the industry works and just how unimaginably difficult it is to get a book published the traditional way, I was just a weeeeeeeee bit overwhelmed.

One of the things that really stood out to me in all these articles, was the emphasis on building a presence on social media and network of folks in and around the industry. The best way to do this, by all accounts, was through Twitter. This was completely foreign to me, a guy who has a sparsely populated Facebook and thought Twitter was just a tool for people to show off what kind of latte they got at Starbucks on a particular morning. But I was in it to win it, so I signed up and started searching out other writers.

The first real immersion into the Twitter writing community was through a little hashtag called #WriteClub (you may have heard of it), a sprint club hosted by a rotating group of writers on Friday nights. This is where I found my first real Writer Buddies. These folks had been through all the same things was me while writing my manuscript and many were much further along in the journey than I was. It was inspiring and comforting to find people I could share my experiences with and learn from theirs.

This is the best gof

And it only built from there. I was finding new people to connect with every day and I still am. I just entered my first Pitch Madness contest ever this past weekend, and have already met a whole bunch of new and exciting writers to follow. And the community just keeps growing too. I had a wonderful conversation with a writer from the Pitch Madness hashtag who is where I was just a couple of years ago and I hope sharing my experiences helped her as much as so many others helped me.

I’ve met so many amazing people over the last few years, almost exclusively through the Twitter writing community. So many great voices, so many great stories – some already told, some still waiting to be. There is so much talent – discovered and undiscovered – out there, it’s astounding. So many funny, brilliant, caring minds out there that are going to be writing so many amazing stories for years and years to come.

These relationships have been priceless to me and my development as writer and developing my craft, but beyond all that, these relationships have meant so much to me as a person too. I’ve met folks in this community I consider to be real friends, not just people on the Internet I share a common interest or career goal with. They’ve become an important part of my life and I hope I have for some of them too.

Most important of all, I’ve learned that if you want to make it in the publishing business, you have to let go of your social anxiety, you have to let go of the fear someone isn’t going to like your work. You have to let go of the fear of failure. You will fail, and spectacularly in some cases, but you will have people there to pick you back up when you’re down.

Your friends.

Dang, this post got mushy.

Voldemort crying gif

So how about you, dear readers? How did you go about finding your kindred spirits in the writing world? How has the community impacted you and your work? Who’s a little misty-eyed right now? C’mon, be honest.

We’re all friends here.

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dean, supernatural, jensen ackles, winchesters

When the Game Changes

I am — and always have been — a planner.

I was that kid who started drawing up ideas for my November birthday in February. (Hmmm, I turn 31 this year. Nice prime number. I should do something snazzy.) I floundered writing as a pantser until I got some weird externally-bestowed permission to plan out my books, and then I just ran with it.

(Sidebar: we are not amused with Stephen King’s assertion that outlines are the crutch of bad writers who wish they were writing a master’s thesis. Not everyone needs to spend 20 years reinventing the wheel, Stevie-boy. *grumble* Everybody arts their own way, and more power to them whatever it is. Good day, sir.)

Over the last few  years, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to plan my writing career. Anyone who’s ever tried that knows its sort of like herding fish in the open ocean armed with nothing more than a flimsy bit of slimy seaweed. (Not that I have much experience with that.) Ultimately, when it comes to traditional publishing, there’s really not much you CAN plan for. You don’t know if your manuscript will snag an agent or an editor, and if it does, how long either of those things will take or what they will mean when they happen.

I’ve seen people go from query to agent to book deal in literally a week and a half. I’ve also seen people query for 4-5 years and not get an agent. Or get an agent and not get a book deal. Or the agent turns out to be not so nice. Or the book deal falls through. Or the agent has to leave for whatever reason. Advances are huge. Or they’re tiny. Or they’re non-existent. Or they’re somewhere in the middle. They arrive on time. Or they arrive after eight months of OH-MY-DOG-BUT-THE-MORTGAGE.

I’ve seen people who had agents squabbling over them not sell, and I’ve seen people who sell huge flop.

Essentially, you can’t plan this shit.

Sometime last year, the unthinkable happened for me. I sold four books. Three to a major publisher. And then in the space of three weeks in September-October, my imprint closed and the other pending book deal with a different publisher floundered, and we backed slowly away after someone changed the game without telling us. This is the first time I’m talking about this publicly. Suffice it to say that it hurt. A lot. THE MASKED SONGBIRD came down from sale the week before Christmas, and I was a hurty ball of mess.

The game changed. It changed fast. It changed hard.

At that point, I had already been making other plans though. I had started self publishing my little Eva Jamieson smexy books. I had planned to self publish STORM IN A TEACUP, the book that had the deal fall through.

So when the book came down, I already had ideas lined up — once my rights reverted, I’d self publish my urban fantasy and submit the epic I was working on to editors. I’d go full hybrid steam ahead.

But the game kept changing.

Let me just say: for a planner like me, it’s really, really hard to stay grounded when everything is shifting beneath your feet. Where do you stand? How do you walk straight? Are you DRUNK? What is happening, and why do I have glitter in my hair?

Samglitter

STORM came out at the beginning of this month, and it became my anchor. It was, for the first time, something I had control over. When everything was shifting, ironically enough, it was a book called STORM IN A TEACUP that gave me back something I’d been lacking.

Looking ahead, things are still changing — and very quickly. Within a month I’ll have probably two big crazy sets of news.

The important thing for me, regardless of which path of publishing you choose (traditional, indie, hybrid, self), is to find the things over which you have power and do the best you can with them. There are no guarantees regardless. Books sometimes surprise you, and that can happen in the self publishing world as easily as the traditional publishing world. Ultimately, you have the power over your craft, to keep bettering it with every book you write. You have control over that. You can keep pushing yourself.

You have control over how you handle setbacks. Maybe not how you react to them (Dog knows I’ve spent plenty of time in the fetal position crying into my cats in the last year — and anxiety isn’t something you can just flip the switch on), but how you respond to them. How you care for yourself, and how you press on (whatever pressing on means to you).

You have the power to decide each day what it is that will help make things better, even if it’s only a teensy bit better. Some days that might be outlining a new book or writing a few thousand words. Some days it might be watching your favorite episodes of Buffy with an entire pizza and a Big Mac and a double Filet-O-Fish and a carton of cookies and cream and an entire bag of jalepeno Cheetos and NO YOU DO THAT NOT ME SHADDUP.

Some days it might be doing a Whole Other Thing.

For me, it was a lot of those things (ahem). It was also finding out that I could set a schedule for self publishing and work to grow my career that way while I worked on things I felt were more suited to the traditional market. It was figuring out what it was I wanted most from my career and setting out goals, specific goals. Like a motherfluffing business plan or something.

It could be any number of things for you. The crux of this is that the game will always change. If there’s anything I learned in the Year That Will Not Be Named, it’s that the game will keep changing. At all stages. Pre-agent. Post-agent. Pre-publication. Mid-contract. Sometimes those changes are hard and scary and painful and feel like someone’s pulled the whole ground out from under you. I had several of those moments last year.

But if you keep stringing ropes from tree trunk to tree trunk and rock to rock, if the ground falls away beneath you, at least you’ll have something to grab on to.

My Newest Obsession: 1950s Fashion

Dovima in red velvet for Balenciaga - 1950s magazine spread
Dovima in red velvet for Balenciaga – 1950s magazine spread

While this blog generally has a paranormal theme, I find that it’s been a while since I had a project involving vampires or magic or any of the other things that go bump in the night.

Okay, well, there’s some bumping in the night, but it’s the kind brought on by a much more ordinary magic.

My most recent WIP is set in the 1950s, and that era has me under it’s spell, particularly the fashion. The designers! Givenchy! Dior! The models! Dovima! Suzy Parker! I’ve dedicated a whole Pinterest board to my obsession – jump HERE to check it out – so I thought I’d share a few images with you so you can fall in love too. And, because we all just survived Valentines Day, I tried to choose images that were seasonally appropriate.

1950s party dress - designer unknown
1950s party dress – designer unknown

A couple of trends helped shape 1950s fashion. One of the most important was the end of World War II. Women had been working outside the home and material goods had been strictly rationed during the war. When it was over, you see women wearing yards of fabric cut to conform to an identifiable – and artificial – female shape.

This was in part influenced by Dior’s New Look, a fashion phenomena dating from 1947. The look was softly structured, with sloping shoulders, a narrow waist, and a full, romantic skirt. Here’s a snippet from the Dior website, describing Christian Dior’s motivation…

…in designing “flower women, soft shoulders, blossoming bosoms, waists as slender as creepers and skirts as wide as corollas” (he) only wanted to make them happy. Which he succeeded in doing.

Dior’s New Look gown, 1954

Mamie Eisenhower was a huge proponent of the New Look, and while she did a great deal to support American designers, the Europeans still ruled. If you’re into the minutiae of fashion analysis from that era, you’ll see how the details changed over the years. Waistlines dropped and rose. Hemlines rose and dropped. Later in the century Balenciaga created the sack dress, which got rid of waistlines all together.

Balenciaga sack dress, year unkown; sorry I couldn't find one in red or pink
Balenciaga sack dress, year unkown

So women were flowers. They were allowed – even expected to be feminine. To be pretty. To be elegant. And this is where my infatuation turns into full-blown lust. The models of the era were slender, all stylized angles and curves, and the photographers who worked with them elevated their look even further.

Suzy Parker, 1955
Suzy Parker, 1955

The images are often boldly graphic, the colors and poses chosen to highlight the architectural details of the look. Their hair is all about control, the curls set and sprayed, and the model’s make-up is always perfect: high arched brows, dark liner, and strong lips.

1950s make-up, looking like something a real woman could do
1950s make-up, on a model who looks like a real woman
Suzy Parker from 1955. She did her own make-up  for photographs.
Suzy Parker from 1955. She did her own make-up for photographs.
Marilyn Monroe, demonstrating her iconic make-up
Marilyn Monroe, demonstrating her iconic take on ’50s make-up

As we lift ourselves from our Valentine’s hangovers, I hope you appreciate this flashback to one of the most beautiful eras in fashion, where woman were graceful, classic, and chic – and confined to the home and prepared for marriage and babies and severely underpaid when they did work and not expected to worry their pretty little heads about anything too important.

But damn they looked good.

Cheers!

Liv

Suzy Parker in a dress by Givenchy, 1954
Suzy Parker in a dress by Givenchy, 1954
Dovima for Modess, 1953
Dovima for Modess, 1953

 

Which Box Do You (and Your Book) Fit Into?

book-genreLately I’ve been thinking a lot about the proliferation of genres in the publishing world. When did we get so freaking many and why has it gotten to this level of craziness?

When I was young, there was fiction/literature, mystery, western, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, children’s, teen (which was barely one shelf, not its own section like it is now), and non-fiction (which of course had its subsets by subject).

For the reading public, I doubt those have changed much.

But if you’re in the industry, oh Lord, that is just the beginning. Now we have (in addition to those mentioned above) suspense/thriller, women’s fiction, chick lit, steampunk, literary fiction (I STILL don’t know what that is), historical fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal (sometimes romance, sometimes not), dystopian, cozy mysteries, middle grade, picture books, chapter books, new adult, new fiction (a new one to me as of a few days ago; apparently it covers the 25-30 age range between new adult and adult), and on and on. And for writers, each one of these comes with specific parameters your book has to meet in order to be classified as such.

monk-weirdIt all makes me want to yell: “FFS! (For f***’s sake) STOP!” I realize that publishers have to know how to target their audience and market a book, but this is has gone beyond that to OCD levels even Monk would find weird.

It’s also really hard on writers. Most of us don’t start out saying, “I’m going to write a steampunk space opera with paranormal elements and some romance targeted at the new fiction market.” (And even if we did, we’d have problems because that doesn’t fit into a nice, neat little box. More on that in a minute.) We start out saying, “I have this story in my head and I’m going to put it down on paper so other people can enjoy it.” Period. End of story. We probably know its general genre, but that’s about it. It used to be an agent/publisher’s problem to deal with how it was classified. Now, if we write a book that isn’t easily put into a marketing template, we risk it not selling to a traditional publisher.

Why am I harping on this? Because I have a book that doesn’t fit nicely into any of the traditional descriptions. It is a love story – plain and simple. I call it a romantic comedy because that’s what it would be if it was a movie (and it is pretty darn funny, if I do say so myself). I wrote it for myself and for others like me who are over 30 and have yet to find our happily ever after, not thinking too much about whether it was a romance, women’s fiction or chick lit. Here’s the feedback I’ve gotten from publishing industry professionals on those categories:

  • Romance – It doesn’t follow the usual structure or tropes and is written in first person, so it’s not easy to put in that category.
  • Women’s fiction – It may not have enough “other” subject matter beyond the love story to qualify as women’s fiction.
  • Chick Lit – It’s light and fun, but it’s also smart and deals with issues beyond sex, shopping, etc., (namely education and how we make books and writing relevant for the next generation in a digital world) so it may not fit there.

books in boxesGuys, I’m scared  to death this book won’t ever get published because it doesn’t fit into a nice, neat little box. I know I can always self-publish it, but I’m not ready to consider that yet and I really want to get it out there traditionally.

Then I look at the next contemporary book I want to write and it’s got paranormal elements (but no creatures) and a strong love story, yet deals with issues of mental illness and drug abuse. How am I going to market that?

(Even historical fiction has some of these same questions, but with that genre it depends what time period is currently selling. If you write a book set in an unpopular location or time period, you’re going to have trouble selling it.)

In some ways, this quandary isn’t new. When Diana Gabaldon sold Outlander in 1991 no one knew what to do with it. It started out in present day, but was primarily historical, but also had time travel in it and a romance. The publisher who eventually took a chance on it couldn’t decide where to shelve it. Eventually they stuck it in romance. Now it is acknowledged as blurring genre lines.

I don’t know about the rest of my fellow writers, but I can’t make myself write books that fit into neat categories just so they are easy to market. I guess this is my plea to the industry to please ease up on the specificity of genre restrictions when you’re deciding whether or not you know what to do with a book. As authors, we aim to give you a great story and try to make your marketing life easy, but sometimes the lines aren’t as clear as any of us would like.

I know everything in life is getting specialized from the content we’re served on the Internet to the TV programming we watch, but there is such a thing as going too far. Sometimes, fiction is just fiction and love is just love. Sometimes not everything needs to fit in one box.

Thoughts? Reactions? Comments? Please share!

Cover Reveal – Fading Out By Trisha Wolfe

When I was first starting out four years ago, having just self-published my very first novel, I was very intimidated and terrified. But I reached out to book reviewers and asked them to give my book a read and post a review of their honest feelings, hoping some of them would like it. The first person who agreed was Trisha Wolfe. Not only was she the first to agree, she was the first to finish, and the first to post her review. And hers was a glowing review. Trisha helped me so much in that first month as a new author and I am so happy to see her own writing career taking off – you need to read her books, they are fantastic.

Speaking of, today I get to help her with her cover reveal for her latest book, FADING OUT.

 

 

Fading Out (Living Heartwood, #3) by Trisha Wolfe

Love means fading out so another shines brighter.

Right clothes. Right school. Right fiancé. As a Wyndemere, Arian’s expected to abide by the rules. The most important: be perfect. But Arian’s seemingly flawless life is far from it. An embarrassing expulsion from her parents’ alma mater spirals an already unhealthy obsession out of control, exposing a dark truth.

Faced with having to attend a small private college after a stint in rehab, Arian’s just ready to
coast under the radar and repair some of the wreckage, but her father’s looming control is like a vise choking off her air supply.

When a run-in with Braxton’s beloved star quarterback, Ryder Nash, puts
Arian squarely in the crosshairs of his devoted teammates, the last of
her controlled, orderly world unhinges. As the pranks and paybacks
escalate, Arian and Ryder’s rivalry takes a passionate turn. And once
Arian glimpses beneath the all-star-athlete exterior Ryder projects, she
realizes he’s far more than just a jock.

As their relationship intensifies, outside forces feel the threat. Outrunning their pasts
doesn’t mean history won’t repeat itself, but Ryder can’t let that
happen. He’s just one Championship game away from breaking the mold.
Only one moment, one choice, might change everything.

Told from both Arian’s and Ryder’s POV. New Adult Contemporary Romance intended for readers 17 years of age and older.

Available 2/18/15

 

About the Series…

Click covers for GR links
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18142113-the-darkest-parthttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21404051-losing-trackhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23358383-fading-out?from_search=true








The Author…


 

 

From an early age, Trisha Wolfe dreamed up fantasy worlds and characters and was accused of talking to herself. Today, she lives in South Carolina with her family and writes full time, using her fantasy worlds as an excuse to continue talking to herself.  

 

New Book Now What?

You’ve finished the book. You’ve got everything ready to go and hit publish. Now what?! You have to market that beast! All your hard work is really just beginning. In fact, I think a lot of authors will tell you writing the book is one of the easier parts of the process.

So you’ve got to pimp yourself. Pimp your book. And hope that all your pimping brings you sells. Lots and lots of them!

Here are a few marketing tips that have worked for me.

1. Blog Tours: You can use a company or put together a tour on your own with friends and fellow authors. A blog tour can be guest posts, promo posts, exclusive teasers, and giveaways. You can also do a cover reveal as part of a pre-release blog tour.

2. Newsletters: This is one of my more successful marketing tools. While my newsletter is small, it does help me get the word out on new releases and any fun updates I want to give my readers. I only send out one newsletter a month, sometimes fewer than that depending on what’s going on. Just be sure you don’t spam your followers!

3. Social Media: While I’m not certain how much this helps anymore, there are a few new social media tools that do work. Take Thunderclap for example. This is a great way to reach a lot of people all at once, if you can get a successful campaign. What I’ve found recently is Facebook is a great resource to find other authors to help out, like with Thunderclap. Twitter for me isn’t as productive any more, but others may find differently.

What works for you when it comes to marketing?

While we’re talking marketing, how about a bit of shameless promoting

Burning ThumbRebecca Waterstone left her high school sweetheart in Graysville ten years ago. At the time she had no plans to return home, ever, thanks to heartbreaker Jonah Caroway. When she receives a call from the hospital that her uncle has had a heart attack and may not make it through the night she has to go home and face her past once more.
Jonah Caroway regrets letting Becca walk out of his life to go to New York ten years ago. She wanted to be a teacher and explore the great city of while he wanted to stay home in small town U.S.A. Now she’s back and this time he won’t let history repeat itself.
When faced with the decision of staying in Graysville or returning to New York she’s not sure what to do. Will Jonah be able to convince her they are meant to be together or will she choose to leave the past in the past?
Available March 6, 2015

Pre-Order at Amazon

Writing writing writing

Happy Thursday my loverlies! The week is nearly over, huzzah!

This week has been equal parts awesome and stressful. Awesome and stressful because I started writing my sixteenth novel. Yup. Sixteenth. Mind, I write under this name and under an alter ego, so a couple of those novels are under a different name, but all told, I have a YA series that had five installments, an NA trilogy, an Adult UF series that has four completed books (this one I’m starting is the fifth in that series) and then my alter ego has written four novels.

When I finished writing my fifteenth novel in mid December I was totally spent. I wasn’t burnt out, because I hadn’t overdone it over the course of 2014 but I had still written a vast number of words. I was just happy I’d finished before the holidays so I could actually enjoy them. But then January came around and I was thinking about writing, but an editorial deadline was looming for that 15th book and I knew I didn’t have it in me to start a fresh book while still working on that one. Normally I can edit one while writing another, especially if they’re different worlds because it’s like getting breaks from each of them, but not this time.

This time I needed to re-read and go over the rough draft and it was all I had in me. But because I didn’t split my time, I got it done in record time and was able to get it to two betas before my editor. And I was a wreck. That book was the final in my Post-Apocalyptic trilogy. Hands down the hardest project I’ve ever written. And I was terrified about the response I would get from my betas. Closing a series is terrifying because the last thing you want to hear is the dreaded, “Wait. That’s it?”

So I sent it off and prayed. But I didn’t write. I didn’t outline. I did THINK about writing. I knew there were three possible stories for me to start, but my mind just wouldn’t get to the deciding part. And then I heard from my first beta. She’d finished reading in record time, too. And she loved it. Holy crap. Yes, she had some constructive criticism to offer me, like any good beta, but as a whole and as the end, she was on board. HUZZAH!

But still. No new words. No new world opened up for me. So I worked on the suggestions the first beta gave me and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. And again, the feedback was good! Fantastic even! And she had some more constructive criticism on different parts of the book that made me say, “YES! That is totally missing from the book! Brilliant!” So I worked on those edits.

But no new words. But suddenly I knew which story I wanted to write. And I was able to sit down with a cuppa and some research and a fresh legal pad and started writing an outline for this sixteenth book. It took about a week to write the whole outline, but by the end of the week I was excited and confident about it. Yes, this is the one, for now.

Maybe I was worried I’d tapped the well. Maybe I was afraid I’d get negative feedback and the dreaded, “Wait. That’s it?” from my betas. Maybe I needed that boost of confidence that the well wasn’t dry just yet. Or maybe I just needed a full six weeks away from daily word counts.

But on Monday I sat down and I wrote the first two thousand words of the new book. I’m taking my time because sometimes you just need that. So if you’re stuck, maybe you’re stuck for a reason that has nothing to do with “writer’s block” and everything to do with giving yourself a little break and a little boost of confidence. So take it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Your work will be better for it.

So. Speaking of all these books. I do have a new one coming out tomorrow! Whoa! If you’re in the mood for a little witchery and magic and some Valentine’s Day hijinks, might I suggest picking up my latest Matilda Kavanagh Novel?

bewytched

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks

 

And our Emmie Mears has a shiny new book out too! Check out her badass heroine as she smites some Hellkin! You can get both books for the price of one movie. That ain’t too shabby.

Amazon / Barnes and Noble