Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Pig Farmer and the Pool Boy/Ranch Hand

Hi everyone! I'm Carolyn Rosewood and I'm the newest contributor to this fabulous blog. I thought I'd start off my posts here with a slightly offbeat tale, seeing as how this is a group of paranormal writers and all. No pie with this story, but I'm sure with a plot bunny like this one we can find a way to work in dessert.

This comes to me courtesy of my hairdresser. Let's call her "Donna." Donna has been styling (and coloring *cough! cough*) my hair for five years now, and I wouldn't let anyone else touch it, to be honest. She's awesome. When I went in the other day for my every-six-weeks cut and um... hue adjustment, I showed her the cover art for The Last Soul, and we started talking about romance novels.

Donna has never read a romance novel. It's true. Donna is more of a People Magazine person. She wasn't even sure what a paranormal romance novel was, so I educated her on the various genres within a genre. She was fascinated!

As she was rinsing the hue adjustment stuff off my hair, she said something along the lines of "I have an idea for your next book." Resisting the urge to roll my eyes (she could see them, of course, since my head was hanging over the sink and she was standing behind me), I listened to her plot bunny.

A pig farmer (she likes pigs-what can I say?) loses her husband and has to keep the pig farm going all by herself. She hires a hot dude to clean the pool (all pig farmers have pools, don't they?) and it turns out he's quite handy with farming as well. Somewhere around the middle of the book a tornado puts the pigs in danger, and the pool boy/farmhand helps our heroine (whose name, coincidentally, is also Donna) save the pigs, and the rest is romance history.

Where is the paranormal aspect, you ask? Really? We're talking about a pig farmer as our heroine and a pool boy who doubles as a farmhand, and you have to ask where's the paranormal in this story? :)

Seriously though, we had a really fun time with this, especially when we tried to come up with a hero's name she liked. The experience gave me a chance to connect with a potential reader. Isn't this all about giving our readers what they want? Now, I'm not saying I'm going to tackle a story about a pig farmer and a pool boy, but I suppose it could work.

As long as we don't write them baking a pork pie... guess we need some fruit trees on that farm!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dear Pontificating Writer...

Dear Male-Writer-Whose-Wife-Is-Expecting:

Sorry, but you don't get to tell writers who choose to be, or have to be, the primary caretaker for their infants and young children that they're using parenting as an excuse to slack off with their careers. That their complaints about not having enough time to write are due to a lack of persistance and professionalism. You can complain that you're tired of people warning you parenting is hard, sure. You can even point out that people do maintain careers after becoming parents.

However.

If YOU aren't going to be the stay-at-home parent and primary provider of household needs while your spouse goes off 10-12 hours a day and earns the bulk of your family income, then STFU about how those of us who are in that position are unserious hobbyists if we discover that maintaining a writing career is exceptionally challenging...or maybe, temporarily, not a even good idea for the family as a whole. I'm talking no daycare, no parents-day-out, no kindly babysitting relative, no maid service, no yard service, not much money, no nothing but you and the kids and house that you need to keep from exploding. (Both the kids and the house, though with infants you can't help certain...explosions...sometimes.)

I mean, DUDE! You have no kids yet. You have No Freaking Idea.

Kids are incredibly time-consuming. It's not an excuse when you can't write because you've got a colicky baby who needs you to pace the floor. It's not an excuse when you pick laundry or groceries over your WIP because everyone is out of underwear and the pantry is bare and child protective services is giving your house the evil eye. It's not an excuse and it's not lack of seriousness about your career when you choose two hours of sleep over two hours of writing some pompous blog post--especially when those two hours are going to be the last two hours you get for another eighteen.

It's not an excuse. It's not laziness. It's not the sign of a hobbyist loser. It's called parenting. Maybe someday you'll understand that.

Or not. Because from your commentary, it sounds like your better half is going to be the one to take care of all that mess. Good luck with that.

Sincerely,

An Actual Stay At Home Mom Who Has A Writing Career, Sort Of

*

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com  * www.meankitty.com

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why Workshops Work (for me)

It seems like every time I'm checking my email, I'm being inundated with advertisements for writing workshops. I managed to take a few, but mostly I deleted them without hesitation. This year, I've already taken two and I'm planning on taking another next month. I just haven't decided which one as of post date. So why the big change in attitude regarding workshops?

Reason #1: Accountability I'm the first to admit I have a crazy life but if I know there's an assignment due, my inner Catholic school training kicks in and the assignment gets done. Mentally, I'm transported back to high school where Sister Mary Ignatius is waiting for me,ruler in hand, to give it in. Thank goodness nowadays rulers don't reach across cyberspace if you blow it off, but Sister Mary may still know where I live.

Reason #2: Paying Means Playing I'm not loaded in the money department. These days we're all holding on tight to our sawbucks. So buying a workshop and =not= participating defeats the bulk of what I'm paying for: critique. Feedback is the payoff of any good workshop. Even if it isn't a super in-depth analysis because of class size or teacher time constraints, chances are you'll discover something new about your process. Incorporating that something into your WIP can give you awesome results.

Reason #3: Working the WIP Whatever the workshop, I'm working my WIP. If I'm taking a dialogue workshop then every assignment I post is from my current story. I do write new because it's also about creating and learning through the act of creating. But everything I'm doing, I'm applying directly to my story. I want double duty. If you're teaching me how to use dialogue to move your story forward, then you better believe I'm using that right NOW.

So far, this has worked for me. A year ago, maybe not. But if you're looking for a little kickstart, a workshop might just be the thing.

Or I can sent Sister Mary Ignatius over with her ruler.

;) Talia

Friday, March 25, 2011

SciFi TV

Sad to say, there's been a dearth of good scifi TV lately. We're caught in the trough of the wave, the doldrums between seasons.



However, I am thrilled to report that the SyFy version of Being Human is every bit as good as the British, if not better. The storytelling is more linear, which I prefer, and I don't find myself wondering what the connection between scenes is.



I will say that Russell Tovey, who plays the nerdy George in the BBC version is far funnier and more interesting to watch than his doppelganger, Josh, in the SyFy version. But if I'm going to spend time with a hunky vampire, I'd pick Aiden (SyFy) over Mitchell (BBC) any day.

I also saw my first promo for the Spielberg-produced, time-travel adventure, Terra Nova.


I was starting to think the show was a figment of my imagination. I was excited to see it promoted, but when radio silence ensued, thought I was seeing things again. Turns out the May premier was moved back to fall 2011. Sources cite extensive special effects as the culprit behind the delays. But with Jason O'Mara in the lead, I'll definitely be giving this a shot.

We've also got Falling Skies to look forward to this June.
With Spielberg as the EP, this alien-invasion adventure on TNT could be great, but I've been disappointed too many times to hold my breath. Here's a trailer. Although Noah Wylie isn't exactly my idea of an action hero, I'll be tuning in. How about you?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A More Upbeat View of Self-Publishing

A few weeks ago I published a blog whose statistics presented -- I must admit -- a discouraging view of publishing for new authors. Honestly, I don’t have actual experience in getting my novels out there so I asked my friend Edie Ramer, who is successfully self-published to look at that blog and give her perspective.
Edie, as her many fans know, lives in southeastern Wisconsin with her husband, two dogs and an exceptional cat. She's the author of such books as Dragon Blues, Dead People, Cattitude and The Seventh Dimension. Her Website motto: "If you believe, magic will happen."
One reviewer said of her work: "Edie is brilliant. I love her snarky characters, the humor, the sex, the incredible story and the perfect narration she is able to spin into a single novel. I was on the edge of my seat."
So, I'm feeling I've made an excellent choice for today's rebuttal.
Take it away, Edie:

Header courtesy of samulli




":A big thank you to Brenda for inviting me to reply to her Thursday 13 post from last week. I should have warned her that I might go off track. I usually do. And that’s the…
1. "…reason why self-publishing is perfect for me. If you write books that don’t quite fit in with the books that are New York published, then you might be an 'indie' author. Both best-selling e-book authors Amanda Hocking and H.P. Mallory couldn’t sell their books before they became 'indie' writers.
2. "Brenda quoted a statistic that said 80% of Americans haven’t purchased a book in the last year. I don’t focus on the ones who don’t, just the ones who do. Many readers purchase enough books to make up for the non-readers (including me!) Which brings me to…
3. "…the readers. Readers matter to me, not numbers. If you read paranormal romances with a mix of dark, light, sad, funny, and in-between, then you’re my kind of reader. All the better if you like cats, dragons or ghosts.
4. "If 120,000 books are published a year (from Brenda’s post), probably more than 50% are nonfiction, and many others aren’t paranormal romances, which I write. That figure doesn’t scare me.
5. "So what if your book is paranormal romance? In that case, I hope you sell a zillion of your books. Remember when the agents and editors were saying that vampire books were overcrowded? Then Twilight came along, and the gates opened wide again. So bring on the great dragon, ghosts, and cat-turned-into-women books. I want your books to be a huge success. I’m not proud. I’ll take your run-offs.
6. "Brenda said, 'A fiction book is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies.' I believe this figure is meant for Print Books. The reason many traditional books don’t sell more than 5,000 is because that’s the Print Run. And after one or two months, they’re pulled off the shelves, making room for the next book.




7. "Self-published books are only pulled if the author un-publishes them. As I write this, I’ve sold 800 copies of 'Dead People' this month. By the end of the month, I’ll have sold 1,000. I believe (hope!) that in a few months I’ll have sold more than 5,000 copies -- a number that should continue to grow. At Amazon, it’s in the Top 10 best-selling books for the Ghosts and Gothic categories. If I’d taken it down after a short time period, it would have been considered a Failure instead of a Success.
8. "According to Brenda, Jane Smith said the average self-published book sells between 40- 200 copies. I’d like to know where Jane got her figures and if she’s talking about e-books or POD (print-on-demand) books. In any case, I don’t like comparing my sales to other writers’ sales. Because…
9. "…it doesn’t matter what someone else does. It matters what YOU do. Because YOU are a brilliant writer and will sell more than 40 to 200 copies of your e-book.
10. "From Brenda: 'Of the books that are purchased, apparently only 57% are read cover-to- cover.' Guilty and not ashamed. I don’t have time to read books I don’t like or the writing is bad. There are too many other good books to read.
11. "From Brenda: 'A Point of Hope in getting more Americans involved in reading might be the increase in e-book sales.' Yes! By the end of the year, I believe I’ll be earning a living wage.
12. "In the comments of Brenda’s post, someone said that a lot of self-published books aren’t good. I agree. But I feel that way about a lot of New York published books, too. In #10 about books not read cover-to-cover, I’m guessing the statistic applies to print books as well as self-published books. And e-books are much easier to return (with Kindle, at least). Another advantage of e-books is that you can usually download a free sample to see if you’ll like it. My books have the first 20% in the samples.
13." If you’re thinking of self-publishing, what matters isn’t numbers that are probably different by the time you read them. What matters is that you believe in yourself and the books you write. My only expense is my covers, so I don’t have a lot to lose. (Many other writers do their own covers, but I don’t have those skills. My cover artist, Laura Morrigan, is fast, inexpensive and fabulous.) I love what I do, and becoming an 'indie' writer is one of the best things I’ve done for myself.
'If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments."
--Edie Ramer
http://edieramer.com/

Monday, March 21, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Laurie London

Bonded by Blood
HQN
January 2011

Book Blurb:
Some cravings are too powerful to resist...

Movie location scout Mackenzie Foster-Shaw has always known that she’s cursed to die young. No one can protect her from the evil that has stalked her family for generations—vampires who crave her rare blood type. Until one afternoon in a wooded cemetery, she encounters an impossibly sexy stranger, a man she must trust with her life.

For Dominic, a man haunted by loss, Mackenzie satisfies a primal hunger that torments him—and the bond they share goes beyond heat, beyond love. She alone can supply the strength he needs to claim his revenge. But in doing so, he could destroy her . . .

As I was trying to decide which debut novel to read for this week’s post, I noticed a mini-trend. Vampires are on the rise (pun intended *G*). Several of the fanged variety have hit the shelves in the past 3 months from first time authors. Interesting.

I don’t know about the others, but London’s vampires (at least the good ones) have a new trait: they not only drink blood but they can also absorb energy from humans by touch, to the extent where they only need blood once a month or so. I enjoyed that new twist. However, they also eat real food all the time and can go out in the sunlight for limited amounts of time, something I’m not a huge fan of. I say if you’re going to use vampire characters, they should have vampire limitations. Otherwise, they seem too human IMO.

The Beginning:
Oh my goodness. As writers, it’s drummed into our heads that we need to have a great opening in order to grab the reader’s (and editor and agent’s) attention. Boy howdy, this one has it and then some. The first chapter is stellar and the next few are hot on its heels. Great pacing and sexual tension between the hero and heroine. I love the inner dialogue when Dom and Mackenzie are in each other’s heads and don’t understand why. I re-read the beginning several times just because I enjoyed it so much and wanted to absorb the author’s skill.

The Middle:
Unfortunately, after the intense sexual tension of the opening chapters, the middle chapters come to a slow, painful crawl. I’m all for the slow build in the character’s romantic relationship. I love “the chase.” But it’s a delicate balancing act and I’m afraid the beginning magic was lost as Dom courted Mackenzie. Then, suddenly we fast forward to their breakup and we aren’t even clued in until the end of the chapter that they’ve been together for weeks. I really felt like I missed something. This problem is compounded by the fact that nothing much happens in the external plot. Dating is boring if someone’s not trying to kill you while you’re doing at it. *G*

Some of the problem may have been because there were scenes in secondary characters' point of views that served little to no purpose. There was one scene in particular where the POV character didn’t even warrant a name. He was Football Jersey guy – no lie. I saw right through what the author was trying to do: relay information that she wanted the reader to know but that the hero and heroine didn’t. This could have been handled better by, I don’t know, maybe showing us the villain’s POV and letting him reveal the info to us. The villain, by the way, doesn’t show up until chapter 16. Way too long, IMO.

The End:
Once the villain and his minion vampires show up and start going after Mackenzie with her special blood, things pick back up. The pacing and tension is regained and I plowed through to the end.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
The opening chapters of this book are awesome – a sexual tension-filled page turner. If this author entered it in unpublished contests, I’m sure she won them all. Any agents or editors who read the first chapter no doubt asked to see the full by the end of chapter 1. If beginning writers want to know how a great opening is done, read this book! My only wish is that the whole book was a great as the beginning. Maybe the 2nd book in the series will be.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pie, pie, pie

Remember to post your questions for Jenny Bent this week!

I found a wonderful recipe perfect for spring and Easter, so I wanted to share the recipe with you :)



* 8 Servings
* Prep: 20 min. + chilling

Ingredients

* Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
* 1 cup sugar
* 3 tablespoons plus 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
* 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
* 1/4 cup butter, cubed
* 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

Directions

* Roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. pie plate. Transfer to pie plate; trim to 1/2 in. beyond edge of plate. Flute edges. Line unpricked pastry with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 450° for 8 minutes. Remove foil; bake 5-7 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
* In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in milk and lemon juice; add egg yolks and lemon peel. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Stir in butter and cool to room temperature. Stir in sour cream and pour filling into pie shell. Top with whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 8 servings.


Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 piece) equals 437 calories, 26 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 145 mg cholesterol, 197 mg sodium, 46 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 4 g protein.

Sour Cream-Lemon Pie published in Country Woman March/April 1987, p29

Friday, March 18, 2011

Taking Questions for Agent Jenny Bent

On April 5th, Agent Jenny Bent from the Bent Agency (www.thebentagency.com) will be coming to The Otherworld Diner to answer your questions. There will also be a mystery prize for a few lucky winners chosen randomly from those who ask questions. So start posting your questions now - I'll gather them and send them to Jenny and then she'll post her responses on April 5th.

Good luck!
Jeannie

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jenny Bent will be on the menu

I've decided we need to get some stuff going for all the writers who come here, so here's what I'm doing. I've asked agent Jenny Bent, of the Bent Agency, to come to the Otherworld Diner and talk to us. Here's what her webpage (http://www.thebentagency.com/about.html) says about her:

JENNY BENT
In a career spanning 15 years, I have made a practice of making bestsellers - either by spotting new talent or developing careers for multi-published authors. My list is varied and includes commercial fiction and nonfiction, literary fiction and memoir. All the books I represent speak to the heart in some way: they are linked by genuine emotion, inspiration and great writing and story-telling.

I was born in New York City but grew up in Harrisonburg Virginia in a house full of books where I spent many lazy afternoons reading in a sunny window seat. I went on to England to get a BA/MA with first class honors from Cambridge University. After graduation I worked in magazines, bookselling and agenting, most recently at Trident Media Group, before founding THE BENT AGENCY in 2009. I now live in Brooklyn in an apartment full of books and while there are not quite so many lazy reading afternoons, I manage to fit one in now and then.


I'm still open to suggestions of other agents and editors you'd like to see and talk to - so get those ideas out here!

Jeannie

Friday, March 11, 2011

What editor or agent do you want to talk to?

I'm asking again, because I only got one response on my quick question. If you could talk to any agent or editor you wanted here, ask questions, and maybe even pitch a story, who would it be?

Because I'm going to try my darndest to make it happen :)

Jeannie

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

120,000 books and compelling covers

Want to be a published author? Think self-publishing is the way to go? It might be, but it’s not for the cowardly and, for most, it’s hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. Neither is the conventional contract-publishing method.




Here are some interesting statistics I’ve come across.



  1. Books news and publishing-industry statistics have posted this interesting tidbit: “The New York Times reports that ‘According to a recent survey, 81 percent of people feel that they have a book in them … and should write it.’ ”



  2. However, lots of Americans DO NOT read for pleasure. I don’t know if they’re the same people who want to write a book or not, but 33% of those who graduate from high school and 42% of college graduates confess that they haven’t read a book since leaving school.


  3. Eighty percent of American families didn’t purchase a book last year.


  4. According to bookwire.com, about 120, 000 books are published yearly in the U.S.


  5. Of those published, a fiction book is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies.

  6. A non-fiction book finishes in the black if it sells at least 7,500 copies.


  7. Jane Smith, blogging on how publishing really works, reported that the average self- published book sells only a paltry number -- between 40 and 200 copies.


  8. But not all self-published books generate a tiny number of sales. USA Today possesses a searchable database with 10 years of best-seller data and it’s interesting to note the all- time best-selling writing/reference guide in the United States is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, originally a self-published book. Other authors who have self-published a novel or novels and sold lots of books are: Beatrix Potter, Amanda Hocking, Richard Paul Evans, L Ron Hubbard, Mark Twain, Christopher Paolini and Brandon Massey.




  9. Because of the small sales numbers, 70% of new books coming out don’t make a profit or even earn back their advance.


  10. Of the books that are purchased apparently only 57 percent are read cover-to-cover.


  11. A survey of 4,000 adults in the United Kingdom conducted by Teletext reported that 55% said they bought books for decoration, such as coffee-table books, with no intention of actually reading them.


  12. This is probably why “Seventy-five percent of 300 booksellers surveyed (half from independent bookstores and half from chains) identified the look and design of the book cover as the most important component.”


  13. A point of hope in getting more Americans involved in reading might be the increase in e-book sales. The International Digital Publishing Forum and the Association of American Publishers state that January 2010 e-book sales were 370 percent greater than those in January 2009.


These statistics can be discouraging. They reveal how intrepid the wanna-be published author must be. They make me admire those who put their books out there whether by self-publishing or through the traditional publishing houses.

I agree with Carl Sautter, an Emmy-nominated writer who worked on such television series as "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Moonlighting." He once said, “When you start writing stories that only you can write, you raise yourself as a writer to a whole new level.”



I’d like to read the stories of those 80% of Americans who feel they have a story inside them. In an effort to encourage one such person, my friend Erin Danzer, I’d like to introduce you to her and her tales. Erin has felt the compulsion and has done something about it. Multiple times.





She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two sons. Erin has 20 years of writing experience. Her goal is to make her lifelong hobby a dream-come-true by self-publishing her stories and sharing them with the public. Over the past few years she’s gone indie and published three books, a series entitled The Mason Ridge Trilogy.



If you’re a paranormal romance reader, this series maybe right up your alley—it’s a stirring love story set in Wisconsin that involves werewolves, vampires and an ancient curse.
The third book in her trilogy Losing It All is coming out this month.





All three books are available through Createspace.com or through Erin’s Website: http://erindanzer.webs.com/. You can contact Erin at: erindanzer@gmail.com She and I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your take on the publishing statistics or leave a comment about Erin’s novels. Thanks.

Sources
http://www.humorwriters.org/startlingstats.html (This is an excellent article by Robyn Jackson definitely worth a look.)
http://www.bookmarket.com/statistics6.htm
http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/11/self-publishing-sales-statistics.html
http://www.ehow.com/about_6766546_introduction-book-publishing.html
http://www.selfpublishingseminars.com/famousauthors.htm
http://selfpublishingresources.com/resources/books-news-and-publishing-industry-statistics/ (This has many more great and encouraging facts I couldn’t fit into this Thursday Thirteen.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life, Interrupted

I'm a slacker. Well, not really. But I've slacked on this week's blog. Sorry. I didn't finish the debut book in time for today's post. It's not that it's a bad book. I just haven't had time to read . . . anything. Even the paper is going straight into the recycle bin without getting out of the plastic baggie it arrives in. Life is still getting in the way. Has been since Christmas. I still have no kitchen. Cooking dinner for 4 in a microwave and toaster oven is getting old, fast. I just finished judging one stack of contest entries and another batch is due next Monday. As soon as those are done, another half dozen or so will be waiting in my inbox from another contest. Why is it that every chapter I belong to holds their contests this time of year? *sigh* And on top of all that, I'm trying to plan a two family RV trip to Yellowstone for this summer and finding out I've made a late start of it. It's amazing how busy a stay at home mom can be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Quick Question

If you could have ANY editor or agent who handles paranormal or urban fantasy, who would you choose? I'm going to get us a couple of guests you can ask questions to - those of you who want to participate, let me know who to get.

Jeannie
 
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