Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pitching basics for selling your book

I've been giving an online class on building a perfect, eight-second pitch to get your idea out to editors, agents and anyone else can help you get published. It occurred to me that maybe some of these tips might help those of you who will be attending RWA National or any other writers con you might enjoy this year.

A lot of people fear writing a pitch almost as much as the dreaded synopsis. A one-line pitch can actually help you distill your story down into its purest form, what some editors and agents call high-concept. So here's a few tips to help you write your own perfect pitch:

You should include these three things – The characters, their goal or quest, and the conflict/obstacle facing them. The sentence should tell us what the characters want and what will challenge them to try to keep them from getting it. If you can boil your story down into this essence, you've got a good pitch. It helps them see your style and story in that one sentence, which hopefully makes them want more.

Remember, gents and editors come to writers conventions and take pitch sessions because they are looking for the next big thing. They need you. Do your homework about who you're going to meet and be knowledgeable about their company and their product (what books they sell). Make sure they're right for your book and you could end up with a request for a synopsis, a partial or even the whole book.

You can do it. If you have questions or want more ideas, just let me know!
Good luck,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Scream. You Scream. We All Scream For Ice Cream!

You know how you crave certain foods and drinks around holidays? Like candy canes at Christmas, turkey at Thanksgiving, champagne on New Year’s Eve. Well, I have a problem. In summer, I can't get ice cream out of my mind.

All kinds of ice cream.

So instead of gobbling lots of the luscious creamy stuff, which tends to make my tight jeans too snug, I thought I might blog about it instead and share a virtual delight. We can have as much as we want without gaining an ounce.

But what kinds should we fantasize about? Will it be Lemon Ice? Vanilla Bean? Chocolate Marshmallow? Or Strawberry Swirl?

We aren’t alone in this ice cream fancying. The International Dairy Foods Association reports that “ice cream and related frozen desserts are consumed by more than 90% of households in the United States.”

Nine out of ten households. ... That's impressive.

But what are those households consuming? What are the most popular flavors? To find out, I went Internet surfing.

1. Vanilla. Twenty-nine percent of the people surveyed picked vanilla as their absolute favorite.
2. Chocolate, 8.9%.
3. Butter pecan, 5.3%.
4. Strawberry, 5.3%
5. Neapolitan, 4.2% (As you know, that’s strips of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.)
6. Chocolate chip, 3.9%
7. French vanilla, 3.8%. (This is different from regular vanilla because the vanilla beans are strained out and egg yolks are added. This makes the vanilla more creamy and more like a custard.)
8. Cookies and cream, 3.6%
9. Vanilla fudge ripple, 2.6%

10. Praline pecan, 1.7 %.
11. Cherry, 1.6%
12. Chocolate almond, 1.6%
13. Coffee-flavored, 1.6%

I cheated. I bought this just to make sure it was still my favorite. Yep, it is.

My favorite flavor chocolate marshmallow comes in at number 15. Just 1.3% of us chose that flavor. But no matter. It's still No. 1 on my list.

Do you agree with this list? What is your favorite ice cream? I'd be interested to hear.

P. S. In the post right before mine, Debora introduced me to blogthings quizes. I had so much fun I found a quiz for you to play. Follow this link if you’d like to find out what flavor of ice cream you are. I was chocolate chip ice cream.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What part of a Fairy Tale are you?

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Like most little girls, I grew up with fantastic tales of magic and happy endings - yes, the Fairy Tale! I wanted hair down to the floor like Rapunzel, I longed for a Fairy Godmother like Cinderella and spent hours dreaming a Prince would come riding to my rescue on a brilliant white charger and awaken me with a kiss.

Is it any wonder when I put my pen to paper, it would be write stories of love, romance and magic? While my days now involve things like piles of laundry, keeping track of my kids hectic schedules and writing romance - I still think back on those innocent days of my youth when daydreaming of magic and impossible love could keep me busy for hours.

I'm still a sucker for evil spells, omens and good luck charms. I still believe that love finds a way and destiny is a powerful force in the universe.

But when I came across this blogthing test, I had to wonder what the result would be. What part of the fairy tale would I be and why?

Take it yourself and let me know how you do!

You Are the Castle

You are a bit of a homebody and even somewhat of a loner. You function best when you're all by yourself.

Other people see you as mysterious and even a little scary. They don't understand how deep and complicated you are.

You have many layers to your personality, and there is always a surprise waiting around the corner with you.

You aren't as scary as you seem, but you are intense. You require people to confront things about themselves that they rather not know.

Um. Scary? Well maybe. I do have an intense personality and I feel strongly about something everyone around me knows it! I am a homebody (I'd probably be a hermit if my friends didn't drag me out every now and then - and oh yeah, if I didn't have to work...hahaha)

Maybe that test is a little scary...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is it a

Greetings all,
I've been absent for a bit, but I thought I'd drop by and say hi. Life's been crazy. Not crazy with young kids like Jody has, but crazy nonetheless. When I'm not writing, I'm a librarian so I've been caught up in the summer reading kick-off at work. At the keyboard, I'm pushing to finish my latest work in progress. And today, I'm attending the 4th Annual Iowa Book Fair in Adel, IA.

This should be a truly straightforward endeavor. Go to the festival, sit in a chair and hopefully, sign some of my books. Life is not so easy. First of all, for this entire week Iowa has been storm central. I hope the weather holds off all day. Is it a sign? Naw...

Last night, I went out to coffee with a friend and we had a great talk. I'm really glad I went, but I felt guilty later on. After all, while I was having fun, I wasn't writing yet neither was I gathering my stuff for the signing. I went home...following a rather nasty storm cell all the way. Went to buy fancy pens and Sharpies for the signing and when I came out the clouds were all...well...weird. I grabbed my trusty camera (nearly out of juice) and snapped some shots. Here's one. Oh, and when I looked at this one, I discovered the date stamp was wrong. This photo was NOT taken January 5, 2008, but rather June 18, 2010. Another sign? Surely not.

So, home I flew to gather my stuff together. I found my books. Yaaay. But could I find my bookmarks? I had three plastic bags left from RT in April and I'd just got them out of some luggage recently. Okay, RT was more than a month ago. So sue me. I saw the bags of bookmarks and thought, "Oh, I must put these somewhere safe so I can take them to Adel for the book festival. Could I find them? Noooooooo. Roaming from room to room yet finding nothing relevant. I finally did find a box of bookmarks (of all types) which I had not taken to RT. I'll be taking them tomorrow. I still haven't found the bags I planned to put somewhere so I'd find them easily. Sigh.

I am going to take it that all my difficulties have happened now, so that today will be calm. A smooth and fun today with perfect weather for a book signing. A signing for which all the signs were falling into positive alignment. I'll let you know later if I was right.

So how do you prep for a book signing? Do you receive signs and portents ahead of your big event? Hope all your signings are happy, busy, and virtually uneventful - except for LOTS of sales!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

13 Reasons I Barely Wrote Anything Today Even Though I "Work" From Home

1) It's summer and my kids are out of school.
2) Kid2 is young enough that locking her out of my room isn't an option. For very long.
3) I didn't even realize 4 year olds could get cavities!
4) See #1.
5) Well, I had to eat sometime.
6) And feed the kids.
7) And institute the new tooth brushing regime, under strict orders from the dentist.
8) I had to vacuum the dining room and kitchen vigorously because we seem to be attracting ants. Probably from all the sugar the 4 year old must be sneaking and eating.
9) See #1.
10) Kid1 was in a two day musical theater day camp and that required a time commitment on my part driving her back and forth and then applauding her skit. Then again later when she performed it in the living room. Then again later when she performed it for the cats. Then again later when she performed it for her dad. Then again later when she performed it while she was supposed to be brushing her teeth. Okay, I didn't applaud that last one.
11) See #1.
12) We got a new big screen TV, after years of being perfectly happy, or something close to perfectly happy, with a much smaller one. After the kids FINALLY went to bed, my husband had to show me all its features.
13) One of the features is the TV's ability to download streaming HD video from Netflix, which of course had to be tested immediately. I'd been wanting to watch that romance movie anyway. Research!

Next week, the TV will no longer be a novelty, the day camp will be a thing of the past, and that will be at least two hours of my day I can pretend to be productive. But do remind me not to let the youngest kid take a nap. Ever.

Jody W. *

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What kind of writer's workshops do you like?

I've found myself teaching some workshops this year - almost unintentionally, but then I realized the value of offering knowledge to others about something I'm good at and taking advantage of workshops by others about things I'd like to learn.

What kind of workshops do you like? I'd like to know what's out there with regard to paranormal/urban fantasy writing, or where I can find good tips and answers to those ever-present questions, or anything you think might be valuable for those of us who right or read "otherworld" fiction.

Here's your chance to tout your course, your chapter, your workshop, your conference - anything you'd like to get out there to those of us who love this genre.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Classic Just Got Punked

At first, I thought the idea was fresh, funny, and interesting. As the trend continued, I lost some of that initial attraction. It was the literary equivalent of a pony whose trick I'd already seen. And now, now...well now I'm completely, one hundred percent in *love* with the idea all over again.

One trick or not, who doesn't love ponies?

Her trick is a perfectly coifed mane and tail

I'm speaking, of course, of the new(ish) trend of literary mash-ups. Books that are one half classic, one half paranormal update, blended on high until the finished product is an outlandish creation that may or may not have the original author spinning in his or her respective grave.

Here's hoping Jane Austin had a sense of humor.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Jane Slayre are just three popular literary mash-ups. Timeless stories that have been required reading of high school students for decades, mixed with paranormal overtones to suit today's market trends. The one thing all these mash-ups had in common was the introduction of monsters into the familiar plotlines. Until now.

That's right, the literary mash-up has just been punked. Steampunked.

Android Karenina is an update of Leo Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina, with a healthy dose of robots and cyborgs set in a dystopian world even more fraught than the politically charged Russian society of Tolstoy's original.

Did I mention the steampunk?

Instead of inter-class strife, Android Karenina features a clash between humans and their subservient robotic machines. Enter the cyborgs.

I'm not going to lie, just reading the synopsis got me excited for this story. It's going to be my reward for finishing polishing up my own steampunk manuscript. I think exploring the themes of Tolstoy's original tale against the updated backdrop of humankind's battle against our own machinery is fascinating. I'm also a great lover of anything bearing the descriptor "copper-plated." If this story has airpirates, I'm so going to be hooked.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the literary mash-up, or do you think the classics are better off when left alone. Does steampunk float your boat, or sink it like the Titanic? Will you be reading Android Karenina anytime soon?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Look Inside Carina Press

Something exciting is coming this month. Harlequin is opening a new all-digital publishing house called Carina Press.
Ever wonder about e-publishers and digital books? Well, my friend, multi-published author Carrie Lofty, is going to share her insights about Carina.

Her novel, SONG OF SEDUCTION, is one of Carina’s debut offerings.
When Carrie graciously agreed to visit The Otherworld Diner and to talk about Carina Press, I had no idea she was such a talented writer. I usually try to read my guest author’s novels so I picked up her debut book, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. What a treat! Her lush prose, strong characters and riveting action grabbed me immediately. I couldn’t put her book down. Soon I found myself engrossed in her next book, SCOUNDREL'S KISS.
By this time, I was really eager to learn about SONG OF SEDUCTION, Carina Press and how Carrie hooked up with them.
1. Would you explain what an all-digital publishing house is for those readers who’d like a few more details?
Carina Press is actually billed as a "digital first" imprint, which suggests the possibility of other formats in the future. I know, however, that the production team is simply swamped with preparations for the June 7th launch, so any future plans are not their priority just yet. But like any e-book publisher, Carina makes its books available via electronic formats. What's nice for readers is the number of formats that will be available. For authors, just know that Carina does not pay an advance, as would a traditional print publisher. Payment is calculated based on royalties alone.

2. How is Carina different from houses that publish paperback books?
Because Carina does not have as much of the expensive overhead that a traditional publisher would have--with regard to print costs, paper and ink, distribution, etc.--they are able to take more chances with the material they publish. For example, my SONG OF SEDUCTION is set in 1804 Austria, which was a deal-breaker for mainstream publishers. I think this has been the real advantage to most e-houses. Electronic publishing, for example, was the first to really jump on the erotica boom a few years ago, long before traditional houses were willing to take chances on that much riskier material.

3. How do readers read the books they get from Carina?
They'll be able to download them in various formats for use on reading devices such as the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and even to regular computers by using a PDF file. One of Carina's real ambitions was to make our stories available to anyone in any electronic format, without the frustrations of DRM restrictions.

4. How you find out about Carina Press?
An author friend of mine, Michelle Styles (, who writes for Mills & Boon Historicals forwarded me a Harlequin in-house email the morning when Carina opened its doors for submissions. She'd known that I had an Austrian-set novel sitting on my hard drive collecting dust and thought that Carina might be a good place for it. I read the email, checked out the website, and was really sold when I learned that Angela James was acting as Executive Editor. I sent off my submission packet that morning, which was lucky because it meant mine was one of the first manuscripts accepted for publication and I've been able to ride the June launch publicity wave.

5. What excites you about Carina Press?
First up, it has to be Angela James. She's a true visionary when it comes to the potential that e-books have to offer publishing. The Carina slogan, "Where No Great Story Goes Untold," is like her personal challenge to the world. Up until now the conventional wisdom has been that e-books are primarily erotica, and that other types of stories just don't sell online. Now we have the opportunity to test that so-called truism. Maybe all we've needed was the right business model and the right person in charge.
So that leads into my second reason to be excited: the stories! Have you seen the launch titles? We have everything from my historical romance to thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy. There's just so much variety! I love being a part of such a diverse crop of wonderful stories and enthusiastic authors, although my wallet will suffer the strain.

6. As an unpublished writer I’m curious about The Call -- that moment when an author hears that a publisher wants her work. Can you describe your experience with Carina?
My experience with Carina was very different than, say, my debut sale to Kensington or my most recent to Pocket. With Carina, I was flattered and excited that my story would find a home, but I also had some questions. It was and is, essentially, a start-up company. There were no Carina authors I could contact to get their opinion about the editorial staff or the timeliness of payments. There were no examples of cover art.
I took a few days to mull over my options, weight the benefits against the potential for disappointment, and then agreed to Carina's offer. The fact that Angela James was in charge of the whole shebang was a huge influence on my decision, and I really liked the idea of being one of the featured launch books. So as opposed to the sheer, unbridled joy of my first "Call," this one required a great deal more thought. If anything, I've only become more excited and eager to see how this adventure concludes when the doors officially open for business.

7. How long was it from the initial publisher’s request to see your manuscript until it reached published form?
I mailed my submission in early November and agreed to publication just over one month later. I returned my final copy edits in early March, and now I'm waiting for the June 7th launch. It's been a fairly quick process, which is even more amazing because the month of June will see the debut of 38 separate Carina titles. The staff has been seriously kicking butt to get everything ready. After the June rush concludes, titles will be released at the rate of 2-3 per week.

8. What steps were involved to elevate your manuscript from a submission to a published novel?
I'm proud that my editor, Deborah Nemeth, and my copyeditors all complimented me on having submitted a very clean manuscript. (I credit my critique partners for their eagle eyes and vicious red pens!) But then Deb took my story to another level with some very thoughtful suggestions, particularly about my hero's development as a man and as a romantic love interest. Pacing issues that had plagued me were suddenly a thing of the past. So after integrating Deb's content editing suggestions, and then doing all that again, we decided it was finally ready for copyediting. I believe it went through three total rounds of edits, both content and copy, before we stuck a fork in it!

9. How long did it take you to write SONG OF SEDUCTION?
I fiddled and played and poked at SONG OF SEDUCTION during the years I was pregnant and then after my daughters were born. But it was just that: fiddling. I consider the turning point when my husband left Wisconsin for a summer internship in Virginia, which meant I stayed behind with the girls for three months. I wrote every evening, probably just to stay sane. In the end, from that starting point to the conclusion of the first draft, I needed 88 days. Revisions took…well, much longer!

10. How did you get the ideas to write SONG OF SEDUCTION? What inspired you?
I was very keen on classical music after my daughters were born. I found that with two girls only 13 months apart, my ability to concentrate on much of anything was seriously depleted. Classical music was good to me during those years. It offered both creative inspiration and soothing sounds. That interest heavily influenced the subject matter for the book. Plus I just loved this picture of Gary Oldman from Immortal Beloved ( I wanted to write a hero who was that transformed by his obsession for music, and I was curious how such a man would behave if he become obsessed with just as much fervor by a woman!

11. I’ve taken your wonderful class on writing, "Elevator Pitches" -- 35 words that summarize your novel. Would you share yours with us?
In 1804 Austria, a widowed violin prodigy begins a steamy affair with the composer she idolizes, only to learn he stole the symphony he's most famous for!
12. Could you share an EXCERPT from "Song of Seduction" with us?

"You will catch your death, Frau Heidel."

She turned, grabbing hold of the frigid metal rail to steady her precarious equilibrium, both mental and physical. Surprise muffled her voice and swirled hasty thoughts into chaos. Fate, it seemed, was not ready to end her evening with De Voss.

The impeccably dressed musician had vanished, replaced by a ruffian wearing neither coat nor cravat. He drank deeply from a glass of strong spirits. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he matched sloppy movements to his disheveled appearance.

"Herr De Voss." She knelt in a deep curtsy, drawing from every etiquette lesson she had shared with Ingrid. "You surprised me, sir."

A slight shrug rippled across his taut shoulders. "I saw when you leave the ballroom. I wish you found a warmer place to seek your peace."

An angular nose and cheekbones revealed his Dutch lineage, and the gentlest cleft marked his chin below full, stern lips. Twin furrows textured the skin between his brows, while a pair of faint lines scored either side of his mouth.

Nervous butterflies awakened in her stomach when she realized the extent of their isolation. He followed me.

"You didn't stay in the ballroom to receive your due honors? Surely you must enjoy the applause you earn."

"No need for such fusses." His accent inspired her heart to keep a brutal rhythm. "I did what our hosts invited me to do--I performed. People in fine clothes gave to me their cards, and I will inquire about students next week. Now, I will go home."

"You make the tasks of your profession sound rather perfunctory," she said. "I assume, then, that you've not enjoyed the gala."

"I endure tedious functions to attract patrons and students."

Irritation crept up her backbone. "I wonder how much money you would think fair payment for attending our tedious function."

De Voss blanched and shook his head. "I find every such engagement tiresome, this no more than others."

"I see."

Was that an apology? Was he fidgeting? And was she really standing in the cold talking to Arie De Voss? Her awestruck wonder glossed over his slight.

Before Mathilda could restrain her eagerness, it slipped into the air like a bird. "Your performance was splendid, sir, no matter their opinion. Simply breathtaking. I have not heard its like in Salzburg, not since you debuted Love and Freedom."

At De Voss's bewildered expression, she clamped her lips. The words sounded trivial compared to his music--music obviously capable of rendering her dumb--but she wanted to preserve some shred of decorum. The raw air helped, cooling her skin. She hoped the subtle torchlight would disguise the blush burning bright on her cheeks.

"Thank you, Frau Heidel."

He spoke sincerely. He did not condescend. That much reassured her, at least. But in a restless gesture, he raked lean fingers through his hair. He looked at the ground, a torch, the night sky. Never her eyes.

Moments stretched between them. She clutched her pelisse to keep from squirming. De Voss moved to take another drink but paused, assessed its contents and lowered the glass with a look of defeat. He sighed and veered to leave. Her opportunity--their stilted, bizarre conversation--had been far too brief.

Greed erased her hesitation. She wanted more.

"Sir, do you have an opening for a new student? Perhaps for the violin?"

13. Where can readers find you on the Web?
We hope we’ve passed along some good insights into writing and Carina Press. If you have other questions, feel free to ask. We appreciate hearing from you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Erica Ridley

Too Wicked to Kiss
Zebra, Mar. 2010

Book Blurb:
Miss Evangeline Pemberton can see the Future. Sometimes. The Past, too, although that tends to be less useful, as she can't change what's already happened. One might think the most irksome characteristic of her alleged "gift" is that said visions are followed by debilitating headaches. Or that they've got her running for her life. But no. By far the most vexing quirk is that these fantasies accompany all skin-to-skin contact. Which means she can't touch anyone. Not even the tall, dark, and brooding recluse in her Present.

Gavin Lioncroft is a wealthy committed bachelor with nothing but time on his hands. Well, and blood. (But he's not telling how that got there.) And an impromptu house party. (He hasn't the slightest idea how that happened.)

His very first night back in the bosom of High Society and the man he threatens to kill turns up dead. Good. The cad had it coming. But just because he's dodged the hangman's noose before, doesn't mean Gavin will get away with murder again. And this time, there's no fading into the shadows. The only chance of saving his neck is by risking his heart--to the one woman from whom he can hide nothing.

I’m going to be honest and tell you that after reading so many first person urban fantasy and near-futuristics for my IT Factor posts, I had a hard time getting back into a 3rd person historical (yes, this time we get to see things from the hero's point of view). Weird really, since that’s what I usually read and not at all this author’s fault. It just took me a few chapters to shift gears. Anyway...

Strong Points:
Description – The author starts off right away deftly weaving the trademark Gothic mood into the story, allowing it to creep in and swallow up our unsuspecting heroine like a heavy fog off the moors. Ridley’s way with description and setting create an ominous atmosphere, perfect for a dark, brooding hero with a penchant for wandering along secret passageways in a rambling, bleak manor.

Mystery and Murder – From the get go, I felt like I stepped into a Gothic Regency version of Clue. It was a game of who killed Colonel Mustard in the parlor with the candlestick and everyone is pointing fingers at someone else. OK, so there wasn’t a Colonel Mustard, he didn’t get knocked off in the parlor and the murder weapon wasn’t a candlestick, but you get the picture. And any one of the other guests, including the mysterious master of the manor, could be the killer. Suspicion and motive abounds.

A Dark and Dangerous (and yummy) Hero – Gavin Lioncroft manages to be both sexy and dangerous at the same time. He has the taint of a past murder hanging over his head (which he was acquitted but is still suspected of) and we never know what the actual events from his past are until they’re revealed at the end, leaving both the heroine and the reader in the dark.

Weak Points:
Bending Reality to the Breaking Point – As engaging as this story was, it stretched the believability factor in many areas. Not the paranormal element, which the reader accepts as a given in a paranormal novel, but in historical accuracies of the time. Such as . . .

The Murder – A guest is dead and it’s obviously by foul play – and nobody calls in the authorities? True, several of the characters either have something to hide or think they are protecting some else, but someone should’ve called the constabulary. If not, they could fall under suspicion of the authorities by not reporting the crime right away. I don’t think it would have hurt the story in any way to have an investigator poking his nose into everybody’s business.

The Mourning – The victim’s widow stays at the manor to celebrate her daughter’s 13th birthday two days after her husband dies? Didn’t buy it. Mourning, especially for the widow and immediate family, had strict rules in Regency society. To be historically accurate, the family would have immediately returned to their estate to prepare for the funeral and are expected to go into seclusion for the month following the death and then forgo all social engagements of any kind for 6 months to a year after that. The tweener could stomp and pout all she wanted but she wouldn’t have gotten her party.

The Villain Confesses All – The heroine spends the entire novel attempting to use her 'gift' to discover the killer and in the end, the killer just blurts it out to her in passing? Say what? I felt gypped. Gypped, I tell you!

The ‘IT’ Factor:
Probably a combination of two things really: The author’s deft use of description and imagery to create a spooky Gothic atmosphere, then she segues into a fun who-done-it game of Clue. If Regency purists can overlook the obvious rule breaking, this is an enjoyable read.