Posts Tagged ‘writing’


This weekend, I didn’t write a word. Oh, I critiqued a few chapters, but write one of my own? No. Instead, I cleaned my house in the hopes that next week, I wouldn’t be so distracted and I’d be able to write more than I did last week.

That’s the theory any way.

Time to fess up. I love this project. I love the characters, the possibilities… the premise. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t the words flowing? Why am I not running to the computer every spare five minutes I have to add to the word count?

I’ve thought a lot about that this weekend and I think it comes down to  a unpalatable fact: It’s been so long since I’ve written anything new, I’m out of practice. Writing is like any skill. You stop—even if you’re stopping to edit, and edit, and edit—and you get out of shape. The muscles get weak; it’s harder to get started. One week in and I have 5 thousand words. It wouldn’t be so bad except I’d already had 3 thousand written. That’s weak.

So what to do? Mind over matter. Get in there and write, even if it hurts, even if I’m not feeling like it, even if I feel like I’m wading through hip-depth mud. I write and eventually, the ease will come, the story will flow.

I’ll let you know how it’s going.

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Five years ago, dewy-eyed and madly in love, I made some very big decisions in my life. My fiancé and I decided to combine our incomes and buy a house and get him to the US. (He lives in Europe.) Life happened and soon after, I found myself a stay-at-home mom with a mission: Get both of us published. For various reasons, I concentrated my efforts on my fiancé’s work. Lo and behold, magic happened in the form of an agent and then a contract with Random House. (Walking in the doors at Random House in New York has to be one of the most memorable events of my life.)

Then it was my turn. After a year of writing/editing/querying/finding an agent/realizing the agent was not right for me(or me for her), in the end, I had nothing to show for it. Well, except for a little more smarts–which is something. So I started again from the beginning. By the time 2009 dawned, though my new MS received a lot more positive feedback, my gut told me it wouldn’t garner an agent.

For many reasons, at the end of 2008, I decided 2009 was my ‘make it or break it’ year in regards to publishing. I invented a pen-name, switched genres, set my eyes on e-publishing, started writing, and my first two shorts were contracted one after the other. Both were published at the end of 2009 a few months apart. The year was full of edits. Editing for the follow-up book for my fiancé, editing for my publication. Things were looking up.

And then life hit. In one month, we realized that RH wasn’t going to pick up the optional third book, my grandmother, one of my closest friends, passed away and my fiancé decided it was also his make or break year and he broke it off. Completely.

So early in 2010, I wasn’t making resolutions, I was deciding how to face the rest of the year. I’d made a logical decision that if I hadn’t made it by 2009, I’d give up writing, rejoin the workforce and get my man home.  That was no longer necessary, but what was, and is, necessary was paying the mortgage. And that brought the ‘have I made it or do I abandon the dream’ question into a new perspective. In the end, there are only so many hours in a day.

I’d decided that no, two e-books doesn’t mean I’ve made it… but, then, what did it mean? It meant that someone liked my work enough to contract it, it meant that there are people out there who liked my writing enough to buy it.

I can tell you, that with a good contract from RH, my ex-fiancé still doesn’t believe he’s made it. So what does it mean for a writer? Does ‘making it’ mean you’ve published? That you sell a  particular amount of books? Or does it mean you can quit your day job?  Retire if you were so inclined?

Or is writing one of those occupations where you’re never done, where there is always another horizon to find, always another goal to reach? And if so, do I stop now when it’s taken me so long to walk those first few steps?

In case you’re interested, although I haven’t ‘made it’ yet, what ever that is, I won’t stop writing. I am lacking a damn good CP, but I’ve learned I can’t not write. So even if I have to steal the hours from sleep and I’m a little slower than I once was, (and really suck at posting blogs lately)I’m not  giving up. In in that sense, I have made it. I’m a writer.

My question to you: How will you know when you’ve ‘made it’ as a writer? What does that mean to you?

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For the last few months, I’ve been reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. A friend of mine sent me the first and after I got over the character names, I was hooked… okay sometimes the names the author comes up with still make me groan but not enough to stop reading.

Back on track.

As I read this series, something which I’ve known but never really thought about came to mind. After you read a series for a while, the setting, the world, becomes almost like another character. You read not only to find out what happens to the people in the story, but because you like it there. The customs, people, creatures, it’s an interesting place and you like spending time there. (sometimes from the safety of your side of the book, but you know what I mean)

The world building the writer has done keeps you reading even if the writing takes a turn for the worst or you’re not quite interested in what happens to the featured character or even if the plot is a little lacking. It’s like spending time in a wonderful place with slightly boring people. You go to Paris not just to see the people (and sometimes in spite of them) but because it’s Paris!

World building! It really can make or break a story.

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When I first started down the path to ‘published’ over five years ago, I dreamed of Royalty checks. I thought it would be so cool to work for a year and get royalties forever after. HAH. Yeah, I took off those glasses and learned the industry, or I should say began to learn the industry because I’m still learning. : )

This week, we finally got the sales numbers for Perfect Circle and I thought I’d share them with you.

Carlos’s book was published mass market paperback by Random House. And, like most first time authors, much of the publicity was up to us and, um, we had no idea what we were doing. We sent postcards to every Indie books store we could find– I still have about 150 post cards and no idea what to do with them if anyone has any suggestions. Carlos lives most of the time in Spain so a book tour wasn’t feasible. I did organize signings for when he was here at Christmas. A few contests, interviews and word of mouth pretty much wraps up our publicity efforts.

I say all that to let you know that I think we are the average newbie author.

Perfect Circle was released in late November 08 and the sales period ended on Dec 31st of that same year. So the numbers reflect a sales period lasting a little over a month.

Out of a run of 9120, we sold 7813.  In that time frame, 138 books were returned and 3264 were held as reserves against possible returns giving as reportable sales of 4159.

NOV- sales      7167

DEC-  sales      646 

DEC   returns<138>


Total                 7813

Just in case you don’t know, I didn’t when I first started out, bookstores can send your books back to the publisher for credit if they don’t sell. Because of this, publishers need to hold a percentage of books sold as insurance just in case there are future returns. They will gradually reduce the amount held in reserve so we will get credit for them if the sales stick. (oh please, oh please, don’t send the books back). So think of books shipped, not sold.

 This means we’ve earned $2054.49. Hold that against a $10,000 advance and we only need to earn $7945.51 to start seeing any royalty checks. Piece of cake, right? Whew.

What surprised me the most was the amount of copies printed: 9120. Give or take a few dollars, we’d have to sell everything to make back the advance. After I thought about it awhile, it made sense for RH to do this. Why print more until you have a market for it? And of course I have no idea how Perfect Circle has sold from January to present and I won’t know until the next set of numbers arrive. (Which, judging from this go around, should be in November)

 I’m hoping that when The Prisoner comes out this October, Perfect Circle’s sales will spike.

Now I have a new goal: Second printing.

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Congratulations to Paul Mitton who was brave enough to describe the tattoo. As promised, Paul, you can either have a copy of Perfect Circle or a future copy of The Devil You Know. So, are you a betting man? Also as promised, below is my description of the tattoo.


A dark tattoo twisted down the right side of his body, curving like flames across his chest and over his shoulder. Wide sinuous lines spiraled into an image like the sun across his abdomen before disappearing beneath the waist of his leggings. She’d seen tattoos before, but never one so feral, as though it represented nature itself.

Comments welcome : )

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Jessica Faust at Bookends has a wonderful blog today on queries. If you’re a writer and don’t follow Bookends, you should and I don’t say that lightly. Jessica gives common sense, friendly and knowledgeable advice about the writing industry and the quest for publication and readers

In this blog, she suggests you find a few friends (50 or so) who haven’t read your MS to proofread your query before you send it to agents.  She also says if you aren’t getting at least one request for every 20-25 or so queries you send, you really need to stop and evaluate your query and then gives two reasons why it’s failing.

I love her ‘no excuses’ policy. Blaming others, the industry or the market doesn’t help your book hit the shelves any faster.

For the record let me say I hate writing queries. I don’t know many writers who like the damn things. But it is a craft we must learn.

So if any of you are interested in reading my query before I send it to agents, let me know. I’ll do the same for you. 

Now folks, I’m going to get some more coffee. Was up late finished Patricia’s Briggs’s Iron-Kissed… yes, it was that good, review to come. ; )

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Thank you, Twitter

When I worked in accounting, I had no problem taking time off from numbers. In fact, my checkbook never looked so unbalanced.

This Thursday, I decided I needed a break from writing, editing, the whole thing. When you’re a writer, you don’t work 9-5, at least I don’t. I work in stolen batches time throughout the day, every day, even holidays. With the kids all home, I was finding it hard to concentrate, I’d fallen behind in my housework and I’d just finished a revision so it seemed like a perfect time to take a few days off.

So what have I been doing? Staring at my computer screen, one hand on the mouse, the other poised over the keyboard, with, I’m sure, a lost expression on my face. Is it a sick addiction, this writing thing? Friday I swore off Twitter and I did get some baking done and the house cleaned. (which, as the kids are home, lasted for about an hour) Today, I’ve been on Twitter almost all morning, except for my attempt at a nap–Why is it as soon as mom lays down on the couch, at least two little bodies want to cuddle and talk?

Truth is I’ve been experiencing world-building angst. The Devil You Know is structured and done except for the little line edits and polishing. A few months ago, I enrolled in a writing workshop. The first chapter came up for review Wednesday. Most of the reviews are very positive. A few commented that they would like more setting but they contradicted one another enough that I really didn’t think about it much until last night, when I couldn’t sleep and wondered if maybe they had a point.

TDYK is set in a post-apocalyptic world but the cataclysm happened so long ago, it’s only legend. The inhabitants live in primitive conditions and are polytheistic but as the book isn’t about any of those things, I only touch on them briefly. It is primarily a love story. I know my angst has as much to do with lack of sleep as anything but that doesn’t make it any less real.

I posted about it on twitter and got an immediate show of support. I love you guys, really I do. Writing can be such a solitary endeavor; it’s nice to be reminded I’m not alone. Thanks!

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I know that it’s all about the writing, the story, but every so often, I’d like to write a different kind of query. So I indulged. A disclaimer: This kind of letter would never work in real life. Agents do need to know what you write, but writing this query was fun. : )



Dear “Name of agent,”


I realize since I have followed your blog, your tweets and familiarized myself with your clients that we are starting off on unequal footing. However, as I have only 300 words to get your attention, I’d like to point out a few things. My MS is not perfect, I know this. It is as perfect as I can make it now. Should you chose to represent me, I won’t quibble over commas, I won’t blink an eye if you insist on deleting an entire character. I only ask you give me a moment to lay that loved one to rest before moving on.


If you say you want a revision in a week, flaming snowballs, demanding children or even need of sleep will not distract me, I’ll get it done.


I won’t expect daily emails. You’re not here to hold my hand, but on occasion that might be nice, metaphorically speaking; I know I wouldn’t be your only client. I’ll treat you as a person; I’ll also remember your birthday and Christmas, because I’m like that.


I can’t promise you the MS will sell a million copies, I’m not naïve. But I will do everything I can to see that it sells and I’ll write another one. I’m in this for the long haul.


I don’t have any letters behind my name, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning. You should see my library. I’m also not published, but I’ve been immersed in the publishing world for some time now, working closely with a writer, taking his book from rough to published and into the world that is promotion. And because of this, I’ve lost my rose colored glasses; writing is work, publicity is more work. But it’s work that I love.



Me, the writer.


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Yesterday was a typical Monday. I hit the snooze one time too many and ran around like the proverbial chicken all morning. I wore sweats and declared it an ‘in’ day, because I forgot to do laundry on the weekend… but one thing is vastly different: I sent the first query for The Devil You Know.


The query is an interesting animal. In it you must give word count, genre, contact info, a paragraph summarizing your novel and a publishing history if applicable. Unasked but also looked for is an idea of your voice, your writing style. Can you punctuate? Got a handle on grammar?


But it’s the optional stuff that has my head spinning. Do I list where I know the agent from? Do I list my marketing ideas? At which publishing house I think my novel belongs? Do I mention which of his or her clients I think my writing resembles—with enough difference to make me a brilliant acquisition? And then: How formal should I be? Somewhere between black tie and Bermuda shorts?  You know: Good morning, Ms. Agent: Allow me to introduce myself.” And “Hi ‘agent’! I follow your blog and I just love you! I know if you represent me, we’ll get along wonderfully and I promise to do my best to make you a millionaire. Can I buy you a drink? Chocolate?”


Nope. I‘m going for something like business casual and anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that leaves much to interpretation.


Keep in mind; we’re talking a query is only about 350 words. With all this, plus a hell of a lot of work, research, hopes and all my dreams, this query is so dense it’s about to go super-nova.



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Now I know why agents have to ask you to finish a manuscript before you send a query.


When I first started querying agents, I read that little instruction with a bit of disbelief. Why wouldn’t you finish the manuscript? Now, no longer a complete novice, I know.


I hate waiting. Waiting for a possible rejection or even a possible acceptance is excruciating and I’m already feeling it now. In first draft!


I’m progressing at a little over a chapter a day, about nine a week. Intellectually, I know this is a pretty a good clip. I’m writing not just for volume but for content. But I’m impatient with myself and I feel like I’m going agonizingly slow.


In between chapters, I’ve been working on a query. I’ve got a pretty good framework now and I entertained the thought, briefly, of polishing it and sending it to all those agents who only want a query. Maybe *gasp* even polishing the first five pages, a synopsis and the query, sending them all out and then picking up the manuscript where I left off.


We all know that it can take up to six weeks and longer for an agent to respond even to the initial query. By then, heck, by the end of February, the entire manuscript will be completed. If I send the queries out now, I can work on the manuscript while I wait. I’d be wasting time if I didn’t. What am I waiting for?


She sighs and hangs her head. No. I won’t.


Why? It has to do with professionalism and honesty. If I tell an agent I have a complete manuscript for his or her review, I’m going to have a complete manuscript for review; even if it means spending weeks waiting. I do already have the next project in mind. It’s not like I’d be twittering my thumbs or having writing withdrawals.


On the other hand, can you think of a better way to assure an agent asks for a complete manuscript in record time than to not have one ready?

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