Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Reflecting on the past several weeks, it seems there have been a lot of hardships. As my mom says "the Devil must be testing me before the good fortunes come my way". Everything I do and everything I touch turns sour. It's like bad luck follows, and I can't stop participating in everyday activities because life would be boring. Yet, I'm afraid to continue on.
I also find it interesting that everyone has an opinion. Most everyone seems to think that their opinion is valuable. However, I disagree. For the first time in my life, I am sick of hearing what everyone believes- unless I ask for the advice.
So I believe I am at a crossroads. I have never had to make such hard decisions but sometimes the decisions made help to grow as an individual. I am learning that I need to break away from several friends- as it is time for a new crowd. I need to learn how to enjoy being alone- even though I hate being alone because I feel lonesome all day. And I need to stay focused as I have very specific goals. Within time, I hope to see positive results. And once there are positive results and I am truly happy from the inside out, maybe I'll even meet my Prince Charming. :) Because in the meantime, I can't stand meeting any more losers.
If I sound sad, I apologize, as I don't feel sad. It is just the realization that change needs to occur. And everyone knows how difficult change can be. So as I sit here sipping my wine, reflecting on previous events, and trying to figure out how to make positive changes for the future, it is becoming clear everything will work itself out. But to have things work out, I must have patience-me having patience is like the everyday person winning the lottery.
To everyone trying to make a positive change, I wish you good luck. And to those trying to maintain balance in their life, I wish you the best. And until everything works itself out, I am going to finish watching my movie, enjoying my wine, and attempting to cuddle a rabbit that hates being cuddled while the cat sits and purrs on the couch not worrying about the stresses of the day.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Where does my time go? It has gone on vacation with my energy.
I have so much to do that I forget what I'm so pose to do because I'm so tired and I get nothing done. Like blogging. I checked for last months blog because I couldn't remember what I blogged about and it wasn't there. Someone skipped right over me.
My doctor and drum instructor keep telling me I need to find a way to relax and sleep at night. How? My mind is to jumbled. So I decided I need to so some spring cleaning in there and let some things go.
The way I'm doing that is by meditating. I try to meditate at night after everyone is asleep. Some weeks I only do it one night. Other weeks I have meditated every night. It has made a difference with my sleep. I actually sleep better the nights I meditate.
Which in turn I feel more alert and awake during the day.
So my goal for the next 30 days is to meditate five days a weeks for about thirty minutes each time to regain my time back and get some things done.
Have or do any of you meditate?
Friday, April 22, 2011
Promo - it's important, but please, don't be one of those people who friends people on Facebook or leaves messages on blogs spamming everyone about your new release. If you want to meet people and network - sweet. But please don't leave posts on their walls or their blogs saying, "Have you heard about my new book? You can see the trailer at itsallaboutme.com and you can get a copy of it at buymybookrightnowImsuperdesperate.com. It's the exciting tale of romance, adventure and true love and it's completely unlike anything else on the market. You'll be amazed! Please feel free to leave me five-star reviews."
I don't know about you, but I don't want to read books that are shoved in my face every time I turn around. I want to read books that look appealing from trolling publishers websites. I also am more likely to try a new author that I've been chatting with on social networking sites and blogs about things that don't involve their latest releases. I've also met some lovely friends that way. One in particular will never read my books because I don't write what she reads. But that hasn't stopped us from becoming friends. If I'd been trying to hard sell my books, I'm fairly certain that wouldn't have happened, and I'd be missing out on a lot of awesomeness.
There's nothing wrong with promo-ing your work on your own sites, but please, don't vomit up ad-copy on other people's pages.
Reviews - everyone gets a bad one from time to time. They suck. Sometimes, they hurt. But they happen. Pick up the phone, call your friends and bitch and cry if you need to. But please, please don't respond to the reviewer and tell him/her that s/he is wrong, stupid, unprofessional or amateur. Please don't blog about the bad review you got. It's okay to be upset about it, but please don't do it publicly. Gracefully let it go. This is the kind of stuff that spreads across the internet like wildfire. You'll be tweeted, retweeted and blogged about. Often people will decide on the basis of your response that your books aren't something they'd like to spend money on. In short, you're likely to lose existing readers as well as future readers. Just take a breath and let it go. It's just not worth it.
Divas - This is an industry that expands daily. There are at least 50 people who'd like to be where you currently are in your career. If you're a pain in the ass to work with, you can be replaced. Probably fairly easily, as a matter of fact. Now, I'm not saying that you should roll over and make changes to your story that you absolutely disagree with, but I am saying, choose your battles wisely. And while you're drawing your line in the sand, remember to be kind. Don't pitch a fit. Don't call your editor names. And definitely don't be a condescending ass. Editors frequently have friends who work for other houses and let me tell you, the word spreads. The last thing you want is a reputation as being difficult work with. It will follow you everywhere. Think of it as a literary STD. After a while, no one's gonna want to get with you.
Like I said, these are things that should be common sense, and yet they arise over and over. Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid these pitfalls.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Even though I don't write contemporary stories, watching people interact. An older couple is talking at one table. My guess is they are friends, he's leaning into her but doesn't reach out to her. She is talking and has that posture that your grandmother - or at least mine - used to bug me about. Farther away a group of college boys - evident by the piles of back packs surrounding them - are drinking coffee and pop are talking. There are others, some leave, some sit, and some are passing through.
The day may or may not help with my current WIP, but it does kick start my creativity and will definitely help down the road.
Since it's almost the weekend, have a great weekend everyone!
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
So let me introduce myself, "Hello, I'm J.C. Hanks, and I'm a writer". (I have an image of me standing at a podium in front of a group of strangers like I'm at an AA meeting when I write that). I'm not even sure what genre I write in, yet. English was not one of my stronger subjects, I'm a math/science/business geek by nature. My mother, on the other hand, holds a degree in English and teaching. My cousin has a Master's in English and is a published author, despite having dyslexia. My Aunt is an artist. I'm the practical one, I'm not supposed to be writing fiction, I'm supposed to be reading it.
I had a surprising conversation (after writing my first draft) with my BFF of 3 decades in which he told me, quite bluntly, that he always knew I'd end up writing. Which really surprised me. Oh, not the bluntness of it, he's earned that right over the years, but the fact that he knew and I didn't. He's also the one who told me my book just has to get published, that it's supposed to get published, and that's how I ended up here, with the wonderfully eclectic group of writers in the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group. We now have a lone male member (okay, that just made me laugh as most of our writers are in the romance genre), but the rest is made of a group of wonderfully supportive, wickedly funny, awesome women.
Still I find myself asking "How did I get here?". I'd like to blame it on my mom as she refuses to read my first book because Jess swears so badly. Which is sad, because my mom would make a great editor. She doesn't hold back, even though I'm her daughter, and always spots my grammatical and punctuation errors and is willing to say if something stinks. But it's not really my mom's fault.
It's Jess' fault. She started it all. You see, I'm a "pantser". I write by the seat of my pants. I had no plans for Jess, no concept of her, no storyline, no plot, no outline, and no plans to ever write. Jess just strolled into my brain one night, sat down and started demanding attention. At first I thought it was Alzheimer's or Dementia kicking in early (it does run in the family). Then I read Maggie Sefton's site and realized that maybe I wasn't completely insane. I began reaching out to some of my favorite current (and living) authors, all of whom assured me I wasn't going crazy. So I began writing what Jess was telling me. In 3 weeks I had over 60,000 words done, and the start of the next 2 books in the series roughed out.
While I was wrapping up Jess' first book, Collie flew in, folded her wings and made herself at home. Next came Merie, and then Paul, Jess' BFF, began chiming in along with the Coven from Jess' series, and the chaos of having 3 book series and individual story lines in my head all at once began. Grammar and punctuation be damned, I had to write. And write. And write. Except for today, today when I needed to write, I had to coax my brain out of it's warm fuzzy state and demand it cooperate.
Hopefully I haven't bored you into a fitful slumber with my ramblings. If I haven't, and you're the least bit curious in what Jess (a recovering alcoholic who not only sees dead people but touches and talks to them) and her closeted stockbroker by day, reigning Draq Queen Diva by night BFF are up to, come visit my blog at jchanks.blogspot.com. I'm planning on re-posting info on each of my characters over the next few days so everyone can easily find them.
I have been reassured by several members of the group, that I am, in fact a writer. So, at least for today, I guess I'm a writer after all.
Friday, April 15, 2011
by Tanya Eby
NYC WAKE UP CALL
Recently, I attended a conference in New York called the Algonkian Pitch and Shop. Basically, it was a four day conference where we worked on a one minute pitch (description) of our novel. Then we got to meet with four editors and try to get them interested enough in reading more of the novel.
It was exhausting, brutal, exhilarating, and disappointing. In other words, another average day in a writer’s life.
A few things I learned at the conference:
1. A pitch is like the back cover of a novel. Work on it. It will be your main tool for marketing and querying agents and editors.
2. Publishers want authors with an established platform. That means they want writers who blog, have a following on Facebook and/or Twitter and are actively producing work. First time writers do get published, but they’re more impressed if you come in with some kind of following. A blog is an essential tool to a writer.
3. The days of a publishing house promoting you are gone. Every writer has to promote herself. This means you need confidence and a healthy dash of cockiness too. (I have one of those.)
I got two bites on my manuscript but I have no idea if it’ll work. Because I also realized that there are thousands of writers out there. Everyone has a book and everyone thinks theirs is a best seller. It’s an hard market to bust into if you’re looking for a mainstream publishing contract.
The thing that struck me the most, though, was that it is possible. It’s possible to get published and build a following. But you can’t do it alone. Let me repeat that: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE. You need friends, people who read your work, talk about your work, promote your work to others. Get enough people loving your work and publishers will eventually follow.
So. I’m doing my part now by supporting my friends who are writers. It’s a karma thing…but it’s more than that. I want people I know who are talented to be successful. And I’m hoping if I read and promote their work, they’ll read and prmote mine, and all of our ‘reading circles’ will get just a little bit fatter.
I just bought a Kindle and have added three books from our group to my lineup. Here’s the lineup so far:
“Immortal Curse” by Bronwyn Green
I’ll be adding more titles as funds allow.
THE GRRWG CHALLENGE
My challenge to you is to purchase and read one book from a writer in our group. Just one. Then tell your friends about it. Blog about it. Facebook it. Tweet it. Whatever. And if you’re not in our group but read the blog, I invite you to take on the challenge too. As a group, we help encourage each other and hold each other accountable. Now let’s also move to promoting each other.
If we’re loud enough, eventually, those publishers in New York will listen. New Yorkers don’t respond well to whispers. They like shouting, preferably with a little profanity thrown in.
(visit me on www.heyblunderwoman.com for more blogs and to read my reviews of our GRRWG writers.)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
You want the real story? Here’s a look at my typical day as a full-time editor:
I start my day around 6:00 AM often from a dream in which I’m panicking over a manuscript being unfinished and unready for publication. Thankful to be awake and away from the nightmare, I get up for the day, stumble into the living room and boot up my computer.
Coffee is set to brew at 5:45, so it’s ready and waiting. I suck down a cup of coffee. I live on caffeine. Generally, at this point, the dog has discovered I’m awake and she runs back and forth between me and the backdoor until I stumble over and let her outside. I then make the first attempt to pry the children from bed. I always fail and must resort to threats and bribes. The first child leaves for the bus at the ungodly time of 6:45. The other leaves at 7 -- though, truthfully, he could leave later, but like his dad, he’s a social butterfly and uses his extra 45 minutes at school to talk…and snog with his girlfriend.
I check my email and respond to whatever I can while I drink another cup of coffee and consider going back to bed.
Too much to do. Off I go…
Once they’ve stumbled into school, I’m off again, with travel mug of coffee in hand. I wave longingly at Starbucks on my way to the Y. Exercise is a must, and I might as well get it in early. Bronwyn Green meets me for water aerobics. Trust me, without her, I wouldn’t be there. Sometimes, if I have time beforehand, I sweat it out on the treadmill and read submissions or books on my eReader. Don’t tell, but I’ve also gotten pretty good at emailing while I’m walking the treadmill too. (Don’t tell the Y. I’m guessing they’d have a fit. In my defense, they shouldn’t have wi-fi in the workout center if they don’t want us to use it.)
So once I’m done sweating and cleaning up at the Y, it’s home and to work. First, a cup of coffee then work actually. In the time, I’ve been gone I’ve usually received a ton of email (the email on the treadmill was personal mail. This is work mail). I set about answering everything since I have a respond within 24-hours policy. Then I do the following throughout the day: Work on first edits for the manuscripts. Go through second edits. Send work to final line editors. Finalize manuscripts to submit for final formatting. Send authors letters. Process forms for approved manuscripts. Schedule books. Make contract requests. Fill out spreadsheets. Engage in author relations/counseling. And oversee several other editors.
Sounds simple, huh? It’s actually back to back busy.
Around 3:30, I knock off as the kids come home from school. The next three hours are filled with homework, dinner and cleaning. About 6:30, I head back to the computer where I pick up where I left off that afternoon. Though it has caffeine, I substitute Earl Grey for the coffee. In addition to everything else, I blog in the evening. I work until about 11:00 then set the coffee maker, feed the dog, run through the house doing a quick pickup and finally, climb into bed.
It’s a long day, but I love what I do. My weekends are slightly different, but I work seven days a week. This isn’t a 9-5, Monday through Friday job.
Now, the advice part…
Besides editing, I also write. No matter how busy you are with your day job, write every day. Keep ‘in-touch’ with your manuscript and more, importantly, with your voice. Vigilant work will keep your work flowing and consistent. Strive for at least a half hour or a few paragraphs a day.
Monday, April 11, 2011
These days, it’s all about fast. Faster downloads, increased speed limits, even faster weight loss. Riding a train is not about arriving quickly. A train trip is about enjoying the journey, letting go and slowing down.
For the fourth or fifth time, we’ve taken the train from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Denver, Colorado. Whenever I mention this, the first question is always, “how long does that take?” And then surprise when I reply that it’s about twenty-four hours all told, assuming there are no delays.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to be in control – in the driver’s seat, literally. That being said, I like to hand over the reins from time to time, and the opportunity to sit back and relax is a wonderful treat for me. So I pack books, magazines, a journal, a New York Times crossword puzzle book, and a charged iPod. As I recline back with a book or just close my eyes listening to my favorite playlist, I find myself giving in to the rocking motion and dozing. And because it’s a train ride, it’s okay.
We have never gotten a sleeper car. After the first nearly-sleepless night, we bought eyeshades, thick neck pillows and a blanket. It’s still not the best night’s sleep, but so far we’ve made it work.
And of course, there are the people. Whether it’s someone we’ve been seated with at breakfast or nearby passengers, who for better or worse, are on the periphery of our experience, we’ve been with some pretty memorable folks.
Lisa: Packed up from Maryland, left her remaining belongings in a 10’ x 10’ storage unit, and on her way to live with her sister in Parker, Colorado, where she will take care of her sister’s adopted grandson. “I’m not talking about going with the flow, but about riding the wave!”
Al: On his way from California to Iowa, sporting a crutch, a cane and a cell phone. He swore that this was his last train trip, he couldn’t take it anymore and would fly next time.
Bernie: Poor Bernie. We had to listen to her cell phone calls as she complained about Social Services, police, tax problems, health problems, money problems. And the problem with her cell phone that couldn’t get reception once we’d left the city. Thank goodness for poor reception.
Lest I forget, when you ride a train, there’s no restriction about non-ticketed passengers. The last kiss and hug takes place just a few feet from the train door. Unlike saying good-bye at the airport, the sweet heartache of watching someone walk away before the doors close is alive and well.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I promise I won't self-promote every time I post on this blog. Mostly because I don't have a new release coming out every month, but I just happen to have one this month at Resplendence and at Total-e-bound. (Reader's advisory: These are both erotic romances.)
Available at Resplendence Publishing
Anna Paulson needs another hundred signatures for her petition to reach this week’s goal, and on this hot, summer Friday evening she has one more doorbell to ring before she calls it quits for the day. Then she’ll be at it again first thing in the morning.
When Frank Burke answers the door wearing only a towel, she enjoys some innocent flirting with a man who appears much younger than her. The flirting becomes less innocent as she’s invited to join his roommates for dinner and a movie on their big screen TV.
Anna surrenders to her fantasy and participates in a ménage a quatre, spending a very intoxicating night in bed with Frank, Jeff and Steve. After a few weeks of the best sex of her life but a relationship that doesn’t seem to exist outside of the bedroom, Anna decides it’s time to get back to reality. But Frank won’t let her go that easily.
Available at Total-e-bound Publishing
Mia dubbed her life-sized clay sculpture, Adam, because he is the first man she’s ever made. Most of her work has been female torsos, but recently her muse insisted it was time for her to produce a man. Though, she might have been confusing her surging libido with her artistic muse.
Mia has been abstinent for nearly a year, but not because of any plan. Her best friend, Shirle, has organized a party for Mia to put an end to her long dry spell and give her vibrator a night off. Before she even gets out of Shirle’s car, Mia meets Zed.
Zed has come to the party to win a challenge. The waiters at the restaurant where he is the head chef and owner don’t think a black French chef can country line dance. Once he meets Mia, his purpose for the night changes. He plans to spend the evening with this incredibly sexy woman whose sense of humour is developed enough to subject herself to the intense teasing from her friends about her lacking sex life. But he must decide whether he still wants Mia when he discovers Adam plays an important role in her life.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
As I write the third book in my series, I finally realized why people get caught up in soap operas. It's all about the HOOK!
These shows are perpetually ending on cliff-hangers. It makes you WANT to tune back in and see what's going to happen next. It's the same thing with writing. We need to end our scenes and chapters just like they end the episode of a soap opera, so the reader NEEDS to turn the page to see what happens next with our characters.
So if you need a good lesson about hooks, just turn on the TV and watch a soap opera!
Thursday, April 7, 2011
This is the cover for my newest book, due out from Total-E-Bound April 18th.
About the book:
When Aaron Langford walked out of his life years ago, Brendan Mackenzie felt his heart break and stopped believing in love. Vowing to never love again. When his best friend shows up on his door with a scruffy stranger, it takes several moments for Brendan to realize the stranger is actually his ex-boyfriend. External and internal scars tell the story of where his ex has been and the life the other man led. Promising to find a good master for the submissive male, he finds it increasingly difficult to imagine Aaron with anyone else.
Can love be salvaged or will the past be too much to over come?
To Love Again is the first book in the Bound Hearts series.
About the series:
Leather. Chains. Love. Whether new to the BDSM scene or not, trying to figure out how love fits into their lifestyle can make the most experienced participant want to run. They soon learn that the chains binding their hearts are stronger than anything they’ve ever experienced before.
Monday, April 4, 2011
I'm already in one group, so I've started emailing author friends who write in similar genres and asking if they have time to give me a critique. Unfortunately, the agent wasn't specific about what needs fine tuning.
Since I wrote this story nearly a year ago and I've grown as a writer in the meantime, I imagine that once I go through this manuscript for another round of polishing I will see myself where I can tighten pacing, clean up overwriting, and further develop the characters.
So, I'm doing a modified happy dance. I'm so close, I almost believe I can see the podium in the distance with a banner above it reading, "First Book Contract". I'll keep putting one foot in front of another and eventually I'll reach the finish line.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Opening lines of stories come easily to me. Sometimes, entire chapters will suddenly spring to life in my head (often in the midst of a business meeting, church services or other inconvenient time).
The end of stories come pretty easily, too. In fact, I once started a story knowing little more than an ending scene. That was a rarity since I usually see the beginning and the end of the story together. As I sit down to write, I usually have a very clear picture of how the story begins and where the characters will be at the end.
Unfortunately, the middle of the story is my nemesis. Like my own anatomy, the middle of my stories tends to be saggy and shapeless when what I'd really like them to be is trim and defined. So what am I to do?
A writer friend suggested an online class on PACING by author Mary Buckham. The idea appealed to me, so I signed up before I could get cold feet. During the very first class, I had an "aha moment." Mary suggested that my love of thrillers might be hurting the pace of the cozies I also like to write. She asked me to look at them and see if I might be speeding up the pace in the cozies faster than I intended as I was subconsciously choosing the faster pace of the thrillers.
I'd never thought of that. Mary said by slowing the story to a more comfortable pace, I'd be able to build my story and add the chit chat and little details readers of cozies want in their books. I'd have a stronger, firmer story, too.
Interesting food for thought. Now, if she could only do something for this midriff bulge.....
Friday, April 1, 2011
I’m not a fan of rainy days, but considering the wintry weather we’ve had, rain is an acceptable compromise. And rainy days mean that we will have nice green lawns, beautiful gardens, and delicious produce. So even though they’re gloomy and dreary, the drudgery is worth it because the benefits are so great.
We all have our bad days. Some days are worse than others. As adults, we all have worries, and sometimes there’s tragedy. Those “rainy days” can get us down, and we don’t know if we will ever see daylight. For many of us, writing helps us to work out our anger, our concerns, and our sadness. It’s therapy. And sometimes, having bad experiences in our past gives an edge to our writing. After all, when we’ve experienced an emotion, we are better able to describe it, to bring that feeling to life.
I’m not wishing for bad times. And I wouldn’t wish them on anyone else. But sometimes I need a reminder that all things happen for a reason. And maybe one of the reasons we have “rainy days” is so that we, as writers, can effectively reach out to others who are having them, too.
Eventually the rain ends, and the sun comes out. We can count on it. May your rainy days be few, and may the sun shine brightly afterward.