Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Holiday!

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd let you know that I'm going out of town this week, so I'm not planning on posting as usual. That doesn't necessarily mean I won't be posting, but I thought I'd give you all a heads-up just in case I don't.

I'm planning on being back to normal next week. Enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: Melissa Pearl on Self-Publishing!

Hi everyone! I'm really excited for today's post. As I said before, Melissa Pearl just released her first novel. She decided to self-publish and has graciously agreed to stop by and talk a little bit about why she chose to self-pub and what it involves. So, let's see what she has to say!

It's All a Matter of Opinion

Writing is a subjective industry. You might love the book you're reading while someone else is ready to give up after chapter three. You might rave about an author while someone else lists multiple reasons why they'd never touch one of their books again.

The same goes with agents and publishers ... and trying to find that agent or publisher who wants your work can be the hardest thing in the world.

I had been trying for three years. I knew I had something that was good. My beta readers loved it and I even had an agent ask for a full manuscript. But nothing was coming to pass and I couldn't help feeling a sense of hopeless frustration.

Picking myself up after yet another rejection, I decided I would just keep at it, sending one query after another until someone finally accepted me. But then my brother suggested I investigate self-publishing. I rejected the idea immediately. Self-publishing was a cheater's way... or so I thought. He listened to my complaints and then said, "Personally, I think it's the way of the future for publishing. Have a look at some of the success stories and see if you change your mind."

And so I did.

And then I changed my mind.

I took my time researching every aspect of self-publishing. There are so many blogs out there! Smashwords was particularly helpful. After two months, I decided this was the path for me. In spite of this, I was scared of the idea. This could be an epic fail. I could sell ten copies and that's it. It could be a complete waste of time, but so could trying to find an agent.

You see, it's all a matter of opinion. I could either wait five years trying to find a publisher or agent who thought my book was right for them, or I could put my work out there and let the general public decide.

Actually putting a book online is not hard, especially if you are lucky enough to have a fantastic graphic designer who is willing to produce an awesome cover for you. (Amanda Crane, you are fantastic!). All you need to do is set up an account, edit (SO important) and format your book correctly, then upload your work. The instructions are there to help you and I followed them to the letter with no issues. It took less than an hour to upload my book and have it ready for sale.

Now, it's not quite that simple. I have a long, hard journey ahead of me. Marketing is REALLY hard and getting exposure is going to take a lot of work. But I can share that after only one week I've had four excellent reviews on Amazon, two 5-star reviews on Smashwords and four friends e-mail me to tell me they loved the book.

My main motivation for writing is offering people that chance to escape into another world and have a fun ride. So to hear that these people have had that experience already is a total thrill!

Don't get me wrong, I know that there will be people out there who hate my novel, but hopefully the percentage of fans will outweigh them.

Self-publishing takes a lot of work and effort, especially if you want to produce quality material. I chose this path because it meant I could get myself out there in my time frame. I am my own boss. I chose what to publish, when to publish, where I publish and how much to charge. I decided to go for 99c, because I figured that it was more important to get my work out there than make millions. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to make a million, but I didn't feel I had the right to charge a higher price when I'm still just making a name for myself.

I am determined to keep improving my writing and therefore earn the right to charge more. I want to make sure that each book I produce is just as good, if not better than, the one before. I'm looking for reader loyalty—another right I have to earn.

So, give indie authors a go. You'll find some you love and some you'll never touch again, but it's a pretty inexpensive risk to take.

Golden Blood is a YA paranormal romance filled with fast-paced action and excitement. If you want to escape into a world of time travel, adventure and passion, it will only cost you $0.99USD :)

Gemma Hart never knows when her father is going to whisk her back in time. Her toes start tingling and she has a few minutes to find a secret haven where she can disintegrate and appear in another time and place. While “across the line,” her training and skills are put to the test as she completes a mission that will change history for the lucky few her father has selected.

Gemma's parents are adamant that secrecy is paramount to her family’s safety. If people knew what they were capable of, they could be "used and abused", as her mother always 
says. Afraid she might accidentally utter the truth and break the ancient oath of her people, Gemma spends her school days as a loner. Only one thing can throw her sheltered life askew... Harrison Granger.

Harrison never expected to talk to the strange Hart girl, but after a brief encounter he can't stop thinking about her. He begins a campaign to chisel away her icy veneer and is met with unexpected consequences. As he slowly wins this girl over, he enters a surreal world that has him fighting to keep his newfound love and his life.

Golden Blood can be purchased from Smashwords and Amazon Kindle.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share this book with you. I hope you enjoy it :)

Melissa Pearl

A quick note from Reece: if any of you have or will soon publish a book (self- or traditionally-published), I'm happy to host you and have you discuss your experiences and your book. Just drop me a line at reece dot hanzon at gmail dot com. See you soon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Unscheduled Post: EXCITING NEWS!!!!

Hi everyone! I know I don't normally post on Mondays, but I wanted to pass along the news. My friend Brooke is hosting a give-away! She's giving out ARCs of her steampunk novel The Clockwork Giant. Go visit her blog for more details. Sounds fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another Friendly Conversation: Melissa Pearl

Hi everyone!  Today I have the privilege to have Melissa Pearl here. Melissa just recently released her first book, Golden Blood. I'm especially excited to have her here because she's decided to self-publish her work and I'm hoping to get a guest post on the topic (nudge nudge). So, let's talk about Melissa!

1. How did you get started as a writer?
All my life I've had stories buzzing in my brain. I'd spend hours making up stories, acting out scenes, inventing characters. I had a whole book of ideas. One day I was telling my friend about one of them and she told me I should write it. So I did. Man, it was SO much fun, I wondered why it had taken me so long to get around to it.

I've never acted out any of my writing...which is probably a good thing. I like not having a criminal record!

2. What was your first complete story?
It's called The Bigger Picture. It's about a girl who has a one-night stand at a graduation party and gets pregnant. She manages to hide it from her parents and then leaves for college with this huge burden. She then meets up with the guy who got her pregnant and lucky for them, they fall in love.

3. What made you decide to write it?
My best friend told me to :)

Ha! That's awesome. I don't think I've ever had that response before. But whatever it takes!

4. Do you free-write or outline?
I used to free write, but I'm up to my tenth manuscript now and from everything I've learned, I think I get a much better story if I really plan it out. There's still room to move within that plan, but it does stop my story from heading down the path of drivel.

On the other hand, it seems like most people give a similar response to this question. Makes you think there might be something to this 'outlining' thing after all...

5. If you outline, do you plot the entire story first, or bits at a time as you write?
I usually construct most of the story in my head first. I have all these different scenes floating around and I'll jot down random notes. By the time I have most of the story done, I have this huge long document of varied scenes, which I then organize. Some of the scenes are dropped in this process, so that saves me editing them out later. I read an amazing book by Robert Mckee called STORY. It has taught me so much about how good stories move and flow, where they should climax and how the beats of a story work. I feel like my writing has improved big time since implementing some of his suggestions.

Brooke Johnson, my second interviewee, does something similar, but she writes them out on note cards and plays mix-and-match with them. I actually really like the idea you both use.

6. What do you do to counteract writer’s block?
Take a shower or go for a walk with my iPod. I find some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, maybe it's because it's the one chance in my day where I can lock the door so my kids can't reach me :) Walking is good for me too; I usually just need to find space enough to get my mind working again.

I like the walking idea...though it's getting a bit too cold in my neck of the woods. :(

7. How do you keep your characters original? (i.e. what do you do to make sure your characters don’t turn out the same in every story?)
That's really hard. I often find myself writing similar male leads in particular. I guess I'm attracted to a particular personality type :) For the story I'm currently planning in my head, I've really had to force myself to change my characters, make them different to everything I've done before. It's really fun, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. I'm really having to think about this one in order to make it good.

I think about the main characteristic that really defines the character (at least as far as the story is concerned). Then I think about the kinds of experiences might help a person develop that characteristic. From there I try to think about other ways those experiences might influence a person. It has made developing characters a lot easier! Oh, it also helps you figure out how a character might realistically react in different situations.

8. What exercises to you use to develop your characters?
I'm a big fan of character profiling. I like my characters to have a detailed history, things in their childhood that define them and make them who they are. I also use the personality types quite a bit and look at how that affects their reactions Another thing I like to do is find a picture of an actor that I think they look like. I paste that up while I'm writing so I can look at them and imagine how they move in the story. scratch my last comment. You're basically doing it already. Now I feel dumb. *shakes fist*

9. How do you build a believable world within your stories?
I do a lot of research about the area that the story is set. Even if you've never been to a place before, I think you can make the story believable by using photos and a little info so you sound as though you know what you're talking about. Understanding the culture of the setting is important too. Part of a believable world, for me, is having minor characters that represent the culture of the setting through their dialogue and attitudes.

Culture is HUGE!!!!! I think a lot of authors forget that. And it's true no matter what genre you write. Remember that, people! It will be on the test!

10. What do you do to make your whole story interesting? How do you avoid “slow stretches”?

I'm going to refer to the book STORY by Robert McKee again. He suggests that each scene in your story needs to change from a positive beat to a negative beat and then from negative to positive so the story is always moving. I think this helps to avoid slow stretches. In saying that, I think it's important for a high-paced story to have a little down time every now and then. I actually really love those happy moments thrown into a story for a little, light relief.

I agree. I'm also a fan of comic relief. Often the jokes that make people laugh the most aren't even the funniest ones...they're the ones timed just right to break tension.

11. How does your own life inform your writing?
I draw a lot from the emotional things I've experienced in life. In the second book of my trilogy (due out in December), my character goes through a really hard time. I drew from my own experience of heartache in order to capture her emotion. Drawing from past experience can hopefully bring a little realism and believability into the story.

They say 'write what you know.' Sounds like you do that pretty well.

12. Have you ever attended a writing convention or conference?
Yes, one. It was SOOOOOO awesome. I attended the NZ Romance Writers conference.

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention Melissa is from New Zealand. Isn't that cool? It's in my top 5 places to visit.

13. What did you learn from it?
So much. I took screeds of notes. It was a very satisfying experience and I recommend that anyone who is serious about writing attend a conference if they can. You make amazing connections. I now belong to an awesome writers group. Three other fantastic girls who are just as passionate as me about writing. I also learned a whole bunch of stuff about the current market. You get to meet published authors who are amazingly generous with their time. The writing world is a cool place to hang out.

Agreed! I haven't met a ton of authors (yet), but the ones I have met never seem to forget what it's like being an unpublished, aspiring writer. I think that's why they're so willing to talk to you and help you out. Writers are good people.

14. Who is your favorite author?
Hmmm - that's tough. I like so many. Probably my favorite YA author is Simone Elkeles.

... ... ... yeah, I've never heard of him. Add another one to my list of authors to investigate!

15. Favorite book?
Again - hard question. How do I just choose one? The first trilogy I read and could NOT put down was the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. I've read those book so many times the glue on the spine is disintegrating :)

I love finding books like that! It's one of the most satisfying things in the world, I think.

16. Favorite genre to read?
YA Romance. I particularly like anything with a little action as well, but romance is the key. I devoured the Twilight series.

Yeah, I'm the other way around. I have to have action, but like a little romance to round it out. Also, I saw a t-shirt the other day that said "Team guy-who-almost-hit-bella-with-his-car." It made me laugh!

17. Favorite genre to write?
YA Romance. My trilogy is a YA paranormal, but I don't want to get stuck in that genre. I also have a whole bunch of other stories to write. Most of them are YA action/adventure with a strong romantic element.

Yay action/adventure! My favorite kinds of stories!

18. When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?
Being a mother of two young boys, I don't really have much spare time, but if they bless us by going to sleep early then my husband and I love to watch a good movie. We are both total movie buffs. When I do get the chance to go to the actual cinema and see one, I still get that excited buzz as the theater goes dark and the movie trailers begin.

I think I've been to the movies four times in the last....oh, probably four or five years. Yeah, doesn't happen that often.

19. What are three interesting facts about you?

My husband and I spent 9 months travelling around North America, living out of a Chevy van. The best road trip ever!

The longest road trip I've ever been on was two weeks. I'm kind of jealous.

I spent three years of my life as a missionary kid in Pakistan - an awesome experience.

Hey cool! Tell me about that!

I love to sing :)

Thanks to Melissa for stopping by! All you romance fans out there can find her book, Golden Blood, on smashwords and It sounds like a fun idea!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A plug for outlining...if I can get the hang of it.

Hi everyone! Sorry for the late post. Today I'm actually reposting a post written by Teralyn Rose Pilgrim a while ago. I really appreciated it then, so I am sharing with all of you. Take it away Teralyn!

Why Outlining is soooo Awesome

I’ve said before that I hate to brag. I still do, though it’s a lot easier when all my dear readers congratulate me. Regardless of how special you all make me feel, I try to only demonstrate my awesomeness when it’s useful to my readers. Ergo, even though this is going to sound conceited, there is a point. I promise.

On November 1 from midnight to midnight the next day, I wrote 10,000 words.

I started to wonder how high my word count was when my fingers started to hurt at 6,500 words. After that, I kept typing and thinking to myself, “Holy cow, am I really still writing? Do I still have stuff to say?” I basically stared in amazement at my furiously typing fingers.

How on earth did I go from taking five years to write Sacred Fire to writing 10,000 words in one day?

Here is the point:

I came up with the idea for Fierce ten months ago and have been stewing on it ever since. Two months ago, I started to prep for the book. At one point it got boring and I started to wonder if writing 18,000 words of notes would be worth my time.

Totally worth it.

I’ve never had an outline so thorough, and I’ve never typed faster in my life. Some books don't lend themselves to this pace, and some authors just have a different style. That's okay. However, if you can do the prep work I talked about in my How to Prepare for a Novel series, I highly recommend giving it a try. I’m going to do this from now on.

Here's a more important point:

Last year, I struggled to get in my 50,000 words. I ended up writing almost exactly the right amount, and getting in those last words felt like wringing out a rag.

I would look at people on the Nano forums who had 100,000 words and wonder how it was even possible, and then feel like trash. It was silly; as if writing 50k in a month is such a failure!

If you write at all, you're doing something amazing. If you even attempt Nano, it will help your writing. If you win, you will have achieved a great feat that a hundred thousand writers lust after and only a third of them reach. If you feel you're able to push yourself harder...

...go for it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Friendly Conversation: Angela Brown

Hi everyone! I'm really excited about this interview because I don't know anything about my guest, Angela Brown, other than the fact that she let me edit the first few chapters of her WIP Uncommon. So, enough from me; let's get on with it!

How did you get started as a writer?
My first foray into writing happened during my gifted & talented class when I was in elementary school. My teacher wanted us to write different stories, fables and poems. I remade the fable about Paul Bunyan and wrote a poem. She even took it to a printer, chose a pink cover and we called it the Hodgepodge. My favorite story was a dream sequence by another little girl. She wrote about our favorite boy band – on pain of dating myself and showing waaay to much age, I’ll refrain from naming them. From that day forward, I kept the idea of writing in the back of my mind. My first completed story was during my whimsical early 20’s, a fiction based on many painful events of my past. It was my form of therapy and a few friends really enjoyed it. But some things were best left in the past, so I moved on. It wasn’t until I went to a writer’s conference in 2006 to test the waters that I knew this writing thing was something I wanted to pursue as more than a hobby.

It was New Kids on the Block, wasn't it?

Do you free-write or outline?
I started as a pantser. That first novel? Not an outline in sight. Since then, I’ve been more of a loose outline kind of person when it comes to the story, however, when I’m dealing with my YA fantasy stuff, like my WiP AMONG DRAGONS AND MEN, I do detail outlining of the world structure, from ruling government down to extremely rough map of my world. Thankfully, a stretched out ‘S’ makes a fine river and unintelligible marks for mountains and forests can later be interpreted by someone with real artistic ability. I also started a glossary for special language words. For my current YA paranormal WiP UNCOMMON, I did a loose sketch of the plot, short character bios and have taken my time with it, following the detours my muse has taken me. And the muse has been nice lately. I must thank her. Smooches! Muah!

Dibbs on editing Among Dragons and Men. :-D

What do you do to counteract writer’s block?
Eat chocolate. After that, I play with my daughter, or as I usually call her, my chipmunk. Her laughter is intoxicating and invigorating. Then, I’ll just scribble on paper. That tends to leadto a ramble and then to a string of incoherent thoughts. Soon, the block is frightened away by the weird goings on in my mind. Sounds a bit odd, but it works for me J

Mmm, chocolate... I think I like you're method!

How do you keep your characters original? (i.e. what do you do to make sure your characters don’t turn out the same in every story?)
I find a character bio is a must. It helps in getting to know the character but also in comparing them to other characters to ensure I let each one develop their own way. Because I tend to take my time writing, I have conversations with them, especially if I find I’m unsure of the true way the character would react to a situation. Weird? Cha, but it allows me to get to know the Who, What, When, Where and the Why of their being, their purpose in the story. It also gives the characters a foundation to use me as their vessel to voice what they have to say. As much as I claim to own them, the story really is theirs. I just happen to be the lucky darling chosen to share their tale with the world.

Actually, not that weird. As I recall, David Powers King said he did something similar when I interviewed him (the post is here). And I think it's a pretty useful tool, too!

How do you build a believable world within your stories?

World building is something I detail out, especially fantasy. But whether it’s another world or an urban setting, I try to integrate the world building into the story and make it part of the dialogue, planting information in smaller doses to allow the reader to transition to the believability of the story. I also like to share certain activities or thought processes of the main character so bits and pieces of the world are introduced through their eyes, their senses. This is certainly more entertaining than an info dump.

This is a good technique, though I find you have to balance it with actual description and narration, otherwise it's easy to end up with a butler-and-maid situation.

What do you do to make your whole story interesting? How do you avoid “slow stretches”?
“Sagging moments” can be a bit bothersome, but I try to address them by first writing them out. Afterwards, I try to revise by including some action or something that helps to give the feeling that the story is moving forward, thus losing that “long stretch” feeling.

For perhaps the thousandth time, I'm going to refer everyone to my friend Shallee's post on the Action/Reaction principle because it's just golden (the post is golden...but then again so is the principle).

How does your own life inform your writing?
I like writing about things that, by some accounts, don’t exist. I suppose I just use the interactions I have with others to flip the script and see things in an oddball way, sort of turn a team meeting at work into a secret meeting of NEO (a group of preternaturals I’m building for my paranormal writing).

Nice! And, if nothing else, that will certainly liven up your meetings at work (at least for you)!

Have you ever attended a writing convention or conference?
I’ve participated in the Writer’s League of Texas Agent’s and Editors Conference, twice. The first time, I felt sooooo out of place but I also met some wonderful people, like Maria Zannini and Evelyn Palfrey, an author of “Marvelously Mature” romance. The main thing I learned is that I have a WHOLE lot to learn. And that I’m not alone. There are people I can help and people who are willing to help me. If it weren’t for learning that, I might have given up on my dream. But the people I’ve met have been very supportive. This was made evident when I had the honor of working in a critique group with Will Greenway and several other writers during my short stint in San Diego, CA. Good times, man, good times.

I have yet to attend a writing conference or convention of any sort. I'm going to try to attend a couple of local ones next year though. I'm really excited!

Who is your favorite author?
C.S. Lewis will always have a special place in my heart. His stories provided me with the ultimate feeling of escape and how the everyday norm can be transformed into something fantastical. Le sigh.

Nice choice! He has some excellent books. Apart from Narnia, I am particularly fond of Til We Have Faces and The Great Divorce. I've also been meaning to read his sci-fi series, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Favorite book?
The Narnia Chronicles

Of the Narnia books, I think The Horse and His Boy is the best, but most people disagree with me.

Favorite genre to read?
My favorite genre to read and write is dualistic: fantasy and sci-fi, from steampunk to dragons, and space opera to trolls falling in love, take me away J

Here here! Science fiction is my ultimate favorite, but it's so hard to find really well-done sci-fi. Fantasy is much more common, if you ask me, and therefore produces more quality titles.

When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?
I’m not sure what this “spare time” is. I’ve heard of sparing a moment to steal a nap or running out of time, which I do often…but this “spare time”…hmmm…curious.

Hey! A fellow no-timer! Nice to know there are more of us out there. We could start a support group! ...but nobody would come.

What are three interesting facts about you?
  1. I self-published a novel under a pseudonym, mainly because I had a few friends interested in it and I wanted to learn more about what publishing entailed. However, it was a completely different genre and not for the 17-and-under crowd. I penned it as Rayven Godchild. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s our little secret.
  2. Anime + Hayao Miyazaki = Happiness!!!! Heck yeah it does!
  3. Meeting Johnny Depp in person would be a guaranteed faint, on my part of course.

Thanks so much for the interview Reece. You are a blog star!!!

*blush* Aw, now you're just trying to embarrass me!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Editors Anonymous

My name is Reece, and I'm an editor.

I was up until 2:00 last night editing an excerpt from my friend Angela's book, Uncommon. The worst part is I would have kept going if I hadn't looked at the clock. I thought it was around 11:00 or 11:30.

Editing is one of those activities that is always more enjoyable than I remember it being. I don't know why, but I love going through a manuscript and making comments and suggestions. At the same time, I'm always afraid the author will be offended by my comments; I try to make them as polite and tactful as possible, but there's no way to put my tone of voice into writing.

As I was working my way through Angela's manuscript, I had the most fun time pointing out things that she might not realize are unclear. I like doing that because it happens to me all the time and I'm always grateful to my friends who point it out and help me fix the problem. As writers, it's easy for us to remember that our readers don't know everything we know (probably only 30% of my ideas for a particular story actually make it into the book; everything else is just background information that helps me create the story).

I also like being able to make recommendations to help writers learn about their genre. One of the notes I made last night was to recommend a book to Angela because I felt like it might round out her understanding of certain aspects of her genre. She may well have read it already, but the suggestion can't hurt.

Anyway, I'm just rambling now. So, to sum up: I like editing and totally lose myself in it!

Are any of you editors at heart? What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

And most importantly, do you need any critiquing or editing done?