Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ready For Launch

Anyone who has a book for sale knows that getting the book published is only the first step in a very long, winding, ever-changing and sometimes costly, road. Marketing of your book is something you don't really think about when you're writing it and trying to find a publisher. But it's a vital part of any author's duties, regardless of whether you're an independent publisher, with a small press, or with one of the big boys.

My eighth historical in my series comes out on September 7. By now, I've learned a few things about what works and what doesn't. One of the things I'm cutting back on is the guest blogs. They all take time to write and post, and it's time that could be better spent. I'll appear on a handful, but I will no longer appear on three a day during release week, as I've done in the past. It's hard to tell what works and what doesn't in the best of circumstances, but if you start muddying the waters with multiple blog posts, you'll never know where those sales are coming from.

In addition to blog sites, there are review sites. I've got my favorites, those who have reviewed me in the past and were complimentary, so I go back to them each time. But review sites are a constantly evolving business, so I always try to find one or two new ones to solicit.

My checklist is pretty well in order for the upcoming release. My guest posts are written, my Advance Review Copies (ARCs) are out there now, being devoured (hopefully) by my reviewers, my website is being updated, I've started putting out announcements on Facebook about A Widow's Salvation now being available for pre-orders. I'm still contemplating doing some advertising specific to readers of historical fiction, so there's work yet to do. But especially when money is involved, I prefer to take my time.

In between doing all this, I can start to obsess over my numbers on Amazon. And work on Book 9, The Forgotten Debutante. A writer's work is never done, regardless of where you're at in the journey or how high you are in the charts.

So I'll keep my nose to the grindstone and see what happens this go-round. Happy Release Day!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Moving Things Around

Jigsaw puzzles play a big part in my life. I have found, when I'm having trouble with a scene, or a plot line, the best thing to do is to step away from the manuscript and work on a puzzle. Somehow, the mindless sorting of pieces, and then locking them together into an intricate pattern helps me sort through the plot possibilities of my story and I can then write the scene in its logical order.

This familiarity with jigsaws worked for me when it was requested that I move a scene in my most recent book, A Widow's Salvation, due out on September 7. I had to take that piece, that scene, out from its place in the story, reposition it, and then write around it to make certain all the edges matched up again, and that it locked together seamlessly into the story line.

Now, the puzzle pieces are invading my personal life. As most of you know, I've had some medical issues, and the decision was made to move my bed from the second floor. The only place it would fit on the first floor was my office–that sanctified space where all of my books have been written. Now, the desk is shoved up against the wall and my bed takes up most of the room. I'm still trying to get the edges to match up.

One thing that I've noticed, though, by combining my sleep and work space is that there is no hard and fast dividing line. If I have a scene rolling around in my head, or some social media I need to work on, I don't need to lie there wide awake and wait until morning. Now, I can just jump out of bed and be at my desk, my computer, in no time. Obviously, I need to work on control issues. And I need to sort out those jigsaw edges.

But I have to admit, in all my years of working for someone else, I never wanted to jump out of bed and go to work. I'll take a few ragged jigsaw pieces. Mary likes the fact that I can work from home. That's enough for me.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Open House

Most of you who follow this blog know my house in Oberlin is on the market. So today, we're having the first open house for it. We're frantically cleaning each room, putting a spit shine on every piece of furniture, emptying wastebaskets, tucking the extra dog bed out on the screened porch and running the Swiffer one final time over the floors. Then, we put fresh flowers in each room for added ambiance, turn it over to the real estate agents, and leave, hoping for a sale.

I can't help but compare it to the editing process. You knew that was coming, didn't you?

During editing, I go chapter by chapter over the manuscript as I format it, searching for overused words and phrases, making certain all the senses are represented equally and adequately, that I've added in description, visceral responses, some hopefully witty narrative, and given my characters solid reasons why they are resisting each other. I make certain I'm staying in one person's head throughout the entire scene. Taking care of the basics, sweeping away the heavy debris.

When I'm done with the hard edits, I'll go back over the manuscript a second time, reading it through from start to finish, putting a spit shine on each word, phrase, sentence. I look through the file of unused scenes to see if anything is worthy of being put back into the story, and if not, I empty the file. I clean each scene of extraneous materials by eliminating words and phrases that go nowhere, or add nothing to the story.

Then, I read it again. I run through the manuscript one more time, catching typos, extra commas, odd phrasing, making certain I have the same eye color for the hero throughout and that the heroine doesn't change her clothes mid-scene, unless she's supposed to. When I'm done with this read, I'll go back once more and see if there's any place I can add to the story to make it more effective. To add ambiance.

Only then do I consider my work ready for a publisher's eyes. If I'm fortunate enough to capture the eye of a publisher, they turn my manuscript over to their production department and the editing process begins again. By the time the book releases, I will have read it over and over at least seven or eight times, to the point where I have parts of it memorized. In the end, the manuscript leaves my hands, and I hope for a sale.

I just finished the final edits of A Widow's Salvation, due out September 7. It's now left my hands for good, and I'm hoping for a sale come September. Or two. Or two thousand. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back To Normal

One of the best things about being an author (at least in my opinion) is the multitude of types of work involved. Right now, I'm involved in the following:

1)  final edits for A Widow's Salvation–lots of tedious reading of line by line to catch typos, lost quote marks, and the like. It's scheduled for release on September 7.

2) I try to add 1,000 words a day to my WIP, the last book in the Cotillion Ball Series–the creative part of my day. The Forgotten Debutante, about Saffron Fitzpatrick, will be released in the Spring of 2016.

3) I check emails and collect my number of visitors to my website and blog–the strategic part of the day.

4) And I am lining up guest blog appearances, finding reviewers for my book, and deciding on which ad campaign, if any, will work best–the marketing part. I really love to answer the questions other bloggers pose to me. I never thought I'd enjoy that part of the business as much as I do. A pleasant surprise.

In my spare time, I am searching for a new house to live in, and we go out two or three times a week on a scouting mission.

And, there's always the other WIP, which I desperately want to finish by the end of the year. I found a model last year who is my inspiration for Raoul, or Lone Wolf. Maybe I don't want to finish the book because I'd have to remove the image?

If I run out of things to do, I have another workshop queued up and ready to go so I can become a better writer.

It's always something.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are you doing this week?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Is It Better In Person?

Those of you who follow this blog know how disappointed I was when I had to cancel my plans to attend the RWA conference. I was set to meet up with my fellow Crimson authors at a dinner. I was going to pitch to Courtney Miller. I was going to make new friends and learn new things. I was going to wear new clothes in honor of the event.

None of that happened.

I could be bitter and sad. I was, for a time. Envious? Most definitely. But then, I realized I could pitch to any agent I wanted to via email, not just the one who had a time slot open. And the beauty of it is I can rework the email query as much as is needed. You don't get a second chance to impress during an 8-minute pitch. I could touch base with the Crimson authors via our special loop, any time I wanted. As a result of making new friends this past year, I'm going to take part in a Facebook party this coming week with my new friend, E. E. Burke. I've learned new things about craft by taking a Margie Lawson online workshop a few months ago. As for the new clothes–it's time to start purging my closet anyway, so the new duds will come in handy.

So, now I bet you're asking, if I can do all the above from the comfort of my computer, why would I even bother to attend the RWA Conference?

For the buzz. For the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Christie Craig, Lisa Klepas, and Jill Shalvis. For the opportunity to meet a publisher, not at a pitch session, but over a glass of wine. For the chance to network with other authors, who are also avid readers. For the workshops, where I can learn how this industry is changing and how to be flexible enough to keep up.

For the camaraderie of being in a place with 2,000 other like-minded souls who don't mind if your head's in the clouds, and the floor isn't swept.

Yes, I got a lot of work done last week. And I got to sleep in my own bed. I didn't have to be shoehorned into an airline seat for hours, or sit on a tarmac waiting for a gate to open at LaGuardia. I got to watch the awards ceremony in my nightgown instead of a fancy dress.

But I would have traded it all for a chance to be at Nationals. Next year.

Look out, San Diego.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Ready For Nationals

There's been a lot of chatter on various blog sites and loops about getting ready for Nationals–what to pack, what swag to take, how to pace yourself, what workshops to attend, what events to not miss. It's all very exciting and overwhelming, even if it's not your first rodeo.

But what about those of us who can't attend? Up until a month ago, I was an attendee. I had put together my wardrobe, ordered my swag, confirmed my airline reservations. Then, an ambulance ride and emergency surgery made all those plans evaporate, like morning dew. Now, as I watch the excitement build for those who will attend, I'm trying to temper my envy with a game plan of my own.

I think I'll call it Becky's Version Of Nationals. It goes something like this:

Tuesday–Instead of spending the day in transit, I'll write 1,000 words in my final book in the Cotillion Ball Series, which currently stands at 3700 words. It's going to feature the youngest girl in the family, Saffron, who was seven when the series started. This book begins during the height of the Civil War conflict and Saffron is fifteen, missing out on her Cotillion ball and resenting how the war has impacted her life. She's still young, and spunky, and she'll be fun to write. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday–Add another 1,000 words to the manuscript. Review my notes from the Margie Lawson workshop I recently took.

Thursday–Keeping my head down, I'll add another 1,000 words, and will begin to solicit for reviews for Book 8, A Widow's Salvation. I saw a sneak peek of the cover last week, and think it's my best yet. Can't wait to show everyone. And the book is a departure of sorts for me, since Pepper Brown is a thirty-one year-old war widow with three sons to contend with. Instead of showing her strength by being a vocal advocate of social causes, she has an inner strength that equals or exceeds that of her sisters. The book will be out in September.

Friday–It's my day on the History Imagined blog, and I'm talking about an often overlooked museum in Ohio–The National First Ladies' Library in Canton, OH, and their featured exhibit on Forgotten First Ladies. I'll drum up some traffic for this great blog site, and respond to comments throughout the day. Oh, and I'll add another 1,000 words to the WIP.

Saturday–Okay, I'll give in to the jitters today. Two of my chapter mates–AE Jones and Jane Lynne Daniels–are up for RITA awards, both in the Paranormal category. Who knew Cleveland could be so scary? And, AE's also up for Best First Book. My sister and I will settle in at the computer at 8 with a big bowl of popcorn, and watch the proceedings with our fingers crossed. No writing today, but hopefully, rejoicing, before it's all over.

Sunday–I'll finish out the Nationals experience by adding another 1,000 words to the manuscript, which will get me close to 10,000 words by the end of the week. Instead of spending my days in workshops and networking with fellow authors, I've kept my nose to the grindstone and my WIP on track, making my deadline a workable one.

But I'm still envious. And counting the days till the San Diego conference.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Paring Down

Every author has his or her own writing habits that they fall into. Repetition, overuse of the same body language, tired, worn out cliches, that type of thing. These habits are okay for a first draft, but when you're in editing mode, as I've been these last few weeks, it's time to take the scissors to the manuscript, and cut all these bad habits from your work. Word count goes out the window in favor of producing an end product that's lean, where every scene advances the story line, where every word and every paragraph is essential to the story.

The same scenario is playing out in my life as well as in my manuscripts. My home was placed on the market last week, with the end goal of downsizing to a single story home that's more easily navigable for those of us with joint problems, and easier to take care of. So, I've started paring down my possessions and decluttering the house. I've almost got a handle on the clutter, but the paring down of what's accumulated over the years will take awhile. My rule of thumb is if I haven't looked at the box or item, or worn the article of clothing in the six years I've lived here, it's time to toss it. I'm cutting out all the repetition, all the worn out cliches, all the paperwork from years ago, etc. It's time to get mean and lean, since I'm hoping to decrease my floor space by about half. I will brutally edit all extraneous material from my life, just as I do with my manuscripts.

Big changes are coming in my life. My edits went back yesterday to the publisher. Book 8 in my series–A Widow's Salvation–was the most difficult book for me to write in the series, but I think the end product is one of my best.

Now I can only hope the move to a smaller house, which will be the most difficult move of my life,
will end up being one of my best decisions ever.