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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Killer Clowns & Killer Campaigns

Many years ago, I went to university with a young man who had a hilarious idea for a comic book. He called it Killer Clowns From Outer Space. I kid you not, it was so funny I would have tears in my eyes.

He invested in the idea and created the comic book. I still have the premiere issue somewhere. I bought it for the princely sum of one dollar. I think my favorite part of the book was the back page. There was a "killer" clown holding a precious little puppy by the scruff of the neck. In the clown's other hand was a 45 caliber pistol. The caption read: Buy this book or the puppy gets it!

Blackmail! And with a puppy. Did the guy have no shame? He really knew how to pull my strings.

Alas, even with the clever advertising, he couldn't sell enough comic books to get back his investment, so he pitched his idea to a big publishing company, and they bought it.

I never saw Killer Clowns again though. I heard the company mass produced it for a while and then let it disappear. --which goes to prove that sometimes even the big guys can't win all the time either.

It made me realize, too, that no matter how good an idea is, it will sit in oblivion without the proper engine to give it exposure. Comic books and novels are much the same.

Now that I have my own book coming out, I knew I had to dig in and pull out all my resources to see what would work for me.

This morning, I sat down and listed every single promotional venue I could think of. I came up with 43 different ideas. I thought it would be interesting to post two or three at a time and discuss the pros and cons for each.

Next Friday, I'll post the master list and that will give you a timeline on when I'll discuss each set of promotional vehicles.

I was amazed there were so many ways to get the word out. But what was even more interesting was when I broke them down not only by their cost effectiveness, but by their audience reach. I began to see why some ideas worked for certain authors and not for others. It also gave me a basis on which vehicles would fit best to my personality.

There's still a lot more research to do, but I hope to examine these ventures week by week on this blog. Hopefully, it will be useful to other authors as well.

I should note that I actually came up with 45 promotional ideas, but two, (affiliate programs and Google ads) required more study than I'm willing to donate at this time. I'm also not very convinced of their effectiveness for authors, but that's just an opinion.

In honor of my friend and his comic book, Killer Clowns, I am naming this new series of posts, Killer Campaigns. It will run every Friday until I run out of ideas.

And unlike my friend's book, no puppies will be harmed in the making of these posts.


My friend KS Augustin is giving away free reads! Go here to read the prologue and first chapter of War Games. Then be a dear and drop a note to Kaz here.


Touch Of Fire Update:
OMG, it's getting closer. Let me direct you to an excerpt here. If you like it, pass the link around. I need your help to get the word out.

More later!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Agent Blogs

Man, it has been a dry season for markets lately. I scoured my lists yesterday and I couldn't find anything noteworthy. I try to be open-minded when I post markets. My only real criteria is that they pay professional rates or have superior exposure. For contests, I try to post only those that don't charge an entry fee.

But the well's been dry, so I will leave you with agent blogs. Yes, I can hear Mike cussing me out across the Atlantic Ocean for giving him yet more reasons to procrastinate and not write. Tough toenails, Mikey. (Notice how brave I am when I have an ocean protecting me from the man's wrath. LOL!)

I have all of these agents on my reader. I'll let you decide who has the best blog.

Joshua Blimes

Bookends, LLC

Nathan Bransford

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Diana Fox

Jennifer Jackson

Elizabeth Jote

Caren Johnson

Colleen Lindsay

The Knight Agency

Kristin Nelson

KT Literary

Lyons Literary

Chip MacGregor

Jenny Rappaport

Lori Perkins

Janet Reid

Nephele Tempest

Rachel Vater


EDITED to add: Rachelle Gardner
Thanks to Angela James for adding to the pot.

Yet another EDIT: Add Lucienne Diver to the list. You can also see an interview with her here.
Thanks to Josephine Damian for the head's up.

Speaking of agents, in a few days I will direct you to an interview I did with Colleen Lindsay. She gave a lot of smart advice. I was impressed with her publishing experience. Stay tuned for the link.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Linky Luv

Damn Sherrill. LOL!

Do you guys really need to know six random things about me? I lead a perfectly normal life for someone who has traveled the world, homesteaded, can see ghosts, knows all about ratites, sleeps lightly and rises early.

Perfectly normal, I tell ya.

I'll add one more. I started writing fiction purely as a fluke. See what happens when I get bored. I beget whole new careers.

I'm not going to tag anyone---well maybe Carol, since she made the mistake on commenting about Sherrill. LOL. The rest of my friends will probably send daggers my way if I tagged them while they were enjoying their alcoholic beverages.

But feel free to tell me six random things about you and comment here. I will edit this post and add you as a bonafide link. Linky Luv.

Right back at you Sherrill Quinn.

Here are the rules.
a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I've been approved

I am exhausted! Yesterday was a very long day. I barely had time to grab a bite to eat before hitting the sack, and now here it is, morning again. At least it's Friday.

I'm afraid I didn't have time to prepare a blog post for today. And the only news I have is that we should be seeing excerpts for Touch Of Fire out soon.

There are several irons in the fire right now, but it wouldn't do any good to mention them at this point since I don't know how they'll turn out yet.

I did get my business cards from VistaPrint yesterday. In record time! They sent them within the week. And they look gorgeous. I used the cover art for the card. LOVE that cover! It looks great.

You'd think the book coming out next month would be the biggest thing on my mind, but instead it's something even more important to me. In a couple of weeks I'll undergo eye surgery on both eyes. They'll be replacing my natural lenses with synthetic ones. Supposedly, they will never deteriorate.

I am anxious to get it done. I cannot begin to tell you how bad my eyesight is. It's weakened significantly in the last couple of years, but I couldn't afford the surgery. Then I found a doctor who convinced my insurance provider that it was a medical necessity. I still have to pay for the lenses--a hefty sum--but it'll be worth it if I can get my sight back. The surgery itself is exorbitant. That's the part I couldn't afford on my own.

They told me yesterday the surgery had been approved. I hope no one pulls a fast one on me, or you are going to see a grown woman cry.

From May 5 through May 15, my posting might be a little irregular. I won't be allowed to tax my eyes until they heal. I will try to have a few posts already written up---or hire me a secretary. (grin)

LOTS going on next month. And some of it I can't divulge until I get confirmation, but I am hoping it will be the beginning of a long and happy writing career. Wish me luck!

More to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Feel This Rant

Warning: I am NOT going to be pleasant on today's post. This is an actual rant, one I may regret tomorrow, but I feel too strongly about this not to state an opinion. Does this have to do with writing? In a broad sense, yes. It has to do with women taking themselves seriously and not acting the fool for any man (or woman) who will pay them a compliment.

If I were a good blogger I would send you to every link that's been talking about The Boob Project. But I don't have the patience to look up every place I saw it posted, so I will send you to theferret, where this originated. Go here and here, and then to Dear Author, the only place I posted.

If I understood this correctly, a mixed group of people came up with the Open Source Boob Project at PenguiCon, whereby if you wear a button, you were given the privilege of being asked whether another person can touch your boobs.

Can someone tell me in what world do they think this makes sense? Evidently, these guys thought PenguiCon was it.

How needy do you have to be to come up with this lame-brain scheme, or worse be a particpant to it?

theferret goes on to say that what works in the microcosm doesn't necessarily work in the macrocosm.

Ya think?

He further says that while it was women who originated this idea, he was not going to use them as a shield to protect himself from the barbs that ensued.

How noble.

According to theferret this is how it happened: "The original group was pretty firmly mixed: three women, four men. The originators of the Project were women, who asked first, and received first, with the men asking afterwards. In fact, it started out as women exploring each other."

So basically you get a couple of drunk, needy chicks who want to touch each other and you think you have a social experiment.

Oh, please! Try to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge now.

I'm glad theferret realized it wasn't a smart move and would not repeat it. He insists he would not want women to feel unsafe at cons.

This has nothing to do with safety. I'm not intimidated. I'm insulted. It's bad enough some loser wants a free ticket to cop a feel, but then to pawn this off as part of a social statement smacks of absurdity.

Just because some idiot lets you touch her privates does not make it a bright idea---unless you're a 14-year pimply faced boy.

I'm not a prude and have no issues with showing flesh. And if you want to get all touchy feely with each other, get your jive on in any dark corner you choose. But don't sell this as some sort of social experiment.

You're not fooling anyone, except the yahoos who bought into this sham. I expected this from men. (What guy turns down a free grope?) But hand to heart, I am really, REALLY disappointed in the women who thought this was okay.

And to the woman who first gave her permission to be groped, yes, you are needy and insecure. Please don't try to hide behind something nobler. It wasn't. It was just a cheap feel that gave you a false feeling of power and validation. I am hoping there was liquor involved. I'd hate to think any sober woman would see this as worthy.

This may be the first time I've ever ranted on this blog, but this just made me mad. I'm glad theferret saw the error in it, but I can't say it's redeemed him. I wish him luck.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Business Card Winner

And da winnah is....Cheryl!

I don't have one of those contest randomizers so I asked the husband to pick a number. And Cheryl was it.

I deliberately stayed off the comments' trail so I wouldn't be swayed one way or another, but when I did read them, I loved Cheryl's comment about being cheap. A soul sister!

I am all about learning how to do for myself and finding economical ways to get the job done. It's always good to meet a kindred spirit.

Congratulations, Cheryl! Email me (go to my profile for the addy) and give me your thoughts on what you'd like to see on your business card.

If you linked me on your blog in the past three days, and someone commented on it, you are welcome to choose one of your visitors for a free download of Touch Of Fire when it comes out.

Thanks to everyone who popped in. I hope you'll come back because we'll be having more contests as the release of Touch Of Fire draws near.

Normally, I do markets on Monday, but today I'll leave you with links and news.

There's a new agent at the Lori Perkins Agency. Spencer Ellsworth represents Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Humor,Satire and Graphic Novels. Query him at: Note per Ellsworth: Please, no vampires.

Allie Boniface gave an excellent report on a recent conference that she attended. I hadn't thought of this, but one of the speakers at this conference recommended local book sellers and book clubs as great venues for the author. I thought this was brilliant. Go here to read the rest of Allie's post.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Win a Business Card Design

Sandra poked me the other day and asked if I had blogged about business cards.

If you didn't know this about me already, in my other life I am the art director at a mega-company that shall not be named --to protect the innocent. I've also been a graphic designer nearly all my adult life. (that equals to a very long time)

I know a lot about promotional collateral. But even I was hesitant on where to spend my promotional dollars. After much consideration, I decided on the business card.

Only yesterday, I had lunch with a (NY pubbed) author and I asked her where she invested her promotion dollars. She said business cards were the only things she'd spent money on so far. She didn't think postcards, bookmarks and brochures brought her as much mileage as the humble little business card.

I have to agree. Here's why.

I am not fussy about what holds my place in a book. It could be a piece of toilet paper for all I care. If you look at the slew of books I read on any given day, most of my "bookmarks" are business cards. They're small, portable and unobtrusive, and I will readily give them to strangers before I shove a bookmark in their hands.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE bookmarks. I collect them for their aesthetic value alone. Some of them are really gorgeous. But I don't need them--and rarely use them. Judging by the books I've seen in other people's possession, I'm not alone.

The whole purpose of promotion and networking is to get people to refer to whatever trinket or card you give them. No matter where you decide to spend money, always have that in the back of your mind. How often will people see your advertisement? This is why business card magnets are so effective. I constantly see those magnets on my fridge. And I use them too.

Regular business cards are stored in a very nice BC album. If I have your business card I can find you at a glance. Bookmarks, on the other hand, are usually in a box hiding in my closet. Sometimes when I need inspiration, I go through them.

Those are my reasons for banking on business cards. Now let me tell you what to put on them.

Layout: If you have a book to promote, use your book cover as the main art. People tend to be very visual. I might not remember your name, but I will remember a cover and will look for it on that basis.

I like art. I will be drawn to a card with art faster and retain it to memory longer than a plain card. So if you don't have cover art, think about color and graphics. Think about branding. What does your card say about you?

Steer away from cutesy clip art. Go for something more original and memorable. Do you write mystery or suspense? Black and silver looks stunning. Horror? I know your gut instinct is probably blood splatters, but consider something creepier. Like maybe one eye with the silhouette of a knife as the pupil. Romance runs the gamut between sweet to erotic. The key is to know your audience. Who are you trying to reach?

Fonts: I've said this before. Don't get fancy with your fonts. You can get away with a "display" font as your main heading (usually your name) but keep the rest of it simple and easy to read. You don't want people to get out their reading glasses.

Color: Complementary, please. Just because lilac and neon green are your favorite colors doesn't mean it belongs on your card. Think about what you're selling, not what you like.

Blurb: If you have room, add your catchphrase. If you don't have a tagline, go back to your brand. What is it that you write? What is the tone or atmosphere of your style of writing?

And if you don't have a brand, at the very least list the kind of writing you do. On my generic (good for all reasons) business cards it says:

SF • Fantasy • Paranormal
Freelance Writing • Print & Web

Information: In this day and age you have to be careful what kind of info you give to strangers. If you must give out a physical address, use a PO box. Use a cell phone number as opposed to a house phone, otherwise people can find your physical address through sites like Reverse Lookup.

Email addresses pose a different problem. I've had to change my provider once already--along with the extension to my email address. To get around this, consider getting a Yahoo or Google email account. It'll follow you anywhere regardless of who your provider is.

That's about all the wisdom I have for one post. But I'm feeling magnanimous today. So how about this: Leave a comment here. Tell me what you write. If you have a book out or have one coming out, give us the title, a short blurb and your release date.
In three days time, one poster will win a FREE layout design for a business card, designed by yours truly, set as a high resolution jpeg and camera ready.

But wait! There's more. Link this post to your blog. If you are the winner of the layout design on my blog, I will also give a free download of TOUCH OF FIRE (when it comes out in May) to one individual who comments about this post on your blog.

Link me, baby, and win a chance for a free business card design.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monica Burns

Once again I am able to bring you an interview with a wonderful author. Monica Burns was gracious enough to answer my burning questions. (You knew I couldn't help that.)

Monica is a multi-published author of erotic romance. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica is a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist, 2006 EPPIE finalist, 2005 CAPA nominee and a recipient of JERR’s Silver Star award. Her latest book is "Dangerous", a very sexy historical romance.

I asked Monica for an interview because she always gave such sage advice on the private Samhain loops. I hope you enjoy today's visit and walk away with a greater appreciation for the writer's life.

How long have you been writing? Can you tell us your first “Call” story?
I wrote my first romance at the age of 9, and it was shorter than a short story. LOL I didn’t start writing seriously with the intent to publish until about six years ago. I got my first “email” in 2004 when my novella "Rogue In Disguise" was contracted by New Concepts Publishing

Tell us about your writing process. Do the characters come first or is it the story?
Generally, it depends on the subgenre of romance. When I write historicals, I know my world there so well that for me the characters and their problems are what come shining through. With my new urban fantasy series that my agent and I are tightening up, it’s much harder to focus on the character straight out of the gate. The world building has to mesh with their interaction and their story, so it makes it more difficult to create their story, particularly since I love action-adventure romance. I love the cool things I get to do with my characters when it comes to things that happen to them. Nothing more fun than trapping the hero/heroine in a tomb and letting them figure out how to escape. Something that even I as the writer doesn’t always know.
You write about exotic locales or exotic characters. How do you prepare for them? Is there a lot of research involved or do you draw from personal experience?
Egypt is a place I’ve always been drawn to, although I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. One day when I’m old and my children and DH no longer need me to survive, I plan to go and visit all the places I’ve written about and researched. Whenever I use a time or locale that is new or unusual to me, I do lots of research, but I tend to do it as I go along with the story. It irritates my Muse because I’ll stop in the middle of a scene to go find something to backup my description and then I’ll spend an hour or so researching and confirming. It can be a frustrating way to research, but in the end it helps with suspension of disbelief and over all my research isn’t as time consuming as it would be if I was allowed the pleasure of simply reading ALL of my research books from front to back. LOL

Of all the characters you’ve created, who’s been your favorite and why?
I love all of my characters, it’s sort of like your own children, it’s impossible to choose one as a favorite. I do have characters I indentify with more. Julia in my story "Love’s Portrait" is a woman I understood well for personal reasons. Then there’s Alex in "Mirage". I’ve had dreams that I’ve tenaciously followed. As far as heroes, Devlyn from "Love’s Revenge" is always the first hero to pop into my head when I’m asked questions such as these. I love his arrogance, his passion and his dominating manner. The same is true of Morgan in "Love’s Portrait" as well.

My heroes in "Mirage" and "Dangerous" are more tortured because of the internal conflicts they’re dealing with. And one of the things I love the most about Lucien (Dangerous) is the way he expresses his love for Constance at the end of the book.

Alpha males figure prominently in your books. What is it about the alpha male that draws you to him?
Being an alpha female, I understand them. Any alpha (male or female) is all about keeping their deepest emotions inside, never letting anyone see into their hearts. They refuse to admit that they might need someone because they don’t want to admit any type of vulnerability. When it comes to the alpha male, I love their dominating behavior without being abusive. But it also gives me the opportunity to peel back the layers so they’re seen as vulnerable and yet incredibly strong. Not to mention that UATWS (up against the wall sex) is really, really hawt!! LOL

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
In the beginning I would have written constantly while my agent was shopping my books. I have the tendency to stop working on something when she’s sending out a completed project. Mostly it’s nerves that make me do that, as well as trying to figure out what the next best thing is to write when I don’t even know if the project will fly. I’m getting better at that. One wants to create the next best trend, but that breakout novel isn’t always an easy one to write or even sell. I also would have spent less time on promo and more on writing.

You have a wonderful website and blog that gives you a strong web presence. Did it take time to hone this web presence or did you already have a good idea on how you wanted to present yourself?
My current website and blog are the latest of three different designs. The original site was the frilly, sweet, light webpage that didn’t represent my writing at all. I then changed it to deeper, richer purple hues to focus on my Victorian historical writing, but it became bulky and my writing was evolving so I had to redesign. My current design is all about what the reader can expect when they read my works. It’s not about the setting or subgenre, but about the satisfaction a reader gets if they fall in love with my writing. I work to give them Ahh…Sensation Something that gives them that Calgon take me away feeling. LOL

My website and blog are about my brand, and the type of writing I do. No matter what new book I list on my site it will fit in because ultimately the goal is to make the reader think, “yeah that was a good read.”

Once the website was revamped it’s been easy to maintain, although I don’t want to redo the site anytime in the near future. It’s a huge time sink.

Do you have any career advice for pre-pubbed authors for making that first sale?
The best advice I could give would be learn characterization. It’s critical to a story. I’m still honing that in my work. I’m a strong plotter, but the characterization is what keeps readers coming back for more. It’s also the magic that holds the reader’s attention. I’d also advise limiting TV viewing and participation on various loops. Finally, stay away from confrontation with anyone on the net. It can come back to bite you in ways you could never imagine. *grin*

Check out Monica's website and blog for more information on her books, news, contests and more. Writers: Monica also has some wonderful articles and resources too.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Family Chronicle

We much prefer e-mail submissions - send a covering e-mail with the manuscript as an attachment and any illustrations as low-resolution images (if we accept we can ask for better resolution images later).

Family Chronicle is generally a "how-to" magazine. Our average article is 2,000 words but rarely they are up to 7,000 words.

Payment varies: however it is not less than US $55 per page and the average is considerably higher. Magazine for families searching their roots.


For my UK and Irish friends...

First Novel Contest

Fee: None

This competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over who is a resident of the UK or Republic of Ireland. The Publisher will offer the winning entrant a publishing contract with Transworld Publishers, a division of The Random House Group Limited, and an advance in the sum of £30,000 (Prize). The Publishers will publish the winning work in the spring of 2009. Entrants must submit a complete work in the English language of not less than 80,000 words and no more than 150,000 words and a synopsis of the work in the English language of no more than 600 words. Entrants must not have written a novel published under a valid ISBN.

Deadline: July 2, 2008.


Writing That Works

Writing That Works covers business publication writing.

$160 - Major articles -- 500 to 800 words
$70 - Short articles -- 300 to 400 words
$35 - Quick Tips and Sites to See -- typically 100 to 250 words

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Alcohol 101

Just a quick post to direct your attention to KS Augustin. Her post, A wee dram..., proves how valuable the internet is. At no other time would I have known the value of good scotch, the difference between whisky and whiskey, and the transcendental importance of the correct number of ice cubes in a proper glass of scotch and water.

Belly up to the bar, boys.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Need a Chorus

I've been giving some thought to promotion. Lots of people have blogged about it in recent weeks, such as Sarah Prineas and Yasmine Galenorn.

It's a subject that comes up regularly on several of my loops.

There is the obligatory bookmark and business card, the occasional postcard and brochure, all things I'm quite familiar with given my line of work. But these are passive tools. And there's no way to gauge whether they’ve done their job of promoting you.

When I was at last year's RWA conference I must have given my business card out to dozens of people. I in turn took theirs. Most of them had an email address, a phone number and a short blurb on what specific sub genre they wrote in, but few had a blog or website. That surprised me a little.

Websites and blogs are so important in today's environment. And it's easy to get a free one, though I do recommend going for a paid site so visitors don't have to endure all those advertising banners.

But free is good while you're learning how to create, develop and hone your site and your voice. What counts is getting that experience so when you do make your debut, you'll be nice and shiny.

I get a fair amount of visitors here, and my name pops up prominently in Google. It's a great foundation for what comes next: getting the word out. I am still a thin voice out there among the much published and much publicized veterans. I can use all the help I can get. Hopefully, my karma points will come back and repay me. That's the prayer anyway.

I won't be doing too many contests, but I probably will do at least one major one here. I haven't yet decided what the prize will be, but it'll be a nice one, and it'll go to the person who does the best job of telling others that Touch Of Fire is out in the world. More details in the weeks to come.

My first mantra has always been: Write a good book. I'm confident I did. Touch Of Fire packs a lot of punch for a short read. Come on! There's sex, adventure, huge obstacles and great sacrifices. And there's sex. Did I mention that? LOL.

I know this book can stand on its own merits. I just have to get enough people to read it and recommend it to others. So help me spread the word, okay?

If you have a blog or review site that might welcome me, email me and let's talk turkey. I've got a few interviews and guest blogs lined up and hope to earn more exposure as the time draws near.

In other news, if you're interested in seeing the inside of an agent's mind, don’t miss my interview with Colleen Lindsay, from FinePrint Literary, in the May issue of OWW. It's going to be a keeper!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Check out Josephine Damian's blog about Janet Evanovich. It's so uplifting to read about big time authors who are just like you and me. Good advice and a small peek into the life of a mega-star author.


Lee McKenzie over at Wet Noodle Posse recommends Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. I don't know why I don't have this book. It is always recommended. But I follow this advice religiously when I plot my novels and it never fails to keep me on track.


Seekerville had a lovely and thought provoking post called Surviving on Unpubbed Island. It was a clever analogy about the writer's life and the daunting climb to publication. It helps to be reminded that none of us are alone.


And for a more sobering look at our changing market, here's a New York Times article on Harper Collins' effort to cut authors' "high" advances and disallow the practice of returning unsold books back to the publisher.

Most of the authors I know don't make "high" advances, so if those who did get them are not fulfilling the promise of a golden egg for their publishers, shouldn't they be returning that advance? I'm not blaming the authors or the agents here. It's up to us to get as much as we can, but why should all authors have to feel the pinch if it's the publisher making a poor business decision on individuals?

Heck, Harper Collins might even be more equitable in the long run. The only thing that troubles me is that darn ripple effect.

Did I not tell you things were changing? It's not just Amazon's supply chain grab, or Harper Collins' new imprint rules, or a boatload of other publishers scrambling to get on the e-book gravy train. Publishing has to change. It is a Gorgon, a beast from an age of gluttony, and those antiquated hallmarks no longer work in today's digital market.

So do you still want to get published? You might find the environment far less accommodating to the author from here on out.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Pockets Magazine (Devotional Magazine for Children Published by Upper Room)

Submissions are accepted between March 1 and August 15 of the contest year. Unpublished stories 1,000 to 1,600 words -- 1,400 word manuscripts are the best length for our purposes. Stories are disqualified if they are shorter or longer by even a few words. Note accurate word count on the cover sheet. There is no entry fee. The winner, notified by November 1, will receive a $1,000 award.

Southwest Writer's Annual Contest

Sixteen entry categories. Entries must be postmarked by May 1, 2008. Late entries must be postmarked by May 15, 2008 and accompanied by an additional $5.

Winners in each category are notified in August, 2008. 1st Prize, $150; 2nd Prize, $100, 3rd Prize, $50. 1st place winners are eligible for the $1,000 Storyteller Award.

Agent News

Steve Kasdin has joined The Sandra Dijsktra Literary Agency. This agency is based in Southern California and has no official Web site. Kasdin reps thrillers, mystery, literary fiction, and commercial fiction. This agency takes only snail mail. Send to: 1155 Camino del Mar • PMB 515 • Del Mar, CA • 92014


Happy birthday to Maya, Terry and David. Yeah, we know you got a year older. :o)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Nim's Island

Charleton Heston died yesterday, April 6. I've always liked him. He had been afflicted with Alzheimer's, that horrid disease, but his family was with him around the clock.

RIP, Mr. Heston.


Mini Review of Nim's Island

I really wanted to like this movie. It had Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler (in dual roles) and was about a neurotic---er, hardworking writer that sets out to save a child.

The little kid, Abigail Breslin, was cute and believable in the movie. Gerard Butler was very good, especially when he was playing Foster's funny alter ego hero. And Foster was good at playing neurotic, but together they didn't seem to have any chemistry. I know. Hard to believe any woman couldn't have chemistry with Gerard Butler, but there you are.

The other thing that irritated me in the movie is that lines kept getting repeated by more than one character. And considering this was partly about an author, I was hoping for better dialog. Maybe because it was geared towards kids, the dialog was dumbed down--but that too is silly. Kids are not stupid.

If you are a YA fan, this is fine for a rental. I don't know that I'd pay full price at the theater.

Addendum: Greg asked me why writers are always depicted as neurotic. Aside from the fact that neurotic makes for a funnier character--I don't know. Mark Terry has spoken several times about the silly "I HAVE to write" mantra that some writers embrace.

That mentality does tend to paint writers as a bit neurotic or unstable.

I'm reminded of when I was at university studying art. It was my first year and I noticed several students with outlandish outfits or affectations that would label them as "artistic" or at least different. I was a little older when I finally went back to college and didn't go in for the ridiculous look.

I asked one of my professors why they paraded like peacocks. He said: Because they're on the outside looking in and they want to prove to the world that they belong to the art community.

If there's one thing I've learned about being a creative, it's that we are different by virtue of thinking outside the norm. We create worlds and people and dreams. There's no need to perpetuate the "neurotic" writer myth.

And to answer Greg's other question: I do NOT have conversations with my characters. They're not even aware that I exist. It's better that way. I can be a vengeful creator if they ever attained awareness.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Readers, Alerts and Analytics

Google Reader: On average I look at more than 200 posts a day. Some of it is for work. Some for my social edification. But most of my scouring has one base goal in mind, to locate contests, markets, and bloggers with excellent attitudes, advice and content.

Most of these people don't know me. I am getting better about popping in and leaving a message if I feel they delivered something comment worthy, but most of the time I drift by, especially when others have already echoed my sentiments. (I dislike adding to the "me too" crowd.)

But with my blog reader, I can see most posts in real time. Live Journal is the only one that has a delay so it might be hours before I know anyone posted.

Note about blog readers: I should warn you that if you post something you later deem inappropriate--it's too late. You might remove it from your blog, but it's still on the reader and in a couple of other places where digital information is cached. Always be mindful of what you post.

I've seen more than one blogger with egg on his face. And while I don't kiss and tell, I can tell you my opinion of those bloggers has diminished greatly.

Google Alert: This is a handy little tool that will ping me when someone has mentioned my name, my book's name, or any other series of keywords. I really like Google Alert. It's very unobtrusive, especially for something you want to passively watch to see if the viral community is talking about you.

Google Analytics: I have not used Google Analytics. Not because it's not handy, but because it gives far more information than I need at this point in my career. I think it's more useful to people who are selling products, but it's also good for gauging how your book is doing and how often people are clicking on your links to check them out.

Say what you want of Google, but this company has it all. Check them out and see for yourself.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Writing Game Plan

When I decided to take up writing, I started with a short story and entered a contest. I was peeved I didn't win, until the administrator told me that I had beat out more than 18,000 entrants. So maybe that wasn't too bad for my first time out at bat. It made me wonder if I had the chops to go the distance.

I dabbled a little at first by joining a writing community and reading members' work. But it didn't take long for me to figure out that it was the reviews I wrote that helped me the most. Reading and analyzing other people's work gave me the foundation I needed to improve.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that by year two I noticed I wasn't moving forward. This is when I stopped slugging down Jello shots at the pity bar, bemoaning the fact I wasn't published. It forced me to make a decision. Was I going to be a published author, or not?

Unlike many of the writers I hung with, I was a little older, perhaps a little more worldly, and had more business experience. I knew I'd never make it if I wrote with a safety net, so I made the conscious decision to read other genres, and to put my work in front of people who weren't my friends.

I crossed the Rubicon, and there was no turning back.

Having been a graphic artist, I'd already had one career in the publishing field, so I had a pretty good idea of what was expected. Since I had no pompous preconceptions about writing as an art form, I treated it as a business right from the beginning.

Your mileage may vary, but this is what I did.

• I gave myself a deadline to be published. Since I had a full time job and did a lot of traveling, I decided seven years should be enough time to know if I had any potential.

• I listed my strengths and weaknesses, as unvarnished and honest as I could admit.

• After examining my weaknesses, I looked for specific reviewers and classes that could help me turn them around.

• For my strengths, I looked for venues where they could be of use to other people.

• I joined a lot of writer groups in the beginning, gradually paring them down until I settled in with the groups that seemed the most congenial. Loops I like: Broad Universe, OWW, Forward Motion, Absolute Write. This isn't an extensive list by any means, but these are groups that have been helpful on a regular basis.

• I attended writing conferences. This was scary at first because I knew no one, but I've met some of my best friends at conferences. I prefer to go to writing related cons, as opposed to genre or fan cons. The writer cons are more business oriented.

• Joined RWA (Romance Writers of America). This is probably one of the best values around. I don't care if you write romance or not, these people know about writing and they know how to get published. They are well worth the membership fee.

• Created a private critique group. I asked a very select group of peers to join. Those asked were deemed (imo) as serious writers with the sand to get published and stay published. They were also excellent reviewers. More than once, individuals in my group have told me how strong our circle is. You will never find a better set of reviewers than my current group. I've been around. I know that for a fact.

• Contests. I enter very few contests. I just never think about them. Luckily, I have friends who are very good at twisting my arm and telling me to get in the ring. And I've learned to only enter contests that will further my career in some way. I won't enter a contest for a detailed critique or a monetary prize. Those things aren't that important to me. But if it's an editor with a prestigious house or a hard to get into line, you betcha, I'll try. You want your work to be noticed by the right people, people who can give your career a boost in the right direction.

• Publication. I write nonfiction when I get the chance and this does several things. You get a clip for your portfolio, your name is in print, (hopefully there is cash involved), and most importantly, it gives you some sense of accomplishment while you're working your way up. It's hard to keep your motivation up if everyone keeps saying no to you. Find ways for people to say, yes.

• Volunteer. I believe in volunteerism. Not only has it given me an in with the movers and shakers of our writing community, but you learn more from the inside than you do as a spectator. It also does your soul good. The more I volunteer, the less I worry about myself.

• Never stop learning.

That's pretty much it. Each of these steps was created to either further my career or improve a weakness. Along the way, I made an awful lot of friends. That was a bonus I never expected.