Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gaining Exposure

A year ago as I was preparing to sign my indie publishing contract I was already getting excited and thinking ahead about promotional ideas. It was overwhelming but thrilling and I had absolutely no idea where to start. All I could do was picture selling my books at a show while signing copies for people that had seen the advertisement for the event. 

I wasn't prepared for the cover reveal or release party and had no idea how to organize or run the online event so I ended up muddling my way through it. It was a learning experience to say the least. next I began searching for a location to hold a live book launch party. This turned out to be far more difficult and expensive than I had originally anticipated.  While I did find a location in time it ended up being far different than what I had pictured at the onset of the venture.

Just before the three month mark of my publish date I scheduled a date to hold a book signing at an adorable little bakery cafe that I love. I contacted the local newspaper for a spotlight and announcement as well as created an event on Facebook to let people know. Unfortunately because it was held on a Friday afternoon during traditional work hours the turnout was quite low. I had a few friends stop by to hang out and support me but there were no people wondering in to check out the event.

As it turns out the book spotlight wasn't going to be run until a few months later. People had messaged me to say that if it had been held on a Saturday or later on then they could have come. It was somewhat heartbreaking. It is difficult to not believe that the lack of people was because of lack of interest either in my book or myself. I did however resolve to try again, to see if there was any way that I could create more of a buzz the next time around. I did manage a mini book tour in September with four signings held over the course of a week. 

While most of the people that turned out for the events I was able to get a few interested at a craft show partially from an ad run in the local newspaper. The weather hindered one event from having a great attendance. Another had promotional posters and cards that could have been handed out but instead had placed them on a back table where there was no foot traffic and so no one would likely see them. The craft show was by far one of the most successful and so I am definitely thinking of doing more shows like that.

Things died down over the holidays and since I have been working very hard on the writing side of my business. The only real promotions I have done have been during promo days on Facebook and Twitter. I am hoping to do more live events this year just a matter of scheduling once I find location willing to host. the other part of my plans thins year have to do with submitting. 

I am looking to send out all four of my next books currently between writing and editing for hopeful representation by an agent or agents if different people show interest. I will also be continuing with my indie publishing career and one idea I have come across for further promotions is to be a part of writing competitions. I am hoping to send out my work to gain an wider audience through reviews and with any luck a few placings in some of the competitions I enter. Fingers crossed I can stand along side the other entrants as I hold my breath and face my fears allowing total strangers to pass judgement on my work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Unedited Excerpt from Welcome To Syn

Rebeccah turned without speaking but her face had a few choice words written across it. Persyphone watched them go with Samiya and Maryn flanking her on either side. It was not her nature to enjoy the misery of others but she felt at the moment that Rebeccah had brought this one on herself. Persyphone watched as they walked away. She smiled and waved in a mocking jubilance every time Rebeccah turned back. Asmara was waving at her side, the same smile on her lips.

Asmara was an incredible beauty and she was aware that people noticed her. That is why she was able to make a statement with even the subdued gestures she was now giving. Persyphone turned back into the house allowing Asmara to close the door behind them. She loved all of her daughters. They each had their own personalities that could shine through so strongly. While they all shared resemblances though it was clear that some of them took after her and some after their father when it came to their looks

Persyphone herself had long flowing blond hair. It could catch the light of the sun or the moon and shone with what appeared to be an inner light. Her eyes were a mystic grey-green color that seemed to shift with her mood. Some days you could almost swear there were emeralds there while others it was very clear storm clouds were gathering. Her porcelain skin carried the same glow as her hair. She never considered herself beautiful though Michael had insisted she was.

Her daughters on the other hand she had no doubt could catch the eye of any young man they desired. Lucasta had been gifted with an intuition as well as her violet colored eyes. They could look into your soul and see what you were thinking. She was a proud girl but held herself in check the way she had been taught. She was happy in her role as her mother’s right hand helping to raise her sisters. She had also loved walking in the fields assisting her father when she was done with her chores.

Both Michael and Persyphone had been thrilled when Hunter Williamston had come calling on her. It was never a question of if she would marry it was just a matter of when. He, fortunately, seemed to have an understanding of kindness and humanity that his parents lacked. While they were pushing for a large and extravagant wedding ceremony, both Hunter and Lucasta preferred something simple and understated. It was a source of great pride that her daughter showed that kind of restraint knowing money was no object for the Williamstons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Showing Emotion

I had a conversation recently about emotions. A friend of mine observed that n everyday life I can be extremely guarded with my feelings. It was even suggested, and rightly so, that my ability to hide what is happening inside can cause people to feel shut out. People may not realize that I am upset or worse they may not know I care about them.

I believe that one of the best people one could ever question about that would be my ex husband. He stood by me for nearly six years as I grappled with my PTSD. In complete fear of doing or saying something wrong and embarrassing myself I shut my heart and mind off completely to everyone around me including him. We parted ways because I could never show him how much I had loved him.

While looking back I can honestly say that we wouldn't have worked anyway because we are vastly different people, it is fair to also say the divorce was my fault. I pushed him away in a terrible set fulfilling prophecy that I wasn't good enough to keep him. He didn't deserve that. While divorce was imminent he had a right to know how much I cared, how grateful I was and to understand exactly what was really going on inside me.

I still manage to hide my heart to this day. It is more of an unintentional side effect of me being in an uncomfortable situation but it most certainly still happens. I have a boyfriend now that at least has been with me long enough to know I deal with the anxiety disorder and for the most part is very supportive of the mood swings and times of emotional distance. We still have our fights but at least I can more openly discuss what is happening.

The part that is still a major struggle for me is with friends and family when I feel something like love and appreciation but I am unconsciously in one of my hiding moods. I feel it so strongly but yet it is hidden beneath the surface and at times those around me can feel unappreciated. I am working on that. It is kind of a cheating way to handle things but I have found that I can be more open in my writing.

Just earlier today I was trying to get into the proper mindset for my PTSD novel Sharing Strength and I was listening to the song You Raise Me Up by singer Josh Groan. It immediately made me curl up and cry. There is so much intensity in that particular song for me and it clearly represents the point in the story I am currently residing at that is struck me to my very core. As I sat on my staircase, tears streaming down my cheeks I listened not just to the lyrics but the passion behind every noted played. It moves me.

I do my best to make sure that the characters in my books have the same passion and emotion which is why I listen to such songs as I create. I hope that one day I am able to share how I am feeling as freely as I can when I write but in the meantime I will do everything I can to show who I am, how I feel and how much I love through the words and actions of my characters.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Character Inspiration - Dr. James Kurtsman

Seven and a half years ago I lost my father. He was an incredible man that I am ashamed to say I was too selfish to get to know until the last few years he was around. I loved him with my entire heart but being completely different people that struggled to communicate I would not say that for the majority of my life we were very close. I do look back on things about our time together though as inspirational and I know he molded a great deal of my thinking and feeling about parts of my own life.

I am currently working on a book called Sharing Strength. In it there is a small support group of people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Two of them are military men that saw combat and lost a friend. One is the father of a small boy killed in a crash that he blames himself for. One is a rape victim and one if the survivor of an extremely abusive relationship. I have a number of military friends that have helped with the two soldiers. I have spoken with a family torn apart by the loss of their child and the two young women are based on my own personal experiences.

While I have focused a great deal on how hard it is for me to write about what happened to the women, Rachel and Jasmine, I have found another character that is very close to my heart. The leader of the support group is a therapist named James Kurtsman. He is in his sixties and several years ago both he and his wife were diagnosed with breast cancer. They both fought it, he survived but she lost her battle. He suffered tremendous survivor's guilt causing him to seek retirement until his friend asked him to oversee the support group.

As time goes on in the book the cancer becomes a subject injected periodically from the strength to fight the disease to his mental state after losing his love to it. My father also had cancer. It is not what killed him but it is an area of his life I also do not know that much about. He was intensely private about his struggle and I wish as I delve deeper into what happens with Dr. Kurtsman that I had been there to talk to him, spend more time with him and just generally know what he was dealing with. I have unconsciously found a way to bring my dad, a man I still miss and cry for everyday, back to life through a man that was supposed to just be a minor character I never intended to know.

He speaks to me and I know deep inside that it is my dad reaching out to let me know he is still with me. I am so glad he is able to be a part of a story that means so much to me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Avoiding Lazy Writing

I have been working on a number of projects simultaneously for quite some time now. I have Breathe, my drafted romance novel that is in the editing stage. Chocolate Covered Cherries is another romance novel that is still just being drafted and conceptualized. Sharing Strength is being written though slowly since it is an extremely emotional book. And finally Welcome to Syn which is completed through the initial drafting stage but needs to be proofread, edited and revised before it will even be ready for beta readers.

Sharing Strength I know for the most part exactly what is going to happen. While there are always nuances that can surprise a writer I do at least know the major happenings of the book. Rachel, Jasmine, Brian, Kyle, Craig and James are all intertwined in a rather painful but imminent journey through the overwhelming world of PTSD. I have used a great deal of my own experiences in this book which has caused me to take extra time with it. I want to make sure that I represent each aspect currently and do justice for every character associated with this book.

Welcome to Syn is such a leap for me that I am honestly hesitant to jump in and get started on the rewrites. I am very excited to be branching out and there are so many new elements for this book. To begin with it is the first in a series which I have never attempted before. I love the idea of taking a theme and running with it through a number of varying storylines but I could never picture how to do it until now. It is also historical making research a vital part of writing the book. I need to make sure I get the dialogue, setting even details such as clothing and interpersonal communications down to a believable science. Last but certainly not least there is an element of witchcraft. Because of that I need to establish how much to use it and what the different rules are for the magical abilities. Because it will be central to the rest of the books in the series I still have quite a bit of work to do.

While Breathe is drafted and all I am doing is fixing the last third of the book I do have a concern that keeps popping up when working on either Breathe of Chocolate Covered Cherries. They are both romance novels. They are both seen through the eyes of the main female character. Both Kelsey and Jessica are running away from a problem that cause tremendous grief in their past and trying desperately to create a new future where they can forget what has already happened. I am concerned that because I wanted to complete the drafts of all four books at the same time and the last two are so similar in many ways that I will create a parallel while working on them.

Each woman is her own person. Their past problems while in the same realm are still vastly different. But when I get into a particular frame of mind, just as a romantic one, I need to make sure that I am opening up to the current character and telling her personal story and not simply writing from a template. I believe in my abilities but there have been times when I have seen authors use a formula that runs through multiple books and it may have enough variations to be gotten away with once or twice it eventually becomes obvious and that is just lazy writing. I want to create not just fill in the blanks.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Unexpected Inspiration

My first book was written following an accident that caused traumatic injuries particularly to my back and neck. I was hospitalized and given a laundry list of restrictions that I could expect to deal with the rest of my life. I may not have been auditioning for a prestigious dance company but it was still life altering as far as I was concerned. Now just days away from the twelve year anniversary of my accident I have overcome many but not all of the pain and injuries caused that day.

I found it therapeutic though at times difficult to describe the frustration I felt, the depression I suffered and most of all the journey towards realization I went on to move past what happened. Even though the story is fictional there are definitely some elements of me woven into the story. That is also the case with Sharing Strength, my current work in progress.

I was watching television one day and saw an advertisement for a show about veterans with PTSD. The show made it seem as though the only people that suffer from the disorder were military. I can agree that they are the largest and most well publicized but there are people like me that have been diagnosed for numerous other reasons. I have written about this before but after a tragic scene I wrote not so long ago I have been working on the recovery of the characters and found something I wasn't expecting, inspiration.

I have spent months being consumed by the sorrow that comes from this disorder and what I have dealt with because of it. I have gone through a few emotional breakdowns crying as I relived my own experiences that have once again been sown into the very fabric of the story. In fact I would dare say that Jasmine and Rachel of Sharing Strength have more of me in them than Akaylia from Never Give Up ever had. 

As hard as these moments have been they were not unexpected. I knew I would feel a roller coaster of emotions as I relived some of the most painful times of my life. I have traveled with these two girls  and it has wrenched my heart and soul in ways I thought I would never have to deal with again but I was resolved to do justice to these women and in turn justice to myself. I wanted to make amends for failing those around me and and apologize to my heart for all the years I had blamed myself. 

Today I was writing a scene that was supposed to be about a man accepting fate and giving in to cancer. He was supposed to decide not to fight after he came out of remission but as often happens the character hijacked the story as I was writing it and showed me something I didn't expect. When I faced problems I retreated and gave up but in the face of sorrow one of the men in the story changed his mind and stood up and decided to fight. He found a passion for life in the wake of tragedy. I cried for just a moment to know that deep inside I could find that kind of courage to give to a man that suffered a moment as painful as anything I had ever gone through. Now I find myself wondering do any other writers find themselves inspired and empowered by their own characters?

Real Life vs Writer Life

It can be amazing the way life affects us. The more we need something and feel the pressure, the more difficult it becomes to make it happen. I have had two day jobs for nearly three years working to try and get ahead on some credit card and medical bills. I did manage to make strides toward the goal of getting caught up but I fell short of the goal and now still have several bills that need attention while I now have gone down to just one position.

For the sake of my health and the stress level of those around me it is for the better that I work just the one job. It also frees up a large amount of time to put towards my writing. This should be wonderful seeing as how I have five projects currently in the works. I have more time to write, edit and especially promote. Since my favorite way to do promotions is live events the extra time is a definite benefit.

Yet I also find myself putting a tremendous amount of stress on the writing side because I need to find a way to use it to make up some of the money I am losing by not working the additional job. Feeling this importance I cannot seem to concentrate. I jump from book to book. I am unable to simply settle down and complete any one thing. I have my to do list but it seems my brain has an entirely different view on the matter.

I find myself staring blankly at my computer or doing research on house projects I can't even afford because looking at my books puts me at a loss. I do chores in order to help with the restlessness but then I feel upset with myself because I should be writing. I need to find the focus and motivation I am always able to pull out each and every November for Nanowrimo. It makes me wonder if other writers are going through the vicious cycle.

Do you find yourself hiding and then punishing yourself for your own fear? Do you throw yourself into your work while neglecting your daily duties and then argue with others that rely on you for such things? How do you find a balance between real life and writer life while maintaining the motivation to be productive and successful at both?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writer's Life

When I was a little girl I had a few dreams. I was going to grow up to be a magic fairy princess, I didn't know exactly what they did but I was more than happy to learn. Once I got past the age of five I soon realized that magic fairy princess was not an actual job title so instead I began focusing on one of my other two major passions, dance. I loved to perform. I took classes, gathered posters of performers, I even read about the history of different styles I was studying. Everyday I would wait until it was time to dance class and then I could finally smile and be excited because I got to use my movements to create art and tell a story.

Well lack of motivation throughout my teenage years along with a few serious injuries cause my dance career to veer off course. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I tried college but went through thirteen different majors before I eventually found one that was a good fit. I took more than one break in my studies and anyone that has ever met me can vouch for the number of different jobs I attempted to hold. I was lost. I would write about it all the time along with random ideas for stories or characters. I loved to chronicle the places I went and people I met along the way. It was staring me right in the face, my one remaining passion was still with me and had never let me down. I could still be a writer. 

Again going back to that little girl with the princess dress and fairy wings, even then I loved to make up stories. I would use my ideas to put on plays for my family. I drew stick figure people to be the characters in my imaginary worlds. I was born to be a writer but back then if you had asked me what a writer does I would have been way off base in my answer. I always imagined writers being people that would sip coffee on the lounge chairs of their beach houses looking out over the water as the sun broke free of the horizon. They would have a word processor (yes I am a little older) set up in an elaborate home office that they would head to after breakfast and there they would remain for hours easily turning out masterpiece after masterpiece. Once they had written every word typed out and printed it was off to the publisher that automatically loved it. 

The publisher would go through the mystical process of assembling the words into millions of copies of the next bestseller. There would be a whirlwind book tour where fans would form an endless line to grab a copy and have it signed and when the tour was over they would just go back to the beach house and count their money. It was an easy and wonderful life. It was also the greatest fiction I had ever concocted. If that was the true life of a writer then far more people would be trying to become one I imagine and far less would ever make it. I believe there are those that have achieved a semblance of this but no one gets it completely right on the first try, editing and polishing are still required.

Today I got to live a day in the life of an actual writer. I got up early and went to speak to a location I was hoping would host an event for me. It did not work out so I had to go to a back up location as well as speak to an organization I was hoping to partner with. Again things did not go according to plan and my initial idea of a fundraiser / book event got pushed back until I can work out further details. I did however make a few new contacts and get a lead for two book signing possibilities. I added them to my contact list and headed to the post office to send out book copies as well as some promotional materials that will hopefully help me land another great signing event. 

After all of the running around I returned home only to have some chores that needed tending to. Once I had cleaned up and gotten everything around I made a list of the promotions I need to do which is another hour or so of work and of course keeping up with my blog which I am currently working on. Then I will finally be able to open up a file for one of the books I am writing and get some much needed words down before I devote myself to editing and revising a completed draft. When all is said and done I will head to bed exhausted but productive. I will open the book I am reading and with any luck at all get through a couple chapters before I fall asleep and get to do it all again tomorrow. 

I love being a writer and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world but there is no question that it is a true job. I hope that people realize what they are getting into and that the drive comes from their passion, heart and soul. There is nothing like the feeling of creating a world and getting to share it with others. For me I can't think of anything I would rather be doing and I hope that one day it will be my one and only full time job.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Preparing to Submit - Requested Materials.

First I would like to apologize for my absence these last few days. I returned to my day job following an injury. while the medical leave offered me much more time to write and focus on my promotional efforts it did of course keep me from earning the pay for my bills. So I am pleased to have returned but now I am working also to find the delicate balance between day job and dream job, finding time for all parts to come together.

As promised from my previous post I will be focusing lastly on SASE, Sample Chapters as well as some examples of things agents both look for as well as hope never to see. Hopefully as you go through your work adding and subtracting finishing touches this will help you narrow in on a few specifics to look for. The SASE is a simple topic I just wanted to touch upon because I was confused when I first started my research and I would see it mentioned. A SASE is simply a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. They ask you to include it making it that much easier to respond if and when they have an answer to your submission.

So you have your letter, it is professional yet interesting and you have sent it out to a number of agents. As the SASEs start returning you get the expected but hard to swallow rejection letters filling a bottom drawer in the spare room where you can hide the away. Hope is flickering, you are rereading your query looking for changes for the forty seventh time when something spectacular happens, a letter requesting more information. 

Go ahead and hug someone close, have a celebratory drink even high five the cat if that's your style (mine just like to lay on my laptop when I am working). Now that you have it out of your system time to get back down to business. First thing to know, what did the agent request? At this point many will request the full manuscript and if that is the case then make sure you have a crisp printed copy (or formatted document file if they prefer) and send it as soon as you can. You don't want to keep them waiting as though you have other offers, playing coy is not the way to go.

If by chance the agent only wants to see a few sample chapters then that is all you should send. Do not give them unsolicited work. They want to know that you pay attention and will do what you are asked. Go ahead and proof read what you are sending one more time. Then send it and wait to hear back. Once you have an agent interested it is still possible to have additional queries out but if the agent asked for some exclusive time it is customary to give it them instead of continuing to search.

The beginning of the book is a big deal. I have spoken with a few, submitted to several as well as read  numerous sites and books offering tips from active agents on what they do and don't look for. The first chapter is almost always the first thing they mention. One of the items I have seen and heard repeatedly is that the first chapter needs some action in it. Do not give long winded descriptions of characters or take three pages setting a scene. Characters need to be doing something productive not just mindless moving about. 

Next usually comes point of view. Make sure it is clear who is doing what, who is speaking and if it  is third person or first person. This should not however be done in a blatant uncreative way by simply announcing something. Weave it into the story just make sure everyone is on the same page. Remember that the characters that live in our heads and speak to us daily cannot be heard by the rest of the world so it is vital that stories not rely in inference but can be understood by anyone that chooses to read it. 

Creativity is, of course, key to great story telling. While not everyone can or would come up with the same book you wrote it is also important to make sure not everyone could come up with the open of that story. Don't use gimmicks or cliches, beginnings seen a thousand times over, write something unique to you and your characters. Get the agent interested and then keep them interested by making sure the excitement, passion, romance or whatever else you sold them in the query actually exists. 

The last thing I want to leave you with is the most difficult one for most writers I know. Every agent is different. They have different tastes, personal desires, professional affiliations and unique outlooks on what is or is not a good fit for them. You will get rejection letters. It will hurt. It is ok to cry or pout for a bit and wonder what may have made them choose it but the truth is that you may never find out. You just have to pick yourself up and move on. Keep trying because while not every book is right for every agent persistence can pay off and when you finally get that one acceptance letter it will make you forget every rejection that ever came your way.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Preparing to Submit - Query Letter

In the last few days I have talked about my decision to attempt submitting my work for traditional publisher's consideration this year. I am currently an indie author but I am looking to make the transition into a hybrid of indie and traditionally published work. My last post involved the places to fund an agent. It is a task that can seem intense and daunting calling on a novice to jump into a wide search pool with very few ideas of ways to filter it.

I gave a few suggestions such as the Writer's Market along with a couple of sites I have found helpful, QueryTracker and AgentQuery. Once you have narrowed your search by genre, location or whatever parameters you have chosen to use, you should have a list of people you are interested in submitting your work to. It can be terrifying to follow through and send out your baby to strangers for judgement.

Before you do submit anything it is very important to take some time, have others that can be objective read through it in order to give you feedback as well as perhaps catch any spelling or grammatical errors you may have missed when proofreading it yourself. You are sending out work that you want to have published and you want to make sure that the agent can see it being worthy of that goal. whether or not they like the story or represent a specific genre is completely subjective but getting the piece to look and present as professional as possible will lessen the obstacles that must be overcome.

Ok so now you have your squeaky clean manuscript and your list of agents in your excited shaking hands, now what? Most commonly what happens next is that you send a query letter. This is a letter that basically catches the agent's attention and pulls their interest in to read your book. It is typically a one page sales presentation. You need to hook them and draw them in, let them know about you and your work, you have to get them excited.

The first part of this all important letter is the introduction. You need to draw them in but most of all you need to connect with them. Take the time to personalize the letter, use the agent's name and take a look at some of the work he or she has represented in the past or may currently be doing. Does your work fall in line with what is currently offered? Mention it, let them know you did your homework and that you can be a good fit for them and the agency.

Be straight to the point and professional. You don't want to waste time giving vast descriptions of parts of your work, let them know the title, genre and length. Also while it is best to wait to submit until your book is finished if you have jumped the gun and have chosen to send letters out while still putting the finishing touches on, let the agent know the expected completion date. Once you have made that connection you have to put on your best salesman's hat and get that pitch down perfect.

Selling your book is an art and it takes people time to figure out the best way to describe their work, especially since you only have one or two paragraphs in which to present it. Again you want to be succinct. Show your creative talent but also keep it brief. For me when I was creating my first attempts at this section I wrote out the entire sales pitch. It took nearly three pages. After I got everything written out I set to work seeing what I didn't absolutely need to include. Then I found ways to combine sentences and information to dwindle down the length until it fit the letter. It took a few days of practice to get it there and I can remember a number of times that it got frustrating and I needed to take a break.

Once you are past the selling portion you have the bio. You get to sell yourself. Even if you have never published a book it is important to make sure the agent sees who they are working with. Make sure to include any awards you may have received or experience you may have, though try to keep both in the literary world. Agents are not going to care if you placed second at the junior high science fair unless your book involves scientific research related to your award.

End with a sincere and professional thank you for their time and consideration. Some agents provide a turnaround time while others only respond if interested. Keep sending out the letters and make sure to stay positive, you will get rejection letters. Just make sure to keep any that offer suggestions as they may be useful and help land a different agent. All the rejections you receive won't matter once you finally land that acceptance.

My next post in this series will cover the SASE, Sample Chapters and will get into a little more of what an agent does.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Preparing to Submit - Where to find an agent

As I wrote yesterday I will be writing an entire series about submitting to an agent using questions submitted to me along with information that I myself have found useful. I have worked with a few agents in the past but then I took several years off from writing and so I am learning this new way of contacting agents, submitting work and of course the increasing world of independent authors.

While I see nothing wrong with taking the self published route, I myself went through and Indie Publisher, but because there is still a stigma attached many people continue to aim for a traditional contract. Many people have discovered that in order to be taken seriously as an author whether traditionally published or not, it is key to edit and revise your book before allowing it into the world. Sadly there are still a number of writers that refuse to take these steps and will simply hit publish on anything they write, this is where the stigma comes from.

For those who choose to try your hand at the traditional route as I am planning to do, there are a few things to consider. One of the biggest is do you want to submit to publishers directly or should you use the talents of a literary agent? Knowing that I am not a great negotiator as well as the fact that it can be difficult to represent your own work objectively I have chosen to seek the advice, guidance and representation of an agent.

Today I want to cover the first and perhaps one of the most overwhelming steps, where to find an agent. The first place I turn to, and always have, is the best selling book The Writer's Market. There are a number of these books that can be purchased. I have chosen the original version as well as the Guide to Literary Agents as a compliment. I wanted to get deeper insight into what agents are looking for and perhaps more importantly, things they hope never to see again.

Both books offer tremendous lists of agents and cover what genres they represent, how to contact them and what should be included in the submission. Agents are contacted for a specific piece of writing so it would only be appropriate to send them the requested pages or chapters from one particular book. If you are accepted and they sell your book to a publisher then you could contact them again in the future for additional pieces but only one at a time.

For those more adept at technology or that prefer ereaders to regular books there is of course the largest tool available for finding agents, the internet. This is such a vast search location however that it can easily become overwhelming. You can start with a simple search on your preferred search engine, mine is Google. just type in things like "Literary agents", "Submitting a book", or Agents and Publishers". Any one of these will give you a host of possibilities.

After that it becomes the more refined work of looking through the sites to find one that offers the most agents for your genre(s). The two I have worked with the most are AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both of these sites have afforded me a large number of agents to choose from across the category spectrum. Once you have your site or sites you wish to explore you can go about filtering by genre, location or any number of additional limitations in order to bring down the long list or agents.

Tomorrow I will be focusing on the query letter and all of things that can be asked for when submitting once you have found your list of possible agents.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Preparing To Submit

Yesterday I was sitting at home enjoying the rain and happily hosting my time slot during an Indie Author Promotion event. All the while I was being taunted by a cardboard box on my cocktail table that had been delivered from Amazon earlier in the day. For Christmas I had requested gift cards for Amazon in order to purchase a few books including the Writer's Market. I knew it was waiting patiently inside that  box but I was busy doing the online event so I couldn't dive in no matter how eager I was.

Well today is a different story. I am in a business frame of mind so I see no better time than now to tear open the box, settle in with my coffee and set to work on the daily schedule I created last night. I intend to get about an hour worth of exercise in. I will be taking some time to read. I have already made a list of places to contact about holding book signings in the area so all I have left is some dedicated writing and revising time. 

I have written before about the four main stories I am working on. Sharing Strength being my biggest focus at the moment, it needs to simply be completed as a first draft. Chocolate Covered Cherries is in the same boat but much further behind though I have had a number of recent breakthroughs as the main character finally revealed her concerns to me. Breathe and Welcome to Syn on the other hand have been drafted. Breathe has even been edited to a degree. There was an issue with the ending so I created two different endings and allowed my main beta reader to go through them and figure out which seemed more appealing to the reader.

Now that I have all the feedback I have found a way to incorporate parts of both endings so all I have to do now is the rewrite. Welcome to Syn has the initial draft completed but it has been sitting giving me time to gain perspective and objectivity. While I believe there are no rules carved in stone when it comes to how to write a book it is nevertheless important to take professional advice in order to improve the possibility of success.

For my reading time today I will be reading some of the Writer's Market Guide to Literary Agents. I am hoping to gain some insight into what agents look for as well as what they hope to avoid. I am planning to share the information I learn from this book over the next few days here in my blog so if you have any questions about submitting to agents please comment and I will do my best to find the answers.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Getting Involved

When I was a child I loved to write. As an adult it a passion that has not faded but instead grown into a burning flame approaching bonfire status. I have simply enjoyed telling stories and taking my readers or even those listening if I shared aloud on a journey that came from my imagination. 

After awhile I noticed that many of the short stories I came up with had resemblances to the previous ones and that my lack of life experience was hindrance to my story telling. I began traveling more, studying different cultures and meeting as many people as I could. I talked at length with people others may have found unappealing such as the homeless and worked to overcome language barriers so that I could learn about those around me and the world as they saw it.

Traveling has become a secondary obsession for me and goes hand in hand with my writing. I am currently looking at doing a book for each of the places I have explored and doing my best to incorporate all of the things I have tried, surfing, skydiving, snorkeling, ultra light piloting, and so many others. I love being outside and it is my goal to bring those elements into my stories.

I also have been doing my best to be hands on with the promotion of the writing work I create. I enjoy the live events like signings and interviews. Again it is an opportunity to talk to people as well as be able to interact with those that have found some value in my work. It is important for me to find out who I am reaching as an audience and what draws them in so I can continue to grow my readership base.

I find that partnering with other authors and artists can also create a wonderful ross promotion opportunity while also affording myself the chance to meet new and interesting people. Sometimes those people bring heartbreaking stories while others bring with them a sense of inspiration and new connections for me as an author. It is a matter of making sure I let my supporters know how much they matter to me and to genuinely be interested in what they have to say as well.

I even do my best to make sure I am involved in the worlds I write about. My debut novel was about dancing and I was very active as a dancer for years. I have a tried to help out at animal adoption and awareness events including the rescue of several animals of my own. The current ones being what I call the Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit. How do you get involved in your writing worlds?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reasons Behind Sharing Strength

Last night I got a spark of inspiration and was able to write, Most importantly I was able to write through the first major conflict in Sharing Strength. There are still a number of issues to address in the book but I have been t a tremendous standstill on this first one. Because there is an aspect of parts of my life woven into the fabric of each of these characters I know their pain and I also am weighed down with the guilt of putting them through these frustrating situations.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a complicated thing to be diagnosed with. I have been doing my best to understand it for nearly a decade and while I pushed it to the back of my mind for years afraid it made me weak or less than others around me I have come to see it not as something I need to hide from nor coward behind but rather it is simply a part of me that I handle as best I can.

It does not make me weak. I have known many with the disorder that feel like I did, that it lessens them in the eyes of those around them. If anyone truly looks down on someone with PTSD then they do not fully comprehend what it is that the afflicted person is dealing with. It is not a disease it is a psychological reaction to a traumatic event or series of events. In my case it began when I was in my early teens and continued until my early twenties through a number of actions and my responses to them.

Like any person coping with PTSD I did not ask for this and I did not cause it. So many people will say that a person brought it on themselves but I promise you from the bottom of my heart no one would choose to have these complications. The nightmares and flashbacks, the uncontrollable panic attacks, knowing logically that the person or situation that hurt you is not there but being unable to calm yourself down. The constant stress in your life and the honest belief that you did this to yourself and that something must be wrong with you because you cannot simply get over it like those around you seem to be able to do.

No one has the right to tell you how to feel but when you suffer from PTSD they try. There are also those that believe it is only something that affects the military. This is completely untrue. Yes there are a significant number of cases in active and veteran military members. The combat situations they endure are extreme and it is understandable why so many deal with psychological demons after they return home. It is not their fault just like anyone else dealing with the diagnosis.

There are so many other ways to get it though and that is why this book is so important to me. It showcases characters that have gone through a large spectrum of situations that have all led to therapy and the PTSD support group. They all deal with their own nightmare scenarios, their personal coping mechanisms and of course try to interact with each other. The book demonstrates not only the different aspects of how they came to be there but also the importance of having the support they need.

I am fortunate that I was able to get help and learn some ways to handle it when my anxiety takes over. I have an incredible support network and I am thankful beyond words for that. But even with my help and support I still have extremely bad days. It is my goal to publish this book and get the word out about what those like me are dealing with and to let them know that they are not alone. We need to stand as one until each and every person suffering has a place to feel safe and happy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Love of Animals

As I am writing my novel focusing on PTSD I am also working hard on the next volumes for my charity series Rescue Me. They are anthologies full of animal stories, poems and dedications. I began this project last year after becoming friends with a very inspiring woman who had created an charity anthology of her own all about music called Rock & Roll Saved My Soul.

With the help of Kate I was able to publish Volume 1 in November. It went over well and I am thrilled that I am able to donate all proceeds to a very worthy organization War Dogs Making It Home located in Chicago, IL. They take rescue dogs and train them to be service dogs for veterans wit PTSD and TBI, obviously a cause close to my heart.

I have four feline friends of my own that are all rescues and the will be featured in the cat edition benefiting The Cat Network. I have also grown up with dogs, cats, fish and even rodents. I have loved all of my animals and as I have gotten older I have tried to become more involved with local rescues and shelters.

I am currently looking for submissions for the next four editions. There is a deadline but I am willing to extend it if I get people interested that aren't able to make the current one in order to make sure everyone is included. The volumes accepting submissions are:
Feline - Purrfect Companions, benefiting The Cat Network
Canine - Man's Best Friend, benefiting National Mill Dog Foundation
Volume 2 - More Stories of Hope, National Search Dog Foundation
Senior / Special Needs - Against All Odds, benefiting Leave No Paws Behind

The picture shown at the top of this post is from a rescue pet store I checked out while backpacking in Japan. Even internationally I am drawn to anything that has to do with animals. I will admit that I looked into the possibility of doing an international adoption to bring her home with me but it wasn't feasible. I did follow up though and I was able to confirm that she was adopted just two days later.

My animals are my companions, my comfort and my daily inspiration. I cannot wait to see the stories that people submit and to bring awareness for all of these deserving organizations. Please feel free to contact me either here or on Facebook. I can be reached either on my author page Renee Jean or on the page for the series Rescue Me - Animal Anthology.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Character Profile - Rachel from Sharing Strength

I have taken some time off from my writing endeavors recently. Every year that I have participated in Nanowrimo I have proudly completed the novel claiming the winner certificate, yet immediately following this high I go through a phase where I struggle to focus on anything else. I want to edit and rewrite the completed book but I am still so close to the project I know I need time to gain some objectivity. Therefore I end up in a lull where the characters from the last book are still talking and the new ones are being drowned out.

In the case of Sharing Strength there are also additional reasons I have struggled to get back into the story. For the first time as I was writing a book I found myself jumping around to different scenes instead of writing straight through from beginning to end. As a result of this jumping around I now find myself filling in the gaps as I link the pieces previously written.

Some of the characters have a much more difficult time dealing with their situations and Rachel is one of them. Once she was a state ranked swimmer planning to attend a christian college on a scholarship for the sport. She was offered scholarships from several universities but being from a highly religious family it was never presented as an option that she would go to a public college. 

She always made sure to be the responsible one among her friends, never dabbled in drugs or took a drink. She was the model daughter, student and friend. It was because of this sense of responsibility that she found herself in a terrible situation one night. It was well known what a good girl she was and there were several theories that deep down she had a rebellious side dying to escape. She was however genuinely a good girl and naive to a fault.

She was at a party with some friends when a boy she barely knew asked for a ride home. He had come with friends but they were all drunk and couldn't drive, he himself appeared to be quite intoxicated so she agreed in order to keep him from attempting to get home in some unsafe manner. He insisted on giving her gas money even when she said it wasn't necessary and invited her in to grab the cash.

Once she was inside though he overpowered her and forced her down to his bedroom. She fought but he was stronger and ended getting exactly what he wanted. He held her down on the floor and she cried the entire time lit by the glow of the fish tank he had along on wall of his room. She ran out as soon as he released her and went straight home intent on calling the police and telling her parents what happened. But by the time she arrived it was after midnight and she was so ashamed she just wanted to hide away. 

She faked being sick to stay home from school on Monday hiding in her room but when her best friend came over to drop off her homework she told her parents all about the rumors going around school that she had hooked up with the boy from the party. Appalled her parents chastised her refusing to give her a chance to explain her side. Returning to school she was ridiculed, called names and constantly harassed. The only help she found was in the support group and Jasmine was the only person she believed she could open up to causing them to become very close.

As I write this story I am currently at a scene that bonds the two girls and cements their friendship. It is very difficult though as I am put into a situation where I have to relive my own personal trauma as well as make her go through it again. I have to play both roles of the girl hurting and the one attempting to step up on her behalf.

I wonder do any of my other writer friends find themselves in conflicting roles like this when creating scenes?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dedicated to Sharing Strength

A few days ago I posted a short excerpt from Sharing Strength. It is a book I have been working on sporadically over the last eight months or so. It is a very special project for me and one I feel extremely close to, however that becomes not only the driving force to finish it but also the thing that pulls me away.

This story follows a tiny support group for people suffering from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This diagnosis can be devastating because there is no cure for PTSD, you can cope but you cannot be cured. I know, I received the diagnosis myself almost ten years ago. It is something I have lived with but it wasn't until recently that I became more involved with the world especially the part containing others like me.

I look back at some of my behaviors over several years. The reactions I had to people and situations, the constant fear I felt, right down to the nightmares and lack of sleep, it is all easily traced back to what I had experiences and what my frustrations trying to deal with the symptoms. I was flailing in a sea of emotions but the most difficult part was that I wasn't even aware that I was there. I thought I was standing firmly on the ground even when I was drowning.

Two of the characters in Sharing Strength are based in one way or another on me and my experiences. Because of this I struggle to write what they have been through as it forces me to relive my own trauma. At the same time I am more dedicated to making sure that I get it right as much as possible because I feel like I owe them the world. Like most writers I feel these characters are real and that causes guilt for what I have put them through.

Rachel and Jasmine are strong people doing everything they can in order to handle what life throws at them and even though they are extremely different women they form a bond that inspires me every day. I am dedicated to completing the first draft of this project by my birthday at the end of February and will be looking for beta readers. Mostly though I am looking to make sure I give each of these characters the chance to be the message to others out there like them that they are not alone.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Excerpt from Sharing Strength

He had completely forgotten that was why she called. “Are you sure you want to be in a support group? I think it might be better for you to do therapy one on one for a while.”

“How much do you charge?”

“I work with insurance so I am sure it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“I am on my parent’s insurance. They would never let me go to therapy for something they think I caused.”

He was dumbfounded. How could anyone turn their back on their child like that? He didn’t even know her name but he could tell that her frustration and fear was real. “Well if you think it is what you want to do I am setting up a group to be led by my friend Dr. James Kurtsman. I can add you to the list and he will get in touch with you about a time for the first meeting.”

“Yes please.”

“Can I ask your name?”


He got her contact information promising that Dr. Kurtsman would be in touch soon. She sniffled a thank you before hanging up. He sat down heavily opening his computer. He stared at the screen for several minutes subconsciously trying to not tear up himself. He had the breath knocked out of him from that call. Eventually he sent a brief email to his friend informing him that there was going to be one more in the group. He wanted to tell him everything about the phone call be he knew James well. He was kind, intuitive. He would pick up right away just how special this group was.

He was happy Jasmine, the girl from the abusive relationship wouldn’t be left alone in a group of men now though he contemplated how either of these women would fare in a public setting. He closed the computer down again. Picking up his jacket he grabbed the discarded files. He looked around the office as he turned the lights off hoping this support group was the right thing to do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Personal Time

It seems odd as I have been recovering for over a week now out of work that the subject of taking a break would cross my mind. Yet nevertheless I have been thinking a great deal about vacations and general breaks that we all take in life. I think it is a very important aspect that so often gets overlooked causing us to become bogged down in everyday obsessions and overwhelmed with responsibilities we end up giving higher priority than they deserve.

For two and a half years I have been working two dealing jobs in my wonderful chosen home of Las Vegas. I enjoy what I do immensely and wouldn't trade the position for almost anything in the world. I have been afforded the opportunity to meet many interesting people, learn a skill I will hang on to until I die and work in a field that is honestly easier in many respects that most jobs in what I consider to be the real world.

The original plan started out that it would help make ends meet until I moved from the small local's casino I was employed at to a larger location on the Strip. Once I moved I kept it for the sake of getting ahead on some bills but instead used the additional money to do trips and have some fun money. That was fine though it got me nowhere in the attempt to accomplish my financial goals. As time went on the money waned in that location and the lack of support from the company that employed me led me to part ways in search of something more substantial.

I accepted a position with much better money but extreme hours on the clear opposite side of town. For months I struggled to survive it and my health paid a damaging price. I ended up in a position where again there was a choice to be made. It is that choice that got me looking through some of my old vacation photos today. I have come to realize that the break does not always require a the physical removal of oneself from the current location. It could simply be a state of mind.

I look at these pictures and remember the crisp air and freeing sense I felt in Australia traveling along the Great Ocean Road. That is where I finally began to come out of my shell. I took that step to be more self confident and made friends I knew were getting to know the real me and not just the facade I had always presented. I made mistakes but they accepted me anyway giving me the courage to open up and accept myself.

The second picture is a small shack on a train platform in Shibuya, Japan. I traveled there with my best friend and together with our extremely limited Japanese we traversed a great deal of the country by train, explored a land we knew little about and most importantly tried things, such as the food served here, that scared us.

It is completely possible to have these same experiences in our own backyards. It is also important to make the time to do so. When life holds us down we have to break the chains and just focus on what is needed for us to be happy. We must concede our obligations while still making time for pleasure. I am learning to do this. I made a promise in regard to my second job and to make time to improve my health. I am writing but am making allowances to read more. I work to pay my bills but also work on my house and create a peaceful place to rest.

How do you take everyday breaks and keep life in balance?