January 2016.

What's NextWhat’s Next: Part 3

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘What’s Next’ blog … so I’m about due to write one again!

Lets see …

First – I learned that you can have the best book ever, but if you can’t hook your reader in the first few pages, most people will never know it’s the best book ever. Thus – I spent a month editing chapter one into a lean mean … um … chapter. Those first pages can be tricky! You have to set the stage, so to speak. And my first chapter has five characters in it. It was quite the challenge, making sure each character had their own voice right from the start. Also, getting just the right amount of back-story without dumping everything out was a precarious balance to find. But I think I did it.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I couldn’t have attempted another rewrite on my manuscript without my new editor! I was confident that my work was good, but I wanted it to be great! (I dream big!) I needed someone who was as big a fan of my characters as me, but possessed editing talents that I do not. She found me – or vice versa. It doesn’t matter … It was a fantastic experience, from which I learned a ton. For example – The subtle nuances between American, Canadian, and UK grammar and spelling. No matter how long I write, I think I’ll always need help this sort of thing.

So – after the editing, and the editor, I now have a solid handle on where I want my book to go. And I have a plan on how to get it there. As many authors know, publishing is a confusing, and can be, cruel world. It involves a lot of ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’. But patience and perseverance will see you through a lot of that.

Another thing that got finished this month was my book trailer! It’s been a while in the making, but well worth the effort. I’d recommend my graphic artist to anyone. She’s a visual arts genius! I’ve learned so much about stock footage, voice overs, and music. And I’m so dying to show it to everyone! But alas … this gem isn’t going online until just before the book is released. Unfortunately, I don’t have a release date yet.

What else can I tell you about my woes to becoming a published author…

I’m back on the bandwagon, creating more high quality content like this for my website! I’m writing blogs, contacting authors for interviews, and sourcing out interesting guest bloggers! Keeping up my website is an important part of an authors platform. These days, an online presents is so crucial! Who knew there would be so much other stuff to writing a book … other than writing a book?

A new thing I’ve started doing in preparation to having published book, is getting more involved in my local writing community, as a presenter. I’m just working out details to lead a four-day writers course put on by a local woman’s foundation. And I’m looking into getting on a panel or two at the next When Words Collide in August.

Interesting fact: When I was a kid, I used to compete at public speaking. I made it up to provincial levels once! Public speaking isn’t always considered the ‘coolest’ of hobbies, but I’m sure glad I learned those skills early on.

Last but not least …

dreamstime_m_22497074The most awesome thing I’ve done, (in terms of my writing) in the past few weeks is – I submitted a query to the agent. For some that might not seem overly epic, but to me it is. After all the beta-readers, editors, failures and successes – I finally have a manuscript that I’m proud of.

It gives me terrible butterflies to finally be at this point, which is probably normal. Who wouldn’t be nervous, sharing with the world something that took years to create? But – my work is ready to get out there, on stage, and do it’s thing! I just hope, that with all my efforts that the critics will be kind and throw roses, not rotten vegetables.

To all the other writers out there that keep on pursuing their dreams … I hope you get roses too!

Good reading and good writing to you all!

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All He Had To Say Was Thank You

Guest Blog by Alon Shalev

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door.

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.

 

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I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment.

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you.

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.

 

girl-hugging-words1And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.

 

The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

 

 

 

Book Signing Games of BerkeleyAlon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Focus and Generosity for 2016 Guest Blog by Shari L Schwarz

As the New Year rings in or stumbles in, or however it comes in for you, I’m frantically trying to catch up from being sick for almost three weeks before Christmas. Although that was a miserable time in many ways, I found that having to stop and rest for that long forced me to see things afresh.

Two words have been impressed upon me during this time: Focus and Generosity

I’ve been quite scattered in my writing life (we won’t talk about the many other aspects of my life which make it a challenge to stay focused: mothering, housekeeping and the like). But I’ve been increasingly feeling a strong pull toward the picture book community and the desire to get at least one of my books on its way to traditional publication–this year?? I’m in a new critique group here in Ft. Collins where we focus mostly on picture books, and some of my favorite critique partners online are picture book writers as well. My plan is to focus on my picture books even though I have a Middle Grade book and one Young Adult book written (and one MG and one YA, each partially written). I can’t do it all! I have 6-8 picture books that have been revised…some of them dozens of times, so I feel like I’m past the honeymoon stage of thinking, “Oh! this is easy.” Ha! It’s not easy at all, but it’s fun and I love the generosity of the picture book community…so here I go!

Which brings me to my second word for 2016: Generosity. I don’t necessarily mean materialistically but more of a generosity of spirit. The spirit of giving back, and opening up…of letting go of the things I feel like clenching my fist around…and blessing others, encouraging others…cheering others on and letting go of jealousy…

These are my New Year’s resolutions, in a sense. And I’ve also started freelancing (editing, ghostwriting, blogging) to help save up for our boys’ impending college years.

So, will I be more focused? We’ll see. But I feel like I have more concrete goals to hang my hat on this year.

2015 has been a year of shifting and learning for me. It’s the year I thought I’d never write again…and the year I won a big writing award and received my first contract for publication for Treasure at Lure Lake.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds! I at least know I’ll be holding the fruit of 2015 in my hands in April!!! I’ll be officially revealing my book cover for Lure Lake next week with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year to you!

And Happy Writing!

 

About the Author

 

sharismiling2014Shari Schwarz is a mom of four boys–three preteen/teenagers and one preschooler. (Yes, they are alike in many ways!) and the author of the upcoming, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, out April 12, 2016 by Cedar Fort Publishing.

Shari is a simple person (her husband would totally disagree!) and a homebody, but she does love long chats with friends over a latte, dreaming of going to the beach, and writing adventure stories for children. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, whether it be a manuscript for the literary agent she interns for or working on an editing project. In the quiet spaces of life, she might find time for her other loves: gardening, weight-lifting, hiking, and a bit of photography. Shari has had a lifelong faith in God and tries to leave it ALL in his hands.

Shari has degrees in Cross-Cultural Studies and Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy. She worked as an elementary school librarian before her little guy came on the scene. Now she stays home with him and writes.

Follow Shari on Twitter!

Check out Her website at http://www.sharischwarz.com!

Hello fellow readers!

Katherine (30)It’s the first week of January 2016 and I’m doing my best to fall into some semblance of a routine. (Insert dramatic sigh here.) Semblance being the operative word …

The first day of the month started off like the day before it, sleeping in past any normal adult should. Not because I partook in any New Year’s festivities, but because I’m a smart mom who believes in the idea of banking sleep … at least I want to believe. So far, sleeping in is only proving to fuel my night owl tendencies.

Any who, on to what I wanted to say! Getting back into this writing and blogging thing is tough stuff!

For the entirety of 2015, I was blessed to have the company of my husband at home with me, 24/7. Some of you might think that’s not such a blessing, but the two of us get along like ketchup on Kraft Dinner! ☺ I like that analogy ☺

So, it’s been a year of doing all those things we’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Traveling! Finishing my book! Living all will-nilly like gypsies! BUT now – it’s back to reality. He’s back at a 9-5 and so am I – so to speak. Being a stay-at-home super mom/writer extraordinaire is more between the hours of awake and asleep.

These last few days of settling into a new schedule have been interesting ones. Let me browse you through the highlights.

My computer.

2015-11-02 12.22.54My giant, twenty-seven inch Mac desktop has been my buddy for four years. It’s never given me a problem or reason to doubt it until recently. But now it seems to have decided it would rather be a tanning bed than my word processor.

Now … it’s winter, and I do appreciate the radiant heat coming for my monitor, but it’s probably not good for either of us. So, I unplugged Big Mac and took him to get fixed.

After hours of waiting (not sure why they made me book an appointment – they obviously didn’t understand the meaning of the word), I got to speak to a tech. He ran his tests and everything came back normal. What? Not that I wanted to be told my computer was one micro-process away from going nuclear, but I wanted a better answer than that.

I left Big Mac overnight for a more thorough run through and again got an all clear, good to go, stamp of approval.  One thing the tech mentioned was, when a Mac desktop overheats, nine times out of ten, all you need to do is disconnect it completely from its power source for a while.

What did I learn from all this? What does it have to do with getting back into my routine? I’m getting to it …

The dog.

2014-05-28 11.21.02My sweet-hearted, geriatric dog has a few quirks. One, being his super power to shed profusely, and the other is his refusal to drink water from any dish known to man. I’ve combatted his shedding and distaste for hydration with regular grooming and crafty ways of increasing his fluid intake.

After complaining to the groomer and vet for the millionth time about his drinking habits (that kind of sounded like my dog needs AA.), they ran more tests on him at my request. Which came back perfectly normal! Not that I’d want a different result – just an answer for why he won’t drink water!

So he went in for his grooming, and the groomer asked me if I wanted his glands expressed. Yuck – better her than me to do it. I Googled it … the DIY method recommended wearing a welding apron, full arm-length gloves, and goggles. I might be a super mom but I was not going there.

To my surprise, having my dog’s ‘reset’ button expressed fixed all his quirks! Except for the shedding one. He no longer has the power to hydrate himself by osmosis but I like him better this way.

So what am I getting at talking about life changing routines, computer problems and an often dehydrated dog?

Here it is …

People can tell you till they’re blue in the face what normal is. But until you take a while to disconnect and press that reset button, you’ll never know what your daily version of that is.

Happy New Year, everyone! Never deviate from your own special kind of awesome!

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7 Questions For Writers When Looking Back on 2015
Guest Blog by Lucy from Blondewritemore

As writers its vital we look back to see how far we have come, what worked, what didn’t go so well and what we can learn for 2016.

Here are 7 questions a writer can use when looking back on 2015:

  1. What was your biggest writing achievement in 2015?
  2. What writing issue did you overcome and how?
  3. Which writing worries were unnecessary in 2015?
  4. How did your writing outlook evolve over 2015?
  5. Which one aspect of your writing would you do differently?
  6. What were your 2 biggest distractions in 2015?
  7. What was the best piece of writing advice that you received in 2015?

 As I love quizzes and questionnaires here are my answers:

  • Completing the second draft of my novel. It was an achievement because I detested the first draft and wanted to bin it. Instead I rolled up my literary sleeves and re-wrote 77k words.
  • Writer’s Block. I went through a really bad patch after my second draft. No matter how hard I tried to write the third draft I just couldn’t write a single thing. Cue the world’s worst period of writer’s block. I became frustrated, paranoid and an absolute pain to be around. The way I overcame my writer’s block was sitting down in December and giving myself some writing freedom. I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted. I just sat at the table and let my fingers type. This was quite radical for someone like me. Looking back now I think I forced myself into writing the third draft and I wasn’t ready for it. Sometimes you have to just go with the creative flow.
  • Worrying about what other people think. I spent a lot of 2015 worrying about what people thought about my writing. This was fuelled by some hurtful comments about my blog and writing from some non-writers / people who know me outside of writing. Towards the end of the year I decided to change my approach. I said to myself ‘who cares what people think?’ – I love being a writer, I enjoy writing, blogging and I have the guts to share my work (believe me – its takes real guts to put your writing out there for the world to see). Since stopping worrying about what the rest of the world thinks of me and what I put out for the world to read I have become a much happier person and writer. I am never going to please everybody.
  • A more relaxed outlook. At the start of the year I was on edge, anxious and impatient about my writing. I wanted fast and immediate results – a finished book. Over the year I have really changed, particularly in the last few months. I have learnt the importance of patience and the benefits of letting ideas stew. I have ditched all my anxieties and gone back to enjoying writing again. This has worked wonders and I recommend it.
  • Listen to my gut instinct. I didn’t listen to myself enough during 2015. It is quite a skill to cut out the noise and listen to what your gut instinct is telling you about a project or a piece of work.
  • Phone and Pinterest. I am starting to reap the benefits of putting my phone away for long periods of time during the day. I am trying not to pin so much but it is addictive.
  • Books take time to write. Books cannot be written in a matter of weeks. Some takes years to write and that’s not a bad thing. Ideas need time to develop and mature.

Have you looked back on 2015? How was it for you?

Let me know some of your answers to these questions?

 

About the author

LucyLucy

A naturally blonde writer with a Yorkshire accent, who likes eating cheese, dancing around her kitchen and sniffing books. Believes she should have been born in America and feels that she has missed out on: Breakfasts involving pancakes, Living in a town where the name ends in ‘Falls’, and Fannypacks … just to name a few.

Follow Lucy on Twitter!

Check out her website at https://blondewritemore.wordpress.com/