Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Blogging

Hi Everyone,

I'm guest blogging today about perserverance and writing at Riding With the Top Down:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bad Reviews ...

It was bound to happen at some point, and today's the day. I got my first bad review. One star. Very critical. When you create characters and send them out in the universe you hope that you've explained their motivations and their actions in a way that presents them in a positive light even if they've done something wrong, and for at least one reader, it seems I didn't.

Am I disappointed? Absolutely, but it's part of the business, right?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Measure of Success

According to a romance writers' loop I'm on, a recent issue of RWR (the Romance Writers Report magazine from RWA ) asked authors to define what success means to them. Though I have yet to see the article and don't know the context in which the question was asked, I believe that some of the choices included: finishing a manuscript, submitting to an agent, sales  numbers and more. It's an interesting question, the idea of success. It would be so easy to say that in order to be successful one must have sold their books, but while that is definitely a measure of success it shouldn't be the only measure of success.

Writing is a tough and lonely business. Many authors spend their days (or nights) toiling in a room by themselves creating images and people out of thin air. How would those people talk? What do they look like? What do they do in their spare time? What are they doing in this book? Then comes the actual writing and crafting of word after word of dialogue and the description with the sole purpose of getting the reader to keep going. To find a mix of words that is so compelling you won't want to put the book down. And they do this for thousands upon thousands of words. Sometimes they can turn to colleagues (follow authors) for advice, but in the end the book is entirely their world, their creation, which they've opened up to you.

And because of most authors there is no contract before a book is complete -- and even then there's no guarantee a book will be published -- it would be so easy for the author to throw in the towel and give up and not finish that story.

Which brings me back to the definition of success for a writer. I think any writer who has created a story, who has spent month after month writing and revising and putting words to paper, whether than have sold their book or not, should consider themselves a success. They have achieved a milestone many aspire to, but few reach. (Cause you know, everyone wants to be a writer, if only ... )

So today pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you've finished a book, you are a success! You've worked hard and you deserve that recognition. But don't get too comfy. There are more successes to be had and more work to do. So get busy, and at each and every stage of your career, make sure you stop to mark your new success while reaching for the next level.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Note

Sarah Wendell is blogging about Chanukah romances today at Smart Bitches and she mentioned Second Chance Chanukah! Awesome!

Check it out here:

Thanks Sarah!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ebook Now at B&N

After a bit of a delay, Second Chance Chanukah is now available for the Nook as well. You can find it here:

Guest Blogging Today

Hi Everyone,

I'm over at RT Book Reviews guest blogging today about my novella. You can check it out here:

You'll also get to read an exclusive  excerpt  from Second Chance Chanukah there.

I'll also be doing some more guest blogging later this month. More on that to come. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And I've Got a E-book ...

Wow! Ok, I've got a book. Well, a holiday novella called Second Chance Chanukah under my pen name, Fay Alter, and it's available now on Smashwords and on Amazon and BN's Nook by tomorrow. Amazing ... simply amazing.

Thanks to everyone who helped my dream become a reality. First off all my early readers -- Elissa, Stephanie, Giselle and Kimberly L. Thanks to Bev for her edits. And a special thanks to my family for everything.

If you're wondering what Second Chance Chanukah is all about here's the skinny:

Jess Coen always thought she'd marry her childhood sweetheart, Danny Adler. Until he married someone else. Now a widower with a son, Danny is back in town just in time for Chanukah. Will these two have a second chance at love or will past hurts and new emotional wounds keep them apart forever in this holiday-themed, contemporary romance novella.

Buy it now at Smashwords:

Or later at Amazon:

Or check back later for the links for BN.

I've priced it at 99 cents so it's a real treat to get you in the holiday mood!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advice from a Self-Pubbing Pro

As I wait for my final book cover, I thought it might be interesting to get some self-pubbing tips from authors who've already had success in the ebook universe. First up, is author CJ Lyons, who has had a bestselling series from a New York publisher, found success self-publishing original ebook novels (including Face to Face and Sleight of Hand) and recently signed a major N.Y. publishing contract.

Here then are CJ's five tips for self-publishing:

1. It's vital to know and understand your audience.

2. It takes time to grow your audience, so be patient. The more titles you have available, the faster you'll grow your audience.

3. Pay attention to sales trends and be flexible, trying pricing experiments, changing cover art and product descriptions if they aren't striking a chord with your audience.

4. Your best promotional efforts are spent writing your next book ... not to say to never do any promotion, but play to your strengths. If blogging or tweeting or facebooking gives you enjoyment and energy that increases your productivity, then go for it! But if you find yourself drained and lacking energy to write, forget it. The writing is more important than marketing.

5. When in doubt, go back to No. 1 and ask yourself: What would give my readers the most pleasure? This question should be repeated with every endeavor whether it's trying a new genre, planning a plot twist, preparing cover art, writing your product description or marketing yor work.

Thanks CJ for your tips! This great advice for authors in any genre or format.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I've Got a Cover!

I've got a book cover! Yay. It's still being tweaked, but I've seen it, which makes this whole self-publishing process all the more exciting and nerve-racking. I've also finished my last round of edits so the story is ready to go. Hopefully, within the next few days, you'll be able to download and enjoy "Second Chance Chanukah," my novella about childhood sweethearts who are reunited during the Festival of Lights. Past hurts and new emotional wounds, however, may keep these lovers apart for good.

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying some great reads this month!

And if you're looking to step into the self-pubbed, ebook market with a guaranteed good read, check out these new releases from some great romantic suspense authors. Debra Webb, one of my favorite Harlequin Intrigue authors, just released "Impulse," the second in her ongoing Faces of Evil ebook series. Unlike her Colby Intrigues (which if you haven't read you need to ASAP), the Faces of Evil books are a bit darker and grittier, though Webb maintains her smooth writing and with great characterization. Also out with a self-pubbed book is Roxanne St. Claire, author of the great Bullet Catchers series, who returns to her contemporary romance roots with "Space in His Heart." And if you're enjoying her contemporary return, you'll be happy to know that her next N.Y. published book series will be a four-book contemp series starting next year from Grand Central.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Countdown Is On

I know what you are probably thinking, the countdown is on to the December holidays. And you're right, but in my case the countdown is on to the release of my Chanukah novella. After much debate over the last few months and several drafts of my story, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish my story. I did not make the decision lightly. I have studied the market, considered the pros and cons of going at it alone (and yes there are both) and debated if this novella is a good first step into publishing. I know that some people decry self-publishing as the place where authors who can't find a publisher go. Likewise there are some who are so pro self- publishing they can't see that there are reasons an author might want to be published with a big New York house or even a smaller, well-established e-press. I may address both of these ideas in a later blog, but for now it is enough to say that for this project I saw the value in trying to release it on my own.
However, that doesn't mean I just slapped a story together for the holidays. This story has been in the works for a while in different forms. It has been read by several established authors and editors, all of whom gave me valuable feedback and made me think of my story and writing in new ways. I have also hired a freelance cover artist to design my book jacket. As I finish my current rounds of edits, I am excited by what the future holds for my writing career. I know there is a lot of competition out there, but hopefully those people who give my novella a try will find a warm, heartwarming holiday tale and that will be a wonderful reward.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm Finished, Now What?

Well I did it! I finished the latest draft of my holiday novella. I know it still needs some work, but while I'm waiting for my readers to come back with their comments, I'm left wondering what's next. I know what you're going to say, if you're finished writing one project move on to the next, but how do you decide what's next. Usually I have some ideas in the back of my mind of stories I want to write or characters who are just waiting for me to write about them, but at the moment I've got nothing. Any advice? I'd like to get back to my romantic suspense roots for my next project -- so I know that's the direction I'm going to take,  And I do have a half-written story that was interrupted for a number of reasons, should I go back and retool the opening of that and focus on finishing or is the fact that I put it down in the first place a sign that the story isn't working? Decisions, decisions ...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Writing Through November

It's already well into November (where did the year go?), which means it is a superbusy time for writers. Sure there's food to be cooked for Thanksgiving and presents to be bought on Black Friday but before that happens writers get to hunker down for two big November events -- NaNoWriMo and SYTYCW.
NaNo, as most participants call it, is a monthlong writing exercise where authors and aspiring writers aim to pen a 50,000-word book in just one month. To be successful with NaNo you really have to buckle down, writing nearly 2,000 words per day, every day of the month -- including Thanksgiving. For those who are participating, good luck! But just remember the old adage -- all good writing is in the rewriting.
As for the other acronym, SYTYCW, that's a much newer, but very impressive writing challenge from Harlequin Books. So You Think You Can Write launched last year, and hundreds (if not more) aspiring category writers took part in various challenges throughout the month in the hopes of winning a writing contract from Harlequin. Aside from the challenges, what makes SYTYCW so informative for writers, whether they are participating in the competition or not, are the great tips, blogs, chats and more that the publishing house's editors offer during the contest. You can learn more about SYTYCW here: Good luck! And even if you're not participating in either of these events, make it your goal to buckle down and write this month.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Writer's Schedule

Being a freelance writer or an aspiring novelist is hard work. Ok, I know what you are going to say, writing in general is hard work - - and you’re absolutely right! But without firm deadlines to meet, well let’s just say that sitting down to actually write is sometimes harder than it would otherwise be. Suddenly there’s the laundry that needs to be done, the dinner that needs to be cooked and the trip to the mall that you just have to take when what you really should be doing is sitting down and WRITING!
I know this because I am now officially a freelance writer/aspiring novelist. After years of firm daily, weekly and monthly writing deadlines I can actually chose my own schedule, which should be liberating but isn’t. I love deadlines. Self-imposed ones? Not so much.
Which is why I found the post “Write On or Not”( by romance author Karin Tabke so timely. Her questions really make you think about what you want from your career and if you want a writing career at all.  It isn’t enough to stand up and announce “Today I am a writer” if you’re not going to back up that declaration with actions – in other words getting some new pages of text written each day.
So starting today I’m going to commit to carving out some writing time – well in between the laundry, the errands … oh heck, no, I’m a writer and writers write and that’s what I’m going to be doing today! How ‘bout you?

This Time Around ...

Two of my favorite science fiction plot devices are time travel and alternate realities. There's just something fascinating about the idea that people could move back and forth in time and change the course of time and history. From TV shows like the short-lived Voyager series in the 1980s, the Fox series Sliders and more recent incarnations like the British-set Primeval  and the current Fox hit Terra Nova to upcoming novels like Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and this winter’s eagerly anticipated release Tempest by newbie author Julie Cross, it seems I’m not alone in my interest.
So what is it about the idea of time travel that fascinates so? Perhaps it is simply the idea of a fresh start as interpreted by the producers of Terra Nova, in which colonists are sent back in time to the prehistoric age to recreate society or the idea of righting a wrong as showcased in King’s upcoming book as one man journeys back in time to save President Kennedy.  Or maybe it’s the appeal of the fish out of water scenario that comes into play in Sliders as a quartet made up of a scientist, two college-aged students and a has-been musician maneuver through alternate dimensions where the world has gone in different directions and is completely foreign to them.
Taking a person from our world and putting him in another time or place is certainly nothing new. Fiction master H.G. Wells was perhaps one of the first to put this idea in a book with his classic The Time Machine back in the 1890s. Contemporary authors have also used these plot devices to entertain; Connie Willis’ characters, for instance, have been slipping through time for the last few years.
Why then are we suddenly seeing a resurrection of this plot device after years of post-apocalyptic and dystopia tales dominating the fiction market? A part of the reason may be natural evolution of storytelling, if you will. If the post-apocalyptic tales were in response to war and the uncertainty of our economy then the time-travel tales represent a bit of acceptance. We’ve adjusted to our situation, and even if we don’t know where we are going, we do know where we’ve been --- as Jackson Meyer learns all too well in Tempest. So the question for the time traveler is do you stay the course you were on or reinvent the wheel as the colonists are doing over in Terra Nova?
Course, it could just be that time-travel and alternate reality is making a comeback because it is the most accessible of all science fiction subgenres for nongenre fans  -- because  who among us hasn’t ever stopped to wonder “what if” I hadn’t gone down that road or taken that job or went on that date ….

Monday, June 13, 2011

Publishers' Oops

I'm in the middle of a new book by a well-known publisher and this is the second book from them that has had either the hero or heroine's name completely wrong on the back-cover copy. While I'd like to read a book with the heroine named  "Maggie" as promised by the back cover of my latest read, the book is actually about Nell. I know things get changed often but this should have been something that was easily and quickly fixed before publication?

No, I have not stopped reading the book because of the name change. But would you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Reading

With the unofficial start of summer upon us, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some upcoming romantic suspense novels that are sure to delight! And, yes, that means I've finally found a few great new RS books to talk about. (There may be more added later, but here's an early summer rundown.)

I've already read these fantastic stories:

1. Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden (June): If you're a fan of Karen Rose or Allison Brennan than this one is for you. Megan Flynn's brother, Sean, has been sentenced to die for murder, but Megan knows he's innocent. Too bad no one is willing to listen, including her one-time boyfriend Detective Cole Williams -- who arrested Sean in the first place. When a series of murders begin with a shocking connection to the crime Sean has been imprisoned for, Cole takes notice. But is it too late to save Megan? This is the first book in a series by Alden.

2. Cover Me by Catherine Mann (July): The remote wilderness of Alaska is the setting for an action/adventure tale penned by one of military romances best authors. Sunny Foster has spent the last dozen or so years living in a small enclave in the remotest part of Alaska. The town has one big rule -- if you leave you can't come back and you can't tell anyone about the town. But when Sunny is "rescued" by pararescueman Wade Rocha during a storm — though it may be her who is saving him — it becomes clear that someone has an agenda and will kill to see his plan come to fruition. Can an elite military group, one sexy hero and one very self-reliant heroine save the day? And will a town have to give up its isolation for the greater good.

And I'm looking forward to reading:

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose (June): Since I've yet to read a book by Rose that I haven't liked, I'll say this one is a surefire winner.

Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish (July): Parrish (aka author Leslie Kelly) has been getting some great buzz from this book. This is perhaps her darkest book to date, but Parrish has a way with characters and plot that makes this one a must-read. (This has a bit of paranormal to it.)

Inside by Brenda Novak (July): Novak is a consistently strong romantic suspense author, and judging by just the books opening pages, this story has all the making of another winner. The hero and heroine are instantly engaging and the hero's got a compelling backstory that drives much of his actions. If you loved the romance in Prison Break between Michael and Sarah, you're sure to appreciate this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is It Just a Bad Book?

I’m in the middle of reading a new romantic suspense novel that comes out soon and is written by an author I’ve read occasionally over the years. The premise sounded quite good — the hero lost his first wife to tragedy and is now a single dad trying to help his young daughter, and the heroine, who has her own issues, is related to characters in one of the author’s previous books — so I was eager to give it a try.

I'm more than halfway through the book and I’m really wondering if I should continue. The writing is repetitive and preachy —  dialogue exchanges between various characters seem more like they are designed to give readers an education in whatever topic is relevant to the story at that point. The same words and phrases are used so often it's hard to tell which character is speaking since they all mimic each other. Also, lots of nonessential information is repeated over and over again, it feels like the author is beating readers on the head with it.

For instance, early on in the book, the characters are bemoaning the fact that most people don’t feel a sense of community anymore. That they no longer look out for their neighbors. Why does the author, through her characters' discussion, keep harping on how people don’t care about their friends and neighbors? Apparently the only place where neighbors watch out for neighbors is in the town where the book is set.

Later when the hero and heroine are discussing a potential new drug treatment to help some of the characters deal with their fears, the exchange sounded so unrealistic, it seemed more like a promotional brochure for the drug than a natural discussion between the characters.

Other problems concerned the heroine’s connections to secondary characters — like the cousin who appears out of nowhere in the middle of the book and yet conveniently lives right nearby. (For the first half the book I thought she was making a break from everyone she knew.)

Additionally, the heroine's backstory is that she was attacked and was in coma at some point. The heroine is very concerned that no one in town find out about it, but as a reader, I understand why she thought her job would be in jeopardy if people knew. Also, as this was a big part of the heroine's backstory, the scene where she does tell the hero is surprisingly brief. Even if this event happened in a previous book by the author, no one should have assumed everyone reading this new book would know the details.

There are many more examples that I could give, but won't.

So the question I have as I ponder whether to finish the book is this, who is ultimately responsible for the problems with this book? It seems to me that someone should have been able to point out that a woman in her eighties probably wouldn’t greet another woman by saying “Hey!” Likewise, when both the hero and heroine say “Listen” as a transition in one scene, with a paragraph or two of each other, shouldn’t a red flag have gone up?
I am not blaming the editors, as I know editors are extremely hard workers, I just wonder what happened in this particular case. Why this book  — which really did have a great premise — just seemed to fall through the cracks.

So tell me, when you come across a problem in a book, be it in characterization, dialogue or action, what do you do? Keep reading or move on?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Soap Opera Charm

Having recently moderated the Behind the Scenes of a TV Soap Opera panel at the RT Booklovers Convention in Los Angeles, I was more than a bit dismayed to learn that ABC cancelled two of its three daytime dramas — All My Children and One Life to Live. (For those playing along at home that leaves General Hospital as the network’s only daytime serial, on a network that once had at least five series running back in the Ryan’s Hope/Edge of Night or Loving days.) Many people have called the move idiotic and I can't disagree. While I strongly believe that soaps need to evolve and grow — anyone who believes soaps are finished should check out how well telenovellas do ratings-wise — I think there were definitely things that could have been done and should have been done both on and off screen to help continue these shows. So while fans rally and call the network, I've got a gift for all you who have loved daytime dramas over the years — a reading list of books (old, new, biography, novel and YA) to help you relive the good ole days of daytime.

Stirring in Salem and A Secret in Salem by Sheri Anderson (Days of Our Lives tie-in)
The Secret Life of Damian Spinelli by Carolyn Henessy (Diane, General Hospital, a tie-in novel)
All That Glitters by Kristi Andrews (a fictional YA book series from the 1980s about the teen stars of a soap opera)
Diva Las Vegas by Eileen Davidson (Ashley, The Young and the Restless, this book is part of the actress/author’s Soap Opera Mystery series)
Robin’s Diary, by Judith Pinsker and Claire Labine (based on stories from General Hospital)
Dark Shadows, the Salem Branch by Lara Parker (Angelique, Dark Shadows)
Soap Opera by Eileen Fulton (Lisa, As the World Turns)
Soapsuds by Finola Hughes (Anna, General Hospital)
Oakdale Confidential by Alina Adams (an As the World Turns tie-in novel)
Guiding Light: Jonathan’s Story by Julia London and Alina Adams (a GL tie-in novel)

Afternoon Delight: Why Soaps Still Matter by Carolyn Hinsey, editor of Soap Opera Digest
Changing Shoes by Tina Sloan (Lillian, Guiding Light)
As My World Still Turns by Eileen Fulton (Lisa, As the World Turns)
I’m Just Sayin’: Three Deaths, Seven Husbands, and a Clone! My Life as a Daytime Diva by Kim Zimmer (Reva, Guiding Light; Echo, One Life to Live)
Like Sands Through the Hourglass by Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes (Julie and Doug Williams, Days of Our Lives)
All My Life by Susan Lucci (Erica Kane, All My Children)
All My Children, the Complete Family Scrapbook by Gary Warner; General Hospital, the Complete Scrapbook by Gary Warner: One Life to Live: Thirty Years of Memories by Gary Warner
Days of Our Lives, 45 Years, a Celebration in Photos by Greg Meng
All the Days of My Life (So Far) by Allison Sweeney (Sami, Days of Our Lives)
Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeup by Deidre Hall (Marlena, Days of Our Lives)

What's your all-time favorite soap opera moment?

Monday, March 21, 2011

When the Book Disappoints

I've been a fan of a certain historical romance series for years now. I've savored each and every book the author released in this series. I totally got caught up in the world the author had created, in her characters and their lives. When the series was canceled, I advocated for its return.

Then I heard the series was indeed returning to print with an all-new story and I was thrilled.

Well, we all know where this is going, right?

The sequel, which did get a fair amount of good reviews, was a complete disappointment for me. I felt the author spent too much time rehashing all the things that had gone on in previous books -- right down to listing the dates of the events -- taking away any forward momentum the story had.

Also disappointing was the unfolding of the hero and heroine's journey. To me, the hero was far to dismissive of the heroine and completely unworthy of her love. Instead of fighting for her and being concerned about her welfare, the "hero" threw her away because he was certain she rejected him -- even when all of the evidence proved to him that she hadn't.

So now I'm torn. Do I go on advocating for new books in the series or do I let it fade out quietly as this book certainly could be a fitting end to the ongoing series? What about you? Have you ever been so disappointed in a book in an ongoing series that you stopped reading it altogether?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Time for a Character Cheat Sheet

I recently read a romantic suspense novel by an author I had never tried before, but whose work many people have said good things about. I started with her newest release, and that, it turns out, was a big mistake. The book had a very large cast of characters and it was hard to keep up with all the names and relationships. Ideally, any reader should be able to pick up any book in any series and navigate their way throughout the author's world. Sadly that didn't happen. (And for the record this book had several other problems, most egregiously plot threads that we introduced and never followed up on.)

That aside, I started thinking -- is it time for books in a continuing series to have a character list? Harlequin Intrigue actually does this with their category romances -- though I suspect in that case its more to whet readers appetites as the books themselves are so short readers can easily gauge who's who. For an ongoing series, though, the list can include the characters first and last name, nickname and perhaps, if they've been the hero or heroine of their own story, the title of the book they were featured in. 

This can easily been done all on one page of the book so the publishers wouldn't be adding any cost to the measure, but it would make life easier for readers. After all, we shouldn't have to fumble over just who is the heroine's best friend, her confident,  her boss, her ex -- well, you get the picture.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Agent Search

At some point most people who want to be a published author will begin their search for an agent. It's a sort of rite of passage that can't be avoided, though it can be put off and put off with claims like "my manuscript's not ready" "just one more tweak" or even "maybe I'll send in the next story." I know cause I've probably used a bunch of these excuses over the years.

But this time around, the excuses are gone. I can honestly say I've begun the search in earnest. And yes, I've gotten rejections. Some were standard, the thanks, but no thanks. A few were quite encouraging noting that my writing was nice even if the story didn't quite work or didn't fit the agent's needs. So yay on that score! At least I'm on the right track.

Having gotten these rejections though, I am left with some lingering questions. How do you know when the manuscript is ready to send out to agents? What do you do if a couple of agents hit on the same criticism? Do you revise the book? Move on to another and submit that one instead? And what do you do if the genre you're trying to break into just isn't selling well at the moment?