Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Queries- Part 2!

Hello! And welcome to Queries, Part 2! If you missed it, be sure to go back and read last week's post first!

#6: Hook them as simply and fast as possible. We're talking main character, main plot here. No need for subplots and details on the character's second cousin's wife's sister. But leave them hanging and wanting more. Do not give the whole thing away. That's what a synopsis is for.

#7: Bio is a must. But keep it to pertinent info only. No one cares what writers group you belong to. No one cares if this is your first and eightieth novel you've written. List your publishing credits including anthologies and online contests, but if there are many, choose only the most recent. And list only contests you have placed well in. Do not include blog posts or letters to the editor for your local newspaper. If you have nothing for a bio...well...maybe you should try and get something before you query. There are tons of fiction contests online, magazines, etc... My favorite listing is Duotrope. They list all kinds of magazines that publish works of all lengths, including flash fiction, which can be a great way to get a few pub creds under your belt. My first ever published work was a flash fiction contest through WOW! Women on Writing. I didn't win, but I placed top 10. My story was published on their website and it was a great start. I placed in a couple more of their contests after that. There was a fee, but it was minimal and well worth being able to type it into my bio!

#8: End it with a simple "Thank you for your time." Sad but true, you'll be lucky if they even make it that far.

#9: If you're sending snail mail queries, first of all, make sure the agent is open to them. Many agencies are going green and prefer email queries. But if you find an agent who does want a paper submission, make sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you'd like a response.

#10: Don't stalk/email them for status updates. Agents get hundreds of submissions. I read lot of agent blogs and often they will comment on how full their inboxes are and how hard it is to get to them. Their priorities, first and foremost, are with their current clients. I wouldn't expect anything less. That's how I would want to be treated if I were their client. Again, it's an issue of respecting them. If you're constantly bugging them for an answer...guess where their respect for you goes?? Some agents will list a response time frame on their websites and will ask that you contact them if you have not heard back after that time frame. Then it is okay to send a quick email.

#11: Sit back and brace yourself for the rejections. They WILL come. It is a part of this business. Most times it's nothing personal. You're just not a right fit. They may already have a client with a similar story. They may just want something different. Will they tell you this?? Most likely not. Usually it's a plain form rejection. Under no circumstance email them after the rejection. They don't have time to explain. Even a "thank you" email just clogs up their inbox.

#12: Do not requery unless A- a significant time period has passed (I say at least a year) and B- you have made significant changes to the story.

Hope these tips help!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bon Voyage!

To me!! YAY!! It is finally time for our yearly family vacation!! And we so desperately need it!!!!

My sincerest apologies for being scarce these last couple weeks and for not being here the next week and a half. I promise to be back soon with all new posts and exciting things to read!!! :)

But while I'm gone, please enjoy some of my posts from when I first started this blog! So many of you were not around those first 6 months...so I hope you'll like to read where I was back then!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bargains Galore...Anyone else partaking in the festivities??

I am one of those crazies who get up at the ass-crack of dawn to stand in line in the cold to be one of the first customers inside Target or Walmart.

It all started the holiday season after my daughter was born. I had heard of Black Friday before, but had never gone. Being in retail, I always had to work that day. But I worked in a flower shop, so it's not like we had people camped outside our doorstep. It was a regular day for us, but I still had to work. Then I had my daughter and left my job and my sister in law asked if I wanted to go shopping with her. I said "sure". I love to shop and I love a good bargain. I was prepared, having heard of extreme cases on tv and such. Nothing like that happened to us, but it was an interesting morning. There were rude people and insane people and we just sat back and watched them and laughed. We got some of the things we needed/wanted, but didn't get too upset for the things we didn't. Most of the people were pleasant and nice and they had the same attitude we did. It was an experience and I really enjoyed it.

I've gone every year since then (this will be #8), but my shopping partners have changed. My sister in law had to work some years and this year she is off but is going with someone else. I started going with my cousin a few years ago and we have a great time. We are usually done by 8-8:30 and go have breakfast.

As much fun as we do have, the main motivation is still the bargains. With the help of websites such as BFads.net, you can view the ads days, even weeks, before Thanksgiving day, when the actual paper ads come in the newspaper. Helps immensely for planning purposes! These days, our budget is extremely tight and though the holiday season is not about gifts and spending tons and tons of money, this is really the only time of year we get to buy presents for our kids and family members and we really enjoy the gift-giving.

So how about you??? You gonna be in line anywhere at 3 am this Friday??? I'll be at Target! And I'm being even crazier this year and have decided to go to Toys R Us on Thanksgiving night. They will be opening at 10 pm. There are a ton of great deals there for me this year...I just can't pass up the opportunity!!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Queries- Part 1

I know how often authors struggle with the dreaded query and I am no exception. Not even in the tiniest bit. I wish I was. I wish I knew how to craft the perfect letter. But I don't.

I do know some dos and don't though. And as I wrote this, I realized how long the post was and decided to break it up into two! Be sure to stop by next Tuesday for part 2!

#1: Don't query too early. I have definitely done this. I was so green back then. I thought my first book was awesome and I felt so accomplished just having written it. I had no writer friends back then, only the opinions of my five closest girlfriends (who, of course, loved it!) I hadn't taken a grammar class in many many years. Looking back now, I can see how horrid that story was. But I didn't know it at the time. I sent the query out and luckily one agent gave me some honest feedback, telling me I was not ready to query at all. I was a little taken back at the time, but so grateful later on when I realized she was so so right. Don't query until you've gotten lots of honest critique on the book...not just friends who've adored it. Join a writer's group, online or in real life, put in your time by critiquing other's work and learning from it. Be very well read in your genre so you're aware of the cliches and can avoid them. You have to know what's already been done. I truly feel no story is completely original, but you need to make sure your book has a different take.

#2: When you're finally ready, do your research. Visit every agent's blog. Never rely on info on Publisher's Marketplace, Agent Query, or any other place ACCEPT the actual agent's website. The info can be outdated or just plain wrong. And check their background too. My favorite site is Predators and Editors. They're all listed alphabetically. Just because an agent looks professional online does not mean a thing. There are plenty of bad agents out there.

#3: Follow their guidelines to the tee! There's nothing more aggravating than having instructions written out in plain English and receiving everything else under the sun. Why turn them off before they've even read your blurb?

#4: Don't be gimicky. Just tell them what your story is about. Hook them. Don't try to be funny or witty or play games. Show your voice, yes, but don't be weird.

#5: Be professional. It's a business letter and should be treated as such. These agents are not your friend or even an acquaintance. A simple "Dear Ms. Smith" is appropriate. They are professionals and deserve respect. Get their name correct, get their gender correct.

Okay, that's it for now! Stop back next week for the rest!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spiraling into the abyss.....

Not me...but a friend. And I just don't know what to do.

One of my dear friends is starting to spin out of control. And I just don't know what to do. Obviously she can't see it....very much in denial. At what point do you risk the person hating you by stepping in and intervening?? I worry about what might happen if no one steps in and insists she gets the help she desperately needs. But I think we all know a person can't get help for something if they are in denial about the problem.

And of course my wandering mind sometimes goes very dark..and if something really bad happens...how would I feel if I'd sat here and done nothing? I could have done something to help...to stop it...to change it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The stuff that lasts....

The other day I pulled out my iron and realized it is the same iron I've been using for years. It was a gift from my bridal shower, over twelve years ago. It still works perfectly fine. Then I thought about all the things I still have that I got as a bridal shower present: hand mixer, dishes, glasses, veggie steamer, bakeware, bath towels, coffee maker.

I guess I wish I had newer models of some of these items. My hand mixer is kinda plain and simple and I wish I had a fancier one. Towels are getting kinda faded. Getting a bit bored of our dish pattern.

But some of the things are just perfect. We're not coffee drinkers so the plain Jane simple coffee pot we have that only gets pulled out a handful of times a year suits us fine. We've broken about half of our glassware, but how many glasses do we really need. I wash the ones we use almost every day.

The other day we were at Kohl's and walked past the fancy luggage. We travel at least once a year and those Samsonite suitcases look so nice and so much better than what we use. We have two set of luggage. The first was a shower gift and after many many trips with it, they are pretty banged up. The second set was a cheapy set and while they aren't in as bad a shape as our original set, it is just not a high quality. We usually use both large suitcases and the newer medium and small sizes. But am I willing to spend a ton of cash on new luggage with the way the airlines handle them???

When do you decide to replace something?? Whether it be an appliance or linens or books?

Obviously it's easy to know when to replace something that has broken and is either unfixable or the cost to fix just isn't worth it. But other things...they may not be broken..but maybe you're just bored with it. Or maybe it's just not performing as well as you'd like.

When it comes to books, and specifically genre, I have a couple genres I love and that is mainly what I stick with-- Women's Fiction/Chick Lit/Contemporary Romance. It's what I write, it's just what I enjoy reading. Will I ever stop reading and writing my genre and replace it with something else?? I can't say for sure. But I do know how much I love it right now. I do from time to time read something different, but I always go back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My new cover art!!!!

I am so so excited to reveal the cover art for Paradise Cove!! The email came in on Sunday, which is rare. I get very few emails over the weekend. I saw the subject and instantly got butterflies in my stomach. This is such a huge thing!! I was so so excited!!! But I was very nervous too! What if I didn't like it??

But when I clicked the attachment and this amazing cover opened, I was in awe!! I remember the day I first saw my cover for A Bitch Named Karma. While it was beyond striking, I was afraid it really didn't fit the novel's genre completely. And while I thought it was quite sexy, I've caught a ton of flack for the cover model's lack of clothing.

But this new cover....there is no doubts about this one at all. It's stunning...it's perfect...it's everything I wanted!!

And without further ado....the cover for Paradise Cove:

So, what do you guys think??? Hope you love it as much as I do!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tip: I, I, I....

My first published full length novel, A Bitch Named Karma, is written in first person. I really like that POV...really allows me to get into the characters head and hopefully make the reader feel like they are there too.

One major mistake I made while writing it was falling into the "I Trap". Take a look at this paragraph:

I opened my eyes when the alarm began blaring in my ear. I turned it off and sighed. I did not want to get up. I was not ready to face this day. I'd already done all I could do to fix things, but I had a feeling it wasn't going to make any kind of a difference. I just had to get dressed and go on like nothing had happened.

See what happened there?? Every sentence starts with "I". It is very important to vary your sentence structure. You can even turn some of those sentences into internal dialogue, deepening the POV. I know how hard it can be, especially with a piece written in first person, but once you start fixing it, it gets to be second nature.

Look at this new paragraph:

The alarm began blaring in my ear. Six AM already? I turned it off, but stayed in bed, not ready to face the day. Yesterday had been hell and I'd done what I could to fix things. But it probably wasn't going to make any kind of a difference. I just had to get dressed and go on like nothing had happened.

The second paragraph only has two sentences starting with "I". It's not perfect, but it's definitely better. :)

Good luck!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Going back and editing blog posts???

I read a blog past the other day about a blogger who was going back and editing her old posts. Made me wonder if everyone does this. It never crossed my mind to do it.

There have been many times where after something posts, I notice a glaring typo and I just have to fix it. But would I go back months, even years, so fix old typos?? I don't think I would. Yes, I want it to be professional, yet still down to earth. And I am constantly learning and the grammar comes more naturally now than it did when I started this blog...but those are my words and I don't think I would change them now.

I admit that I am a bad typer...I've never taken a typing class. I need to look at the keys when I type. And I still make A TON of errors. I keep a journal on my laptop and many times I type so fast that I misspell words, letters are out of order....I miss the space between words. I do go back and fix most of the typos...I want future generations to be able to read my words! But I never edit for content or proper grammar. They're my words and if I use tons of slang, so be it. If I use bad grammar, oh well. It's my journal.

So what do you do...do you go back, months, years, and edit your blog posts??

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm freezing!!!!! And my brain can't function!

It's Buffalo, so yeah....being cold is the norm this time of year. But it's supposed to be like 62 today!! Major heat wave, people!! The weather woman on the radio said it's our Indian Summer....go figure...it's usually never in November!

And here I sit freezing! I have my electric blanket around me. I have plans for taking a walk later to soak up some sunshine and warmth before it's gone for the winter.

But the temp is not the reason for my poorly functioning brain. I have vacation on the brain and I just cannot shake it!!!

We leave for our yearly family vaca to Disney World in 17 days. In order to afford it this year we've had to cut out a lot and the entire summer was spent doing very little. We are so eager for some fun and family time....away from our home. Disney gives us the perfect escape. And now that it's finally almost here, I can't get my brain to stop thinking about it. I can't keep away from Disney sites or message boards. I keep reviewing our plans and adding to our packing list.

But there are other things I really should be doing. I need to finish this round of copy edits for Paradise Cove. I completely ignored them yesterday. I do plan on tackling them some more today...almost done. I need to do pre-edits on Soap Dreams, which I have started but still needs work. And let's not forget Karma Kameleon.....I so wanted to have it polished and submitted to my editor before we left for our trip. :( Looks like that's not gonna happen.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend....maybe some nice sunny warm days for you too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How are you doing on your goals for 2010??

Well, it's November and there's what, 7 weeks or so left in the year??? This year seems to have flown by...anyone else feel that way???

I try to make resolutions each year and I take them very seriously. It seems people always make them and break them. But I try really hard. I don't make a goal unless I have every intention of keeping it.

For this year I had a few goals and I'm proud of what I've achieved.

#1- Join the gym and lose some weight/tone up.
We joined the gym that first Monday after New Year's. I lost the weight I wanted and also built a lot of muscle. I'm not exactly where I want to be yet, but in the past 10 months, I've definitely made a lot of progress.

#2- Read more.
I got my Sony Reader for Christmas last year and made a goal to read 30 books this year. I know tons of bloggers who do the 100 book challenge and I know I can't do that in this stage of my life. 30 seemed like a much more attainable goal for me. I am at 28 right now. And I just downloaded three new books!

#3- Find a home for my novelettes.
Done! Signed contracts for them with Lyrical Press a few months back!

#4- Find a home for Spellbound.
This is one goal I have not achieved this year. While I did A LOT to strengthen the story by switching the POV from 1st to 3rd in the beginning of this year, it still has a lot of problems. I hope to address them in the near future.

#5- Secure an agent.
Well, this goes hand in hand with #4, since Spellbound is my only completed MS right now that isn't already contracted. I pitched face to face to an agent back in March and it went well, but as mentioned above, Spellbound just has some problems that need fixing.

So...where are you in your goals for 2010?? Have you reached them, or still trying?? There's still time!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Super Sexy Blog Event!!!

Ever wonder what you would do if you were suddenly transported inside a romance novel??? I have to admit, while I'm writing, I imagine myself in every scene. What would I do? How would it feel?

I'm guest blogging today on this very topic!!! Pop on over to Gina Gordon's blog! VERY fun and VERY sexy stuff going on over there!!!!! You won't be disappointed!! ;)

And keep checking back! Fun posts every day this month!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tuesday Tips a day early! Dialogue Tags

Tuesday Tips is a day early this week! Something really fun going on tomorrow!!!

Before I continue, I first of all need to thank my AMAZING editor at Lyrical Press, Piper Denna! Please check her out here! Without her, I would not be where I am. She took my MS and helped me turn it into something fantastic. I learned so much from the experience!

Okay..on with today's post!

When I first started writing, I thought every line of dialogue had to have the word "said" with a name or he/she/I. I started getting creative and used my thesaurus for different words that also meant "said". I thought I was being cool by mixing it up. And the adverbs. Oh my.

And then I realized that not every line has to have a tag (I finally found out what they were actually called).

And as I learned to show instead of tell by adding actions, those lines didn't need tags either.

The Old Way: "I love this dress!" Sally said as she twirled in front of the mirror.

The New Way: Sally twirled in front of the mirror. "I love this dress!"

When there are just two people in a conversation, the reader can usually figure out who is talking. But be careful, so it's not confusing to the reader. Make sure you add in actions too...show what's going on while they are conversing. There's nothing worse for a reader to be in the middle of a conversation and having to stop and go back because they can't keep track of who's saying what.

Hope this helps. Remember, I in no way imply I am an expert here and my apologies if something I said is clearly wrong!! LOL! I'm still learning myself!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I was featured!!!

This week I was featured at EH on Books n' More. Please check it out!!!

And don't forget..I'm still searching for pics of my readers with my book!! Email them to stephanie_haefner at yahoo dot com! Thanks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why should we hide our feelings online??

I read a blog post the other day written by Shannon Whitney Messenger and it really made me think. Shannon wrote a really thought provoking post and she made some great points. But why is it so bad to share our true feelings in our blogs???

Yes, it is good to show you are confident and put together and professional...but why shouldn't our readers know the real us, insecurities and all??? Does it make us appear weak if people know we don't have it all figured out all the time???

Do you shy away from a blogger, author or not, if they post about their fears?

I don't!! I read their words and say "THANK GOD!!!! Someone out there gets it! Gets ME!" I wrote a post a little while back about jealousy in the publishing world. (read it here) I was having a bad day and wondering if I'll ever get to where I want to go. It felt so nice to read other writers comments and that they too know how that feels and have been there.

Everyone is in different stages of this journey and each has it's own set of fears. But in the end...it's all the same insecurity.

If someone was constantly whining and venting and complaining, then yeah, that would get a little tiresome, but an occasional vent or sobfest...I don't see anything wrong with that. I welcome it actually. It's nice to see that everyone out there is human...just like me. :)

So what do you think?? Are posts that show the writer as weak a bad thing??

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

October Writing Stats

I posted on Monday that I have finished Karma Kameleon, the sequel to A Bitch Named Karma.

Last month I posted my stats for July, when I was in ultra writing mode. Once again this October, I was back in writing mode and decided to post my stats again!! I like figuring it all out, and hopefully, you all enjoy reading it too!!

Number of days my 1000 word goal was met: 17 (July was 18)
Number of days it was not: 5 (same as July)
Number of days I didn't write at all: 9 (but 4 of those days my laptop was out of commission) (July was 8)
Number of days I wrote at least 1500 words: 9 (same as July)
Number of days I wrote over 2000 words: 2 (July was 4)

Total word count for October: 29,251 (July was 30,590)

I strive for 1000 a day. I like to meet that goal every day, but I don't stress about it, considering I have many days where I exceed that goal. In the end it usually averages itself out. Obviously, I was a little under for October....but I finished the story, so that's all that matters!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My first ever Tuesday Tips!!!

Not sure if I like the name...I may work on that :)

But anyway, I have decided to share my world of knowledge about publishing and writing. Okay, I don't so much have a "world" of knowledge..maybe just a bucketful...a small one... But I am going to share in hopes of helping my readers learn from my mistakes.

For my first week I decided to focus on something I did many many times in my first novel..and this was after I'd been through it a zillion times on my own. My editor had to correct it so many times...I though for sure she'd change her mind and give me the heave-ho.

Using words like thought, felt, saw, etc....

My debut, A Bitch Named Karma, is in first person, but I catch myself doing this with third person works too. Not sure why I did it. I guess I thought I needed to be as descriptive as possible. But the reader is in the MC's head...they don't need those extra words.

Example #1:

Wrong: She felt his hand touch her face.

Right: He touched her face.

Example #2:

Wrong: "That guy is hot," I thought to myself.

Right: That guy is hot.

Example #3

Wrong: I saw him take the cookie from the jar.

Right: He took the cookie from the jar.

These are very simplistic examples, but I think you can see what I mean. Nixing those extra words makes the sentences so much clearer, stronger, cleaner.

Thanks for stopping by my first ever tip post!!

If you have any ideas for future posts, please share!!! Or if you have questions about the digital publishing industry, please ask! I'd be more than happy to tackle a question in this weekly feature and share my experience.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Even after 4 days without my beloved, my book is finished!!!


What a crazy week this has been. On Wednesday, I could barely get my computer to turn on, let alone do anything. Hate when that happens. And it never ceases to amaze me how lost I feel without it. I have our older PC in the basement that has virtually nothing on it and mainly hubby and daughter use it for internet stuff. So luckily I could check email and such. But I could not write. Everything is on my laptop.

And that meant ending Karma Kameleon, the sequel to A Bitch Named Karma, was put on hold. And that made me mad. I had a goal of finishing by the end of October. It was just a personal goal, but for me, that is just as important as a deadline from an editor. So we took her to the computer doctor and I wrote the very last chapter in a notebook. So technically it was finished...but for me...if it's not in the computer, it doesn't count.

My laptop was fixed and good as new...picked it up yesterday morning. But with Halloween festivities, I could not get on it until after 10 at night to actually transfer my scribbles into the computer. Yay!!!!! It feels so great to have it finished!!

So now we start the self editing process. But I've already been through the first half once. And my writing is getting cleaner and stronger with each book. There shouldn't be as much to fix. My new goal is to have it cleaned and ready to submit by the end of the month!