Monday, September 01, 2014

 

Creating a Writing Career with Julie Lindsey

Several year ago a blogger contacted me and wanted to host a WOW author on a blog tour. Well, she didn't have many followers but she was so eager that we made an agreement--I would include her on the tours as long as she didn't cost the authors any time or money. Basically, she was stuck with pdfs to plow through and review. Before long Musings from the Slushpile and Julie Lindsey became one of my, and WOW readers, favorite blogstops. But Julie hasn't just been blogging and I thought it would be fun to invite her to The Muffin to share her writing experience with us.

WOW: Julie, here at WOW we remember you from just a few years ago when you were a WOW blog tour host/fledgling writer and now you have over a dozen published books to your name and several more in production. How have you managed to write so many books in so short a time?

Julie: I was blessed to hook up with the right people early on. A really nice girl at WOW! Gave me sage blogging advice and a place for support. *points to Jodi* I also found a critique group of authors to work with me. I joined local writing groups, attended conferences and actively sought instruction on all things authorly. About a year later, I got my foot in the door at a small online press, Turquoise Morning Press, where I wrote sweet romance and learned everything I could from my editor. I applied that information, tightened my craft and kept writing. I’ve used social media to stalk agents, publishers and editors. I stay on top of what’s happening in the industry and I jump on any and all opportunities to network or get my work read. I’ve spent the last three years in fast forward, treating my craft like a full time job far before I received my first pay check.

WOW: Well, then you're the perfect person to tell us all about building a writing career! First, give us the details. How many series have you written and in what genres/themes?

Julie: I started with a sweet romance series for Turquoise Morning Press called Seeds of Love. I wrote three novellas for that series. Afterward, I added two full novels to the set. The sweet romances are part of the Honey Creek Books line and take place in a small fictitious rural Ohio town. There’s something about sweet tea and southern charm that makes me smile. I really enjoyed writing those.

Last winter, I contracted a YA fantasy/romance series with Lyrical Press/Kensington. The first book in that series releases October 6th and the second is tentatively set for February 2016, though I finished writing it in August.

I also write cozy mystery / amateur female sleuth books for Carina Press. Carina is the digital side of Harlequin. When I heard they were branching out and looking to acquire mysteries, I jumped on the opportunity. They liked what they saw and gave me a chance. My third book in the Patience Price Mysteries releases September 29 and I recently learned that the debut book was picked up for print in the Harlequin direct to consumer book clubs, so those readers will all get a print copy of Murder Comes Ashore in November. I hated to see my time with Carina end, so I proposed a new, similar series. I’m calling it The Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder, and they accepted the proposal last month! I have a contract for three more mysteries. *wild eighties dancing*

WOW: I know sometimes publishers develop series ideas and then find writer(s) for them. Have you developed your own series, written publisher developed series or both?

Julie: So far, I’ve developed my own concepts and presented them to publishers. I’ve been fortunate to find editors who connected with my characters enough to go to bat for them at committee and get me into the lineup.

WOW: We're all familiar with series that feature the same character with different adventures in each book. But there's also a type of series that features different characters but have another common thread that makes them a series...maybe they take place in the same town or the books have a similar theme like "second chances". Which type of series are you involved with?

Julie: Honey Creek is an example of series writing where one story’s main characters become another story’s secondary characters or even cameo characters. That was a lot of fun, seeing my babies interact with one another and pop up at a diner or street fair, dispensing advice or catching fireflies.

My mystery series are the more traditional variety. The stories follow the same main character through many adventures. The fun thing about cozy mysteries and amateur sleuth books is the way secondary characters maintain their role. A handful will come and go because they are specific to the story/crime, but the majority of all characters stay and become extended family to the heroine and the reader. Readers become one of the gang and look forward to seeing what everyone’s been up to since the last book released.

WOW: Here at WOW we've discussed where book ideas come from, but I'm sure we're all wondering about series ideas too. After all, it has to be an idea that can carry you through several plots. What about an idea makes you think, "That would make a good series" instead of "That would make a good book."

Julie: I know from the start if the concept will be a series. Many concepts can be a series, like a romance where secondary characters can become main characters in later storylines, or where threads of the completed story can unravel later, if the author chooses, and create an ongoing saga for readers. In those stories, the book seems to end, but there are things left unsettled, small things, not enough to leave the reader dissatisfied, but enough to grab onto and pull if needed.

Other stories are created to be a series, like my mysteries, for example. I set out to create a heroine who can become a reader’s best friend. I want her to be interesting and quirky, smart and lovable. Then, I give her a great supporting cast, a love interest and a big problem. In this scenario, the characters are very important. The reader has to be willing to follow them anywhere and hopefully through lots of different adventures in the future.

In the Calypso series, my YA series, I have an average teen who learns mythology isn’t mythical and there’s a budding Norse apocalypse on the way. In the first novel, Prophecy, I wrap up the novel’s major plots at the end, but a topic like demi-gods in present day Ohio is the kind of thing that leads to other stories. Mythology is big. I could take her on endless journeys with any number of mythological creatures, gods and troubles. I plan to.

It’s important to me to find publishers where I can grow, so I always try to plan ahead for a potential series. If I find a press who likes my work and a readership willing to read it, I want to hang on to both.

WOW: Have you ever developed a series and then, after the first book, decided "I don't think there is another book"?

Julie: Yes. Oh, and it’s a terrible feeling. I have a YA contemporary romance on submissions now and I wrote it at a time when many editors were openly requesting standalone titles. So, my agent and I decided to call it a standalone with series potential. I’d planned to take a secondary character from the book and make her the heroine in the next book. Heroine number one would leave for college and the other character would take center stage for my sequel. I’d hoped to do this several times, telling many love stories over the course of a long series. As it turned out, I really don’t have a solid idea for any further books. In my mind, book one was a one of a kind, how do I follow something like that??? book. So, if this manuscript finds a home contingent on a series, I’m in big trouble.

WOW: I'm sure you'll manage somehow. But how does selling a series to a publisher work?

Julie: I think the key is to start with the best book you can write. You want to get the publisher’s attention and hook them the way you want to hook your readers. Then, you let them know your book has series potential.

If they’re interested in hearing more about this, be prepared. Have a query or pitch paragraph polished and ready for at least two sequels. This shows the person reading your proposal that you’ve given your series thought and developed a solid plan of action. Your vision will determine what happens from here. If you’ve taken the time to craft an interesting and creative set of sequels, chances are the editor will ask for three books instead of one. After all, you’ve already sold them on your amazing first manuscript, of course they’ll want to know what happens next.

WOW: Why do you think series are so popular with readers (and publishers)?

Julie: It’s my experience that digital first publishers love series more than traditional publishers. Probably because traditional publishers have more to lose if the first book flops. Digital publishers have less overhead and a quicker turn around, lower price points and voracious readers waiting on sequel after sequel. It’s in their best interest to keep popular authors producing popular series.

As a reader, I think series are the best thing since Ovaltine because I never want books to end. With a series, I know there’s more coming. When I devour a book and know there’s a whole shelf more at the library, I experience nerd euphoria. Honestly, I seek out new series intentionally so I know I won’t be cut off after just one.

WOW: Does a series make promotion easier? Does it keep readers interest if you can say "And the next book in the series is coming out in January 2015"?

Julie: I think having a backlist makes promotion easier. I’m not convinced it helps to have more coming as much as it helps to have other titles waiting. When I find a book I love, I immediately look for more by that author. While readers wait for your sequel to release, they read other titles by you and in the process, you become a new favorite author. In this scenario, it’s no longer about loving the first book they read and waiting for another. Now, it’s about loving you as an author. They’ll likely read whatever you produce because they like your style. Better yet, they’ll tell their friends about you.

I’m a huge champion of producing titles as often as possible. Certainly not at the cost of your craft. Don’t publish just to get something on the market, but definitely keep writing. Keep producing. Keep creating. Your readers will thank you.

WOW: What advice do you have for anyone who thinks they have, not just a book, but a whole series in them waiting to be written?

Julie: I say go for it! Start by giving everything you can to book one. This flagship is your seller. This gets you an agent, a publisher, readers. Make sure it’s the very best story you can tell before you send it into the world because you don’t get a do-over. Editors won’t look at it again once they say no. I know an author who sold her second book first, but she’s the exception, not the rule. Hook them with book one and then keep writing stories of equally high quality every time.

Also, and this is just me…I never write a sequel until I have it under contract. This is why: I get rejected. A lot. What on Earth would I do with three or four books in a series I can’t sell? Self-publishing isn’t for me. Not now. Not yet. My goal is to climb this publishing sand dune the traditional way. If they don’t buy book one, then writing book two and three wasn’t the best use of my time. Once I finish a book and put it on submissions, I start something new. I keep the balls rolling in multiple directions. Again – that’s only my opinion, but it’s working for me, so I’m sticking to it.

WOW: What's coming up next?

Julie: Well, I'm facing a big month of promotion for the release of my third Patience Price Mystery Murder in Real Time and the same shebang for my debut YA fantasy novel, Prophecy. These books release 7 days apart. It will be madness. Meanwhile, I’m writing a short story submission for a YA Alice in Wonderland anthology. It seems 2015 is the 150th anniversary of my favorite classic, so I’m honored to be a part of that. Also, I’m working on book one in my new Geek Girl mystery series. I have three of those to write, so that should keep me busy for a while. All the shiny new concepts that pop into my head go in a file to look at later. Let’s hope I can leave the file alone.

WOW: Julie, I'm getting tired (and envious) just hearing about all the balls you have rolling! Readers, why not share your ideas for a great series concept!

Get to know Julie Lindsey for just 99 cents:

To celebrate the release of the third book in Julie's Patience Price Mystery series, book one: Mystery by the Seaside is just 99 cents for the month of September. Her first publisher, Turquoise Morning Press, is also re-releasing eight small town romances (including Bloom by Julie Lindsey) for just 99 cents. I'm no math whiz but that works out to around 12 cents a book!

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

 

The Critique Epiphany

I’ve written about critique groups before. But now, thanks to my recent epiphany, I have something new to say:

I need to be in a critique group.

Not exactly an earth-shattering epiphany, right?

After all, if asked, most writers would agree that a critique group is necessary. And most of the time, we strive to find critique groups or a critique partner. But occasionally, we give up on our groups when we encounter problems, or members move away, or plain, old laziness creeps in.

Maybe, like me, you’re going through a “critique groupless” stage, thinking you’ll be fine without a group. You’re a fairly disciplined writer and you’ve been at this business for a long while. You figure that your writing will take care of itself.

And if I’m being honest, much of my writing continued without any bumps. But my fiction writing…well, as we writers say, that was whole ‘nother story.

Without feedback, without accountability on the table, my fiction writing sort of drifted. What I judged to be mighty fine had little blips here and there. Though how was I supposed to know? No one but me was reading it.

Still, when a friend asked me to join her critique group, I demurred. I’d been in a group for three years and wasn’t sure I was ready for the monthly grind of reading other writers’ work, providing editing notes, taking time from my own work…believe me, I had a whole list of excuses. Maybe you do, too.

But I agreed to give a critique group another go, just to be polite, really. And the week before my first meeting, I remembered something sort of earth shattering, writing-wise:

When I have to get a manuscript ready for my peers, I work harder.

I think more about the writing craft, about the use of each word, about the plotting and the setting and the tone of the story. I step back with a more critical eye and wonder what the writers in my group will think when they read my paragraphs, my chapters. Is my title strong or tired? Is my concept unique or same old, same old? I think of the whys behind my writing, and I work a little harder to impress that room full of gifted writers.

So I need to be in a critique group. I need to feel that nervousness before someone reads my words. I need that feeling of triumph when a group of writers says, “Well done.” And if that same group of writers says, “I don’t get this part,” then I need to feel that push to keep at it until they do get that part.

Maybe you’re having your own epiphany right now, realizing that consistent accountability might be the way to better writing.

And maybe, like me, you’ll get yourself back to a critique group.


~Cathy C. Hall






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Saturday, August 30, 2014

 

Writing Advice: It Isn’t One Size Fits All

I love going to writer’s conferences. I always come away ready to write with ideas on how to improve my writing and market it both to potential publishers and readers.

That said, I’ve learned that before I follow any of the advice that I receive at a conference, I need to test the fit. X, Y or Z might have worked perfectly well for the writer giving the advice, but that doesn’t mean it will work for me. Writing advice is not one size fits all and what worked for a Big-Name author may not work for me.

Speakers at writer’s conference are generally “high end.” These are established writers. They are big names. They have status. Unless you are secretly Suzanne Collins, you and I may not have the clout to pull off whatever it is that Big-Name-Author managed to do.

Let me demonstrate with an example of interest to many – self or independent-publishing.

A number of name writers are now publishing at least some of their work independently. For many of them, it works well meaning their work sells and it sells well. Whenever one of them mentions a dollar amount, that’s all any of the conference goers talk about. “Big-Name-Author made a caboodle dollars when she published her own novel. I can do that too.”

Maybe, but quite probably not. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a comparable following? I don’t mean in terms of enthusiasm. I’m talking numbers here.
  • Is your name your biggest sales tool? Unless people talk about “the latest (insert your name here),” you should probably answer no to this question.
  • Have you honed your writing skills to the same level? Write enough to have a pile of books with your name on them and you are going to get better. Have you improved that much already? If not, you probably need an editor whose recommendations you can’t just brush off.

If you answered “no” to even one of these questions, following the self-publishing path probably won’t lead you to the same destination.

I’m not picking on people who chose to self-publish. Any advice that you receive from a name author needs to be considered just as carefully. Whether this advice concerns dealing with an editor or agent, following a publisher’s guidelines or dealing with the public, consider the advice carefully.

The advice may be perfect for one writer but not another, because writing advice is not one size fits all.

--SueBE

Sue teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins in October; places in the class are open.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

 

Friday Speak Out!: Birthday & Writing Messages

by Marcia Peterson

Today is Friday Speak Out day, and it's also my birthday.

Birthdays are times to reflect, dream and plan. I'll share some favorite inspirational messages that seem to fit birthdays as well as the writing life. See if any of these messages might be directed at you too!*

*As a fun game, close your eyes and pick a number between one and ten right now. Then scroll/count down to the image that correlates with your number--that's your personal message. Tell us what you got!

We're also accepting submission for Fridays Speak Out posts from our readers (for September--and beyond!) . Check out our guidelines and join the fun.









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Thursday, August 28, 2014

 

Write for Your Health



A healthy cup of tea for productive writing.
Photo credit | EKHumphrey
Generally writers sit a lot. Obviously, this can be hazardous to your health.

If you are steadily working at the keyboard, what are some other ways to keep a focus on health? In no particular order, here are five tips I use to keep my eye on writing deadlines and my health:

1. Water! If you spend your time typing, you have little time to reach out and grab some water. But if you do nothing else, keep a glass of water nearby. One of the tricks I have, especially when my desk is overflowing with papers, is to put a reusable water bottle by my feet. If I don’t follow through on numbers two through five, drinking the water helps keep my mind sharp. I also often feel tired if I don’t drink enough water, so I work to stay hydrated when I sit at my computer.

2. Stretch! Even the speediest of writers needs to take a break every now and then. Sometimes I’m in a public library and feel as if I can’t leave my computer, so I’ll sit up taller in my chair and reach my hands above my head and clasp my hands. Moving my hands from side to side helps to keep some of my stiffness at bay until I can take a proper walk. (I also try to give my neck a break and gently roll it around regularly.)

3. Healthy snacks! You know you’re going to get hungry…so make it healthy. A candy bar can be an occasional treat, but if you’re spending more time sitting than you are exercising, candy should be kept to a minimum. Instead of placing a candy bowl on your desk, start your writing day with a handful or small bowl of nuts or seeds on your desk. As the day moves into night, you can swap out the nuts for sliced apples or carrots. For drinks, I avoid coffee and drink tea—especially green tea.

4. Breathe! Even when you’re under pressure, remember to breathe. Sounds simple, but try thinking about your breathing next time you are on deadline. It can help to refocus your mind, as well as keep you more relaxed. Even when you are not in a rush, shifting your mind to think about your breathing can help to destress you. When you take a deep breath, you also might try to focus on something other than your computer screen. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Move! It’s easier said than done when you want to hit that 5,000-word daily goal, but moving can help you focus on your health and your writing. Try planning a walk during your day, especially when you might need some additional time to think through some of your writing. A walk can be restorative and help work out your body’s kinks, as well as you mind’s! If you don’t have time to take a walk, then plan mini-breaks during your writing. Create a path around your home or take the long way to the bathroom. Not getting up enough? See tip #1 and drink more water!

Sitting at your desk doesn’t mean that you have to be completely unhealthy and sedentary.

What do you do to try to stay healthy when writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She enjoys walking along the river in downtown Wilmington.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

 

Aloha Writers Retreat: Tap Into Your Naturally Creative Soul

What could be better than spending a week relaxing and writing at the beach with other like-minded writers? Doing it in Hawaii! That's what writers and workshop leaders, Dawne Knobbe and Svette Bykovec, are offering writers this fall (November 7th through 14th). As their website states, come to the Aloha Writers Retreat and "join us . . .for a unique journey into your creative soul."

Dawne is the author of Runaway Storm, a young adult novel, and is very involved with SCBWI-LA. You can find out more about Dawne below as she talks to us about the Hawaii retreat, or you can visit her website. Svett is an award-winning author and illustrator; her books (writer/illustrator) include See Into the Sea and Crazy Crustaceans. Her website is MoonDog Manuscripts.

Read on to see what you will do in Hawaii, what the price includes, and special discounts for WOW! readers and/or if you are willing to have a roommate.

Dawne & Svett
WOW: Hi Dawne, thank you for being with us today to discuss the Aloha Writers Retreat. Please start by telling us how this wonderful retreat began.

Dawne: For many years, Svett Bycovec and I organized two writers' retreats in California. One year we would hold Critiquemania, which was a very fast-paced, intense 3-day retreat; then the next year, we would organize Sense and Sensibility, which was more about the creative process and nurturing your inner muse. When Svett moved back to Australia, we started thinking about doing something that would combine the two, and the idea for the Aloha Writers retreat was born. There is something so magical about Hawaii that we couldn’t think of a better location to inspire writers.

WOW: Yes, that is so true! I'm sure Hawaii would inspire me. Who should attend this workshop? Are there any specifications for certain writers, genres, etc?

Dawne: This retreat is for writers of all genres. It is geared towards people who are actively working on writing projects but beginners are welcome. Writing is a creative process, whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction, or for children or adults. I personally have a background in many genres, so I hope to help people explore different genres.

WOW: Great! What can attendees expect during their seven days in Hawaii at your retreat?

Dawne: It will be a week of healing and nurturing the writer within you. We will work through stumbling blocks in your creative process and specific issues in your stories. We will critique each others work supportively and participate in different exercises designed to inspire our muses. Attendees will come away with new friends, the inspiration to move forward with their writing, and new methods to help achieve their goals. We will also have a lot of fun exploring the island culture and relaxing in this tropical paradise.

WOW: That sounds wonderful. What all is included in the price for the attendees? Who leads the retreat?

Dawne: The price of the retreat includes 7 nights of accommodations. 

Breakfast and dinner daily, plus some lunches and lots of snacks. 

If you have uncomplicated special dietary considerations, we are happy to work with you. Otherwise, we have an open kitchen policy, and you are welcome to prepare your own dishes.

 Besides food and lodging, the price all program fees include: materials including entrance fees on planned excursions

, transportation (with some limitations), 
daily “writing fun-shops” 

inspiration and exercises with faculty, plus one-on-one editing and group critiques. There are also

 specialty supplies and surprises.

 So there's time to relax, reflect, write and enjoy beautiful Hawaii. If you mention WOW, we will extend our early bird discount rate of $2269.00 (which is a savings of $300).

WOW: This sounds so amazing! Thank you for all the details. What else do WOW! readers and writers need to know about the Aloha Writers Retreat?

Dawne: Svett is a published writer, illustrator, and art therapist. I have a master's degree in professional writing and have made my living as a journalist, creative director, writer, and publisher. We run a non-profit press called The Nature Kid, which is all about teaching children about conservation in a fun and wacky way.

And here is some really good news for WOW readers. We have a special early bird discount ($300) and also a roommate discount ($200). We will extend the discount rate for all WOW! participants past the posted deadline.

WOW: Thanks, Dawne, for all the information. It sounds fantastic! 

Okay, Muffin readers, to sign up for this amazing experience, please go to Hawaii Retreat 2014 website by clicking here.


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Monday, August 25, 2014

 

Sacrifices of the Writing Life

Me at 17
I'm not sure what happened, but the time between the photo on the left and the present seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. One minute I was a senior writing essays in English class and the next I'm staring at the invite for my 20-year high school reunion.

For the past few years, there's been a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I have yet to publish a novel and I'm not getting any younger. For awhile, I was able to momentarily silence that voice, but it's starting to get louder and louder lately. Never mind that I have experienced success in the freelance writing world, won awards for my writing and interviewed hundreds of expert sources on a number of different subjects. I can hear the voice of my senior English teacher, asking me to dedicate my first book to her, and it makes me hang my head in shame because I haven't done it yet. I haven't been working hard enough toward my goals and I know it. There are days when I wimp out and tell myself that I'm probably too old to keep pursuing this particular dream.

My heart sank when I realized the weekend of my reunion is the same weekend as the Carolinas SCBWI Conference, which I registered for months ago. I've signed up for an intensive workshop on using imagery and metaphors in my writing and purchased two critiques for the first 10 pages of my YA novel. I was pretty down for a few days. After all, this is the conference where I got a pretty harsh critique on this very same book last year and I really would love to see some of the classmates I haven't seen since high school graduation.

Then I happened to get on Facebook and read a great inspirational post by author Jessica Bell. She shared the story of getting dismissed by a publisher who basically told her she was kidding herself if she ever thought she would be an author. But--and this is the thing that struck me--she kept on, eventually building a great career for herself as an author, editor and literary magazine publisher.

"If you want something, LEARN IT. BELIEVE IN IT. DO IT," she said.

So as much as I would like to make the drive and spend the day with my old friends, I had to decline the invitation. I told them, that I'm sorry, but I'm still chasing my dream of becoming a published children's author and have a conference to attend instead. And I still have a lot of work to do.

Maybe by the next reunion, I'll have a book to share with them.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at www.finishedpages.com.


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