Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The agony & the ecstasy of the editorial letter

Last Wednesday I got my editorial letter for The Paris Secret. When you take into consideration that my last book (Diva's Last Curtain Call) was released from Kimani Press in the summer of '07, and went through the editorial process several months before its release, then it's been almost four years since I've worked with an editor. And I'm not counting the one I hired to edit Schooled In Lies, because she was hired to do copy edits and not line editing. Now that I have a publisher and an editor again, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have someone being brutally honest about what isn't working in my manuscript. I equate the editorial letter to getting a shot of medicine. You absolutely know it's going to make your book better in the end. But, the needle can still sting a little going in. Every writer has different ways of dealing with the editorial letter. Here are some things to remember that always help me.

1. Your editor is on your side-(S)he wants your book to be the best it can be! It may not seem that way when you find out (s)he wants you to get rid of your favorite character Clucky the Wonder Chicken. But once you're thinking more clearly, you'll realize that Clucky really was dragging down the whole manuscript.

2. Your writing isn't perfect-Writing can be a lonely vocation. Many of us tend to write in a bubble receiving very little by way of feedback. As a result, we can be way too close to a project to see its flaws. Be happy you have an editor to point them out to you and suggest possible fixes.

3. You editor isn't a dictator-Most suggestions are negotiable. If your editor makes a suggestion that you truly do not agree with, explain your reasons behind not wanting to make the change. The two of you should be able to work together to come up with a compromise that benefits the book and makes both of you happy.

4. Your editor wanted to work with you-Your editor acquired your manuscript, right? And with publishers being more and more selective in the books they acquire, getting a book past all the levels it takes to get it acquired is no mean feat. If your editor wasn't enthusiastic about your book, believe me they wouldn't have bothered.

5. Get over yourself-Don't be your own worst enemy. Realize you don't know everything and that you're always going to be learning new things that will only make your writing better.

Oh, and for the record, I'm happy to say there wasn't a Clucky the Wonder Chicken in the Paris Secret.

Angela ; )

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Interview: Shonell Bacon

Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome author-and a woman of many talents-Shonell Bacon to my blog!

Welcome, Shon!

Tell us a little about yourself.

There’s so much I could say, LOL Here’s my short bio on Twitter: Author, blogger, coffee addict, editor, educator, journal/pen collector, podcaster, screenwriter, & Ph.D. student in Tech. Comm. & Rhetoric @ Texas Tech Univ. I’m a little bit of everything.

Tell us about your new book, Death at the Double Inkwell, and what inspired you to write it.

I actually started writing DDIW back in 2000 for a novel writing class I was taking in college. We had to pick a novel we wanted to study throughout the semester and then write the first three chapters to a novel within the same genre of the book we studied. I selected one of my favorite book, All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark, so by default, I had to write a mystery/suspense novel. At the beginning, all I had was the main character’s name and a few details – a marriage, a murder, an affair. And from that and with the help of the class, I started Death at the Double Inkwell, which is about twin mystery novelists who find their idyllic world turn upside down when a murder occurs close to home.

What other genres do you write in?

I have co-authored contemporary fiction, have published romance and erotica short stories. For the most part, I stay in the general women’s fiction category; however, I have written Christian romance as well. Overall, I like writing stories about broken women who are made whole through their journeys in life. I go where the character wants me to go and pick up the genre along the way.

You’re also an editor. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see in the manuscripts you edit?

Probably some of the same things I see in my own work after a very rough draft, LOL Here are the three big things I see in manuscripts while editing.

There was a moment last year when I received a lot of manuscripts that were true stories fictionalized, and the biggest issue with those types of ‘scripts is the writer relying too much on reality and forgetting the components of fiction. Although we do have conflicts in real life and we have dialogue and we have setting and we have all those other fictional components, we real life is pretty, well, BORING. If we tell a story, especially in novel length, exactly how it happened in real life, we could have a lot of dwell time in which readers would wander off and find something interesting to pique their interest. When you fictionalize the truth, you have to think about how to build up the tension, how to write dialogue that resonates with the story and with the characters.

Another issue I see a lot while editing occurs within dialogue. We’ve all heard the adage, “Write how people talk.” Yeah, well, no. We do want dialogue to be real, but not necessarily realistic because in real life we tend to go on and on sometimes with no rhyme or reason, and unless that’s part of a character’s personality or serves a purpose in the story, we don’t want that. We also don’t want dialogue that tells everything. When we say write dialogue that is real, we often mean to write dialogue that is real to the character you create and that is real to the story you are developing.

POV is another issue I see a lot while editing. A lot of people love writing in first person; they claim it makes them feel closer to the main character, which is cool. And I don’t have a problem with that though I often argue that a close third-person POV can be just as intimate as first person. The problem that often arises is that writers want to write in first person, but they want a story told in third-person omniscient, meaning they still want to tell you what all the other characters are thinking and doing when you can’t do that when stuck in one person’s mind.

What is your writing schedule like?

Lately, I would have to reply, “What writing schedule?” With school, I often don’t get to write too much except during November for NaNoWriMo and April for Script Frenzy. However, when I have a project that I want to get finished, I set myself a deadline and chart out my writing. I don’t write every day, have never really done that, but I do write enough so that the project gets done when I schedule to be completed.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a major plotter, much to some of my writing friends’ chagrin, LOL!

I love, I adore order and organization. I need structure prior to writing a story so that I can jump in and feel comfortable with the story. By the time I sit to plot out a story, I have already watched the story numerous times in my mind. I have created mental character dossiers, acted out scenes of the story, mentally edited and spliced scenes together and have it pretty much the way I want it. A lot of the stuff that is for other writers a part of the writing process is a part of my mental writing process. Once I have a story played out in my mind, I draft an outline, and then I begin writing the story. This does not mean the story is set in stone, however. More often than not, I meander all over the story and end up with something a lot deeper than I expected. But if I didn’t take the time to mentally write and outline the story, I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to play and change and tweak the story in other ways once I set upon writing the story.

Can you tell us what you're working on now?

Well, RIGHT now, I’m not working on anything creatively. However, I do have two projects I’d like to finish and start sometime soon. In April, I began a screenplay and I’m about 100 pages into it. I want to finish that, cut and edit it to death, then start submitting it. I started writing screenplays again about three years ago and every year since, I’ve placed in a contest, and I’d like to finally place higher in a contest or get the actually “platinum” ring and get representation. In addition to the screenplay, I want to work on book two of the Double Inkwell series. I always had the thought of doing a series featuring Jovan and Cheyenne as amateur sleuths ala Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote.” I have concepts for about five stories, and I already know which one I want to start on—just need to DO it.

Do you have a website or blog?

Sure do! My official website is http://shonbacon.com. I have a page on the site devoted solely to DDIW: http://shonbacon.com/ddiw/. On that page, I will be showcasing podcasts that feature excerpts of the book and my journey in writing and having the book published. Also, I will be showcasing commentaries about themes/topics that resonate in the book.

What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?

Hmm, good books. This is difficult because all I’ve been reading lately are academic articles and textbooks! LOL I have had the opportunity to read a few books lately that I really enjoyed.

Bride of the Living Dead by Lynne Murray--a light, funny romantic comedy featuring a feisty full figure chick.

Whiskey Heart by Rachel L. Coyne--a short but poignant story about returning to your past to overcome the pain and emotions of that past.

Glorious By Bernice McFadden--a literary novel by my favorite author that left me deeply moved. I didn't know I could ever find a book that touched me the way McFadden's "Sugar" did, but with "Glorious," I did.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

1- Do not write to fit a trend; they come and go, and so will your work.

2- Write from the heart; if you don’t care about your work, no one else will either.

3- Study the writing craft; it’s great to write because you have the love of it, but at some point, you have to show people you are serious about growing as a writer, too.

4- Get into PR; no one is going to promote your work as hard as you do. Study the various ways, online and offline, that you can sell your work to your audience.

Thanks for stopping by, Shon! Click here to find out more about Shon and her books!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Carina Carina!

I'm very happy to announce that Harlequin's new digital-first imprint, Carina Press, has offered me a contract for my novel, The Paris Secret! As you can imagine, I'm very thrilled to have finally found a home for this book. I'll admit it's been a rough couple of years as far as my writing career has been concerned and I was very worried that I'd never sell another book in this tough publishing climate. In a lot of ways, despite the fact that I've had three books published, I'm starting all over again with not only a new imprint but a different genre and an exciting new format!

The Paris Secret is a very special book for me as it's the first non Kendra Clayton book I've written as well as my first attempt at a writing something other than a cozy mystery. And while there is still murder and mayhem involved, it's a much edgier and sexier book than I've ever written and is set in a foreign county. I hope you'll all love this book and these characters as much as I do. The release date is in five to six months! How cool is that? I plan to blog regularly about my new journey as author with Carina Press. So without further delay, here's the preliminary synopsis for The Paris Secret!

Recently dumped by her boyfriend, librarian Maya Sinclair vows to enjoy herself on her Paris vacation if it kills her—and it just might. First, a reservations glitch lands her in a hotel room with uppity art history professor, Juliet Rice. Then Juliet is brutally murdered and Maya—who was the last person seen arguing with her—becomes the prime suspect and is warned by the police not to leave Paris. When Juliet’s killer viciously attacks Maya, French journalist, Simon Girard, rescues her. Simon is investigating the suspicious death of his brother, an art forger whose last client was Juliet Rice.

Needing answers, Maya and Simon form a reluctant, volatile, and ultimately passionate partnership in hopes of finding out the truth. When the killer frames them for another murder, and demands the crucifix Juliet Rice hid in exchange for proof of their innocence, Maya and Simon find themselves on the run from police, and on the hunt for Juliet’s hiding place.

Together they discover Juliet’s murder is connected to a society of academics searching for a priceless seventeenth century book, which the crucifix is the key to finding. As the body count grows, Maya discovers all is not as it seems when it comes to the killer. And what they don’t know could kill not just them but also someone else Simon holds dear.

Coming soon from Carina Press!

Later, Angela ; )

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interview: Kimberly Alan

Today I'd like to welcome author Kimberly Alan to my blog!

Welcome, Kimberly. Tell us about yourself.

I’m originally from New Jersey and ended up in Connecticut after college and law school in the New England area. I’ve been writing since junior high and finished my first “book” at sixteen, long before computers were around. Though I continued to write, school and work demands, followed by marriage and children forced me to “steal” time to write but I never made much progress. By 1989, the voices of the fictional characters and their adventures shouted so loudly in my head that I could no longer ignore them. It was then that I decided to learn about the actual business of writing and how to submit a novel for publication. I joined Romance Writers of America and the Connecticut chapter, finding them wonderful resources and making great friends who gave me the courage to take my writing seriously. But alas, my personal and professional obligations continued to overtake my attention. After writing countless legal documents all day, then taking care of my children, I was pooped. So I would start tons of stories but found it nearly impossible to find the time to actually polish and submit anything. Finally, in 2008, nineteen years later, I took two weeks off from work, finished TRUTHS UNVEILED, and submitted it to what is now White Rose Publishing. Thankfully, they published it the following year. And so now the process continues. But this time I am not waiting nineteen years. ☺

Describe Tom Jarrod and Pam Harrington, the hero and heroine of your inspirational romantic suspense novel, Truth Unveiled, and what inspired you to create them.

Tom and Pam are composites of wonderful people who found each other at an early age but made mistakes that tore them apart and would affect their lives forever. During the past fourteen years they’d struggled separately to right the individual wrongs they’d committed, each continuing to blame themselves. Then they unexpectedly receive a second chance at love and a life together, but only if they can finally resolve the issues from their pasts.

Tom is that bad boy we all knew and swooned over in high school whenever he looked at us. He wasn’t the captain of the football team but he had a certain independent charisma that made him attractive and fun to be with. Those traits followed him into adulthood, making him chief of emergency medical rescue operations for a large medical center, set in a rural but developing area where he also continues to manage his family’s dairy farm.

Professionally Tom has everything going for him. Personally, however, his life is a mess. A failed marriage based upon an unexpected pregnancy, a troublesome ex-wife and two beautiful children caught in between run havoc with his emotions. Then he learns that Pam may return to the area. He hopes and prays that this is their chance to start again.

Pam was a super smart, painfully shy and pretty high school girl who knew at an early age that she wanted to be a doctor. Years later, she fulfilled that dream and became an emergency department physician, relentlessly driven to save every patient in a big city hospital. When she receives a too-good-to-be-true job offer at a new medical center, she knew there had to be a catch. And there was. The medical center was located in the small town she’d fled years earlier. Though she’d long ago gotten over Tom’s betrayal, Pam still continued to have nightmares about the horrible auto accident that killed her best friend that night she had learned the truth. She had vowed never to return to her past. And now here it was, demanding her attention.

I was inspired to write this story because bad things can happen to good people and yet life goes on. So many of us are affected today by decisions or circumstances that occurred in the past. Some good and some not so good. I truly believe that God forgives our mistakes and hears our prayers. After all, to err is human. Our job is to forgive ourselves, learn from the experience, and make sure that each new day is better than the day before. We see this through Tom and Pam. We also see that things are not always as they first appear. Time and faith do have a way of clarifying and healing all things, if we let them.

What appeals to you most about writing inspirational fiction?

Writing inspirational fiction is the one place I feel free to recognize and share God and His blessings, along with the gifts and struggles we all experience as human beings. Personally, I live in a very secular world. While I know He is definitely with me and everyone else here in Connecticut (and around the world), faith is not something that is typically openly discussed. Especially in the business world in which I operate. Fortunately, our church provides a much different atmosphere. I can’t tell you how many wonderful story ideas continually pop into my head each Sunday morning during services and other functions. It gives me chills just to think about it! So, keeping in mind that is helpful to write what you know, many of my characters tend to live in secular-type places and have secular-type careers. And yet I hope they convey the message that God is everywhere. We just have to look for Him.

Do you write in any other genre?

I tend to write contemporary, inspirational romantic mystery/romantic suspense. In addition, I’d like to inject some humor in the mix. My first attempt is one of the current stories I am working on. It’s called, Is He Dead Yet? It’s a divorce romantic comedy blended with inspirational undertones and suspense.

Currently, I continue to practice divorce and family law under my “real” name, Kimberly Peterson. In that capacity, I have written two legal textbooks, subtitled Anatomy of a Lawsuit. They are published by Prentice Hall and are how-to books for new lawyers and paralegals, along with people representing themselves. I wrote them to help readers navigate the very confusing courthouse process in Connecticut and other eastern states.

What is your writing schedule like?

My “schedule” is always “to be determined” or “under construction.” No matter how much I plan and prepare to write, there are no guarantees that it will actually happen. Recently, I have determined that my writing must be the first thing tackled each day, before I check email, answer the phone or return a call, pay the bills, do the breakfast dishes, put in that one load of laundry, or do “that one last thing.” Because those one last things are like a mutating bacteria, resistant to antibiotics and determined to take over every second of my life! They constantly multiply and morph into new obligations and before I know it the day is over, I’m pooped and little if any writing got done. I also still manage my small law practice and I have two “tween” daughters, so life is very busy. Fortunately, writing is the one thing that helps keep everything in perspective.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I think I am a mental plotter. Characters and ideas can swirl around in my thoughts for quite a while before I actually sit down and write about them. Once I start typing and the story begins, I tend to jot down ideas for scenes so I don’t forget about them but the actual writing comes with little initial outlining. Every twenty or so pages I often create a very loose written outline, to get a sense of the story’s structure so far. I look at the different points of view, the characters who are introduced or involved in that section, how the conflict is building, etc. Then I create a punch list of sorts to fill in the blanks later. Whenever I feel “blocked,” I skip the scene and move on to another scene, to keep the writing flow going. Later I go back and fill in the blanks.

Can you tell us what you are working on now?

I have three major projects in the works. My mood that day will determine which one I work on. I already mentioned Is He Dead Yet? The other is entitled, When Destiny Calls. It is a contemporary inspirational romantic suspense that involves events that took place in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Two major characters are a Jewish resistance fighter and a young German woman from a high ranking Nazi official family who joins his cause.
On a lighter note, I am working on Imperfect Justice. Again it involves inspirational romantic suspense. The hero is a defense attorney who has a spinal cord injury and the heroine is a prosecutor, intent on proving his client’s guilt.

Do you have a website or a blog?

I have a blog entitled, Love On and Off the Rocks. It’s like a relationship advice column that I started last year and also talks about writing. It stems from all the experience I received about relationships as a divorce lawyer for twenty years. I am hoping to have more time to devote to it in the upcoming months.

My newest project, which is also under construction, is a blog called, Today’s Good News. It was created as an alternative to all the negative news the media constantly inundates us with. The idea started to materialize while I was reading Joel Olsteen’s book, Become a Better You. There he talks about how dwelling in negativity only creates more negativity and that’s not what God wants for any of us. I shudder to think what the rest of the world thinks about America when they watch our evening news. It must seem like a horrible dangerous place, filled with hateful people. And yet we know that it’s not. In fact, it is by His grace that we are able to live in this most wonderful country, compared to many other places on this earth. Therefore, we need to put forth and share all of the good that happens in our lives every day. When we live in a state of gratitude and faith it is easy to see all of God’s good, all around us. So what your TGN?

What good books have you read recently that you’d like to recommend?

I smile as I write this because it’s such a difficult question. There are so many fabulous stories out there. In fact, I tend to feel intimidated when I walk into a bookstore and see each author’s masterpiece. My writing career developed as I read everything Nora Roberts wrote so I want to take this opportunity to recognize her and say that her work is simply breathtaking. Jane Ann Krantz, Lori Avocato, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Robin Lee Hatcher, Dee Henderson, Suzanne Brockman, Robert Parker and Jeanette Windle are my other favorites but there are so many wonderful authors. Please don’t take offense that I have not mentioned all of them. It’s just that I consider these folks my mentors, whose works I have devoured over the years.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First off, believe in yourself and believe that you have something to say. Next, write! Keep writing! And keep writing some more! Be sure to read also. Read everything you like to write about. It helps keep you centered. In addition, be sure to surround yourself with other productive, committed writers. Learn from them. Go to conferences, join writers’ groups, and meet other writers as well as editors and agents. Learn as much as you can about the profession. I can’t say enough about Romance Writers of America, along with the state and special interest chapters. They are invaluable to all writers.

Furthermore, the actual craft of writing is a very individual and isolating process. The words will not just write themselves. Also remember that no one can tell your story, except you. Therefore, I find it incredibly helpful to read and listen to nonfictional motivational-type books/CDs and websites/blogs written by Anthony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Joel Orsteen, and then Rick Warren. He wrote Purpose Driven Life. Each of them helps me to renew my faith and belief in my God-given abilities. They give me the inner strength and perseverance to move forward, regardless of the obstacles. (There are countless other gifted motivational people. Find those who “speak” to you and keep them close. It really helps.)

In Joel Orsteen’s book, Become a Better You, he said, “God would not have put the dream in your heart if he had not already given you everything you need to fulfill it.” And then how about this really powerful statement: “He doesn’t call us to do something without giving us the ability or the wherewithal to do it.” Now if that isn’t inspiring, what is? (Both statements are found in the first chapter, on page 12, Free Press, NY, 2007). Every time I read it, it makes me race to the computer to write! God Bless!

Thanks for stopping by, Kimberly!