Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writers--put this conference on your calendar

I know a lot of my blog readers are also writers. If you're one of the lucky ones blessed with a writer's brain, you won't want to miss ANWA's Time Out For Writers conference. Feb 21-23 (And I'm not just saying that because I'm one of the teachers.) We've got some great agents, editors, and authors teaching classes.

Here's info or you can go to this link for even more details:

 Classes – 36 classes to choose from for all stages, genres, and platforms!  
• Workshops – query and pitch workshops on Thursday night
• Faculty - nationally recognized presenters, including NY Times best-selling authors, agents, editors and publishers teach the classes
• Pitch Sessions – Pitch your manuscript to national editors and publishers
• Contests – Enter the Beginning of Book (BOB) Contest with the first 500 words of your manuscript
• Protagonist Ball – Come dressed as your favorite protagonist to mingle, network and have fun with faculty and other attendees
• All-star Breakfast – the first 25 to register for the full conference, and hotel room, receive the opportunity to share a special breakfast with the faculty
• Bookstore – sell your books and/or purchase others’ at our on-site bookstore

Here's teachers and class description in alphabetical order:

Dr. James Blasingame: "The Key Components of a Young Adult Novel" 

Erzsi Deak: "Can You Hear Me Now? Dialogue That Speaks Volumes About Your Characters and Pushes Your Plot Forward" - Get ready to take the stage and make the dialogue (in your WIPs/in your writing) work for you. Based on our homework, we'll bring your story alive and see what's pushing your plot forward or making it stumble and listen to what your characters are saying; or aren't saying. This workshop has a cap of 30 participants

Dave Eaton: "Your Online Path to a Bestseller, Part 1: Step One is “Branding” - Become associated with your Genre. When someone says: “Fantasy Romance”, are they thinking of you?

"Part 2: How can I get more “eyes” on my book?" - Online marketing is essential for the new generation of bestselling authors. Take your Kindle Book and “light it on fire” with a 7-Step launch plan.

Lynn Gardner: "The How's, Where's and Why's of Research – And is it Really Necessary?" - This workshop will answer questions like:  Can't I just use my very vivid imagination…do I have to infuse reality in a work of fiction?  Can I create my own world?  Is there an advantage to using famous places as a setting for my novel? Is there any rule for using real locations, real places? Do I have to travel to those places if I put them in my book? Can't I just rely on Wikipedia and Google for my research?  Where else can I go for information? 

"Creating Characters You Love - Or Hate!" - How do you create characters that will remain in your readers' minds long after they put the book down? Why is a name important? Why should my characters have personality quirks, character flaws and strengths? A bio for my characters…really?  Learn the secrets for creating unforgettable characters.

Kathy Gordon: "The 10 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make" - Did you know there are ten basic things you can do to boost your chances of making it out of the slush pile—and eventually getting published? Join us for this somewhat humorous yet critically important look at the "top ten" mistakes authors make (No, Virginia, you're not alone in this), and make sure your next submission is the best one since sliced bread.

"The 10 Biggest Mistakes in Querying an Agent" - Trying to engage an agent is not as easy as taking candy from a baby—and there are ten epic fails you should avoid as you start shopping for the person who will help land your book on store shelves. Find out everything you need to know—from how to write a killer query letter to how to successfully woo potential agents—with this comprehensive set of sure-fire tips.

Jennifer Griffith: "Archetypes, not Stereotypes: Nailing Down Your Main Characters" and "Shine Up Your Story with Conflict"

Leslie Householder: "Self-Published? How to earn a 6-figure Income Giving Your Book Away for Free" -  Most authors are lucky to break even on their books. Some of the best messages never get "out there" because a publisher didn't "pick it up". Now you can learn the secrets of becoming a PROFITABLE author, no matter what obstacles get in the way. I'll teach you what I've learned over the last 10 years, going from a novice to an award winning, three-time international best seller. Learn how to position yourself for those (so-called) "lucky breaks" that profitable authors rely on, and even expect. I've written three books and every one of them has achieved best seller status, even though the traditional publishers rejected them. Don't let anyone else's opinion of your work stop you from achieving your goals!

Heather B. Moore: "Historical Fiction: One Genre That Is Here to Stay" - Historical novelist, Heather Moore, will discuss why you can't go wrong with writing historical fiction as long as it's done right. Topics include choosing time periods, world building, dialog choice, avoiding info dumps, characterizing historical figures, expanding historical facts into plot arcs, finding the right conflict to focus on, why you don't have to be an expert or spend ten years in research, how to use your non-fiction platform to sell your novel, and the unmentionables (bibliographies, chapter notes, maps, endorsements from the "experts").

"Life After the First Draft: Steps to Self-Editing" - Finishing the first draft of a manuscript is a major accomplishment, but it's far from ready to submit. Editor/Author Heather Moore will take you through the necessary steps of self-editing and how to use critical feedback from alpha readers effectively. Whether you're writing your first manuscript or your sixth, your next contract may depend on the quality of work you turn in.

Angela Morrison: "Write from your Inner Truth (but don't wreck it)"  -  Jane Yolen says stories must be based on a writer's inner truth. But, doing the very thing Jane Yolen tells us and our heart urges us to attempt can lead to errors that turn your fiction into something you didn't intend--propaganda rather than fiction. Angela draws from her experience writing Taken by Storm and her exhaustive research to help you keep truth in and didacticism out of your work. 

"Free Verse Poetry: A Secret Weapon for Improving your Prose" -  In this hands-on workshop, learn the basics of writing free verse, create a new poem using an in-class free write, and practice using free verse techniques to take your prose to a higher level. Bring any paragraph of your own writing, fiction or non-fiction, to hone.

Evan Neill: "Designing a Winning Screenplay (Part 1)" - In the first class of this two-part presentation, I will cover the storytelling in the screenplay, along with common errors and the techniques needed to format a screenplay correctly.

"Designing a Winning Screenplay (Part 2)" - The second class of this two-part presentation will cover how to develop characters through their actions and dialogue. I will also discuss how to get your screenplay noticed once it's been polished and perfected.

James Owen: TBA
Lara Perkins: "Crafting a Can't-Put-Me-Down First Chapter" - A strong, page-turning, addictIng first chapter is the best way to catch an agent or an editor's attention. Your mission, in the first chapter, is to surprise and delight even the most jaded reader and to entice them to continue deeper into your story. In this workshop, I'll discuss what makes a memorable first chapter, what your goals should be as you write and revise your first chapter, and which tried-and-true techniques will help you accomplish those goals.
Aprilynne Pike: "Worldbuilding: The Invisible Foundation" - Not just for fantasy, world building is a key task of any fiction writer. From a wholly-imagined realm to the house next door, find out how to make the world in your story believable. What you need to know, what's optional, and why almost none of it ends up in the book.

Janette Rallison: The romance genre is going strong. Come learn the do's and don't's to make your romance sellable. Avoid pitfalls like insta-love and the ever dreaded sagging middle. Learn how to make sparks fly and keep the tension going.

Chris Schoebinger: “The 5 Things You Should Know Before Submitting Your Manuscript to a Publisher” - No one likes a rejection letter. However, there are things you can do to get your submission noticed and into a hands of a decision maker. Learn what acquisitions editors are looking for. Plus, Chris takes you on a virtual tour of Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain Publishing with some special authors that have dropped in to give some advice to writers. 

Marsha Ward: "The Indie Author: No Longer a Stepchild in the Publishing Family" - Are you tired of battling windmills to get your book into the gatekeepers'hands? Do you feel the squeeze of frustration because your time is running out? This workshop explores the phenomonal rise of the Indie Author in our time. Learn what "the long tail" means. Discover the tools you need to make the "Book of Your Heart" available to the true gatekeepers: readers. Is your manuscript nearing completion (within a year)? Bring your computer and be prepared to open a free account for print book production at a leading provider of Print-On-Demand books. And no, they won't charge you any exorbitant fees.

"eBooks: The Rising Generation in the Publishing Family" - Making an ebook is not as scary as you thought. Whether you write non-fiction, poetry, memoirs, short stories, or novels, this workshop answers your nagging questions and sets to rest your self-doubts. Learn what you need to know about this technological miracle. Get the tools you need to enable you to break into the publishing family at little or no cost. Bring your e-reading device or computer so you can download the best guide you can get to prepping your manuscript for ebook conversion, and it's free!

Stacy Whitman: "Writing Cross-Culturally" - Whether you're a delving for the first time into a character's head who isn't from your own culture, or writing from your own cultural perspective, often your readers will be a diverse lot. How do we navigate the spaces between where we come from, where our characters come from, and where our readers come from without infodumping or sounding didactic? Editor Stacy Whitman of Tu Books will talk about the growing need for diversity in our books and how to know what questions to ask to begin to get it right.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Masquerade is out--and isn't the cover awesome?

One of the things I like best about the ebook phenomena, is that I can take books that I wrote at the beginning of my career, improve them, and put them up as ebooks.  This was a fun story, so I'm especially glad it gets a new life.

The biggest change that readers will notice is that the ending is longer and there is an epilogue. I freely admit that ending the story as abruptly as I did the first time was a mistake.  The other changes are more subtle and are mostly writing style related as opposed to plot related. For example, in the first edition I used the term "for a moment" a lot. People paused for a moment. They looked at each other for a moment. They did many, many things for a moment. And then, they momentarily did other things.

A big thank you to all the readers who overlook that sort of thing. Bless you, bless you for just paying attention to the story and not the writing.

But I still feel much better now that I've changed that type of thing.

Here is the description, that I'm not exactly happy with because it doesn't really convey that the book is a romantic comedy. (Must change that later.)

When Clarissa takes a much needed job under slightly false pretenses, she doesn't think it will be such a big deal. She may have told her movie-star boss that she was married, but that shouldn't matter. After all, she doesn't want anything to do with men for a long, long time. 

It's hard for a woman to keep up the masquerade when her boss is as handsome as Slade Jacobson and the job takes her to Hawaii with him. In between handling his whirlwind four-year-old daughter and dealing with a whole cast of Hollywood personalities, Clarissa has to keep a tight hold on her heart.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A one question survey while I wait for my ebook to load

Do you know the best time to ask your husband to load your new ebook? Apparently it isn't 11:00 pm. (Sheesh, morning people.)

So I'm hoping that he'll get Masquerade put up sometime tomorrow, and as soon as it shows up for sale online I will post the news here.  (It's sooo much better than the original. I'm excited for it to come out in its new incarnation.)

Until then, I want to ask you a question.  Who do you like better--Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? Who did you like better as a teen and if you had to choose one for a romantic lead, who would it be?

I have a legitimate reason for asking, but I'm not going to tell you what it is until I get some answers. I don't want to prejudice the results

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The question I haven't been asked, and the question that still makes me think

I was hoping to announce a new (well, rewritten) ebook, but that's still a couple days away, so I'm putting up a question I just answered on the Much Cheaper than Therapy blog.

My old writing teacher asked me: What question has no one ever asked you that you wish they would.

I should have come up with something funny. For example, I wish someone would ask me, "How come you look so much like Angelina Jolie?" Sadly, no one has ever asked me that.  But the thing was, I'd gotten a question that I still think about, so I wrote about that instead.

After sixteen years of publishing, I think I’ve been asked just about every question there is about writing. At conferences people ask about agents, editors, and revisions. Bloggers ask about the writing process, how book ideas happened, and what’s next on the horizon. The really interesting questions come during school visits because kids will ask any and every question that pops into their mind. What is your favorite color? What did you eat for breakfast this morning?  How much money do you make?

The question I’ve never been asked is: Is it all worth it?  I suppose everyone thinks they already know the answer to this question. The aspiring writers are sure it is, the bloggers are glad it is, and many of the students--when they realize how much money I make--are sure it isn’t.  (The first boy who asked me how much money I made pondered my answer and then said, “So, writing is really more of a hobby than a career.”  It was back then, now it isn’t.)

Perhaps the best answer to the Is-it-all-worth-it question is: “If you want to know if you’re really a writer, try and stop.” That pretty much sums up life for the avid writer. We’ll write whether it’s a hobby or a career.

The question that surprised me and still haunts me sometimes, came from a young girl during one of my school visits. She couldn’t have had the wisdom or prescience to realize what she was asking when she said, “Have you ever written anything that you regret writing?”

At that moment I thought of every book I’d ever written and the millions of children who have read them. I thought of how books affected me as a child. Some made me want to be a better person, some expanded my mind, some comforted me, others influenced me to do things I shouldn’t have. Books are that powerful. You can’t step into a main character’s skin, live their story, think their thoughts, and not be affected somehow.  Authors are kidding themselves if they think they can step away from that privilege and responsibility.

Standing in that school auditorium, I thought of the story ideas, plot outlines, and random chapters I have on my computer in my Possible Manuscripts folder.  A lot of those story ideas are really good. Some of them might not have the best affect on readers though. I vacillate whether I should ever write those books. On one hand, I as an author want to go on those journeys, to give life to those characters, and experience their stories with them. And doesn’t an author need to be true to a story no matter where it goes or what paths it takes the characters on? Who am I to censor creation?

It’s not the fault of Batman’s writers that some psycho dressed up as the Joker and shot up a movie theater. It’s not Stephenie Meyer’s fault if some misguided folks try to be vampires, or Footloose’s writers fault that teens died recreating car stunt shown in the movie. People are born with common sense and should use it.

But once you publish a book, once it’s out in the world of sale and resale, it never goes away. You can’t ever take back what you’ve written. You can’t add disclaimers. No matter what common sense dictates, readers don’t even seem to fully realize that everything a character says or does isn’t condoned by the author. I’ve had people order food for me because I wrote that my main character liked that food.

The books I have out now are fun, romantic comedies and adventures. I write about good characters making mostly good choices. The others stories are still safely tucked away. For now at least, they’ll stay that way.

That's when I looked the girl in the eyes and told her there were books I wish I’d written better, but I didn’t regret anything I’d written.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tourist sites: the good, the bad, and the creepy

I just got back from Disneyland and it's made me think about tourist sites in general and why we pack up our suitcases, pull out our wallets, and head off to see things. Some places are definitely worth the trouble, others, not so much. Here are a list of good and bad tourist sites.

On the good list:  Any mountain range.  Mountains are beautiful, peaceful, and make for good hiking. As an added benefit you don't have to stand in line to see them.

On the creepy list: Mount Rushmore. I'm patriotic and all, but who thought four gigantic heads that stare down at people was a good use of funds or sculpting talent? They're watching you, and they don't look pleased . . .

On the good list: The beach. Nothing is more relaxing than enjoying the waves on a floaty raft. That's the ultimate in vacation time. Here's a picture of Techno Bob and I on our 25th anniversary.

On the bad list: New York Times Square. According to Travel and Leisure Magazine this is the world's most popular travel spot with nearly 40 million visitors a year. I've been to New York and I think Travel and Leisure Magazine may have gotten it wrong . About 20 million of those people were lost in New York's corn-maze-like streets and just wound up there as angry taxi drivers honked impatiently at them.

On the good list: The Lincoln Memorial. It's not only been immortalized by the back of the penny (as a child I was convinced the trolley from the Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was really the thing on the penny) it's majestic at night when it's glowing in light, it's free, and the roof makes a darn good place to toss a character off of, if you happen to be an author. (Slayers 2, coming out 2013)

On the bad list: The Washington Monument. Okay, what is this thing supposed to be? How does a a really tall, skinny, useless building honor George Washington? Did anyone ask him about this design? Maybe he would have liked a nice statue with him on his horse instead. And am I the only one who looks at this structure and wants to play an areal game of ring toss? On the plus side, it makes a good place for flying characters to zoom around as they try to evade each other. (Again, a Slayers 2 scene.)

On the good list: The National Natural History Museum. You get to learn interesting stuff, covet  precious gems, see frightening looking fish that lurk in the dark parts of the ocean--something for everyone. Plus, again it's a good place to set a scene for a book. Do you notice a Slayers 2 theme?

On the creepy list: Any museum that has mummies. I mean, there's something unsettling about seeing shriveled dead people from thousands of years ago laid out in front of you like they were treasures. If I ever inherit an antiquity, the last thing I want is a mummy. Shriveled dead people don't go with most people's home decor and there are just so many things you can prop up in your living room.  A nice vase, I would take.

On the good and the creepy list simultaneously: Disneyland. The travel magazine says that 15 million people visit a year, and I believe them as there were at least that many people standing in line in front of me for the Toy Story ride. I love the princesses, the songs, the decorations--I mean, where else can you see a big, glowing pink castle? (Pure awesomeness!)

But sorry Disney, the large smiling rodent is creepy and giving Mickey a flesh colored face only makes him creepier because it looks like he's mutating into a person. (Yes, that is me as a teenager.)

Well, I could go on but I have a book to write. I'm officially done with five pages of the next Fairy Godmother book.