Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tip O'Day #459 - Just Say "No"

Guest blogger Karin Kaufman on “Jumping the Publishing Curve.”

In early 2011, I sent a query letter to a literary agent. One of those “if you don’t receive a reply, it’s a no” agents who haven’t the time, energy, or inclination to send even a one-line rejection via email.

I thought, OK, fine. I can deal with no reply. I’ve spent hours on the synopsis and query — properly formatting the latter to avoid being disqualified from the get-go by an assistant whose job it is to scour queries for obedience to format — and I’ve jumped through numerous hoops, some justified, some silly, but big deal. If I don’t hear from the agent, I’ll move on. I’d been told it could take years to land an agent, and after all, this was only my first query letter. I had many dues to pay.

Two months later, realizing that, indeed, I’d scored a big red no on my query, I turned to the next agent on my list. This one wanted the following: (1) a query letter of three (no more, no less) paragraphs, (2) a short synopsis, (3) a long synopsis, (4) a jacket blurb, (5) a tag line for my novel, and (6) a marketing plan.

In other words, he wanted me to do his job for him. With very little chance that my work would pay off. I calculated how many hours it would take for me to jump his gates like a good little pony and laid down my own big red no.

No, I will not start down this path. No, I will not make sure my email subject line is just right so that your automated system doesn’t kick it out. No, I will not spend the next three years sending queries by the score in hopes one agent will deign to respond. No, I will not sign with an agent only to find he can’t market my book and has decided to retire to North Carolina. No, I will not take a $3,000 advance (if I’m lucky) and be consigned to the back shelves (if I’m lucky) of a dying bookstore chain. No, I will not accept a 7.5 percent royalty rate when I’m the one supplying the content. No, I will not confine myself to one genre. No.

I’m lucky. It took me one query letter and a brief, wavering moment as I considered writing the next to decide to go Indie. That moment happened to coincide with the explosion in Indie publishing. Other writers have spent years searching for an agent—and years more waiting for a publisher to come along.

In July 2011, I published my first novel, The Witch Tree, on Amazon. So began the Anna Denning mystery series. In 2012, I uploaded the second book in the series, and last year I published All Souls, a speculative thriller that, had I been beholden to an agent and publisher, never would have been written.

God bless agents, with their hoops and gates, for pointing me toward Indie publishing. If you’re considering going Indie, I encourage you to give it a try. These days you have nothing to lose. After all, agents are beginning to call Amazon the “new slush pile.”

You have to laugh.

Karin Kaufman is author of the Anna Denning cozy mystery series and the Gatehouse Thriller series (under the name K.T. Kaufman). Her first novel, The Witch Tree, was a 2011 Grace Award finalist. When she’s not causing mayhem in the lives of her characters, she enjoys reading, drinking far too much coffee and tea, and taking walks in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her two rescue dogs, Sophie and Cooper. The Amazon Kindle link to All Souls is http://goo.gl/pbuKqx.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tip O'Day #458 - There's Still Room

Guest blogger Donna Levin on “The Last Endangered Species.”

The novel 1984 is one of my favorite books, and I’ll leave you to wonder what that says about moi. In 1984, George Orwell predicted many horrors that have come to pass: government spying, “enhanced interrogation,” and strangling political correctness. The prediction that hasn’t come true – yet – is factory-produced fiction (Winston Smith’s lover, Julia, repairs “the novel-writing machines”). But when I saw how the auto-correct capability on my iPhone changed cyxt to Hi there, I realized that this final abomination cannot be far away.

My anxiety seemed even more justified last week when I read about the HemingwayApp: a program that will scan your prose for adverbs and the use of passive voice. Not that we shouldn’t be able to do this for ourselves, but we used to make our own clothes, too.

Throughout the ages, many jobs have disappeared. There are no more elevator operators. There are still blacksmiths, but according to WikiAnswers, “they are few and far between.” And your average town crier has been out of work a long time.

I don’t know anything about computer programming, but I know what they can already do, and any kid in junior college familiar with javascript could install a MadLibs-type program for a Regency romance outline:

HEROINE has __ eyes __ hair __ is ___ tall and is: spoiled and willful/beautiful but unappreciated by her family/was rich but just lost her fortune and now must become a governess….
HERO has __eyes__hair and will obviously be six feet or taller with broad shoulders. He: is mysterious and aloof/is ardent and affectionate/has a bad reputation …
He also has a secret: he’s already married/has murdered someone, but justifiably/is closely related to a famous criminal/has insanity in his family…
HEROINE and HERO meet: on the moors/at a ball/in a creepy castle/at her father’s house when he appears looking for a place to stay in the middle of a violent storm…
They fall in love. Total, pure, eternal loooove. But:
They face an obstacle: parents objects/financial difficulties/hero goes away (to war, to care for elderly relative, charged with a crime (he didn’t commit)…
Then: Good fortune intervenes to bring them together: the parents see the light/the person in the way dies from illness or in a fire (or is murdered, but by villain)/a previously unheard-of relative dies and leaves a large inheritance…

Sentence structure in English has only so many possibilities, and with all due respect I’ll bet computers can compete with Georgette Heyer or Barbara Courtland in that arena.

It’s a long, long leap from writing formula fiction to the genre we think of as literary. (A genre that can be just as awful as it can be inspiring. Ever try to read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead?) But last week on The Daily Show a scientist was predicting that our entire brains could be uploaded onto CDs. That particular idea doesn’t hold much appeal, but as Walt Whitman wrote, “every inch of common air throbs a tremendous prophecy, of greater marvels yet to be.” And Whitman didn’t even have a laptop.

Novelists have always lived on the edge of unemployment. The computer-produced novel will be to writers what automotive repair has been to the blacksmith. As with blacksmiths, there will always be room for a craftsperson or two.

Donna Levin is the author of the novels Extraordinary Means and California Street, as well as two books on the craft of fiction, Get That Novel Started and Get That Novel Written. Learn more at her website.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Quote for Writers #167 - William Carlos Williams

167. A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” — William Carlos Williams

Dixon says: Most authors I know don't write for fame, or fortune, or to attract groupies. They write because they must. Period.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tip O'Day #457 - For Sale: Pure Unadulterated Crap

Guest blogger Robert N. Stephenson on “The Difficulty with Editing.”

In this fast-paced age of publishing and self-publishing, the first and most important aspect of writing seems to have vanished from the whole publishing process - editing, and I mean real editing, not the formatting you do yourself before you post the files to Createspace and Amazon.

The down side of almost all self-published books is that they are poorly edited. They often validate the impression that all self-published books are cheap and a waste of money.

Sometimes authors pays substantial fees to editors for their suggestions, but them ignore or argue against those comments. Yes, you are the author. You have all the rights in the world regarding how your book is presented, rightly or wrongly. It is true that you can reject all advice, based on what you determine to be art, or your artistic voice.

But, and this is a major but, if an expert suggests a change to make the story better, or to fix a flaw in the plot, maybe it’s best to follow some, if not all of that advice. After all, you are trying to sell your work to readers who expect value for their money. If you disappoint readers with shoddy editing and a poor story, they will not read more of your work and will often tell others not to bother. What's more, they will spread the view that ALL self-published books are rubbish. I will be quick to add that traditional publishing sometimes delivers stinkers because writers ignore editorial advice and stick to their artistic guns. However, the hit-and-miss rate of legacy publishers is quite a bit lower than among self-publishers - which is currently about 80% rubbish.

Why so high? As indicated, there has been next to no editing involved in the creation of these books (both fiction and nonfiction). For some strange reason, new writers often think they are the next JK Rowling and know everything there is to know about being famous. Yet they know absolutely nothing about being a professional writer and working damn hard to tell not only a good story, but a story that will move someone to say, “Yes, I was glad I purchased that.” It has been said in many forums that places like Amazon are overflowing with poorly edited crap.

Yep, pure unadulterated crap.

What is the cure? Dig into your pockets and pay an editor to get your book to a state of professional quality. The reason traditional publishers actually sell books is because they invest in the books they publish. If you believe in your work, surely you too can invest in yourself. After all, you are asking readers to invest in buying your book.

Robert N. Stephenson’s latest book is Uttuku, available at Kindle here. His work has appeared in many languages and he has received honors such as the Black Dog Award for nonfiction and the Aurealis Award for short science fiction. He teaches writing at several Australia colleges.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tip O'Day #456 - The Voice Behind the Book

Guest blogger Kellie Kamryn on the challenges of narrating an audio book.

When I first began my writing career, I was fortunate to be asked to guest on this Wredheaded Writer blog, and I’m very pleased to be back. Thank you, Dixon!

Since that time, I’ve written and published twelve romances ranging from very erotic to sensuous and sweet, plus a story featured in a holiday anthology. I’m also a narrator of audio books for Romance Divine and The Killion Group, as well as for freelance clients.

Narrating is a lot of work. I absolutely adore my jobs, but as all authors know, writing a book isn’t simply typing words into the computer. Figuring out your process, plotting, grammar, following sentence structure rules, and polishing a manuscript all take focus and determination, not to mention being your own sales staff, which is a whole other process.

The same can be said of narrating. A publisher invited me to narrate a book I had written, and since I enjoy a challenge, I accepted. The learning curve was HUGE! Narrating is not just about reading a book. Proper pronunciation, enunciation, inflection, drama, along with use of software and equipment set-up are all part of the job. Over the past two years, I’ve learned the production end of things, and how time consuming that is as well.

I never discourage anyone from learning something new, so if you are serious about voice acting, ask questions of other professionals. Take acting classes, as I did, to learn more about the art of voice acting, vocal hygiene, and warm-ups to keep your voice in shape. Auditioning for other voice acting jobs taught me that I had more to learn about the industry. While I plan to keep on learning, for now I’ve got a full roster of audio books, along with my own writing to keep me busy.

Just as in writing, where not every publisher or agent will like your work, don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t feel your voice is right for their piece. Ask all the questions you want, but at the end of the day, remember that you are responsible for your career.

Following is a blurb for the re-release of erotic romance Pleasure Island, available in audio and eBook:<

Chelsea Hunter didn’t come to the resort looking for sex. Jake Davis intends to change her mind. Will they be able to turn up the heat, or will their visit to Pleasure Island leave them cold?

After finalizing her divorce, Chelsea Hunter came to the resort island of Paradise for some peace and quiet so she could figure out what her next step would be. She hadn’t expected to find herself at an exotic hotel dedicated to pleasures of the flesh. Too bad she doesn’t want sex.

Jake Davis is back in Paradise after visiting a year ago when his own marriage fell apart. This time his fantasy is to guide a woman through her sexual journey. He hadn’t counted on being paired with the only woman in Paradise who prefers privacy over pleasure! Will Jake be able to discover what Chelsea truly needs, or will their journey to Paradise remain unfulfilled?

Comment on this blog post for a chance to win one of Kellie’s backlist in audio or eBook (depending on available format). You can check out her website at www.kelliekamryn.com or her novel Pleasure Island on Kindle here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tip O'Day #455 - The Scary Part about Horror Films

Guest blogger Michael Laimo on how to land a movie deal.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been involved in getting two of my novels filmed as NBC/Chiller original films. The number one question I am being asked right now is, “How did you do it?”

In a nutshell, I pretty much tell everyone, “I got lucky.” There’s a lot of truth to that. To be honest, I also like to think that I told the right story, and hooked up with the right producer at the right time. Yes, there was a bit of luck, but there were many other factors involved in this success.

It all started with an email from Synthetic Cinema’s executive producer, Andrew Gernhard. It was a basic ‘hello’ letter asking me if my novel Deep in the Darkness was available for option. At the time, it had been optioned three times, and was in the middle of a one-year agreement with independent filmmaker Jeven Dovey. Some of you know that Mr. Dovey had filmed my short story 1-800-Suicide, and was looking to film a feature. He loved Deep in the Darkness, and gave it a stab. Since I could not give Mr. Gernhard the rights to that, I asked if he’d be interested in either The Demonologist, or Dead Souls. I’d also asked him how he came across my work, and he told me someone in his crew recommended me. (Thank you Jason!). Andrew optioned three of my books, and pitched them to Chiller, who at the time was just getting into original films.

Then I waited. And waited. Almost a year passed before I heard back. Chiller decided to go with Steve Niles’ Remains. I had been the runner up with Dead Souls. It was a great honor to have been in the running, but I was equally disappointed.

But…Chiller still liked the story in Dead Souls and the option was renewed. A year later, I discovered (months after Chiller gave Dead Souls the green light), that it would become a Chiller original film. As a matter of fact, mere weeks after being told the good news, I was on set filming my cameo. In the meantime, the option lapsed on Deep in the Darkness, and I went to Synthetic Cinema to see if there was still interest. Apparently there was, because while on the Dead Souls set, I was told that DITD was in the running. That was a GREAT week!

Fast forward to the night of the Dead Souls premiere — I had about 30 close friends and family at my home, all geared up to watch the movie. A text came in from Andrew Gernhard telling me that DITD had been green lit. Another spectacular night! So now, it’s a year after the filming of DITD, and I await all the post-production goodies, like the film’s poster, the trailer, etc. It will be a fun ride leading up to DITD’s premiere in May 2014, this time in theaters.

Many of you have asked…will there be more? The answer to that is MAYBE. There are some irons in the fire, but nothing set in stone yet. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Dead Souls on DVD, or read Deep in the Darkness while you wait for the film’s release.

As a reviewer of one of Michael Laimo's books put it, his writing is not the place to find rainbows and unicorns. Learn more about this horror author at www.laimo.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tip O'Day #454 - It Sounds Easy Because It Is.

Guest blogger Hayden Chance on "Five Habits That Will Murder Your Chances of Ever Finishing a Novel."

Writing is like catching fireflies in a jar. If you don’t grab the spark when the opportunity arises, the sunrise will come and the magic will all be gone. No shit. It’s really true. Every idea has a shelf life and if you don’t use it before its expiration date, your writing will do the same thing milk does when it’s been sitting on the counter for several days. It will sour and stink and no one will want anything to do with it. That means if you want to write a novel, you’ve got to get it done when the creative impulse strikes, and then get it out there for people to read. This sounds simple, and really it is, but writers like to develop all sorts of convoluted habits that complicate simplicity.

When people find out I’ve written seven books, six of them novels, invariably I get asked the same question: “How the hell do you write one novel, much less six?” I say the same thing every time: Process. A process is something that has steps, creates success and can be repeated over and over again. I have a definite process I employ every time I write a book, but since there’s not enough space in this brief blog entry to outline that process, I’ll give you these five poisons that are sure derail any novel writing process you choose to use:

One: Journaling constantly. If you continuously journal every thought, hope and feeling you ever have, you’re a diarist. That’s fine if you’re writing just for yourself or as a coping mechanism; however, if you want to write novels, then write novels. Not about how your favorite Adele song enhances your orgasms. Not about how that turkey sandwich you ate last week made you too tired to pick up the kids from school, so they had to hitch a ride with the creepy dude three houses down who smells like fish, and who’s wife disappeared mysteriously three months ago, even though someone still comes out of their house late at night wearing her dresses… (OK, maybe you do wanna write that last thing down. It might be good to give to the cops later.)

Without fail, when people ask me why they can’t finish creating a novel, and I ask them, “Are you writing?” They respond: “Um…well, I’m journaling a lot.” It’s great to have a diary. It’s just that if you’re not some sort of nympho like Ana├»s Nin, no one but you is likely to ever want to read it.

Two: Talking about writing, rather than writing. For God’s sake, if you’re gonna tell everyone about what you someday hope to write, at least record the freaking conversations. The more you’re talking about writing, the less you are actually writing. Writing’s like making love. It’s your job to bring that reader to the heights of ecstasy. Put your energy into making that happen ON PAPER FOR YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t be some cheap literary whore in random conversations with everyone you know. (For one thing, you will bore them all and they will hate you like taxes.) You don’t want to shoot your wad in conversational foreplay before you’ve even unbuttoned your jeans. Save some energy for the actual fictional act. Otherwise you’ll be snoring in self satisfaction while your audience is lying next to you, worked up, unsatisfied, and thinking of how they might poison your omelet in the morning without leaving any evidence.

Three: Constantly “work-shopping” everything. Lack of confidence kills your authority. Trust your own voice, your experience and your ability to tell a story. If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will. Getting someone to read your work for clarity is fine. Hitting workshops like a junky riding a twelve-step circuit damages your ability to determine your self-worth as a writer.

Four: Taking too long to finish. The longer you take to finish a novel, the further you go from the original creative impulse. You will change. Your views will change. The continuity, clarity and integrity of your story will suffer. Your audience will know it.

Five: Endless rewrites. Write it. Rewrite it. Get it the hell out there. Endless rewrites are just fear of success.

Hayden Chance is the bestselling author of the Urban Fantasies Taboo, Forbidden, Year of the Bull and the Amazon bestseller, Anatomy of a Wish. His latest sci-fi novel, Dream Oblivion, recently hit #1 on the Amazon’s Hot New Releases. You can check out his latest work here.