Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Covers

I'm always interested in studying book covers. I love to see if there are any strong clues about the story within.

More often than we realize, books share similar cover art.
Two years ago I blogged (with pictures) about two books with the same image on them. And now it's happened again.

I imagine publishers and authors cringe when the covers are so similar. Maybe not. Perhaps someone can put a good spin on the situation.

Right now I'm thinking of covers because Out of Her Hands is in the process of become an e-book. I'm excited, and I want it to have a dynamite cover. I think it will! In just a few weeks (I hope) I'll be able to share it with you.

I know without a doubt the new cover for Out of Her Hands will be a one of a kind. That's because I'm working with my friend Pauline of Fat Tuna Photography to create the concept that's been simmering in my mind.

What about you? How important are book covers when you're selecting your next read? What type of cover image draws you to a book?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Liebster Blog Award!

Happy Saturday! It's hard to believe my friends and family on the east coast are battling Hurricane Irene when there's not a cloud in the sky here in Colorado.

I hope my friends and blog follower will play along with this and help some great writers get more of a following.

My friend, author Cathy West, gave me The Liebster Blog Award! (Liebster is a German word for friend, btw.) This award is meant to go to blogs we enjoy who currently have less than 200 followers. You may remember that I blogged about Cathy's debut novel, Yesterday's Tomorrow a few weeks ago.

Now I have the privilege of passing the award along to some of my blogging buddies:

Loretta Oakes blogs at Complementary Thoughts. Loretta and I met when we joined the same writers' group a few years ago. She's a fun and deep girl. Loretta's blog boasts that it finds a balance for science and religion. And it does.

I met Kay Day at a writers' workshop in Colorado Springs. She blogs at Loopdeloops in La La Land. When I heard she was moving to my town I harassed her until she agreed to join my local writers' group. She did, and we became friends. Kay is known for her sweet disposition and quirky humor. You'll love her insights.

My friend Helen, Colorado Springs writer is as thoughtful as she is sweet. Helen's Points to Ponder is a great blog.

Do you like snarky observations on everyday life? If so, The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite will crack you up!

Bonnie Doran is one of my critique partners. Her blog Prose from the Pros is always full of great insight, helpful writing tips, and examples of brilliant writing -- from professionals. It's well worth following.

If I have just awarded you The Liebster, here are the rules:
  1. Thank the person who gave you the award, and link back to them.
  2. Give The Liebster Award to five bloggers, and let them know in a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award to your blog.
  4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  5. Have blogging fun!
I hope you'll discover some great up-and-coming authors to love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rejection -- ouch!

Unfortunately rejection is a part of the traditional publishing process. You write your book, polish it up, and send it out to agents and editors. And then you eagerly await their ecstatic reply.

Except the glowing offer of representation or the perfect publishing contract doesn't come. Instead you get a rejection letter. Ouch.

It can't be avoided. I don't think anyone's been published right out of the shoots. It takes time and effort to bring your work up to the level it needs to be for representation and publication. The thing to remember is that publishing is subjective, and what one agent or editor passes on another will love.

My first novel, Searching for Spice, was rejected several times. One letter from an agent thanked me for sharing it but went on to say, "I only represent clients with good ideas and good execution of those ideas -- neither of which was apparent in your work." Double ouch. A few months later, I got a contract with Tyndale House Publishers for that book and Out of Her Hands.

My agent, Rachelle Gardner, posted this week about rejection letters she received on behalf of her clients. Take a look. But the bottom line is that those rejected books were eventually sold to a publisher who loved the book.

Here's a link to an article about 30 famous authors whose work was repeatedly rejected.

Be encouraged. Don't give up. Keep learning the craft, and write on!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes

I'm happy to welcome Gina Holmes to my blog today. I was fortunate to meet her at one of the first ACFW conference I attended. She is kind, authentic, and has a heart to help other writers in their journey.

Gina is the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans and the newly released novel, DRY AS RAIN. She's the founder of Novel Rocket, (formerly Novel Journey), a registered nurse, wife and mother who makes her home in Southern Virginia. You can learn more about her at www.ginaholmes.com

Your debut novel hit ECPA, Amazon, PW and CBA bestsellers list (some throughout the span of a year!) For several weeks Crossing Oceans was the #1 free kindle download and then stay in the top hundred for a long time.

Beside the commercial success, your book was a finalist in every major Christian book award, including: Christy, ECPA, Retailer’s Choice, Carol Awards, and won RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice and an INSPY. Does having that kind of success put the pressure on for your second book?

I try not to think too much about it. I didn’t expect that kind of success but am very grateful for it. I had a lot of pressure on me on this releasing novel, not because of the success of the first book, but because, unlike the first, I didn’t have all the time in the world to write it. Some books flow smoothly, this one I had to yank out like a bad tooth. I faced multiple rewrites, some of them pretty major, all while trying to promote my all important first novel. I was still working full time, mothering, running Novel Journey (now Novel Rocket) and all of that, so this was a tough tough book for me to produce.

Tell our readers about your latest release, Dry as Rain:

I'm a really bad pitchman so I'll just repeat the back of the book copy:

Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart.

When Eric and Kyra Yoshida first met, they thought their love would last forever. But like many marriages, theirs has gradually crumbled, one thoughtless comment and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal pushes them beyond reconciliation. Though Eric longs to reunite with Kyra, the only woman he has truly loved, he has no idea how to repair the damage that’s been done.

Then a car accident erases part of Kyra’s memory—including her separation from Eric—and a glimmer of hope rises from the wreckage. Is this a precious opportunity for the fresh start Eric has longed for? Does he even deserve the chance to find forgiveness and win back Kyra’s heart . . . or will the truth blow up in his face, shattering their last hope for happiness? A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rain illuminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.

You can read the first chapter HERE.

"Holmes grabs the reader with a unique storyline about infidelity and what it truly means to forgive after betrayal. By looking at the situation from a different angle, the author provides a great deal of food for thought and contemplation." RT Book Reviews – September, 2011

Library Journal says, "Fans of emotionally packed domestic fiction will love it."

This novel feels so much different than Crossing Oceans. Why did you choose to take such a different path?

I didn’t intend to write something completely different and I think it feels that way because of the characters telling the story. In Crossing Oceans, Jenny was our narrator and she was a melancholy, all woman sort.

In Dry as Rain, we have Eric, who is a man’s man and doesn’t think in flowery language and descriptions so it would have been wrong to write him that way. While both books have a heavy subject matter, Crossing Oceans was much more so. You can’t get heavier than dying, so it was bound to be more emotional, no matter how I wrote the next book.

But, my genre seems to be relational drama which both are and I like to pepper in a quirky cast and that’s true of both books.

You took a lot of chances in this book. First writing first person from a male’s perspective, secondly to have the protagonist someone who does a lot of things that aren’t very Christianly, like cheating on his wife, drinking, lying, etc. Are you afraid this might hurt your sales in the Christian market?

Afraid? No. Concerned, sure. While I don’t personally have a problem with Eric drinking a beer, the rest I have a problem with too. The thing is Eric’s a nominal Christian at the beginning of the book, lukewarm about his faith like many who call themselves followers of Christ. This is his journey though and he doesn’t end up where he begins. I wanted to tell the story as truthfully as I could and at the end of the day let the chips fall where they may.

What happened to your long time website, Novel Journey?

www.noveljourney.blogspot.com is now www.novelrocket.com You can get to it by either address but we decided on an overhaul because we wanted to drop the blogspot address and just have a dot com. The guy who owned Novel Journey didn’t return our emails to sell so we had to do something a little different. This turned out to be a good thing maybe because we’d been chewing on broadening the site for some time. We’ve got some exciting changes now, the most notable is the addition of “Rocket Pages” a sort of Craig’s List for writers to find the services they need to launch and sustain their career.

What’s going on with you personally?

Well, I’m blissfully married, mom to two, stepmom to three, and owner of 2 dogs and a fish. I bought a guitar and hope to start fiddling with that soon and just writing a lot. Nothing too exciting over here but that’s the way I like it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life. I’ve accomplished many of the dreams and goals I’d hoped to and I always tell my husband, if I died today, I’d feel I lived and full and rewarding life. Not that I’m looking to die just yet.

What are you working on now?

I can’t give the title yet as that’s a work in progress but it’s a story very close to my heart. I’m more excited about this one than anything I’ve ever written. Hopefully my publisher agrees and you see it on the stands in the next year or so. That’s really all I can say for now.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’ll tell you a few. I thought I was afraid of heights until I bungee-jumped and loved it. I’d love to skydive for the first time in the next year, white water raft and get at least a little skill on the guitar. My husband is a talented songwriter. My kids are the sweetest in the world, (yes, the world!), and I love to get my hands dirty. That should do it. Thanks for having me!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writing advice from a pro

I regularly read books on the craft. I don't sit and do a straight read through, but there's always one in progress.

Right now I'm reading The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club. Maeve Binchy is one of my all-time favorite authors, BTW. She's included advice from other writers in the book. Here's some words of wisdom from Marian Keyes:

"People often ask me for advice on writing a book; because I'm a published author they assume I'm in on some big secret. But the good news is that there's no big secret, and the bad news is that there's no big secret. The advice I give is very practical, and it's advice that people rarely want to hear. But I'm not holding out on you, honest to God--this is really how it's done. First, stop talking about it and sit down and start writing it--word by word. No on else can write your book but you. If you don't write it, it won't get written.

Second--and brace yourself for a cliche--writing really is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Writing is work. Perfect characters, plots, and sentences don't spring fully formed from the mind of a writer onto his or her screen. They are achieved only by time, patience, thought, and constant rewriting."

(I added the bold font.) That's probably the first piece of advice wanna-be writers need to hear. To steal a phrase: Just do it!

What's your best piece of writing advice?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What type of writer should you be?

I found this simple online quiz. It's only got five multiple-choice questions, and the results tell you what type of writer you should be.

It's fun, not anything scientific, and you're free to ignore the results. :)

My results say I should be a screenwriter:
You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

This delighted me because I am going to turn Searching for Spice into a screenplay. It's encouraging, actually.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Help: Art imitating life or a simple coincidence?

Have you heard about the controversy surrounding the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett?

A woman who works as a maid for Stockett's brother claims that Aibileen, a main character in the book, is modeled after her. AND the real-life woman's name is Ablene. Coincidence? Could be.

The lawsuit, which seeks $75,000 in damages, was filed in Jackson, Mississippi, where the novel is set. A hearing is set for August 16th.

As a novelist, I understand how similarities can occur. We hear a name or recall an incident, and it's incorporated into our story. Face it, often experiences in an author's life (of the life of a friend or family member) find their way into our fiction. And more than one story was inspired from a headline.

It will be interesting to see how this case shakes out.
Here are a few more details about the controversy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Spotting a phony and creating a REAL character

I think it’s important for a novelist to study human nature. We need to create realistic characters to draw people into our books. Aside from going to school to study psychology and sociology, or reading books and attending lectures to educate ourselves, you can get a good peek at human nature by watching reality TV.

Yeah, really.

I don’t watch the trashy stuff. To see how people respond under pressure, I enjoy watching The Amazing Race or Survivor. It’s interesting to watch those folks plot how to take advantage of a situation. Also you get to see good examples of family dynamics on Amazing Race when family members team up.

You see people’s character or lack thereof on reality TV. To see how someone responds to authority or rationalizes bad choices, watch one of the judge shows, Judge Judy or Judge Mathis. I wonder if some of those bums really think anyone’s buying their baloney.

Another show I like to watch is Millionaire Matchmaker. The hostess Patti (matchmaker) has a real knack for reading people, and she doesn’t put up with any hooey. I love it when my BS meter pins in the red while listening to one of her clients, and then she calls him out. In the beginning of the show she reviews clients’ videos, and she figures out their personality right away. That’s one talented lady. She cuts to the chase, and I like that.

Another source to hone in on human nature is to watch Tonya Reiman when she does her body language segment on O’Reilly. She’s also got a great website with lots of information on body language cues: a newsletter, articles, FAQs.

So, the next time you veg out watching reality TV, tell yourself you’re simply being a student of human nature.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Creating effective description

Since I was in grade school, I’ve known that writing was my passion and that description is my forte.

Fortunately, writing description in scenes comes naturally to me. So much so that I’ve had to learn to back off on description because it slowed down my story.

I imagine there are as many approaches to writing description as there are writers, but I’m going to give you some of my methods:

Imagine you’re the character in your book. Put yourself in the middle of the action.

What’s going on? What emotion are you feeling? Happy? Scared? Surprised? Angry? Take that emotion and describe it without using a cliché. In my current novel, my character is experiencing an unexpected occurrence: Her heart hammered like the wings of a bird escaping a beast of prey, and her mouth grew as dry as an unfulfilled dream.

Take a deep breath. Is there anything in particular you character can smell? Something pleasant or something foul? Describe that: Her nostrils flinched as she smelled the acrid odor of harsh soap and starch.

Is a breeze cooling your character’s skin like a menthol kiss? Or is it so hot his freckles are melting off of his face?

What does she see? Describe it in a way to deepen her characterization. My current character is a mom, and she filters what she sees through that point of view: The boy’s messy hair stood in the wind. His face was red and his ears redder. The tattered coat hanging from his thin shoulders was missing buttons and looked insufficient to warm his scrawny body. Margaret fished into her left pocket and felt a coin. She walked back to the boy and held out the money. His fist flew through the air and grabbed it.

Is there any noise in the background? The shrill call of a bluejay? The staccato beat of a neighbor’s lawn sprinkler? Try to incorporate that description into your character’s emotion. The shrill call of a bluejay frightened her. The starch came out of her spine as she glanced over her shoulder. OR The staccato beat of the neighbor’s sprinkler kept rhythm with his pulse. He had to figure out which way she’d gone.

Is he eating? What does it taste like? Again incorporate it into your character’s mood. The news fell on him like a wall of fire, and the bite of tiramisu he’d savored a moment before tasted like chalk.

These are simply some suggestion to get you thinking. Hope it did the trick!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

NEW - Resource for writers!

Writers have an obligation to their readers and to themselves to be lifelong learners and improve their craft. One way to do that is to read books on writing, attend conferences, and read blogs on writing.

Today the WordServe Water Cooler blog will host its inaugural post.

The WSWC blog is an online reference written by the clients of the WordServe Literary Agency. I'm proud to say that I'm one of the 30+ contributing writers. The blog will post daily about marketing, publishing, the craft of writing, social media, and anything else that will help other writers on their publishing journey.

The contributors, some published and some not-yet published authors, will share helpful information for both fiction and non-fiction writers. We'll tell you what has worked for us and what has not worked in our writing careers.

Check it out, subscribe or bookmark the page. Our goal is to help others achieve success in their publishing dreams.

The WSWC blog is inspired by my agent Rachelle Gardner's blog, which is an annual pick for the top 101 websites for writers by Writer's Digest Magazine. Rachelle posts on every aspect of publishing--but from an agent's point of view. The WSWC blog is similar, but from the perspective of authors.

And speaking of Rachelle's blog, today she is hosting her 1st WordServe blog tour. She'll post links to blog posts where authors explain what they've done, or plan to do, to market their books as well as other advice for new writers.