The good news for today is that Bettye is patting herself on the back for having cleaned out her old apartment and turned in the keys. She also crossed two other things off her to-do list. The bad news is that Bettye has one other major thing to complete today that she won't quite make.
While Bettye formulates a Plan B, here are a few words from author Angela Henry. Angela, author of the popular Kendra Clayton mystery series (The Company You Keep, Tangled Roots, Diva's Last Curtain Call) is a native of Springfield, Ohio and a graduate of Ohio University. She is a member of both Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
For more about Angela, visit her web site, and also stop in at the Crime Sistahs blog, where Angela and five of her sister authors offer tidbits about writing and other stuff.
Take it away, Angela!
Authors & Jealousy: Beware the Green Eyed Monster
by Angela Henry
It happens to the best of us. You see how well another author is doing, the bestseller lists they are hitting, the media attention they are getting and you’re jealous. It’s only human to feel this way, especially if you’re doing all you can promotion wise and feel you’ve written a book just as good or, let’s face it, better. We all have our negative moments and we need to recognize them and move on because one of the most self-defeating things authors can do is to compare themselves to other authors. Every author’s situation is different.
For example, author A and author B both write in the same genre and have books that came out the same time. Author B is jealous of author A because A got a bigger advance, massive publisher support, and has sold 25,000 copies, while B got a much smaller advance, minimal publisher support, and has only sold 8,500 copies. But what B doesn’t know is that A’s print run (how many books printed upfront by the publisher) was 150,000 copies. B’s print run was only 10,000 copies. In the publishing world, selling 8,500 copies out of a 10,000 copy print run is considered a success, while selling only 25,000 copies out of 150,000 copy print run is considered a big flop. Guess whose career is in jeopardy? And it’s not author B. Don’t be so worried about how well you think another author is doing. You may not know the whole story and the time you waste worrying could be time spent writing.
Well said, Angela! One of the reasons given for the suicide of singer Phyllis Hyman was that she became increasingly depressed over the greater success of those whom she felt had less talent. (I know this is an eerie coincidence, but today might well be the anniversary of her death). As Popeye once said, "I yam what I yam." And you know what? That's just fine!
When I say the end is near, I mean that things are that much closer to getting back to normal. Since I haven't known "normal" since April 17th, the day my husband found the house, this is a big deal to me. Our furniture finally arrived from Florida on Wednesday! Work on the deck has commenced, and just yesterday the laminate kitchen countertops have been replaced with granite (except one of the cabinets that makes up the island arrived wtih a crack in it and will have to be replaced, so the island is not yet rooted to the floor, and the granite top is not yet rooted to the cabinet). These things happen. At least it's functional.
I have set July 1st as the beginning of a marathon period of writing, since I have an August 1st deadline on a manuscript that's only about 50% done. I have until then to get something else completed and turned in to my agent.
While I'm sorting through our belongings and determining what's been lost (hence the second part of this post's title) or damaged, and while Bill Clinton continues to sulk over Hillary's loss (get over it, Bill; the things that came out of your mouth is part of the reason she didn't make it), and while the latest power-hungry maniac runs rampant on the African continent (I'm so tired of hearing about these people and their huge egos, and worried about possible future bloodshed), I will continue to cut back on my blog posts, but on Monday I will have acclaimed mystery novelist Angela Henry guest blogging to talk about authors and jealousy (I don't know about you, but I'm intrigued).
Here's a few photos from our company last weekend. Note that my husband and I were so busy with hosting duties that neither of us had time to comb our hair, which is why we look like a couple of tackheads.
Have a great weekend!
I watched one of my all-time favorite films last night, the original version of the historical event Mutiny on the Bounty, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1935. As much as I enjoy the film, I had to consider that Charles Laughton's portrayal of Captain Bligh was rather one-dimensional. He gave cruel commands, such as continuing with the flogging of a sailor who had already expired. There were virtually no reasons given for his behavior, and I never understood why he was such a miserable tyrant.
The issue of character development is an important factor in writing. The reader has to have an inkling of why characters behave the way they do, even if the characters don't. Readers will complain if they feel they don't know your characters, or if they do something that seems out of the realm of their personalities. The reasons are usually simple, sometimes even cliché, just like those for real people. The man who has no urge for a family of his own might have grown up feeling unloved in foster care (or maybe that same man is desparate to marry and have children). The woman who grew up penniless values her material possessions above all else. The reasons can also be more intricate, dealing with repressed memories (the heroine of my most recent romance, A Love For All Seasons, had a few surprises coming to her) or something that has been building for a long time, like the honest man who just can't stand it anymore and either commits a crime or keeps that pile of money he's found.
You can't have your character do something out of left field and not give the reader some insight as to one of the most important questions a writer can answer, why. This in itself has to be carefully handled. You don't want to give your characters nightmares that wake them from sleep clutching the sheets in terror; that's as overdone as a reheated baked potato. There are other ways to convey messages to readers - through dialogue, through internal thoughts, etc.
We've got company!!! Never mind that our furniture isn't here from Florida yet. Everybody is sleeping on air mattresses, sitting in the folding chairs we bought for extra seating at the dining table, and we've got as many folks as possible crowding around the convertible coffee table that, in its raised position, doubles as a table (everybody else is holding their plates in their lap). Everybody's happy, most of all us. We've got family visiting!!!
Here are some recent photos of our granddaughter, who is now 21 months old; and our brand new niece, who will be 1 month old on Sunday.
Enjoy this DeeDee Bridgewater tune about family, and have a great weekend! Be sure to tune in Monday for another guest column from a published author.
Guest Blogger: Lynn Emery
My goal for today: To try to get some writing done with three guys downstairs banging hammers as they take up the ugly flooring. If that's not enough, the blind man (the man who will hang the blinds, that is) will be here with his drill at 1PM. Drilling holes in the frames of over 20 windows is going to give me a headache for sure. I'll actually be glad to go to work tomorrow, just to get away from all this racket . . . at least until the movers show up with our stuff (and who knows when that will be).
While I try to keep a stiff upper lip and a clear, unpounding head, here's some wise words from author Lynn Emery.
Mix knowledge of voodoo, Louisiana politics and forensic social work with the dedication to write fiction while working each day as a clinical social worker, and you get a snapshot of author Lynn Emery. Lynn has sold fourteen novels and been a contributing consultant to the magazine Today’s Black Woman for three articles about contemporary relationships between black men and women. Lynn is a licensed social worker with a special interest in mental health issues as they affect women, and in particular women of color. She is currently working on a mystery and a short story for a romance anthology. Learn more about Lynn and her novels at www.lynnemery.com.
Take it away, Lynn!
Writer or Author?
by Lynn Emery
I have written since I was eleven. That’s what I say when people ask me, “How long have you been writing?” Finally the light bulb went off. What they really mean is, “How long have you been published?” Which brings up an interesting question posed by some, the difference between being an author and a writer. Some argue that you’re not an Author with a capital “A” until you are published. I say, “Bull”. Author is synonymous with “writer” in my book. So for aspiring authors, claim it.
I’ve met people who lived tortured creative lives because they weren’t published. They actually spent a lot of time beating themselves up because they hadn’t sold a book. Don’t do that. Believe me when I say there are plenty of talented people walking around who aren’t published. In fact I’ll go farther and say they haven’t sold a book for reasons that have nothing to do with their worthiness.
I’m a clinical social worker- yep, got the degrees, license and social worker T-shirts to prove it! My natural impulse is to reach out to people whacking themselves over the head because they haven’t sold a book, or who have sold but who aren’t rich and famous. Many people are searching for ways to convince themselves and the world that they are worthy. Selling a book is one of them. Once that’s achieved they then fight to become one of the small percentage who reach fame and fortune. You can guess what happens if the book never sells or once sold the world doesn’t beat a path to buy up every copy. So here is my best writing advice: like yourself for reasons that have nothing to do with someone else affirming your goodness. If you put your happiness in the hands of agents or editors then said happiness is built on shifting sand. Besides, agents and editors are wary of people who are so emotionally attached to their writing that any comment that doesn’t praise her writing highly causes drama. Who needs it? They are not in business to be your therapist, which is essentially what you’re asking them to take on.
What agents and editors want first is a fabulous book. They want to see characters that stay with the reader, plots that make the reader keep flipping the pages even when it’s time to go to work, feed the cat, answer the phone and all the other annoying things happening that pull them out of that wonderfully exciting world the writer has created. So give them your best, whatever it takes. Save the drama for your BFF (best friend forever) if you need to vent, stomp around and be in a bad mood about not selling or getting the agent you wanted. Know what that’s called? Being a professional, baby. Be it even if you haven’t sold a book yet. And for God’s sake, be a grown-up pro. Please. Thanks.
Five Ways to be a Pro:
1. Do your homework, please. Study the craft of writing and the business of publishing.
2. Read submission guidelines and follow them. Don’t try to be clever to get around them.
3. Join a professional writing organization. The information you will get in their newsletters and magazines is priceless for all authors, aspiring and veterans.
4. Save your pennies and attend a writing conference. Correction, the right writing conference for you. That means doing your homework.
5. Network with other writers. You’ll learn a lot that may not be in the newsletters, magazines and books you read on writing. (Uh, do I even have to say you should be reading those?) Now it’s not because some information is top secret. But there is just so much space in them. Besides, what you learn from other writers will probably be more up-to-date.
So there you have it: My touchy-feely social worker advice about taking care of yourself and my writer advice. You are an author if you’re writing. So go back to your keyboard and get that book done. When you become rich and famous invite me to your star-studded party, please and thank you!
The long-distance fellows are finally on their way, bringing our belongings from Florida to the new house in Wisconsin. What a rollercoaster this has been. I'd tell you about it, but I'll save it for one of my books. All I can say is, my brother-in-law is a saint (we asked him to supervise the loading of our storage unit for us so we wouldn't have to travel to Florida . . . we're already spending enough money. . . can you say "Brazilian hardwood"?
Anyway, my brother-in-law tells me the guys busted their chops trying to fit everything on the truck . . . it seems our load was larger than anticipated (you never know how much stuff you've got until it's time to move it. Picturing them struggling brings to mind one of my favorite songs. Mind you that my musical taste includes much more than R&B. This song was a huge hit a year or two before I was even born and has become part of American pop culture. Never did a simple drum and clarinet sound so effective.
Enjoy it, and have a great weekend. I'll be posting a writing-related essay by well-known author Lynn Emery between now and Monday.
by Shelia M. Goss
I recently received an email from a guy thanking me for publishing advice I gave him about a year ago. He wanted to send me an autographed copy of his first book. To be honest, I don't remember communicating with him but I must have. Most of us try our best to respond to every email that we get within a timely manner, but with deadlines and re-writes and life, we get busy.
Below are commonly asked questions received from aspiring writers. Hopefully, it'll answer some of your questions. If you're not a writer but know someone who is interested in becoming one, please refer them to this post.
I have a good story. I'm learning fast that people don't or won't help you. Why is that?
I don't want you to have the misconception of authors not wanting to help…many of us do. You also have to keep in mind of your approach. Have you ever contacted this particular author before? Have you ever bought one of their books? My question is, why would you ask for advice from an author if you've never purchased or read one of their books? I don't ask for advice from just anyone. You best believe any writer I approached in the past, I've read their entire book; not just an excerpt off their website.
Will you read my unpublished manuscript and give me feedback?
For legal reasons, a lot of authors will not read the work of people they don't already have a relationship with in some capacity. As a writer, we have to protect ourselves because there are too many "sue-happy" folks out there. Please keep that in mind the next time you ask the question and don't get the response you want. Don't hold it against the writer. Also, most writers do not have the time to read other people’s manuscripts because they are too busy working on their own and trying to meet deadlines. I would suggest joining a writing group where some of the members may be able to assist with critiquing your work.
Can you help me write my life story?
Yes, for a price; but most people don't want to hear that. They expect you to do something for free. Writing is a passion for most of us but it’s also a business. Don't get upset if you get turned flat down because you're not willing to pay for the writer’s time.
Will you write a blurb for my book?
This is a dreaded question. Why? Because there are so many things you could do next. #1, I would ask, what do you want to do next? Are you looking for an agent or a publisher? If you are looking for either one, you will need to know about the submission process. Most require a query letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters.
Are you looking to self-publish? If so, then there are other things you need to consider. For example, will you outright self-publish or will you be using a Print on Demand (POD) service.
Be sure you've done your homework and know exactly what you want to do. You will probably get more responses if you ask specific questions, such as “How do I write a query letter?” or “How do I get an ISBN?” than asking a generic question.
Be sure to only send them what they are requesting.
Does paying for reviews help or hurt your review rating?
Please note: The Internet is your friend. Use any one of the search engines and it will pull up a ton of information on any topic.
The first time I saw this photo, I thought it had to be a joke. Apparently, it was for real. I must have laughed for 10 minutes.
Don't ask me what this news producer was thinking when he assigned this story to this reporter.
Have a great weekend. I'll be posting another writer's article by a guest blogger over the weekend while I continue unpacking. I think Shelia Goss is up next.
Guest Blogger: Dyanne Davis
Bettye is happy to report that she found her rollers. While she looks for her nail polish remover so she can wear open-toed shoes, some of her writer friends have volunteered to give her a break from blogging . . . .
An avid reader, Dyanne began reading at the age of four. Her love of the written word turned into a desire to write. Her first novel, The Color of Trouble, was released July of 2003. The novel was received with high praise and several awards. Dyanne won an Emma for Favorite New Author of the year.
Her second novel, The Wedding Gown, was released in February 2004 and has also received much praise. The book was chosen by Black Expressions, a subsidiary of Doubleday Book Club, as a monthly club pick. It was a 2005 Emma finalist for Steamiest Romance and Book Of The Year. The Wedding Gown was also a finalist for Affaire de Coeur Reader’s poll.
Dyanne’s Misty Blue is a sequel to The Wedding Gown. It received a 4-star rating from Romantic Times. In December 2006, Let’s Get It On also received a 4-star rating from Romantic Times. In Misty Blue garnered an Emma win for best book cover.
Dyanne has been a presenter of numerous workshops. She has presented several workshops for teens at Chicago and suburban high schools. She has a local cable show in her hometown to give writing tips to aspiring writers. She has guests from all genres to provide information and entertainment to the audience. She has hosted such notables as USA Today bestselling erotica author Robin Schone and New York Times bestselling author of the vampire huntress series L.A. Banks.
Dyanne is also writing for Parker Publishing. Her first book, a story about new love taking places while trying to survive Hurricane Katrina, hit the shelves in February 2007. Also, for the first time Dyanne will be writing under a pseudonym for her new vampire series. Her first vampire novel, In the Beginning, was released in June of 2007 under the name of F. D. Davis.
When Dyanne is not writing, you can find her with a book in her hands, her greatest passion next to spending time with her husband and son. Whenever possible, she loves getting together with friends and family.
A member of Romance Writers of America, Dyanne recently wrapped up her second term as Chapter President for Windy City. Dyanne loves to hear feedback from her readers. You can reach her at her website. http://www.dyannedavis.com/ She also has an on-line blog where readers can post questions and photos, http://dyannedavis.blogspot.com/ Her alter ego, ADAM OMEGA, can be reached at http://www.adamomega.com/ .
Entering writing contests for the ‘Yet to Be Published’ by Dyanne Davis
First, I’d like to thank Bettye for giving me a chance to speak to her readers. Coming from Romance Slam Jam recently and getting back in the swing of things with my chapter news and the things I’ve neglected in recent weeks, contest news was everywhere. RSJ had an aspiring author’s contest, like most conferences nowadays, and it’s the nature of contests that a few are happy and many more are saddened. It’s because of that sadness with all the contests that I’m aware of that got me to thinking that writers need to know that writing contests are just that . . . contests.
I’d like to talk about the unpublished writers contests. As great as it is to win, I hope winning isn’t your primary goal, but that having someone who doesn’t know or love you give you their opinion is what you’re after. And people, that’s all it is, an opinion. No more, no less.
Don’t get me wrong. To win a contest gives one a feeling of pride and an acknowledgement that perhaps you can do it. It’s very easy to win. It’s a lot harder to know what to do when you enter a writing contest and don’t win. Basically, my message is to the majority of writers who enter such contests, because, let’s face it: There are far more writers who don’t win than there are writers who do win.
Why? LOL. There can only be one winner. I think aspiring writers put too much stock in winning contests and are not prepared when they don’t. Most times it has nothing to do with the writer’s talent but can boiled down to basically two things. Opinions and INDUSTRY STANDARDS. I want to tell you this up front— what I’m writing to you now is only my opinion, and what I am saying is not meant in any way to take away money from any group who holds such contests. That being said, let us begin.
As a member for eleven years and two-term president of my local RWA chapter, I’ve formed some definite opinions about contests. What I’m going to say next is not meant as part of my bio, but giving you a little background about my own experiences and how I arrived at my opinions. During my first year with my chapter, the annual writing contest was held and all members were encouraged to judge the contest. At that time I’d recently made the decision that I really wanted to be more than an outsider and just come to the meetings. So I decided to judge the contest. Also at that time I thought it was all a matter of reading a chapter and saying if I liked it or not. Ha. Was I wrong. The scoring sheet was very complex, and for the first time I heard the words INDUSTRY STANDARD. If you don’t remember anything else from this message I’m writing, remember those two words if you have ever entered or plan to enter a writing contest.
I believe by that time I, as an unpublished writer, had entered two contests. I was extremely green to the whole INDUSTRY STANDARD thing and was very much into learning the craft of writing. It took me two years to totally get the whole head hopping, changing point of view (POV) thing. All of this made me know that I was wholly under-qualified to judge this contest. Nevertheless, I judged the contest. This more than anything stopped me from entering any more contests. First, the contest requires a fee; and second, unqualified individuals such as myself were allowed to judge. I personally didn’t see any difference in that and having my work critiqued by other members of my chapter during our critique meetings.
Before any RWA members or any other group who holds contest start wanting to fire off nasty emails to me, just keep reading. As time passed, my chapter brought in trained people to teach us how to judge, and each year we would have a refresher. We also had a motto: ‘DO NO HARM.’ All of this was part of learning the craft. I now knew the words INDUSTRY STANDARD and knew how to judge accordingly, and with our motto I believe I knew how to do it without causing serious harm to a writer’s psyche. More years passed, and I became the coordinator for my chapter’s paranormal segment of our yearly contest. I kept that job for four years. In that time we changed our scoring form because, frankly, it needed changing.
Example: Score from one to ten the hero and heroine’s conflict. You could get a chapter that was very well done but was only in the heroine’s POV. How did you judge that? No matter how well it was done, you couldn’t give it a 10 because nothing about the hero was in there. Our score sheets now say hero/heroine meaning either/or. Judges can now give the 10.
As time passed, I became published and the intense learning began. After having been put through my paces with the world’s best editor for eleven books, I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet. It still take me two days to read the revision letter because I’m a writer and ALL writers are sensitive and believe every single word they write is brilliant. For example, I’m going to give this to my friend Lisa G. Riley and ask her to read and see what can be cut and believe me, she will find something and I will agree with her. Because as I look at the length of what I’ve written, I do realize that I have not yet said the things to you that I really want to say. Why, you ask? Writers are sensitive (repeating myself) and since I know that, I have to prepare you.
If you’re going to enter ANY writing contest, be very clear what you’re looking for. Are you just looking for feedback, to win and have an agent or editor agree to take a look at your work? That’s what I’ve heard from many of my friends who still enter contests.
Remember this, even if you win the contest, it doesn’t guarantee a sale. Generally a contest will have anywhere from 2 to 4 judges. Every reader brings their own thoughts to each piece when reading it, and scores can and do vary. That’s the fact of this business, even when you’re published. One reader will think your book is brilliant, another will think it’s garbage.
Back to being clear about why you’re entering the contest. If it’s for an opinion of someone other than family, friend or other chapter members, then it’s a very good way to get feedback. I’m going to give you a suggestion before you spend your money entering contests. Ask the coordinator if you can have a copy of their score sheets. They may or may not give it to you, but some will. Then read your intended submission and score it. Here’s where that INDUSTRY STANDARD is important. If it’s an RWA contest, it most assuredly will be judged by INDUSTRY STANDARD. Most other contests are using similar versions. And let’s face it, you’re writing because you want to be published by some major publisher. If that’s the case, you definitely need to know what they’re looking for. If you have no idea what this is, you need to learn it before spending your money.
Listen carefully; this is important. Never allow a contest loss to define you or your talent. Treat the comments you receive as a buffet. If they help you in your writing, good. If they don’t help you, don’t take them. After all, you are the boss of your work. Reading is an extremely subjective thing, and you need to keep in mind that the same as a contest win does not ensure publication, the same goes for a contest loss. Losing a contest does not mean your work won’t be published. The road to publication is littered with losses in the form of rejections before, during, and after. And yes, published authors still receive rejections. If you want a better chance of winning or placing in those contests, then you need to learn what INDUSTRY STANDARD means. If nothing else, when you enter contests and submit your work to an agent or editor, you will be submitting work that is properly formatted and professional. The telling of the story is up to each of you. My only goal here is to help you with the presentation.
Overheard on the news this morning: "Senator Edward Kennedy checked in to Duke University Medical Center and will undergo surgery by Dr. Allan Friedman, the chief of the Neurosurgery there, two weeks after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor."
I've got a bulletin for the copywriter. The word inoperable does not belong in that sentence.
Stay tuned for more writerly advice from author Dyanne Davis. I'll try to get it up later today.