An amateur is not someone who is merely new. An amateur is a mindset.
Source: Maybe It’s Time to Give Up
An amateur is not someone who is merely new. An amateur is a mindset.
Source: Maybe It’s Time to Give Up
This piece was not written by myself but I couldn’t have said it better. The words epitomise a strong undercurrent I have been feeling for a while. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it,…
Well, not always. I broke up with a lot of guys over the years and it never hit me as hard as the one time someone broke up with me. That someone turned out to be my husband and we didn’t stay apart very long! ;-) Nor have we ever parted since.
But there were times when a guy and I just parted; one day we both suddenly realized the feelings weren’t there any more. Or maybe they never were and we never bothered to look deep enough. And we broke up without broken hearts. We just went our separate ways and there were no hard feelings. I wouldn’t even call them my ‘ex’ because that just gave the wrong impression. They were more like ‘that guy I used to hang out with’.
My publisher for Six Days and I just broke up. It was over a year ago when I signed the contract and being a first time author I was super pumped about landing a book deal so early in my career. I had been warned that the publishing process takes time, to be patient. And I was. Then I heard rumors and rumblings but I held fast, knowing this was the right place for my book. But just as in any relationship, things change. The publishing house went through some structural changes, redefining their lines and shifting the books under them. They were growing, becoming something more. And it was exciting for them.
But there wasn’t a place for me and Six Days. It just didn’t fit anymore. So last month we took a long hard look at each other, the publisher and I, and we decided it was time to part ways. And it was civil and nice and there were no hard feelings. I get my rights back immediately without having to wait months before resubmitting it to other publishers.
Sure, I was let down and disappointed, because honestly, what writer out there doesn’t want a traditional publisher for their first book ever? But after about 17 minutes of pity-party and with massive amounts of support from family and friends, I got over it. There are so many options out there and the world just opened up for my book. I will find the right relationship with another house that will help the book be it’s best.
And that other publishing house? Eh, they’re just a pub house I used to hang out with.😉
I talk to myself. A lot. But only when I’m alone at home. I’m not that person muttering to no one in particular while walking down the street or the lady fussing at cans of soup in the grocery store. But my husband has been working from home lately and he’s definitely noticed it. I’m not sure why I do it but talking out loud helps me think. It really started when I began writing. Someone told me to read your script out loud to sort out flow, dialogue, etc. And it works for me. But that’s not what I mean by ‘quieting the voices’.
I’ve taken the last week off social media. No Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and only Tumblr once a day (because that site inspires me to write like no other!). I moved all those apps that used to be on the main screen on my iPhone to a folder on another page. I turned off notifications for everything except texts. It’s been quiet.
I thought I would go through withdrawals but I haven’t. There have been no urges to check in, post, update or tweet. Before, it was too easy for me to get caught up in it all and my head was filled with noise. Now, I don’t hear Amy Author’s voice saying she completed a novel in one night or Riley Rights screaming about injustice in Timbuktu. I don’t see photos of Patty Perfect’s totally-happy-we’re-all-smiling-if-it-kills-us Holiday in Key West. There are no cute videos of heroic people doing amazing things while I’m just sitting watching on YouTube. There has been none of that. It’s been quiet.
And my mind has slowed down enough to focus on other things. When I sit to write it is easier because I’m not thinking about who is doing what and where and why. I’ve missed keeping up with friends though and when the next week is up I’ll go back. But I will only check in once a day or two and I’ll manage notifications with lists. Because I’ve quieted all the other voices and now the only one I hear is mine. And that’s important when you’re trying to do anything well, but especially when you’re writing.
Have you ever been so excited and so scared about something? Where you are ready for the change, living for it, working towards it, but at the same time your feet don’t want to move? Where your heart flutters in anticipation of taking the next step and thuds with dread at the mere thought of doing so?
I have never been shy about taking chances. I’m a ‘why not’ kind of girl with a ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ motto. When most high school seniors were firmly entrenched in their cliques and clubs, I was moving to a school where I knew absolutely no one. By choice. So I could experience something different.
When my husband and I married, I needed a change of scenery from the east coast so we pulled out a map of the United States, closed our eyes and let our finger find our next address. A couple of months later we packed up our two cars, complete with Mr. Fish in his tank buckled in beside me, and drove cross country to Idaho. Without jobs. Without a place to live. We ended up staying there only 3 weeks and limped across the upper mid-west to family in Minnesota, but we still tell stories about those 3 weeks. And discovered that no matter how poor we were or how bad it seemed, we were in it together.
Many years and several moves later (more calculated than the first) we are getting ready to make a new change and for the first time in my life, I have hesitation. I’ve never paused before in doubt. Looking back, I have some regrets, but when I was making decisions I never had doubt. Now I’ve got a tiny one, flickering inside me. I think it’s because I’m older, expected to ‘plan for the future’ and ‘what about your retirement’. I don’t have the luxury of youth anymore, the freedom to live my dreams with abandon. But I want to. Inside my forty-something year old body is the ‘why not’ girl screaming out ‘what’s the worst that could happen’.
And so I’m trying my best to listen to her because I know that if I don’t at least try, I will have regrets. And if you don’t take chances how will you ever know the possibilities?
I told you I’m terrible at consistency when it comes to keeping a diary. Remember this post? I did warn you. Sorry if you’ve been waiting with bated breath!😉 But, I have been writing, just nothing you can read right now.
Six Days is still at the publishers waiting for edits. It has been a very slow process; it’s my first book deal so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apparently, patience. And I’ve got it because I’ve been working on five other projects. They are all in various stages of completion but the one I’m working on currently, the one I’m most excited about doesn’t even have a name! Of course, Six Days didn’t have its name until I had to start shopping it around.
My current work in progress (WIP) is about an Irish war vet who is sent home from the war in Syria on a medical discharge after an IED explosion killed his best friend and wounded him. The idea was inspired by this video I saw several months ago: I jotted a rough blurb on a post-it note and stuck it in my notebook.
Then, on a long flight from Ireland and the UK two months ago a plot popped into my head: an Irish War Veteran dealing with PTSD demons by escaping to the remote Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. He has Butler, his veteran guide dog to help him adjust to life away from war. But then he meets McKenna and finds himself leaving his safe haven to watch her six. Somebody has to because someone is trying to kill her. Thus began my fifth novel.
I had such a great time in Ireland and fell in love with the people! I want to go back and live there for a while. Inishmore, the largest of the three islands, is a well known writers retreat. Perfect! Let me go pack my bags!
And like my other novels, I need inspiration for my characters.
Let me introduce you to Aiden Monaghan, aka Kevin J. Ryan, a brilliant actor who just so happens to be from Dublin! I’m excited about this novel and hope to have it done in a few months, depending on life events.
The other four novels are sitting there waiting. I look at them every now and then, but I’m too excited to finish Aiden’s story to take the time to dive back into them. Oh, and I can’t forget Butler, his dog… you know you want to see him!
He’s a German Shepard who was trained to meet Aiden’s PTSD needs. He wakes him up from nightmares, nudges him out of flashbacks and can clear a room like a SEAL team! Unfortunately, he can do nothing about Aiden falling head over heels in love with McKenna!
I mean, I do read. But when I read a book now (since becoming serious about this writing and publishing thing) I find myself not just reading. I’m analyzing. Dissecting. Questioning. I look at the author’s use of point of view, the story structure, how smaller subplots are weaved throughout. If a line of dialogue or description speaks to me I’ll highlight it or write it down in a notebook I keep for such things. Not that I’m going to use it in my own work, but other words simply inspire my own.
I just finished Jodi Picoult’s novel Change of Heart. This is only the second time I’ve read her work. I usually avoid it because of the amount of tears they invoke. It can get awkward crying like a baby while sitting in carpool with teenagers walking by staring. Yeah, daughter #1 loves to have those kind of things spread around her high school campus. But I picked up Change of Heart yesterday at the library (yes, yesterday. I read it less than a day. What of it?) and devoured it. Not for the plot or well written chapters. To be honest they shifted abruptly and I found the points of view not consistent in length. One character’s POV was short; the next, pages long. Not for character development either, because I could have cared less about most of them except for Lucius, an inmate sharing death row with our main character. He was intriguing, but not the reason I kept reading.
I kept reading because my author’s brain was looking for something. Something that I usually find in every other book I have ever read. When I realized that Jodi Picoult had left it out in this book I was floored. I had to share it with somebody and my best friend is on a cruise so here I am, sharing it with you. The thing Picoult left out of her book Change of the Heart is … are you ready? She left out the main characters point of view. O.o Seriously. Shay Bourne, the man in prison for murder, doesn’t have a voice in the entire book! And yet, through her other character’s points of view we know Shay. Mind blown. I was halfway through the book before I realized it.
Maybe there are tons of books out there with this kind of structure, but I honestly don’t remember reading them. Of course, back then I was just reading for entertainment. Now I read with a different eye. What are your thoughts? Have you read this book or any other book that does this? Am I late to the party without a clue? Let me know.
How many times have you heard, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”? But we do, don’t we? I mean, realtors talk about ‘curb appeal’, job coaches beat ‘first impressions’ into their clients’ heads and don’t even get me started on the overuse of PhotoShop in the marketing industry. It’s one of those facets of human nature; we are going to have an automatic response to any visual. So, in the spirit of embracing our humanness let’s judge these books by their covers.
First, title is VERY important. It’s like naming your child, you have to go through every possible ‘bullying’ scenario. Growing up I always loved the name Grant for my future baby boy. When I married my husband with the last name Brant I had to give up that name for obvious reasons. Naming your book is just as important. This author apparently did not say this title out loud:
Of course, we all know the Disney character Winnie the Pooh and with his picture right on the cover we get what this book is about, but if you are scrolling through a list of book titles without the visual? Well, let’s just say the visual is a little different!
Sometimes titles can be long and unclear. Take this book for example:
At first glance it may seem that the horses are lesbians and these are their stories. But the two women give it away. Not judging either the horse’s or women’s lifestyle choices but the title is a bit confusing. Not to mention a little awkward. I mean, who stands like that one on the left?
Second, when choosing a cover for your book, don’t confuse the potential reader by having the cover art not match the title. For example:
The title of this romance is Rebel’s Spirit. It is about a sassy high school senior that drives her male teacher crazy (eewwwwww) and then returns to town ten years later to send him over the edge. First, the premise of the book is a little sketchy but we’re discussing covers. I’m not quite sure of the gigantic strawberry she is dangling over his head. An apple would be a better choice since he’s her teacher (eewwwww).
Okay, so maybe the title fits the book in that she is rebelling against her parents by feeding this much older man genetically modified strawberries.
This is an example of a cover committing ‘story-cide’. I will give you a gold star if you can 1) tell me if the title or author is Faith and 2) tell me the genre of the book. Go on, I’ll wait…
The author’s name is Anj. Faith is the name of the book. But it isn’t clear. I had a friend named Faith in college. (She is the gracious one that lent me her $15,000 wedding dress for my wedding. I like the name Faith. :-)) A simple ‘by’ would have cleared up confusion.
Okay, so did you guess what the book is about? Well, did you guess Mystery? Yep, it’s a mystery. And get this – a Romantic Mystery. Huh, I didn’t get that. I’m sure the book is good, it got good reviews, but I never in a million years would I have bought it.
So, now I am looking at examples for my first book’s cover. My book is a Romantic Suspense with the heroine, Solia saving the day. She’s CIA covert ops. She’s got a Glock. My hero, Jason is a sexy nerd who has been burned in the past and wants nothing to do with the government. There is conflict and emotions. I want my cover to reflect that, but don’t want it to be about a naked man’s chest with the heroine draped all over him. My Solia would have Jason in a choke hold on the ground before she would cling to him with wild abandon.
I definitely want a female (probably no head, just lower body shot) with a gun and maybe some vague science lab equipment faded in the background. Not sure how to or if I should put Jason in there. Something kind of like Maya Banks’ book:
I want my name in big bold letters (seriously, who doesn’t?) and a smart tag line on the front. I do want the reader to get a sense that it’s a romance as well. Thank goodness the fine publisher I contracted with has a great cover art department. After I submit my Cover Art Form to them we can see what they come up with.
So, do you judge a book by it’s cover?
Last month I was offered a contract on my first novel Six Days! Beyond my wildest dreams – didn’t think my first attempt at writing would ever get this far. For someone who switches ‘careers’ like Jay Z changes clothes, I’m pretty proud of myself for not only finishing the book, but shopping it around.
I finished Six Days in July of 2013 and had neighbor Jennifer Bateman, a contract editor for Penguin, look it over. She was the first person I let see my words on paper, the first person to tell me I should pursue this. Without her encouragement I never would have finished! Everyone needs cheerleaders in their corner and she was waving her pom poms for publishing like crazy!
In August of 2013, Savvy Authors hosted a symposium and signed up immediately. They offered workshops, pitching practice, synopsis helps and the reason I joined: the Pitch Room! Editors and agents from different publishing houses accepted pitches from authors, trying to get their manuscripts in front of them. I submitted to seven publishing houses and one agent. I got two instant rejections and four requests for first three chapters. I was ecstatic at the response and encouraged to keep going. In September I submitted to four more houses and two more agents. Some of the editors gave me great feedback and recommendations. I edited based on some of the advice and resubmitted to them. By October I had two editors seriously interested. After some back and fourths I was offered a contract in March of 2014!
It seems like it took forever from August until today to get where I am (contract expected to arrive early May, 2014) but from what I am learning the publishing world moves slower than I thought. But it’s all good and I’m already working on more novels, excited to keep my momentum going in the direction of selling and sailing. Husband and I have 7 years until we plan to sail away. Publishing more novels will help us sail longer so that is a strong motivation for me.
I’ll announce details when the contract is signed and the champagne is flowing!🙂
New Year’s resolutions are all fine and good for some, but I usually find them too difficult to remember or by March they are no longer relevant. So instead, I do yearly mottos. Last year was DARE YOURSELF. Yes, I got it from the swimsuit issue of a Roxy catalogue and I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about improving your reading list. But, it can be applied to so much. And for me it meant completing something.
I love new things and get easily distracted by ideas. During my home interior design phase I changed the wall color of my kitchen so often my husband said we were losing square footage from the thickness of the paint alone. I once started a home-based business and as soon as it started growing and flourishing, I no longer had the desire so I shut it down. Acrylics and canvases are packed away in storage after I swore I wanted to sell art. I have a history of jumping from one thing to the next. So when I decided I was going to write a novel, I saw the Roxy cover and it clicked. “Wendi,” I said to myself, “I dare you to finish a novel!” It worked and I even managed to learn the publishing process and submit it to editors near and far. Two are very interested and I hope to have a contract next month. Not bad for my first attempt at writing and publishing!
So, this year my motto is LIVE OUTSIDE THE BOX. See that picture up there? That is Gee Atherton during his downhill mountain bike race run at RedBull Rampage in Utah a few years ago. He and his family have made a living out of doing what the love. They get to travel all over the world and get paid to ride bikes. Down mountains. They love what they do and they’ve turned it into a career. Not many of us are programmed to do that. Or maybe we are and we’ve just been reprogrammed to do the whole 9 – 5 thing for 50 years and then retire.
I admire people that live a life less ordinary. My husband and I are preparing to do that: buy a boat and sail the world. We have a few years, but this year is all about getting into that mentality to live outside the box.