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Archive for the ‘writing advice’ Category

                                 Photo and Bio courtesy of her publisher, Canonbridge, LLC
Today on writer Wednesday we have another debut author with her first book coming out from Canonbride, Cathleen Holst.  She can be found on her website, Facebook, twitter, and her blog.
BIO: Born and raised in Atlanta, Cathleen Holst is a “Georgia Peach” whose stilettos are firmly planted in the South.  She has no desire to relocate anywhere good old fashioned sweet tea is not readily available.  She lives just outside Atlanta with her extremely patient husband, their three children and two rambunctious dogs.  Although her love of literature is not confined to one particular genre, it has always been the “feel-good” stories that have resonated with her. Calling her stories “chick-lit” does not offend her in the least.  For her, these delightful easy reads are as perfect as the cherry sitting atop a banana split.  Her debut novel, The Story of Everleigh Carlisle, will be released in November of 2010.
JS:  Thank you for joining me today, Cathleen.  It’s a pleasure to have you.  When did you begin writing, and did you always envision being an author?
CH:  Writing is something I’ve always loved doing. Even as a young girl I remember writing stories, but it was something I always kept very private. I remember writing a short story for my history class during my sophomore year of high school, which I based on the Salem Witch Trials. Ms. Ray, my history teacher, returned the stories and had written a note on the top of my paper that I will never forget. In red ink she wrote, “You’re a great writer.” The seed was officially planted, but I never thought seriously about writing until I read a book (that I will leave nameless) in 2009 that I really enjoyed. The story was great and highly addictive (I literally could not stop reading). The writing, however, was mediocre at best, and I thought if writing like that could get published, than certainly mine could.
(JS:  Hmm, I wonder what book that is.  😉 )
JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
CH:  The feeling of such accomplishment I have once I complete a novel has to be one of the best feelings in the world. Second to that, (and I can only imagine) when a reader tells you how much your book means to them. I know I adore my books and each one has touched me in some way or another. I can only wish that after reading my book, the readers feel the same connection to the characters that I felt.
JS:  The most challenging?
CH:  I would have to say the most challenging thing, for me, is finding good blocks of uninterrupted writing time. My mother-in-law has been so helpful in that respect and watches my four year-old a couple days a week for me. That is such a huge help. But on a technical note, that would have to be the outlining process. I find it almost impossible to outline before I start writing. I will get an idea and just start writing like mad, but inevitably stall around the third or fourth chapter. That’s when I start outlining or really what I like to call my “what if’s”. I’ll take my idea and twist and turn it in as many different directions as I possibly can until I get something I like.
JS:  Tell me a little about your book, “Everleigh in NYC.”
CH:  Oh dear. This is something I have yet to master, how to tell a little about my book without reciting my five-page synopsis…articulately. Let’s see if I can do this. It’s about a small town girl with big city dreams who mistakes one dream come true for the real thing, while letting the other walk away.
JS:  Can you tell us a little more about how you conceived the story?
CH:  I wish I had some type of prolific answer like how the story came to me in a vivid dream, or I was sitting on train and had this sudden burst of inspiration, but sadly I have none of that. I literally had no idea what I was going to write about when I began. All I knew was that I had this burning desire to write something…anything. I had no outline, no plot ideas, not even the name of a single character. I just started typing the first thing that popped into my head. And that’s how Everleigh was born.
JS:  When you write, do you always know where you are going, or do your characters lead you in their own directions?
CH:  In the beginning I usually have a general idea of how I want the story to progress, but it’s not long after that when the characters take over and I just follow their lead. If I don’t listen to them, they tend to get very angry and will stop speaking to me for a while. Just recently my MC stopped speaking to me for a couple of weeks. She didn’t care about my looming deadline; the only thing she cared about was that I was trying to make her do something she absolutely did NOT want to do. I got the hint and things are flowing smoothly again and she’s quite happy.
JS:  What advice do you give to budding writers?
CH:  I’ve said this before, but if writing is what you want to do never stop writing and don’t let rejections get you down. It’s all part of the business. John Grisham, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and countless others…they’ve all received rejection letters and after receiving mine I was now a member of that club. That’s some great company to be in. If you want it bad enough, it will happen. Don’t let a few “no’s” stop you from pursuing your dream. Another piece of advice I would give is to take your time when writing your first novel, and get as much HONEST feedback as you can. That means stepping outside your comfort zone and sharing your writing with others who are not close friends (unless your close friend is also a writer) or relatives. It may be painful sometimes, but believe me it will help you grow as a writer. I received a comment about my writing once that almost had me in tears, but once I calmed down I realized everything this person had pointed out was spot on. In the end it was the best comment I’d received.
JS:  What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
CH:  When I was a young girl I loved “Amelia Bedelia”. But as odd as it sounds, as I got older I didn’t read much. If ever. (maybe I shouldn’t say that.)
JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
CH:  I try to wake up as early as possible. I tend to be most creative in the early morning. That doesn’t last long, though. With three kids (two who are school age) and a husband, the house begins to stir early. Once the kids are off to school and my husband is at work, I try to squeeze in as much uninterrupted writing as I can before my youngest wakes up. Then it’s off to the races with breakfast, countless juice refills, lunch, laundry, cleaning the house, grocery shopping and somewhere in there I fit in my workout and a shower. It’s madness, really.
JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
CH:  For my chick-lit novels, anywhere from six months to a year. Historical fiction, those tend to take a bit longer due to the time needed to dedicate to research.
JS:  How many have you written?
CH:  I have four works in progress. Of course, at the moment I’m only concentrating on “Everleigh in NYC”. Aside from that I have “The Pink Dress Collection” which will be a three-part series (that I cannot wait to get back to) and two historical fictions.
JS:  Can you tell us more about your journey?
CH:  It’s been quite a ride. I’ve had several setbacks during the time I was writing this book. The biggest was the death of my father. He passed away before I could tell him I was writing. I wanted to surprise him once the book was complete. Now I’ll never have that chance. Aside from that, it’s been amazing. When I sat down in front of my computer to write something all those months ago, I never in a million years thought I would be sitting here answering questions trying to promote my debut novel. I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
JS:  Prada or Gucci?
CH:  Yes, please.
(JS:  Ah, a girl after my on heart.)
JS:  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
CH:  I would just like to thank you, Jessica, for taking the time out of your own busy schedule to interview a fledgling novelist like me. I also need to give a huge shout-out to my dear friend Tamara. If it wasn’t for her reminding me (almost on a daily basis when I was at the lowest point in my life) not to forget about this book, that I had truly done something special, I may not be where I am today. Yes, I have a long way to go, but I have come so very far. Tamara, I will be eternally grateful to you; for your patience, for your ear, and most of all for putting up with my flakiness. I love you, girl! You get me!
And to my readers, I just hope you love reading “Everleigh in NYC” as much as I’ve loved writing it.
JA:  You’re welcome, and thank you for sharing with me today.  

Don’t worry, guys, when it gets closer to the release of her book, I’ll rerun this interview so you can refresh your minds.
If I have anymore authors (or editors or agents) out there that would like to share with me and my readers please contact me at j.souders  (at) jsouders (dot) com. 
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Today we’re interviewing author S.S. Michaels aka slushpilehero for all her twitter stalkers.  🙂  She can be found online at twitter and wordpress.  

BIO: S. S. Michaels has a B.S. in Business Administration and a M.A. in Media & Visual Arts. She has worked for such entities as Scott Free (Ridley Scott), dick clark productions, inc. (The American Music Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, Arista Records 25th Anniversary Celebration, etc.), and CBS. She has lived abroad, traveled widely, driven a race car, and jumped out of an airplane. She has completed two novels and has others in the works. A handful of her short stories have appeared in various publications. She writes from her home in the South, where she lives with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a swarm of inhospitable sand gnats. She is represented by The McVeigh Agency.


JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?

SM:  I don’t have to put up with co-workers and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

JS:  The most challenging?

SM:  Finding appropriate agent representation. Querying was hell. It was a tremendous learning process, and I had some really good experiences come out of it (not to mention a couple of bad ones), but it just seemed to take a lot of time and a lot of energy. I had plenty of requests for material, so that wasn’t a problem. Just waiting on decisions and the ones that were “almost” practically killed me – I have a lot more gray hair now and my fingernails are just beginning to grow back.

JS:  What would you say are the most important qualities one needs to possess in order to make a living as a full-time writer?

SM:  To “make a living”? Is that possible? I don’t know, but I imagine it takes a highly active imagination, self-discipline, a thick skin, life experience, an ability to sculpt with the written word, courage, a tireless and well-connected agent, and a super-charged metabolism (you know, so your butt doesn’t outgrow your chair).

JS:  Why do you write?

SM:  I can’t help it, I just do.

JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?

SM:  Um, get the kids off to school, fire up the laptop, turn on some music, and then write until the school day is over. I update my blog when the mood moves me, I work on projects with my agent, and I do a little networking via Twitter. Sometimes I read. Oh, and I play with my dogs, too – they’re attention hogs.

JS:  Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?

SM:  There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?

SM:  Rough drafts can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. SHORT BUS HERO, for example, took about three weeks, while ST. JAKE (working title) has taken months and I’m still nowhere near the end (researching economics and terrorism is taking longer than I expected).

JS:  What’s your favorite quotation?

SM:  During the time when I was turning my screenplay POP ART into my first novel, I read Stephen King’s LISEY’S STORY. I had been having doubts about whether or not I could finish an entire novel, and one line from King’s book really spoke to me: “I will holler you home.” The first “grown-up” novel I can remember reading was THE SHINING, when I was ten or something. I was a die-hard King fan throughout high school, and then kind of gravitated towards other things as I floated through adulthood. LISEY’S STORY was the first King book I’d read in many years, and, I don’t know, it did kind of feel like being “hollered home” to reading as well as to writing.

JS:  What are you working on now?

SM:  At the moment, I’m working on a novel called HAPPY ENDINGS, INC.
It’s my interpretation of a zombie story. It’s about breathing life back into the business of death. These days, people have relatives all over the country, and it’s so expensive to load the family on a plane and fly out to Uncle Roy’s funeral, right? Well, Caleb Exley, sole heir to his uncle’s funeral empire, has some new ideas about giving customers a proper send-off, one they can share with far-flung relatives at a fraction of the cost of airfare. It’s kind of like Weekend at Bernie’s meets Ghost Adventures, with a dash of Savannah history and real reanimation science thrown in there for the intellectuals.  

JS:  What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions aspiring novelists have of the writer’s life?

SM:  Hmmm… I really don’t know what “aspiring novelists” think about a “writer’s life,” so I can’t really say. My biggest misconception: most writers are snobs – turning out to be totally false. I’m finding that horror writers, especially, are very nice people.

As for the “writer’s life” I lead… um… is there a specific stereotype I’m supposed to be propagating? I mean, I don’t go around wearing black turtlenecks and chain smoking or drinking myself into oblivion in the Florida Keys or anything. Am I doing it wrong?


JS:  What advice would you impart to these aspiring novelists?

SM:  Write good stories, of course. Nothing else matters.

JS:  You’ve written 2 complete novels and you’re working on 2 more and all have been picked up by your agent to sell, how do you handle having a deadline now?  Does that make it easier or harder?

SM:  I don’t really have a deadline yet. I’m just cruising along at my own speed. I like deadlines, though – I’m a world-class procrastinator, so deadlines actually help me get more work done.

JS:  Where did the inspiration for SHORT BUS HERO come from?

SM:  My sister-in-law. She is a rabid wrestling fan who would give the shirt off her back to anyone. I imagined what a fit she would have if her favorite wrestler got canned and what she might do to help him. She is such a sweet person and is so much fun – and she’s always seemed to me like she should be a character in a book. (She also happens to have Down syndrome.)


JS:  What do you hope your readers take away after they’re done reading?

SM:  The knowledge that people with Down syndrome are truly special. Even though they can be super stubborn!

JSTell me a little about SHORT BUS HERO.

SM:  SHORT BUS HERO is the story of a young woman with Down syndrome who hits it big in the lottery, and instead of using the money to fund a group home for herself and her similarly-abled friends, she insists on giving it to her favorite out-of-work pro wrestler.

I really wrote the story for my sister-in-law and for my mother-in-law. They are two of my biggest supporters.

JS:  That is truly spectacular. They must be very proud of how far you’ve come.  Thanks for sharing this with us and I hope to see you on the bestseller’s list soon.  Make sure to keep in touch, so I can pass along the information about where to purchase your books from.  

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I don’t know if a lot of you have seen my posts lately, but I’m finally out on submission.  I say finally like it hasn’t been a blink of an eye since I found my wonderful agent.  But I want to clear up a few misconceptions I’ve been noticing lately.  First, my agent isn’t my agent because I paid her.  In fact I will never pay her.  She will pay me—in a matter of speaking. 
The way an agent works is she looks through her (used loosely.  There are wonderful male agents as well) slush pile (the stack of unsolicited manuscripts, partials or query letters they receive) to find something that interests her.  Usually it’s with a query letter so we’ll start there.  She reads the query letter and decides she likes it enough to read more. 
Now with my agent she had the first 50 pages and my synopsis, so she was able to keep going.  From the query she read my first 50, determined she liked it, and then read my synopsis.  Since she liked that as well, she asked for the rest.  After reading the rest, she offered me representation. 
When I accepted, she sent me her notes.  I edited my MS based on those notes and sent it back.  Then she read it through again, sent me her notes, and I edited it again and sent it back.  This process can keep going for awhile folks, but in my case it’s stopped here and we moved onto submission.  Now it’s in her hands and I feel a little awkward. 
Why?   Because it’s a little like the querying process to find an agent, but it’s in someone else’s hands now.  She’s doing all the work.  Researching where and who to submit to, when to nudge, perfecting the pitch letter, etc.  I’m perfectly confident she’s going to find me the perfect match for my MS, but it’s hard relinquishing control like that. But that’s why you want your agent to understand you, your MS, and love your MS as much as you do. 
So you may have noticed I have not once mentioned money exchanging hands.  And that’s because it hasn’t.  I have not paid her a single penny.  She is essentially working for me for free. 
How does she get paid, you may ask?  Well, she gets paid when I do.  When a publisher makes an offer it’s usually offering an advance and then a royalty off the cover price of the book.  Since my agent will make 15% of everything I make, including the advance, it’s in her best interest to get the best deal. 
The publisher will send her a check with my advance; she takes her 15% and then gives the rest to me.  It will be the same with royalties.  So as you see, I never pay her anything. 
As you might have guessed that is why agents are so picky.  They are essentially working for free until your MS sells.  If it doesn’t sell, then they don’t make money.  So they need to find MSs they fall in love with so they can champion it properly. 
So, how can you make sure yours gets picked up?  Write a good book, get feedback on said book and edit appropriately.  Research agents thoroughly and query widely. Be patient.  In the meantime, write a new and better book and start the whole process over again.  Eventually you will get picked up. 
I hope this shed some light on agents and how they work.  So how about you?  What’s your experiences been like?  I’d love to hear from you.
Tomorrow, contests.  What they’re about and how they can help you in your career.
~JA

If you’re an agent, editor, or author and would like to do an interview or guest blog with me please contact me at j.souders (at) jasouders (dot) com

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Well we’ve had a slight change of plans.  Today I’ll be interviewing Lynn Rush. 
BIO:  Lynn Rush began her writing career in 2008, since then producing thirteen paranormal romance novels.
She enjoys posting to her blog, Light of Truth (http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/), six days a week and actively participating in FaceBook and Twitter.
She is actively involved with Romance Writers of America (RWA) and its special interest chapter Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW.)
 Lynn has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in the mental health field and has enjoyed applying that unique knowledge to developing interesting characters. She is a member of two online critique groups, comprised of both published and unpublished authors, specifically focusing on fiction for the younger adult. In addition, she enjoys volunteering in her church bookstore.
When Lynn’s not writing, she spends time enjoying the Arizona sunshine by road biking with her husband of thirteen years and going on five-mile jogs with her loveable Shetland Sheep dogs. She always makes time to read a good speculative fiction novel, her favorites being Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, PC Cast, and Stephanie Meyer.
Lynn, thank you for joining us today.  First I’d like to congratulate you on not only winning the Write Your Name Across the Sky Author Contest for 2009, but also securing a publishing contract AND obtaining a wonderful agent!
JS:  When did you begin writing, and did you always envision being an author?
LR:  I didn’t really start writing until a few years ago. Way back, around 2002-ish I had a little idea and did a little jotting down (by hand) in a little notebook on lunch breaks. But I was totally just goofing around. I lost the notebook, never really gave it much thought after a while.
See—I’d never wanted to be a writer. Heck, I hated reading, how could I ever be a writer, right?
Yeah. Blame the not liking to read thing on graduate school…ugh, reading all those textbooks would kill anyone’s desire to read EVER again. Just kidding (well, sort of.)
No. It was back in summer of 2007 that I decided to get Light of Truth (first book ever) on the computer. Finished it November 2007 but had NO clue what to do next. So, I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) in May 2008 and got into my first crit group.
After that, the stories flowed, and I’ve written 13 novels since then.
JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
LR:  Meeting so many amazing people has to be the first one. The second would be, learning a new skill. I never took a writing class or anything before I started writing, so I learned as I went (as evidenced by the first couple books, which will probably never leave the shelf…LOL.) There are a bunch more rewarding aspects, but the last one I’ll mention is how much fun I have losing myself in the worlds and characters I create. It’s so much fun to laugh and cry with them and torture them with crazy obstacles to overcome!
JS:  The most challenging?
LR:  Hmmm, not really sure. I don’t see much of anything that’s challenging, probably because I never really expected it to go anywhere. I guess the waiting can get tough sometimes. There are often long waits associated with agents, editors, and even contest results.
Oh—wait—I thought of one. . . A challenge is the cost of it all. Money-wise, it’s expensive to go to conferences and buy learning-the-craft books. It can get costly. So I’d say that was a challenge. 
JS:  Tell me a little about Violet Midnight.
LR:  It’s the fourth book I ever wrote and one of my favorite characters. I even had Emma host my blog for a week recently. She’s just so fun. Tough, yet broken. Oh, but can she kick some demon butt!!
The easiest way for me to describe the book is to share the back cover blurb with you. Is that okay?
The blurb:
Three years ago, Emma Martin awoke in a hospital, forever changed. Her brown eyes turned violet, and she had a mysterious tattoo on the inside of her wrist. With the help of Gabriel, a mentor turned love interest, she discovered she was a hunter of the undead. After he’s brutally killed by the very evil he trained her to vanquish, she rejects her calling and seeks out a new life.
Emma pursues a normal existence by attending college. Hiding her unique powers proves difficult because the mystical tattoo on her wrist burns when evil is near, and the heat does not dissipate until the evil is vanquished.
When Jacob Cunningham witnesses Emma using her powers and isn’t afraid, the walls she’s erected around her come crashing down. Her draw to him is intense, but she’s not sure she can trust him with her secrets or her heart.
JS:  Can you tell us a little more about how you conceived the story of Violet Midnight?
LR:  Much like how I came up with all my novels, I woke up one day with an idea. Maybe it was a dream that I didn’t remember having, but I just woke up one day and started writing. It’s been that way with almost all my novels.
The writing starts with what’s called a mind map. It’s just like an organized form of free thought. In the center of the page I had “Emma Martin” in a circle, then started drawing lines out from it with ideas, obstacles, etc.
As I wrote, the rest just kinda fell into place.  J
JS:  When you write, do you always know where you are going, or do your characters lead you in their own directions?
I RARELY know where I’m going with a story. My characters pretty much drive my stories.
LR:  What advice do you give to budding writers?
Write on. Yep—I often put that down when I comment on blogs or Facebook status’ because it’s true. Just write on. Keep going. When you’re waiting for a response from an editor/agent/whoever-write. When you’re waiting in the doctor’s office-write. When you’re waiting—okay, you get the idea. Any free moment you find-write. J
JS:   What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
LR:  Ahhh—I hate this question. J I see it asked all the time on blogs and such, and technically, it’s a really great question. But for me…I really don’t have a favorite, because I didn’t grow up reading. I watched a ton of movies, though. Like all the sci-fi and paranormal-type movies. Probably where a bunch of my ideas started percolating, huh?
Heck, I read Frank Peretti’s book, “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing The Darkness” April of 2006 and that’s when I really started reading.
After Peretti, I fell in love with Ted Dekker’s books, and then found Charlaine Harris, PC Cast and Stephanie Meyer. So I really don’t have a long track record of reading, that’s for sure.
JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
LR:  I’m a creature of habit, that’s fore sure. Get up around 5-ish, do a quick Bible devotion, go running or biking, do some writing, go to the day job (write over my lunch break), then come home and cook dinner for me and my sweet hubby, then write the rest of the night.
I’m sooooo boring—ask anyone.
My weekends pretty much look the same, but instead of going to the day job, I write. J
JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
LR:  About 7-21 days, depending on the circumstances. When I was unemployed for four months, I wrote four novels. Each took about 7 or 8 days. But that’s writing full-time. When I’m working a day job, it takes about two to three weeks, depending on how full my weekends are.
Now remember, that first draft is a mega rough draft. The real fun starts during the edits.  J
JS:  How many have you written?
Fourteen
LR:  Can you tell us more about your journey?  (How did you find out about the contest?  How did you find your agent?  How long you’ve been writing, etc.)
I found out about the contest on the FF&P loop (Romance Writers Association’s Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal group). So, I checked it out, sent in my entry, and let me tell you NO ONE was more shocked than me to see Violet Midnight won!
Seriously.
I still can’t believe it sometimes and I’ve even seen the book cover for Violet Midnight!!
Within three days of learning about the contest win, I signed with Super-Agent Cari Foulk from Tribe Literary Agency. I found TribeLit by following them on Twitter. I loved what they and some of their authors tweeted about, so I queried her. My writer friend, Frank Redman, was represented by her as well. So it all came together through a query and a referral!!
JS:  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
LR:  Write on!
No, seriously, thanks for interviewing me. This was fun.
Thanks again for taking the time for this interview and good luck with your first book.  Make sure to keep us all informed so we know where and when to buy it!
If anyone is interested in doing an interview with me, please feel free to contact me at j.souders (@) jasouders (.) com.  


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Okay guys, I’ve been focusing so much on the legitimate side of publishing that I haven’t focused on the other side.  And part of this reason is because it’s heartbreaking to me.  But in the past few days I’ve had a ton of questions about publishing and how I found my agent, what the aspiring author should do, etc. and I felt it was time to talk about it.

The biggest thing in publishing is this, an author should NEVER (note the bold, italicized capitalized lettering) pay for anything to do with publishing.  How real publishing works is this:  You submit your manuscript to an agent/editor and then they decide whether to accept it or not. 
Now here’s where it gets a little bit tricky.  Let’s go down the path I went first.  The agent route.  Okay, so you’ve submitted to Ms. Dream Agent and she responds with a yes.  She sends you her agency agreement; you hash out a few logistics and then you both sign it.  Then she offers editing advice, you fix the manuscript and then she takes over and starts submitting to editors at different publishing houses. 
An editor comes back and makes an offer on your book and then (after many, many things) it gets published.  They send you your advance and royalty check to your agent, who takes her 15% and sends you the rest. 
Going to an editor first is the same as above, minus the agent.
Notice that the only time I mentioned money was when I talked about getting an advance and/or a royalty check.  That’s the only time money should EVER exchange hands.  Also note in which direction it’s going.  Money ALWAYS flows to the author. 
Here’s things you should know about money:
The publisher: 
1)  Buys your book.  That’s why they offer an advance.  (NOTE: Some of the smaller publishers do not offer an advance, but sometimes they offer better royalties.  That doesn’t make them bad.  Unless they want you to pay for something.)
2) They pay for everything that goes into your book (ie cover art, editing, marketing, etc.)
3) Will NOT ask you to buy your own books.  Most publishers will give you a few “author copies” (this can vary from 1—at small presses—to 50—at the big boys).
The agent:
1)   Does not get paid until you do.  That means that they won’t ask for a reading fee or any such garbage.  They collect their percentage (usually 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign) and that’s it.  This is the biggest reason that agents are so picky about what they pick up.  NOTE:  Sometimes they will ask for basic expenses( i.e. photocopying, postage, etc.  But this is usually very small—less than $250–since most things are done electronically these days and it’s usually taken out of your royalty and/or advance checks. 
2)   Work for you.  It’s better if it’s a partnership since you’re both after the same thing, but in essence they are offering a service to you.  Much the same as a plumber or electrician.
So now you’re asking me, what are the big red flags to help me avoid being taken advantage of?  Well, the biggest ones are to not pay a red cent.  If they want you to pay ANYTHING up front, run.  Run as far and as fast as you can. 
Second, do your research.  Go to Absolute Write’s Bewares and Background checks; do a search on anyone your planning on submitting to(yes I know I ended in a preposition  J).  Read what other’s have said and heed their advice.
 Even if an agent/editor is “new” they should have a publishing “footprint,” which means you should be able to find them somewhere.  They need to have experience somewhere.  For instance, a new agent should have either done an internship with an established agency and/or have been an editor for a publishing house. 
Editors should have a few years interning or working for a house, so they know how it works and what makes a great book work. 
Check out Writer’s Beware.  This is an awesome site that is dedicated to helping aspiring writers educate themselves on how to not be part of a scam.  They list all the bad publishers and agents/agencies. Don’t forget to check out their blog.
Go to Editors and Preditors– they also keep an extensive list of agents and publishers with recommendations or warnings.
 You can also contact either of these websites for more detailed info on a particular person, if you so wish. 
Now the reason I’m specifically posting this today is because of this “publisher.”  Publish America.  They say they are a “traditional” publisher, which in fact they are not.  They have scammed over 40,000 aspiring authors and the numbers keep climbing.  Please do NOT be one of them.  I will go more into another post on Wednesday about why to avoid this “publisher” specifically, but in the meantime, please check out Janet Reid’s blog on their latest “deal.”  And don’t forget to check out the other resources I listed so you can learn how to avoid being scammed.
Until next time…

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Here’s just a few tips I’ve used that have been beneficial to me.  It’s probably close to essential for me actually and I’d like to think that it’s probably close to that for all fiction writers out there.

  • Start With a Seed
  • Most, if not all, of my books are simply a product of asking the question, “What if…?”  That’s all it usually takes and then let your imagination run wild.  There are no constraints in fiction, except the ones you put on yourself, so start tiny and work big. 

  • Let the Story Tell Itself
  • Think of yourself as only the narrator of someone else’s life.  In the newage sense of the word, your “channeling” someone else’s reality and cataloging what happens.  It’s okay to plot, but don’t get so caught up in your outline that your not letting the characters be themselves.  

  • Use Realistic Characters and Dialogue
  • This is accomplished through many different approaches.  As a writer, you must learn to hone your powers of observation and watch people and how they interact.  Research can come in a variety of forms, from reading other authors to watching movies as well.  Keen observation skills and personal experience will help guide you through this aspect of fiction writing.

  • Write What You Know
  • This is a well-known mantra for fiction writers, yet many fail to adhere to this simple principle of fiction writing.  When you write about things you know and experiences you’ve had, the writing is easier to read and comes across as more authentic.  Another thing is to write in the genre you read.  Don’t start writing Sci-Fi if you’ve never and have no interest in seeing Star Trek(or any other Science Fiction staple).  

  • Become a “shut in”
  • When you’re ready to start, find a place away from distraction  If you are planning on writing a long work of fiction, you will essentially be “living in the story.”  Be prepared to shut yourself in as you work on bringing your tale to life.  Turn the phones off, as well as the Internet.  Let your significant others know you’ll be unavailable from this time to this time.  If you have kids, this will be a bit harder, but it can be done.

  • Keep Moving Forward
  • Don’t get caught up in the past; keep writing each day without taking time to go back and reread.  You’ll have time to fix everything later.  Even if you only spend 10 or 15 minutes everyday writing, it’ll keep you on the right track and stave off writer’s block.  

  • Put it Away When You’re Finished
  • When you’re finished, put it away.  Shove it in a drawer, ignore the file on your harddrive.  Whatever it takes to let it sit and settle for awhile.  I usually send mine to a critique partner and it can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 months to get your ms back, so you’ll have a decent length of time between the finish and the revisions.  In the meantime…

  • Start a New Project
  • Get started right away on a new WIP to increase the space between you and your previous work.  This will help you to come back with a new perspective and keep your productivity level high in the process.  Not to mention keeping your creative juices flowing.

  • Return to Your Finished Product
  • After some time has passed, pull out your manuscript and read the piece with a pair of fresh eyes.  Chances are you will find ways to improve upon and revise the story to make it flow more smoothly.  Sometimes it will unfortunately mean rewriting it.  As what happened to me with my first, FALLEN.  I went back with fresh eyes and realized how horrible it was.  Now I’ve rewritten it, given it a new title and it’s MUCH better than it was.  

  • Revise and Edit
  • Cuts will have to be made and the revision process can be time consuming, but will help out when you’re ready to share your work with at least 5 beta readers.  Make sure that you polish your work as much as possible before giving it out to others for their opinions.  Eliminating clutter and proofreading errors will help to get honest feedback without trivial details getting in the way.  Keep in mind though, that no matter how well you edit, there will always be something you miss and don’t let it fluster you.  No one is perfect.


    I hope these 10 tips helped and gave you a little insight on how I do my writing process.  How do you write?  Is there something you do that I didn’t mention?  Go ahead and post your answers in the comments section.



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                                  (Bio and photo courtesy of her publisher, Canonbridge.)

              





    Today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing a good friend of mine, fellow inkslinger and wonderful fantasy novelist, MJ Heiser.  
           BIO:  MJ Heiser was born in the Philippines to an American Navy Mormon and a Filipina Catholic.  She came to the United States as a baby, started reading at the age of three and began to write at the age of 12.  Educated in San Antonio, Texas, MJ is an avid student of religion, politics, anthropology and technological gadgetry.  She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their menagerie of pets and electronic devices.  Apart from writing, she spends her time walking, plotting, being silly, eating sushi and trying to not trip over something.  Her first book in the Chronicles of Jaenrye series is Corona, published first in eReader format in February 2010 by Canonbridge LLC.
    JSFirst of all, thank you for joining me today.  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
    MH:  The most rewarding thing for me is the realization that I could be good at something, even if I was born with an atrocious singing voice.  That’s a traumatic thing to realize as a little kid born into a family of musicians.  
    JS:  The most challenging?
    MH:  I have a fragile ego, so being told my work isn’t good enough for anyone is brutal.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned to take it as much-needed guidance and a refreshing breath of honesty; after all, your friends are conditioned to tell you what you want to hear, right?
    JS:  What would you say are the most important qualities one needs to possess in order to make a living as a writer?
    MH:  Stubbornness, and the ability to hear the small voice of your story calling to you .
    JS:  Why do you write?
    MH:  Because it makes me feel good . . .it puts me in touch with something that I imagine is outside of myself, a river of creative thought and urge that runs through each of us.  Every now and then I dip my ladle into that stream and pull out a sip of Wonder.
    JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
    MH:  Long.  Frustrating.  I have a full-time job as a claims examiner, then I come home to run a house full of dogs and cats.  –No, they’re not charity cases, but I’m childless, and they’re my little Surrogates.  All I want to do is plot my stories and write them, but real life has a habit of delaying gratification.
    JS:  Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?
    MH:  Unlike most writers, I don’t really hate writer’s block.  I think there are times it comes up for practical reasons — like, maybe you need a reminder of how much you love to write, and only by depriving you of the ability can you fully appreciate it.  Sometimes also it’s used to divert you from a bad story idea, or a good story idea executed badly.  Most of the time, writer’s block is specific to one story, and can be overcome by stepping away from that story for a bit and working on an intriguing new one.  When you finally return to the blocked story, you can probably see why you got blocked in the first place.  😉
    JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
    MH:  Oh, there are no generalities when it comes to what I write.  My first (and worst) novel took 10 years.  (See what I mean about listening to the writer’s block?)  CORONA took 5.5 weeks for the first draft.  CANTICLE, the prequel, is almost a year in progress.  Seriously, it’s just all over the place.
    JS:  What’s your favorite quotation?
    MH:  Sadly, it’s from an anonymous source:  “Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music.”  A lot of people attribute it to George Carlin, but sadly, it’s not his.
    JS:  What are you working on now?
    MH:  CANTICLE, the 2nd (or 1st, depending on how you look at it) in the Chronicles of Jaenrye (pronounced “JANE-RYE”).  Sheesh, she’s a true labor of love.  CORONA was a blast to write, but CANTICLE is, I think, maybe just that much outside my skill set.  I’m learning as I go. 
    JS:   What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions aspiring novelists have of the writer’s life?
    MH:  That it has to be lonely.  I know I thought all writers were forced to write alone and figure it out alone, but in this day and age, with Twitter and Facebook and WEbook, there is simply no need to be alone anymore.  Besides, writers are my favorite kind of people; they’re just like me!  🙂
    JS:  What advice would you impart to these aspiring novelists?
    MH:  Don’t suffer; there’s no need.  Don’t hide your babies; that’s not the point of writing.  Get out there, make your work available to review, and push, push, push.  This dream doesn’t come true on its own. 
    JS:  Where did the inspiration for CORONA come from?
    MH:  Some of the aspects of CORONA (the Travellers, for instance) have been in my head since I was a kid.  The story itself started with Father Rey, who was inspired by Father Oliver O’Grady, a pedophile priest who was shuffled by the church from one small California town to another when his abuses were discovered.  I sucked this guy into Jaenrye to find a way to make him pay for what he did.  Then, since I was controlling the story anyway, I made the control a little more…transparent. 
    JS:  What do you hope your readers take away after they’re done reading?
    MH:  Never, EVER give up on your opportunity to make it right with yourself.  If you ever feel a tinge of regret or failure, address it head on; become the hero you promised yourself you’d be when you grew up.  It’s never too late.
    JS:  Tell me a little about CORONA.
    MH:  CORONA is my one breathless moment, the story that made me laugh and cry as I wrote it, the one I made my truest writer’s promise to.  I promised I would not abandon it and let it be forgotten.  That story truly took my breath away, and she deserved my full attention.
    JS:  Thanks for doing this interview with me MJ, it’s been a real pleasure having known you and reading CORONA.  I can’t wait for its sequel(prequel) to be released.  Now I have just one last question. If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?
    MH:  From what I can tell — yes.  🙂
             Thanks again for joining me folks for my very first author interview!  Next week I’ll be interviewing S.S. Michaels AKA @slushpilehero for all you twitter followers.  
            
             If you are interested in doing an interview with me, please email me at J.Souders (@) jasouders (.) com.  

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