"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Genre Surfing Acceptable?

Genre Surfing – Reading and/or writing in a variety of genres.
If you are like me you read in a variety of genres, perhaps even write in a variety of genres, but is it smart to publish in a wide range as well?
There is a difference of opinions on this topic. First, you have to assume you can even be published in all of those genres for the arguments to become a consideration. Some agents and publisher will tell you it is a strict “no-no” and to stick with one genre to build a fan base, otherwise you’ll lose them. Others will tell you the best way to build that fan base is with variety.
Recent questions I’ve been asked about genre surfing:

1) If the first manuscript you sell is a certain genre, can you then switch to another? Or, is that like being a debut author all over again?

2) How does your agent feel? Does he/she specialize in a particular genre? If so, is it acceptable to have more than one agent?

3) Would your agent/publisher prefer you stick to one genre or "what works?"

4) If you write in different genres, do you use different pen names/pseudonyms?

These questions are all vital so I open the floor for discussion.

Do you write in a variety of genres? If so, what have your experiences been? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Title Tricks

Some writers can’t seem to create a title until their story is complete. Others often start stories based on a title. Below is an exercise I recommend to help spark the imagination.

Supplies Needed:
1) A variety of magazines (preferably different magazines or journals as opposed to multiple issues of the same one.)
2) A notebook and pen or computer.
3) Some quiet time.

Start by opening one magazine to the table of contents and scan down the titles. Do NOT look at the stories, just the titles. You are looking for a title that can easily be divided in half or a title with two clauses. Take half of one title and write it in a column in your notebook. It can be either the first half or the second half of the title. (Remember, titles are not under copyright protection, so you are doing nothing wrong here.)

Once you have an entire column of phrases, find a different magazine and start a second column with more half titles.  When you have your second list done, scan both columns. Take half of a title from one list and combine it with half a title from the other list. Then write the story.

For example, in Ladies’ Home Journal, I found the title “Science of a Streamlined Marriage”. I wrote down “The Science of”. Then in an issue of Parents, I found the title “How to Raise A Happy Child” and I wrote down “Happy Child”.  When I finished my lists, I chose these two to combine to make “The Science of a Happy Child.”  Then I wrote the article.

This exercise works no matter what genre you are writing. After you choose a title, be sure to keep your lists for future practice.

A similar exercise is to randomly select words from the dictionary, a magazine or other book. Then rearrange them to make a unique title. Happy Writing!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Author Interview: Heather McCorkle

Heather McCorkle is a young adult fantasy author. Helping other writers and supporting fabulous authors is one of her passions. When she's not writing or surfing her social networking sites, she can be found on the slopes, hiking trails, or on horseback. As a native Oregonian, she enjoys the outdoors almost as much as the worlds she creates on the pages.
No need to travel to the Great Northwest though, you can find her on her blog four days a week: http://heathermccorkle.blogspot.com/, on her critique partners blog: http://critiquesisterscorner.blogspot.com/ on Wednesdays, and Monday night's on Twitter where she co-moderates the #WritersRoad chat with her good friend TS Tate.
Here is a blurb about her new release The Secret of Spruce Knoll:
Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with “channelers”—a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.
Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they—and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charm convinces her that being a Channeler may not be all bad.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? When I was a kid I didn't like how a lot of stories ended and I thought there weren't enough stories with strong girl main characters in them. I figured the best way to solve that was to write my own. 
2) I see you are working on another MS? I'm working on another Channeler novel, the sequel to The Secret of Spruce Knoll which debuted last month. It doesn't have a title yet but it picks up where Spruce Knoll left off. The idea for the series hit me when I was reading an article about species extinction and the disappearing rain forests. 
3) What music, places, and people inspire you? I love to listen to music when I write. What kind depends on my characters and the story. While writing the Channeler series I listened to a lot of Avril Lavigne and Allison Iraheta. I love to travel so just about any place inspires me.
4) Are you part of a critique group or writer's guild? Absolutely! I think critique groups are integral to an author's success. My group can be found at http://critiquesisterscorner.blogspot.com/
5) Have you ever attended a writer's conference? Several actually. Conferences are a great way to keep up with what's going on in the industry and to meet new people and learn. 
6) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I used to be a pantster, just start writing, but after an instructor forced me to write an outline on a novel I had already written I realized how outlining exposes holes in the story. Now I always outline first, though it's a loose, organic outline that I allow myself to deviate from. It saves me a ton of time in the editing process. 
7) What is your writing process like? When I'm working on a novel I write five days a week, around 1,000 words a day. I'll write whenever and wherever I can, carrying a notebook and pencil with me to make it easier. 
8) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? The bus flew like a rollercoaster through the wooded landscape, flinging Eren toward a new, unwanted life. All too soon it pulled into the bus station of a tiny town on the outskirts of nowhere Colorado. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she and an aunt she’d never met were going to have to drive another hundred miles into nowhere to find the town of Spruce Knoll.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest Post, Interview and Book Review Guidelines

In order to avoid misunderstandings, I have created the following guidelines for guest posts, interviews and book reviews appearing on this blog. If you are interested in one or more of these, please review carefully before contacting me.

Guest Post Guidelines
1) The topics must be related to reading, writing, or publishing.
2) Your post must be original and must not have been published before on the web.
3) Create your own title.
4) You agree not to publish the post anywhere else for three months after it is published on this blog.
5) Please include a brief bio so readers can get to know you better (a picture of yourself is optional). You may include links to your blog/website/ Twitter/Facebook etc. 
6) Please send in an accompanying image that is relevant to the post.
7) Be available to interact with readers who comment on your post.

Book Review Guidelines
1) Please contact me to introduce yourself and your book or anthology before you send them.
2) I prefer print versions (autographed by the author is wonderful!) but will accept electronic formats as well.
3) I do not guarantee a read by or reviewed by date unless I’m contacted at least a month in advance of the requested date.
4) I do not guarantee a review will appear on this blog. However, I will at least offer a rating, comment or review on Amazon and Goodreads. If you want a review posted elsewhere such as Barnes and Nobles, please let me know when you contact me.

1) Please contact me to introduce yourself.
2) Please include a brief bio, and a picture of yourself.
3) You may include a picture of your book and links to your blog/website/Twitter/Facebook etc.
4) I will send you a list of questions to answer. You may answer as many or as few of them as you desire. You may also suggest your own questions/answers as fits your needs.
5) Be available to interact with readers who comment on your interview.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Love Your Villain

Heroines With Hearts is hosting me today. They just published my post "Loving Your Villain".  A special thank you to Paula Martin for sponsoring me on this special blog. If you have a chance, please swing by and take a look.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And the Winners are...

A special thank you to Jody Hedlund and Dorothy Love for giving away a copy of their amazing books.

The winners are...

1. Sheri - The Doctor's Lady
2. Abby - Beyond All Measure

Congratulations to the winners! The authors are looking forward to sending you your book. Please visit their website to contact them about your free copy.

Until next time....Happy Writing!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dorothy Love: Author Interview and Book Giveaway

Dorothy Love is the author of the Hickory Ridge series, historical novels set in the beautiful Smoky Mountains region of her native Tennessee. When she isn’t busy writing or researching her next book, Dorothy enjoys hiking and hanging out with her husband Ron and their two golden retrievers, Major and Jake. She now lives in San Antonio, Texas.
For more information or a chance to win a copy of her newest release, please read the interview below.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? My dad loved books and reading, and used to read aloud to me before I could read for myself. At Christmas I always got books as gifts. He made sure I always had pencils and paper around. I don't remember a time when I wasn't fooling with words.
2) Tell me a little about your blog. I blog from my website, www.DorothyLoveBooks.com usually on Wednesdays, and my focus is on fun and interesting historical tidbits I uncover as I am researching and writing my novels. Sometimes I post photos from a research trip or write a short profile of someone from history.
The second blog page on my site is called “Writers Caffeine”. On Saturdays I post information, writing advice, reviews of books on craft--anything that I think might be helpful to aspiring writers.
3) I see you are working on a MS - please tell me a little about it. Right now I am writing the third novel in the Hickory Ridge series to follow BEYOND ALL MEASURE which is out now and BEAUTY FOR ASHES due out next February.  The third novel is called EVERY PERFECT GIFT and it will wrap up this series.  I just received the final cover for BEAUTY FOR ASHES and I love it. It's posted on my website under the "Books" tab.
4) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc? Before I came to Thomas Nelson to write historical novels for adult readers, I published 14 novels for preteens and young adults at Random House and Simon and Schuster. Some of those novels were also historicals, my first love. So now I am writing only Southern historicals. I love it!
5) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? I've been publishing books for almost 20 years, so I guess it's my career now. Before I took up writing full time, I was a school administrator and a college professor. But I've been away from that field too many years, and in truth, I love writing more than anything else I've ever done. The quote on my Writers Caffeine page says "when the itch of literature comes over one, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen." I've been scratching away for a long time and I'm still not cured!
6) What authors do you admire? So many. I'll start with Southern writers--Eudora Welty, Reynolds Price, Carson McCullars, and the playwright, Horton Foote. I've read and admired Pat Conroy's work since I first read The Water is Wide. The Prince of Tides is one of his best, and my favorite. I've long been a fan of Gail Godwin's books. Father Melancholy's Daughter is one of my favorites. Among the authors currently writing Christian fiction, I love Tamera Alexander, Deb Raney, Margaret Brownley and Jodi Hedlund.
7) What music, places, people inspire you? I love the beach. It's where I go to reenergize, to focus on the spiritual, and to clear my head. I'm lucky to live a two hour drive from the Gulf coast, though I confess a weakness for Kiawah Island, South Carolina. People who inspire me: My husband who keeps cheering me on when I am so tired I can't breathe. My publisher, Allen Arnold who is one of the most fully realized and authentic human beings I have ever met. I cannot say enough about his integrity and his talent. My best friend of twenty years, Le Ellis, and is a fine writer herself. My amazing Mom who is 80, still lives alone, and cooks up a storm. I am surrounded by wonderful, caring people who lift me up every day. Such a blessing.
8) What do you do when you have writer's block? EVERY PERFECT GIFT will be my 17th or 18th book, and I've never had writers block. I'm not really sure what that is. Writers sometimes begin a project without a clear idea of where the story is going, and they get bogged down and can't figure out how to proceed. Or they lost interest in a project and abandon it. I make a fairly detailed outline of my major scenes before I begin a book and that helps me stay on track. I have often felt too tired to write, too emotionally drained to write, too grief-stricken to write, but I think that's a different thing than the writer's block people talk about.
9) How long did it take you to write your current MS? My contract at Thomas Nelson calls for submitting a complete, 85,000 word manuscript every 9 months. It usually takes me till the final few days to get the ms in shape.
10) Are you part of a critique group or writer's guild? No, I'm one of those loners who has never had a crit group. When I first began writing full time, we lived in a tiny Midwestern community where there were no other writers. The nearest groups were a two hour drive away, in Omaha or Sioux Falls. So I got into the habit of working by myself. I sometimes brainstorm a book with my best friend or call her up when I am stuck on a scene, but otherwise, it's just me, the computer, and my two golden retrievers.
11) Have you ever attended a writer's conference? Dozens of them. Since I have an academic background, I often teach at conferences. In a couple of weeks I'm headed to St. Louis for a three day conference. I taught there last year but this year I'm going as a student, taking classes, meeting with my agent and hanging out with my friends, my publisher, and editors. I'm looking forward to it.
12) What is your writing process like? Certain hours that you find more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or a number of pages you make yourself write everyday etc? I handle e mail and other tasks first thing in the morning and then try to write at least 2,000 words a day. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but the 2000 range is where I am most comfortable.
13) Do you have an editor or agent? Yes, Natalie Hanemann is my editor at Thomas Nelson, and I work with two agents ---one on the east coast who is handling my older titles, and one on the west coast who handles my Thomas Nelson contracts.
14) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? I'll do better than that. Log onto www.facebook.com/dorothylovebooks click on the little green icon that says Beyond All Measure just beneath my author photo, and you can read the entire first chapter.

Dorothy has agreed to give away a signed copy of her book. To enter, you must:
1.  Have a US address.
2.  Be a follower of this blog.
3.  Leave a comment below.
4.  Check back on September 7, 2011 to see if you’ve won.
Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

5 Ways to Make Our Stories Different & Unique

Today’s guest post is by Jody Hedlund. To learn more about Jody or to win a copy of her new release, please read the previous post. In addition, she is having a contest on her website. It's called “Be a Trailblazer Contest” and has a prize package worth $300. http://jodyhedlund.com/contest/

My family likes to stroll along the beach of Lake Huron which is just a short drive from where we live.
The first time we went, we spotted thousands of tiny shells in the sand. As we gathered them, we were amazed by their exquisite complexity. Home to snails, the narrow shells spiral to a pinpoint tip and are not more than half an inch long. Hues of brown swirl together forming intricate patterns.
What struck me most about these delicate shells is that we never found two that were completely identical. While they were all shaped the same, each was unique in some way.
Writer's stories are like those shells. Whether we're writing fiction or non-fiction, the basic structure remains the same. We need hooks, engaging dialogue, characters who struggle and overcome adversity, and much more. The craft elements of story telling are the same for all of us. We must study and learn them.
But the stories themselves? Our stories must swirl together in complex patterns that are like none other. The passions that color them, the experiences that make them shine, the life we breathe into them—all come together in a way that makes our story different than any other ever written.
And yet one of the writer's greatest struggles is discovering a story that is completely unique to ourselves. With so many other shells on the shore—stories already written, how can we possibly make ours different?
Here are several ways I work at making my stories different:
1. Keep an ideas file. I have special place for jotting down big ideas for future books as they come to me. And I also have a folder for tossing in scraps of ideas that I could incorporate into books. I keep an eye open for the unique, always asking myself, “Has this already been done?”
2. Have a plot notebook. Before I start the first draft, I narrow down the big idea for the story (from my ideas file above). Then I spend several weeks just brainstorming plot ideas for that story. I read time-period books, biographies, etc. During the reading, I make long lists of any and every idea that I could possibly use. I don’t toss anything out at this point.
3. Go beyond the ordinary. After I have notebook pages full of ideas, I go back through them and work on narrowing down the ideas that could work for my story. I try to find interesting and unique things that I haven’t seen in other books.
4. Shape unique main characters. During the process of brainstorming plot ideas, I also think long and hard about my main characters. I keep a running list of possibilities and slowly begin to shape the hero and heroine. Once I have sorted through all of the options, I start to fill out my character worksheets (for free on my blog!). And again, I’m always looking for ways to make them unique.
5. Look for interesting ways to increase the conflict & tension. Finally, after going through the above steps, I’m ready to look for ways to vamp up the conflict and tension, both in the external plot as well as the internal. For my current WIP, I called my critique partner and bounced ideas off her. Other times, I get input from my editors.
I love this quote by James Scott Bell in his book Plot & Structure: “You need to come up with hundreds of ideas, then choose the best ones to develop. . . By going deep within your own heart and soul, you will find a wellspring of ideas to write about.”
Each of us has a unique story to tell. Have you struggled, really struggled, to push beyond the ordinary? Is your story swirling with the complexity of your ideas? Or are your stories too much like everyone else's? What are some ways you've dug deep inside and found your unique ideas?

©Jody Hedlund, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jody Hedlund: Author Interview and Book Giveaway

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. You can find her on Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund and on Twitter @JodyHedlund.

Her second book, The Doctor’s Lady releases today, and she has agreed to give away a copy of her new book to one of my readers. (Rules are stated after the interview.)

1. Please give us a brief summary of the book:

Priscilla White bears the painful knowledge that she’ll never be able to be a mother. Having felt God’s call to missionary work, she determines to remain single, put her pain behind her, and
answer God’s call.

Dr. Eli Ernest wants to start a medical clinic and mission in unsettled Oregon Country. He’s not interested in taking a wife because of the dangers of life in the west and the fact that no white woman has ever attempted the overland crossing.

Priscilla and Eli receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

They agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

You can find the book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n-UrDeevrE

2. What was the inspiration behind The Doctor’s Lady?

This book is inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836, she married Dr. Whitman, and then the next day left her childhood home for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and at times even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an “unheard-of-journey for females.” Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many women who would follow in her footsteps in what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.

3. What percentage of The Doctor’s Lady is true? And how much did you add?

As with any story of historical fiction, the large majority of what I’ve written was truly from the depths of my imagination, all of my creative meanderings of “what could have happened.”

However, in my research of the Whitmans, I drew from numerous biographies. While I wasn’t able to stick to every historical detail in complete accuracy, most of the story outline is taken
directly from Narcissa’s diary.

I tried to follow the trail they took west as closely as possible. While I was unable to include every stop and incident of their travel for the sake of brevity, I did try to capture the essence of their journey. I included their travel first by sleigh, then steamboat, and lastly by wagon and horse.

Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book where I explain in more detail which specific incidents came from the pages of her diary and what I made up for the sake of
the story.

4. What message do you hope readers take away?

I hope readers are inspired to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of their dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we’ll have to take risks and we’ll
experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

For a chance to win a copy:
1. You must be a follower of my blog and Jody’s http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/
2. Leave a comment with this post by September 5, 2011.
3. Each mention of this post or Jody’s blog on Twitter, facebook, your own blog/website will earn you an additional entry. Again, this must be done by September 5, 2011. Just leave me a link in the comments below.
4. A winner will be announced here by September 7, 2011.

Best of luck and please visit again on Saturday when Jody will be sharing more news and information!