Generosity Will Help You Build Your Book Business

Tara Majuta, author of The Fascinating Files of Claudia Broadstad

Tara Majuta

Tara Majuta used her business degree at a financial management firm until she realized it was sucking the creativity right out of her. So she decided to be a novelist instead. To fund that endeavor, she learned about novel writing and publishing, created a curriculum about what she’d learned and opened a consulting business. That all happened in the span of a couple of years.

She’s a bit of a powerhouse!

“I’m looking to empower people who are either interested in writing a book, have written a book or want to get help with building a book business,” she said.

She independently published her debut novel, The Fascinating Files of Claudia Broadstad, through Abbot Press in 2013, one year after quitting her full-time job.

The Fascinating Files of Claudia Broadstad by Tara Majuta“Claudia is 23 and running around the world trying to solve cases in order to put together the clues about her father’s disappearance. Her best friends are along for the ride, creating a comedic mix of characters,” Tara said. “This is the first book in a series of eight. In each book, Claudia and friends solve different cases in their quest to find Claudia’s father. Each case comes up as she’s looking for different clues.”

Advice to Aspiring Authors

  • Don’t be selfish. Tara says that when you interact with other authors and readers, make it about them, not selling your book.
  • Build your community. Tara agrees with Judith Starkston‘s admonition to start building your community two years before publication. “It’s to let people know what you’re up to. They’re going to love you if you’re constantly communicating ideas and telling about your characters. They’ll wait for your book to come out.”
  • Get to know your readers. “Especially if you’re writing a series, you can ask your readers what they’d like to see you put in the next book. Readers can pour into your project without you even realizing it.”
  • When self-publishing, carefully consider your options. “Vanity presses sell packages that contain a lot of things you don’t need,” Tara said. You can end up paying several thousand dollars with promises of being in a catalog, not realizing that you’re there with hundreds of other authors. “The cost of creating a book should be a small margin. It will take a lot of effort to get your money back. You need to understand the publishing and distribution processes before you go that direction.”
  • Get professionally edited. New authors make mistakes, and professional editors can help you navigate around the hurdles that keep your manuscript from getting a second glance by an agent or publisher. “Even if you self publish, you need an editor,” Tara said.

Finding Joy in Life

Tara finds joy in writing, calling it her purpose. Empowering people is her passion. “Whether it’s on an author level, or empowering young or old people, I love to make people laugh.” She’s also working to save the whales, and to go whale watching in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I want to go to the places where my characters go.”

You can connect with Tara on her website.

Posted in Bookshelf, Craft of Writing, Getting Published | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Generosity Will Help You Build Your Book Business

How to Know When Your Novel is “Ready”

Kim Rendfield, author of Ashes of Heaven's Pillar and Cross and the Dragon

Kim Rendfield

Kim Rendfeld worked as a journalist in Indiana for 17 years before her husband took a job on the opposite side of the state. Now she she’s a copy editor for an Indiana university.

While on a family vacation in Germany when she was still in the newspaper business, she heard the legend of Roland. He was said to be a military figure under Charlemagne.

“The story grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go until I started writing about it,” Kim said. “I didn’t know much about the middle ages then, so it took me a while.”

After nine years, Fireship Press published Kim’s first novel, The Cross and the Dragon. She calls her second book a companion to The Cross and the Dragon. Published in August 2014, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar features the same historical times and some of the same characters, but a different protagonist. It’s about a medieval mother who goes to great lengths to protect her kids when they are taken into slavery during the first Saxony War.

Ashes of Heaven's Pillar at Kim Rendfield“My publishing journey is a long one,” Kim said. “I thought I was done with my first book in 2003, then started collecting rejection letters. I was fortunate that several contained useful comments on how I could improve.”

After several revisions, she secured an agent in 2007, but the agent was unable to sell the book. “I knew I had to do something different and entered Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011.” She reached the quarter-finals and also received a positive review from Publisher’s Weekly. “That boosted my confidence and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep trying.” She decided to go the small press route, and found Fireship Press.

Kim’s Advice For Aspiring Authors

“The first thing to remember is that you need a good product,” she said, suggesting that a good critique group is vital in helping a first-time author know when you’ve said what you intended to say. “My early drafts sounded more like newspaper articles than fiction. My critique group honestly and constructively told me where it was failing and where I was getting too wound up in backstory.”

She cautions that you need to be in a group with writers who are as serious as you are. “Make sure they’re commenting on what you’re trying to do, not what you didn’t intend. Whether or not you take the advice is a judgment call on your part. If more than one person is having trouble wit something, it’s worth paying attention to.”

But what if you can’t find a critique group? If you have the resources, you can also hire editors. Be careful, though. Connect with other writers, get recommendations, and watch your budget. “If you have editing skills, you may be able to trade with another good editor.”

She also said that in publishing today, it’s a mix of artistry and business.  Your book must be marketable if you expect an agent or publisher to pick it up. That means you need to understand the publishing industry and keep up with what’s selling. Membership in Publisher’s Marketplace is a good way to keep up with the deals being made and what agents are making those deals.

“You never really know if your novel is ready for publication until you start getting rejection letters,” Kim said. And while you’re getting them, keep writing. She also takes advantage of promotional opportunities by submitting guest posts, blogging and being on social media.

How Kim Finds Joy

Getting a novel written, perfected and published can be a long and discouraging process. It’s important to not lose yourself while you’re doing it. Kim finds joy in everyday life through her family, writing, gardening and volunteering at the local library. You can connect with Kim on Facebook, her blog, Goodreads, and by follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

Posted in Bookshelf, Getting Published | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on How to Know When Your Novel is “Ready”

Novel Marketing Begins Two Years Before Publication

Judith Starkston, author, Hand of FireWe’ve been following the publishing adventures of Judith Starkston since October 2013, when she signed with Fireship Press to publish her debut novel. Hand of Fire is now in bookstores and has been met with solid reviews. Here’s an example:

“But what makes the difference between a good historical novel and a brilliant one? I suggest you read Judith Starkston’s Hand of Fire and you’ll discover the answer.” – Helen Hollick, editor of Historical Novels Review, author of Forever Queen.

She also packed the house at her launch at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Judith says that results like that don’t happen because of what you do after your book is published. It’s the result of what you start doing two years before publication. And it’s hard work.

Judith’s Advice for a Successful Book Launch

perf6.000x9.000.inddAt least two years out, begin building community (also called platform).

The first step in building your community is to understand who is your community and interact with them in a positive, helpful, professional way. Hand of Fire is historical fiction with some romance as an important element. It isn’t a romance novel and doesn’t fit the traditional romance arc. Romance readers probably will enjoy her book, but that isn’t her community.

“I was writing about Troy, so I uploaded content about archeology from an historical basis. It turns out that there are people out there who give a darn about that. They are my community.”

Judith started building her community by getting a website and blog built, getting on social media and regularly interacting with people who are interested in historical novels. She connected with bloggers, reviewers and authors who featured authors like her on their websites, and she interacted with them both online and in person. She hosts a chapter of the Historical Novel Society in her home, and she served on the Board of Directors for the Desert Sleuths chapter of Sisters in Crime. She attended conferences and workshops, submitted positive comments to the blog posts of the bloggers and authors in her community and became a reviewer of historical novels.

“Write solid content about the things related to your writing, and your community will build,” Judith said about what to post on both (1) your website, blog and social media as well as in (2) your comments on the blogs and social media of those in your community. Here are some websites that you might find helpful.

  • Writer Unboxed is an excellent site to connect with and learn from other writers.
  • Poets and Writers offers tools to help you find others like you, including a list of conferences and residencies where you can get face time with writers, bloggers, reviewers and other people like you.
  • WANA International, founded by Kristin Lamb, empowers writers in the digital age with online classes and tribes. Judith recommends that you use them and others like them to learn to be the techie you were never born to be.

Start work on getting reviews four to six months before your book’s publication date.

Judith says to never pay for a review. And once you get them, not all will be positive. She spent a week working 10 hours a day sending out her requests for reviews – within the community she had built. She suggested working toward reviews from three types of people.

  • Authors, bloggers and reviewers in the community you’ve built
  • The “big places” that typically only review books from the major publishers
  • The group Judith has named “Great Aunt Bessie.” These are your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers and are the ones to ask to review your book on Amazon.

Judith cautions that you should never respond to negative reviews, never delete a negative review from your Amazon account and never leave snarky comments anywhere online.  “Promote others,” she said. Some day, they may help promote you.

Hire the people you need to help you look like a professional.

Judith says you can hire people to help you promote your novel through online books tours, getting your book into the hands of book clubs, publicity and speaking engagements. She enjoyed working with AuthorBuzz for her online promotion. You’ll need a professional author photo, press release, advance praise, back cover blurb, cover art and an emailing service (Judith uses Mail Chimp).

Have no fear.

It’s hard work to launch a book. “It used to be possible to be reclusive and a writer,” Judith said. “Not anymore.” You have to get comfortable talking to people, but you also need to play to your comfort zone. “If you follow a number of good reviewers and comment, that’s not moving out of your comfort zone. It’s playing to your strengths. You don’t have to shake hands with a total stranger. Get a sense for the kind of reviews they like and comment on a book you’ve also read. That’s very good community building. It’s real, genuine, not showy. Most shy people can do that kind of community building, and it’s really the best.” After the book launches, show your own enthusiasm for your book on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, as well as at book signings. If you can’t get excited about your book, no one else will either.

You can follow Judith on her website, Facebook and on Twitter at @JudithStarkston.

Posted in Marketing Your Book | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Never Give Up

Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman wrote eight novels before finding a publisher. It took 13 years. Cover of Snow debuted in 2013 and earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, as well as praise from the New York Times, San Francisco Journal of Books, the AP, and many other publications. It recently won the Mary Higgins Clark award.

Her family embarked on a seven-month book tour. I first interviewed her in the midst of that tour. She told me that the family rented out their house, settled on a homeschooling curriculum for their 7- and 9-year-old children and traded in their car for one more suited for the weather conditions they could encounter while traveling across the country. “I’m teaching them when you have a dream, go for it,” said Jenny.

Ruin Falls by Jenny MilchmanDuring that trip, an idea sparked while tucking her children into the sleeper sofa in the outer room of a hotel suite. “It occurred to me that squestering the adults away from the hall was an architectural move replete with frightening potential,” she wrote on her website. Thus, Ruin Falls was born. A thriller about a woman’s search for her young children after they disappeared from a hotel room, Ruin Falls was published just over a year after Cover of Snow and has received rave reviews.

The family is now enjoying another book tour. She found a quiet place with cell service and updated me on her journey through book publishing.

She is Chair of the International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Program. She founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. In 2013, 650 bookstores in all 50 states and four other countries participated. She has featured more than 300 authors on her Made It Moments blog, founded the literary series Writing Matters (which attracted guests coast-to-coast and received national media attention), and teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop.

Jenny’s Advice to Aspiring Authors

  • Never give up. When a door opens, go through it. It might close, but another will open. Most will lead to dead ends. Eventually, one will take you where you want to be.
  • Heed constructive feedback. “When a writer thinks their manuscript is ready, it never is,” Jenny said. “My first manuscript was unpublishable. Agent feedback helped.” Jenny got a lot of her feedback at pitch conferences. The important thing is to learn the craft and write the best possible manuscript you can before trying to get it published. Don’t use family as readers unless they’ll be constructively critical. If your mother loves everything you do, she most likely won’t give criticism that will help.
  • Decide your publishing path. There are pros and cons to self publishing, small presses and being published by a large press. Decide which path is best for you and give it your all.
  • Send targeted queries to agents. This may not apply to you if you’re self publishing or going to be published by a small press. If you decide to pay 15% of your royalties to an agent, NEVER blast a form letter to hundreds of agents. Research them. Jenny recommends subscribing to Publisher’s Marketplace, which has a link in the sidebar for agents actively looking for new clients. She also suggests going to a bookstore and looking in the acknowledgements section of books you like.  Find out who the agent is. In your query to that agent, reference authors they represent. You can also look at who is attending conferences. Those agents are actively seeking new clients.
  • Have realistic expectations when you land an agent. Jenny’s debut novel was the eighth she had written. She worked with three different agents, who submitted five of the eight. Fifteen different editors said they wanted to buy a manuscript, but they couldn’t get permission from the rest of the publishing house. “I went through many highs and lows,” Jenny said.
  • Network with other writers. If they like your work, they’ll talk about it and maybe even refer you to their agent or publisher. You can go to author events at bookstores. Even if you don’t buy a book, you can build relationships and ask for advice. “Authors love to have their brains picked,” Jenny said. If you choose to join a writer’s group, be very picky. You want at least one published author in the group, and be certain the group dynamics are healthy and positive.
  • Value face time. “I’m a big believer that whether you’re self published, with a small press, or got picked up by a big house, you need to get out there and talk to people,” Jenny said. Rub elbows with the people you look up to. You can also join organizations like International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Even if you’re an introvert, you can find some way to network. “Mine the depths of yourself,” Jenny said. “Find out what you love to do, and do it.”

How Jenny Finds Joy in Life

“I find joy in doing what I was meant to do,” Jenny said. She believes she was meant to write, and she’s fortunate to have a supportive family. While driving through Iowa on her current book tour, they were headed toward Omaha but had to stop short because of the weather. Instead of staying in the nice hotel room they had expected, they were in a much smaller one in a different town. “It was Mother’s Day. I looked around and thought, ‘This is joy. I’m here going after my dream, and the people I love most are all in one small room going after it together.'”

Personally, I find joy in many things. One of them is knowing and keeping up with Jenny Milchman. You can follow her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Posted in Build Your Platform, Getting Published, Traditional Publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Reading, Writing and Community

Sophie Littlefield

Sophie Littlefield

Sophie Littlefield, award-winning author of 24 books (16 of them published), says she found publishing success through reading, writing and community.

“I’ve been writing my entire life,” she said. She quit her day job in the early 1990s to raise her children but continued writing as a hobby,  finishing one book a year. “I submitted to agents and have hundreds of rejection letters.”

A beginning agent named Barbara Poelle (now with the Irene Goodman agency) pulled Sophie’s query about her ninth book from the slush pile.

“I wanted a career, and so did she,” Sophie said. “We both worked like fiends.” Barbara placed Sophie’s first novel in 2009, and they’ve sold 16 to date. “I was writing full time but not making a full-time salary. When I got divorced, it put urgency to my need to make a living with my writing.”

She started building her community of colleagues and readers, and full-time pay followed.

House of Glass by Sophie LittlefieldSophie’s most recent book is House of Glass, a chilling tale of a family surviving a brutal home invasion. It’s based on a true story and earned a 4.5 star Top Pick with RTBookReviews.

She also writes young adult books and has another coming out this spring. She says the difference with this genre is that the audience wants non-stop action.

“You can’t dwell on anything too long,” Sophie said. “Don’t overstate your theme. Young readers are very sharp and get it quickly and want you to proceed with the narrative.”

Advice to Aspiring Authors

  • Know your genre. Do that by reading lots of books.
  • Write a lot. Sophie aims for 5,000 words a day but knows successful people who aim for 100 words a day. Discover what’s comfortable for you and discipline yourself to reach your goals.
  • Find a community where you can thrive. “I don’t mean to promote yourself,” Sophie said. “I mean community for the purpose of helping and guiding one another through the publishing landscape. You need someone to remind you that what you’re doing is worthwhile.” She recommends critique groups along with organizations like Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, etc.

Finding Joy in Everyday Life

Sophie finds joy in following her own advice. “For me, it’s a combination of reading, writing and being in community. I love to get lost in a good book, and I’m buoyed by my Thursday writing group.” And she writes a lot of books!

You can follow Sophie on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Bookshelf, Getting Published | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Reading, Writing and Community

A Disaster Survivor Becomes a Disaster Author

Marina Julia Neary or M. J. Neary

Marina Julia Neary

M. J. Neary describes herself as a disaster author because she writes about natural, political and social disasters—often with a different perspective from other historians.

An award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts and entertainment journalist, published poet, playwright, actress, dancer and choreographer, her most recent book, Never Be at Peace (Fireship Press), is the third in a series that takes an in-depth look at the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The rebellion sought to end British rule of Ireland.

Each book in her series focuses on the Easter week revolt from a different historical figure’s perspective.

Never Be at Peace by M. J. NearyThe protagonist in Never Be at Peace is Helena Molony, an orphan who was inspired by pro-nationalist Maud Gonne. Helena joined the battle and spent her life fighting for women’s rights, while also plagued by issues of alcoholism, mental illness, anger and bisexuality.

“I write as an historian and don’t take sides,” Marina said. As a Polish-Russian-American with parents who had opposing views of freedom, “I grew up with ethnic conflict under my roof and understand the principle.”

The Perspective as a Chernobyl Survivor

When Marina was 7-years-old, she survived a catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union. After hearing doctors describe the health impact, Marina and her mother fled the area to stay with relatives. Marina was left with a mild bone marrow disorder.

Rather it being something that Marina worries about, she says, “It contributes to my understanding of ethnic conflict.”

Advice to Aspiring Authors

  • Trust yourself. Marina isn’t as convinced as some people I’ve interviewed that author groups are worthwhile. “The most important thing is to talk to published authors, not aspiring and self-published authors,” she said. “If you have a manuscript, research publishers of authors you admire.” Marina spent six weeks researching appropriate small presses. Once she started pitching, the first offer came quickly.
  • Don’t sell snow to Eskimos. Understand who will want to read your book, write for that market in a fresh and engaging way, and find publishers who will help you reach into that market.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. Marina believes that traditional publishers, including small presses, are better than self publishing. Traditional publishing will give you credibility as an author. “Approach publishers with nothing less than your excellence,” she said. “Give them only what you want the world to see of you. And a great, tight, unique pitch is absolutely essential.”

Finding Joy in Life

Marina finds joy in achievement and in contrasts. “I love going to cat shows and dog shows, Seeing beautiful, well groomed animals gives me asthetic pleasure, but I also like to going to shelters to see the opposite. The contrast gives me a perspective on things.”

She likes to give as much as she can to help others and supports various causes. “When you’re depressed, it’s easy to feel worthless and not take pride in your achievements. Volunteering at a food kitchen or an animal shelter helps me step outside myself. That gives me joy.”

Posted in Bookshelf, Getting Published | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Judith Starkston, author of the forthcoming Hand of Fire (Fireship Press, September 20, 2014), invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process. I’ve featured Judith twice on this blog, first when she described retiring from 30 years as a teacher and wanting to write about the Iliad, and then when she introduced me to her writing tool, Scrivener. Hand of Fire tells the tale of Briseis, a lesser known heroine of the Iliad who, although a captive, caught the attention of both Achilles and Agamemnon.

My Writing Process

1. What are you working on?

My current work in progress is a young adult novel tentatively named The Forest People, about two 16-year-old best friends supernaturally called to protect a family of man-like creatures roaming a remote 20-mile section of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest.

2. How does your work differ from others of it’s genre?

Take two parts Cruel Beauty, one part Eleanor & Park and a pinch of Hunger Games. Mix them together and bake for—I don’t know . . . a year or so—and you get a touching tale of first love, dashed dreams and excitingly new and unexplainable skills to apply to saving an entire species.

The Forest People uniquely tells a story of Bigfoot. Few novels present this creature as an integral part of solving a mystery by working in tandem with the people who the universe has called to protect them.

3. Why do you write what you do?

My son came home from a camping trip one day and told me about a strange and frightening sighting. I researched the creature he described and was hooked. Some scientists believe that about a thousand similar man-like animals live in elusive families throughout the world.

I’d heard of Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti sightings but wondered why one has never been caught, or why the only “photos” and “videos” I found online seemed doctored.

Aha! It must be because generations of Sentinels keep the secret of their location and warn the creatures to hide when humans are nearby. To be a Sentinel is an noble calling, an honor of becoming part of something bigger than yourself. To be called at a young age requires sacrifice. To be called with your lifelong best friend who suddenly looks like the man of your dreams, is just plain weird.

I write it because it intrigues me. It allows me to inspire young people to look beyond themselves for their life’s purpose. And I get to make up stuff.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m a structured mess. After taking classes and being edited by published authors, I learned about a six act, two goal novel architecture. I developed an Excel spreadsheet to outline about 50 chapters (75,000 words) within that framework. For each chapter, I decide on general storyline, conflict, clues and red herrings.

Before I start, I develop my story statement and profiles for both my antagonist and protagonist. For a good story, you need a great antagonist. I spend a lot of time thinking about what that person looks like, their backstory and what motivates them. I think about what the protagonist wants or needs, and the consequences for not achieving it. Those consequences have to be big, not just for the character, but for a larger public.

For The Forest People, I want to inspire young people to reach beyond themselves, find their life’s purpose and go for it. I want them to see that ordinary people like them can overcome obstacles to achieve huge things when they follow their calling and use the talents, skills and resources they’ve been given.

That’s the structured part. Writing is the messy part.

While following my outline keeps me on the right path, I allow my characters to tell me their story. That means that I often have to rearrange, amend and enhance my ideas. A character will take an unexpected turn, giving me a great new clue or red herring that I need to foreshadow in an earlier chapter.

For The Forest People, my two protagonists each have a distinct voice. In each subplot, I’ve found it easier to be true to the voice of each by writing their individual POV chapters all at once, skipping the other one until I’m ready to switch voices. Then I have to go back and make them flow together and make sense.

See what I mean about it being a structured mess?

Many thanks to Judith Starkston for tagging me for this blog hop. Look for her book, Hand of Fire, in September 2014.

Posted in Craft of Writing | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Responding to the Call

Cynthia Neale

Cynthia Neale

To Cynthia Nealegetting published has been a spiritual journey, having felt a calling from a young age.

“I wanted to be that writer who was always in the attic writing,” she said. “But I had to make a living.”

She earned an English degree but didn’t start working on getting published until she was in her 30s, once she began to understand her Irish heritage.

“I wasn’t raised with the Irish side of the family,” she said. “When I was older, I heard the music. It was like a large room inside me opened up. I started Irish dancing and reading about Irish history. I was drawn to the period of the great hunger. I had a young daughter, and while I was dancing, the story unfolded.”

She learned that people caught up in the Irish potato famine may not have had any more furniture than a dresser (what Americans would call a china cabinet), their symbol of hope.

“I imagined my character (Norah) finding a place to hide amid this disaster and dreaming of a better life and eventually hiding in the dresser on the ship to America.”

A Long and Difficult Publishing Journey

Cynthia wrote two young adult novels about Norah, both published by White Mane Publishing Company: The Irish Dresser: A Story of Hope During the Great Hunger (2003) and Hope In New York City: The Continuing Story of the Irish Dresser (2007).

At some point, she learned about a real girl like Cynthia’s fictional Norah. Her last name was the same as Cynthia’s, she was the age of Norah and she came to America on a ship with the same name as Cynthia’s fictional ship.

Once she finished writing about Norah’s childhood, Cynthia wrote an adult book about Norah becoming a young woman. It was published by Lucky Press in 2011  and was doing well, then the publisher went out of business.

Cynthia was devastated.

“I could plaster my home with the rejections I got while finding a publisher,” she said. “It’s difficult to find balance between your art and the need to shamelessly promote your book. I had gone through so much and worked so hard. Every time I tried to query to find another publisher, I couldn’t do it. I had to get back to my art. I thought I was done with Norah.”

She started work on a story about a Native American in New York during the American Revolution, even having dreams about her. But fans of the adult Norah book consistently asked her to write more books about Norah. She ignored them. Until she couldn’t.

perf6.000x9.000.indd“I dreamed about Norah walking through New York City wearing hats during the Civil War. I knew there was another novel that I needed to write.”

She decided to find a new publisher for the adult novel but not take the expected rejections personally. She found Fireship Press, with a niche of historical fiction. Much to the delight of Cynthia and her fans, the book was re-released February 1.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Cynthia said. “I’ve continued to speak and promote the book, along with the two children’s books. And I’m writing the next Norah novel.” She’s also working on that novel about the Native American woman.

Commit to Your Calling

If, like Cynthia, you feel called to write but find the process of getting published to be debilitating and are tempted to wallow, she has some advice.

“Go with it,” she said. “Sometimes it feels good to wallow. But allow yourself no more than a week. Get back to it. If you’re called to work on something, work on it. If you give up longer than a week, you implode. You have to do this.” She believes it’s a spiritual calling, and you have to be true to that calling.

“You have to be practical,” she said, referring to knowing your audience and what’s selling. “If it doesn’t fit my soul, I feel it.” She says you need to write what feels right to your soul.

A quote by Cyril Connolly, an English intellectual, literary critic and writer, brings comfort to Cynthia: “Better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.”

Easing the Journey

Here are some things that Cynthia knows now that she’s where she is on her publishing journey, but she wishes she knew them when she first started.

  • Find your calling. Discover if you’re really cut out to write novels and in what genre. It’s hard work, and some people would enjoy it more if they wrote short stories. But if you’re called to write a novel, write it.
  • Hone your craft by going to writer’s conferences, joining writer’s groups and going to classes, but stop after a while. “Getting affirmation can be a form of procrastination that’s fear based,” she said. Focus on writing, rewriting, editing and getting good copy editing. “You’re always going to be developing and growing.”
  • Face self-doubt. Cynthia suggests that you avoid comparing your journey with that of someone else’s. Enjoy your own journey. When you get rejection letters, understand that it’s just part of the journey, not a reason for you to give up or think you’re unworthy.
  • Read voraciously. That will help you hone your craft, give you ideas and understand where you fit in the market.
  • Find joy in everyday life. Cynthia finds joy in her flower garden. She equates it with her writing — there’s work that’s satisfying, and joy comes with the bloom.

You can connect with Cynthia on Facebook and her blog.

Posted in Bookshelf, Craft of Writing, Joy | Tagged | 2 Comments

Country Elk and Town Elk

The morning air was cool and crisp. I wiped the sandman’s work from my eyes and decended the front steps. Rounding the corner two houses away, I stretched oxygen into my sleepy muscles. A hearty yawn and … 10 magestic elk stood right in front of me  – in the middle of a house-lined, paved street!

I stopped mid step, wide-awake eyes darting as I wonderd, “Should I run or stand my ground?”

My hesitant half step forward sparked thunderous motion. The elk bolted into a nearby yard, found no outlet and returned to the middle of the street to stand perfectly still … I guess so I couldn’t see them.

Elk vacation in town; people vacation in the country

The elk finally escaped through an unfenced yard. I interpreted a loud bugle sound to mean, “Whew, that was a close call! Town has plenty of food, but there’s danger everywhere. We barely dodged that scary human.”

Months later, my husband and I spied 20 grazing elk as we enjoyed an evening hike close to a cabin we had chosen for the weekend. Our whispered, “Aren’t they beautiful?” set hooves in motion, and these country elk relocated to a less populated feeding ground a few feet away.

Genesis 1:24 says that God created wild animals and man on the sixth day and, in verse 31, declared that what He had created was good.

Yes! It was good of God to arrange for country elk to visit humans when vacationing in town while people visit elk while vacationing in the country.

Posted in Joy | 12 Comments

Edgar Nominee Credits Luck, Blessings and Perseverance

Kim Fay, author of The Map of Lost Memories

Kim Fay

Kim Fay started writing fiction at age 10 and pitched her work for 35 years before landing a publisher for her debut novel, Edgar award finalist The Map of Lost Memories, published by Random House in 2012 in print, eBook and audio versions.

Intrigued by Asia, she got a job teaching English as a second language in Vietnam, where she stayed for four years. Working for a travel magazine covering Asia, she wrote travel guides about several Asian countries. And started a novel.

“I worked on Lost Memories for 12 years,” Kim said. “My key takeaway is that you shouldn’t be afraid to put your book out there, wherever it is.”

A case of insomnia set her on the path to publication, in 2007.

“I was in London for my sister’s wedding,” she said. “I was on the Internet reading The New York Times. An article popped up about Amazon announcing its first annual fiction contest. I had my hard drive with me with my novel on it.” Even though the ending was still a mess, she thought, “What do I have to lose?”

She submitted the first chapter and got an email a few months later informing her that her entry was among the top 100. The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay“The contest was getting a lot of press, and agents were scrolling through,” she said. One was a new agent, Alexandra Machinist of Janklow & Nesbit, who had recently returned from a trip to Cambodia, the setting for Kim’s book. Alexandra contacted Kim to ask for the full manuscript. “I signed with her then finished the book three years later.” During those three years, Alexandra built a solid reputation for herself and sold the book to Random House.

“I don’t know how the book got nominated for an Edgar,” Kim said. “My agent, editor, publisher and I didn’t submit it.”

She credits luck, blessings and perseverance for landing her publishing contract. “Getting published is really hard, and authors need to take advantage of every opportunity they have to get their work out there.”

Advice to Aspiring Authors

  • Enter appropriate contests. With these, you get exposure you might not be able to get for yourself. For example, Minotaur Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press) and Mystery Writers of America sponsor the annual First Crime Novel Competition, with the winner automatically entered into the Edgar competition. Amazon offers their Breakthrough Novel Award, where Kim’s agent found her. Here’s one list of potential contests.
  • Join appropriate writer’s groups. Kim joined the Los Angeles chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. “I’ve never met a more supportive group of writers in my life,” she said.
  • Attend appropriate conferences. There are many opportunities, and you could spend all your time and money attending conferences. Kim suggests limiting your annual attendance to the two or three that will reap the greatest rewards for where you are in your journey, whether it’s pitching to agents, learning the craft or networking with other writers. Many agents find new clients at conferences.
  • Find an appropriate writer’s group. “I couldn’t write without my writers group,” Kim said. “They keep you on track. The members know you and know when you’re on the right path and when you’re going off the path.” Kim’s group helps each other write query letters and synopses because it’s difficult to write these for yourself.
  • Get yourself online. First and foremost, have a website, even if it’s only two pages. Facebook is a great place to tell friends and family what you’re doing, and Kim loves the way Twitter has helped her connect with a variety of people with similar interests.
  • Keep educating yourself on the craft. Kim is currently reading Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron. “I never really knew my characters the way I’m going to now,” she said about the book.
  • Connect. Kim suggests finding people online and join THEIR conversation. For example, agent Donald Maass maintains a blog for writers called Writer Unboxed. “Why not start following and commenting on his blog? You would get yourself known to someone who could be important to your career.”

Finding Joy in Everyday Life

“I find the most joy when I tune out the junk and focus on the simple,” Kim said. “That can be planting flowers on my balcony, having a cup of tea, stopping to read a food magazine. Those are the things that feed me more than any of the big things I could go out and do. I remind myself when everything gets carried away to get back into the now in the simplest of ways. Life is good.”

You can connect with Kim at her website or on Facebook and Twitter. You can buy her books, including her many travel guides on Asia, on Amazon.

Posted in Bookshelf, Craft of Writing | Tagged , | Comments Off on Edgar Nominee Credits Luck, Blessings and Perseverance