Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dare to Dream Big

Our small town schools participate in an annual library event: One community, One book. The kids can read the same book, then enter contests for a drawing, an essay, or a video trailer. This year, the book was THE HOBBIT.

My 13-year-old son read the book, and dreamed of winning all three cash prizes, a total of $300. To myself, I wondered why he'd bother with all three. Why not focus on one contest? How would he handle the inevitable disappointment?

Each day after homework, he worked hard on his drawing, essay, and video trailer. He followed each of the requirements, and turned in his entries with pride. Wouldn't you know it, that boy won two out of three contests--essay and video trailer. Imagine his excitement and satisfaction when he picked up his cash prizes, saw his winning essay displayed on the wall, and had his video played at the award ceremony.

He reinforced a valuable lesson: dream big and go for it.

One of my annoying habits is to think small, and in some cases, dream small. After all, big dreams are reserved for other, more deserving or talented people.

This dream to write for publication is a big one for me. At times, I've wondered if it's too big because heck, I'm an ordinary mother of three. But then I've thought about all the writers of our favorite books. They were also ordinary people, who dared to dream big.

When I start to dream small, what snaps me out of it? My kids. What do I want to teach them? To dream small, and set the bar low? Or do I lead by example and teach them to dream big?

On this journey of mine, I've realized I have a captive audience. Each time I'm disappointed by a rejection, a challenge, or a U-turn, three sets of eyes are watching how I handle it. Do I thrown in the towel? Do I rant and rave and blame everyone and everything else? Or do I pick myself up and move forward?

When we dare to dream big, we're bestowing confidence in ourselves. We're also acknowledging that there will be bumps along the way, which will tempt us to set those dreams aside. Our job is to believe, do our best work, and follow through. Otherwise we'll never know what surprises wait for us on the other side.

Do you tend to dream small, or do you dare to dream big? If you have kids, do they remind you that you have an audience, who watches how you handle disappointments?

photo credit

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scene Selection

When we play a favorite movie on our DVD players, we're able select scenes. We recognize our favorites, the ones we watch over and over again, and those we're content to skip over. Don't care about that Pride and Prejudice scene with Mr. Collins? Select the wet shirt scene with Mr. Darcy instead. *sigh*

Even in our own work, we have our favorite scenes. For some, it's the opening, or the climatic action scene. For me, it's usually the first kiss. But our favorites probably don't start out that way. At least mine don't. We shape them.

We've all heard that scenes are the building blocks of a story, and that each scene must matter. One of the many valuable lessons I learned from Jody Hedlund was to write in scenes. But we don't want to write scenes that, if in movie form, the viewer would skip over.

We each have our own process, but here's how I evaluate scenes in revision:

  • Make sure the scene belongs there in the first place. I'm a plotter, and I use index cards. For me, this works because before I begin the story, I've written my scenes on cards. I lay them out on a large surface and switch them around. Heck, even when I'm writing the story I still switch them around or toss them aside. For more details about my love affair with index cards, click here.
I have two master cards sitting on top of the stack, which serve as reminders of what I need to accomplish. 

The first card says:
  1. Conflict?
  2. Purpose of scene?
  3. Could this scene be deleted? Condensed? Merged with another scene?
The other card says:
  1. Clear character goal? Focused on the next step?
  2. With the goal comes a question: will the character succeed?
  3. Are new questions introduced?
When writing the first draft, I don't look back. If I have ideas on previously written material, I'll take notes and refer to them later. During the second pass, I'm reading just to see what I have. By the third pass, I evaluate each scene and perform surgery. I'll also refer to all those revision notes, and add or take away based on the new vision. I'll keep an eye on consistency and follow through. (Check out Janice Hardy's great post, Be Your Own Book Doctor)

Hopefully, by the end of this process, I've created scenes that my story can't live without. Then I can flesh them out, add fleas, and keep the wet shirt and ditch the Mr. Collins.

(I know, I know, he's important to the story. But still, he grosses me out!)

What's your process for evaluating scenes? How do you make sure you keep what matters and ditch what doesn't? Any tips you'd like to share?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Agented and Indie--Interview With Author Leigh T. Moore

Our writing journeys are personal and varied, and I'm always curious about the paths other writers take--the events and thought process that got them where they are today. That was true with Leigh T. Moore, author of The Truth About Faking, Rouge, and The Truth About Letting Go.

Leigh opened up about her own unique path to publishing success. She's an energetic force in the writing community, and a true testament to calling your own shots and making things happen. I hope you all enjoy the interview!

1. You had signed with a literary agent but eventually self-published your novels. How long did your agent shop your books before you came to this decision? What gave you the burst of courage to self-pub?

The burst of courage actually hit me in Jan. 2012, when my agent had shopped my book Rouge all through the fall of 2011 and had gotten lots of compliments, no deal. 

I was ready to go then, but she wanted to shop The Truth About Faking. I agreed, but by early June, it was clear no one was going to buy it. I spent the summer working on another project, but then in September, when Faking was still just sitting on my computer, a few writer-friends convinced me to take the plunge.

2. Once you decided to go indie, what were your first steps? What was your go-to Bible for learning what to do?

I have one great writer-friend in particular, Susan Quinn, who I had been emailing and following along her self-publishing journey. Susan self-published Open Minds, the first book in her super-popular Mindjack trilogy, in Nov. 2011, and she documented all her experiences on her blog. (Highly recommended reading!)

As for your question, the first step, of course, is writing the best book possible and then editing, revising, and polishing. Second most important step is hiring a great cover artist. From there, it’s all about networking and getting the word out.

3. Did you have your manuscripts professionally edited? Or, because you're a freelance editor, did you edit the books yourself?

In the case of Faking and Rouge, I had already edited the books numerous times, my critique partners had read them several times, and even my agent weighed in on Faking. Being able to edit my own books is extremely helpful, but I do recommend hiring a professional editor. One great source of names is on the Indelibles’ blog.

4. Your book covers are gorgeous. How did you connect with your cover artist? How did you choose the perfect covers?

Thank you!!! In the case of Faking, I worked with great writer-friend Jolene Perry. I knew covers were important, and I had always loved the covers of her self-published books. So I emailed her to ask who did them, and she said she did! And then she offered to help me with mine!

Naturally, I said yes

With my newest book, The Truth About Letting Go, I had found the cover image when Jolene and I were looking for covers for Faking and saved it. Jolene was swamped, so my other lovely writer-friend Allison Brennan of B Design made that cover. I actually contacted the photographer directly through Flickr, and he kindly let me buy it from him. (Juanpablo’s website)

5. When it came to marketing, what worked for you and what didn't? Any tips you can pass along?

Marketing is tough, and it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Different things work for different people, and sometimes, success is simply hitting what the readers want at the right time.

For the newbie, the most effective free things to do are have stellar reviews ready to go for release day and have a good group of bloggers ready to help announce and praise your book as close to when it hits the shelves as possible.

Book bloggers and book reviewers are super-busy, and even book tour hosts get booked early. So at least one month before your release date, you need to start contacting those guys.

They usually want to see your cover at least and read the book description, so you’ll need those. And try to have as close to a polished Advance Review Copy (ARC) ready to send them.

6. What's next for the great Leigh Talbert Moore? Will you ever pursue traditional publishing again? Or has your indie success encouraged you to continue forging your own path? 

I don’t know about the “great” part—LOL! My indie journey has had its ups and downs, and it can be exhausting doing it all by myself. I haven’t sworn off traditional publishing. I actually have a new book with a different literary agent at the moment, and we’ll see what happens there. But I’m happy to know self-publishing is a great, legitimate option.

The most important thing for writers is to weigh all their options and make the best decision for their books based on what’s offered and what their goals are. It’s really a great time to be in publishing!

7. Finally, what's the most important writing lesson you've learned?

Just keep swimming! I’ve been saying that for years, but it’s so true. This is a tough, tough business, and it’s easy to get discouraged and want to throw in the towel. But like my good writer-friend Matt MacNish says, the only people who never make it are the ones who give up. You can do it—just keep working hard and keep swimming.

Thanks so much for having me today, Julie! I hope I was able to help your readers, and I hope you all like my new book!

Enter to #WIN a signed print set of The Truth About Letting Go AND The Truth About Faking! (US only) *For international entrants, win a digital copy of both books! a Rafflecopter giveaway

by Leigh Talbert Moore

Ashley wants to smash everything in her once-perfect life.
Charlotte wants to walk in Ashley's seemingly charmed shoes.
Colt wants to turn Smalltown USA on its ear--with Ashley at his side.
Jordan wants to follow his heart... but Ashley is the one sacrifice he never expected to make.

Up until now, Ashley Lockett has always followed the rules. She's always done the right thing, played it safe, and then her ideal life is shattered when her dad dies suddenly. 

Fueled by anger and grief, she vows to do everything opposite of how she lived before. She rejects safety, the rules, faith, and then she meets Jordan. 

Jordan has big dreams, he's had a crush on Ashley for years, he's a great kisser... but he's also safe. 

Enter Colt. He is not safe, and he's more than willing to help Ashley fulfill her vow.

Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or iTunes 

About the Author
Leigh Talbert Moore is a wife and mom by day, a writer by day, a reader by day, a freelance editor when time permits, a chocoholic, a caffeine addict, a lover of YA and new adult romance (really any great love story), a beach bum, and occasionally she sleeps.

Leigh loves hearing from readers; stop by and say hello:

So, friends, what do you think? Aren't her covers gorgeous? Have you read any of Leigh's books? If you haven't been published yet, have you considered going indie? If you're indie, tell us about your own experience!

Monday, March 11, 2013

COVER REVEAL! @LisaGailGreen's "The Binding Stone"

I'm soooo excited to reveal Lisa Gail Green's beautiful book cover! Her debut novel, The Binding Stone, is book one in her Djinn series.

Here's the blurb:

Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices. 

Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she's seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope.

Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?

Lisa is my writing buddy. I've read this book, and it's amazing! I'm so excited for her. More information will follow about The Binding Stone, but for now, here's the link on Goodreads. Brilliant writer. Brilliant cover!

What's your opinion of the cover? If you're published, was seeing your cover for the first time the most exciting thing in the world? Do tell!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hangin' With The Cool Kids @ Insecure Writer's Support Group

I'm very late to a party filled with cool, smart people--Alex J. Cavanaugh's brain child, the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Why did I join?

  1. I'm a writer
  2. I'm insecure about being a writer
I've always written, even before I labeled myself a writer. And I was a writer long before I put myself "out there" for all to see my attempts, achievements, and failures. 

In my regular life, I'm not overly insecure. Sure, I have moments of insecurity, but who doesn't? No, the lingering insecurities are reserved nice and special for my writing life. Heck, I'm even insecure about joining IWSG late. How weird is that?

To introduce myself, here's a brief history of my professional writing journey:
  • Completed a writing course at the Institute of Children's Literature. Awesome and rewarding experience, by the way.
  • Ezine publications. *Polite applause*
  • Print magazine successes. *Hearty applause*
  • Wrote three novels. *I did it! I did it!*
  • Signed with my literary agent. *Choirs sing*
  • Submitted to editors. *This is it! This is it!*
And then...crickets.

Here's what I've learned: when there's too much time between successes, it's easy to forget about them and only focus on the string of bad news. Writing this post reminded me of the important learning stages that go hand in hand with a writer's journey. And it reminded me that there've been plenty of Yes moments mixed in with the No moments.

So thank you, IWSG, for helping me remember the peaks when I sometimes focus on the valleys. And thanks for the reminder that we can't have one without the other.

Do you sometimes forget your peaks, and focus on your valleys? Are you neurotically insecure about your writing?