Friday, March 27, 2015

Stacy Henrie's Cozy Reading Corner

My favorite place to read is curled up in bed, in spite of comfy chairs and couches elsewhere in my house. Whether snatching time during the day or at night after my kids are asleep, I love to climb in bed with a good book. Typically that means an inspirational historical romance. And speaking of historical romance, the third and final book in my Of Love and War series A HOPE REMEMBERED releases on March 31. 

--Stacy Henrie

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Write What You Fear

Twitter followers are great. Sometimes they come up with the best ideas and at other times they suggest things like this...

@BookEndsJessica what's the one thing you're dying to write about but it scares the crap out of you? Write that.
2/11/15, 9:47 AM

At first I thought I should write what scares the crap out of me and I thought, "haven't I caused enough trouble on this blog?"

And then I thought she wanted me to write a post about how authors should write about what scares them.

And then I was back to me.

I'm not sure about you, but what scares the crap out of me most is writing something that brings too much negative attention. And I bet I'm not alone. It's funny, we write and we want to be read. In fact, we ideally want a lot of people to read us, to buy our books and to, essentially, pay us. But so often we restrict ourselves, and our writing, out of fear and it's that fear that holds us back.

I have always said that those books and authors that are the most successful are the ones who push the limits. They are the ones who stop being afraid of what the reviewers, editors, agents and readers might say or think and they write the book they think needs to be written. Even if doing so scares the crap out of them. 

What usually scares us when it comes to our writing isn't what we're writing about, but the response that writing will evoke. I get that. Boy do I get that. But I also think putting aside those fears can sometimes result in some of the best work you've done. Even if no one ever sees it.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Slay a Gremlin

There’s a monster hiding under my desk.  He lurks there, waiting for the right moment to attack. He’s an ugly little bastard, too.  I have a lot of names for him, but for the sake of not overusing profanity in this blog, I’ll call him by his real name, Self-Doubt.  

Most of you might think that after two decades in the business, after hitting list that I only dreamed about hitting, I’d have managed to kill the gremlin.  But you’d be wrong.  That sneaky little devil won’t die.  He keeps popping back up. 

I think self doubt is something most writers face throughout their careers.  And by careers, I don’t mean from the point that you become a published author, I mean, from the point you start writing.  I think the inability to fight the gremlin is one of the biggest things that prevent a writer from becoming published.  And it’s probably one of the reasons published writers stop writing.  That’s right, this monster doesn’t care what you’ve accomplished.  All he wants is a big bite out of your confidence.

He’ll tell you that whatever you’ve got on that computer screen is crap.  That you just need to delete it. 
He’ll convince you that no matter how good of an idea you may have, it’s probably already been done.
He’ll whisper in your ear that you’re wasting your time, that cleaning out your grout in your kitchen tile with a toothbrush is much more important.  Sometimes he possesses your family and friends and they’ll say things like, “How long are you going to put yourself though all this pain before you find something else to do with your time?”  He’ll stare you right in the eyes and tell you that your dreams are silly and you’ll never reach them.  He’ll make you believe that the one negative review out of twenty good ones is the one you should listen to.  If you let him, he not only can slow you down, he’ll rob you of the joy and passion you feel for writing. 

Now, that gremlin is always close by, nipping at your toes, giving you moments of doubt.  I think that’s somewhat normal.  But let that creature scramble up your leg, hang out in your lap, or even worse, let him climb up on your shoulder, where you can listen to him all day long, and you’ll soon be playing Russian Roulette with your passion for writing.  Because writing with a self-doubt gremlin sitting on your shoulder is about as easy as brushing your teeth with a brownie in your mouth. 

So how do we slay the gremlin or at least keep him at bay?  Below are five tips for overcoming and preventing self-doubt from chewing on your sanity.

1. Be Aware or Peer Pressure.  
We preach this to our kids but so often we forget that the bad habits of the people we hang out with are as contagious as a stomach virus.  If you’re hanging out with negative people, people who have lost their ability to chase their dreams, you’re at risk of becoming just like them.  Find positive people who validate your dreams and work ethics to share your life and support your journey.

2. Ward off the message that you don’t know what you’re doing by continually growing at a writer.  Read how-to books, take classes, attend those writer meetings and listen to what other writers offer as advice.

3. Mentor someone else.  Nothing can inspire you more than helping and encouraging another person.  Telling others that they have to believe in themselves is a sure fire way or rekindling your own self-confidence.  It also creates karma.

4. Be leery of ruts.  If you’re not feeling the passion for your writing, try spicing things up by doing something different.  Try writing something in a new genre, or try writing something in a different point of view.  Nothing can get you out of a rut quicker than feeling challenged.

5. Accept that sometimes you are going to fail. That you’re going to make mistakes.  That you’re going to get rejections—that it might take you years to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Understand that you aren’t the first person to get fifty rejections, or a hundred, or even a thousand. The truth is, the number of rejections you receive doesn’t matter.  You are not defeated until you let yourself be defeated.

Writing isn’t for wimps.  Chances are, you’ll face those gremlins, not once but many times, so just be armed with good friends, knowledge, Karma, a sense of adventure, and perseverance.  And never, ever lose your sense of humor.  And now that I’ve shared with you my tips for slaying gremlins, I’d like to hear some of yours.  How do you tackle self doubt?

--Christie Craig, AKA, C.C. Hunter

Christie Craig, AKA, C.C. Hunter, author of the New York Times Bestselling Series, Shadow Falls, has had to slay a lot of gremlins on her climb up on the publishing ladder.  After selling her first book in 1993, she didn’t publish book two until 2006.  For thirteen years she listened to the monster tell her she wasn’t good enough—to give up.  She’s since published thirty books, and hit the New York Times and USA Today list with both her names.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Stop Complaining and Live a Happier LIfe

I came across this article in Fast Company about the Complaint/Restraint project. In an attempt to create more positive lives, Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims agreed to stop complaining entirely for one full month.

According to the article, studies show that during the course of an average conversation people complain every minute. I have to admit this made me a little sick to my stomach. Complainers absolutely drive me crazy and yet somehow I begrudgingly think that I'm probably right up there with the worst of them.

If you do decide to read the article please read the Q&A that follows. I think that's the most interesting piece of it. In that you'll see how Thierry and Pieter handled negativity by turning complaints into solutions. So, instead of complaining that there is yet another snowstorm headed our way you could say, "well there's another snowstorm coming, but at least I'll get my exercise by shoveling."

Or instead of complaining that your publisher canceled your series you could try, "well, my publisher canceled my series, but now it gives me time to explore some of these other ideas I've been excited about."

I think the idea is that it's okay to be unhappy about things, but instead of always complaining you'll find you're happier overall if you find the positive in the negative.

I'll admit, the whole idea of a month, heck even a day, of not complaining stresses me out. It even makes me want to complain, but I think I'm going to give it a try. I'm not going to commit to any given time period, but I am going to be more conscious of what I say and how positive I can be and if I do feel I have something legitimate to complain about I'm going to try to find positive aspects so that my conversation about it takes on a different life.


Monday, March 23, 2015

An Emoji Guide for Submitting to Editors

I cannot take any credit for this genius idea. Owen Williams @ow posted his version on Twitter for publicists. I'm hoping he thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

When submitting or querying agents here is my emoji guide:







Snail Mail


Friday, March 20, 2015

Bill Crider's Cozy Reading Corner

This rocking chair belonged to my grandmother, and you can see behind it a small portion of the reading material I’ve accumulated to read while I’m sitting in it.  It’s quite a comfortable chair and even has a little footstool that matches it.  The footstool, I have to admit, didn’t belong to my grandmother.  It was purchased at a later date. 

Bill Crider
Half in Love with Artful Death (St. Martin’s)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Secret to Sending Updated Material

It's no secret that agents tend to take a while to read submissions. I'm currently backed up to December on requested material. That's almost three months which, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think is so bad. Recently though, because of my slow response time, I've been getting a rash of authors resending material because they've since revised it and believe it's much stronger. And for a long time I was at a loss on how writers should handle a situation like this.

I think I've come up with a solution and this is based almost entirely on how I would handle a similar situation if I had material with an editor that we since decided to revise.

1. The first thing I'm going to say is that revising material that's already out on submission just shouldn't happen. Why? Because, once you decide a book is ready to go you've more or less put it away and started work on your next book. The first book is dead to you as far as revisions are concerned.

2. I'm an idiot and that's completely unrealistic. If you have a good book and you're close to getting that elusive publishing deal #1 just isn't feasible. At some point, some agent, is going to reject your book, but give you some real feedback that flips the switch. It was the one thing you needed to hear that will make your book shine. So no matter what Jessica Faust has told you, you're scooping that book up and revising.

3. So what do you do about those agents who are reading the material you previously sent, but now feel is flawed? I think you pull it from submission. Instead of rushing through revisions in the hopes the agent doesn't read the first round in time or clogging her inbox with multiple copies of what is essentially the same book I think you email the agent, explain that you received advice that will make the book stronger, and let her know that you'll resend the material once it's been revised (don't ask if you can, just do it). She can simply delete what she currently has.

Is every agent going to be happy about this? Nope, probably not, but I think you will and I think the agent who is unhappy with the new Jessica Faust plan wasn't happy when you sent a second copy of the book because it's been revised.

So go forth and write, but remember, don't even start submitting until you've started the next book.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Making the Most of Your Publishing Internship

BookEnds has been hiring interns for years. As someone who started her career as an intern I believe strongly in them. I believe it was because of my internships that I stood out as a viable job candidate and eventually landed where I am today.

Internships are also a great way to learn the ropes of any business to see if it's something you really want to do. A good internship also teaches you so much more than just what this job is probably like. Each of the three assistants BookEnds has had over the years all started as interns and we constantly have conversations about the interns we wish we could snap up before someone else does.

So what has made these interns stand out over the others? It was their ability to make the most of their internship while they were here, and even after they'd gone.

Intern Do's

  1. Be proactive. If you are asked to file, each day you come into the office check the filing and get it done. Getting jobs done without being asked make you stand out as the person we'd want to see every day.
  2. Talk and ask questions. The more you participate in meetings, group discussions or just ask questions the more memorable you become.
  3. Take initiative. If you think of a better way to do something do it, or ask to do it. Maybe the bookshelves are a mess and you'd be happy to organize them or you've noticed that some of the files have been wrecked and everything is out of order. As if you can fix. Or go ahead and fix. 
  4. Keep in touch. Obviously when the internship ends it's good to send a thank you, but it's even better to keep in touch for long after that. Let the people, or person, you've been working for know when you're looking for a job or where you're going on job interviews. The more you keep people updated the more top of mind you'll stay.
  5. Have fun and learn. That's really what it's all about.
Intern Don'ts

  1. Don't miss days. Sometimes it happens. You're sick or something personal comes up, but you are presumably only there for a few days a week so make it as often as humanly possible.
  2. Don't expect that your only job will be to read. Reading is something few of us in publishing get to do on a daily basis and while it does tend to be a huge part of an intern's job, sitting quietly and reading all day is not going to be where you learn the most.
  3. Ignore someone's request for you to do something just because you don't like to do it.
  4. Be afraid. We were all in your position once and we don't expect you to know everything. We want to teach you so there's nothing to be afraid of.
We love our interns and want each of them to be successful, but we can't force it to happen, you need to come in prepared to be successful too.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Foolproof Guide to Submitting to BookEnds

One of the best things about having an agent is that she usually knows the little details about editors and what they like. An agent knows that Editor Jane has a thing for firefighters and Editor Fran is so claustrophobic she can't even read about tight spaces. She also knows that Editor Brad loves anything to do with the Civil War, especially from a Northern perspective, while Editor Lois is conservative politically and not interested in anything from the "other side."

It's hard for authors to do know these things though. While agents might give some insight into their interests through Twitter or agency guidelines, most don't usually get into the nitty-gritty of what makes a book stand out in their particular genres of interest. So we thought we'd change that. Here is some of the nitty gritty on BookEnds. These are the types of themes that stand out, as long as they fit the genres on our submission guidelines.

If you’re writing…..                                                                                                                           Submit to.....
   dark, creepy and very nasty serial killers                                                                                                    Jessica F
   billionaires/sheikhs/princes/CEOS                                                                                                              Jessica A   
   shy, awkward girl who ends up with tattooed, motorcycle-riding, misunderstood badass                           Kim
   dark & gritty with tough, unusual female leads                                                                                    Jessica A/F
   LGBT                                                                                                                                                           Beth
   military or secret agent heroes                                                                                                                    Jessica A
   spaceships, teleports, and/or cybernetics                                                                                                   Beth
   suspense or mystery set in LA Bayou                                                                                                     Jessica F
   blind/scarred/crippled, bitter, reclusive heroes                                                                                            Kim/Jessica A
   gory or macabre                                                                                                                                          Jessica A/Beth
   siblings or old friends with a deep, dark secret                                                                                           Kim
   medical examiners or forensic anthropologists                                                                                           Jessica A/Beth
   cabin romances (hero/heroine stranded together)                                                                                      Kim
   international romantic suspense aka Homeland M1-6 or Mossad agents                                                  Jessica A
   voyeurs                                                                                                                                                       Jessica A/F
   female-driven books about bibliophiles                                                                                                      Kim/Jessica F
   protagonists with memory loss                                                                                                                    Beth
   four Weddings and a Funeral style romance                                                                                              Jessica A
   psychological mysteries                                                                                                                              Beth/Jessica F
   curmudgeonly Mr. Rochester-type hero                                                                                                     Kim/Jessica A 

And keep in mind, we keep an eye out for everyone at BookEnds which means we're always passing queries and manuscripts back and forth. If I feel something I receive might be better for someone else I'm going to happily pass it to her.

Looking forward to seeing what you've got!

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's All About Pacing

A lifetime ago I ran the NYC marathon. I wasn't a runner, in fact I ran my first three miles just nine months before the race, but somewhere along the line I got it my head that I was going to conquer 26.2 miles. And I did. With no coaching beyond a book and only my dog for a trainer I went for it.

The one thing I struggled with throughout my training, and throughout the race, was my pacing. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to find my sweet spot. I always started off too fast and petered out quickly. At times I could do nothing but walk and then I would launch into a sprint just before reaching a crowd of people (it was important to impress). At the end I was barely functioning and while most runners can finish that last 2-3 miles strong I was limping along, completely worn out and chanting, "slow and steady wins the race." The problem is that I could never master steady. Slow I was a champ at.

Pacing for a marathon is not that much different from pacing your book. Starting off too fast with too much action sends the reader shooting out of the gate, but keeping up that pace is almost impossible. At some point you need to slow things down, introduce characters and build a plot. At that point the reader is tired and confused. 

With too slow of a start you feel like you're constantly trying to catch up. You aren't making the times you wanted, but if you speed up to make up for lost time you're going to lose your pace and lose even more time in the end. The same with a book. If your pacing is too slow you lose the reader, you might try to catch up, but the reader at that point has already closed the book.

Pacing needs to be steady, sometimes you'll hit a hill and you'll have to push a little harder to get up or might speed up a little on the down, but overall you're building, slowly (but not too slowly) and steadily to that big crescendo at the end.