What You Don’t Know About Queries CAN Hurt You!

Recycle Those Old Manuscripts, Don't Trash Them!So, you’ve written your story and want to share it with the world. But first, you have to query.

What is a query?

A query is a presentation of your manuscript shortened into brief paragraphs in the effort to draw an agent/publisher’s attention to your work. A well-written query letter can lead to a request for more information about your project: a full synopsis, a request for the first couple of chapters, or the entire manuscript. The goal is to receive a request for representation (agent) or publication (publisher). But like writing, in order to tell a good story, it takes research and planning  in order to make the process flow smoothly.

So, what steps should you take?

First of all, research the agent/publisher you want to submit your letter to. No two agents or publishers are alike.

  • Agents:  Visit the personal pages of agents on the company websites. Most will tell you if they are looking new clients.  Some welcome new, unpublished clients, while others prefer to work with already-published authors. Some have a wish list with the types of stories or genres they are looking for. Knowing this before you waste time sending them your work saves time on both of your parts. Submitting a query of a Sci-Fi story to an agent interested in only Romance novels is asking for rejection.
  • Publishers:  Whether you’re looking to self-pub through a vanity press, Indie Press, or Traditional Publisher, you MUST read the submission guidelines. No two are alike. For example, one publisher may want your manuscript  typed and submitted in 12 point Times New Roman font, while another may request 11 point Calibri. (Yep, I had that happen!). If I hadn’t read the submission guidelines and assumed they wanted the manuscript written in standard Times New Roman, my manuscript would be ignored for not following their guidelines before they read the first line!

Prepare various files ahead of time to save time. While researching agents/publishers, make note of what type of file they want you to send. (Note: this is the age of digital. Gone are the days of only mailing your manuscript or query letter. Most require emails, not snail mail. ‘Snail mail’ –traditional mailing- can add longer wait time to getting a response to your request).

Here are the various requests I ran across:

  • Query letter– that’s all they want. Keep it short and simple, to the point.  Open with a hook that leaves wanting to know more. Talk briefly about your writing experience (if applicable) and where samples of your work can be found. Leave with a respectful and professional closing. Be sure to include correct contact information for phone, email, mailing. (Note: if including social networking information, know that they WILL research you before contacting you. Having an unprofessional presence online can cause them to lose interest, regardless of how great your story is.)
  • Query and Sample Chapter (s) or Pages In addition to the standard query, some want to sample your writing voice. Here is where having a strong opening to your story comes in. The first three chapters are your make or break it points in your novel. If an agent or acquiring editor can’t get hooked then, then they push your work to the trash pile and send the dreaded ‘rejection form’ letter. Create separate files for the following page counts: 5 pages, 20 pages, 50 pages. (or 1st chapter to 1st-3rd chapters).
  • Query and Synopsis The dreaded synopsis letter can take more work to write than the 350 page novel it’s being written about. The point is to share the highlights of your story, from beginning to, yep, the actual end…not the lead up to the end. They want to know how the story ends to decide if what happens in the middle is worth the time to read. Synopsis request can be as brief as one page, to as lengthy as 4 pages. Prepare a one-page, three-page, and four-page to have on hand. No need to pull hair out after writing a one-page synopsis and run across a request for a four-page and have to start all over again.
  • Query, Synopsis, and Full Manuscript:  Not many will ask for a full manuscript from the get go, but some do.  Be sure to have your manuscript completed BEFORE submitting it. Agents/Publishers want to see a finished product, not one that is incomplete. If they like what they see, they will want to jump on it. If they have to start working with you by giving you a deadline to finish the project, it could be a turn off.  As a rule, most manuscript requests come in the form of the following:*12 point Times New Roman font  *1 inch margins (all around) *double spaced (entire document, without space between paragraphs)

***Be sure to have your manuscript edited and as clean as possible. DO NOT SEND ROUGH DRAFTS! Try to have your work as close to professionally edited as possible. Not doing so and having blatant misspellings and punctuation errors can result in rejection of your work! ***

Once you have these things in place, you are nearly ready to start querying! With so many agents and publishers out there, it’s hard to keep up with what information was sent to which publisher and when. I suggest creating a spreadsheet to make note of the dates and information sent. If you don’t have time to make your own, visit QueryTracker.com. Create a profile, make notes of sent responses and request, as well as look up information about the agents/publishers you’re interested in. There’s also an area that allows you to view comments from others about their experience with those agents/publishers and turnaround time for responses.

The query process is time-consuming and a real test of your will and patience. The pay off; seeing your work in the hands of readers.  This is the time to grow thick skin. Prepare to get rejection letters, either as form responses or the very rare letter with actual feedback.  Take it with a grain of salt and look for the good part. No, I am not saying being told NO, is a good feeling, but sometimes it’s comical. I got one that said, “No, not interested.”…that was it, no hello, no Ms. Kane, nothing.  I laughed my butt off because it appeared that particular person was having a bad day.  I could only imagine what it’s like to trudge through a ton of emails day after day in search of a line that catches your attention. Just because they said no didn’t mean it was about me or my work. Remember my above comment: Wish List. If looking for the next hot book about Vampires is what is on everyone’s list, your next love story that’s about the average Joe won’t get a second look, no matter how well it’s written.

Don’t be afraid to explore your publishing options. If you don’t have the time or patience to look into self-publishing, then look at Indie Publishing companies.  They still request the same type of information as the big publishers, but you have a better opportunity to have your writing voice heard. The beauty of going Indie is being able to tell your story the way you want to without being told what you can or can’t write.

I survived the query gambit,  kept my writing voice, and ignored the negative responses that told me ‘no’. And now I am an Amazon Bestselling Author. 🙂

Here are a few links to articles on writing query letters synopsis. Good luck!!

MJ

eHow.com- Query Letter Sample Search

eHow.com- How to write a Synopsis Search 

Query Tracker.net  

Interview with Nia Forrester!

One of the fun things about social networking is meeting  other authors who are taking various publishing paths to see their work put into readers hands. No matter what path you take, our experiences are different and can alter the voice of the writer. (If you’ve been through the query gambit  you know what I mean.)

Recently I was contacted by Nia via Facebook when she messaged me to say she’d picked up a copy of my book because of hearing great things about it. I in turn got a copy of one of  her novels. We later talked privately about our books, both   impressed with the others approach to writing. I was floored by  how much – in my opinion – out style of storytelling mirrors one another, despite the difference in our writing voices.

The book I read, Unsuitable Men, has me anxious to read more of her work. Her novels are on my TBR list! Be sure to grab a copy of her latest release, Secrets!

Secrets cover picShayla has a secret. She’s very different than the person she used to be three short years ago; that person she finally feels like she’s left behind and never wants to be again. And she’s been doing fine so far with her plan to reinvent herself. Trey Denison wasn’t going to put even a dent in those plans.

All she needed from him was an extremely short, extremely hot, purely sexual affair and she had no reason to believe he wouldn’t provide it. After all, that was his specialty. But after one crazy weekend, Trey decides that a ‘short affair’ with Shayla is the last thing he wants . . .

BUY you copy today! 

Welcome, Nia!

What inspired you to write?

Some of my earliest memories are of being read to, and seeing my parents read. My father was a voracious reader, and he read just about everything—the newspaper, of course, but also popular fiction, history books, biographies and the classics. My childhood memories are of a home filled with books. I started writing at the same time I started reading, stringing words together that were probably nonsensical at first.  And I’ve been a writer ever since. The only period I remember not writing was when I was in law school and just didn’t have the time. I remember those years as among the most miserable of my life—wanting to write and not being able to was excruciating. The only thing that probably kept me from going completely out of my mind was that I was journaling, even though not writing fiction. After that, I pledged that nothing would ever keep me from writing again. So while a love of the written word and of the process of reading first inspired me to write, I’d have to say that now I view it as so much a part of who I am that I almost don’t need “inspiration” to write, I just do it because I have to.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I write whenever I have a spare moment, or when a thought about my characters occurs to me. I don’t maintain a set schedule, but when I am actively working on a book, I cram as much as I can into the hours I have. I also have a day job, so that means I write well into the night and early morning hours if my characters are speaking to me. I also write in my head almost all the time, meaning I craft new details about the people in my books while I’m showering, cooking dinner, driving to work, or grocery shopping. And I carry a pocket-sized leather-bound notebook with me at all times so if I hear a word, phrase or snippet of conversation that I want to use in my writing, I can jot it down. Occasionally an idea comes to me out of nowhere for a story or a detail about a character and I use the notebook to record those as well. But if I had to give an average, I would say that in an active writing period (sitting in front of the computer, actually typing ), I probably write 6-8 hours per day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Not sure how interesting or quirky it is, but while I’m writing, I can’t read anyone else’s work, or anything at all really. I think it may be similar to “getting into character” if I were an actor —I have to screen out every other voice except my own and that of the people in my book. If I watch television at all, it cannot be fiction; it has to be the news only. I don’t want anyone else’s stuff to creep into my writing. And that’s easy to do because writers’ brains are like the most sensitive of sponges—always gathering data for the next work. So I try to put myself in a kind of creative sensory-deprivation chamber, in the hopes that the only creative ideas I produce on the page will have come from within, not the latest popular song on the radio, or book I read, or drama I watched on TV.

Are you a pantser or plotter?

No question, I’m a pantser! I never outline a book or a character. They become real to me and all I want to hear is what they have to tell me about themselves, all of which I allow to unfold on the page, I can’t determine what they will do until I write it, I can only determine who they are. In Secret, for instance, I knew who Shayla was and what her past was, and what she looked like. I knew what her family background was, and I knew she was moving into a house with Trey Denison, a playboy with a painful past of his own. Specifically what would happen as a result, I honestly did not know until it unfolded on the page. I knew they would have a relationship but not much more than that. And that’s always how I write. Whenever I’ve tried to use outlines to predetermine what should happen, the dialogue, the situations, everything feels and sounds forced. So I stopped trying.

Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?

Despite my trying to screen out the rest of the world as I’m writing, there’s no doubt that I get ideas from the world and experiences I’ve had before I write. For instance, ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ was inspired by one summer watching bad reality television when those “ . . .Wives” shows were all the rave—Basketball Wives, Football Wives, Mob Wives. I watched some of the women change their appearance, behavior and values as they became more immersed in this persona that was determined almost completely by who they were married (and some of them not married, but simply attached, to). And it made me wonder how that process of redefining yourself might unfold, and how gradual it probably is.

In some of the “. . . Wives” shows, I watched as some of the relationships with the men they had come to define themselves by unraveled and ended and how desperate the women seemed to be to hang on to those relationships even though they had become bitter and alienated. I tried to understand that desperation and finally reached the conclusion that they were desperate because they had become the Football Wife or the Basketball Wife and no longer knew who they were apart from that. Without that, they would have no identity. So in The Seduction of Dylan Acosta, I wanted to explore how that process happens and the world that these women live in, and how it can threaten the very relationship that they use to define them.

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?

My only suggestion is to never stop writing. Don’t write to be published, just write. I only recently came to terms with the fact that while I’m newly published, but not a new author, and one thing I can say for sure, is that when I stopped writing fiction for 3 years and then started again, I was not as good at it as I had been. By stopping, I lost valuable developmental years and lessons. And my voice changed so much! Some of my old stuff that I haven’t published sounds so different, and some of it is much better (in my opinion) than anything I am writing now. But I am no longer that person, and so even editing that work and trying to do rewrites to publish it has so far been an abject failure. It sounds like two different people, because it is. So my advice would be: write uninterrupted.

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?

With my fiction, I am self-pubbed. I also write policy and social commentary under another name.

What are your current projects?

My current projects are ‘The Art of Endings’, the spin-off (not sequel!) of ‘Secret’, and an as yet untitled spin-off  of ‘Commitment’ that features Chris Scaife, one of the secondary characters in both ‘Commitment’ and ‘Unsuitable Men’.

Connect with Nia via these links: 

Twitter     Facebook      Goodreads     Blog/Website      Author Page     Email

 

Lets Talk About It!: Finding Love After a Broken Heart

How many times can your heart be broken before you give up on love?

That is one of the questions  addressed in my  upcoming novel, Jaded- Book two of The Butterfly Memoirs. This novel follows Yasmine Phillips, a bi-racial woman who seems full of confidence, works hard, and is all about enjoying life. She’s not looking for love, but enjoys friend-with-benefits relationships.

When love finds a way into her current relationship, she realizes her childhood dreams of becoming a wife and mother are going to come true…until the truth about her fiance comes to light and the man she thought loved her turns out to be her worst nightmare.

She should be able to suck it up and move on…right?

This isn’t the first time a man has broken her heart. Yasmine is left questioning her self-worth and ability to trust a man ever again. With the happiness  her friends are experiencing in their lives and relationships, she realizes  fate has given her the roll of  ‘the go-to-girl’ for her family and friends, aiding them to fulfill their endeavors in business and marriage.

What is she left with?

“A business plan and a dream.”-Yasmine Phillips

If you’ve followed my blog over the past two years you know music often finds it’s way into my stories. It can describe a characters feelings, their goals, or set the tone for a scene. One day while cleaning the kitchen I pulled out my iPod in search of inspiration for the ‘first kiss’ scene for Jaded.  The question in my mind was: with her relationship history, what  would  be the setting, the motivation to take that step? To allow herself to be kissed, to feel, to be wanted again?

Then it hit me in the lyrics of this song: Love Calls by Kem.

It’s got a  sexy jazz feel, and of course the smooth bass guitar line (and you know I love my bass players! Ahem…Brian Young). The song talks about a person giving up on love because of past experiences, but not being able to deny it when it comes your way. The song quickly went from inspiring the first kiss, to fueling one of the plot lines for not only Yasmine, but for her love interest as well.

If you haven’t heard the song, watch the video, sit back and get lost in these smooth lyrics!

MJ

Interview with Christina OW!

Please welcome fellow 5 Prince Publishing author, Christina OW. She has recently published her second novel, Fatal Jealousy  If you haven’t read her first novel, Star Bright,  take the time and buy a copy of this 5 Star Reviewed novel!

ETNA PLUS

Welcome, Christina!

What inspired you to write?

My love for reading novels started a very long time, about when I was 10 or 11. I was in awe of how a person’s imagination could just take form and fill up pages. I loved the fact that I would read the words and watch it play out in my mind. Some of the books became way more interesting than watching TV!

I’m a person who lives in her head more than the outside world because off all the stories in my head.  So I figured maybe I should put down all the stories I had in my head on paper, and share them, see if everyone else loved them as much as I did.

 What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I have to write around my school work so that would mean only during the weekends.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

 I write two books, completely different genres at the same time.

Are you a pantser or plotter?

Both.

I like planning out my books especially the series. It gives me a sense of direction and how and when the characters are to grow.

 In Star Bright I was a pantser. I knew who Maria was and who Dave was at the beginning of the book but when the other characters come in, they just shaped them and they became these other people, very different from whom I thought they would be. Maria grew into this fierce confident woman, mother and wife and this was all because of Dave and to some extent Ricky, the villain.

 In Fatal Jealousy the book was planned. I didn’t want it to be extremely long to avoid the story getting lost

 Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share an example?

Star Bright yes. Spousal abuse is everywhere so this was my way of writing a happy ending to all of them.

For Fatal Jealousy a story on Crime series inspired it. But instead of telling the story from the killers side, I told it from the unsuspecting couples side.

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Always read the writing tips given by other writers, publishers and reviewers, they are very helpful. And also learn from constructive criticism. Don’t get offended and snub good advice.

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?

Indie pubbed.

Fatal Jealousy and Star Bright have been published by  5 Prince Publishing. It’s a small publisher and kind of like a family unit.

 What are your current projects?

I am currently working on a paranormal series- FATE series- which is a five part series about werewolves and magick. It’s being published by Wheelman Press. They encourage their writer’s to give like a preview of the story, so The Beginning is available to read on my blog http://christinasbooksblog.wordpress.com/fate-series/ it will be available for download soon.

Also I’m working on getting a novella published LOVE FOREVER AFTER. It is Valentine’s inspired but completely not conformed to it. It is the first book of a two part series Candle Light http://christinasbooksblog.wordpress.com/candle-light/

My third series is a Regency Romance SLAVE BOUND. Slave Bound is about four siblings all sold as slaves by their parents, Geraldine and Peter, and how the luck of their eldest sister Melanie gave them their own luck. All my projects finished, published and on going are found on my blog http://christinasbooksblog.wordpress.com/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I have a Diploma in Law and I’m currently in my last year for my BA in
International Studies.

I love reading novels that take me on a ride of wild emotions. Books
have always been an escape for me, for a few hours I love to live the
lives of characters I grow to cherish and admire.
I’ve always had an active imagination and because of it I’ve lived in
my head more than I have been in the outside world. I’ve always
imagined scenerials and wondered how it would turn out in the end, and
what kind of emotions it would evoke.

I began writing down the many stories in my head in 2010.

Writing was never a career path for me it was just a release as
fashion design is my true passion, and now writing has become a vital
part of me and my family as my twin sister is also a writer.

Connect with Christina on the following links!

Goodreads     Facebook      Twitter    Blog     My Projects     Authors Den

Fatal Jealousy Cover

Fatal Jealousy

When you’re worst nightmare comes true….

Twins Ellsa and Ellie are completely different in character, personality, taste and interests. Apart from the striking resemblance to each other, they share the one thing siblings shouldn’t…. the same taste in men.

They keep falling for the same man, creating a quiet rivalry between them. Determined not to let a man come between them ever again, Ellie and Ellsa agree to stay away from each others relationships. But when they meet Dale Carson, an FBI agent and a bachelor, their love lives are turned upside down.

But they aren’t the only ones taken by the rogue. His partner and long time lover, Gwen Johansson, also called dibs.

Carson is interested in only one of them. He is pulled by Ellie’s passion for love and art, and most importantly, him. What starts as a sexual chase, ends with his permanent retirement from bachelorhood.

But their love story is not a smooth one.

Carson’s day job comes knocking on his front door and before he knows it, his whole world is ripped apart.

Out of all the possible suspects, Ellie has the most evidence stacked up against her. She is implicated in the brutal murders of her ex-boyfriends, and Carson is faced with the horror of arresting the love of his life. With two suspects of his own, he is convinced she is being set up, but he has no way of proving it.

Case Title: Woman Scorned

BUY NOW!!

CONTEST!!!!!

Christina OW is giving away a $10.00 Amazon Gift card for leaving a comment! Leave a comment below between now and Tuesday, 1/15/13 and your name will entered into the drawing. Don’t forget to leave your email so that she can contact you if you win. No email, no entry!

So what do you do to win? Simple! Share your “Worst Pick up Line You’ve Ever Gotten”.

Good luck!

Guest Post: Minnie Lahongrais

Writing Divergent Lives

Divergent Lives JPEG One Page CoverIn July of 2011, I sat at my computer to write what I thought was going to be the story of a woman, born of Puerto Rican immigrant parents raised in El Barrio who was conflicted about the ideals she was raised with. I wanted to show how those ideals played out in the revolutionary times of the 60s.

The working title for the story was Standing on the Precipice. I thought I knew how the story would play out when I sat down to write it. I wrote the prologue as well as the first chapter in one sitting then printed that section with the intention of reading it on the train on my way in to work the next day.

The next morning, while putting on my makeup, a childhood memory came rushing back to me. I should have been asleep, but I was eavesdropping on my mother who was having a conversation with my older brother’s girlfriend when I heard this little tidbit:

“The baby died in utero; choked by its umbilical cord when its twin, in a hurry to be born, climbed over it and killed it.”

I was horrified because I knew the person she was talking about! I didn’t read that excerpt on the train that morning. Instead I played out several “what if” scenarios in my head.

“What if that child hadn’t died? What kind of life would it have had? What if the baby had been born with an abnormality? How would the family handle it? What if they gave up the child? What if they think the child is stillborn and it’s sold on the black market instead?”

While discussing the possibilities with another author one night, I decided on a title and release date. Both decisions were important in order to make an impact. Divergent Lives was born that night.

I threw out the prologue, made the first chapter the second chapter and wrote the ending. Now all I had to do was get there.

I began my research in earnest. I studied the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths but became frustrated because I found that both mental conditions could easily be confused for one another. I did find one tiny difference and settled on making these two main characters — the twins — sociopaths.

I studied Bolivia during the end of World War II.

I spoke with an OB/GYN who had knowledge about how things were done in the 60s. I met with a psychotherapist who practiced in the 80s.

I set about studying the laws governing drug sales in the 80s and spoke with real estate experts about amenities that were available in the early 00s in newly built condominiums.

I studied the growth of technology between 1990 and 2000 and I spoke with retired policemen about police procedures.

Once I had all that information in one place, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was pretty excited. The thoughts and ideas ran rampant in my mind 24 hours a day. I couldn’t get them all down on paper fast enough and resorted to voice notes. Today I listen to those breathless notes filled with excitement in my voice and I can only chuckle.

I would rush home to write. What was once the first chapter became the second chapter, what was once the last chapter became the first and I continued on from there, writing consistently and steadily for almost a year. Then I hit a brick wall.

A year after starting this story, I was two thirds of the way through – I had a beginning, an ending and a big hole in the middle. I called my manuscript my “donut” and put it aside to ruminate on how I was going to close up that big ole hole. I put together a list of thirteen issues I needed to address.

I was getting ready to go in for surgery and I knew I would be convalescing for three months. I figured I could address those issues during that time. Wrong again. The first six weeks after surgery were pure hell. I couldn’t focus, I was drugged up, and my characters abandoned me.

I was taken off medication during the 7th week after my surgery and my characters came alive for me again. I finished the story over the next five weeks.

Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.

A quote, written by Marquis de Sade in “Dialogue the Fifth” from his Philosophy in the Bedroom aptly states the message I wanted to convey with this story.

“One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bandy-legged or well-proportioned.”

Think about that. Are we to blame for who we are?

 Divergent Lives is available now on Amazon.com in the US as well as in the UK Additional purchase links for other parts of the world can be found on my website.

Minnie Lahongrais

Contact Minnie on the following sites:

Twitter

Facebook

My Website – Worldwide purchase links can be found here

Divergent Lives on Amazon.com

Email

M.J. Kane- 2012 in Review!

Wow! Can you believe the year is almost over???? It’ll be 2013 in a few hours….This year by far has been my most productive year, well, besides giving birth that is! This is the first year I have ever set a goal and actually worked to see it to fruition. I posted my resolution in January 2012 and promised to write about what I did/did not do, so here it goes: (in order of that post)
* Be published by a publishing company: 
DONE!!! 5 Prince Publishing signed me in July and my debut novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, was published in September!
*Sell a lot of books:

DONE! Hit Amazon Bestseller in Multicultural Romance within hours of publication (have managed to stay there for three months, now it’s off and on). It as also been on the African American Literature & Fiction, African American Romance, and African American Women’s Fiction  Amazon Bestseller lists.

*Be interviewed  by local radio and television stations:

Didn’t happen, but I have done a ton of blog interviews, guest posts, and features…Yay!!!

My manager, Lady Kayne and I.

*Participate in the Writer’s Conference in my city: (Library Headquarters):

ALMOST! Scheduling changed and instead of the conference, a community event was held where local artist, writers, and musicians had the opportunity to share their talent and work. I held my first official Meet and Great as a local author two weeks after my book was published. That was also the day my sales ranking on Amazon  hit its all time peak: #5 in Multicultural Romance and #17 in African American Literature & Fiction!

*Continue to make wonderful connections with other authors and readers: 

This will forever be an ongoing activity, and one I enjoy the most. Having the opportunity to talk to readers via Twitter, Facebook, or in person, and listen to them share their thoughts about my story and characters has been a wonderful experience. It has given me the motivation to continue to write and explore other topics and continue to bring my characters to life.

It is so interesting to go back and look at January’s blog. After writing my list, I spoke of my next thing to do, which was start working on the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs Series, Jaded. I am so glad I did. Here it is, a year later, and because I put in the work a year ago, my publisher will be getting the full MS in a few days with a publication date of March 2013! Whoo Hoo!! I am so excited about that. See what putting in the work a year ago did? It’s actually paying off!

Now, what does MJ have in store for 2013?

*New blog! Yep that’s right! This Writer’s Life has made the transition from Blogger to  Wordpress. All of my blogs have been moved.( Check out the pages entitled, Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors and Quick Links to My Most Popular Posts for quick access.) The transition isn’t about Blogger because I have enjoyed working with this site. But I have two blogs that I write, this one and one for The Butterfly Memoirs. It’s taken a lot to keep both of them up and going for the past few months. With WordPress, I will be able to combine the two into one site, making blog writing content easier .

*New book release! As mentioned before, my second novel, Jaded, will be released in March. Now that I’ve learned my way around marketing and promoting one book, the challenge will be to do it with two! But before that comes final edits with my editor, final reads, and publishing day, and all the fun stuff in between. It’s work, sleepless nights for a while, and oh so worth it!

*Write book three in the Butterfly Memoirs Series: The third book, who’s title will not be released just yet, is a quarter of the way done. Characters have been outlined, story line plotted, even the first 6 chapters written.  As soon as Jaded is published, I’ll dive into writing this story and giving it the same amount of love and attention that was given to AHNEB and Jaded. So looking forward to it!

*Super Secret Project: Yep, it ‘s a secret, nope not sharing just yet, but keep an eye on my blog and  you’ll know in a few months….you’ll be glad you did.

*Radio Interview: Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to make it happen this year….LOL!

*Attend the Moonlight and Magnolias Georgia Romance Writer’s Conference or the Romance Writer’s of America Conference (to be held in my home town, hello!!!): Start the savings account, cause here I come!!!

So, those are my writing goals for 2013…how about you?

MJ

Why Do I Write?

That is a question I’ve asked myself for the past three years. Before then, I was never a writer, but man was I an avid reader!

I grew up in a rural area and my mom didn’t allow me to play with the neighborhood kids as much as I wanted to. Being an only child, I spent a lot of time by myself. Barbies, stuffed animals, and Strawberry Short Cake (the original version, not the new one!) were my BFF’s. Like any little girl, I spent time making up stories and acting them out. There were times when I would borrow my parents audio cassette tape recorder (omg, now I feel dated and old!), sit down with my stuffed animals, and make up stories and songs, record them, and use them to entertain my parents.

As I got older, dolls were put away, and books became my number one source of entertainment. Stories like, The Box Car Kids, A Circle In The Sea, and Homecoming were my favorites. I can’t remember how many times I journeyed to the local community and school libraries to check them out. If you were to look at the back on the little slip of paper where you signed your name when checking them out,  (dated again!) My name would be there repeatedly.

And then I hit high school. Alice in Wonderland became my favorite read. It was around this time I ran into books from Steven King and John Grisham. I remember being freaked out by Needful Things, unable to sleep at night, yet I couldn’t put it down. A Time to Kill brought tears to my eyes, the amount of emotion and feeling the father experienced was so well written. I remember the moment I finished that novel, I made a note to read each and every novel written by John Grisham. And for the next couple of months I did just that.

That was also when I discovered movies based on books, while good, are seriously lacking. No matter how well the actors portray the characters, no matter how well the screen writer adapted the film, there is absolutely NO WAY for the audience to feel everything the author put into the story. Explanations, feelings, and reasons why a character makes the decisions that drive the plot, can never be explained without taking the time to read the words the author slaved over to tell his/her tale.

Guess movies are the fancier version of Cliff Notes, huh?

But I digress…

Somewhere down the line I decided to start reading Sci-Fi . I love stories that follow a character as they grow and evolve, you know that elusive “they’ve found their HEA, but what happened next? Are they still happy???”

Around 2002, when Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was released, my family went to watch the movie. I had always been a Star Wars fan, having developed my love of the series as a child from my father. The original SW movies were mainly about Luke Skywalker leading the rebels to overthrow the evil Emperor and his henchman, Darth Vader. But then came the new movies based on events years in the past that lead up to the original motion picture. Talk about deep character development. It answered so many questions as to who Darth Vader was and why he became the man behind the mask. (Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, by James Luceno tells you what the newly named Vader felt like in that suite!)

I found myself immersed in the world of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. For those who have no idea what those are, let me explain. If you’ve ever watched the Star Wars movies, Episode 1-6, and I say IF because I have a family friend that has NEVER watched one in his life. (I threaten to tie him down and force him to watch a marathon, lol) For those SW die hard fans who have to know what happens after Darth Vader dies and is redeemed, the Expanded Universe novels follow Luke, Han, and Leia, their kids, and numerous other characters in a wide variety of series. The amount of novels are too many to count. How do I know? I’ve read over 40 of them, and there are more than that I have yet to read! Yep, SW geek!

As I’ve said before, I am a lover of stories that continue and don’t end with just one book. Another great series is The Lord of the Rings. Somehow I found myself reading the trilogy…twice. Tolkien was a master at not only creating worlds beyond your imagination, and characters that are memorable, he also created languages. It took him years to pull all of his stories together. Just think of the sheer magnitude of the work. Not to mention the fact that a portion of his novels were written while he sat in the trenches as a soldier during World War I as he watched his friends die around him.


What does any of this have to do with the reason why I decided to write?

Everything.

Authors write for different reasons. Some have over active imaginations that drive them to put pen to paper. Others do so as a hobby or to entertain people around them. A lot of authors write to heal while recovering from a painful memory. Be it diary, blog, endless notes, short stories, or novels.  There is some kind of a writer in all of us.

I was never one to keep a running diary. I tried it once and got bored with my life. But my imagination, on the other hand, has always run rampant, even as an adult. I found myself making up stories to keep myself entrained while waiting in the doctors office, sitting in rush hour traffic, even while lying in bed at night unable to sleep. But it wasn’t until several life altering experiences affected my family did I realize putting pen to paper and letting the emotions flow from my fingers into the lives of my characters did I start to heal. I realized I had a story to tell.

So, for me, writing and learning the craft of writing, has become my passion on many different levels.

The stories I tell, while they fall in the romance genre, are not just about romance. Yes, sex is involved because it is a part of life, but my stories will never be considered erotic romance. Contemporary romance? Yes, because my characters reside in the same day and age as you and I. Interracial Romance? Yes, because my characters are from various racial backgrounds. The love, the relationships, the bonds formed between the men and women that reside in my head go well beyond skin color. Women’s Fiction? It can fit here too because the topics I write about pertain to the many issues women today face.

Yet, my stories are not just about the women. They’re also about the men.

My stories are about love, redemption, healing, and evolving into something more than what they were in the beginning. My characters lives are like yours and mine. We ride a roller coaster of emotions. Some days are good, some days are bad. There are times of overwhelming joy, just like there are times of pain and grief. And even though my characters go through these growing pains, they come out on the other end as changed individuals, having learned from their experiences, and become better from them. And that, my dear friends, is the message I write about.

Hope, love, understanding….evolving.

Just like a butterfly…

And that is why I write.

MJ

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The Lucky 7 MEME Award- Yay!

Today my blog was nominated for the Lucky 7 MEME award by my dear friend and fellow author, Sharon Cooper. Thank you so much for thinking of me, and congratulations on your new book coming out this month, Something New. Be sure to stop by her blog and take a sneak peak at the excerpt !
 So, here are the rules to this award:
·         Go to page 77 of your manuscript (or any part of your written work)
·         Go to line 7
·         Copy the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs into your post
·         Give the award to 7 more writers and let them know!
So, I happily give the honors to the following authors/bloggers:
Darin Calhoun: DarinCalhoune.com 
Stacy Green: stacygreenauthor.com
Abigail Tinuviel: Worlds Before the Door
Donna McBroom-Theriot: My Life. One Story at a Time


Well, first comes the fun part, sharing an excerpt of the story. A Heart Not Easily Broken is currently in the querying stage.  If you haven’t read the first chapter, stop by and check it out to familiarize yourself with the main characters, Ebony Campbell and Brian Young. 
Now, on to page 77, line 7, and the next seven paragraphs. Enjoy! 
A day spent with no strings, no commitment, no expectations, and no sex. Just two adults enjoying each other’s company in a public setting. After all, in order to become friends, you needed to spend time together.

He’d be there. I’d show up. That’s it.

I headed upstairs, grabbed my phone, and sent him a text message. Deciding what to wear should not have been hard, yet I found myself unable to decide on shorts or jeans. I didn’t want to wear the same thing twice.

Five minutes passed with no reply. Could he have changed his mind about going? Or worse, found someone else willing to jump at the opportunity to spend the evening with him? Maybe I shouldn’t have waited to decide.

I grabbed my phone and flopped onto the bed unable to ignore the pain of disappointment. I was about to send a message to cancel when my phone chimed.

glad u changed ur mind. c u there.

An unexpected feeling of warmth spread through me from head to toe.

Thank god Ebony was at a decision making point in the story and not in the middle of some random thought! Her decision leads to the novel’s first kiss, which is told from Brian’s POV. To read a snippet of that scene, visit this blog post on fellow author, Carmen DeSousa’s, blog post, Ah, the first kiss, is there anything better, and you’ll find it and other great first-kiss scenes! 
 For more information about A Heart Not Easily Broken and The Butterfly Memoirs, visit the Butterfly Blog and follow on Twitter


As always, thanks for stopping by! 
MJ

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Crash and Burn…Are Your Manuscript Files Backed Up?

A computer crash is the biggest fear of any author. Months, even years, of hard work, creativity, and research are gone in a matter of seconds. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The latest laptop to fail.

Over the past year, I’ve gone through three laptops and now a computer. Okay, the laptops weren’t the newest on the market and two of them were free. I’m not complaining because they got the work done. The more I worked, the more it got used, and apparently, they couldn’t keep up with me or the newer programs I needed to keep my writing going.

Last week, I began having problems with my and newest laptop. My husband is a technical whiz and has rebuilt his computer several times. He’s been able to recover files from major crashes and do major overhauls on his machines to make them run faster. Simply put, he’s got the best computer in the house! He needs it since he produces, engineers, and records artist  on his machine. In short, he’s got money sitting in his hard drives.

He informed me that my computer needed to have the Windows uninstalled and reinstalled in order to make it work better. So far he’s had to save my butt and fix the thing about 5 times in the last three months. I backed up all of my files, anticipating my computer hard drive being completely wiped out, and happily handed it over. Needless to say, something went wrong. It wasn’t his fault, it’s the computers. It’s about four years old and had already been having some issues with the hard drive. Long story short, it accepted Windows 7, but refuses to accept Word. How is a writer supposed to write without WORD????

So, I sucked it up and got my son’s computer tower, brought it to my office, and promised him I would not take it over forever. Just long enough to keep my writing momentum going without getting behind while waiting for the laptop to be fixed.

That black spot is what caught on fire!

All went good for a few hours. I managed to start typing the first chapter of the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs series, Jaded. I had already printed out the MS and went line-by-line with my red pen doing edits. I typed of the first ten pages last night. As I was going through the words on my Passive Words checklist, I began to smell smoke. My first thought was the stove had been turned on accidentally and a pot or plastic cup was on it. (My office is right off the kitchen). I looked over at my 11-year-old son who was washing dishes and asked what was burning. It was then I noticed smoke coming from under my desk. I pushed back from the desk and realized the computer tower was on fire! I, of course, freaked and yelled for my husband. Everyone in the house came running. Fortunately, I was able to blow out the flames, but the computer was done.

I was sitting there on the verge of tears. After waiting, fretting, and struggling with the desire to sit down at a computer and get things moving along, I was once again computer-less, not to mention my son’s computer is now toast. But then I realized something that made me laugh. My family thought I was crazy. In the scene I was working on, the heroine, Yasmine Phillips, is stressing because her computer crashed and literally burned.  Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief glimpse at the WIP:

My paper work filed away, I turned back to my computer and pulled up the accounting program used to manage the hotel.

“No, no, no!” I pounded on my key board, but nothing worked.

“What’s wrong?” Brandon leaned forward to peer around my monitor.

The screen flashed a rolling script before it went completely black.

“Oh shit,” I groaned, flopped back in my chair, and put my hands on my face. I wanted to snatch my hair out. “Shit, shit, shit…”

Brandon whistled. “You, my sister, are seriously screwed.”

If looks could kill, he’d be dead right now. I sat up and even though knowing it was a waste of time, flipped the on switch of the computer tower. There was a spark of energy that flashed and burned out in the grounding wire of the extension cord. Brandon and I jumped up; he lunged for the cord in the wall while I ran for the fire extinguisher in the hall.

Fortunately I didn’t need it.

My brother fanned smoke as the smell of burnt electronics permeated the air.“I hope you had that information on a backup system.”

“No, I know I’m supposed to, but I never got around to it,” I grimaced.

            Brandon reached over and patted me on my shoulder. “So far, I’m not liking the idea of being manager at the new location”

Talk about irony! My office still smells of burnt plastic!

Several months ago, my husband asked me if I’d been backing up my writing files in case of a computer crash. At the time I felt that wasn’t necessary. I had my files saved to USB and that was enough. Then I began hearing horror stories of computers crashing, partial files missing, USB’s lost, and realized I needed to step it up.

I’m not the worlds most computer savvy person. Thankfully, my husband is. He walked me through the steps and showed me how to save entire files on to a CD. Not only have I backed up my manuscripts, I’ve backed up all research, articles on writing, photos, and e-books on writing. If anything ever happens, all I have to do is pull out the disk and download it to whatever computer I’m on and have a perfect snap shot of my work. Doing this every couple of months, weeks, or whenever major changes are made, can keep your work current. That way if you ever experience an issue with your computer, you can rest assured your time dedicated to your work was not in vain.

Other options for additional places to store your work are:

  • Online storage services (some are free, some you pay for.)
  • Emailing a copy of latest work to yourself and archiving it. 
  • Create a buddy system with another writer you trust. Exchange digital copies of you MS for each other to hold in case yours ever is lost or destroyed.
  • Even though this is the age of digital information, there’s nothing wrong with going old school and printing out a copy to have on hand.
  • Purchase an external hard drive to save your work on. That way if your main drive on your computer fails, the external hard drive will still have your work. Think of it as a giant USB. 

These are the few that I can recommend. If anyone has any other methods, please share! 

MJ

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To Hire an Editor or Not to Hire an Editor…That is the Question!

Editors. In the world of writing, we all need one. The question is when.

During my writing journey, I’ve heard various tales, feedback, and opinions.

No, don’t hire an editor to read your work before submitting. You’ll be wasting money. Let the publisher pay for it.

Yes, hire an editor; it could increase your quality of your product and give you an opportunity to actually find and agent and/or publisher.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

When it all comes down to it, the true question is: how much money do you want to invest?


Two years ago, the thought of an editor reviewing my work scared me. The idea of someone ripping it to shreds, and spitting it back at me, demanding that it be re-written because it wasn’t good enough, had me cursing the profession. I pushed that thought aside and focused on writing a story I wanted to tell. Next, I focused on learning as much as I could about sentence structure, setting up the paragraphs, scene breaks, chapter breaks, and POV changes. Then, I built the infamous repeated/passive word list to tighten up my prose. I’ve gone over my list so many times while doing my own edits, I rarely have to pull it up to know what words to avoid. In fact, when I write a scene, I now catch those words and change them before they hit the screen.

However, that doesn’t cover everything. There are still the annoying details of correct grammar usage, using the right word tense, and spelling. Unless you were a serious English major in high school, college, or took a class specifically for this type of detail, there’s no possible way you’ll ever be able to catch every errorl. To be honest, no one ever will, even if that’s what he or she does for a living. Why? Because we are all human. And humans make mistakes, whether we want to believe it or not.

A perfect example: how many times have we as readers picked up a novel by one of our favorite New York Times Bestselling authors who have the backing of a big name publishing house, only to discover a major editing error? Come on, we’ve all done that. Why? Human imperfection. No matter how many hands and eyes touch a manuscript is read, no matter how many attempts are made to dot all the ‘Is’ and cross all the ‘Ts’, humans make errors, especially if it is your own writing.

So, what does that mean for the aspiring author, or for an author who is self- published?

It means you have a decision to make. How much do you want to invest in yourself?

The investment is not only about money; it’s also about time.

If you decide to use an editor, how do you know you’ve found an editor you can work with and who is qualified? Of course, the first thing everyone looks for is reputation. Word of mouth from other authors in your writing network is great, too. Nevertheless, in the end, it comes down to one-on-one communication. Does the editor understand your type of writing ? Do they edit a lot of work in your genre? Will they be able to understand the rules of the genre you’re writing? What time-frame are you looking for? Will it take a few days or a few weeks before they return your work? What type of editing are you paying for?

Type of editing? If this is new to you, then it’s something you must know. There are several types of editing available. What’s the differences?

Copywriter or Copy-Editing:
Their job is to be sure your story is written well and logically structured. Correct grammar and spelling is checked, as well as ensuring the manuscript fits the publishers ‘style’. They ask questions of the author and check story facts.

Content Editor:
Their job is to ensure your work meets the standards for accuracy and style. They check for spelling, grammar, coherence, consistent style. They also proofread to be sure copy-editing work has been completed.

Proofreader:
In the publishing world, a proofreader is generally the last person to see your manuscript after it’s been through other editors’ hands and before it goes to print. Their job is to do a final read through to catch any mistakes the first editor may have missed. This is generally the most affordable.

If you are not shopping your manuscript around and have decided to self-publish, you should seriously consider having at least one of these editors review your work. Depending on what phase of your writing career you are in, it may not be in your budget. If you go the proofreading route, then know, you MUST review your work again after it is returned. If you don’t and there are issues that were pointed out and you don’t review them, it is on you, not the editor.

So, what route will you choose?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Today’s agents are meticulous. Not only does your story have to engage them and keep them interested for at least the first three chapters, the quality of your writing has to as well. Sending them an unedited copy – and by that I mean, work you haven’t spent time searching for errors yourself – makes a difference. The cleaner the read, the more focused on the story they will be, not the plethora of errors littering the pages. Taking that amount of time, or money, also lets them know that you, the author, are willing to put in the work it takes to make a better product. With the current economy, every business is looking for ways to cut down their expenses. If you walk in the door offering a product they can spend less money on before making it available for sale, you increase your chances of them choosing your manuscript.

Sell yourself.

Here’s another fact you must remember: if you decided to use an editor…don’t just pay them and expect what they send to you in return doesn’t need to be reviewed. Any editor, especially a professional, will tell you that after they do their magic, it’s up to you, the author, to review your manuscript. Just because they make changes or suggestions does not mean you have to accept it. It’s up to your discretion. But, you still have to re-read your work from beginning to end. It’s up to you to put that stamp of approval on it before sending it out into the world . That requires more work on your part. If you don’t do the work, then you will have to deal with the consequences of any un-corrected errors. The editor’s job is to work with you, which means you in turn must work with them.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a proofreader many of you may have seen on Facebook or Twitter, @TJProofs. She shared some helpful information on how to determine what type of editor you need, depending on the amount of work you’ve put into cleaning up your manuscript.

“A proofreader, which is my specialty, is generally the last person you see. They focus on clean manuscripts, after they’ve run their gamut (through a publisher), but many people try to skip the steps. The fact of the matter is, if you are horrible at punctuation, you choose a copy-editor. If you feel you’ve got punctuation licked, but your story needs a scouring for consistency, you may choose a content editor. If you have a great idea, but need someone to go through your MS with a fine-toothed-comb – rewriting sentences for clarity, passive statements, content, and punctuation – then you need a full-scale editor.” 


To learn more about TJ and the services she offers, visit her at www.ManuscriptProofing.com. Other places where she can be found are:

Facebook, Twitter
Blog: manuscriptproofing.blogspot.com
Email: TJProofs@gmail.com or TJ@ManuscriptProofing.com

I hope this information has been informative. Whether or not you choose to use the services of any of the above editors, I wish you the best on your writing journey!

MJ