Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sony Reader / Happy New Year

I got myself the Sony Reader after Christmas, and I gotta say I love it. I can take books anywhere and read whichever one I choose. It's thin, lightweight, adjustable for font size, and can also store photos (black and white) and audiobooks. It can also convert file formats and allow you to enter the book's title, author, etc. I recommend Calibre for that, since the program doesn't have the glitches that Sony's bundled software seems to have, at least for the PRS-505 model.

The technology isn't there yet to display photos in color, but I bet it's not far off. Just my mini-brag today about how cool this little critter is. Check one out if you get the chance!

On a side note, have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year 2009! I hope you have all made your writing resolutions!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

You Can't Just Turn It Off, Y'Know ....

Had dinner with the family tonight, and Hubby and I were doing that thing parents do when they don't want their young child to know what they are talking about: spell it out.

"Our son asked Santa for a D-U-M-P T-R-U-C-K, you know, Papa," I say. Our two-year-old son continues to smear spaghetti on his face in the process of shoveling it into his mouth, oblivious.

Hubby responds with a smug smile. "What're you going to do when he learns to S-P-L-L?"

"You mean, S-P-E-L-L?" I ask sweetly.

Hubby scowls. "Man, I hate living with an editor."

(Oh, sure. But when you need a paper proofread ...) *grin*

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Now THAT'S Emotion!

Dude, I think I might be in love with Edward Norton.

Hubby and I watched "The Incredible Hulk" last night--the new version, with Norton as Bruce Banner, and though I'd heard it was good, I hadn't watched it yet. Now I'm sorry I waited so long.

If you want to see a good actor express emotion onscreen, you NEED to see this movie. I don't even care if you're not a comic book fan. You don't need to be to appreciate this movie. There are several moments in this movie where Edward simply yanks your heart out and squeezes, just by the look on his face. My personal favorite is the one where he hides behind the Dumpster. Watch the movie, you'll see. No romance writer will be able to resist him after that, even if Edward isn't your usual cup of tea.

I always liked him as an actor, but after this, he shot right up my personal chart. This is a guy who knows how to fill a performance with emotion. Go. Watch. Enjoy. Have some popcorn. And if you are a comics fan, check out the cool cameo with Stan Lee. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Just taking a moment today to wish you all a very Happy Holiday. I got what I wanted for Christmas--a book contract and a gorgeous book cover to go with it! I hope you get your every wish this year, and that your holidays are safe and enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Speedin' Like A Freight Train

Wow. When I get busy, it seems to happen all at once. Between working on my second novel in the Elemental Series, working with my editor on revisions for the first one, editing the several manuscripts for other authors that have made their way onto my desk, and getting some family time in there too, I feel like I need to clone myself. That's not even getting into the day job.

I hope you have a little more free time than me! Definitely pause to enjoy the season and share a cup of egg nog with your loved ones. It's not the presents that matter--it's the traditions. :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New Header!

With the release of my first book cover for EARTH, I have created a new header for my website and blog! What do you think?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

EARTH Cover Released!

When it rains good news, it pours! The cover of my first novel, EARTH, was released by The Wild Rose Press today. It's everything I hoped and more! The cover artists at TWRP really listened to my requests, ideas, and visions for this book. Here it is!



As yet, it's too soon to have a release date, but I will update you here as I receive information. Stay tuned for more details!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Contract News - EARTH

Posting early this week, because I can't keep it in anymore. As I mentioned on my main homepage, my paranormal romance, EARTH, has been accepted for publication by The Wild Rose Press! I'm so thrilled, and I hope this will be the first of many book contracts (cross your fingers)!

EARTH is the first book in my Elemental series, and it takes place on a ranch in Montana. In spite of the setting and certain elements, this book is firmly planted in the realm of the paranormal. The hero, Kincade Murphy, is desperate to regain his lost Earth Elemental power before it's too late to save his failing ranch. When he goes against his better judgment and enlists the help of botanist Allyson Hamilton, he finds himself in a heady dance between desire for her, and the need to keep her from learning his paranormal secret. But neither of them counts on a discovered plot to force Kincade and his family off their beloved ranch, and suddenly they're thrust into danger. Now, Kincade must choose between protecting his secret or protecting Allyson, and the wrong decision could cost him everything.

Look for updates and news on this and my other books, and stay tuned for release information as it becomes available. I got what I wanted from Santa this year. Let's hope you get your holiday wish. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a short note wishing those of you who celebrate a safe, happy, and yummy Thanksgiving. Let the feasting and football begin!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Add Men

Well, it's snowing here in Central NY.

My mother's house is on a nice, big patch of land with a large pond and pretty evergreens in the back. It was snowing over the weekend, and we were looking out the windows at it--gorgeous fluffy flakes of the stuff falling softly over the pond and blanketing the trees. And Mom asked, "What could be better than that?"

So I thought for a moment and said, "Watching Hugh Jackman and Carter Oosterhouse have a snowball fight."

She agreed, of course. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Won A Contest!

I'm proud to announce that my short story, FINDING HOME, won first place in the 2008 Rebecca Eddy Memorial Writing Contest! This contest is put on yearly by the Canastota Public Library, and honors the memory of Rebecca Eddy, an avid writer and reader. I'm thrilled to have won this award, and I want to thank all the judges who believed in this story! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ya Better Shop Around

Well, the final draft of GEMINI is out the door and making the rounds in New York prior to their usual holiday slow-down, and I am so excited. In the meantime, The Wild Rose Press still has my full manuscript of EARTH. Santa, if you're listening, all I want for Christmas is a book contract! :)

Meanwhile, I'm plugging away through my current book in the GIFTED series. Once I'm done with that, if things pan out with EARTH, I will probably turn my attention to the next book in that series, WATER. I won't be posting excerpts on that one for quite a while, but stay tuned to the blog and I will keep you updated with tidbits and news.

Lastly, I want to say a belated THANK YOU to all U.S. Armed Forces veterans for their service to the country. You keep us safe and free. This one's for you!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

EARTH Completed and Submitted!

Good grief, time does fly. It's Wednesday again, and I blinked and (almost) missed it.

I have finished the manuscript for EARTH and sent that in to The Wild Rose Press for consideration in their light paranormal line, Faery Rose. I should hear back from that quite soon, and I'm waiting with bated breath!

Meanwhile, my agent has the final draft of GEMINI and will be contacting me by the end of the week with her thoughts, as well as (I hope) a plan of action for submitting it to the editors in New York.

I have a couple of author manuscripts on my desk at the moment for The Wild Rose Press too. And since I don't feel productive unless I am running around at mach two, I am also writing feverishly to try and make a year-long goal of finishing another of my own manuscripts. That may not happen, realistically, but it seems like I get more done when I feel I'm under the gun. So I should probably go write.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Wish for Big Kids

May your treats be sweet
And your tricks be spooky
And no one will care
If you act a bit kooky

This is the night
We get to be kids
And run around silly
Like we once did

So have a good time
Be safe, but make scenes
You must live it up
'Cause it's Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everybody's A Critic

Over the weekend, I had my son to myself, as the DH was working. We spent part of the day in the kitchen, baking and getting dinner ready. While it was cooking, I picked up my almost-two-year-old son and danced around the kitchen with him, singing along to a CD of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart." (Love that song!)

"No song!" declared my cherubic little boy.

"Why not?" I asked. "I like to sing to you."

"No song!" he insisted.

"What's the matter? Mommy's singing isn't that bad, is it?"

At this point, my adorable little boy looks me in the eye, gives me a solemn nod, and says, "Yes."

Ouch. Well, that's probably why I entered into a writing career instead of a singing one. *grin*

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Words, Words, Words

Words are just as important to success of your manuscript as plot and characterization. Knowing which words to choose can be a big boost to your career. Why say ran when you can say barreled, plunged, rushed? Don't pick the first words off the top of your head. Don't be satisfied with typical. Whenever you feel a lull in the flow of your book, look at the overall plot, etc--and then look at your choice of words. Are they vivid? Fresh? Do they evoke the right picture in your reader's head?

It's true that you could spend a lifetime polishing your manuscript and forget to get it out the door. Obviously, you should take a breath at some point and send it out--but be sure it's the very best you can make it, right down to the words you put on the page.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Going For The Goal!

Click me to learn more!

REACH THE GOAL!

Even though I'm not published yet, I am strongly committed to using a portion of my earnings to give back to the community ... and since I'm a writer, literacy was one of my first picks. Available on my CafePress page is a T-shirt any writer will appreciate - the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict of a writer! I will donate 20% of the profits from the sale of this T-shirt to ProLiteracy, a worldwide organization dedicated to improving lives through the power of reading. Click the picture above to go to the link where you can purchase this T-shirt, and spread the power of the written word!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Read, Read, Read

You've heard it said a million times. I've said it myself. One of the best ways to become a writer is to read. Pick some of the bestsellers in the genre you love, and read them thoroughly. A couple of times. First, for enjoyment of course. Then, when you've finished, turn on your internal editor and note how the story is constructed. Dissect the book into the Inciding Incident, the Turning Points, The Black Moment, and the Resolution. (In romance, we look for the meet, the first kiss, the love scenes, any plot twists/turns, the breakup moment, and the happily-ever-after.)

Also, pay close attention to the way the writer uses words - not to copy, but to understand the way a bestselling author strings them together. It's not average.

For example, you'll notice that most class-act writers do not go for the obvious similes and phrases. "Light as a feather." "Strong as an ox." These are the ones that come right off the top of your head, and they're so familiar they're boring. For a good movie example, I like "Under the Tuscan Sun." The narrator is talking about her trip to the open-air market, where the scent of grapes permeates everything. She tastes one and says, "It even smells purple." You know exactly what she's talking about in four words. Readers love a good verbal surprise, something vivid and fresh. Unexpected. Those are the books we come back to ... and the writers we buy more books from.

Take a trip to the bookstore and spend some money. Write it off as research material! Who knows? You might find a new favorite author.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Website Update - EARTH Added!

I've uploaded a section on my Books page including the information for my latest manuscript, EARTH, as well as an excerpt for those of you who are interested in learning more about the first book in this new series. Feel free to write and tell me what you think about it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Characterization

It's been a while since I did an entry on craft, so today let's focus on characterization. This is the sum of all your character's traits, good AND bad, that make her who she is on paper. It's important to keep your character from sounding "cookie-cutter." Anyone can write about the jilted woman who's afraid to love again. But if you pay special attention to rounding her out, humanizing her, THEN you've got something special.

What are her flaws? Everyone's got some. Don't love your hero and heroine so much that you make them perfect. That makes for dull reading. And make those flaws INTERESTING. Not just "She's too kind," or "She works too hard." Maybe she's an impossibly nosy person who eavesdrops and then overhears that her straight-laced politician boss is having an affair with HER ex. Maybe the two are involved in a huge money-laundering scam. Maybe your heroine's nosiness gets her in so deep that she thinks she can solve this herself. Now you're getting somewhere - strong characters can sometimes help you carve out the plot just by being who they are. (Pick the worst situation that can happen to them, and drop them into it. Works every time!)

But you've only scratched the surface. Maybe she bites her nails when she's nervous. Lots of us do it and can relate. This kind of stuff endears your reader to your characters, because they have foibles just like us. Little flaws can be as important to characterization as larger ones.

It's easy to give your heroine superhuman abilities and talents, because you like her. But it's more meaningful to give them the bad stuff, because it opens them up for us to jump in and fall in love with them. So give some thought to your characterization even before you write a single word of the book. Your characters may write it for you!

Monday, October 06, 2008

"The End" - Really!

I did it! *happy dance*

I finally reached "The End" in my manuscript, EARTH - the first of four books in a "new" series targeting The Wild Rose Press. This book has been just over two years in the making, so it's more "resurrected" than "new," but I am giddy to have finished the first intallment. I feel happy and exhausted and relieved, as if I lived through all the adventures and trials of the hero and heroine. Never let them say writing is easy!

I'm now going to take a little time to edit and polish it, while wading through some editing projects for The Wild Rose Press. I will then put some info on this book up on my website and focus on some side jobs as a web designer for fellow authors. After that, I might need a nap. ;)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

"The End" - Almost! / Contest Entry

This weekend I am focusing on getting to the end of one of my current manuscripts - one that's been waiting for The End for about two years now! The book's working title is EARTH, and it's been a long, long road to get where it's at now. While it has Western elements, because of the nature of the hero's power (the setting is Montana), this book is firmly within the realm of Paranormal. You should see more about this book soon on my website, so stay on the lookout for it!

In the meantime, I have entered my short story, FINDING HOME, in a locally-held writing contest just for fun. I'll keep you posted on how it does!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ahh, Fall!

Fall is officially here in NY. That means changing leaves, snuggly sweaters, apple picking, and pumpkins! We have done some (not all) of the fall yard work and put out the fall decorations. Soon, it'll be time for trick-or-treating.

With the changing weather, I find better reasons to move indoors with my activities. This includes a (hopefully consistent) upsurge in my writing output. I am finishing up a story that I set aside a couple of years ago, in the hope that I can get someone to bite on it. After that, I plan to go back to the next book in the Gifted series. After that, I'll either work on another book in the Gifted series, or another of the several projects I have in the back of my head.

I have a comfy new leather desk chair coming to replace the rock-hard one I currently use. I'm hoping that encourages me to spend more time at my desk working! I can't wait.

Meantime, I think I'll go get some apple pie.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On Being Silly

Last weekend the hubby and I went to dinner with some friends. We had good food and lively conversation, and as much as I love motherhood, it was nice to leave the peanut with Grandma for the night and enjoy an evening out. You might say it was refreshing to remember what it's like to be an adult.

After dinner, we went to a karaoke bar and made fools of ourselves.

Yes, I did get up and sing. Nobody died or ran for cover, so it must not have been all that bad. (Or they were being charitable. Or perhaps they were in possession of earplugs.) I was terrified, of course. Half the point of being a writer is that nobody's actually looking at you. You get to hide behind a computer. But I managed, and my friends sang too. And it was fun to sing along when someone else had the microphone. Therapeutic, actually. Hmm, I might have to do this karaoke thing again. Making a fool of yourself as therapy. Who knew?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bitten!

OK, I may write paranormal, and I may love Buffy and Angel (it's the writing - Joss Whedon is my hero for adding conflict to a storyline) ... but honest, I'm not a vampire girl. Or I wasn't.

Then I met Edward.

Ha. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga is so darn good, I'm staying up way past my bedtime (like 1:00 AM, and I have to get up at 5:00) to read. It takes Edward, like, 43 pages to even say hello to the girl in the first book. And the minute he opened his mouth, I went "Eeek! I love him!" How's that for building up your romantic tension?!? I have to be honest and say there's more "telling," adverb use, rolling eyes, looks, and repeated phrases than I think we could get away with in the adult romance genre - but obviously Stephenie knows what she's doing, since all four books have topped the bestseller list. Topped, like, Number One.

That's gotta be Edward's fault. Really, pick up the first book (aptly titled Twilight) and you'll see what I mean. This series is awesome, and it's been nice to want to devour a book whole again. I haven't been this giddy since reading Harry Potter. So a big thank you to Stephenie Meyer for that. And a not-subtle hint for any of you who are even remotely fans of paranormal and YA to read this series. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My, How Time Flies

Is it just me, or does time just move faster and faster as life goes on? I am working feverishly on a project I had previously back-burnered, and set aside the most current project in my Gifted series to work on it. Meanwhile, my agent is reviewing the latest draft of GEMINI to see if it is up to snuff. Cross your fingers!

On top of that, I have my editing responsibilities for The Wild Rose Press, which I love. Helping other writers improve their craft and work toward publication has been extremely rewarding. The great thing about TWRP is that they don't just say "no thank you" when a story is rejected. They give you a several-page letter on the whys and wherefores, in addition to a five-page critique and edit of your manuscript! No publishing company does that these days. Nobody. How cool is that?

Somewhere in there, I've got to make time for the family. The little peanut is getting bigger and bigger, and boy, does he talk! He'll be two in December, and I can't wait to take him apple picking this fall. I'm really looking forward to the holidays, because he'll be much more aware of them than he was last year. He, Hubby, and I will get to see more of each other now (I hope) since my hours at my day job have changed and I can get home early enough for dinner with them.

And lastly, Central New York Romance Writers turns 20 next month, so we're having a big bash to celebrate that! If you live in the CNY area, and you've been thinking of joining the group, now is the time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chug, Chug, Chug

Sometimes it's not the quantity that you write in a day - it's that you're writing. But even when you're not writing, you're writing - just in case you wondered.

Yesterday I forgot my Dana while I was at my day job, so I couldn't do any work on my current books. However, I did a lot of thinking about my characters and my career, and things I'd like to see myself accomplish. While I haven't done as much this year as I'd like, I am pretty comfortable with where I am at for the moment. (Talk to me my December, and I might be mad I didn't get further this year!)

Just remember to get yourself in front of that keyboard daily if you can, and as frequently as you can if not daily. Writing gets rusty when not used regularly, like any other talent. But realize that as a writer, your downtime away from the keyboard is often spent subconsciously working out details, dialogue, scenes, and conflicts in your book. Then, even if it's ten minutes, get back to the keyboard and write out what you worked on in your head. As I said, you need to do the physical writing regularly to keep your skills honed.

Keep chugging!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quit Writing!

Yep, you read that right. Writers are solitary creatures by definition. However, don't forget that as a human being, you need a social life too. Your friends and family are (I hope) your biggest cheerleaders, and they want you to succeed at your craft. However, they would like to see you emerge from your keyboard once in a while and enjoy life outside the writer's imagination.

Don't forget to get out now and then. Have dinner with friends. See a movie. Take a walk. Walk Fido (he misses you too). It helps you recharge your batteries, and sometimes even gives you time away from your manuscript to solve a problem in it. I once worked out an internal conflict by vacuuming the house. No, really! If that doesn't get your house squeaky clean, I don't know what will.

Unless you can get your loved ones to vacuum for you when you return to writing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm Not A Spellchecker (Even Though I Could Be)!

Today I'd like to talk about proofreading your work. It's very, very important that you do this thoroughly before you get it into the hands of an editor. An instance here and there of a misspelled word might be excusable. Repeated instances of misspellings, sentence fragments, and punctuation errors are frowned upon. They might convey to the editor that you haven't completely proofread your work before handing it in, and (worst case scenario) that you expect him (or her) to pick up the proofreading slack. This could result in a manuscript rejection, which none of us wants. It's frustrating for all parties involved.

While editors back in the heyday may have been able to give much more personalized attention in line edits and basic structure, remember that these days it is your job to catch all these minor errors before it even gets into the hands of a professional. You'll get much more out of your editor when she's able to focus on content, rather than structure. She can help you develop and deepen your characters and conflicts--but only if she can see past the structure of your writing itself. So remember to run a spellcheck, and do a thorough read with an eye to sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar use. Your editor will thank you, and when you're that much closer to publication, you can give yourself a big ol' pat on the back.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Joys of High Speed

Hee! Why am I so excited tonight? I've got RoadRunner! Yes, our household finally broke down and got RoadRunner, which I haven't had in around ten years. Hubby wants to look into getting his Masters degree, and he'll need to do it online - so it makes sense to have high-speed Internet.

As always, there is a downside.

The connection runs through my office computer, which, of course, is the one I use to write when I am not using my Alphasmart Dana. This means that yes, I can check a fact quickly without running to our other computer which had been hooked up to dial-up, then waiting for it to boot up, then getting my info, then coming back to my office computer to write. I now have to resist the multitude of Other Interesting Activities and plant my butt in the seat to write - really write.

This is me going. (Hee!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hey, I'm A Girl!

It's rare for me, but once in a while, I like to be girly. And oddly enough, it usually happens this time of year. Why? Because the Sterling Renaissance Festival is going on. This is the time of year I like to dress up in actual skirts and dresses, do my hair differently, wear perfume .... Yes, I'm weird.

Anyway, we went to the local farmer's market last weekend, and I found a dress I love, love, love. It's Indian-style, royal blue with beautiful embroidery down the front, basically a tank dress that ties in the back. And it looks fabulous on me. The best part? It was $26.00. The farmer's market ROCKS.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Be Your Own Worst Critic (So Others Won't Want To)

We all do it. We write a book we love. It's wonderful. Its characters made us laugh. They made us cry. They made us fall in love. "That book is my baby," we say.

Until that manuscript goes into a drawer for a month while you let the ink dry, and the objectivity comes back.

This is what you must do as a writer, to distance yourself from the books you've written. Only after you haven't seen the work for a while, can you read it with fresh eyes. And when you come back and hate the words you've put on the page, and you're ready to burn it, and you think you should never torture the world with your prose again ... then you're ready to revise.

Being critical of your work is not a bad thing. In fact, it will help you get the thick skin you need to be an author. Your worst critic--you--is about to become your best ally on the road to publication.

First and foremost, you'll need to look at the mechanics of your writing. Are the sentences structured properly? Are you using poor grammar only where it's done on purpose (There are such instances!)? Is your book loaded with adverbs? Too much telling and not enough showing? Remember: Unless you fix the mechanics, your reader won't be able to see past clunky writing to appreciate the great plot and characters of your book.

Next, look at characterization, POV, and flow of your storyline. Is everything consistent? Do a character's actions and reactions make sense for his/her worldview? Do the scenes flow nicely? Are some too short and others too long? Do you get to spend enough time in each major character's head to fall in love with him/her? Could a scene be written better in someone else's POV? Cut scenes, move them, rewrite them. You can save the whole enchilada as a new file in your computer, so that you have the old version on hand, should you want to change something back.

Do not be afraid to slash and burn parts of your book. If the core of your story is strong and moving, it will survive the editing process! And if an agent or editor suggests a change to your manuscript, consider it carefully. Most of them are experienced in what sells, and they want you to get the best bang possible out of your manuscript. They aren't out to tear up your work, I promise.

That's your job. :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lucky Me! (Well, My CafePress Shop Is)

You could call it coincidence, but I'd rather think I lead a charmed life. :) Last week, someone ordered a hat and tote from my CafePress shop, and the day they got the order confirmation, they won $70 from a slot machine! Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I buy scratch-off tickets while wearing one of my shirts ... ? (No, really, this isn't a shameless plug to visit my CafePress shop and get some stuff. Ahem. :-D)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Filler, and Fixing It

Today's subject is filler - you know, the stuff you throw in to raise word count, but which doesn't further your plot. As writers, we all do it. This is why the aforementioned outline of your story is so important.

Once you've created an outline, including the important plot points or character reveals within each scene, you'll notice whether a scene is moving your story ahead, or just stagnating it. If your characters spend an entire scene chit-chatting about the tree in the heroine's garden, chances are it's not crucial (unless your hero is a landscaper who suddenly discovers this is a rare Superficus greenacea that might be the only cure for the devastating earache plague that's killing swimmers everywhere ... but I digress). If your characters spend the scene repeating something the reader already knows, chop it. Do it. It'll make your story better, I promise. Think of it as pruning. (Oh, no, here she goes again ...)

Don't be afraid to delete scenes. I chopped the entire first three chapters of one book after realizing how much they slowed my story down. Take whatever might be crucial information in those scenes, and move it somewhere else. Your reader will never know she missed the filler - and she'll get a faster, better read. If you're worried about your word count sinking below the required mark, chances are your story didn't already have enough "meat" on its bones. Think up a good subplot that ties in with the main plot, and thread it through the whole story. Word count will then take care of itself.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Making Outlines

A helpful way to organize your story, once it's written, and decide if a scene is working or going nowhere, is to make an outline of chapter, page numbers, scene, POV, and major plot points. For example (yes, a silly example, but you'll get the point):

CHAPTER ONE, 20 pages

Scene 1 - Tarzan's POV
* Introduce Tarzan and his internal conflict
* Establish setting (jungle)
* We learn that Tarzan likes bananas

Scene 2 - Jane's POV
* Introduce Jane and her major external conflict with Tarzan
* Hint at her internal conflict
* We learn that Jane's father runs an anti-banana regime aimed at taking over the world and allowing people to eat only oranges

And so on, all the way to The End. Only the important plot points may be added to your outline. We don't need fine details--just what drives most of the action, and what your reader must know in order to keep reading cohesively. Fine details are just polish (character descriptions that aren't crucial to the plot, minor characters, etc). You want to extract the nuts and bolts and bullet-point them in your scenes.

This will help you discover whether your scene really has a purpose driving it forward, or whether it's just filler. If your reader doesn't learn any important points or clues about character or story in the scene, it may not be needed. If those important points could be learned in another scene without overloading it, you might be able to move them to that other scene and thus improve your pacing. You'll realize whether a new setting is even necessary (Think like a movie producer - do you want to have to pay out the dough to build that extraneous locker room set, or can this dialogue take place on the football field you already have available? Don't just intro a setting because it's "cool" - make sure it has purpose.). You'll also notice if you've been in one character's POV too long, and your reader might be missing the full range of story emotion from your other major characters.

Outlining your story greatly improves your speed when it comes time to revise. You'll notice it's easier to move plot points seamlessly from one place to another, and it will be easier to edit out (or sometimes add or flesh out) scenes when necessary. I strongly suggest outlining your story before submitting to an editor. That way, when (oh, joy!) he or she requests revisions, you can get them ready that much faster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Wild Rose Press Visits CNYRW July 12th / Tiger Publications Closes

The great thing about editing for a local E-publisher, and The Wild Rose Press in particular, is that they often attend local writers' functions. Rhonda Penders, Senior Editor of The Wild Rose Press, attended CNY Romance Writers' mini-conference recently, and she has now generously agreed to attend a chapter meeting on July 12th. If you're in the area, and considering joining CNYRW anyway, this is the time to dust off that manuscript and come to pitch it to a publisher! I will be there myself, as a liaison between the two organizations. I can help answer questions about either one, or show you around. Come visit us!

In other news, the small print press Tiger Publications will be closing its doors. See more about this at their website and at DearAuthor.com. Authors whose works are offered through this publisher should seek return of their rights before submitting to another publisher. It's always sad to see a publisher close, because it's hard on the writers who work so diligently on their manuscripts. Stay strong, everyone. I will keep my fingers crossed that your work finds new homes soon.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Editing Basics

For the next few entries, I'll talk a bit about editing. There are a few things you need to do to be sure your manuscript is received well, either by a print or E-publisher. Here are some of the most important.

1. Proper Formatting - Some publishers vary in their preference, but the standard is the same across the board. I discussed it a couple of years ago, and you can find the list of what to do here. If an editor can't see past your formatting mistakes, they may not be able to fully appreciate the hard work you did on your story!

2. Vivid, Unique Characters - Your characters need to be memorable and well-rounded. What sets them apart from any other character your reader may have read? Give them foibles and idiosyncrasies. Just like real people! That includes your bad guys.

3. Strong Conflict - Not just bickering. Give your hero and heroine a real reason to be at odds throughout the course of your manuscript, otherwise there's no romantic tension.

4. Good Hooks - Each scene and chapter should end with a punch that makes your reader need to continue reading to find out What Happens Next. Think of them as mini-cliffhangers for your scenes, and bigger ones for your chapters.

5. The Happy Ending (in Romance) - We romance readers (and editors, too) crave a happy ending. If we don't get one, we'll be disappointed. Give us a convincing reason to believe your characters are going to get their Happily Ever After at the end of the book. See more about this all-important moment here.

If you have any questions on these topics, feel free to contact me!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Fought The Lawn

The past few non-rainy weekends, I have been doing landscaping and gardening for my mother and in my own yard. It's really nice to get my hands dirty and plant things! My neighbor gave me several hosta plants for free because she no longer wanted them in her yard, so I planted them in my own backyard. That took me two hours while the little peanut took his nap.

There's something good about doing all that work. It's good, honest work, and I feel like I accomplished something that day. Maybe I ought to look into landscaping as a "day job." Heck, fresh air, sunshine, birds singing, and green, growing things. Can't be all bad, right?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dangling The Carrot

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of the TV show, "NCIS." In addition to great acting and characterization, I believe the show's biggest plus is that they know how to hook you. One minute into the show, they've set up the mystery and you've gotta know whodunit and why. They end most of their scenes this way, and by the time they go to commercials, you'll follow that big ol' dangling carrot right through to the end. Watch the first couple minutes of any of their episodes, if you don't believe me.

Writers, take note. This is homework. The setup of their scenes and shows overall is a perfect example of what we need to do as writers. It's what editors mean when they say "end on a hook." Each scene, if possible, and each chapter for certain, needs to end on a moment that's sure to pull your reader along through the pages into the wee hours of the morning. The reader has to need to know What Happens Next. Even the end of your book should do that, if it's part of a series. Give that reader a reason to snap up all of your books!

So go watch some television. If anyone gives you guff about it, tell them I said so and it's work. (Real tough, staring at Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Art Imitates Art

I don't know about you, but I'm excited about the upcoming "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I remember seeing the original Indy releases in the theaters as a child, and getting wowed by all the adventure and excitement. (Plus, hey, Harrison Ford. Even as a kid I crushed on him. And I still do. The man has the stuff, lemme tell ya. *sigh*)

Here's the funny thing. In a way, I think Indy inspired me to write what would become "Gemini" and its sequel, "Flashpoint." I wanted to be an archaeologist, and part of me still does. I knew that the real archaeologist wasn't the whip-cracking, tomb-raiding, explosion-dodging wonder Indy is, but I wanted to explore ancient worlds and learn what they knew. I guess writing is the next best thing. We writers are armchair travelers/academics. I can go to all those cool places, and I don't even have to get all those nasty shots.

But I would love the fedora and leather jacket.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's Easy Being Green

Inspired by Earth Day (and in part by my current WIP, starring a heroine who is fast becoming my healthy-eating, green-living voice of reason), I purchased a couple of books on green living, including The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier. This book has several "recipes" for biodegradable, earth-friendly cleaning products. And here's the bonus: they're cheaper too! One box of do-everything borax cost me $2.30, whereas a bottle of off-brand all-purpose spray can cost three times as much. And it's still not gonna be half the workhorse borax is. Other green products that make great cleaning "potions":

* Vinegar
* Baking Soda
* Lemon Juice
* Olive Oil
* Herbs/Spices

You probably have all of these on hand already! I went through my house and removed no less than three totes of hazardous cleaning products which I would be afraid to let my 16-mo son get his hands on. By contrast, cleaning with natural products means using stuff we already eat. It's about three times cheaper, it smells good, and some of it can be used in cooking, too. Can you say that about your cleaning products?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life Imitates Art

I'm hard at work on my latest book in the Gifted series, where the main character is a vegan. I am firmly omnivorous, so I don't know that much about the vegan lifestyle. Therefore, I did what any good writer does: research.

I bought a couple of things from the supermarket's organic aisle. Then a couple more. Started eating better and cutting out the fast food. Drinking more water. Still omnivorous, just ... less so (Let's face it, it's just research!). Figured out what rice milk tastes like (not bad). And guess what?

My cholesterol's down about 30 points. I'm losing weight. Feeling better. More energetic. Hey, who knew? These health-conscious eaters are on to something. :)

So, while I am still an omnivore, I am paying better attention to what I eat (and nudging the family to do so also). Go figure, my writing is good for my soul and body. Gotta love that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fun With Haiku

Last week, DH and I got on the subject of haiku. I don't know how. Some movie we were watching. The dialogue was weird and existential, and it sounded like--you guessed it--haiku. So DH began composing some off-the-cuff haiku, which was equally weird and existential (and some of it plain awful), about everything. When I asked him finally to have pity on me, this is what he came back with:

Stop it, you meanie
You mock my mad haiku skills
Get bent, crazy girl

What do you think? Is he an undiscovered talent, or should I get a pair of earplugs? :-D

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cut Out For It

A couple of nights ago, I got a call from a friend who's now living in Georgia. We haven't talked in a little while, but she's the type of person you can chat with and pick right back up where you left off. She told me she's driving a cab for a living. And I got one of those "A-ha" moments where it made perfect sense. You have to understand. I could plunk this woman in a foreign country without a map, and she'd still find her way home by the shortest possible route. She has an impeccable sense of direction (not to mention a knack for finding the greatest little out-of-the-way places to eat or hang out). She's also a very sociable person. So driving a cab is the perfect job for her, and I found myself a bit envious that she got to do something she's made for, for a living. And she loves it.

Which brings me to writing. I decided, after a layoff, that I want to start pursuing things I want to do, rather than stuff I have to do. I still have my "day job," and I'm not fond of it. For now, I can't argue, because I need to pay bills. But I've added some things to that mix, particularly looking for projects on Elance, and an editing job with The Wild Rose Press. (More on that in a later blog, once the dust settles.)

Let's face it. We have a limited number of years on this planet. What fun is it doing a job you hate for that entire span? Do what you're made for. If it isn't financially feasible to do it full-time, at least do it on the side until it becomes feasible (I'm not gonna have those college loans forever, by golly). Then, on the day you kick it, you can say you did something satisfying with your life. So there, world. I came, I saw, I wrote books. 'Cause I'm cut out for that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Future's So Bright ...

This has been a week of ups and downs for me, but today's an up day. I'm looking into a possible editing job, which is pretty much a dream job for me. Had I been born in NYC, that's probably what I would have been. I love words, and I love making them shine. This can be done via computer, which means that I won't have to relocate to The Big Apple to do it. Yay, me! The bonus is, I get to help other authors succeed!

Also, my agent E-mailed me to say that she'll be calling next week to work on my next round of revisions for GEMINI. I can't wait! I really hope this will be my year for writing. All I can say is, keep that good karma coming!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

CNYRW Mini-Con Recap / News For Next Year

CNYRW's two-day mini-conference is over, but I am still jazzed up. Day one was a two-hour session on rhetorical devices, and I scribbled notes so fast I got a hand cramp. The hotel was terrific, recently remodeled with an indoor pool. I was up until midnight chatting with fellow authors. If I learned that much in two hours, I wondered whether my head might explode the next day in an all-day workshop!

Margie was terrific and she really knows her stuff. If you haven't taken her classes, online or otherwise, I highly recommend them. Check her website out too - Click Here! She's also a very nice lady who's generous with her time and talent. She drives you to dig deep into your characters' psyches and put the physical expressions of their mental workings on the page. I thought I was good, but after Margie's workshop I realized I have only been scratching the surface of what I can do. Now to carve out a few hours where I can really rake this manuscript and get down deep into my characters' heads. I came away inspired from this workshop, and I can't wait for next year!

Which brings me to my next point: Next year's Mini-Con! The speaker will be CJ Lyons, whose first novel LIFELINES scored a perfect ten with Romance Reviews Today and a Romantic Times top pick! Coming soon, you'll find all the details at the CNY Romance Writers website!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who Turned Out The (Background) Lights?

Why's my background black today? Find out what's going on and help your planet at Earth Hour! As anyone who knows me can attest, I am very pro-environment. You can help, too, and it's simple. Click the link and see!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Golden Heart News (Not Me!) & Pub News (Also Not Me) / Thanks!

I have a plug this week for my fellow Book Cents author, Amanda Brice, whose YA manuscript PARTY LIKE IT'S 1899 finaled in the Golden Heart awards. Way to go, Amanda!

In other news, my pals Susan St. Thomas and Jenni Holbrook have contracted with The Wild Rose Press. Susan's book MELTDOWN will be released later this year, and the release date for Jenni's book REKINDLED is TBA. Congrats, ladies! You've earned it!

Thanks to all who have been following The Villain's Journey this month. (Three posts pretty much covered it!) If there is something you'd like to see me blog about, feel free to E-mail me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Villain's Journey #3

The Big Fight

Everything your hero and villain do is leading up to the big fight scene, the climax of your book. In this scene, there is one extremely important rule to remember:

Do not pull your punches.

If your villain strikes at your hero, let your hero get hurt. This proves that not only have you created a villain who is strong and vicious enough to mean business, but just as in the real world, if you fight, you'll get hurt. Writers who pull punches because they don't want to hurt their favorite characters are only doing their readers a disservice. There's no threat in a world where your hero can't be touched, and that makes for a dull book.

Let your villain fight in character. Is he smooth and polished? Make him fight that way. Is he a bloody-minded man of chaos? Show that. The same goes for your hero, by the way. What you'll have by doing this is a fight as unique as your characters.

Another important rule: Your villain must lose.

Seems obvious, right? But in the romance genre, this is a must-happen, just as is a happy ending. Let that bad guy get his comeuppance so your reader can cheer with your hero!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Villain's Journey #2

Strength of Character

Your hero isn't the only one who needs to be tough. Your villain, too, must have strong goals, motivations, and resources. If he's a pushover with laughable henchmen, your reader's going to know without doubt that he'll be beaten, and what fun is that? (In romance, we know it anyway, but we like when you make us forget that and sit on the edges of our seats.)

Give your villain as much attention as you do your hero. Arm him with powerful resources and a darn good reason to hate the hero. The resulting power struggle is what makes epic battles epic. The more powerful your villain, the harder your hero must fight to win, and the more gripping your story will be. Remember that a hero shines best against opposition that offers him the greatest test of his heroic qualities. So save some of that super-strength for your bad guys!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Villain's Journey #1

It's All About Me

The first thing you need to remember about villains is that they think your book is about their story and struggles. And, in a way, it is as much about your villain as it is about your hero and heroine. If you're going to have a bad guy (or girl!) in your story, it makes sense to have him as fleshed-out as your hero and heroine, with his own goal, motivation, and conflict. It's no contest fighting a cardboard villain, and no fun for the reader either. Yaaa-a-awn.

Remember that your villain believes he is in the right, and that's what makes him battle your hero so tenaciously. So spend time on his story, and what makes him tick. You don't have to agree with his goal, but it must make sense and be a solid one. Get into his head and find out why he does what he does. It helps to have planned out his story arc, even if the reader doesn't see it all on the pages. The more thought you put into your bad guy, the more of an obstacle he'll seem to the good guy. That makes for a great read.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Hero's Journey #4

Creating a Hero - Healing The Flaw

In the real world, love can’t fix everything--but we eternally hopeful romance authors believe that love makes a person strong enough to deal with anything. That includes flaws, both real and fictional. Now that he’s known the love of his good woman, your hero will be able to heal, or at least come to terms with, the flaw that he started with in your book.

The end of a book is much more satisfying to the reader if she can see that your characters are in a better place now than where they began. In romance, you must guarantee the happy ending of your hero and heroine. That hopeful message is why we keep reading romances ... and why we keep writing them!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Hero's Journey #3

Creating a Hero - It Just Ain’t Enough

At some point on your hero’s journey--usually the turning point of your book--he’s going to realize that what he has now isn’t enough to satisfy him anymore. In romance, this means he becomes willing to forsake what went before, for the love of a good woman.

For instance, let’s say your hero is a hard-nosed guy who likes to party all night, and he believes that is enough to fill the social holes in his life. Then he meets Miss Right, and over the course of your novel he becomes more and more involved with her. Eventually, the dance club loses its shine, or the bar is too crowded, or he can’t stand his buddies at the Elks Lodge anymore.

This “not enough” point is what drives your hero to change, which sets things up nicely for your happy ending.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Hero's Journey #2

Creating a Hero - Make Him Pay For It

Whatever your character gains, whether it be advantages or insights great and small, make him pay a price for them. The greater the prize, the greater the cost. When you up the stakes toward a hero’s gain, the end result becomes that much more important to your character ... and your reader. She’ll feel like she worked to win that advantage right beside him.

You’ve heard the saying that nothing in life is free. To make your novel as realistic as possible, keep that adage in the back of your mind as you write. Great rewards should come with great sacrifices, or they won’t seem worth the time it took to get them.

(BTW, Happy Valentine's Day - smooch your sweetie, or kick back with some chocolate and a romantic movie!)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Hero's Journey #1

This month, I will discuss a few of the major points in a hero’s journey. These are the things that make a great hero great. While I address the hero in your novel, these things can also be applied to the heroine.

Creating a Hero - Make Him Fallible

Nobody likes Mr. Perfect. Your readers will want to read about someone who is flawed, human, and therefore, approachable. This is what the editors mean when they call a character “sympathetic.” He inspires us to care or identify with him in some way.

When your hero starts upon a journey that will forever change him, he needs to begin with a serious flaw that in some way impedes his ability to connect with your heroine. For maximum conflict, this flaw may contrast directly with your heroine’s goals and/or ideals. A hero with a flaw has the room to grow and change over the course of your novel. Your reader will keep reading to see if, and how, he overcomes his flaws.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Websites and Writing: Here I Am, World!

So. You're on the web. Now what? Well, you could promote yourself. Visit other authors' websites, and share the love. Post a polite comment on their blogs or message boards with your website attached in the signature (be sure you aren't just spamming and you really do like that author - mind your manners, as Mom used to say). Reciprocate by inviting them to do the same on your blog or message board. Announce a website launch to your friends, your family, your neighbor, etc. Distribute business cards with your web address on them (especially useful at conferences). In this industry, self-promo is often the only promo an author gets. Break out that elbow grease and pitch yourself!

Also, submit your website to search engines. There are some services that do it for you, but for a little extra legwork, you could find the names of the most popular search engines, and submit your site yourself. Start with Google and work your way down. Welcome to the web, fellow writer!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heath Ledger & Fellow Author News

By now, most of you know that actor Heath Ledger died Tuesday. He was best known for his roles in "Brokeback Mountain," "The Patriot," and "A Knight's Tale." How sad this is - he was only 28, and left behind a 2-year-old daughter. With a 1-year-old myself, I feel all the worse for his family. My heart goes out to them.

What's strange is, I was just telling my husband the night before how much I liked Heath in "The Patriot." I had even planned to use him as inspiration for a character in one of my books down the road. Sigh.

On a much more positive note, fellow author Kari Lee Townsend entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest with her novel, DESTINY WEARS SPURS?, a Western romantic comedy that will keep you in stitches. She got a lot of nice reviews, including one from Publishers Weekly! Check it out!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Websites and Writing: Free, Free, Free (Or Is It?)

Public domain, open source, freeware, and free-use information can be useful in web design. Want a nifty font, graphic, or website layout? Chances are, you'll find one free somewhere online, and you're welcome to use it in your website, or distribute it as you see fit. Buyer beware, though: research carefully to be certain there are no use restrictions or copyrights on the item before you use it. Sometimes the authors kindly allow you to use an image however you like, but they want you to link back to them on your website. This has always rubbed me the wrong way - a "sneaky" (albeit legitimate, and anyway, you're the one who wants the graphic, aren't you?) way for people to plaster their names and "ads" on your website, whether or not their website is something you want to link to. If it's free, it ought to be free, no strings attached - but that's just my opinion. Otherwise, give some thought to making a Copyright page that explains who owns what that you used on your site, and always be sure you have documentation that you obtained permission to use it. (Keep copies in your files.)

Sometimes it's a case of "you get what you pay for." If it's free, is it of good quality? Is it on everybody else's website, too? You might want to learn Photoshop and make your own graphics, or create your own layout, or modify one so much that it bears no resemblance to the freeware template you pulled it from.

Always, always check into copyright if you have any doubt whether the item you're using is free. It's not worth a lawsuit, no matter how cool a graphic is.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Websites and Writing: The Have-Nots

Wanna kill your readership? Make a website they hate. OK, well, it's sort of an exaggeration, but not by much. Some train-wreck-gogglers will visit a bad website to see just how ugly it is--and believe me, there are websites devoted to a worst-of-the-worst listing (pray you're never on one)--but most people will avoid such monstrosities. Fear not, for below I will clarify some major items to avoid on your website. Brace yourself, 'cause I've got lots to complain about on these.

1. Too Much Junk - In web design, as in life, people appreciate neatness. Don't add lots of graphics and videos and audio (I prefer no audio, unless you are a musician, which most writers are not. Even then, a smart singer makes the audio optional, and does not force it on the web surfer automatically upon page load). A few classy, well-placed, relevant graphics will do (a page of text-only gets real dull, real fast). Don't clutter your reader up with all that extra junk, because that's what it is: junk. That, and it slows down page load time. The average reader is only going to wait a matter of seconds for your page to load before they go elsewhere. This is the single most important deterrent to a web visitor. FYI, some of us still have dialup.

2. Unreadable - We. Hate. Unreadable websites. Stick to a base font that isn't cutesy, curly, tiny, or enormous. Don't blind us with day-glo colors. Give us painless colors, and high-contrast fonts in two, maybe three sizes for base text, headings, and subheadings. Stick to one or two fonts, and be consistent in where and how you use them from page to page. Don't drive us nuts with a frou-frou background image that makes text impossible to read.

3. Bad Graphics - You may as well have no graphics, if your graphics are choppy, blurry, or overbearing. A bad picture is worse than no picture at all, no matter what they think on eBay. Personally, I hate cutesy graphics, too. Unless you're writing about angels or kittens, please avoid the angels and kittens. Instead of adding pictures just to add pictures, make your graphics count. If they aren't doing a job, they don't belong on your site.

4. Poor Layout - My personal pet peeve is a website that shows obvious lack of attention to layout. Good layout conveys an organized mind. Organized mind equals organized writer, equals someone who knows how to organize a good story. I know. Silly of us to think that. Don't cram your text up against the sides of a window, or against the sides of your graphics. Learn to use margins! Don't throw graphics willy-nilly all around your page. Lay it out so that the most important factors of your website have prominence. We will pay the most attention to things you show us have importance. Check the front page of any decent newspaper, if you don't believe me.

5. Poor Navigation - This is a sub-peeve of poor layout. Give your readers a menu, in the same place on each of your pages, so that we can easily find where we are, and how to get somewhere else.

6. Broken Links/Graphics - Your website should always be updated and sanity checked. Correct or delete broken links. People hate getting excited about finding what they're looking for, and then getting a 404 File Not Found page when they try to click that link. This also goes for graphics that don't appear because the reference to them is incorrect or broken. That red X is just as annoying, so fix it! You want your page to display right - right? Show us you care about us, and keep your site up to date!

7. Scrollbars and Frames - I hate frames. I will, nearly always, leave a website that has frames and internal scrollbars. They make navigation annoying, and sometimes impossible. Sometimes, you get trapped on a page that has frames, even when you hit the Back button on your browser. The only scrollbar I want to see is the one on the right that lets me scroll down a long page. Also, do not (did I mention DO NOT?) make your reader scroll sideways. Many readers still have 800x600 resolution, which means that pretty page you designed in 1024x768 resolution is going to make them scroll sideways to see an extra slice of page on your right margin. When in doubt, make your page layout fluid, so that it adjusts within reason to whatever display resolution your reader chooses. See an HTML/CSS book for details, if that's unclear.

8. Pop-Up Windows - They have their place, but don't abuse them. Most readers don't want a million different windows open at the same time, and if you force a new one every time they click a link, they'll stop a-clickin', and just leave. They're happy to let the browser re-use the same window to get to a different page on your site. Keep these to a minimum, and only where they are most useful. Not sure where that is? Don't use them.

9. Ads (and Sometimes Links) - Thou shalt not ad-plaster, nor allow to be ad-plastered, your website. It's unprofessional. You are a writer. The only thing you should be plugging is yourself. Do you really want an ad for Brylcreem to be flashing at the top of your page? If you do want to plug your pal John Q. Writer, or anything else, do it voluntarily, in your blog, or even a Links page. Just remember, the more links to outside sites you add, the more suggestions you give your reader to leave your website for other pastures. (There is a certain amount of reciprocation among writers, though. When you link to them, they often link to you.)

Next Time: Public Domain and Open Source Info

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Websites and Writing: The Haves

There are some important details any author's website should include, even if you are unpublished. Let's jump right in, and talk about what an author's website should have.

Content, Content, Content (and Stuff)

Who's going to want to visit your website if you don't have anything good to say once they get there? Don't run on about unrelated subjects unless it's in your blog or a newsletter. Tell the reader the facts, quickly and clearly (layout for easy access is also important - we don't want to dig deep to get this info). Make it hard for your reader to get the facts, and you will confuse her into heading to Bored.com instead. And please, for goodness' sake, use proper spelling and grammar! You're an author - show me you know how to be a good one (especially if I am an editor/agent, and happen across your website). No excuses - spellcheck and hand-check every word you write. Fix typos ASAP. Here are the other major must-haves:

1. Who - This ought to be obvious, but sometimes, regrettably, isn't. Your reader wants to know your name, profession, and genre/subgenre of focus, if any. So tell us you're Susie Q. Author, Writer of Exciting Romantic Suspense. Right away. Or, if you don't want to pigeonhole yourself, just say Author (Bestselling Author, if you are one, but most authors realize that offhand by the time they become one, so moot point there). This should be on every page. Search engines like readily available topic info.

2. Bio - A little snippet of who you are and how you got that way. It doesn't have to be so extensive that you lead fanatic readers to your front door, but readers do like to know how you came to be an author, what you do in your free time, and maybe whether you have kids or dogs. It helps us to connect with you! (Sidebar: don't be so generic about your hobbies. It seems like all romance writers like gardening, so much that we might boilerplate that for our bios. What do you do that's unusual and memorable?)

3. Your Book List - What have you written? What's it about? Is it related (and in what order) to another book you wrote? Even if you haven't published, tell us your book title, and a little few-line blurb about the book. If you are published, tell us where to get your book, and include a picture of the cover. Savvy published authors will include a printable list that readers can take to their favorite bookstore. Include ISBNs and publication dates. And hey, plug yourself. If you won awards with that book, or have praise quotes from other authors or industry publications, say so! (Your mom's glowing review doesn't count, sorry.)

4. News and Events - What are you up to now? What's next? This freshens your website so that readers keep coming back to learn the latest dirt. You could start a blog to serve this purpose, but remember that this is an important obligation - keep it updated regularly (that goes for your whole site - keep it current)! Once a week updates or blog entries would be nice. We don't like our news to be stale. Funny how that is, but there you are.

5. Blogs, Message Boards, and Guestbooks - Speaking of blogs, let's talk about blogs. And message boards. And guestbooks. These provide some form of reader interactivity - we like to chitchat about our favorite authors/books with other fans. Remember, though, that you may need to monitor these to ensure the comments/entries are not offensive, abusive, or inflammatory, etc. I don't like censorship, either, but you don't want a 9-year-old to come across your website and find someone has posted links to X-rated material, for example, do you? Or you can add a disclaimer stating that you are not responsible for any content therein other than your own posts. Little butt-saving measure there, in case your forum gets rowdy.

6. Contact Information - Please, please, please, let readers, editors, agents, and newspeople know how to find you. Even if it's no more than a form to fill out and submit electronically, or your E-mail address, or your agent's name and contact info, at least we will feel like we can personally reach you to say, "Wow, your writing rocks!" And if you are worried about stalkers, your agent can filter those letters and handle them gracefully. If you don't have an agent, get that cast-iron stomach, and then block the scary E-mails. Don't ever post your home address (see earlier entry on WHOIS searches). Use a PO Box, or don't add a physical address at all.

7. Copyright - It is implicit that whatever you publish to the web is copyrighted to you as soon as it hits the page - no filing of copyright necessary. However, just for argument, at the bottom of your webpage, state that your site is "Copyright [year or range or years] Susie Q. Author, all rights reserved." That way, everyone knows this is yours, and to respect it as such. See intellectual property copyright laws for more info.

8. Extra Goodies - We like freebies and goodies. If you write to a soundtrack, tell us which songs you used. Post excerpts or teasers. Hold a contest for something we want. Add recipes. Include a press kit (these are nice for newspeople, and if you can provide a neat package for easy promotion, why wouldn't you?). The list goes on as far as your imagination.

Next time: What not to add to your website.