I’m a writer: Is it okay to scream for joy now?

“It’s an exciting time to be a writer.”

This seemed to be the buzz phrase at the NJRW conference I attended last weekend. Every other workshop, particularly those that spoke about the expansion of E-pub, self-publishing and the juggling for position of traditional publishing, seemed to hold this sentence in high regard.

After, reading an article about authors no longer being at the mercy of publishers, I began thinking about my options, and started to see the truth in those few words.

While I’ve mentioned that I would love to be published by a traditional publisher, I’m starting to see the possibilities of venturing into other avenues of publication, which may lead me back to that traditional path.

At one point, traditional writer’s organizations, such as RWA, didn’t acknowledge self-published authors as “true” authors. In all fairness and appreciation, RWA is an organization whose mission is, “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.”

The organization didn’t believe that the author should “pay” for the publication of one’s book. I totally get and respect that.

However, as we all know, times are changing.

Authors are trying to broaden their readership, have control over their work and sell books where they can. Thank goodness, RWA was savvy enough to recognize that many of its members have gone the e-pub and self-publishing route, and support them. This is a good thing.

As I see it, I can remain a member of RWA and NJRW and be considered a “published” author, even if I self-pub. Granted, the author must make a certain amount in revenue from their self-publishing to be considered a true published author within RWA.

But even with that caveat, (which isn’t unreasonable) this new consideration gives an author the opportunity to get their books out, particularly when traditional publishing is slow to pick up and rejections are more than overwhelming.

If I decide to go the self-publishing route, I will follow two words of advice that often come with the, “it’s an exciting time to be a writer,” cheer—copy editor. I will secure the services of a copy editor who can go over my book with a fine tooth comb and offer suggestions that will make my book the best it can be.

I don’t want to publish crap. And I don’t want to try and sell it to anyone. IMHO, some of the books on the self-pub scene totally missed that important piece of advice.

Just tossing it out there on this Thursday afternoon.

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Prologues: Do they prolong the story?

For years I’ve heard the pros and cons of starting your book with a prologue. The preference varies drastically among editors and agents, and that in itself doesn’t help when trying to decide whether to use them or not.

At a writer’s workshop, which featured a panel of editors and agents answering random questions, the inevitable prologue question was raised and the opinions ranged from lukewarm to frighteningly strong.

One agent detested them and stated, “If there’s a prologue, I won’t even read the manuscript.” Since I had a prologue at the time, I shrank down slowly in my chair and made a note not to send my manuscript to her. Other panelists didn’t mind as long as it was directly linked to the plot of your story.

In my first book, I struggled with having a prologue. At first, it was in Chapter 1, then it moved to the beginning of Chapter 3 and remained there for a while. But when I looked at it again ten months later, it seemed disjointed and out-of-place.

So, I went with my gut and put it back at the beginning of the book, making it the prologue. I also used one of my many references, “3 Reasons to Ditch your Novel’s Prologue” as a guideline.

The following is the beginning of my first book. The prologue is only 686 words, but it leads directly into the story and I couldn’t see it being anywhere else in the book. By the way, it may read like a mystery, but it is a romance!

    Prologue
    In a corner office of A& B Realty Corporation, the Chanel-clad woman sat in contentment as the shredder’s hum slashed through the after-hours silence of the flourishing company. Blinds drawn, she continued her work by the glare of a single lamp placed at the toe of her expensive black pumps, not in the least bit worried about any unforeseen visitors.

    She’d heard the scuttlebutt among her son’s employees. Of all the offices huddled amidst these ambitious walls, hers presented the most foreboding aura. So much so, the cleaning people were reluctant to enter, leaving her trash can seldom emptied.

    The smell of the overheated shredder filled the air with pervasive danger. But the stench exhilarated and empowered her. She felt in control, therapy almost as soothing as an hour with her therapist. She pulled back, lessening the number of pages she ran through to allow the metal contraption a chance to cool down.

    Its steeled teeth gnarled at the incriminating documents like a favorite pit bull, and she smiled with a sense of purpose. The ripping power of the blade was reminiscent of a knife poking holes into her problems—depleting them of their life blood, and eliminating potential troubles—like unwanted women in her son’s life. These troubles required shrewd planning.

    Mona Acevedo believed murder to be a reliable deterrent for complications and she regretted that she hadn’t killed Octavia Middleton when she had the chance. For that blunder she could just scream.

    A&B’s current undertaking was a high-profile project to construct luxury condominiums in their city and nothing could stop its progress—especially a conniving gold digger. Her diamond bracelet sparkled as her wrist twisted items down the mouth of the greedy shredder—copies of leases, titles, cashed rental checks—anything that would buy her enough time to remove the thorn from her side.

    Not wanting to be implicated in the matter, she needed to enlist the help of someone ruthless, yet desperate enough to do her bidding. Her relationship with her son, strained as it was, was at least civil. This project could bring them closer together. Her family’s legacy depended on it.

    She stifled a yawn with the back of her hand, her body starting to feel the effects of leaning and stretching from the menial task. The small, gold clock on her desk read one thirty in the morning. She hadn’t realized she’d been here so long. She should alert her driver to start the car. Standing, she straightened a pile of remaining documents and stored them inside a plain manila folder.

    With the key she kept on her person at all times, she unlocked the credenza behind her desk, and filed the folder under classified, before locking the drawer again. The overall project file, which contained all the data of current residents and businesses associated with the Brownstone project, was now void of any documents that suggested the Middleton woman’s affiliation. Aware of her son’s judicious work ethic, she knew he would uncover the information soon enough. But for now, her clandestine activity would buy her enough time to put her plan into action.

    She flipped open her phone, pushed a button and then spoke into the receiver. “I’m coming down. Have the car ready to leave.” Ending the call, she grabbed her black mink from the coat rack. A chill still lingered during the early May mornings. One swift kick to the paper shredder sent it flying underneath her desk. She would empty it later.

    Taking one last look around her office, she turned off the light and headed to the waiting car five stories below. She needed to rest and then prepare for the staff meeting taking place later on that morning.

    She would report to her son that this phase of the project—in which her team compiled information on prospective residents and business owners where negotiations may be required—was complete, and he should feel confident to move forward without any delays or obstacles.

    She would move forward as well, keeping the path to his success clear from unwanted complications. A mother’s work was never done.

What about you? Does your book have prologue? Would you consider using one?

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The New Jersey Romance Writers Conference is fast approaching and I’m very excited. Although I’m not pitching a book this year, I hope to do so next year. In every one of my pitches so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a request for a partial or full manuscript. But lately, I’ve been wondering about different approaches, and how others make their pitch.

Since I’m a movie nut, I even wondered how some of the most memorable characters in film might have pitched their work. The first character that came to mind is none other than Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone With the Wind” brilliantly played by Vivien Leigh.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The editor averted his eyes from the loosely tied manuscript to the green-clad woman sitting across from him. He watched the velvet purse of the same hue–the one she swung back and forth like a pendulum–collect streams of dust that now covered the sparse, makeshift office.

“Miss O’Hara, no one in any of the 11 confederate states would publish this rubbish,” the editor said, his tone stern, yet somehow appeasing. He seemed uncomfortable sitting behind a desk, and it appeared to Scarlett that he’d be more suitable on horseback, or escorting her to the latest ball. She wondered how he taken on this position.

“Fiddle Dee Dee, Rhett Butler. I had Mammy …I mean I spent all day making sure my story had a hook. I even missed Ashley’s barbecue at Twin Oaks to revise it and now that ole mealy mouth Mellie …”

Butler drew a long puff from his cigar and then placed it in the crystal ashtray in front of him. Squinting through the opaque swirls of burnt cedar, he watched the aspiring writer’s reaction with more than a casual interest. “From what I hear, Miss Mellie is a very talented writer.”

Scarlett flung herself against the high back chair, sending a mass of fringe twisting about like a pile of unruly worms. The salon’s curtains used to fashion the gown didn’t leave much for modesty, and her breasts rose and fell with each pout, giving an unapologetic editor a full, unwavering view.

“You’re a beast, Rhett Butler,” she declared, snatching the bodice of her gown together, “And a cad, which is why you simply must publish my memoirs. You’ve insulted my womanly sensibilities. I am a better writer than Mellie. I’ve led a full life with juicy details that could make lots of money.”

“Scarlett, we’re in the middle of a war. People aren’t spending money to read. They’re trying to survive. Besides, your characters are one-dimensional. There isn’t enough conflict. Your heroine has had too easy a life. She sounds like a flirt, a trollop.” His bluish-grey eyes darkened with a mischievous twinkle. “She sounds like you.”

Scarlett stood and then sashayed toward the open window, the slight rustle of her worn petticoat and the boom of distance cannons, fought for the right to be heard. “Why I could be famous and save Tara with all my new wealth. And I wouldn’t have to marry that old man, Frank Kennedy.”

Rhett checked his pocket watch before standing to stretch his well portioned frame. “Scarlett, I’m not in the habit of throwing away money. But if I had an investment, a promise of sort, I’d see what I can do.”


“Keep your proposal and your offer, Rhett Butler. They matter nothing to me. I’ll find another editor or agent. There are plenty you know.”

Then she turned from the window, her eyes gleaming with determination. “Why …why I’ll stay on the other side of Atlanta where it’s still just humming with literary activity. I’ll stay at my Aunt Piddypat’s. She’s knows everyone in Atlanta society and can certainly find one of her editor friends to publish my book.”If that Beecher-Stowe woman can do it, so can I.”

Okay, so if you plan to pitch your book to an agent or editor, I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s approach. The guidelines in the article, “How to Pitch Your Book at a Conference,” will be safer and smarter. The list below gives you a quick overview. The article gets into the nitty-gritty and what you need to know.

1. Do Your Homework
2. Prepare a Pitch
3. Be Professional
4. Break the Ice
5. Conduct Your Own Interview
6. Get a Business Card
7. Make Lemonade from Lemons
8. End the Right Way
9. Pretend You’re From Missouri
10. Breathe

I’d still like to know how Scarlett would have done. 😉

‘Tis the privilege of friendship …

“Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.”
― Charles Lamb

I’m fast approaching my 100th blog post (tomorrow, exactly) and despite pictures of the best gang of friends around–the “Little Rascals,” I’m feeling a bit philosophical.

It has been quite a journey since I started this blog three years ago. If I’d been consistent in my blogging, I might have tripled the number of hits, comments and posts. However, I’m not going to think about the would haves, could haves or should haves. Life jumped behind the wheel—as did my mission to finish my first book—and I had to let them drive.

This year, in between writing, I found my way back to my blog, self-expression and to friends, near and far, who matter. Whether we realize it or not, we’re making friends—through our shared interests, thoughts, lives, and our willingness to help others.

I’ve been fortunate to meet artists whose greatest joy is to hold a paintbrush between their fingers. I’ve chatted with photographers who rather hear the sound of their camera’s shutter first, and get laid later. (No joke, they said that!)

I’ve met mothers who love being a mom, but everyday yearn for the opportunity to pick up where they left off with their dance or art lessons. And that desire doesn’t make them a bad mother. If anything, it makes them better, fully faceted individuals.

And with each encounter, I realize that it is oftentimes the people furthest from you, who understand you without reservation.

At times, I feel that way about my writing. Although my family is super supportive, they don’t understand that I can sit in the house all weekend at the computer and be quite content. At times, they shake their heads at the thought that I’d rather revise a chapter or agonize over the correct word usage, than go bowling or go to a show. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing those things, or get the chance to do them. I do.

But I live a writer’s life.

    A writer’s life consists of more nouns and strong verbs than endless chit-chat over the phone.
    It consists of countless hours of trying to reason with characters who believe they’re in control.
    It consists of destroying the dangling modifiers and adverbs that threaten to weaken our prose.
    It consists of sacrificing all you hold dear, so that your baby—your manuscript—will be so endearing that an editor or agent will want to take it home and keep it. (When that happens, drinks are on me.)

I look back over my blog and I see how far I’ve come not only as a blogger, but as an individual. I’ve opened up and invited others in, and it’s so exhilarating when they accept.

Speaking of accepting …On the my 100th post, a dear friend and new author has accepted my invitation to stop by and chat. Can’t wait!

Thank you for listening to my thoughts, my attempts to be helpful and my nonsense (because I KNOW I have moments of insanity).

“Tis the privilege of friendship …”

Getting the most out of your Author blog

For authors, whether you’re aspiring or established, social media has become the way to attract potential readers and yes, agents and publishers who may be interested in representing you. Although there is no agent or publisher involved, social media is also an Indie author’s best friend. It puts you where you need to be–connected to your readers.

At a past New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference, a group author friends and I were discussing our social media avenues. We all discovered that we were either blogging, active on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin or in the process of getting started.

This was great to see that many of us were doing what industry professionals suggest: Getting your name and brand out to the universe. You might ask, “How do I do that?”

One book, I found to be very helpful in answering that question is Christina Katz’s, “Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.”

IMHO, it’s a must have for any author writing or planning to write in the age of social media. Ms. Katz offers sound advice on growing your brand and building a platform, especially if you’re not published yet. And one way to grow your brand and build a platform is through blogging.

Let me sidestep and explain the brand and build a platform concept. If you think of Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or John Grisman, 9 times out of 10, you already know what kind of book you’re about to read, along with the theme and even some of their character types. It’s what they’re known for writing, it’s their “brand.” As authors, they have a strong, identifiable platform.

Now back to blogging. Nowadays, almost everyone has a blog. However, as an aspiring author or even an established one, are you getting the most from your blog?

A Writer’s Digest article, “16 Blogging Tips For Writing Fresh Content & Attracting Readers,” gives advice specific to authors who want to build a brand and their readership. As an author, there are a few things we should do, not only to separate ourselves from the pack of blogs, but to create a professional platform that will entice readers, agents and publishers.

The Best Rejection Letter Ever …

200336717-001The two longest months of my life resulted in the best rejection letter I’ve ever received.

Originally, I had an appointment with an agent at Romance Writers of America Conference in July. However, they were unable to attend and allowed me to pitch via email.

Prior to pitching this agent, there was something I liked from the start. They were cordial and professional, and we’d established a bit of a rapport through email. It could have been when they said, “Sorry I won’t be able to meet you in person, but have fun at the conference.”

I was excited about the prospect of pitching via email, but wasn’t sure how one went about it. However, I did what I thought was normal, I sent my query.

To my utter amazement, the agent requested my full manuscript. Not only was my manuscript requested, but I was able to email it, which I found so much better. I was over-the-moon delirious.

After checking my manuscript for proper formatting for the tenth time, I clicked the send button, and then played the game all writers have experienced–the waiting game. I queried in June and received a response in September, which is very good considering how busy agents are.

As I mentioned, this was the best rejection letter I’ve ever received. It was an email specifically telling me what they liked about my book and why they couldn’t represent me. They explained that, “the chick lit voice” in my book really didn’t work for them.

Honesty, and constructive criticism? It doesn’t get better than that!

I continued to read my rejection letter and instead of the usual display of disappointment, I smiled. The agent ended by saying, “However, I do think it was well written and will find a place in the market I’m just not the right person to represent it. I wish you the very best in your literary career and I have no doubt you will sell.”

That sentence was golden. Not only did it confirm that I was on the right track, but it gave me a boost to forge ahead. Every day I get closer to having my baby on a shelf or two at Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon.

There’s an old adage my mother said often, “What doesn’t kill us, will make us strong.” Sound familiar?

It’s true. This particular rejection didn’t kill me. It made me stronger, as do ALL my rejection letters, especially the overly nasty rejections. (Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple.)

However, THIS rejection letter was unique because the agent spoke to me, the author. I almost felt as though I was told in person, as opposed to email.

I was impressed and would definitely query this agent again–sans the chick lit voice.

Tossing Caffeine

200177044-001I am not a morning person—never have been, probably never will be.

Normally, I need a cup of coffee to start my day. (Yeah, I know what’s been said … it’s all in my head.) But there are times when I friggin’ amaze myself.

The day of my pitching appointment at the Romance Writers of America Conference in Washington, D.C., was one such day. I purchased a cup of coffee for $3.00, took two sips and tossed it.

Yes, just shoot me. I tossed caffeine down the drain because I was too nervous to drink it. I was wired—naturally.

I did something else that shocked the hell out of me. I sat in the front row. I’m a middle type of person. I sit in the middle of the row, in the middle aisle, in the middle of the room. I don’t like weather that’s too hot or too cold, average—middle. I open rolls or packs of candy in the middle.

But I actually made a conscious effort to sit in the front row, and wait for my appointment time to be called. Deep. And a sign of sheer panic.

But then it was my turn, and the panic morphed into determination, professionalism and a desire to succeed.

I wanted to make a good impression, to present my book and to give those ten minutes of my life the care and attention it deserved. After all, it was my only opportunity to make a good first impression.

The editor was gracious and friendly. She put me at ease immediately. She made my ten minutes of pitching, meaningful and worthwhile. She commented on how passionate I was about my book through my brief description. I was pleased that I exhibited excitement about my work. She liked elements of my book and about nine minutes into the interview, the editor requested a partial submission.

Elation beyond words.

Before attending RWA, I read a lot about the do’s and don’ts of pitching. I’m glad I followed the advice of agents, editors, and friends who are published authors. More important, I’m glad I listened my own advice to get over the nervousness, and follow Nike’s message—JUST DO IT.

After my interview, I sat in the middle of my bed in the hotel room, savoring another cup of coffee and staring at the editor’s business card.

Friggin’ amazing.