Blog

Posted in journalism, publishing, query letter, writing

Getting to the editor

Working as the editorial assistant for a newspaper has given me some insights about getting past the general email account and to the editor’s virtual desk.

newspapers-444447_1920

I work for a small, local paper, but we still get a crazy amount of submissions and requests for op-eds and guest columnists. It was pretty overwhelming at first to learn how to filter these. The editor gave me the basics my first day and spent a couple weeks answering my questions about what was important and who was interested in what. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it pretty well now, and it’s taught me a few things that can be applied to both submitting fiction and articles.

Dear Editor

This isn’t a new realization, because this is the first thing I learned when I started querying fiction, but being on the other side of the query has impressed the importance of this piece of advice.

Figure out who you’re sending your query to!

Addressing an email to Dear Editor, the name of the paper/agency, hello everyone, or no salutation at all is a waving red flag to click the trash button.

Why?

For one, it shows the sender didn’t bother to do two minutes of homework to find out who they should be sending their query to. Second, it’s a clear indication that the sender used the BCC to hide that it’s a mass email to every publication they could find contact information for. Laziness, on both accounts. These types of emails are the first ones I weed out in the morning.

Why would I care about this?

Then next thing I look for when culling emails is relevance. As I said, I work at a small, local paper. Aside from AP wire stories, we only cover local issues and events. The first thing I check on media releases and PSAs is the dateline. If it’s out of our coverage area…trash.

The next thing I look for is whether or not it’s relevant content. For the newspaper I work for, this means it not only has to be a local issue, but it has to fit into one of our sections. We don’t have a technology section, or an aging gracefully section, or a rap music section. I still get emails about random topics or locations we don’t cover every day.

This applies to fiction publishers as well. If the agency or publisher doesn’t work with your genre, don’t waste your time querying them. It’s annoying and wastes their time, too. Your query is not going to make a publisher suddenly decide to take on a new genre any more than it will make a newspaper add a whole new section their readers aren’t interested in. Do your homework.

The lonely link

I am not clicking on random links. I’m just not. If some sends me a link or list of links saying So and So Author has a new article available, I am not clicking on it. To the trash it goes. Same goes for attachments with no description or information.

Let me tell you how to do your job…

There is a difference between doing your research and providing all the pertinent information (section, date, topic, etc.) and attempting to tell someone how to do their job. Emails demanding I place a certain PSA in a particular section on a particular day when neither matches up with our publishing schedule and section requirements is a quick way to irritate whoever is reading your email.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Do your research! And be polite. Demands rarely go over well with anyone, and certainly not publishers and papers who receive dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions a day and have rules and requirements for every inch of the paper.

Be direct

Unless submission requirements specifically direct you to use the general account, send you query directly to whoever should actually be reading it. Newspapers, agencies, and publishing houses have specific people who deal with specific topics or genres. It takes more effort for me to figure out who should be looking at something, and it’s much more likely to get deleted.

If there’s a list of who handles what, and you’re invited to submit directly, for the love of God, figure out who might be interested in your work and send it directly to them! Your chances of it being seen will be much higher if the person who makes the decision sees it first. I don’t think I’m alone in prioritizing emails specifically sent to me over ones that are forwarded.

So, what should you do?

Basically the opposite of everything I just said.

  1. Address your email to the right person (and spell their name correctly).
  2. Only send relevant content the organization has stated they have an interest in.
  3. Provide a full and interesting description/query, not just a link or lazy “Are you interested in this?” with an attachment.
  4. Provide all the relevant or requested details without being pushy or demanding.
  5. Send queries to the right person.

Basically, put the time and effort in to figure out how to query an organization correctly and be polite about it.

newspaper-502778_1920

Posted in books, creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Worldbuilding

As writers, we all know how important worldbuilding is when writing fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian.

What about when you’re writing contemporary realistic fiction?

You may not need to create detailed maps or a new social structure when writing about the real world, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to worldbuilding.

What aspects of worldbuilding apply to contemporary realistic fiction?

Creating your own town

Small European TownCreating a fictional town is definitely the most involved type of worldbuilding in contemporary realistic fiction. You’ll draw from real places with the goal of developing something new and interesting. A huge benefit of making up a location is that you aren’t bound by anything. Another benefit is that you won’t spend hours researching a real place and worry about whether you’ve portrayed it correctly. A fictional location allows you to build the exact setting you need to develop your plot and characters.

What should you consider when creating your own town or setting?

What type of location does the storyline call for? Is your character on his own in a big city for the first time? Is she pulled from city life to figure out small-town living? Does the story require seclusion or crowds? How plugged in is your main character? Are they a foodie who loves trying new eateries or someone who loves the familiar?

How do you develop realistic details?

Desert RoadStart off based in reality. For those who’ve watched Twin Peaks and paid attention to the opening credits, the welcome sign claims the town has 51k people, yet everyone knows each other and there seems to be only one restaurant. Take the time to research town sizes and amenities in order to make sure everything lines up.

Check into weather and seasonal changes as well. Summer comes to Phoenix a lot quicker than Montana, BUT if you’ve been living with single digits for six months in Colorado Springs, 35 degrees feels pretty nice and you might see a few pairs of capris or flipflops.

Investigate the demographics, foods, culture, and dialect of your fictional town’s region or state. Just because your town is made up doesn’t mean you can go wild with random details. Ask people around the county how they refer to a carbonated beverage or what toppings they put on a pulled pork sandwich. If you spell chile (the vegetable) with an “I” in the Southwest, you’ll get more than a few eye rolls.

Building a neighborhood

Death_to_Stock_Photography_NYC_Skyline_7Whether you’re creating a fictional town or using a real town, you still need to develop the small-scale details of the neighborhood or apartment building your characters inhabit.

Who else lives here and how do they interact with the main character(s)? What is the overall feel of the area? This is a great place to start developing secondary characters and conflicts. Think about where the neighbors or residents tend to hang out or stop off for a quick conversation or gossip exchange. Is it in the laundry room or by the mailboxes? Does everyone walk to their destinations or is driving necessary? Does the MC want to stay or are they anxious to get out of dodge?

Consider the type of building or homes. Older homes have different problems then newer ones. What are the main issues and best aspects of the area and how do they impact the story? A dirty, trash-ridden street will create a different feeling than an old dirt road with cattle fence separating the properties.

Places to go and things to do

Death_to_stock_communicate_hands_4Thinks Friends when you’re creating your characters’ daily habits and local haunts. Who’s apartment/house does everyone tend to hang out at and why? What features make it desirable? When they’re out and about, where do they often stop for coffee or to catch up, and how does that environment help the story? If characters need a quiet place to trade secrets or go over plans, a busy, noisy coffee shop might not work as well as a used bookstore.

Something to remember here is that locations should have a point and progress the story. Just because your characters likes kittens doesn’t mean readers need scenes of him or her at a local shelter if it in no way relates to the overall story. Every place or activity needs to be relevant or readers will start to think it’s filler and skim over it.

Work/office worldbuilding

iStock_000023280434LargeSimilar to building a neighborhood, it’s important to develop the work or office life of a character. How much it needs to be developed depends on how important it is to the story. If a character has social anxiety, a busy and fast-paced office will provide conflict. If a teen character is itching for excitement but works at an outdated video rental store only a few old people visit every week, that also provides conflict. If work is only mentioned in passing to acknowledge that the character does indeed have a job, minimal development is needed beyond the fact that it eats up a large portion of their time and provides an income.

Other sources of conflict and potential to move a story forward include relationships with co-workers, possibility of moving on to something better, fear of being fired, how other people in the office view the MC, and on and on. Again, any detail you insert should have a point, even if it’s only providing a coworker for the MC to sound off to or bounce ideas off.

Relationship to the world at large

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace8 11.45.06 AMA very important, overarching detail to develop is how your MC relates to the world. This is most often going to develop from backstory. Some writers develop the backstory first while others let it come to light as they write. The important thing about backstory is that it forms a starting point for your character and helps determine an end point.

How does your character see the world around them? What problems or benefits does this viewpoint create? How will they overcome related problems? How will they change by the end of the book?

A character living in an overpriced, cramped apartment in New York will view it differently depending on where he or she was before that. Someone escaping a small town they hated may see it much more positively than someone who has been cut off and forced to make their own way. The character’s view of their world will alter how they will describe a scene, interact with others, make choices, and move within that world.

youth group vacation travel city

Even if your characters are living in the same world we are, don’t skimp on developing a realistic and full setting. The more readers can recognize and relate to where your characters exist, the more they will connect to the overall story. We may all live in the same world, but we each experience it very differently, and so should your characters.

Posted in books, characters, creative writing, writing, writing thoughts, writing tips, young adult

Categorizing young adult fiction

read-515531_1920I’ve been editing a young adult project I wrote a few years back and never got back to, and it reminded me of a comment I saw on social media a while back about whether YA is an age group or a genre.

Traditionally, YA has been categorized based on audience age and the age and experiences of the protagonist. Youth ages 12-18 are the  target audience. Themes focus on new experiences and challenges as characters approach adulthood.

As the genres have shifted over the past decade, there’s been some debate about whether YA is still categorized based on character age and audience age, or if it should even be considered a genre at all. It’s more complicated than simply saying it’s one or the other, or should or shouldn’t be.

It’s not uncommon for a teenage character to face challenges and themes that may not be suitable for a twelve-year-old reader. Is it still YA? The fact that half of YA readers are adults shows that plenty of grownups enjoy reading about the young adult experience. Is it still YA if adults are the largest reader group of a particular book? The wide variety of subgenres, topics covered, heat levels, amount of profanity, and character age ranges in YA shows how difficult it is to pinpoint what is and isn’t YA.

I didn’t read Lord of the Flies until I was in high school, yet the characters are pre-adolescent. The content, however, would make it a difficult read for middle grade readers.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s main character, Scout, is only six years old when the book begins, but deals with difficult concepts and themes which apply to a wide variety of readers of all ages.

Fahrenheit 451 is often listed as both YA and adult fiction, and is frequently on high school reading lists. However, almost all of the main characters are all adults and the story deals with complex themes and difficult scenes.

So what makes a book YA, and is it a genre or age range of target readers?

I tend to agree that YA as a genre attempts to pigeon-hole a huge variety of fiction into one category. It says more about the age range of readers someone out there thinks will enjoy the story more than what type of book it is. TO me, that’s not a terrible helpful category. You have to move on to subgenre to figure out what a book is going to be about.

Classifying a book has more to do with the point and purpose of the story than the age of the reader or characters. Does the story speak to the experiences of a young adult? The teenage years are often a time of self-discovery and trying to figure out where you belong in the world. Young adults face a lot of “firsts” that are often complicated to manage and can have a huge impact on the way they see themselves and the world, good or bad.

YA fiction tends to focus on the specific challenges and crises that go along with entering a new world (adulthood, moving towns or schools, first relationships and jobs, etc.), social and emotional growth and development, exploring boundaries (relationships, drugs and alcohol, sex, etc.), and self-discovery.

Of course, many adults face similar issues, which is why the lines get blurred so often between genres, however, teens tend to experience these things differently than most adults. This shifts the focus or perspective of YA fiction. A relationship at 16 is very different than one at 40. The same goes for jobs, school, sex, and much more. The thing is, though, that those experiences are interesting to more than just the teens out there living it because it’s about the human experience.

Despite what genre gets listed on Kindle or Apple Books, YA is more complicated than simply saying it’s a defined genre or an age group. An author may have a specific audience or purpose as they write, but readers take what they will from each book they read and catalog it in a way that makes sense to them. The exact definition matters a lot less than whether or not the story speaks to readers in a meaningful way.

Posted in books, creative writing, writing, writing thoughts

The in-between times are weird

desk-2906792It’s been a long time since I haven’t had a project that I was in the middle of and felt pressured to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, I have multiple half-finished books, podcast audio files to edit and upload, marketing stuff I keep meaning to do, and new ideas bouncing around in my head. I just don’t have to do any of them right this second.

For months it’s been one deadline after another, learning a new job, trying and often failing to keep up with things at home and learning to ask for help, and feeling like I’m constantly behind.

It feels good to have wrapped up all my freelance projects and pressing personal projects and feel like I’m getting a handle on my job. What feels weird is not having anyone bombarding me at the moment. I don’t know what to work on next. Part of me wants to just enjoy not having to do anything right this second, even though I know I have a long to-do list waiting for me.

I have ideas for a fifth and final Date Shark book, the next Escaping Fate book, “Oracle Lost,” is outlined and ready to be written, I have a concept for the next Ghost Host book, I have a few chapters written for “Child of Hope” (sequel to the still unpublished “Child of Destruction”), the next Arcane Wielders book is about a 1/4 written,  scenes for the next Eliza Carlisle book are bouncing around in my head, and I have a couple of brand new ideas I think readers will like. What I don’t have is a plan to get through all of that.

This strange in-between feeling is almost overwhelming. To get back into an open series, I need to reread the previous books. To start something new means putting off half-finished projects. To focus on marketing means I’m not writing. It has me at a standstill in some ways.

What next?

If any of my readers have a suggestion on what book they most want to see next, shout it out!

Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, cover design, date shark, date shark series, ebooks, editing, publishing, romance, writing

Re-releasing the Date Shark series

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Earlier this year, I got the rights back to my Date Shark series, and I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as simply republishing them for several reasons.

The editing on the first book had been horrible, and I realized when I started re-editing that the edits I had sent back to the publisher five years ago had been ignored. I’d received multiple complaints about the editing from readers when it first published, but it was out of my hands at that point.

The editing did improve over time as the publisher I was working with upgraded their editing staff, but there were still enough errors remaining that I knew the entire series needed to be re-edited. That process took me almost five months because I didn’t have a lot of spare time after starting a new job at the newspaper and taking on a few too many freelance projects.

I also needed new cover art before I could republish the series. I was happy to redo the first book’s cover, but I had chosen the model art for books two through four, so at least I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. My main challenge was not being able to use the cool shark fin A in the original cover art and trying to find something comparable. My husband helped me choose a new font and rightly steered me away from trying to include any water-like effects and just go with the sketched shark logo instead.

My next challenge was when to re-release each book. I asked other authors and got advice on scheduling, but in the end, it took me so long to format each book that they ended up spacing themselves out well enough, for the most part. Books two and three released within days of each other because, honestly, I was sick of working on them and just wanted to be done.

Going back through these books was actually a fun experience overall. I hadn’t chatted with these characters in almost three years and had forgotten how much I loved them! Sabine and Michael’s story is still my favorite of the series, and rereading the books reminded me that poor Leo never got to have his own story.

I had planned to give Leo a voice as the final book in the series, but because of issues with the publisher and limited writing time back then, I stored the idea away for later. I do have some other projects that need attention, but I want to eventually come back to Leo’s story and finish off the series by giving him his own happy ending.

For now, the series is back up on all the major retailers and ready to meet new readers!

You can find all the links here.

Posted in writing, writing thoughts

My first six months in journalism

Typewriter illustrationThis past February I started a job as an editorial assistant at a local newspaper. I’ve been writing since I was a teen, and got started publishing fiction almost ten years ago, but journalism is a whole new world of writing for me. I’ve learned a lot so far, some writing-related and some just plain interesting.

The AP Stylebook is the end-all be-all for journalists, even though it says not to use the Oxford comma, which drives me batty on a daily basis.

On the rare occasion AP doesn’t have the answer, Miriam-Webster gets the final say. Any questions either of these can’t handle go to David Buck, who knows everything about journalism but is still super nice.

InCopy has this amazing feature that can change capitalization with one click. It’s my favorite thing about it, especially since the program is kind of a pain in the ass in general. I have no idea why Word can’t change capitalization like this. Get on it, developers. Please?

Writing length is measured in inches, not pages or words. I still haven’t figured out the conversion and need to see it visually, but as usual, my articles are often too long!

Storytelling in journalism is a lot different than in fiction. There’s no room for a detailed backstory or well-developed plot. Journalism answers questions and informs more than tells stories most of the time.

Journalists don’t accept change easily. There were audible gasps when AP announced the percent sign could now be used instead of writing it out.

Last but not least, I’ve learned that one of my coworkers carries a cross in her pocket, not because she’s religious, but because you never know when you might run into a vampire.

I still have a ton to learn about journalism, but I’m enjoying the process and the people.

2019-07-15 13.02.03
If you want to see what I’ve been writing, stop by The Durango Herald and The Journal!
Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, date shark, date shark series, new release, romance

The Date Shark series is back!

The Date Shark Series is available again is independent books, complete with new covers and editing!

The first book in the series was so much fun to write. It was a challenge not to rely on anything supernatural to keep the story going, but it made me work harder and I was really pleased with the results. The idea for this book came from an experience I had when I submitted a query letter to “The Query Shark,” which she promptly ripped to shreds (deservedly) and set me on the right path. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if there was a similar “shark” for women who needed a dating overhaul.

Date Shark, book 1

Date Shark FRONTLife as the marketing director for a popular fashion boutique is overwhelming for Leila Sparrow, to say the least.

She’s not sure what ever possessed her to add revamping her dating life to her already hectic schedule. Calling in renowned Date Shark, Eli Walsh seemed like a good idea until she actually met with him…

Date Shark was only meant to be a side-enterprise to his thriving couple’s therapy practice, but Eli Walsh knows it’s become more of an obsession.

At least, it was until he agreed to take on Leila. Somehow she has stolen his entire focus. He wants to admit his fascination with her and growing romantic interest, but he knows coming on too strong will scare her away.

His plan to convince her that she is worth any man’s interest by first being her friend is challenged when his tips start to pay off and Leila begins dating Luke.

Will his friendship with Leila mean the end to any romantic pursuit?

Available Now!

Amazon ButtoniBooks ButtonSmashwords ButtonKobo ButtonBarnes Noble Bttn

 

Shark Out Of Water, book 2

Shark Out Of Water FRONTGuy Saint Laurent is too busy cursing his sister for roping him into taking over Eli’s Date Shark business to prepare himself for the slew of bizarre women he’s about to get involved with. This is the last venture he intended to take on, but somehow he’s just become Chicago’s newest, most reluctant Date Shark.

On top of dealing with bug-toting, mothering, obsessive women, Guy faces personal tragedy that changes his outlook on life, whether he wants it to or not. He’s not sure what it is about Charlotte Brooks that draws him in, but getting her off his mind after a brief encounter proves impossible.

As Charlotte tries to help Guy deal with his loss, he begins to get the impression she’s hiding something from him. He knows he could simply walk away, continue as he always has, but he suspects whatever she’s hiding, she won’t be able to face it alone.

Charlotte is the one woman who can capture his attention, but she may also be the one woman capable of breaking him.

Available Now!

Amazon ButtoniBooks ButtonSmashwords ButtonKobo ButtonBarnes Noble Bttn

 

 

The Only Shark In The Sea, book 3

The Only Shark In The Sea FRONTVance Sullivan has always been the rock everyone turns to for help…

His work with patients recovering from traumatic events makes him the perfect person to help his friend, Guy Saint Laurent, with one of his Date Shark appointments. When Vance meets hesitant, frightened Natalie Price, he suspects she’s hiding the truth behind her fears, and he’s drawn in by a need to help her.

Haunted by a terrible event from her past, Natalie can’t even endure being touched without suffering a crippling panic attack…

She doesn’t know why, but Natalie feels Vance might be the only one who can help her put the pieces of her life back together. Despite the tension their arrangement causes with his girlfriend, their bi-weekly sessions seem to be helping…as long as he keeps his promise not to push her to reveal more than she’s ready to share.

Suddenly the tables have turned…

When Vance suffers his own unspeakable tragedy, asking for help is the last thing he wants to do. Drowning in grief and guilt, crushed by betrayal and lies, Vance needs a lifeline.

Natalie has no idea why anyone thinks she can help him, given her own deep-rooted fears—but she knows she has to try. A twisted notion of justice makes the danger all too real, and Vance and Natalie realize it might take one broken soul to mend another…

Available Now!

Amazon ButtoniBooks ButtonSmashwords ButtonKobo ButtonBarnes Noble Bttn

 

 

 

Shark In Troubled Waters, book 4

Shark In Troubled Waters FRONTSabine Saint Laurent is known as the Princess of Paris. Polite, beautiful, charming, polished…perfect.

Everything is always under control, and when it isn’t, she handles it. It’s been an eventful few years with friends getting married, having babies, getting kidnapped, and almost dying, but she’s made it through each upheaval with poise. Just as she’s looking forward to things calming down, her entire life is upended by a startling piece of news.

Aside from her agent managing her day-to-day affairs, Sabine does not ask for help. Not even from her close knit group of friends and family. So when she finds herself struggling to cope with major changes in her life, she’s determined to power through on her own. It should be easy enough. Everything is always easy for Sabine: modeling, men, money, languages, art, cooking. Finding out she’s pregnant shouldn’t be any different, right?

Except it’s not easy. Nothing about navigating pregnancy, custody, complications, and a man she despises trying to seduce her is simple. Michael Moniteau’s intentions are questionable, but she desperately needs help and he’s the only one who understands enough to give it. It could be the beginning of something wonderful, or it could break the heart she’s kept carefully shielded for so long.

Available Now!

Amazon ButtoniBooks ButtonSmashwords ButtonKobo ButtonBarnes Noble Bttn