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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book Signings

Dreaming of your first book signing? If you’re a writer chasing a dream of publication, you probably are. I certainly looked forward to the day, until it got here. My thoughts went wild. What will I wear? If I’m with another author, will we both end up wearing a navy blue suit jacket? But then, is a jacket too fancy?

It turned out to be scarier than I’d thought and not because of wardrobe. For my first two signings I was with one other author, then three others. What if their book sells but mine doesn’t? I certainly didn’t want to look pitiful. Well, I did sell some books, too, and no one was wearing the same thing as I was.

I’ve since learned that you don’t have to wear something eye catching each time you sign, and that depending on the amount of time you are signing has a good deal to do with how many books you sell. It also matters if you know anyone in the area where you’re signing. Unless you are Nora Roberts, even selling one book at a one hour signing is something. If it’s four hours, I think six is pretty good. Of course the more books you have written and displayed, gives a reader more choice and perhaps more sales.

A fellow author told me of a time recently that she’d signed with three other authors in a nice book store near Seattle. Two of the writers had multiple deals with big publishing houses. The other two had contracts with small houses but were selling nonetheless. Yet, not one person bought a book from any of them. As a matter-of-fact, people avoided them by giving them a wide berth in the store. Things like this do happen and to the best of writers.

What do I know for sure? That besides setting up a good visual display, it doesn’t matter what you do to get people to come in and see your books. I do try to say good morning, or afternoon, to those that cross my path, but if a person likes to read they will stop and look. Many people don’t choose to read, whether due to time restraints or they spend their time with all that technology has to offer these days, and if that’s the case they don’t need what you have to offer. That’s okay, because there are also those that love reading what you write. I also know for sure that men will come by and look, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that half of the people that bought my first book, Maya’s Gold, are male. I assume it’s the gold in the title that they want to read about.

It’s been nearly four years since my first book came out, and I’m no longer frightened of book signings. I enjoy talking with people going by and am delighted when a fan comes in to buy my next book.

www.maryvine.com

 
18 Comments

Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Blogs, Boise, Book Signings, books, Idaho, readers, writers

 

SCBWI Events

This blog post is going to be a little on the short side, because I will be a counselor at senior high camp for a week right before this posts. (Good place to spend time if you’re writing for the YA crowd.) So I’m actually writing it a week prior to when you’re reading it. I apologize in advance for cheating you out of the witty banter to which you have become accustomed.

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is the premier international organization for children’s writers and illustrators. We hold tons of conferences, workshops, meetings, and many other types of events to help support and promote children’s authors and illustrators. To find out more, check out www.scbwi.org.

In Boise, August 1 will be our next SCBWI meeting. Johanna Harness (yes, a fellow blogger on this site) will be speaking on Twitter for Writers. Everyone says social media is extremely important in book promotion, networking, fan chats, etc. So this will be a great way to learn from someone who is actually doing lots of digital stuff.

We won’t have a meeting in Sept. because that is Labor Day and we shall all be resting from our labors.

In October, another event is happening that you need to know about. Our SCBWI Novel Revision Retreat will be in Ashton, Idaho on Oct. 1-3. Space is limited, so only 16 people may register. Emma Dryden, owner of drydenbks.com will be our facilitator. She is an awesome editor and funny lady. The cost is $325, which includes your meals, lodging, and all workshops for the weekend.

So if you have a novel manuscript draft completed, even it if it is just the first draft, you are eligible to attend. You will be required to read the full manuscripts of three other attendees, which you will receive the first week of September. Come prepared to discuss, revise, be critiqued, and learn a lot. Then go home energized with specific ideas for revision.

If you want more information or want to register, email me at neysajensen@msn.com. Hurry, because slots are filling up quickly.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Idaho

 

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Guest Post – Young Adult Author Medeia Sharif

Guest Post – Young Adult Author Medeia Sharif

Years ago, when my manuscripts were buried deep in slush piles all over the country, all I wanted was to have one published book. Even if I couldn’t get all my manuscripts published—and that wasn’t going to happen anyway since I labeled many of them “drawer manuscripts”—I just wanted my moment to shine.

So now my book is out in the world. I thought I would be triumphant and relieved. That’s not the reality.

Here are some things that lay heavily on my mind now….

1) Getting book two published. I’m currently working on two wips. Sure, years ago I said, “Please, may one of my books see the light of day.” But now that my dream has become actualized, I want to do the same for my other manuscripts.

2) All the extras are time-consuming. I didn’t know book launch time would be so hectic. Honestly, I had no clue. I have been or was busy with guest posts, interviews, making bookmarks, getting ready for a book signing…I have to push myself to work on my wips here and there or else I’ll get nothing done.

3) The critics. In college I remember how my classmates and I took apart pieces of literature, and we didn’t always share the same vision for them. I’ve read reviews and received emails that made me aware of people focusing on various facets of my book. Some people love it, hate it, think it’s meaningful, think it’s cute, hone in on the specifics, or look at the overall picture. Personal taste is subjective. I always knew this, but now the concept is being applied to my work.

4) What kind of writer am I? I’ve been asking myself this question. One of my wips is strongly multicultural and the other one less so. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. is pretty much an innocent book, but my latest wip has profanity and some sexual content. I have a third wip on the back burner and it’s a paranormal. I’ve been asking myself if I should jump genres and flex more of my writing muscles. My answer is yes.

When I first started thinking of myself as a contender in the writing business, I thought it would be a relief to get one book out in the world. As you can see, the worries never end. There’s constant pressure, but this is what motivates me to do more. I’m not going to stop at one book, I’ll learn to pace myself better and do things ahead of time with the extra tasks, I’ll develop a thicker skin with the critics, and I’ll genre hop if I want because being a writer means having no limits with one’s imagination.

About the author:

Medeia Sharif is a high school English teacher residing in Miami Beach. Her young adult debut novel BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. was released July 2011. You can find out more about her by visiting http://www.sharifwrites.com.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Idaho

 

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Summer, Not So Fun

Summer, Not So Fun

I send you greetings from sunny southern California. I’ve been in the Southland since the last week in June. The Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains are beautiful, but I long to see the Rocky Mountains.

My son, Russell, died in February 2009.  My brother-in-law, Cleveland, died in September 2009.  Let’s say it was a very bad year.  While my sister and I were wrestling with our losses, our mother was “stepping out.”
That’s my term for it.  She was losing her grasp on reality.

She began to get confused about what day of the week it was. Hey, we’ve all done that.  But still, it was concerning.  Mom always has a calendar nearby.

Mom began telling me about conversations she’d had with my father.  This wouldn’t be troubling if my father hadn’t died ten years ago.  She’d call, worried because Dad had been gone all day. I’d remind her that my father was dead.  These occurrences began to happen more frequently.

In Aprils of this year, Mom told my sister I was having an affair.  You’d have to know me to realize how funny that is.  Having drinks with the girls after work became having dinner with my lover and his wife.  That’s how I roll.  No sneaking around for me.  I had to share the news of my cheating with my husband.  I didn’t want him to be the last to know.  If I’m going to include my lover’s wife in dinner plans, shouldn’t my husband come along as well?  Sometimes it’s easier to laugh.

She continued to go downhill. My sister and I didn’t know how much longer she could be on her own.  In early June, my sister brought Mom to her house. I planned an extended visit to help clean out Mom’s house and take her to see a doctor about this issue.

Mom seems more childlike with each passing day. That isn’t a good thing.  There are days she demands to go back to her house and be left alone.  I understand her request.  There is truly no place like home. Unfortunately, we don’t think that is the right thing for her.  She gets confused.  She is sometimes confused about who we are.  There was the time my sister was the maid and I was the other one.

Mom asked me if I ever talked to my first husband.  My friends are surprised.  They didn’t know anything about that marriage, and neither did I.

This is the person who brought me into this world.  This is the person who raised me.  This is the person that loved me with all her heart.  I’ve spent the last month watching her slip away.

There are days when she is clear and sharp.  An old movie, Too Many Girls, was on television.  It starred Lucille Ball.  Mom told me that this is where Lucille met Desi.  I checked the credits, but Desi Arnaz wasn’t listed.  I took this as another example of her increasing confusion.  I thought she’d enjoy the movie, even if Desi wasn’t in it.  The movie was in progress.  The first face we saw on the screen was Desi Arnaz.  Mom’s memory hadn’t failed her.

I wish I could say I’ve handled this situation with grace.  For some reason I believe she can come back.  If she stepped out, why can’t she step back in?  I know I’m not being logical.  I hate that.  She’s says something…outlandish and I snap at her before I can catch myself.  I keep expecting to have a rational conversation with someone who isn’t what I consider rational.  It’s like someone who keeps walking into a closed sliding glass door.  Just because the door was open five minutes ago doesn’t mean it’s still open.

I’m wrapping up my vacation, but I need your help.  I should have reached out to you sooner. What stories can you share with me?  I need your words of wisdom as I navigate this life experience.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Idaho

 

Writing Contests – are they write for you?

We’ve talked about writing contests before on this blog, but the subject just came up for me again and it’s on my mind, so . . . Are writing contests write for you? Not just right, but do they help your writing? It depends.

I, personally, like writing contests. I like to hear a total stranger’s perspective on my writing. Why? Because it helps me see the holes, the plot problems and whether my story grabs the reader right from the beginning. Most writing contests are for the first few chapters of your work.

Having said that, I have also learned not to take everything said to heart. What one person likes another doesn’t and it is important to distinguish the good critiques from the bad. If a judge comments on point of view shifting, that is something to improve. If a judge says “I think this would be better written in first person because I like first person” that’s their opinion and is totally unhelpful. And yes, that is an actual response I received from a contest.

If you take everything said to heart, your own storytelling voice can get lost in your re-writing. It’s important to listen to your own voice when deciding whether or not to make changes in your work, after all it is YOUR work. Not the judges. This is your baby.

When deciding what contests I am going to enter, I consider three things: 1. The scoresheet – if the contest shows how and what they score, I will read it through. My hero and heroine may not always meet in the first chapter – if it is a one chapter contest and scores are handed out for the first meeting, I won’t score well and I won’t enter that contest. 2. The final judge in my category – if it is an editor or an agent that I would love to have read my work, then this is a contest that I would definitely consider. This may be optimistic, but no one enters a contest without hoping they will final and it is always better to consider the whole picture. Plus if you do final, it is another thing to go on your resume when sending out query letters. 3. The fee – if I can afford two contests in a month then I’ll choose the best two that would suit me as a writer. If I can afford one then it is one.

One last thing that I will say about writing contests is that they force us as writers to be brave simply by entering them. Sharing our work as writers can be a scary thing. No one wants to be criticized. Contests can help us overcome that fear, thicken our skin some and get us ready to query that agent or pitch to that editor.

I like writing contests. What’s your take?

 
16 Comments

Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Idaho

 

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Limitless

I’m 49.

So old my kids can’t grasp the antiquity.

So young my mother rolls her eyes at my recent coffin countdown celebration.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about chaos theory. Oh, admit it . . . when everyone else is glued to the television . . . you’re doing it too.

Thinking. Wondering. What if-ing?   😉

A complete articulation of Chaos Theory, popularly referenced as ‘the butterfly effect’, is beyond the scope of this blog (and yes, I’m laughing with you at the appalling understatement).

The exponentially simplified premise? We can’t predict what we can’t grasp.

Edward Lorenz captured the whimsy of this theory in the title of his 1972 academic paper:  ‘Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?’ (Affirming rumors of the twisted sense of humor held by academics).

We tend to think in dichotomies – love/hate, good/evil, success/failure. After all, it’s easier to prioritize actions when we have a clear decision point. Then, we categorize effort as neatly as census questions sort people.

Dichotomies are convenient. And frightening for the same reason.

For me, the last five lines of Robert Frost’s 1920 poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ capture the promise and lament of dichotomy.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged into a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.”

Pine Idaho

Hwy 20 Pine Idaho

Welcome to a standard southern Idaho wooded area. Sagebrush is the shrub du jour with pine garnish. Walk with me, on a sun burnt July day, along this dusty road. Seconds ago, a doe stopped, observed us, then turned to pick her way up the hillside into shadows thrown by the scrub aspen.

Within a few yards, and a heartbeat of the doe’s reversal from her daily path to the river, a truck barreled past us with a horse trailer in tow. (You can’t discern the license plate number – I’ve tried).

So many variables. A different outcome but for something we couldn’t possible understand to be significant.

For us. What if the driver spilled coffee? And the truck swerved slightly? He’d have clipped one of us with the side mirror.

For the deer. What if our presence hadn’t redirected her from seeking water? And from the truck’s path?

Can we wrap our intellect around the infinite adjustments in life with sufficient certainty to predict?  Chaos theory chides us. How long did you hesitate choosing at the road’s fork? Where did you place your first step? If a butterfly can flap a single wing with far-reaching effect, then surely a cough, a sneeze, even a breath has consequence.

Pessimists consider the implications of choice so overwrought with consequence they are unable to act for fear of a misstep. Optimists see chaos as the foundation of serendipity. Don’t let chaos theory overwhelm you into an immediate retreat to the illusion of safe dichotomy. Embrace serendipity. We are on the cusp of something wonderful. At 29, 39 – or 49.

This picture, snapped by a friend with a cell phone from a crumbling asphalt parking lot in an overcrowded visitor center on the edge of Lake Tahoe, captures the power of chaos.

A limitless vista of small choices leading to grand experiences.by FinneganDichotomies might be easier for my feeble human brain, but as a writer, I know the most interesting characters have infinite dimensions. The hero might be a villain but for a single step (or cough, or sneeze, or . . . you get the picture even if it isn’t poetic). I’m not arguing we should neglect taking action, or choosing a path, but sometimes –

When I hear people discuss their writing journey, they say ‘if not for’, ‘this error led me’ or ‘if I hadn’t taken the time to’. Upon reflection, they appreciate even the difficulties en route to cherished moments.

Sitting in my metaphorical kayak, I could look back toward a woman, standing in a parking lot, snapping a picture with her cell phone.  Or I could look forward, toward the next (God willing) thirty years.

Even without a clear path, the view is amazing.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Idaho, inspiration, writers

 

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Guest blogger: Inspirational Romance Author, Marie Higgins

Guest blogger: Inspirational Romance Author, Marie Higgins

I want to thank The Gem State Writers for giving me the chance to be a guest blogger today. I’m so excited to share with you what I know! (or at least think I know…lol)

HOW TO WRITE A GREAT INSPY

 When I first decided to start writing Inspirationals, my critique partners groaned at the idea. No kidding! They didn’t want me to do it because they said most Christian romances were boring. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I hadn’t read an Inspy in several years, and the ones I’d read were boring!

So, I decided to take a chance and start a new trend – if I could, anyway. I decided that my stories wouldn’t just be hero meets heroine, learns about Christ, has a faith-promoting experience, and they live happily ever after. Instead…I write action and adventure. I write humor. I write about the deep attraction felt between man and woman. I believe that just because my stories are labeled ‘Inspirationals’, they don’t have to be a Sunday School lesson. Christians are people too. We are human, and we experience the same things that non-Christians experience. We are tempted just like everyone else. And…we live normal lives.

When I start creating a story, I figure out the plot first – a normal plot between a man and woman who are going to fall in love but things will stand in their way. I think about all the obstacles they’ll overcome along their journey. THEN I will figure out how to add a Christian element into the mix. My characters are not Holier-than-Thou type of people. They are regular people you meet on the street who have regular problems.

Since August 2010, I’ve had three books published with a Christian publisher, Walnut Springs Press. Two were Inspies, and my latest release was a sweet romance. I’ve received numerous reviews and comments. The main theme of these comments boils down to – Ms. Higgins’ stories do not read like most Christian romances. What’s fun is to realize this surprises most readers. Go figure!

Inspirationals are on the rise, my friends. For years I’d been writing a different genre, but I wasn’t going anywhere in my writing career. In the beginning years, I competed with so many writers who write in the same genre and I couldn’t get noticed. When I decided to finally ‘write what I know’, I couldn’t believe how my career turned around. FINALLY, I got my foot in the door with a good publisher. FINALLY, I signed with an agent. FINALLY, I’m getting the recognition I have craved for nearly 15 years. And FINALLY I’m happy with the stories I write.

My books are available at most bookstores, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble – as well was Kindle. Check out my Inspies –

Winning Mr. Wrong (romantic comedy)  – http://mariehiggins84302.blogspot.com/p/winning-mr-wrong.html 

Heart Of A Hero (historical romance)http://mariehiggins84302.blogspot.com/p/heart-of-hero.html  

Hearts Through Time (paranormal / time travel / mystery)http://mariehiggins84302.blogspot.com/p/hearts-through-time-paranormal-mystery.html

 
16 Comments

Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Idaho, inspirational romance, writing

 

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