Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bride for the Bachelor: I finaled in Harlequin's SYTYCW Contest!

I have a huge confession: I am a closet contemporary writer! And a few days ago, I learned I was one of 28 finalists in Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write Competition. There were around 700 entries! 25 were chosen based on popular vote and 3 were chosen by editors as "wild card" entries.

What is my story about, you may ask? It's not dashing dukes or macho marquesses or sizzling spies, my usual fare. My story, Bride for the Bachelor, is about a frazzled NYC editor who inherits a baby and the hunky reality star bachelor next door, who just so happens to be her old high school sweetheart. 

So now another secret shame is watching every episode of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette with my daughters and their friends.  I guess it got me wondering...what if a reality star had to choose between 25 gorgeous knock-out contestants...and his one true love, the girl from his past he never stopped loving?

Next step is to sit back, relax, and enjoy reading all the first chapters posted on the SYTYCW site (here). Editors are choosing the top three, and public voting to choose the winner begins in mid-November.

How fun is that?

Gorgeous fall day in Northern Ohio--today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Learn to Pitch Better by Watching Lisa Kleypas Chat About Rainshadow Road

Is pitching your worst nightmare? Do you quake in your shoes just thinking about it? Are you a fearful public speaker who would rather have all your teeth pulled (at once) than have to sit across from an agent or editor and pitch? If you are, read on!

I adore Lisa Kleypas. Not only is she a hugely talented author, she's a savvy businesswoman, too. Lisa is far beyond the pitching stage of selling books. But the following is a YouTube video I found on her Facebook author page that she did to promote the release earlier this year of her book Rainshadow Road. I think it's very instructional for those of us who are in the process of pitching their manuscripts to editors and agents.

I studied it carefully before I pitched my manuscript this past weekend at the fabulous New Jersey Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. 

Watch the video and see how she does it.

What I learned from watching this:

--Lisa speaks in a very conversational style, i.e., she's not looking clutching an index card with white knuckles and reading her pitch. She's informally telling you about her book, as if you were sitting across the table from her (yet it is carefully worded and the information is carefully planned).

--You leave excited about her book. Why? Because she's excited about it!

--She speaks about her characters like they are real people.

--She is confident in the story. She's not cringing or embarassed or chuckling nervously. She believes in her story--she's proud of it!

--She uses her hands for expression.

--She smiles and looks directly at the camera.

--She keeps it short.

--Now look at your pitch. Have you spent so much time getting it to be under 50 words or to 3 sentences that you've neglected to check for how conversational it sounds? Try reading it out loud, then changing the verbs to sound more like conversation--more informal. 

--My worst fear in the world is fear of blanking out when I pitch (well, okay, maybe not my worst fear but it seems like it at the time!).  I am an index-card clutcher and I suffer greatly. But this fear can be overcome. I know because I did it!

--The key for me was practice. Even if you have to write out a conversational-sounding pitch and memorize it by saying it over and over--DO IT. Make yourself practice in front of someone who loves you. FORCE YOURSELF. When I pitched to an editor and an agent this weekend, I was able for the first time to do it without index cards (although I did bring them with me just in case). But it took a ton of practice. Some people may not have to deal with this kind of stress but those of you who know who you are! And if I can do it, you can too! 

--Remember, most editors/agents you pitch to will request pages from you. And guess what I heard at the conference from Bob Mayer? 90% of people who are asked for submissions at pitch sessions don't even send them? So don't be in that majority!  

--A pitch is a marketing tool. It's the first impression the agent or editor gets--of you and your book. Work hard to make it a good one. If all else fails, remember, it's only eight minutes. Anyone can survive that! If I did, you can too!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Love's Secret Fire: Debut by Rena Koontz

Love's Secret Fire by Rena Koontz

Check out the debut romantic suspense by Crimson Romance author (and my fellow chaptermate) Rena Koontz!

Undercover agent Adam Michaels (a.k.a. Mitchell) has been sent to a fire station to out a firebug. Who is targeting news reporter and radio personality Valerie Daniels with frightening emails. And Valerie’s beloved twin brother is a rookie fireman who just happens to be in all the right places at the right times to make him a prime suspect.

Sparks immediately fly between Adam and Valerie that have nothing to do with the scary fires being set.

But this book is more than just suspenseful. It subtly explores the strong bonds between brother and sister and between friends. The forbidden romance that blooms between Adam and Valerie is strong and full of feeling. Their country western date night was so satisfying and emotional it actually had me in tears. You can feel them falling in love and it’s a wonderful ride.

From the first page where Valerie forms the peas on her plate into the letter “D” to describe the dull date she has, the language in this book caught me. And this sentence describes perfectly the chemistry between Valerie and Adam:  “‘Mitchell,’” Adam’s deep voice oozed through the phone, sending a wave of heat through her like hot chocolate at a Friday night football game.” Love it!

Rena Koontz’s reporting background is evident in this suspenseful, well- researched book with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the end. There is a believability to the fire station protocol, intense relationships between the fire fighters, and the realistic crime details.

For more about Rena, check out her website here  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why They Call It "Revision Hell"

I've recently had the great pleasure of coming back into the real world after a month of revisions. How you know you might need to detox if you've had a similar experience:

--An entire wardrobe of sweats is critical to survival (including my favorite sweats I call my writing pants). But the one time you wear them out (because you've deteriorated to the point where you just don't give a fig any more and all you want is just to be DONE), you will meet everyone you know--and they will all be dressed in their nice work clothes, making you feel a bit pathetic. Moral of this story: grocery shop early or late, or dress better going out!

--The mail pile becomes a mail avalanche.

--Ditto for laundry.

--You begin calling your children by your characters' names, OR

--You walk around the house talking to yourself (or others) in an English accent.

--Correlary:  You begin calling your husband's by your hero's name...

--...or (more commonly) your villain's!

--Instead of asking what's for dinner? your kids start asking you what kind of takeout we're ordering tonight.

--For company, you devise numerous ways to cheat on housework, stashing things in closets, closing doors, and tossing away everything en masse that has rotted in the fridge. You never put water on your kitchen floor unless totally forced.(i.e., some kid spills a sticky beverage that makes noise when someone walks on it or the dog barfs).

--So far, there is no shortcut I've discovered to cleaning bathrooms. (If anyone has, let me know!)

--Your back and fingers ache from scrunching yourself over a keyboard all day and skipping your exercise classes. Warning: skipping physical activity for fear of  "it takes too much time" is a hazard to sanity! (Will I ever learn this?)

--Every time you sit down at your keyboard, you start to twitch and your skin begins to crawl.

--You feel that if you so much as look at another cup of coffee you're going to hurl.

--You never want to see again.

--You feel that you can probably work on your manuscript forever and it will never be done. This is the hell part. Am I fixing it, making it better, or am I ruining it?? Will it ever be done?

--You finally get the courage to push send, and release your literary child into the universe, subjecting it to potential criticism and of course, rejection. This is reminiscient of dropping your first kid off at the first day of preschool. If only you can protect her from the bullies of the world! The kids that won't like her! But she has to go out into the world...and hey, preschool might have its knocks, but it's mostly fun!

Lastly, the nail biting continues as you wait in desperate hope, but not too much hope. Tempered by caution. And the experience of multiple "no's."  

You wash your hair, do some TJ Maxx therapy, clean your house, kiss your kids, see your friends again, maybe even make dinner and start a new manuscript. You leave the outcome to fate, knowing you've done the best you can possibly do.

I think I can finally call myself a writer now. 

Peace-inspiring scene, the Atlantic coast this summer.