Friday, December 30, 2011

Synopsis of new book

I wrote and emailed the synopsis for my next manuscript for HRS to my editor. She read it, provided some great feedback and questions, and emailed it back to me. This is a huge advantage I have over when I was not contracted. It gives me the opportunity to address problems before submitting my manuscript.

I'm about 66,000 words into the first draft of this new book which needs to be 70,000 - 75,000 words when complete.

When I'm finished writing it, I need to address issues and layer in some elements which takes a few weeks.

Then a final polish and I'll be ready to submit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gifting a Book

I love giving books as gifts. Sometimes I buy non-fiction in a topic I know someone is interested in reading, but this year, I decided to stick to romance novels. For friends who read romance, this was an obvious choice, but for those that don't, I hope by introducing them to something new, they might love it.

But romance is a huge genre. What to pick?

Steamy?

Sweet?

Heartwarming?

Suspenseful?

Historical?

Passionate?

Once I picked the sub-genre, which book? Cowboys? Secret babies? Medical theme?

I ended up with a wide selection of books across many lines and all different authors. It took me hours. Hours. I really hope my friends and family enjoy them!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Author Melissa Cutler

I like to be in-the-know about what's going on with my fellow HRS authors: when they self-pub, when they have a new HRS coming out, where they are blog touring, and generally anything else. Mainly because I want to support them and their ventures.

I think the coolest thing I've heard recently is that HRS added another author to the team!

Welcome Melissa Cutler!

I can't offer much advice, as I'm new as well, but I'm thrilled for her. I know she's on Cloud 9!

Monday, December 12, 2011

90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors

When I feel my writing dragging, I need some motivation to get it moving again.

Saw this on Twitter this morning: 90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wait Times

Waiting to hear back from an editor or agent about a book can be nerve-wracking. Every writer has their own technique for dealing with wait times. At Harlequin, for queries with synopsis, I found I usually received a response within 4 months, more often around 3 months. I say usually because a couple of years ago, I did have to requery due to my submission being lost.

So what did I do while I waited?

I worked on the next book.

I continued to read books in my targeted line, within the genre, and outside the genre.

I read books on writing and revising.

In the early stages of writing, when I received a response about a query, sometimes the editor included a phrase or two about why the work was rejected. I tried to understand the problems in the book and look at my current work-in-progress to see if I had made the same mistake. Often I had and this might be the reason Harlequin asks that writers not submit more than 1 manuscript to the same line at the same time: no multiple submissions.

I revised. I reworked. I submitted something new.

I think each manuscript I submitted was better than the one before it. Even when I didn't get editorial feedback, I figured each hour spent at the keyboard was an hour closer to my goal: being published.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Riding With The Top Down Guest Blog

I'm guest blogging today on Riding With the Top Down about The Call and the holiday season. Stop by and tell us your favorite holiday traditions!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Professional Writer

I submitted my revised manuscript to Harlequin and now I wait to hear back if my revisions hit the mark. *fingers crossed* I will keep posting each step along the way to my book release so other soon-to-be published writers will know what to expect.

I also received my first check as an author, so I am now a professional writer.

I'm hard at work on my next novel, a story about one of the secondary characters in my first novel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MUSETRACKS - Agent Shop

I've posted about this previously, but I submitted Double Witness (the book Harlequin bought) to the MUSETRACKS Agent Shop last year. My book received a partial request from an agent which didn't result in landing said agent, but it was a great experience.

If you're looking for an agent/ fun pitching practice, check it out here!

And, to note, if you pitch and aren't picked, consider submitting via the slush pile. What isn't right for one agent doesn't mean not right for another agent / editor.

Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All in My Head

I'm hard at work on revisions for Double Witness. Harlequin offered me a contract on the book, but revisions are part of the process! I'm glad for the suggestions (admittedly, it would be awesome to have a perfect book out of the gate, but I'm not perfect and neither is my writing).

As part of the revisions, I have to read the entire book in one day. It's the only way all the pieces of the story stay in my head in a way that I can be analytical and see inconsistencies. If I write something else / sleep / have long breaks between sections, I forget some of the details of the story and I can't be sure it reads smoothly start to finish.

I managed to carve out time yesterday to do an all-in-one sitting read through. Overall, I'm happy with the revisions I've completed.

Writers - how do you handle revisions? What techniques have you found work best?

Friday, November 4, 2011

So You Think You Can Write

So You Think You Can Write starts next week!

SYTYCW is Harlequin's online conference and a great place to get information about becoming a writer for Harlequin.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's Changed Since the Call

1. I've had to embrace social media. I've had a facebook account for years, but now I need to use it. And post tweets. And learn what a tweet IS.

2. I've been asked two main questions about my book: what's it about? (this is where my elevator pitch prep comes in) and are there love scenes? This second question is strange to me. It's a romance. There are love scenes. I get the sense they are really asking, "is the book erotic?" (it is not) and I think for non-readers of romance those two things might be synonymous: love scene & explicit descriptions (keeping this PG).

3. I am very aware of the schedule. I've written every day for years and have written hundreds of pages, millions of words. But now, I know what I am writing is for a purpose: to be published for HRS by a certain time. I haven't figured out if I have the time to write a random story on a whim, just for fun. I have a feeling I will have to make time since that's part of the process and when an idea strikes, I need to put it to paper.

4. Now that I'm "out there" so many romance writers have e-introduced themselves and made me feel welcome. I feel like I am part of some cool exclusive club. Granted, a junior member of said club, but a cool club nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Promotional considerations

I've been doing some research on promotion for books and while I have an exhaustive list of possible places to promote, I've whittled it down to those items that I can reasonably complete given time and money constraints.

The biggest tasks is #1: Write good books.

I have always been a big reader and before I started writing, the extent of my interaction with an author I liked was to go to their website and see when their next book was coming out. That was it. I didn't care if they had a facebook page. I just wanted another good book to read.

Here is the rest of the list.

2. Think about author branding and creating a tag line to make it clear what I write
3. Get a professional picture taken
4. Write an author biography
5. Attend social media / promo classes provided by Harlequin
6. Create a faceook author page
7. Write an author mini-bio for places like Amazon Author Central
8. Host monthly contests on my website once my book is released
9. Let people in my immediate network know about my book: high school, college, university
10. Create a twitter account
11. Find out when Harlequin hosts Intrigue / HRS chats and join in the conversation
12. Email friends and family when the book is available
13. Create blog posts weekly

Obviously, this is all in addition to creating and maintaining my website. That's enough on my plate for the moment. I might add or remove tasks as I figure out which are the most effective.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Next Steps - Revisions, Contract, Author Photo, New Manuscript

Since The Call, I've been busy. I've received some additional revisions on my manuscript and I've set them as my first priority. They are not due until January 2012, but I'd like to mail them off before the holiday.

I received my contract from Harlequin, which I've read and had my roommate from college, now a copyright/patent lawyer, review, read, and help me understand the legal nitty-gritty. I had a few follow-up questions and am waiting to hear back about them.

I received information about promotions through programs that Harlequin offers to their authors. I need to follow up on this.

I've done promotional research on my own and compiled a list of To Do tasks. When I have this list out of draft form, I'll post it here in case it helps someone else on a similar path with the same questions I have.

I've been thinking about getting an author portrait/photograph taken to be used on my website and other promotional items. I'm trying to decide:
1. What should I wear?
2. What background should I use?
3. How should I stand/pose?
4. Which photographer should I use? (this one is the most tricky - most photographers I've talked to only do weddings/baby photo shoots and others want to charge $1500 for a photo session - that's a bit steep for a single picture)

I've also been working on my next book. The hero is the brother of the hero in my current book. The word count will be higher (70-75,000 words). This is the first time I am writing the book and sending it out for critiques simultaneously. I'm hoping to have it completed by the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My first e-book

Well, not my first e-book, but I purchased my first e-book last week. A writer buddy, Trish McCallan self-published her book, Forged in Fire. For anyone interested in self-publishing, she has some good information on her blog about her experiences.

I had read e-books/articles/documentation before, for school or for work reasons, but this was my first just-for-fun e-book purchase. I don't own a tablet or a Kindle, so I downloaded Kindle for PC from Amazon. It was easy to set up and simple to purchase the book through Amazon. I spend a great deal of time on the computer, for work and for writing reasons, so I was worried reading on my laptop wouldn't be as comfortable.

So far, that's not true. The pages fit the screen (no scrolling up and down) and it has a highlight and bookmark function that work well, since I often get interrupted as I'm reading.

This might be the first of many e-book purchases. No shelf space required, and I can tote reading material along with me. I'm not ready to give up print books, I still enjoy the experience of holding a book in my hand, but for me, it's not an all-or-nothing deal. I can be a hybrid reader!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psuedonym, Domain Name, Hosting, Email address, and Website

For any writers reading this, I thought it might be useful to post my progress in getting my promotional and marketing tools configured, so it might be a jumping off point for your own website creation.

Before I was published, I didn't worry about selecting a pseudonym or creating a website. Not only did I not want to jinx myself, I figured when I got published, I would worry about the administrative stuff that comes along with being a writer and setting up a business (more on this later).

When I first started looking into creating a website, I was a bit overwhelmed and unsure where to start. I'm going to break the process down into pieces and maybe I can save someone else confusion.

Pseudonym:

After grappling with several name choices, I decided to pick a pseudonym that is a variation of my legal name. Because my last name is pretty common (Miller), I wasn't too worried about privacy issues. I wanted a name I would respond to, and a name I could easily sign without thinking at book signings when conversation and signatures might happen at the same time. Also, from a legal perspective, I wouldn't have to worry about which name to sign on contracts, etc.

Domain Name:

I selected a domain name and purchased it from 1and1. The domain came with one free email account. The email address was important to me because I think receiving an email from someone@their-domain.com speaks to their professionalism. Setting up the email address to work with outlook was a snap. 1and1 had instructions posted online - a 5 minute job and two test emails, and I am ready to send and receive messages from cj AT cj-miller DOT com.

The domain name also came with private domain name registration. This means I can register my address cj-miller.com under 1and1's contact information, so that my home address remains confidential. I write romantic suspense so my imagination is filled with stalkers and crazy people... So let's call my insistence on this one being careful.

Hosting:

Once I had my domain name, I needed a place to host my website. My home office isn't equipped to host the site myself, nor did I want to deal with that overhead. I could have signed up for hosting at 1and1, but I found their templates and GUI options limited and difficult to use.

I played with several tools on the internet, and decided Weebly was the easiest to configure and still get the layout and features I wanted.

If I have more time, or if I want my website to be more complex in the future, I might chose to host with 1and1 and use the WordPress application. This had a lot of really cool tools, but I didn't think I had the time to work with it.

Website:

I have a masters in Computer Science. I do not fear code or computer tools in general. However, setting up a website that looks cohesive and flows with the right colors is more graphic design than computer science. I decided to use Weebly.com because of the large number of templates to choose. As an added bonus, they'll host my site for free (see above).

If I had known about Weebly when I was pre-published, I would have created a site, hosted it with Weebly, and used their domain extension (the web address would have been something like cj-miller.weebly.com). The domain could have been changed later.

I, in no way, explored all the options available on the www.

Are there other suggestions? If anything is unclear, please post in the comments and I'll try to help!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How did I get published? I kept writing.

Most authors love to read. I'm no exception. I love to read and have since I was a child. Just thinking of Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and the Babysitter's Club makes me warm with nostalgia.

My late grandmother had shelves filled with Harlequin romances. I think they were Harlequin Presents, although I couldn't swear to it. My mom and aunt read them too and they would pass books by the bagful back and forth. When I could get my hands on one, I would sneak off with it and spend the afternoon reading. That's how I became a 3rd generation Harlequin reader.

My love of reading led my imagination to create stories of my own. When I told my husband, who writes as a hobby, about the stories in my head, he said, "Why don't you write the stories down?"

From the moment I started to write, I felt something click into place. This isn't to say that anything I wrote that first year (or second) was publishable. But I persisted. Every day, without exception, I wrote. Even if all I could manage was a few paragraphs, I put words on the screen.

I read books about writing. I read articles on the internet about writing. I read agent blog. I read editor blogs.

Most of all, I kept writing.

I revised my work. I would delete 10,000 words at a time and start a chapter over again. I tried my hand at paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance. When I noticed all my work had heavy suspense elements, I realized I should write romantic suspense.

I still didn't have instant success with the first romantic suspense novels I wrote. But I loved it. Rejection couldn't stop me. I kept writing. I joined RWA. I joined online writing groups. I found a couple of critique partners. I found the eHarlequin writing community. I entered a couple of contests. I got good feedback and bad feedback about my work. Even when it stung, I kept writing.

I submitted my books to Harlequin. I got rejections. It didn't stop me from submitting new work.

I kept writing. Revising. Polishing. Writing. Revising. Polishing.

I don't know how many millions of words I've written, but I will finally be published in 2012. And now, I going to keep writing because I want to STAY published.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Timeline


A brief recap, for writers looking for time lines for their submissions (although it does seem to vary, these are just my dates - roughly):

May 2010: submitted a query letter to Harlequin Romantic Suspense (was called Silhouette Romantic Suspense at the time)

July 2010: received a request for the full manuscript and mailed it

October 2010: received a request for revisions

November 2010: mailed revisions

March 2011: received a request for a 2nd round of revisions

April 2011: mailed revisions

July 2011: followed up via email on my submission.

September 22, 2011: Got the CALL!

The Call

I love reading stories about writers who get the call from an editor or agent when their book is going to be published. In my writer groups, this telephone call is referred to as "The Call." This differs from the dreaded "R," which is a letter of rejection.

So without further ado... my story!

I had heard that HRS was increasing their word count and I had assumed that when I heard back about my book, it would be either a rejection or another request for revisions to make the book longer.

I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting ready to start dinner when I heard the phone ring. It was a 212 number I didn't recognize. I thought the call might be from a contractor we'd hired to install a new front door in our home. I answered and the person asked for me. She identified herself as Shana Smith from Harlequin (at this point I started shaking) and she said they wanted to publish my book (at this point I almost started to cry with happiness). For one small moment, I thought it might be friends of mine playing a joke, since just this week, I entered the New Voices contest and they had read my submission.

I can't recall all the details of the conversation, though I did manage to scribble down some notes on a pad of paper, but I'm pretty sure I sounded incoherent when answering and asking questions. From what I remember, she gave me details regarding timelines for revisions and asked about a pseudonym. She mentioned that she'd be interested in reading other manuscripts (good, cause I have tons) and seeing any connected books (books about the other characters in my novel --- the hero has 2 equally delicious brothers).

My book has been penciled in to the scheduled - I forgot to ask when (whoops!). The editor asked if I accepted, which of course I did, since this is my dream, and when a dream comes by, you don't hesitate - you grab it.

She was really nice and gave me her phone number and email in case I have follow up questions. After I process this, I probably will.

I hope I thanked her and communicated properly how thrilled I am to be given this opportunity.

After I hung up with her, I called my husband, who was happy of course, but said, "told you so, Double Witness just had that certain something." And he has read all my work - even the stuff from the beginning which he describes as "raw talent". It was very raw. Barely cohesive. Gotta love my husband's spin on things.

I emailed my fabulous critique partner, Cera Daniels to give her the news.

Then I called everyone I knew :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

More words

I read on twitter that Harlequin Romantic Suspense is changing their writing guidelines by increasing the word count for submissions from 55k-60k work to 70-75k words.

As a reader, I am not sure I like this. 75,000 words is near main stream romantic suspense, usually 80-100k. One thing I like about Harlequin novels is the length. I don't have as much time to read as I'd like, and the shorter format means I can get to the happily ever after in a night or two of reading.

As a writer, my heart dropped. I have three completed manuscripts written to the 60k word count requirement. Could I edit those to be longer? If I did, would the story be as good? How can I use the extra words to have the most improved impact on my story? Should I start over with a fresh manuscript?

Thinking about the manuscripts I've written, there have been times when I delete massive chunks of writing or feel rushed at the end to tie up the story neatly and stay under 60,000 words.

So as the initial panic passes, I'm going to look at this way: This new challenge is an opportunity to stretch my writing wings. I'll just need to decide: revise or start fresh?

Monday, June 27, 2011

RWA starts tomorrow

The RWA conference starts tomorrow. I haven't received a letter from HRS regarding my submission. This means 3 possible situations:

1. they sent a reply and my mailman lost it / gave it to the wrong address (this happens routinely)
2. my manuscript is still under consideration and I could be receiving a call from Harlequin any day now. (I am still not at the 3 month mark for follow ups)
3. the response is en route at this moment

Let's hope it's #2.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Taking care of the little things

When I purchased my car over a year ago, the dealership placed a sticker advertising their place on the back. It wasn't a large sticker, but it bothered me. Buying a car was not a good experience (the games! the stress! the pressure!), I didn't think I needed to provide free advertising in the form of an ugly crown-shaped sticker. Over time, the sticker cracked and chipped and looked plain awful. Every time I saw that sticker, I glared at it.

I finally decided to do something about it. A few squirts of DW-40, a paper towel and a little rubbing, and that sticker is good as gone. I will never have to look at it marring my car again! Why I didn't do this sooner, I have no idea. Ten minutes will save me hundred of moments of irritation, however minor.

My new resolution: do what I can to make life less stressful, however small, and be more relaxed overall!

What small irritants could you take care of day and never have to think about again? Crooked picture frame? Scuff mark on the wall? Tear in a favorite blouse that needs mending?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Clearing out their desks

Over on some of my writing boards, some writers are speculating that editor and agents will want to clear out their desks prior to the RWA conference in early July to make room for new requests. This could mean a slew of rejections/request/revisions going out in the next few weeks.

I wonder if my response will be among them!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creating Suspense

I love romance novels. I love that they end with a happily ever after. And while I know that by the end of the book, the hero and heroine will be together, I like when the conflicts are thick enough to make me wonder how the author will tie up the story.

It's no surprise that I love romantic suspense because the suspense angle adds an extra layer to the conflict.

What I don't love is when I figure out on page 5 who the stalker / murderer / arsonist / thief is. It's a tricky line for an author. The antagonist cannot come out of the clear blue sky at the end of the novel, but the ending shouldn't be so obvious.

In a novel I recently read (and stopped reading because I'd figured out who the antagonist was and it took all the suspense out of the book), the heroine mentioned several times how this one particular person made her uneasy. Based on the emphasis about this secondary character, I knew he was the criminal.

When the antagonist's identity needs to remain secret, how does an author introduce the antagonist without giving away the suspense element? Introduce multiple possible antagonists? Add red herrings to draw the reader to think in one direction or another?

Edittorrent had a blog post about this a few weeks ago: Suspense. Where does it start?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Conflict

I was looking over a manuscript I submitted two years ago and I realize how far I've come as a writer. One of the lessons I had to learn was that a book is not a series of scenes connected by the characters. The conflicts, internal and external, drive the story. Sadly, some of my novels lacked conflict entirely.

Though those manuscripts are not publish-worthy, I loved writing them. I learned so much about the mechanics of writing, conflict, and characters.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2nd Round of Revisions

I received a reply to my revision request from HRS in the mail.

My heart sank. It was a rejection letter. What else comes in a SASE from editor to author?

I opened the letter and disappointment morphed to confusion. The letter was two pages long. A two page rejection letter?

A moment later, elation struck. NOT a rejection letter! Another revision request!

The editor at HRS requested some additional changes to my manuscript. They weren't as extensive as the first set and focused on clarifying my hero and heroine's conflict and ramping up the emotion throughout the novel.

I struggled with enhancing the emotion, wondering if she meant the romance specifically, or the emotions in the suspense scenes as well. I decided to do both.

A few emails to my CP and many late nights later, I realized I was 1500 words over the maximum word count for that line.

I went back to the manuscript and tightened every scene within an inch of its life. I'm back under the 60,000 word count maximum (just barely).

I plan to have the manuscript ready to be mailed by Friday. Then it's back to work on other manuscripts while I await a response!

Monday, February 21, 2011

How I'm doing with my writing goals

January / February 2011:

Write and Revise:
- revising a manuscript I wrote last year, smoothing some elements that were rough
- wrote 10,000 words of a new manuscript targeting Silhouette/Harlequin Romantic Suspense imprint. I restarted this manuscript three times. I had trouble getting the hero and heroine right. The book slowed to a crawl several times until I realized I had the characters wrong. I reversed their positions, and then the words started flowing.

Reading (figured out how to feed the baby and read at the same time):
Karen Moning, Shadowfever
Debbie Macomber, 1022 Evergreen Place
Kimberly Van Meter, Guarding the Socialite
Jennifer Greene, Irresistible Stranger
Karen Whiddon, Colton's Christmas Baby
Rachel Lee, A Solider's Redemption
Beth Cornelison, PI Daddy's Personal Mission
Christine Gross-Loh, Diaper Free Baby
Tracy Hogg, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems
Current read: Carla Cassidy, Cowboy Deputy

Submissions:
- pending reply on a revised full (approximately 3 months)

Writing activities:
- read Harlequin's forums
- kept up with several favorite agent and editor blogs

Next month: with a six-week-old baby boy in tow, I've had trouble getting time at my computer to write. I'm hoping his routine will become more stable, so I can establish a block of time each day to write. I hope to have a submission ready for SRS/HRS by the time I get a reply about Double Witness.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Writing Goals

Write and Revise:
- Write 3 manuscripts targeted to Silhouette Romantic Suspense/ Harlequin Romantic Suspense
- Revise 2 manuscripts with critique partner's help
- Write/revise 1 hour per night on weekdays (except Friday), 2 hours per day on the weekends

Read:
- Keep looped into romantic suspense: read Harlequin's monthly romantic suspense titles (SRS/HRS) and read some Intrigues when possible
- Explore other genres: read 6 books this year that aren't romance
- Romance: read 1 romance, non-suspense book per month
- New skills: read 1 book this year on writing techniques or self-editing

Submit:
- Submit 2 manuscripts for consideration to Harlequin

Writing activities:
- Participate more in Harlequin's forums
- Enter contests on Harlequin's site that will help get my manuscripts published
- Update this blog with my writing progress more often

Business:
- Keep up with reading agent and editor blogs and publishing news
- Get a publishing contract