Friday, March 27, 2015

And It's Time to Do It Right!

A recent experience made me revisit some advice forums and my own collection of informative data. I'm talking about authors finding agents. What's the big deal, you say? You query agents who are seeking clients in the genre you write. Then, you wait for those offers. You pick one and you're off and running! Repped, ready, and relieved to finally have your person. Most every author wants to talk about writing projects and deals by starting the sentence with , "Well, my agent ...". 

Now, back up, rewind the time clock to when you picked agents to query. Did you do your homework? You know, like when an employer checks a job applicant's references, maybe make a phone call or two, does a background check, those kinds of things to assure this person is right for the job, fit to do the work, and so on. Your prospective agent is that job-seeker and you, the author, are the employer. You must do your homework, too. Or? Suffer the consequences, such as your manuscript never seeing the light of day, or almost never hearing from your agent unless you decide to drive to his/her house and knock down the door. (Okay ignore that last part. It is pure hyperbole for making my point.) Of course there are many more terrible, painful experiences you might have, but I think you get the picture.

What to do? Let's start with the many places you can check on your perfect agent-to-be. 

1) Agent Query -- search for the agent. If he/she isn't listed on this site, that can be a red flag.

2) Agent Query Connect -- while you're at it, might as well go on the forum and peruse the posts, comments, etc. And you can post your own question to ask about the agent & agency.

3) Query Tracker -- works like Agent Query. Search and see what you find. You can check on things like agent response times, rejections, comments from authors who've queried, etc.

4) Preditors & Editors -- this site gives brief descriptions of agents, publishers, editors, and so on. Better still, the site puts up a red flag if there are complaints. Sort of like checking BBB on businesses.

5) Absolute Write Forum -- when you're ready to read some detailed comments about agents and agencies or find the real dirty dirt of any agent 

(seriously though most agents are professional, respectable, ethical. Remember that.) check here.

If everything checks out and no red flags are evident, but you still feel unsure? Go with your gut. Sounds too simple, doesn't it? Well, sometimes the simplest solution is the best. 

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

White Hats vs Black Hats: It's a New World

Villains and heroes. They're timeless. In life and in fiction. Without them a story contains no conflict; life lacks success as well as tragedy and struggle. When reading a story or watching a movie or playing a video game everyone cheers on the good guys and hisses at the bad ones. Still, there are even moments when we root for the villain. That flawed individual who in some way has a vulnerable side, some quality we may relate to, making him worthy of our empathy.

And that timeless point I mentioned? Well, we can go back as far as we like in history to find our villains and heroes. And they don't have to be human. There are plenty of evil forces such as nature, and with the industrial age, one very common foe is technology and machines. Remember the old west? All those cowboy movies and shows? If you watch a western made in the fifties you'll notice the good guys wear the white hats while the villains are sporting black hats. And this brings me to my thought ...

You know white hats and black hats have a totally new meaning. Right? Stop picturing those cowboys, folks. Instead, let's talk twenty-first century and everything techie. Today we have white hats, i.e. the computer experts who are the ethical hackers hired by companies to run security tests on their information systems. And the black hats? You guessed it. They are the hackers who can ruin your life, or at least mess with it greatly. Identity theft is one way, and remember the Sony debacle that caused so many celebs' email accounts and personal info to be hacked? Yep. Black hats. It's a totally new world. So, get on board ... or go nostalgic and find yourself a John Wayne movie to watch. That's what I'd prefer. Popcorn, anyone?

Just my musing for the day. Cheers! Enjoy reading :-)

Kathryn Long
Author of Mysteries
A Deadly Deed Grows

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traveling a Very Long Road

FLASHBACK: I finally received an email (after many emails, actually) from the publisher I'd submitted to for my mystery romance, A DEADLY DEED GROWS and the editor informed me that I was being offered a contract. Woo hoo! I was so excited. In fact, I was amazed that I could've gotten two books and two contracts in a matter of six months. Both were with small presses, one significantly smaller than the other. Still, I'd managed these on my own. Of course I want to get more, and more. We authors are a greedy lot :-) Anyway, I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press in April of 2013. Yes, you heard me. 2013. 

FLASH FORWARD: It's now February, 2015, nearly two years of editing, revising, and editing and revising some more, but we (my editor Johanna and I) are finally getting there, i.e. a publication release. I'll admit, there were times I'd think, "maybe they'll decide not to publish it, put it on a shelf, and let it sit for an eternity". This, too, is the mind workings of an author. Lots of insecurity and doubt along the way, and it's a true roller coaster of emotions from highs to lows. But when you see the cover, then you know. It will happen. And it feels great! 

I haven't received a release date for the book yet, but I'm hoping some time this spring. In the meantime, I have my cover to keep me satisfied. And it's truly an awesome cover! Thanks Kim Mendoza! You rock! So, drum roll, please ..... brrrrrum ... Tada!  (UPDATE: Released March, 20, 2015)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Tweeting We Will Go ... to Find an Agent

I decided it was time to post about my experience tweeting. No. Not just any tweeting. I'm not a newbie to that. I'm talking about Twitter contests for authors and agents and publishers. I ventured into that world recently to see what I could accomplish, and frankly to see what the buzz was all about. After all, I've been writing for many years, had a few books published, which gained a modicum of success, depending on how you view success. I've been enjoying the experience thus far, but want to take it to another level, i.e. agent represented, i.e. knock on pub doors I can't do otherwise. 

I discovered Twitter contests like #adpit, #agentmatch, #pitchmad, etc. by accident while using Query Tracker (an excellent resource, by the way) and perusing the comments. Authors were saying how they submitted to such and such agent after said agent requested their work on __________ Twitter contest. So, I ventured over to Twitter and ... Voila! All those little goodies, a paradise land for writers scrambling to get noticed and sell their work to an agent were here, popping up all over the place. I could already feel the attraction, the joy it must bring to be a part of it all. I mean, there can't be anything better than that feeling of validation where one hears an agent tweet, "I liked what I read in your pitch. Send me the first 20, 30, 50 pages." What??? Somebody likes me, really likes me ... that is, I hope so after he/she reads my sample pages. 

So, I took the dive. I entered #sunvssnow, #adpit, and #agentmatch. Now here's where I must warn you, it's addictive. A drug you want twenty-four seven. But that aside, I gladly joined the realm of agent-seeking peons. And it hit me. So, here's where the party is happening! All the agents are coming over to take a look. Then another thought slapped me in the head. Of course, they'd come here. Scanning through maybe fifty to a couple hundred pitches vs. hundreds of query emails coming at you almost everyday? I'd choose door number one, too. Not to forget, these contests provide a support system with lots of success. Writers helping writers helping agents, and it's turning out to be a wonderful pay-it-forward cycle.

Oh, about that support system? Writers connecting with other writers is gold, pure gold, giving each other encouragement, pulling each other up from the trenches when it gets rough and mean, and sometimes offering help with that precious baby called a manuscript. Trust me. Nine months is nothing when there are some who've spent years on developing, polishing, and polishing again that "precious baby". 

So, what did I accomplish? Lots of new Twitter friends, like-minded people with similar goals and obsessions. And I did get a few nibbles at my work. Who knows? One of them may work out and a partnership will be made. I can always hope. In the meantime, I glow from the validation, the acceptance, the camaraderie. Yes, that part is priceless. 

Oh, and did I mention the addiction aspect? Hmm ... I think I'll head over to Twitter and see what's happening next. I hear #pitchmad is approaching, or maybe ...

Happy writing, all! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writing Apps ... Do You Need Them?

A recent post by The Writer's Circle  (Top 4 Free Writing Apps) informs followers about several FREE writing apps. Yes. Free. And that's something to check out. Always. The ones they list and describe are: 1)Draft; 2)Storehouse; 3)OmmWriter; and 4)Evernote. Here's a brief summary of each. 

1)Draft: collaborative word processing where you choose whether to accept or ignore feedback from editors, fellow writers, or whoever reviews your writing. Special feature is the Hemingway Mode which sets you in the write first, edit later mode. 

2)Storehouse: I should say upfront it's an iPad app. This one has the ability to visually enhance your writing with video and photography as they blend with your text. I can see this working well with children's picture books and adult books that may have photos. 

3)OmmWriter: This one is rather difficult to describe because it's more abstract than physical. However, the app's goal is to create an atmosphere conducive to getting your writing done in the most productive manner. It provides various backgrounds and audio tracks to match the mood of your writing. 

4)Evernote: a note-taking app that syncs and coordinates notes across all your devices. Completing a huge project that requires research and fact gathering? Use Evernote. Besides basic note-taking, you can place these notes alongside your articles and photos. A great organizational tool.

That said, I have to add my personal favorite, which I've found both practical and easy to use. yWriter is a writing app with so many goodies. I stumbled upon this when I was trying to find a free alternative to Schrivener (being the tight, frugal person that I am). I can create chapter summaries, character descriptions, plot summaries, and the list goes on. I print off the complete chapter summaries for my latest WIP and voila, I have a handy reference tool. Not to mention if an agent or publisher asks for an outline or chapter summaries, I've got it ready.  And ... did I mention it's free? The only $$$ that could come into the picture happens when you want to upgrade to a more extensive program, but I haven't found the need for that yet!

Whether any of these work for you depends on your writing process preferences, of course. But you never know if circumstances will change. So, why not check them out?

Happy Writing! And if you have any apps or programs you'd like to mention that are not listed here, please comment!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The True Power of the Pen

How descriptive do you think your writing is? Well, the more effective you are, using all those descriptive sensors to create colorful images, may give your writing more power than you think.
I was reading this article about the effect media has on increasing aggressive behavior. Though many have claimed violence in movies, music, and video games impacts human behavior in a negative way by increasing violent actions, one particular media has been left out. Reading. Yep. A research team from Brigham University has conducted a study with experiments to provide evidence that reading fiction causes certain psychological behaviors. Whether the reading describes physical or relational aggression, i.e. aggression that harms one's personal relationships, the more descriptive the scene is will create vivid images in a person's head. And if it's violent ... well, you get the "picture".
So remember this, authors, your words have power in ways you may never have considered!
If you want to read more ...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Here We Go Again.

The thought must cross authors' minds when they write how their work will be received, especially if the books are for middle grade and high school students. After all, themes which appeal to this age group can be controversial. The question is how do adults decide? And what do they use as criteria? 

I taught at the high school level, teens with mild disabilities, with emotional problems, some who came from dysfunctional homes. I always felt certain themes should be embraced and taught in the classroom, those that many adults would rather choose to protect kids from. It's a fine line and not an easy decision -- to read or not to read. That is indeed the question. 

In recent news a story came out about a mother in a certain school district who objected strongly to John Green's Fault of Our Stars, about two teens who have cancer. Death is a theme, but there's love, acceptance, survival as well. Mom's reasoning is that middle schoolers have enough issues dealing with their own mortality let alone reading a book about it. Well, she convinced the school board and it's been pulled from district middle schools. 

As no surprise, authors usually have a defensive response to censorship. I know I do, both as an author and a teacher. However, John Green's reply was something special. Take a look and read what he had to say, then let me (us) know what you think. 

The Fault in Our Stars Has Been Banned in Schools 

by Joanna Robinson