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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why I Love Reading as an Author

This is a guest post by Tessa Robertson. 

Today, I wanted to discuss the world of writing and reading. No, I won’t be too longwinded about the importance of literature, but it is vital to encourage new readers and new authors. I’ve always been a huge reader. Over time, my preferences have changed, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Growing up, I was provided one genre to read and it was great. The experience with the genre (Christian romance) gave me the ‘feel good’ sense that I intertwine with my own writing. (And no, I don’t write CR.) 

One of the things I discovered when I started writing was that there are so many different genres of books out there! Honestly, I was amazed. And the authors. Goodness, there are way too many to count. The best part about finding a new author or genre is that you learn more about the world and get out of your comfort zone. When it comes to life, we (readers) have the best chance to love a thousand times and pull of high-stake heists from the safety of our comfy chair. 

Why am I so enthralled with reading? Why not is the more important question. Nowadays, TV shows, video games, etc. have taken over. Don’t worry, I binge Netflix and laugh at cheesy romance movies all the time. I just think it’s crucial to inspire others to read. It’s not everyone’s cuppa, but maybe they haven’t found the right author or genre yet. Each author has their own voice and way of writing. Their stories are as unique as them. My point is don’t disregard a debut or new-to-you author just because they aren’t famous. Believe me, we’d all love to be up there with the greats, but for now, we depend on readers who are open to an experience rather than just a popular name. 

Reading and writing are my bread and water. I could never survive without either one. Literature is our past, present, and future. 

Be sure to check out Tessa’s debut novel, Assassin By Day available on Kindle Unlimited or just $0.99.

What would you do if the mystery to your mother’s death lay with your employer? 

After years of unanswered questions, Mishka Vald sets out to uncover the skhodka’s involvement in her past. What she doesn’t expect is to join forces with men who push her to become a double-agent and confirm her future. While hunting down leads, the ruthless assassin realizes a life in the shadows is the only way for her to protect those she loves.  
For Mishka, forbidden love is worth the pain when it comes to Eddie Harper, a military man turned cop. Her affection waivers when duty comes first and she joins forces with an elite Russian soldier, Alexei Petrovich. With a blackmailer threatening her school love, she seeks refuge with a fellow assassin, Nickolas Volkov. And when pushed too far, she’s ushered to a secure location…and straight into the arms of mysterious handyman, Dylan Kain. As the pieces fall into place, their mangled order reveals each man’s true intention. Whose deceit can she accept and whose will obliterate her?
All roads lead back to the woman she thought dead—her mother. Now, as weddings are crashed and alliances tested, Mishka uncovers a deadly game and the players involved. Her heart, once unable to budge, is thrust into action, but which man can keep her soul intact?

Tessa Robertson has been landlocked in the heart of Iowa, USA for the better portion of her life. She grew up on sci-fi and action movies, but isn't nearly a ninja...yet. Since childhood, writing stories and reading have been a constant. Moonlighting in a law firm, she takes on her favorite cases: criminal. Her stories push the limits of standard characters and explore the thriller facets of romance and action. In her spare time, Tessa attempts to teach her Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever new tricks; spends copious time with family; catches up on her favorite shows; and listens to country music.

Want more Tessa? Follow her on her website. Friendly stalking accepted.

Friday, January 12, 2018

It’s a Writer Thing -- Looking Back

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

Happy New Year, Wonderful Writers! I took a break from posting during December so I could focus on writing/editing and also enjoy the holidays. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are ready for a new year of writing, reading, and moving forward toward your goals.

The start of a new year is a time when I always stop and think about where I am and how I got here. I often reflect on my path to my first career as a psychologist and all the things I accomplished. My favorite way to do this is to reflect on all the things that I’ve done/achieved or are happening now that weren’t part of my life 1 year ago.

For writing, for example, one year ago, I didn’t have the book deal for my debut novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING. I sit here writing this post on January 8th, and the offer came the evening of January 9th. It’s hard to put myself back to what it felt like to be in that place, waiting to see if my first experience with submission would go well or end in disappointment. Out of all my writing challenges, the hardest time was the interim between my agent telling me we had very strong interest on my book and the day the offer came. 

When I first started writing, which was late 2010, I started as a hobby. I literally had a conversation with myself about how I needed a new hobby, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could write a novel. I finished my first one about a year later, and I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. (You can read my post about how I queried pretty much as soon as I finished that book, even though it was not even close to ready, right here. LOL!) I didn’t start to really connect with other writers with professional goals until 2012, and I met my writing group in 2013. At that time, because of them (I love you, Novelists!!), I began to learn a ton about the industry, and it's around then that I read my first How I Got My Agent/Book Deal posts. I remember reading posts from authors where it took them five years, or a decade, or 5, 7, 10 books to get from start to agent offer, and I was like, “Wow! That’s a long time. I don’t think I can do that. I’d probably give up.”

Shame on me! Now, I know better. 

I love writing so much, I’m ready to stick it out as long as necessary to reach whatever success is waiting for me. But back then, it just felt so daunting. 

And here I am, ready to do the math. So, how long did it take me? 

- Fall 2010: Started writing in November, I think

- Summer 2011: Told a dear friend I was writing, and she wrote me a note with my favorite inspirational phrase (which will sound familiar if you follow my posts): You can do it! You can write!

- December, 2011: 
  1. First book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in summer 2015. Starting with book three, my revisions started taking way less time, but my first two books were a hot mess and I still had SO much to learn.)  
  2. First (highly misguided) queries sent.

- January, 2012: Asked a writer, who was a friend of a friend, for some info/resources, and found my first critique group through SCBWI.

- July, 2013: Connected with my writing group! (YAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!)

- November, 2013: Second book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in Feb. 2016).

(Here’s where things heat up because I started plotting)

- August, 2014: wrote first short story. I won’t break down all my stories on this time line, but between then and mid-2016, I wrote nine.

- November, 2014: First attempt at NaNo. Third book done.

- December, 2014: 
  1. First short story accepted AND 
  2. This is when I began my website and social media presence.

- January, 2015: Actually started getting requests on my queries.

- March, 2015: My first short story was published. (Hooray!)



- June, 2015: Fourth book

- July, 2015: Offer from a small press on book number four.

- August, 2015: 
  1. Fifth book (TEN AFTER CLOSING). 
  2. Heard an audio book recording of my story for BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (Happy tears. A lot.)

- September, 2015: Revise and Resubmit! (AHH!) But no offer.

- November, 2015: Sixth book done (BROKEN CHORDS) and FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is out!

- January, 2016: Seventh book

- February, 2016:  
  1. Found out Three World Press was closing, so bye-bye BREATHLESS and book number 4. (Sad tears. A lot.) 
  2. Offer on BROKEN CHORDS (Holy moly!!!). 
  3. Accepted into Pitch2Publication (So much excitement, I thought I might die.).

May, 2016: I GOT AN OFFER FROM A DREAM AGENT!!!! And we went on submission (GAH!).

- August, 2016: Eighth book

- November, 2016: Ninth book

- January, 2017: We got an offer on TEN AFTER CLOSING (Hooray!!!!!!!)

- February, 2017: Tenth book

- May, 2017: Self-published BREATHLESS.

- July, 2017: Eleventh book

- October, 2017: BROKEN CHORDS is out. (AHH!!!!!!)

- November, 2017: Twelfth book

- June, 2018: TEN AFTER CLOSING will be out.

I’ve never written this out before, and I’m sort of sitting here, letting it sink in. Mind=blown.

So, as you can see, between my first words on that first blank page and:
  • First ‘yes’ on anything: just over 4 years
  • First book contract: 5.5 years, 
  • Agent offer: 5.5 years, 7 books, and 9 short stories
  • Contract on TEN AFTER CLOSING: 6.5 years, 9 books, and 9 short stories
  • The release of my book BROKEN CHORDS: 7 years, 11 books, & 9 short stories
  • The release of my book TEN AFTER CLOSING: almost 8 years, 12+ books (I’m not sure what my drafting schedule will be this year)

If someone had told me, the day I started my first book, that it would take more than 5 years to get an agent and almost 8 for my first official novel to come out, I doubt I would have been like, “Yeah. Sign me up for THAT, please.” I would maybe have curled up into a ball and cried. I might never have started. 

BUT, when I think about the ride getting here, it DOESN’T FEEL THAT LONG! 

This has been the most exciting seven years of my life. There were so many milestones along the way. Meeting new people, learning new things, small successes. Yes, there was a lot of stress, waiting, and the challenge of so many rejections. If I put all my rejections into this timeline, we’d have AT LEAST 120 additional bullets. AT LEAST. But still, it’s been an amazing seven years. It’s been more fulfilling, rewarding, and FUN than I would have ever imagined. 

I love writing, and I can’t even picture what my life would be like today if I hadn’t had that conversation with myself about needing a new hobby (or if I picked something other than fiction like, say, knitting. Hmm… Yeah. That would have been different, but I’d probably have a lot of cool sweaters and blankets by now.)

So, no matter where you are on your writing journey, I wish you success, but more than anything, I hope you are having FUN! And remember, the only way to fail, is to stop before you reach your goals. 

You can do it! You can write!

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sending a Novel into the World — or — A Babe in the Woods

This is a guest post by Marco Etheridge.

You might be someone who dreams of writing a great novel, a novel that will hold readers spellbound. Taking up paper and pen, or more likely laptop and keyboard, you begin to write. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have some beta-readers, friends and family whom you can torture with a first draft. Fueled by their encouragement, you grind through the rewrites, the editing, the proof-reading. Then comes the happy day when you have brought forth a completed novel, a new and sparkling creation into which you have poured your heart and soul. Your baby, this fondling novel that you have created, is now ready to venture out into the jungle of publishing. Poor thing.
For an author, the completion of a novel is but the first step on a long road. In the halcyon days of my youth, back when double-spaced sentences were the norm, there existed the Golden Myth: The Big Contract. Advances! Royalties! Talk-Shows! The thing is, sometimes, for the very lucky and the very few, it actually happened. There were writers at the sharp tip of the iceberg, breathing the rarified air of the NY Times Bestseller list. These literary lions had publicists and agents, marketing gurus and hotshot editors. At the heart of the Golden Myth was the debut author rocketing to a place amongst these giants of literature. What a lovely fable it was.
In the less-mythical world of modern publishing, the process is normally not so meteoric. Should you desire a traditional publishing contract, you will need a great pitch, a lot of research time, and a very thick skin. Several hundred query letters later, and possessing a file fat with polite rejections, you may have to consider other options. 
There are approximately 500,000 authors selling books on Amazon, and that is just one platform. Therein lies both the salvation and conundrum for debut authors. For salvation, it is quite possible for a debut author to publish on Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook sites. The process demands determined editing, proof-reading, and hard-won lessons in formatting, but it can be done. For conundrum, your novel is now one small tree amidst a forest of other novels. Using a very conservative figure, more than 100,000 English-language novels were published in 2017. Thus your new novel, whether traditionally or self-published, is wandering in a densely packed jungle of other books, each one crying out for attention.
During those first intoxicating days following publication, you watch your novel’s progress into the world. As friends and family buy your book, hope wells in your heart. Electronic publishing allows almost instantaneous views of one’s book sales, which is both a blessing and a curse. There comes a day, alas too soon, when the friend and family pool runs dry. Sales of your book languish. Your infant novel is now truly on its own. 
Welcome to the world of modern-day publishing. Gone is the era when authors wrote and publicists publicized. It is now the authors who must do the selling, the trench work, the pimping. Publishing houses and agents want authors who have built a "Platform" of online presence, social media marketing, author websites, and the like. It matters not whether you are fortunate enough to have a traditional publishing contract, or are self-published. For both new and established authors the mantra of publishing is: "We are all in Sales.”
The reality of selling your book is that you must become an entrepreneur. The path of the Author becomes the journey of the Author-Entrepreneur. It is a journey full of new and bewildering twists and turns. Meta-Data, Categories, Giveaways, and Search Engine Optimization are just a few of the lessons that lurk along the way. The entire process can be boiled down to one simple question: How can I get my novel noticed by potential readers?

Lest I paint too dark a picture, new authors take heart. There is hope! The nuts and bolts of self-marketing a novel far exceed the scope of this blog post. Fortunately, there is a plethora of information available on how to market one’s book. Writers love to write, and they love to write about the perils of writing.  There exists a wide array of books, articles, blog posts, and podcasts, all dedicated to helping aspiring Author-Entrepreneurs. A simple internet search will reveal many tricks of the trade, tricks that will require diligent work, but which will yield results for your novel. I am obliged to extend my deeply heartfelt thanks to all of the writers out there who have so graciously shared their experience and knowledge.

Authors take heart! Thank you for writing new books. The world needs books, now more than ever. So write a book, publish the book, repeat as needed. Be well, be happy, and keep writing. 

An ex-resident of Seattle, Marco Etheridge lives and writes in Vienna, Austria. When he isn’t creating great fiction or being a good Hausmann, he explores the world with his lovely wife. If the sun is shining too brightly, or the birds are too chipper, Marco studies German grammar to create a suitably dark mood for creativity. Marco’s debut novel, The Best Dark Rain: A Post-Apocalyptic Struggle for Life and Love, is available on Amazon.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why Writing Mysteries is the Best

This is a guest post by Glen Ebisch.

There are several things that make writing mysteries particularly enjoyable. The first is obviously that there is some sort of a puzzle involved. So the writer must come up with a plot that presents a crime that the reader--along with the protagonist--tries to solve. It must be a fair plot, which means that the reader is given all the relevant evidence to solve the crime right along with the main character. There are no last minute surprises or introductions of new characters that make for an impossible-to-anticipate solution. This aspect of the mystery tests the writer’s ability to think in a clear, rational way.
A second requirement for a good mystery is that the main character must be someone the reader cares about. If the protagonist is dull, unapproachable, or dim, the reader will quickly stop caring about solving the puzzle. The ability to develop a fully rounded character poses a new challenge to the writer because he must be able to develop a convincing backstory for the protagonist that makes it understandable why the person is acting as she is in the present. It also requires the ability to emotionally connect with the character and your readers. This can be challenging but also very rewarding to the writer.
Finally, the crime must be solved. Most people who read mysteries want the satisfaction of having order restored in the world by having the criminal caught and punished. In a world where, as we all know, crime all too often does pay, there is a satisfaction about reading about a universe where it does not. I think this also gives a sense of living in an orderly universe to both the reader and the writer.
So I think writing mysteries is particularly satisfying because it challenges the writer intellectually to create a complex but fair plot. It challenges him emotionally to get inside the mind of his protagonist and make her a true to life individual. And finally, it is satisfying morally because it allows the writer to reestablish a sense of justice in the world.

A BODY IN MY OFFICE, my most recent mystery published by Williams & Whiting, is about Charles Bentley, a professor of English at prestigious Opal College, who is forced into retirement when the administration hires an academic star from England to teach his courses in American literature.  Not only does the Englishman take his job, he also immediately occupies Charles’ office. After having a heated exchange with him, Charles goes out into the parking lot to cool down. When he returns he finds the man murdered.  Quickly becoming a person of interest to the police, Charles must use his academic skills to solve the murder, which forces him to delve into his own past and closest relationships.
The theme of this book interested me because there is not a great deal of mystery fiction written with an older man as the main character. I think it is interesting to explore the advantages a mature person brings to the solving of crime and to consider the issues that arise at this time in life. A BODY IN MY OFFCE is the first book in a series featuring Charles Bentley as a crime-solver.

Glen has been a professor of philosophy for over thirty years. Most recently he retired from teaching at a small university in western Massachusetts.  For much of that time he has also written mystery and suspense fiction, starting with books for young adults and moving on to writing for adults.  He has had twenty-five books published, fifteen of them in the last fifteen years as time has allowed him to write more. All are cozy in nature and suitable for any reader. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife. His hobbies include reading (of course) and going to the gym. He and his wife also look forward to traveling to Maine and Cape May, New Jersey for their needed dose of the beach. You can view more at his website.

Friday, January 5, 2018

1960-1964 Full-Size Ford Restoration | Colin Kleer

This is a guest review by Brandon Gregg.

Genre: How-to Manual.
Number of Pages: 192.

I love that this book starts by explaining how to choose a project car. It also details the differences between the different Ford models and the meanings between different VINs. I love that it tells you upfront what to expect in terms of what tools you need and how much to expect to spend. It talks about what to avoid in regard to titles, rust cars, basket-cases, and other hazards before purchasing. It also discusses what kind of car you may want based on how much time and energy you want to put into it (a weekend project car or full restoration). It guides you to look for certain things depending on how you will use the future, such as a Sunday driver, a pro-street, or a track car. Finally, the introduction gives you keys to a successful build. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Once we get into the restoration manual, talks about what to look for when inspecting the vehicle after you buy it and are preparing for restoration. It also discusses what you need in your work area, such as tools and room to work. It explains specific information and tips for success, such as documenting every nut and bolt you take off and where it goes. It gives step-by-step instructions for the bodywork and paint, engine, fine tuning, rear axel and driveline, brakes, suspension, interior,  and miscellaneous restoration (polishing, electrical and charging systems, ignitions, etc.).  It also provides tips for showing and preserving your car, proper storage and care, and market value. 

He does a great job adding a ton of pictures and great tips to use along the way. While he tries his best to go in-depth as possible, no book will ever be able to completely cover the entire restoration process. Nothing will ever go as smoothly as it sounds in instruction books. Things never go as planned. But, the format is consistent, so it is easy to follow along with the instructions. You won’t be able to do an entire restoration based on this book, but it is a great starting point. I recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about getting into the hobby. People who have been doing it for years may not find as useful, which is the only reason why it's not five stars. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

4/5 Stars