Monday, October 29, 2007

Meet Nicola Beaumont

Hi Nicole and welcome to our blog. Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm just an average person. I'm a wife and mother who home schools my children. I love to read--have always loved to read. And my creative juices are always flowing; whether I'm doing graphic design work or writing, or working with music, there are a million ideas roaming around in my head at any given moment.

How long have you been a writer? What made you put that first story/poem down on paper?

I can't remember a time when I wasn't a writer, but I didn't write my first novel until I was in my early 20s. It was an awful thing, but I wouldn't trade it for the world; without that first book, I would have never written the second, or the fifth--and they each got better until I could actually write something that didn't make readers cringe.

What do your family/friends thing about your writing? Are they supportive?

My family and friends are very supportive. They think it's fantastic that I am creative, and often tell me they can't believe I can come up with so many characters and plots.

Earlier you said you love to read. Who are your favorite authors and what kinds of books inspire you to write – if any?

I read constantly. I've always been an avid reader. Any well-written book will inspire me to write. It's a spark inside that ignites when someone has been able to immerse me in their created reality. I itch to pen something that will match that type of great escape.

Favourite authors? I think there are too many to count, in a myriad genre and style. At any given time, I can be reading a Regency romance, or a thrilling Christian novel by Ted Dekker, or non-fiction books on Christian apologetics, comparative religion, or spirituality. If I have to pick a favourite, though, I'd have to say William Shakespeare.

For you, what is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?

There isn't really anything frustrating about writing--however, finding the right publisher has been known to be a little frustrating. The most rewarding thing is reading the finished and polished manuscript and being able to say, "I did it! Finis."

Do you take most of your ideas from life? Or your imagination? A mix?

I don't think any author completely creates a world without influence from his or her own. Our minds are filled with knowledge of our experiences, so we cannot get away from that. However, what I take from real life is usually just a premise that evolves into a fictitious plot that doesn't even resemble the incident which sparked the story to begin with.

Do you have days when the words won't flow? What do you do?

I do have days when the words won't flow. I try to push through them by writing what little comes to mind--even if I think it's drivel. In my experience, when I go back and read those sections the next day, they aren't nearly as worthless as I had thought when I was creating them.

Do you have a "golden rule" of writing that almost always works for you?

Write. It's very easy to allow other things to get in the way. Make time to write, and then use that allotted time to write.

What is the best piece of advice you've been given as a writer? What's the worst?

The best piece of advice I've ever been given as a writer is to listen to constructive criticism. It is true that the only way to improve one's writing is to acknowledge what is lacking, or where it is flawed, and do everything to fix it.

I don't think I've ever been given bad advice--or maybe I've just blocked it from my mind!

Did we forget anything? What would you like to add? Any upcoming publications or links for our readers? Current projects we should watch for?

I would like to thank everyone for their interest, and I extend an open invitation to my website at or at . I have a great deal in the works. I've just been privileged with having two releases made available on the same day: The Resurrection of Lady Somerset is a traditional Regency romance, and The Lighthouse is a contemporary romance novella with allegorical overtones. Both are available in both print and electronic formats.

In addition to fiction projects, I'm also working on a few non-fiction works: Writers will be interested in The Lightning-fast Lexicon of Period Lingo. Award-winning author, Linda Lea Castle and I are at work on an updated edition of that book. Christians will be interested in a companion book I'm writing to go along with the already-published prayer CD, The Prayer of the Heart.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Characterization: Get Real! by Diane Wolfe

If the plot is the backbone of the story, then the characters are the heart. Creating believable characters that your readers will identify with is crucial to a good story. Your characters must have depth, personality and the ability to evoke an emotional response from your reader.

Before you can formulate a riveting story, an interesting character must be devised. Many writers envision the setting first and the people inhabiting that world second. This often results in shallow characters. Developing a character in depth, complete with flaws, will give you a basis for your narrative. It is easier to build a plot around an individual than force that character into unrealistic situations.

Two factors will determine your character – their background and their personality type. Both are equally important and require some thought. Humans all share similar feelings and needs, but how they respond to those depends on their upbringing and their basic, fundamental personality. You need to be aware of these factors when writing your story.

Backgrounds are as varied as humans themselves. Race, culture, religion, and economic status all contribute to one’s development as a person. A person’s moral compass is easily affected by their upbringing, and you need to keep this in mind when creating your characters. A person raised in a loving family on a farm and someone raised on the streets of New York will not react the same! Flesh out your character with a family history, interests, and experiences.

Become familiar with the four basic personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. They will also determine how your character reacts in any given situation. (“Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer is an excellent book for researching these personality traits and one I used extensively for my series, The Circle of Friends.) A bold, first-born choleric would likely take charge in a situation, while an introverted phlegmatic would step aside. You need to be aware of these personality traits in your character or you will find them responding in a dubious fashion.

Avoid the temptation to create a perfect character! People are flawed creatures and the more imperfections and internal conflicts your character possesses, the more intriguing your story. Give them weaknesses, impulses and unresolved issues. Negative aspects of your character might improve and eventually vanish, but this needs to be developed slowly during the course of your narrative. Life altering moments happen for us all, but a sudden change for no apparent reason will be looked upon as a mere plot contrivance.

Characters will always be the drive and focal point of any story. By putting a great deal of thought into your main characters, you will form interesting, relatable people. Once you have established this foundation, you can begin creating an intriguing tale!

- Author & speaker, L. Diane Wolfe,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Realigning My Priorities

It's a little early to be talking about setting goals, but I am about to make some changes and my goals are going to shift for the last couple of months of 2007 and into next year.

I've spent the majority of this year promoting the works of others. I've interviewed several authors and posted many book reviews at my blog, The Book Connection Those I've worked with have been wonderful, welcome to opening up about their books and their creative process, and happy with the questions I've asked. And the best part is, I've loved every minute of it.

But somewhere along my journey, I lost the time I used to have for my own writing. I still manage to churn out an article each month for Writer2Writer, but the manuscript I finished last summer and my two other works in progress sit untouched on the corner of my filing cabinet.

I guess the wake up call for me came when I attended the Muse Online Writers Conference this month and found out that the market I wanted to send a short story to was closed for submissions at least until January of 2008. My goal had been to submit it in February of this year, but I was too busy doing other things and volunteering at church and my daughter's school. So, I didn't work on the story in earnest.

I've hesitated to make any changes to my schedule because I didn't want to be seen as opportunistic or unsupportive of my fellow writers. But wanting to avoid having to work outside of my house in two years is not opportunistic or unsupportive; it's a reality I face if I don't begin submitting more work.

I've begun to realign my priorities and change how I handle promoting the works of others, so that I can steal back some time I had lost. In addition, I will have to cut back on some of my volunteering efforts. Who knows, this could be a temporary thing until I tuck enough money away to avoid working out of the house when the little one enters school.

I don't know how others will feel about my decision, but I know what I am doing is the best for me, my family, and my career. I'll have to stick by my guns and make it work or my writing will become a hobby that I dabble in after my full-time job is over...and I've worked too hard the past few years to let that happen.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Pied Piper Effect by PG Forte

I have always read across genre lines—from literary to popular to classic to YA and back again—and wondered when I’d hear about readers who would stick to a single genre or, even more extreme, a single type of book within a genre. Since it wasn’t the type of book that was attracting me, I assumed there had to be something about the particular author’s voice that drew me in. But that didn’t seem quite right either, because I’d read book after book after book by some authors even when I’d repeatedly find myself thinking, as I was reading their newest,, “This is terrible writing, Even I could do better than this!”

And, I thank God for those authors, btw, because I don’t know that I’d have been able to get through the writing of my first book without them!

I have to credit my fellow author Amelia June for clueing me in to what was really attracting me to all those books, in all those genres, by all those different authors. It was the characters all along.

Now, as a writer, I’m a big time plotter. I’ll freely admit I can’t even begin to write a book without knowing ahead of time where I’m going and how I’m getting there. I admire the hell out of those writers who can just sit down and start pounding out a story from pretty much nothing at all. But I can’t—and probably never will be able to—do that.

So, sure, I love my characters and probably the best compliment I could get as a writer is for someone to tell me that one or more of my characters came to life for him or her, but are characters more important than story? How could they be? Why, I’ve left some of my very favorite characters languishing in a scene for months on end for the simple reason that I had no idea where they were going or how I was going to get them there. I couldn’t write their story because I didn’t know what it was yet.

So, obviously, I must think plot is more important than character, right? Well, not exactly.

Reading and writing are two different things, after all. When I’m writing a book, plot may very well be king, but, when it comes to reading, I’m all about the characters. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.

But how do we go about creating the kinds of characters that readers will find compelling? Again, I think the answer to that question is as individual and varied as there are writers to ask it.

Just as writers have been divided into the categories of plotters and pantsers (those who write ‘by the seat of their pants’ so to speak) I suspect how we create characters can be broken down into two main methods that (probably not incidentally) tend to follow a similar, albeit opposite, pattern.

Pantsers are notorious for being among those writers who cannot discuss a story too much ahead of time for fear they’ll find themselves ‘all talked out’ and no longer motivated to actually write the story. Most plotters, on the other hand, can talk (and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk) for days about their stories and only end up more motivated.

Likewise, when it comes to creating well-rounded characters, there are authors who find character sheets invaluable. They’ll fill out forms asking for all the most minute details of their characters lives: What was his favorite toy as a child? What was the name of her first pet? Did he ever break any bones—and when and how? Does she play sports—and how well and how long and what position? What’s his mother’s maiden name? What’s her favorite shade of nail polish? What’s his favorite breakfast cereal? Does she have a dark secret she doesn’t share with anyone? And on and on and on.

Me? I can’t stand the sight of those things! Nothing makes me lose interest in a character faster than trying to pin them down on all these (to me) unimportant points And, once again, I don’t think I’m alone. From what I’ve seen, pantsers do better with character sheets than plotters.

So here comes the theory: I believe that, to a very large degree, character IS plot. The story that I meticulously plot and the seemingly serendipitous, unplotted stories created by my pantser fellow authors will only work if our characters breathe life into them.

I think we all start out asking ourselves the same two questions: Who are these people and what will they do next? And then we take reverse approaches to arrive at what are, basically, the same answers.

Pantsers, I believe, are more likely to figure out who their characters are first, and then let them lead them into their story. Plotters are more likely to let their characters reveal themselves through their actions (ie the plot). In both cases, however, I’m quite sure it’s the characters who are calling the shots.

They’re the Pied Pipers of the tale, after all, for both reader and writer. Give us a great character, piping his or her own, uniquely compelling tune, and we’ll all happily follow wherever they lead us whether that’s over the rainbow or to the ends of the earth.

You can get more info on PG's book, Love From A to Z, at her website.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Fat Lady Never Sings by Steve Reilly

Since 1976, Steve Reilly has coached baseball in Connecticut's Lower Naugatuck Valley. He has coached Babe Ruth, Senior Babe Ruth and American Legion teams and has spent the last 20 years assisting high school coaches. He assisted at Derby High School from 1986-1995, assisted Emmett O'Brien Regional Vocational Technical School in 1996 and will be coaching in his 11th season at Seymour High School in the Spring of 2007. He continues to coach a summer Senior Babe Ruth team and fall league team in Derby.

A practicing Attorney since 1980, with an office in Oxford, Connecticut (, Reilly and his wife, Suzanne, live in Seymour, Connecticut.

You can visit his website at


On Friday nights in the fall, all around the country, scores of fans gather to support their local football teams. The town of Derby, Conn. is no different. In The Fat Lady Never Sings, author and former assistant baseball coach Steven M. Reilly tells the story of the downfall of the Derby Red Raider football team after 28 years of winning seasons, and how three seniors on that team seek redemption on the baseball diamond.

Every boy in this blue-collar town dreams of playing football for the Derby High School Red Raiders. The city doesn’t have much else going for it, only the pride in its successful high school football program. After the fateful game that ends the Raiders first losing season in nearly 3 decades, seniors Gino DiMauro, Ben Bartone and Donny Shepard know that nobody will remember this game’s score, but no one will ever forget they lost. Although the three had given everything they had on the field, they know it won’t be good enough, not in Derby. In a few short minutes, they will forever be labeled as losers—unless they can prove otherwise during baseball season.

The smallest school in the league, Derby qualifies for the state baseball tournament and ultimately advances to the championship game. Under the towering lights of Middletown’s Palmer Field, Gino, Ben, Donny, and the rest of the Red Raiders face off against Terryville. But in the last inning, the Raiders trail by two runs and are down to their final at bat. With one out remaining, the "fat lady" prepares to sing—or so they think.

A feel-good story of perseverance much like those in the classic sports movies "Friday Night Lights" and "Hoosiers," The Fat Lady Never Sings provides an intriguing look at the "never give up" attitude of high school athletes, and the pressures they face from parents, coaches and members of the community.

Monday, October 15, 2007

To Write Or Not To Write, That Is The Question

By Mayra Calvani

Writer's block.

Do the words make you wince?

If you belong to that blessed, miraculous group of people who can write anywhere, anytime, who are able to switch themselves on into a writing mood like a light-switch, then your answer will be No. But if you're like me, and belong to that cursed, demonic group who kill themselves writing that first sentence, these words will make you grimace with a heartache that plunges deeper than the Cayman Trough.

But what is writer's block, and why do many writers--damn good ones—suffer from it? Some think the reason is old plain laziness or lack of discipline, but I disagree. The reason is more complex. I can't help remembering my creative writing professor back in college—a published author of many mystery novels who suddenly stopped writing for eight long years simply because he "froze at the computer and couldn't put a word down."

Only God knows the dark mechanics that kept my professor from writing for such a long time, so I can only speak for myself.

So here it goes. What is writer's block? Following the famous editorial advice, instead of "telling" you, I will "show" you.

Picture in your mind a beautiful winter morning, snow falling from the window, the office toasty warm, the house empty and quite. It's just me and writer's block:

9:30 I sit at the computer, ready to write that piece of literature that will bring me fame and riches (okay, no need to be greedy, I'll settle for riches).
9:31 I decide I better answer my emails first, get them out of my mind (yeah, right).
10:00 I'm thirsty. I better make myself some tea. Writers drink hot beverages, don't they?
10:05 I'm back at the computer. I take a sip of my tea and suddenly remember all the things I should be doing instead of writing: wash the rabbit hutches, purchase moist wipes for my husband's glasses, do the laundry, vacuum the bedrooms, feed the fish… somehow there's no end to this list.
10:25 I stare at the blank monitor. I loathe myself.
10:30 I'm hungry. I'll have an early lunch (someone should conduct a study about frustrated writers and overeating).
10:50 I glare at the sign on my desk "A Writer Is Someone Who Writes Everyday," and try to set it to flames with my mind power.

You get the picture. This is writer's block. This is what happens when I break the habit of writing everyday and disconnect myself from my current project. I don't know about you, but when I don't write, the consequences are catastrophic. I hate the world. I snap at people (my husband is my favourite victim). I feel trapped in a box, unable to breathe. If I were the sort of person who went to pubs, I would surely start a brawl.

But what causes writer's block?

Almost always, it is fear. Plain and simple. F-E-A-R.

Fear of not being good enough.

Fear of not being able to write that perfect sentence that will impress the reader. No wonder it blocks! How can you write freely and impress people at the same time?
So in order to lift the block, you need to get rid of that fear. It is easier said than done, I know, but I will give you a few practical tips that will help you overcome it, based on probably the best book on writing in the market today, Julia Cameron's The Right To Write. If these tips have worked for me, they can work for you, too.

1. Keep a journal and write 3 pages of anything that comes to your mind each morning. Strictly stream-of-consciousness stuff. Don't worry, no one will read this (if you're paranoid like me, hide the journal). The idea is to drain your brain of all the clutter so that when you sit at the computer to do the actual writing, you'll be able to do it with a clear head. You don't feel like writing this morning? Your writing sucks? You feel fat? You hate your neighbour? Write it down. By the way, if you feel like clobbering someone to death with a medieval flail, add that too. Write down your dreams, your plans, your fears. The idea is to keep writing non-stop until you have fill those 3 pages. I write in my journal almost everyday. I'm addicted to it, almost to the point of being superstitious. Remember to do it in the morning. If you write in your journal at night you'll probably go over what you did during the day and this will defeat the purpose. The idea is to positively affect your day by writing those pages in the morning. By training your mind to do this each morning, you will not only make writing more approachable, but also more disciplined.

2. Don't edit as you write. If you can't keep your neurotic, perfectionist urges under control, then at least keep them to an absolute minimum. Editing as you write is like editing a movie and filming it at the same time. It can become pathological. Editing, re-editing, searching for that flawless sentence that will create that immaculate paragraph. Well, do you want to know something? It won't happen. No matter how many times you try to improve it, there will be always room for improvement. Ultimately, if you want to finish that first draft, you'll have to trust yourself and simply let it go. Remember that a first draft is just that, a first draft. Once you've finished that first draft then you can polish and change and edit all you want.

3. Set yourself a small quota everyday. You don't have to finish a whole chapter in one sitting. Just write 2 pages, or 1, or even just a paragraph. The important thing here is to meet that daily quota. It's amazing how thinking like this can affect your brain. It's like with exercise. If you tell yourself, "Oh no, I have to exercise for one whole hour," this will block you. But if you think, "I'll only exercise 20 or 30 minutes," the work becomes more approachable and you'll stick with it. The key here is to create the habit a little step at a time. The best thing about meeting this daily quota is that it allows you to feel "guilt-free" for the rest of the day, making it possible for you to spend happier times with your family and do other things. In other words, if you stick to your writing schedule, you'll be able to enjoy life.

4. Have the right sense of direction. This is probably one of Cameron's most powerful advice. Don't think that you have to think something up, that you have to create something. Instead, think that the words, plots, characters are already there suspended in some other dimension, and all you have to do is listen intently and write the words down as if taking dictation. Thinking like this will immediately lift a heavy load off your shoulders. It will make you feel free of responsibility and allow your writing to flow easier.

5. Find a support group. Artistic souls need artistic soul mates. If there isn't any support group you like, start your own, like I did. As I write this article, I'm sitting at a café with 3 writer friends. We meet every Friday morning from 10 to 12. These meetings are incredibly productive, maybe for the simple reason that I HAVE to write. I mean, face it, not writing alone at home is bad, but not writing in front of your writer friends would be a disgrace. Who wants to be a loser? Also, sometimes writers need to get out of their homes and experience a change of scene. Writing at a café makes writing fun. There's a baby howling a table away, and at the same time I can clearly hear the loud voice of a Spanish lady several feet from me, telling her friend that she wished her husband would hide his briefcase in the cellar… Hide his briefcase in the cellar? Strange… But I reel myself back in. I don't want to become like one of my writing partners, who periodically listens to people's conversations to get ideas for her stories. I'm not that desperate yet.

6. Give your brain high quality foods: Read great books about all types of subjects, both in fiction and nonfiction. I read astronomy, cosmology, history, comparative religion, physics, metaphysics. Listen to music. Music can trigger powerful inspiration. But please, not heavy metal! Put your favourite composer on the stereo, close your eyes, and just let your mind drift. Doing this alone is a form of meditation. I can assure you scenes of future books will appear in your mind, characters will talk, ideas for your present project will present themselves. Visit museums, flower shops, go to the theatre, take walks and observe nature. All these things will enrich your life and your mind, automatically giving your writing more energy and depth.

The following tip is not from Julia Cameron, but from me. It works wonders for motivation but is not for everybody, only for those of you who have generous and supportive husbands: Make a signed agreement with your husband in which he'll have to pay you $10 for every full page you write. So if you write 15 pages a week, he'll have to pay you $150… I said this is not for everybody. (By the way, my husband hasn't agreed so far, but I'm still hopeful.)

Don't be afraid. Just write. Just WRITE. Just describe the movie in your head and put the words down. In the meantime I'll try to apply these wise words to myself, and not give the evil eye to the "A Writer Is Someone Who Writes Everyday" sign on my desk.


This article is based on ideas described in The Right To Write, by Julia Cameron.

Other great, inspiring books about unleashing the power of your creativity:

The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron
Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
Write From the Heart, by Hal Zina Bennett

Mayra Calvani is an author and book reviewer. Her latest release, DARK LULLABY, is a paranormal horror novel set in the Turkish countryside.

For a blurb, excerpt and reviews, visit

To view the trailer, go to:

Friday, October 12, 2007

So You Want to Write a Mystery...

There is nothing like curling up in a nice comfy chair in front of the fireplace with a good book. Especially a mystery. Not only is there the pleasure of being drawn into another world and leaving your troubles behind for a short time, but also the excitement of trying to figure out “whodunnit” and how before the end of the book. Plus there are so many types of mysteries to choose from...cozy, hardboiled, noir, police procedural, and true crime just to name a few. One book I have lists twenty sub-genres for mysteries, a bit confusing for a novice like myself. So, I did some study and came up with some basics.

First, there are three types of sleuth, Amateur Detective, Semi-Pro and the Professional. Amateur Detectives are those who don’t get paid to solve crimes. Generally they are an ordinary person caught up in the circumstances. Whether in the wrong place at the right time or connected with the crime in some way they need to solve the crime. Usually this “need” to solve the crime has to do with clearing themselves or a friend of the crime. The Amateur Detective is quick thinking and usually less violent. Another plus is these amateurs can have careers such as landscaper, newspaper carrier, or veterinarian which make interesting backgrounds and characters.

Semi-Pro sleuths are those who have a connection to the crime solving business. They may be courtroom reporters, bailiffs or news reporters. Journalists and insurance investigators also make great semi-pro sleuths. Just make sure you get those job details correct. While these sleuths still need a reason to be involved in solving the crime, they have the advantage of not being held to the same rules as the police and private investigators, such as not having to reveal their sources.

Professional sleuths are the police, private investigators, detectives and those involved in law enforcement. Their reason for being involved in the crime is their job and they are bound to the rules and regulations of their profession. This career field also has some great possibilities for settings. From border patrol agents on the Mexican or Canadian borders, the small town marshal or FBI agents on the hunt for terrorists to James Bond spy thrillers; these are just a few to choose from. Again, you must get the details right with this type of sleuth. Many city police or sheriff’s departments give civilian ride alongs so check into that and take advantage if available. And remember, you can’t put a silencer on a revolver and those “six” shooters have to be reloaded for the seventh shot.

Next is the “tone” of mystery which really has to do with the character and degree of violence in the story. The most familiar type is the Cozy. Cozy mysteries tend to have an amateur sleuth and the violence is generally off stage. Often set in small communities, the crime leaves a gaping hole in the community and is generally committed by the neighbor that “would never do anything like that”.

Soft-boiled, hardboiled and noir deal mostly with the private investigators and again with degree of violence. These tend to be the “loner type” sleuth dealing with the gritty reality of a corrupt world. What the heck is “noir” you ask? Noir means black, as in the black spaces on a roulette wheel...think of the old black and white PI movies with Bogart and you can’t go wrong.

Once you know which type of sleuth and tone you can decide on type of mystery. You have plenty to choose from. Police Procedurals, Courtroom Procedurals, True Crime tend to deal with facts and procedures. Espionage mysteries take us to the world of the spy and possibly distant lands and exciting adventures. Historicals take us back in time either to a crime or a setting we may not be familiar with and require plenty of research to get those details right. Mysteries can also be romantic, fantasy or science fiction. The murder of the head of supply on outpost twelve in the delta quadrant of the Orion star system might lead all over the galaxy.

The most important thing to remember, I to write what makes you happy. If you want to write a “cozy” with a private eye for the main character, go ahead. If you love fantasy, set your mystery in the days of knights, dragons and damsels in distress. Intrigued by a crime you see on the news...research it and see what comes of it. Don’t worry so much about the labels, besides they keep changing. Now, go write that mystery.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Will the Excitement Dwindle?

Since we are on the topic of writers conferences, I figured I would share a few thoughts about my Muse Online Writers Conference experience so far.

Without a doubt, I am loving it! Editors, writers, marketing gurus, all in one nice, online spot and it's all free. And believe me, I am taking advantage of it. I received an email from Nikki Leigh to say that every time she went out to the forum board she saw I had posted in another thread.

But what am I going to do once the conference is over?

Am I going to remember how excited I was to talk about the manuscript I finished last fall and the two partials I haven't touched in months? Will I take all the great advice I've received and put it to good use in my works in progress? Is this the year I am going to submit more queries than ever before?

Or will the excitement dwindle and become a long forgotten memory, like my goal to submit a short story at the beginning of this year (it remains half edited)? Will I tuck away the advice into folders on my PC and not look at it again until next year's conference? Will sending out an article to my editor once a month be the extent of my submissions?

I want to focus my attention on moving forward with my writing. If I don't, I've wasted all the time and effort I put into participating in the conference. Staying up until 2a.m. each night will have been for nothing. My family surviving on pasta for a week, will be for not.

My goals in the coming months must reflect my desire to increase my chances at getting published in more magazines and ezines.

Darn, I just gave Jean a reason to take out her prod!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lessons from a writer's conference...

Rhett sent me this a while back and in my busyness I never got around to posting it. So, thanks Mad, for the post and for your patience as it sat in my inbox hidden by so many other things.


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching at the Harriette Austin Writers Conference at the University of Georgia. When I first attended this conference seven years ago, I was an unpublished newbie writer with little experience dealing with professionals in the writing field. Thanks to the people I met through HAWC through the past years, I made valuable contacts that helped me grow, improve, and eventually, publish.

As I usually do at the conference, I learned many new pointers on editing and promotion. One tremendously important truth stood far above the mechanics of writing; editors and agents are first of all, people.

In the rush to gain recognition, don’t we often forget this simple fact? Do we see them as either someone to place us in author’s heaven, or crush us underfoot? Yes, they do hold power. They have earned this through hard work and long hours. But, they have dreams, disappointments, bad days, and joys. They have feelings.

As I interacted with a group of agents and editors, I was amazed to hear stories of writers exacting horrible retribution for rejection of their manuscripts. On a regular basis, they deal with outright anger for offering constructive criticism. Is it no small wonder that most agents and editors don’t offer comments with their rejection letters? Hmm….

We talked about books, writing, and the business, but we also shared stories of our homes, beloved pets, and humorous life experiences. I came away with a new appreciation for these hard-working professionals who share our love of the written word.

As I continue on this journey, reaching for the stars and often coming up a little short, I pledge to remember the feelings of others. As with most things, kindness and respect shine the best light on us as writers.

Rhett (madhatter)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Start Small…By Shobhan Bantwal

When I first decided to write women's romantic fiction based in India, I had to ask myself two basic questions: First, do American readers know anything about the life of an average middle-class Indian? Second, as a Hindu woman in her fifties, especially one who had an old-fashioned arranged marriage, what did I know about writing for mainstream American readers?

Not many American readers and moviegoers know a lot about Indian culture. The reason for this is because Indian writers and moviemakers have not been effective in portraying the true face of India to American audiences. The real India lies somewhere in between the glitz and glamour of Bollywood (Bombay Hollywood) movies and the poverty and despair of serious literary novels and documentaries.

As far as writing was concerned, I knew I was a good writer. But a published writer suggested that I start on a small scale first to test the waters, so I started writing short freelance articles about living in America for a number of Indian-American publications. They were received very well.

This minor taste of success led to short stories. Imagine my surprise when one of my stories won first place in a fiction competition and two others won honorable mention. Not bad, considering I was competing with hundreds of entries. Therefore I decided to take a short creative writing course at my local community college, which in turn led to aspirations of becoming a novelist.

But what was I going to write about? Most of my fellow Indian authors were well-known for writing highly literary novels that are about a slice of life or the human condition. I wanted to write what I enjoyed reading: women's fiction with strong romantic elements. But if I went against the grain, would anyone want to read the kind of fiction I wanted to write? After some deliberation I thought I would take up the challenge anyway.

At first my queries ended up in a lot of rejections. I realized my pitch letter was uninspiring, so I polished up the query and started the process all over again. All of a sudden I had a flurry of interest. Three offers of representation! I took what I thought was the best offer from Stephanie Lehamann of The Elaine Koster Agency from New York City, the agency that represents the literary sensation, Khaled Hosseini of The Kite Runner fame. I couldn't ask for a better agent since Stephanie herself is a multi-published chicklit author. She sold THE DOWRY BRIDE to Kensington Books in a two-book deal.

I had succeeded in doing what I had set out to do: convince myself and the world that it is possible for a 50 something Indian woman to write romantic fiction. Starting out on a small scale as a novice writer is probably the best advice I received, and I continue to give it to other aspiring authors: Dream Big but Start Small.

You can learn more about Shobhan and her writing at her website.