WIP Wednesday: Q&A with author and editor Alicia Dean

Alicia Dean Tin Man BWI haven’t posted a Q&A in a while, but I will compensate through introducing you to today’s guest, author, blogger and freelance editor, Alicia Dean. Alicia likes spinning spine-chilling stories, but she’s successfully delved into romance and paranormal as well. Scarred is her latest release, a Gothic short that appears in the Mysteries of the Macabre, a Halloween anthology, available just in time for the creepy holiday everybody loves.

Apart from her author’s work, we’ll talk about PoVs and newbie writer errors, so come join us!

Alicia, thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP process and your editing services, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?  

In addition to writing and editing, I work as a legal assistant for a family law firm. I am a huge Elvis fan. I love MLB and NFL. And, I love watching tv. You would think that takes away from my editing/writing time, but I get a lot of work done in front of the television…promise! J I have three grown kids who come over and hang out with me on a fairly regular basis, which I love. So far, none of them are married or have children, so I still get some of their time.

Halloween_cover_lowresYou’re an author and a professional editor. What came first?

 Being an author. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. Although, now that I think about it, I was officially an editor for The Wild Rose Press before my first book was published. So…

Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.

As a teen, High School teacher Sabrina Spencer survived a serial killer attack at Christmas that took her entire family. Ten years later, a few weeks before Christmas, bizarre gifts begin arriving with a threat linked to the Twelve Days of Christmas. At the cabin she rents each year to escape the holidays, she meets Josh, a sexy handyman and a playboy who is the opposite of the kind of man she needs. The threats escalate and her students could be in danger as the Twelfth Day approaches. Sabrina must determine if she can trust Josh or if he is the one sending the twisted gifts.

Ha, just over 100!

Well done, and an enticing story you’ve got there! When you set word count goals, do you usually follow through? Do you have an effective writing method or time saving tips that you would like to share?

Honestly, I am usually behind on my goals, mainly because I have so many other projects that need my attention. The only time saving method I have is to use the speech to text function in Word. I am still trying to get used to it, but if I close my eyes and visualize the scene and just ‘speak’ it, I seem to write more quickly.

I’ve read that although this seems like a strange process, it gradually grows on you and you can indeed add words to your WIP. You run a very interesting blog. My favorite column is your Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip where you post excellent editing tips and sample edits of authors’ WIPs. You go for “deep PoV” edits”. Could you define “deep point of view writing”?

Thank you! I enjoy blogging and I enjoy sharing tips with others. Deep POV writing is when readers are brought closer to the experiences of the characters, rather than being distanced. It’s closely related to ‘showing’ vs ‘telling.’ Using filter words that distance the reader (such as ‘saw’ ‘heard’ ‘felt’ ‘wondered’ ‘thought’ etc) are signs that you might not be in deep POV. Also, using phrases that a character wouldn’t think about themselves, for example: (Let’s pretend we’re in my heroine, Sabrina’s, POV)

Sabrina wondered if Josh was the one sending the gifts. Surely not. If so, she was in more danger than she realized. The teacher’s blue-gray eyes filled with tears. She jumped in fear when she heard the phone ring.  (or, another common way sentences like the first one are stated: Josh could be sending  the gifts, she thought).

There is no need to tell us she wondered or thought. And, believe it or not, some writers DO say things like ‘the teacher or detective did this or the woman did that’ when they are in a character’s POV because they don’t want to keep using the names or pronouns, but that distances the reader, as do words like ‘heard’ and that last sentence is “telling” and distant POV. Also, a character won’t think of the color of their own eyes, or any of their physical qualities unless they are looking at them or it has something to do with their thoughts, such as: “She hated the way the humidity made her hair frizz.”

 This is better:

Was Josh the one sending the gifts? Surely not. If so, she was in more danger than she realized. Please, don’t let him be the one… Tears rose, and she wiped her eyes. The shrill ring of the phone made her jump. Her heart thumped loudly in her ears. (This could all be worded better, but my aim was just to make it deeper POV, less telling. No need to tell us she was ‘in fear’ and using ‘when the’ gives readers a head’s up and puts it in past tense, more or less)

Going deep in writing seems to be the name of the game. I attended a relevant course, and the teacher said that a writer stands no chance being picked up by an agent if she doesn’t go deep. Is that so? And does that apply to all genres?

I can’t speak for all agents, but I would say that it would be difficult to pick up an agent or get published without going deep. They may reject you without telling you that you didn’t use deep POV, but oftentimes if you hear phrases like I wasn’t engaged in the story’ or ‘I couldn’t connect with the characters,’ it’s probably because of distant writing.

Can you give us the most common writing mistakes in a new writer’s manuscript? The ones you’ve come to expect to correct?

Some of the most common are telling vs showing, filter words (both of these related to deep POV, or lack thereof), and backstory dumps.

For more info on Alicia Dean’s freelance editorial services, click here. http://aliciadean.com/editing-services/

Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

AliciaWorkspace

Actually, I don’t have a very inspiring workspace, it is a corner of my bedroom with no outside view. But, I do hang things above my computer that inspire me.

Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

My best marketing tip is to choose a few social media platforms and be consistent on those, rather than trying to be on them all. Find a few that you enjoy. Facebook and Twitter are my main focus. As for a promotional site, I run an Authors Helping Authors loop where we promote for one another so we aren’t always ‘tooting our own horn’ and I have met a fabulous group of supportive authors. This is the link if anyone would like to check it out:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/AuthorsHelpingAuthors/info

Your site is http://aliciadean.com. Where else can we connect with you?

Blog: http://aliciadean.com/alicias-blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008364070487

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Alicia_Dean_

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/aliciamdean/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/468339.Alicia_Dean

Alicia, thank you for the awesome interview. Best of luck with your future projects.

Thank you for having me! I enjoyed visiting with you.

First-time author creates a bestseller in two months: the phenomenal Kim Linwood

Yes, you read that right. Today, I have invited a self-published author who has achieved a feat. In March, she was outlining her first book, and at the end of May, she had sold over 12,000 copies, reaching No. 11 in the Kindle bestsellers list. The paid one. Are you okay? Need a glass of water? I’ll wait.

Rebel is a stepbrother romance—the scorching hot trend right now. Still, 9 out of 10 bestselling authors of that sub-genre have a long backlist of books and a strong author platform (trust me, I checked). Today, I brought to you the other … one.

When I checked out Rebel by Kim Linwood and saw that she’s a first-time author just starting her author platform, I had to connect with her. Kim is very sweet and approachable, and it turns out that this is her first interview! Well, we’ll take advantage of that now, won’t we? 😉 Read on for probably the most interesting interview you’ve read in a while.

Rebel

by Kim Linwood
Publication Date: May 13, 2015
Genres: New Adult
Heat Level: 3 (Explicit)
Purchase Link: Amazon

Read an excerpt  |   Read my review

Kim, I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to get to know you better. Your success is every indie author’s dream, and tapping into your approach to self-publishing is an opportunity not to be missed. Before we get down to talking shop, what else can we know about you?

Thank you. I’m so excited to do this interview. It’s my very first one, so be nice to me! 😉

I’ve always loved reading and writing, even though for most of my life I haven’t worked with it explicitly. I love to read widely, and while I think writing bad boy romance is a ton of fun, I’d love to make some forays into other genres at some point, like science fiction or horror. I might have a bit too much fun with my writing for good horror, though. 😉 I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to make the leap to try to make this my full time job. I’m blissfully married, and have two healthy, talented and bright grade-school age boys who keep me busy when I’m not writing. There’s always something to do!

Rebel is your first full-length novel. Did you have any prior publishing experience?

I’ve written a bunch of short stories, with the goal of honing my craft and learning the publishing process. It’s given me practice in making engaging covers and blurbs, and understanding how to get the process running. It’s also taught me a bit about what I need to outsource. Launching Rebel was a lot of firsts for me, though. First full-length, first paperback (lots of special formatting), first attempts at larger scale promotion and advertising, first ARC team, and so on. It was a lot of new things to learn.

Stepbrother romances are the hot trend right now, but it might not be so in six months, which makes me wonder. Did you set out to jump on that particular bandwagon? When you were testing waters with your short stories, was Rebel already written or conceptualized?

Until I was ready to start writing the novel, I really didn’t know that I’d write a stepbrother book, but I really enjoy bad boys and sassy girls, and love the love/hate dynamic between them, so it seemed like a natural choice. I wanted to create a story with sparks flying everywhere, hopefully with a couple of fun surprises and with a satisfying Happily Ever After ending.

Within that framework, I looked at the Amazon top 10 to see what was selling. I really want to make writing my full-time business, and so there is a balance between finding your stories and writing what sells. I’m lucky enough that I discovered a trend that I found really entertaining and that engaged me, so after reading some of the top books at the time for inspiration, like Prick by Sabrina Paige or Blackbird by Abigail Graham, I set to putting together my own bad boy stepbrother story. I had a ton of fun building the plot and writing the characters of Gavin and Angie, and I hope that shows in the final book.

Most definitely. I read Rebel in almost one sitting. (You can read an excerpt here and my review here.) Confession time: I read the book because I had to establish that it’s quality work before inviting Kim over. Indeed, it is very professional in every aspect. What stands out is the great editing—the weak spot of many new self-published authors. What aspects of Rebel did you outsource to professionals?

I’m very lucky in that I’m close with a fantastic editor who looks at everything from typos and simple proofreading to plot inconsistencies, logic, character consistency and flow. We have a process that puts the book through several iterations, to hopefully achieve a great final product. I’ll give an example of our process here.

First I self-edit the book, doing what I can to get rid of awkward phrasing, inconsistencies, slow points, and anything at all that I’m not happy with. While I write, I’ll usually leave comments to myself for editing as I think of them, so I address all of those as well. Then my editor reads through the book quickly, like a reader, and then gives me big picture feedback. The book’s slow here, or a guy like Gavin would never do something like this, or whatever. I fix those if I agree, then pass it back for a more in-depth pass. This is where it’s important to be humble, because my editor is merciless. Whole passages are cut, rewritten, adjusted and added, all in the name of making a better book. Once I’ve responded to those edits, there’s a final read-over to make sure nothing got broken in the edit process.

Finally, I send the book out to a handful of beta readers who read the book and give their own feedback. Once I’ve responded to those, the book is ready for ARCs and publishing.

What about the cover? The cheeky “what” gesture of the guy makes it stand out from the mass of almost identical covers. Who gets the credit?

cut

I commissioned the cover from Cormar Covers. I do alright with Photoshop, but not making a cover for a bestseller alright. 😉 The image is stock, but she’s really good at taking a basic stock photo and making it look unique. The credit for the cover is all with my cover designer.

How long did it take you from outlining the book to launching it? (Readers, brace yourselves.)

About a month and a half. It took a couple of days of outlining, about three weeks to get the actual text written, and then a couple of weeks of editing, including betas. Finally the ARC readers got the book a little early, and then the book went live soon after that.

Three weeks to write a full-length novel?  (Rebel is at 61K words.) To most of us, this timeframe is, well, unrealistic. Especially if you include working with an editor. Can you get more specific about how you managed that?

April was easily my most productive month ever, at right around 70,000 words, and May was nowhere near it. Sometimes the words flow quickly and other times there’s too much going on or I’m just not inspired enough. That said (and it was probably a couple more days than three weeks), that’s still a little less than 3,000 words a day on average. It’s fairly quick, but far from superhuman if you put the hours in. I do have an online circle of author friends and we track our word counts on a shared spreadsheet. A few of them routinely put out 100-150,000 words per month. I feel very much in the middle of the pack there. I think Stephen King’s writing advice is to write at least 2000 words a day, and I try to stick to that when I can.

My editor and I are very close, and she isn’t on the market so I get to monopolize her time. I do all my writing in Google Docs, and then I just share the document with her, giving her commenting rights. I split the book into smaller parts, so as soon as she was done with a part, I could jump on that one while she started the next. That gave us a very quick rapport while going through the edit process as a team. I was making corrections almost as quickly as she made comments and suggestions.

For actual writing productivity, I use the Pomodoro Technique, which is using focused time boxes of work. Basically, I start a timer and concentrate on writing for 30 minutes, then a 5-10 minute break, and then back in. It’s a very nice way of keeping focus, since I won’t allow myself to check email, Facebook, etc. while the timer is running. I can usually produce about 4-600 words in a 30 minute sprint, so getting to 2-3000 words in a day is only 3-4 hours of writing. My best day was around 7500 words while I was writing Rebel.

That is amazing. I’m linking to the Pomodoro Windows app, in case anyone (everyone) is interested. You’re truly dedicated. And what does that incredibly productive workspace of yours look like?

authorspace

We live in a fairly small apartment, so I don’t have a dedicated writing space. Instead I’ll carry my Chromebook with me (my writing tool of choice) and rotate between the living room couches, the bedroom or the kitchen. Sometimes I go out to write, at a café, for example. I included a shot from our kitchen for your work space collection.

Now your workspace picture is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board on Pinterest. Having prepared a highly professional manuscript that draws on a hot trend, how come you didn’t submit it to an agent? Would you consider traditional publishing?

I thought about it, and I’ve spoken with several authors about it, some of whom are fully or partially traditionally published. In the end, publishers seem too slow and cumbersome, at least for now. Hot trends like the stepbrother one come and go quickly enough that by the time a traditional publisher is ready to publish your book, the trend has passed. They work with horizons of months to years, while I work with a horizon of a few months, if not weeks. How many traditionally published stepbrother romances do you see out there?

So in the end, I was too eager to get my work out there, and confident enough in my abilities to pull the self-publishing off that I decided to rule out traditional publishers for now. I may revisit that at a later time when I have a more established catalog and hopefully a more attractive potential author for a publishing house, but right now I’m just eager to get my next novel written and released to the world. I’m having way too much fun!

You have found the perfect recipe for fun and profit, Kim. Good for you! You have undoubtedly worked very hard on your first book, but not as much on creating an author platform prior to publishing. In fact, it seems that you’ve launched both the book and your platform at about the same time. How did you market Rebel? 

I launched my Facebook presence a couple of weeks before the book launched and mostly promoted there. I made posts, connected with other authors, and some of them were nice enough to share my cover and blurb reveals. I tried to engage potential readers where I found them, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not any sort of social media expert.

However, I do feel like I had a solid book with a catchy hook and a great cover, and I think that helped build a lot of interest. Once the book launched, I submitted it to tons of free promotion sites and review blogs, and I’ve run ads on Facebook and some paid promotions, like My Romance Reads, for example. Those definitely help spark interest.

At this point, I have to congratulate you on your blurb. From where I stand—an avid romance reader who knows trends and has read all sub-genres—I think that readers looking for a new stepbrother romance need only read the first line (“I married my stepbrother”) to one-click Rebel. That was wickedly clever! Giving out something absurdly illicit yet tempting. Apart from the enticing blurb, what else do you attribute Rebel’s huge success to?

Thank you! I worked hard to come up with a blurb that was catchy. I spent nearly a week on the blurb alone, refining it and getting feedback from other authors and readers. Presentation is so important to get someone to click the buy button. I know it is for me, at least, so I made sure both the blurb and the cover were well done.

Beyond those, I do believe in delivering quality, and I think that’s rewarded when the reviews come in and word of mouth starts to build. Still, I’m learning, and this book has succeeded beyond my wildest imagination when I hit the publish button. I have to admit that I’m really nervous about my next book now. 😉

Anything you would have done differently? A faux pas you don’t intend to repeat?

The most common piece of negative feedback I’ve gotten is that the beginning of the book was a bit slow and maybe not as engaging as it should be to draw in readers. In hindsight, I think it could definitely be tightened up a bit and that’s something I’ll be working on for the next book. I think a lot of readers like to check out the Look Inside feature, and if that doesn’t grab her, it might be a lost opportunity. I’m really proud of this book, and I want to share it with everyone! 🙂

By the way, thank you for offering an ebook to one lucky reader. Guys, leave a comment, and one of you will get to read the super successful Rebel. So what’s next?

For now, I’m intending to stick with the stepbrother theme. I had so much fun writing the first one, and I’ve gotten a new idea that I think will be perfect for it, with lots of opportunities for sass, crazy hijinks and hopefully a compelling love story in the end. I’m in the outlining phase now, figuring out how to put it together, and then I will start writing as quickly as my fingers and brain will let me!

Kim, I can’t thank you enough for giving us valuable insight into your success. Many might think you were lucky. To me, luck is preparation meeting opportunity (actually Seneca said that, not me 😉) and in that aspect, you are truly golden. Best of luck with your future projects.

Thank you so much, and thank you for the chat. I really enjoyed it!

_______________________

Well, how about that, ladies and gents? Was Kim’s process shocking? Not so much? Is there an aspect that intrigued you? Kim’s success comes as a backup to my growing conviction that newbie writers like me not only overwrite (guilty) but also overdo everything. But that’s material for another post. Again, if you want a taste of Rebel, here’s an excerpt, and here’s my review. Also, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Connect with the phenomenal Kim Linwood

Site: http://kimlinwood.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimlinwood
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kim.linwood

Life’s your turn on the dancefloor; give it all you’ve got: Morgan Silver (WIP Q&A)

Morgan Silver, pen name M.W., has an MA in Creative Writing and a love for (cosy) mysteries and magical realism. She’s currently querying her first two novels, a YA mystery and a cosy mystery, while working on the first draft of a magical realism novel. She has lovely beta readers, naughty pet dragons, and an addiction to snacks.

Morgan , thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?  

Thanks for having me! The virtual cup of tea is lovely, by the way. Well, by day I teach English and by night I write novels. I’m kind of like Jessica Fletcher, only I haven’t solved any real-life murders yet. (It will happen one day.) I feel like life’s your turn on the dancefloor so why not give it all you’ve got? I’m teaching myself Japanese and how to play the violin when I make time for it. I read novels, manga, and watch TV series, including Japanese and Korean dramas and anime. My characters are mostly quirky and I was definitely born a writer. I have that annoying thing that all born writers have; the NEED to write.  Sometimes I even neglect my pet dragons for that reason.

Your “our turn on the dancefloor” analogy I will use to promo this post! Awesome! What are you working on right now?

The Chess Club – Image used by author on Wattpad

My current WIP is absolutely different from what I usually write and strangely enough I am the most excited about this one. Perhaps because after a few written novels you notice you’ve grown as a writer.

My WIP was inspired by the Addams Family as well as a cartoon about zombies. (Yes, I sometimes watch cartoons.) Victoria Woods is always surrounded by death and doesn’t have much of a life herself. A twist of fate leads her from a funeral parlour to a strange mansion on a hill. Most people are afraid of this place and its inhabitants, but Victoria feels right at home in this world that contains unusual beings, experiments, more dead people, new friends, and even romance. As if having a life all of a sudden isn’t stressful enough, she also encounters enemies who are in search of eternal life and don’t care who they have to hurt in the process. Now that she finally has something to live for, she has to do something she’s never done before…fight back.

Writing this novel is like falling in a dark and deep puddle from which it is hard to emerge and novels like this make me really passionate about writing.

I’m a blurb enthusiast (always pick them apart as I read them) and I have to tell you, I love your ending! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

When I didn’t have a day job, yes. My aim was always 2K a day, which was usually easy to manage because I had nothing else to do. Apart from staring at the shiny internet of course. Now, not so much. When I have day off my goal is 1K, but sometimes I write 4K or 6K. It depends on how long it’s been since I’ve written. I guess the words just spill out of my fingers at some point.

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

LIFE! I just get distracted doing stuff for work, hanging with awesome people, or staring at a wall because I’ve had a long day. Not to mention my pet dragons who also require daily snuggle time.

You can’t not love your pet dragons! Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing? 

Morgan's workspace

I usually write at my desk, sometimes in my bed. Inspiration isn’t tied to a place for me, I just sit down and let the events in my head inspire me. I am a bit messy and that can sometimes affect my concentration. Regular cleaning sessions are therefore a must for this writer.

Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

I tried things like Scrivener, Ommwriter, and a bunch of other ones. I like Ommwriter because it prevents you from being distracted but I still use yWriter5 and writeordie.com. Especially the latter is highly recommended. You can just use it on the website for free. I use yWriter5 to summarise chapters and nothing more. I really just prefer physical notebooks and Word. Plus, with actual notebooks you get to use post-its and highlighters. It’s way more fun.

I like Scrivener. It gives me a purpose in writing. I’ll check out yWriter5 and Ommwriter, which I hadn’t heard of. Does the agent-hunting process have a deadline for you? Are you considering self-publishing?

No deadline, I just keep at it until someone bites. I have to have faith that it will happen when it’s supposed to happen. I do find myself getting a bit impatient and I’m kind of running out of agents with my first novel. I’m querying two novels while finishing a third, so luckily I can keep querying new novels. I am considering self-publishing my first novel, though. It would require a lot of money and hard work, because I’d want to do it right and I’d want to self-publish paperbacks only. I’ve posted the first chapter of my first novel on Wattpad to see if people are interested.

You’ll be hearing from me then… Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

I mostly live in my head, so I feel like marketing is something that is on the other side of the looking glass. I do have to say that I really love Twitter and it allows you to be yourself and find people who like you for you. Having a blog is also great for connecting with like-minded people and showing the world a piece of yourself. It’s wonderful how some parts of the internet can bring strangers together.

Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.

A trip that changed it all – Lena Mikado (WIP Interview)

IMG_0155

This week’s guest is an author with whom I have a lot in common: love for languages, translation experience, writing in our second language (English) and juggling motherhood, work and homemaking with writing. Ladies and gents, I present to you the beautiful and talented Lena Mikado.

_____________________________ 

Hello, everyone! I’m really happy to be here – Maria, cheers to you for inviting me to your beautiful blog. My name is Lena Mikado, and I am the author of My Journey to the Ocean – my debut novel and the first one of the All Colors of the Rainbow trilogy.

Lena, thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?  

I’ve been so many things lately, I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I am mom to two little boys (they’re 5 and 2) and a happy wife. Secondly, I am a translator – foreign languages had been my love long before I became a mom and a wife, so… not sure – maybe I should have given priority to the languages 🙂. I graduated from Voronezh State University, Russia, with the Degree in Translation, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication. Oh – yes, I am Russian. 🙂 I moved to the United States at the young age of 22, but I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. I absolutely adore traveling – to the point that I cannot imagine my life without it – and belly-dancing 🙂.

MyJourneyToTheOcean-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700

How did My Journey to the Ocean came to be?

One day, my very good friend, who now lives in London, told me that we all should write a book about our first summer in the United States. When I say “we all” I mean “four Russian girls who came on a J-1 program to America in the summer of 2004 and who never got back to be the same people before their plane left the tarmac in Moscow”. Back then, I just had my first kid (which totally rocked my world – and I don’t mean it as necessarily 100% positive experience) and I was working for a corporation that was consuming me with all my sweat, blood and tears as corporations tend to. So at first I laughed a little bit and politely declined. But then I thought… and thought… and thought about it… And I realized that I did have a lot to say. I wanted my sons to know my story. After all, what do we really know about our parents? And I started writing. It took me 5 years – and now my third baby is here 🙂.

There’s another thing we have in common. My little one also rocked my world in a non-positive way until I realized that going down the road she paved made me a better mom. What are you working on right now?

I started working on the second book of the series – A Year in the Sky. The novel will be about traveling all around the world, while trying to deal with jealousy, insecurity and fear of losing that bright future that you already directed for yourself in your head :). I have to share a little secret with you. The full name of my 5-year-old son is Liam Ocean and the name of my youngest – Maximillian Sky ;). 

That’s super sweet. Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

To be honest with you, I am constantly under the impression that I need to do more. I am trying to juggle my translation business with my writing career – and family life – and sometimes I feel like the ground is slipping from under my feet. My main goal in writing is to complete whatever I have started – when? Not sure about that. Perhaps, I will be able to stay more organized and deadline-oriented once the boys grow up a little.

Plotter, pantser or both?

More of a pantser 🙂. I do tie it all together when I write, but I don’t necessarily plan it ahead. I’m just constantly thinking about what I want to say throughout the day, sometimes I write thoughts that come to mind in a little notebook I carry with me. But I’m definitely – 85% of the time – surprised by what is coming out of me when I write 🙂. Like – wow, where did that come from?

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Lack of time. I wish we didn’t have to sleep 🙂.

You’re telling me. Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?

Yes, I have. I typically just sit down and write anyway. And the inspiration comes back.

Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

Photo Feb 10, 12 28 28 PM

This is the view from my window. 🙂 My office is at the marina. I don’t have the Ocean view, but I love looking at the boats. There is also a birds’ nest up top in the corner of the window, and we typically communicate with them through the glass 🙂

Very interesting view! Now your view is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board on Pinterest. Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

I use a few websites that help me with synonyms and descriptive words – But generally I’m your Google/Word girl 🙂.

How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

With a glass of nice Chardonnay. And a bath. Definitely a bath, because otherwise the kids won’t let me enjoy that glass of nice Chardonnay.

Makes sense 🙂 Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?

I hired an editor, Courtney Diles– since I believe that there always must be a second pair of eyes. Working in the translation industry, I know for a fact that we cannot write a piece alone. There is always room for improvement. Plus, Courtney helped me immensely with the formatting. I have also hired a book cover artist, Fiona Jayde – and she did an amazing job. She literally read my mind. As far as everything else goes – all done by myself.

Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

I’m really very new to all this. I like Twitter a lot. I managed to connect to a lot of very interesting people there. Besides, Twitter moves so fast that it offers you plenty of opportunities for marketing. I do some Facebook, Google Plus and Goodreads, but there is still lots for me to learn.

Your blog is http://lenamikado.blogspot.com/. Do you follow a specific branding pattern with your posts or is it a free writing platform?

Totally free! I’m trying to be myself, but that’s about it.  

Is chick-lit the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

I think I’m a chick lit author for life. 🙂 I’m pretty sure I will always be writing light and funny books. This life is too full of horrible things, and I like to create a happy reality. I’m not a fan of dark stuff. J

Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.

  • Flavored sorbet or chocolate ice cream? Flavored sorbet!
  • Pizza or sushi? Sushi 🙂
  • Twilight or The Hunger Games? None 🙂
  • Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumberbatch? Ryan Gosling… because I had to google Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve seen the Sherlock Holmes show, but I didn’t know the actor’s name :).
  • Trek in the Andes or snorkeling in Tahiti? Both! As long as I don’t sit at home.
  • Ugg boots or red-soled designer stilettos? Stilettos. Definitely.

Ah, there’s the chick-lit girl 🙂 Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.

Amazon Link – myBook.to/MyJourneytotheOcean

Facebook Link – https://www.facebook.com/lenamikado?ref=hl

Twitter Link – https://twitter.com/Lena_Mikado

Goodreads Link – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23698308-my-journey-to-the-ocean

Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LenaMikado/posts

Blog – http://lenamikado.blogspot.com/

Thank you, Lena, and best of luck with your future projects!

Thank you very much, Maria, for having me here. 🙂 I wish you the best of luck as well.

Daniel Dombrowski: Setting up a Sci-Fi anthology and more (WIP Interview)

Dan (1)Daniel J. Dombrowski is an author, editor, and indie publisher. He recently founded 33rd Street Digital Press, an independent publishing company, and he has been working for the last several months on Nonlocal Science Fiction, a quarterly anthology that features short stories and serials from new and established authors from around the world.

Dan, thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself? 

Hi, Maria! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I never know where to start when people ask me about myself.  I’ve been on a bit of a crooked path for several years. I went to school for anthropology – archaeology, really. I graduated with a Master’s from Penn State in 2009. I think I thought I could be Indiana Jones or something overly romanticized like that. The reality is that archaeology is a lot of digging holes in the hot sun and finding nothing. It’s pretty miserable a lot of the time.

I moved to Pittsburgh shortly after I graduated and married my high school sweetheart. I worked anywhere that would take me for the next four years as my wife finished her doctorate and two years of residency.

We recently moved back to our hometown, Erie, Pa., and I’ve been able to work primarily on my own projects while my wonderful wife keeps things a bit more legitimate on the faculty at a school of pharmacy. I edit on a freelance basis for a self-publisher (about 500 pages per month), and for the last six months or so, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy towards starting up my publishing company and launching Nonlocal.

WebsiteMasthead condensed

What are you working on right now?

The first issue of Nonlocal is mostly in the bag. I’ve received dozens of submissions since first putting out the call back in October, and I have what I think is a pretty stellar lineup of nine stories from authors spread around the globe + one of my own.

My main focus at the moment is a Kickstarter to help launch the first issue in style. I have some big plans for the publishing company and Nonlocal, but it’s a one-man enterprise aside from the authors. I’ve boot-strapped everything to this point, and I’m ecstatic about the results.  I want to see it come to life in a big way, and a successful Kickstarter will make that possible.

Let’s all pitch in then! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

I’m thrilled at how quickly the first issue of Nonlocal has come together. I first put out a call for submissions in October, and I got 50+ submissions before the end of the year. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to wait for submissions. Will there be enough? Will any of them be any good? I think I’ve been more than a little lucky.

As far as a word or page count, it depends on the project. When I’m editing for the self-publisher, I try to do a minimum of 50 pages per day, which depending on the project is either a few hours or a sun-up to sun-down proposition.

I try to read and get a response out for submissions to Nonlocal inside a week, though I have been falling short on that a lot lately.

Editing accepted stories is very individualized. Sometimes they only require a light polishing. Other times I’ve taken stories from rookie authors that I really believed in and have given advice for some pretty substantial rewrites. That part is fun for me. I love helping out new writers and transforming a rough piece into a real gem..

As far as writing, copy for the website/blog is usually 2000-3000 words per week. On the odd day when I find time to work on my own fiction projects, I shoot for 3000 words if I can go the whole day on it, though that rarely happens.

Plotter, pantser or both?

I definitely aspire to be a plotter. I have all sorts of fancy calendars and spreadsheets and to-do lists, but I have so many plates spinning at once that I’m frequently forced to be a pantser, unfortunately. Maybe that will change someday soon, but I doubt it.

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Second-guessing myself and trying to start editing and revising before I’m finished. I used to write with an outline, but I always found that the end product suffered and sounded very formulaic. I tend to write without a net anymore, but I often change my mind about some particular plot element or character and can’t resist going back and making the change immediately. This invariably leads to rewrites and revises of entire sections and chapters before the full story is even written.

Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?

When I first started, I was pretty naïve. I expected quick success, and when my first attempts were rejected by magazines like Asimov’s and Analog, I walked away from writing for a bit. From beginning to end, that first period of writing, submitting, and getting a dozen or so rejections probably lasted about 18 months.

I got back into writing by exploring some other paths. As I’ve already said, I started editing for a self-publisher, which has been a huge blessing. You learn a lot by reading and recognizing mistakes by others. It’s hard to get better if all you ever do is read polished novels by professionals and your own stuff all the time.

I also worked on a couple magazine projects. One was a great regional human interest mag called Rustbelt Almanac. We profiled hip small business owners who were helping to breathe economic life back into cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh which have all had to transform and move away from their manufacturing roots. Rustbelt, even though it never quite caught on, was a really high-quality publication, and it got me back into writing in a big way. I didn’t have stories of my own that I wanted to tell at that point, but I was able to help tell the stories of others. It was a lot of fun.

Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

Here’s my current workspace:

WorkSpace

My desk is actually a shelf from under an old IKEA coffee table with four modular legs attached. I love having a big work surface, and the lack of drawers and shelves and all of that eliminates a lot of distractions.

I have a dual-monitor setup for my desktop, which I find indispensible with all of the different projects I have going. You can probably see a microphone and a small mixing board. I’ve been dabbling with home recording, and I hope to have the first episode of a podcast out soon with general talk about indie publishing and interviews with authors from the magazine.

On the walls, I have a bunch of different things, some useful and some more inspirational. Hanging on the wall to the left is a replica of the Declaration of Independence – a relic from my archaeologist/historian days, though still appropriate décor for an indie author/publisher. Over the desk, I have a picture of a young Isaac Asimov, my personal sci-fi author hero, a list of the 20 traits of a successful Guerrilla marketer, the masthead for Nonloccal, and a little sign that I made with the Latin phrase “Creatio ex nihilo” which means “Create something from nothing.”

I love your detailed description. Now this image is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board on Pinterest.Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

My websites are all built on WordPress, and I do layouts on a publishing platform called Serif PagePlus. I keep track of blogs with Feedly, and I use the free version of Hootsuite for my social media post scheduling. As far as writing/editing references, I stick mainly to hard copies. I pull out The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual pretty frequently, as everyone should.

How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Probably with a nap. Maybe with a shot of bourbon. Perhaps both.

Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?

I connected with an awesome cover design company called Bioblossom Creative recently. They designed the cover for the first issue of Nonlocal on spec so that I could do a cover reveal during the Kickstarter.

CoverReveal

Other than that, though, it’s just me and the authors. I’m handling all of the publishing and the bulk of the marketing, including coordinating some collaborative marketing efforts with the authors.
Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

Be genuine and never stop trying new things. If you’re an indie author and you feel like you aren’t making much progress, it can be easy to just start phoning it in with nothing but scheduled “Buy my book!” posts on social media. But the second you stop actively engaging with your audience, no matter how big or small it is, you’ll lose all momentum and probably lose a lot of that audience that you’ve worked so hard to build.

When I have a day when I feel like everything I’m doing is pointless and isn’t getting results, I try something new. I find a new social sharing tool. I seek out a new group on Facebook that shares a common interest. I come up with some new way to connect with people on Twitter or somewhere else.

There’s no big magical secret that I’m aware of (other than maybe having a million-dollar marketing budget). It all comes down to who has the motivation to keep at it and keep trying new things until something works.

Is science fiction the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

As far as my personal writings, I don’t have much of a desire to expand out of science fiction. That could always change, but I doubt it.

As for publishing, I’m starting in sci-fi because it’s a home base for me. I know good science fiction when I read it, and I don’t have to second-guess myself when I read submissions. That said, if the Nonlocal model is successful (and I haven’t even talked about the profit-sharing side of things, check the website for info on that), I’d like to expand into other genres. Whether I’ll be able to do that on my own or if I’ll need to find other editors remains to be seen.

Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.

33rd Street Digital Press website: http://thirtythirdstreet.com

Nonlocal Science Fiction website: http://nonlocalscifi.com

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1KORMlN

Twitter: https://twitter.com/33rdStreetPress

is Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/33rdStreetPress

Dear readers, I’m sure you appreciate Dan’s effort with Nonlocal. Please consider helping his Kickstarter project. Thank you, Dan, and best of luck.

Thanks so much for having me!

Meet your characters over a glass of wine: Savannah Morgan – WIP Interview

Savannah Morgan, an author of ACR stories, immersed in danger and suspense is today’s guest. If you don’t know what an ACR is, Savannah has a neat explanation for you.

Hello, I’m Savannah Morgan, author of the Sapphire Springs series. The series is labeled as erotic romance, and it is definitely for the 18 and over crowd as nothing is left out, but I dislike that genre label for my books. Don’t get me wrong, I read erotica and erotic romances but they tend to fall short on story adaption and character development and getting the couple to have sex as often and sometimes in as many places as possible seems to be the driving force. A friend of mine told me about a little known genre called Adult Contemporary Romance, or ACR. ACR books are more driven by the characters development and growth and the plot drives the story not the sex, even though there are some very steamy love scenes with no holds barred action and language.

As for Sapphire Springs, it’s a fictional town set in Montana, USA where nothing is as it seems. Lies, secrets and betrayals can be found at every turn, but among those you will find passion, lust, and deep abiding love. The books of Sapphire Springs revolve around the lives and friends of the founding family, the Blackthorns. It is a complicated bloodline but I do my best to unravel those complications and provide a family tree at the beginning of every book to help you keep everyone straight. My goal as a writer is to bring you entertainment. My goal in writing Sapphire Springs is to bring you lifelong friends.

Sapphire Springs Secrets_Master Cover_Long Hair_No  Background

Savannah, thanks for the distinction. In an ever-evolving market, it’s good to be familiar with the terminology. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?

Thank you for having me, Maria. This is quite an honor.  This is probably my most dreaded question of any interview, simply because I lead a relatively quiet and boring life. Lol

I’m a wife of 26 years, this month, to a wonderfully supportive man. We don’t have children, but we do have our two adopted/rescued dogs; Madison – full blood Black Labrador Retriever, who will be 15 this July and Caleb – 1/2 Black Lab, 1/2 Australian Dingo, who will be ten this year. Madison came to us after having been severely abused and has turned out to be the best protector I could ever have. She has literally saved my life 3 times. Caleb came to us as a Katrina puppy. He was a product of his parents being left behind when their owners evacuated the coast of Mississippi before Hurricane Katrina hit.

The stories of my dogs, is important in that two causes most dear to my heart is rescuing abused and abandoned pets and responsible pet ownership. An animal doesn’t ask a thing from humans other than to be loved and taken care of, in return they give us so much; companionship, humor, unconditional love, non-judgment of our choices good or bad, and in many cases, me especially, our lives.  I would like to see more stringent laws that would protect animals and punish those abusing them more accordingly. I’ll stop there, before I get up on the soapbox.

I do not have a college degree but I have college courses behind me. I have been in the process of getting my degree for the last 20 years, but due to family needs I’ve had to stop at times to find employment. Something I’m sure many of your followers and my readers can understand. My motto is: It’s only too late when you’re dead. So never, ever give up on your dreams, big or small.

As for hobbies, I like to read and write, but I guess those aren’t much of a surprise. I also love music and movies, but mostly I like creating. I design and make dreamcatchers, I crochet, I love being creative in the kitchen, and I’m also an amateur graphic designer. I even do my own cover art, promotional banners and photo teasers. Having, listed all of those indoor activities it might interest people to know that I’m also an amateur photographer and love landscape photography. I even love going out for a few days and camping out with just the husband and the dogs.

As for quirks I imagine I have many but I suppose, if I’m going to be honest, I’m a bit of a control freak when I have something specific in my head. Since it’s sometimes a little difficult for me to explain a design or an idea that’s in my head I tend to take on too much and control the situation until I have it exactly how I want it. Another quirk I have is I don’t like a lot of noise, chatter or banging noises, but when I listen to music, usually head-banging rock and roll, I turn the volume up to dangerous levels. That’s a bit quirky isn’t it? LOL

And you call that a boring life?! Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.

Irresistible

Sapphire Springs Book 3

Amara Davis is running for her life, powerless to prove her innocence or her sanity. For nearly two years she has led a quiet life in a small Oregon town. The signs are telling her there is change coming, but which path will take her to freedom?

Duncan McKinnon has just been promoted to US Marshal, but he buried a brother and arrested his own mother for that gold star. Now he is on mandatory administrative leave while he awaits the trials he is the star witness in. Warned to stay away from active cases, Duncan heads home to Oregon wanting nothing more than a cold beer and to sleep in his own bed, but thoughts of the fugitive Amara Davis plague him. There is just something about the woman Duncan can’t shake.

Will Duncan find Amara first and make the arrest, or will he destroy his promising career with the US Marshal Service by protecting a fugitive?

Can Amara trust the signs she’s been seeing at nearly every turn and are those signs really pointing at the handsome US Marshal? Can she make Duncan see the truth, or will he betray her for his badge?

Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

Actually, I don’t really have a writing method down. Since I’m a stay at home wife I tend to write when the characters talk to me. That could be at 6:00 AM, Noon, in the evening or waking me up at 3 in the morning. I write when it’s there, so I don’t really have a word count that I strive to hit every day.

Plotter, pantser or both?

I would have to say I’m both. Since I have a huge cast of Characters in both series I am writing, Sapphire Springs and the upcoming first release of Deadly Flowers, I have to be a plotter. I utilize a massive multiply worksheet spreadsheet in Excel to keep everyone straight. Now let me explain the character development process first. My characters come to me fully formed with a story to tell. There is like this room in my head that has two chairs, a small table and a fireplace, and depending on my mood the character and I visit over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine as they tell me all about them. From that point the beginning and the ending come to me….usually days, sometimes weeks apart. Once I start writing though I become a pantser. I sit down and my keyboard and type out the plotted beginning and then once that is down I write as the story unfolds in my mind. The amazing thing is only minor details change in the ending from the time it comes to me and the time it is actually written, months later.

That’s a really interesting process! What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Starting it. Once I make up my mind and actually sit down and write it, so far, seems to flow seamlessly. But the actual sitting down and doing it is my greatest issue. When I have a story bubbling in my head, dying to get out, it seems as if everything hits me at once and I don’t have time to sit down and get it down. That’s why I carry a digital recorder with me everywhere I go, and make certain those batteries are fully charged. I don’t want to miss a thing while I’m dealing with real life demands.

Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?

I think every author deals with this. Truthfully, the answer to the question above is the answer to this one too. Real life demands tend to pull my focus and inspiration from writing. The only way I can motivate myself is to work through the real life issue and get it done with. At that point my mind opens up like a floodgate and the story is, thankfully, still there. I pray it is always that way.

Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

10856169_1585397598370635_1179482092_o

My husband and I have transformed one of the bedrooms of our home into a joint office. Our computers are nearly side by side. LOL I don’t have anything really captivating in front of me, just a blank wall as you can see in the attached picture. It’s not good to distract me with too many things, say like sunshine, because I’ll be grabbing the camera and the dogs and going out for a walk instead of writing. LOL

I’d do the exact same thing. Now your workspace pic is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board in Pinterest. Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

Yes. I have an extensive home library filled with books on subjects such Celtic Deities, Catholic Saints, weaponry, explosives, Native American culture and beliefs, Myths and legends along with reference material such as a dictionary that has nearly every word in the English Language and its origins and when it became popular. LOL I also utilize experts, such as military members, police, and even my own husband who is a network security engineer. If it or they have knowledge I need I will seek it out as quickly as possible.

Oh my, you’re fully equipped! How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

The funny thing is, is I don’t celebrate writing “The End”. I actually have never typed those words at the end of a book. I think I might be a little superstitious. A small part of my mind tells me if I type those words I may never write another book. LOL Silly I know, but there it is. As for celebrating the completion of a book, I never really thought of that as a celebrating point. I mean, yeah, it’s done, but really it’s just beginning. You have edits, and rewrites and then formatting (which is my least favorite thing to do) cover photos to look through, a cover to create, photo blurbs to make, you know the list is almost endless. LOL I celebrate on release day. I share with my friends and have a nice glass of wine, or a cup of coffee.

Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?

I’ve sort of already answered this, but in a nutshell, I do it all except editing. I let someone else edit for me.

Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

I’m still so new to all of this I’m still learning the marketing ropes, along with everything else. But I’ve fallen in with some wonderful bloggers who have been such a blessing at helping me get the word out, like you and you doing this interview on me.

Promoting Authors, Book and Reviews – Patches Brazillion

Naughty Librarians Playground – Jennifer Zamora

Not Another Damn Blog Blog – Krystal Fahl, and sometimes Jordan Marie the founder turned author comes back and helps out, as she did for my release party this past Tuesday.

Booklover – Chastity Leaphart Gregory

Booklove 4LifeBlog – Amber Smith

Paranormal Romance Trance – Tina Bell

Naughty Books and Bits – Samatha Jones

Tempting Sexy Thoughts – Julianne and Leeann

And the list goes on….LOL

Is adult contemporary romance the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

I’m so glad you asked this, because my next release is a straight contemporary suspense/thriller romance, titled ‘Dakota’s Autumn. It is actually the first book in the Deadly Flowers series. I will have another book from Sapphire Springs releasing late this summer, and then I will be releasing my very first PNR title around October, and then I hope to have the 4th title in the Sapphire Springs series out by December. As you can see I have a full year of writing ahead of me.

Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.

  • Flavored sorbet or chocolate ice cream? Chocolate Ice Cream, but it has to be dark chocolate. lol
  • Pizza or sushi? Haha, Pizza.
  • Twilight or The Hunger Games? Books? The Hunger Games Movies? Twilight, Oops I think I might have cheated on this one.
  • Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumberbatch? I’m embarrassed to say I had to look them both up, LOL. Since I don’t know  either of them I can only go on looks, so it would have to be Ryan Gosling, and I think I’ve seen him a couple of movies.
  • Trek in the Andes or snorkeling in Tahiti? Ugh, do I have to choose? Both. One after the other. I’d take next day if I could get it. lol
  • Ugg boots or red-soled designer stilettos? Ugg boots, because I have this thing, hubby calls it a compulsion but I disagree, for boots, but the stilettos would be equally nice.

Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.

I’m moving everything over to Amazon.com, but you can still find Dreams on BandN.com and Smashwords.

Here is where you can find me.

Website: http://www.author-savannahmorgan.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00GU0J4WE
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7853656.Savannah_Morgan
Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/praot6y
FB Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/nsxeq9m
Google+: http://tinyurl.com/onagba8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorSavvyM
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/smorganauthor/
TSU: https://www.tsu.co/SavannahMorganAuthor
Are: http://tinyurl.com/pc22uxj
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdEO886VR1Sf_CdhP9QFTEg
Authorgraph: https://www.authorgraph.com/authors/AuthorSavvyM
Ello: https://ello.co/savannahmorgan

Thank you, Savannah, and best of luck with your future projects!

Thank you for having me. And good luck with all of your projects too.

Bye everybody.

Between Canada and the Caribbean: Susan Toy – WIP Interview

author picSusan Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and is now a published author, publisher, and promoter of fellow authors and their books. Born and raised in Toronto, after completing a degree in English Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, she moved to Calgary in the late 70s and immediately found a job in a bookstore, beginning what has become a life’s career working with books and their authors.  She’s the author of Island in the Clouds, a Baquia Perspectives mystery novel.

Susan , thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, what else can we know about you?  

I’m retired from paid work and now move back-and-forth between Canada and the Caribbean. I have always read voraciously and was fortunate to have enjoyed a career working with others who also love books and writing. I met so, so many great authors along the way – too many to count – and have become friends with most of them. I have always been their champion or cheerleader, in a sense, so carrying on with author promotions on my blog, Reading Recommendations, is a way of staying connected and paying them back, in a sense, for writing so well. Aside from reading, I love to cook and am constantly experimenting with food and recipes.   I share a house in the Caribbean with four cats and one partner/property manager who has never found a dead body floating in a pool.

That’s good to know! What are you working on right now?

cover susan full colour jan2012 - largeI’m rewriting and editing a second novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. This, and the next two, were written about a decade ago, before I knew what I was doing. Since publishing Island in the Clouds, I now have a better idea of the direction I’m moving in with these books.

Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

Are we ever happy with the pace of our work? I tend to be the Queen of the Procrastinators so am easily distracted from what I should be doing, and … Oh, look! Another author to promote or a blog post idea to write up!

If you’re the Queen, then I’m definitely applying for a position as the lady-in-waiting. I do belong in the procrastinators’ court! Plotter, pantser or both?

Definitely a plotter. I know exactly what’s going to happen, who does what to whom, and the timeline the story covers before I begin writing. I don’t write any of that down. It’s all in my head, but it’s definitely plotted before I begin writing. That’s not to say I don’t make changes after the fact. For instance, this new novel was written more than ten years ago directly after Island in the Clouds, including following the time in which it’s set, a few months after Island ends. Some of the same secondary characters recur in the second novel, but I recently decided to make a number of drastic changes to those characters and am introducing new ones into this next story. I’m essentially keeping the original scenes and action I’d already written, but new characters will be involved and I’ve added another plot thread to what I already had written.

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Myself. My time-wasting habits. (I actually haven’t written a new first draft in a very long time, because my files are full to over-flowing with first drafts and manuscripts in various states that I have never gotten around to finishing. Many of those were written for contests. Entering contests proved to be the best means for me to complete a first draft quickly. Deadlines also seem to work – although not self-imposed deadlines. See, Maria, how I managed to get these interview answers back to you in a timely fashion?)

I totally empathize. Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?  Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

Always. All the time. I have never imposed a strict work schedule on myself, mainly because I know I’d never adhere to it. (See above.) I don’t even have a particular work place where I write. When I’m in Canada, I find I can work quite well in coffee shops or at the library. I’m also not on an agenda to write and publish X number of books in Y length of time. I think by doing that to themselves, many (not all, but many) authors run the risk of producing less-than-perfect work. I’ve assisted authors who were extremely agenda-driven and, rather than taking the time to really hone their craft and enjoy the process, creating something of which we could all be proud, they were self-centred, miserable, and blamed everyone else for their lack of progress and success by insisting on following this rigid agenda of theirs. Remember, haste makes waste! I would hate for a drive like that to ruin my own life, so I try not to worry about the whole “motivated to write” thing. I did, however, manage to write for the 3-Day Novel contest sitting in this chair while looking at this view.

Susan view

A slice of heaven! Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

I wrote the first drafts of three novels using yellow legal pads and a pen. I transcribed that into Word and have been editing using Word ever since. (I took a few editing courses and learned how to use that system.) Now I may make a few notes by writing them into a notebook with a pen, but I always begin any new manuscript on my computer, in Word. I actually didn’t know of any other tools or apps.

How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

That’s never been a celebration for me, because I know the fun part is over and the really hard work has only just begun.

Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?

Even though I have a great deal of experience in publishing books and I have published the work of other authors, I always bring in the professionals, at every stage of the process (editing, cover design, formatting, ePublishing and print publishing). The more eyes there are on any manuscript production the better to uncover potential problems and create a perfect book. I work with a Canadian eBook formatter who not only produces the various eFiles I require, but also looks after listing with online sales sites, including Overdrive which sells to libraries, and collects revenue from them all for the authors she represents. Every month I receive an email funds transfer of royalty payments. No fuss, no muss. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Actually, the one area I do always look after myself is promotion, but that’s because I know of no one else who can promote books as well as I do. 😉

Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

I am constantly posting marketing tips and ideas of my own, and reblogging those of others, to my blog.  One thing I will say here though is that authors should know who it is they’re writing for, who their target market is, and really aim for that group specifically in whatever promotion they do. Build up a fan base from that target market and let those fans do the promotion to their friends for you.

Is mystery the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

I kind of fell into mystery with my first novel because, at the time, it was the best way I could imagine to tell the story of Bequia. I prefer reading literary fiction and that’s the genre I’ve written in for all my non-Bequia stories. The mystery part of these Bequia novels was kind of meant to be a hook to get readers interested in what I’m really writing about in this quartet, which is Bequia. I do believe though that the story we have to tell decides the type of genre in which it best needs to be told. I don’t ever want to be slotted as a writer of one particular genre. That’s so limiting – for me and for my readers. I hope readers enjoy my writing enough to want to read anything I publish, no matter what the genre, or even the form.

Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.

  • Flavored sorbet or chocolate ice cream? Chocolate. Always chocolate.
  • Pizza or sushi? Sushi, as long as someone else is making it. (We make our own very fine pizza, but sushi, while we can also prepare it, is another matter because of availability of ingredients and finickiness of preparation.)
  • Twilight or The Hunger Games? Ummm, neither? (Won’t read them or watch the movies. They’re just not my thing.)
  • Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumberbatch? Ummm, neither? (Much too young and inexperienced. Give me Sean Connery any day!)
  • Trek in the Andes or snorkeling in Tahiti? Sitting on the verandah of my house on Bequia.
  • Ugg boots or red-soled designer stilettos? Neither again. Running shoes or barefoot.

 Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.

My main blog, Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing (https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/), includes links to my bio, published novel, Island in the Clouds, publishing imprint, IslandShorts (where I have published one novella, That Last Summer), and the author promotion blog, Reading Recommendations (http://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/).

Thank you, Susan, and best of luck with the sequel to Island in the Clouds!