Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go West, Young (Wo)Man!

Early tomorrow morning, I'll be flying to Houston, where I'll be presenting my body language workshop for the Northwest Houston RWA on Saturday. No matter how many times I present this workshop, I never tire of it. One of the reasons is because it's interactive, which means it's never the same, thanks to the vivid imaginations and humor of my volunteers.

For example, at one workshop, I told a participant to pretend Brad Pitt had just dumped Angelina Jolie and was trolling for a new woman in the back of the room. This particular author quipped, "If it's okay with you, I'd rather flip Angelina," which got a lot of laughter from the audience. Another time, two ladies began a pantomimed stripper routine that had us all roaring. After one particular conference, I couldn't get into the elevator without someone commenting about balloon animals or going into the male crotch pose (you'd have to attend a workshop to get the jokes).

I'm also taking the opportunity--after a very stressful few months--to decompress and spend some girl time with my number one baby, Tkat. On the agenda? Skydiving! Yep. We're booked for a leap tomorrow afternoon. Yesterday, while discussing the particulars of our upcoming death-defying act, Tkat mentioned that she was excited at first, but now, knowing it's booked and only days away, she's starting to get nervous.

I think there's a lesson in there for writers. We build so much anticipation into writing our stories, then percolate with anxiety when we think about leaping into the publishing skies. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. You'll have to wait until I post again after my skydiving adventure for more of my brilliant insight on the subject.

And if Texas is too far away for you to attend my body language workshop, maybe New Jersey will work for you. I'll be presenting the same workshop there in two weeks!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: YOU are Your Only Advocate

If the news around the interwebs teaches us nothing else, it's that, as my husband always reminds me: (a) People suck, (b) You can't trust anyone but yourself to have your best interests in mind.

After last week's post by Ann Voss Peterson on JA Konrath's blog (you can read the post here) regarding her dealings with Harlequin, a lot of bloggers tossed in their two cents, among them a certain agent I affectionately call Mr. Stiffie. (It has to do with the way he presents himself at conferences: stiff, unyielding, and totally unapproachable. Someday I'll share the story of when I pitched a story to him on a dare.) I won't post a link to his blog or mention his real name. Rumor has it, he's already removed the post I'm referring to anyway, but if you spend a little time on Mr. Konrath's blog and maybe stroll over to the blog of his friend, Passive Guy, you can figure out the details on your own. Google's your friend, kids. But don't Google "Mr. Stiffie." God knows what you'll get!

I mention Mr. S. because, since he's an agent, you might expect him to have the authors' backs--particularly since he represents several Harlequin authors. But, no. Rather than having his clients' best interests at heart, Mr. S. sold his soul to the publishers and claims authors not making enough at the Big H to quit their day jobs aren't doing enough to market themselves or churn out quality work at Nora Roberts speed.

Gee, Mr. S. Whose side are you on? I'd guess it's not your clients'. It doesn't take much reading to figure out that our intrepid author was complaining about the shenanigans pulled by Harlequin that dropped her royalty rate drastically. Speed and quality of writing had nothing to do with her poor take home pay.

But, wait! There's more!

Yesterday, a very raw author posted about shenanigans with her (and I use the term loosely) publisher: Undead Press. You can read her story here. Now, I've been in her shoes--most authors who are honest with themselves will admit that the lure of publication is sooooo tempting, you're willing to swallow some pretty shady stuff in order to gain that elusive first contract. Perhaps she should have seen the writing on the wall, should have done more research, should have taken a step back and really looked at what she was signing before putting pen to paper. But who's to say she didn't?

The problem is, in this business, publishers (and agents) know they hold the Everlasting Gobstopper in the palm of their hands. Authors are needy, desperate, hungry creatures--perfect prey. So the more predatory professionals offer you a lick and a promise: sign with me and I'll give you the whole Gobstopper. The poor deluded author signs and then watches the Gobstopper melt away before her very eyes.

Lastly is the story of the unfortunate name. Romance author, Adele Dubois, has been targeted by Sony Industries for having the same first name as singer, Adele. According to Sony, "Adele" is trademarked. Too bad for Adele Dubois who has that name on her birth certificate. Her parents should have known better. Washington Post picked up the story here.

What's the lesson in all these stories? Publishing can be like those haunted houses you walk through at Halloween. Scary stuff can pop out at you when you least expect it. While it's good to have friends to cling to, it's better to be armed with knowledge, confidence, and the courage of your convictions. Ultimately, YOU are your greatest ally.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Five: Five Lines from Echoes of Love

Today is official release day for the electronic version of my latest historical, Echoes of Love. What better way to celebrate than with a few lines? First, of course, the blurb:

Royal governess Chesna Dubrow must protect the five-year-old king of Amatia from Napoleon Bonaparte's invading army. To do so, she'll be forced to wed one of the emperor's loyal soldiers. But Pietor Gabris isn't any soldier. Years ago, he broke Chesna's heart, forgetting the vows they'd made to love each other forever. 

Pietor's return to Amatia is embroiled in subterfuge. Amidst the deceit surrounding him, he clings to the one truth he cannot ignore--his timeless love for Chesna. Yet confessing what's in his heart would sentence them both to death. To keep Chesna safe, he must portray the role of traitor, ensuring her animosity continues to blow hot and harsh.

As danger and intrigue swirl around the palace, can Chesna place her faith--and heart--with the one man she swore she'd never forgive?

Now, the lines:

1. “I would have wagered the lure of the whores of St. Petersburg made you forget me,” she said.
“Had I known you’d join their sisterhood so soon after my departure, I might not have forgotten you so quickly.”

2. “Zarek was mistaken.” She threw her shoulders back, allowing no weakness. “I don’t cry.”
Expressionless, he brushed a thumb across her tear-stained cheek. “I thought as much.”

3. “Chess, I would never hurt you.” Again, he patted the cushion, this time with more energy. “Never.”
But he already had. First, he’d left her behind. Then he’d returned, bringing destruction with him.

4. “I swear on the soul of my late mother. I will protect you, Chesna.”
Their solemn vow. Her heart thudded, but her mind tumbled. The last time he’d made such a promise, he’d broken the oath within months. Could she put her pure faith in a man with a dark past?

5. Lips pursed, she bent close enough to his ear that he might hear her every inhale and exhale. “Go to the devil.”
In a wide arc, she slapped the back of his head with her shoe.

Echoes of Love is available at Amazon, B&, and The Wild Rose Press.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gadget Thursday: Keep Your Work Safe

"You're about to lose everything..."

This commercial from Carbonite makes an excellent point. You get little or no warning when your computer is about to crash. I can't tell you how many times I've lost chapters I just wrote, copies of books on my TBR hard drive, important data for the family, etc. Power outages, viruses, and the computer gods all sometimes work against us. How can you protect all those files? I use several different vehicles.

1. Oh, Carbonite, how I love you! After a six month free trial, it was a no-brainer to pay the $50 a year to protect everything off-site. I did have to take advantage of their file storage about two years ago when my desktop finally blew its chips, leaving me without computer. Once I purchased my new sleek laptop, I went straight to Carbonite's website, popped in my sign-in info and voila! I was back up and running.

2. Dropbox This is a free program that requires a little more work on your part to make sure that all of your files are being copied, but well worth the effort for writers, since we have a tendency to make changes to manuscripts on a whim. Dropbox saves your changes every time you sign in and out of your computer and is accessible on other devices. So if you type on your laptop sometimes, and iPad other times, this is an ideal way to make sure you're working off the most recent version of a document.

3. Yahoo Groups I've had a private Yahoo Group for about ten years now where I keep all my writing related documents in separate folders. Want to see the unedited version of my first book, The Bonds of Matri-money? I got that. I also have a list of all my sign-in passwords for the various websites I frequent, copies of workshops and handouts, articles from my Articles for Writers page on my website, etc. Like Dropbox, the beauty of this is that I have access from any computer at any time, simply by signing into Yahoo. The downside is that unlike Dropbox, it's not an auto-save. I have to remember to upload my most recent versions of anything I work on. Still, it's a little extra peace of mind.

4. USB External Drive Sometimes, you do get some warning that your computer is acting a bit dodgy. When this happened with my old desktop, I immediately bought a USB External Drive (cost is based on amount of storage required. Try to buy one that will be big enough to copy your entire harddrive!) Plug it in and follow the prompts.

5. Auto Save In Microsoft Word, you can adjust your computer to save a version of your document in timed increments. (Mine is set for every five minutes). Depending upon which version of Word you're using, you can find the option under Tools or under Options, Save.

I hope these tips help you sleep a little easier and keep that old lady in the floppy hat away!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Don't Quit Your Day Job

Yesterday, another author wrote a blog post about the lack of money paid to her by a major publisher. This time, it's Harlequin. You can read her details here.

Ann isn't the first writer to discuss the lack of true monetary reward in publishing. Last year, author Brian Keene chronicled his trials with Dorchester Publishing (aka Leisure Books) on his blog.

I wish I could say this is unusual, but for every JK Rowling and Stephen King paycheck, there are millions of writers who are receiving royalty checks for less than a dollar--if they receive any royalties at all.

We pay a lot out of our own pockets for marketing and promotional items.

Add to the less than stellar paycheck and the additional expenses, the actual amount of monies lost due to the theft of copyrighted material through illegal downloads. (Rowena Cherry, a strong opponent of internet piracy, can guide you through the whys and wherefores like no one else. You can read an interview here.)

We are publishing's version of the 99%, (if you'll forgive the political analogy.) Most of us will never see our books become movies or mini-series on cable. Most of us will never crack the NY Times bestseller list. We give books away for free to entice readers into giving a new author a try. We don't usually see our books in the local store, and if we do, there's one or two copies on a shelf in the back room, past the moat of fire, and beyond the dragon's keep. Hollywood stars are not vying to read the audio version for us. We don't get time on talk shows and rarely see our photos in the paper. We rarely leave the house, except to go to our day jobs or schlep kids from one activity to another.

It's no wonder we're all a little bleary-eyed and addicted to coffee. There aren't enough hours in the day or dimes in the bank.

So why do we do it? It's not for fame or fortune, that's for sure.

We do it because we can't not do it. Most of us have tried to quit writing at one time or another, and most of us find ourselves inexplicably drawn back to the keyboard time and again. Writing is like breathing for us. If we don't do it, we die. Slowly, painfully, and in a very boring fashion.

We do it because every once in a while, something we write touches another human being. Our stories can ease someone else's pain, give a stranger a moment to smile, or just inspire a reader to do something extraordinary.

It's not about the money. Good thing. Because there's very little of that to go around. Writing isn't really a career, it's a calling.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy 21st to My Baby Girl!

"It's a girl!"

And what a girl! She's bright and witty, beautiful inside and out, with a sparkle that lights up a room. Over the years, I've nurtured her as she bloomed from a pink and blond infant to a fearless toddler to a laughing child. We suffered through the moods of adolescence and came out closer to one another than imaginable. Through it all, there hasn't ever been a moment I didn't love her or feel proud to know she's my daughter.

She's my baby, my dearest friend, a young lady I admire and encourage, a woman poised on the brink of becoming extraordinary in an ordinary world.

Happy 21st birthday, Tkat! I love you soooo much!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a red velvet cheesecake to finish making.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: