Monday, January 15, 2018

Serendipity or Opportunity?

I fell on some ice Wednesday. I didn't think it was a big deal- until Thursday night. I could barely move on Friday morning and was forced to cancel my appearance at the Burlington Country YA Author Book Festival. I was dreading yoga on Monday morning, although I was starting to feel better.

Should I go... or stay home in my comfy jammies, with a cup of chai, and finish those revisions...?


I went. After class I chatted with my fellow sufferers and mentioned my fall, and that I had to cancel going to a book signing. This lead to them asking if I was an author? What did I write? Would it be suitable for her grandchildren?

I handed out bookmarks. Sometimes this can generate online sales. Then, reluctantly, unsure, one woman mentioned she was a writer too. Memoir, not published. She shyly asked questions about writing, publishing--and would I come speak to her writing/critique group at the library?

From a small chat I've (hopefully) made a sale and although I won't get a speaking fee, my appearance may garner more sales from both the audience and the library (if they don't have my books already). You just never now when an opportunity for a sale, even for one book, will arise. Maybe that one book will be recommended for a book club, where all the members buy a copy. Or a teacher wants you to talk to her class because they'll be discussing your book after she buys a copy for each student.

Keeping all these scenarios in mind, here are 5 tips:

  1. ALWAYS carry bookmarks. I've found business cards are static, boring, and too small to be effective. There are a number of companies that can print them economically and assist you (or for a small fee) do the design.
  2. Use bold colors and an attractive, easy to read font. Larger bookmarks allow you to post more information. Smaller ones are easily lost.
  3. Put your covers and (if possible) an illustration from the book prominently showcased. Graphics draw the eye quicker than blocks of text.
  4. List important information: your name, full title of your book(s), the publisher, your website/blog. I would also recommend the ISBN so librarians and teachers can quickly find your book and order it!
  5. USE THEM. Bookmarks don't bring any attention to your book sitting on your desk. Hand them out, leave them in bookstores, libraries, schools, workplaces, Starbucks, etc. The worst? They get thrown out. The best? Someone picks it up who could help your career.

See you next week!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Clear Your Desk!

Monday was National Clean Your Desk Day.

I wasn't totally successful.

Things I didn't clear/put/throw away:

1. My trusty thesaurus (it's the blue book on the corner). While my laptop has a built-in thesaurus, it's not as comprehensive. My laptop version gives a few examples, my worn paperback gives more than I can use, but the right word is always there. Since I'm in the middle of revisions on two middle grade novels, that precious baby is staying right there.

2. That pile of magazines stacked next to my laptop. I want to read them, have to read them, need to read them. But... I'm reading several novels, writing, revising, outlining... I don't want to take time from them to read articles on PR, etc. The perfect opportunity to go through and read is during the commercial breaks of a TV show or the NFL playoffs. If my beloved Patriots don't make it through to the Super Bowl, there will be no excuse on a Sunday not to read those mags, take the useful info, and toss the rest.

3.  That little red can.... of chocolate. As part of my New Year's goal is to work smarter, I've allocated myself one piece when I finish something on my to do list. And it can't be just anything, like washing the kitchen floor (done) because that's not important or related to my writing. Finish the blog post and query two agents? Score! Nothing like a little cocoa bean incentive.

4.  Various papers (scattered). They are bits of novel notes that need to be filed or tossed once I've incorporated them into the respective novels. Another is an outline for a romance novel I want to write. One is my darn To Do List. I need to deal with them one at a time. I'm determined to clear my desk by the end of the month.

5.  Old agendas (under that stack of white paper which is the latest mg novel). I go through my old agendas and transfer any important info into my new agenda. Things like birthdays, book festivals, conferences and awards submission dates, contact info I've scribbled down, and again, more novel notes. I don't rely solely on my phone calendar because that's crowded with stuff like doctor, dentist, music practice, volunteer, etc. appointments. And if I lose my phone (as I have been known to do), and don't have a backup, well, I'm just in a really bad place. Always have a backup!

I've made the deadline to have my desk cleared not in one day (that's just too crazy and impractical and stress-inducing), so by the end of the month is completely doable. That's the secret to writing or anything else- be practical, know or try to anticipate limitations, and work smarter.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Leave Behind...

Hey, that sounds like a good book title.

It's the subject of this blog post. I'm not going to wax prosaically about my goals and hopes for the new year (I have to do that for my post on Smack Dab in the Middle blog so I'm not going to cheat and do it here too. Besides, more is learned looking both back and forward. Here's what I (happily in most cases) leave behind:

1. Politics. National, local, within groups, with family, with anything. Let's all move on.

2. Hurts. Whether physical - my knee and stomach- I've taken charge of my ailments and thankfully can say that I'm feeling better, emotional - I'm singing that "Let It Go" song a lot under my breath, professional - I'm following New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's mantra: "We're onto the next game" or personal - not comparing myself, my achievements to anyone else. I have my own universe with many possible alternative paths.

3. Some manuscripts. Either the time is not right to revise them, or I'm simply not feeling it, they'll collect dust in the drawer. I'll move onto new projects which excite me and are a better use of my time. Who knows, maybe 50 years after my death a family member will discover them and I'll be hailed as a literary icon. (Hey, it could happen!)

4.  Stupid arguments with people who only want to argue, not seriously discuss a subject. I mean really, Deflategate was bogus and some NFL fans need to freaking move on. Trump is the president, work with what is, not what you wish was. NJ will always suck at reducing taxes, electing governors, and cleaning out corruption. There are so many more, but you know this.

5.  Things that don't fit. That means cleaning out the clothes closet and donating them, or drifting away from friends who are heading in opposite directions, getting out of organizations/groups that aren't beneficial anymore, and anything that wastes my time, like books that bore me, movies that I have no interest in, and doing things I don't want to do. You get the pic. Anything that doesn't fit only ends up hurting you.

Moving on is the theme. Next week, it's a fresh start. New list of possibilities. An open arena of experiences to try. A world full of people to meet.

Photo courtesy of 

Wishing you all the best for 2018-


Monday, December 18, 2017

I'm going to cheat a bit- I'm recovering from a stomach bug and I really need another nap so this is going to be easy and quick.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

I'm working on a new manuscript (my NaNo project) and these are the things I'm discovering about it:

1- I need to fill out the details. What time of day is it? What is the main character wearing? What shade of dingy is that white wall?

2- I figured out the element that runs through all three books (did I tell you it's a trilogy?) And it fits together sooo nicely.

3- For a time I was stumped about the third book- the hook that worked with the other two. (No, I'm not telling you because the idea is too new. Some things I don't share.) But, then, Eureka! I found it! I know where I'm going with the third book after this second one is done.

4- I know it's a great concept; a nice twist on something traditional, which will appeal to boys and girls, and it's a bit sci-fi, a bit fantasy, a bit contemporary. (No aliens, wizards, time travel, space craft, zombies, magic, or vampires, werewolves, or shapeshifters. What's left? Ah, that's the secret.)

5- Surprisingly, I'm hitting road blocks with editors and agents. Hmmmm. But, I believe in the concept and hope I can get it polished and contracted before someone else beats me to the finish line.

Next Monday will be a year-in-review as I look back on my successes and... unsuccesses.

Till then,

Wishing you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, and a Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I.C.E. for Authors and Artists

Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, the specter of death will someday visit us. I know, gruesome thought, but we are all of this mortal coil. And no, this is not an attempt to sell you life insurance, or donate your body to science (although that would be cool).

Everyone should have an ICE folder; In Case of Emergency. Many people, including me, have a folder I can grab as I exit. I've notified everyone in the immediate family where it is (not that they'll remember). It contains the necessary vital info: financials, important documents, phone numbers of family, doctor, schools, accountant, lawyer, pastor.

If you died, or became incapacitated, you may have set guidelines for your physical body, but what about your body of work? Here are 6 things you need to consider:

Who will contact your agent in the event of the worst kind? Whoever will be handling your affairs needs to know the name, address, phone number and agency (in case the agent has moved on). Keep this important info with your other legal documents. The same holds true for a publicist.,

What about your editor? If you're in the midst of a rewrite, or launch, they need to be notified so they can take the appropriate action. (You might want to check your contract to see what it says- it's possible that any advance might have to be repaid if the book isn't finished. Leave a copy with the other legal documents for reference.)

Authors have many business contacts- conference/workshop/store hosts, etc. who will need to be contacted immediately that you won't be attending. Always leave numbers and names of contacts for such events in a handy place (on the refrigerator?). And don't forget, that if you're going the Indie route by CreateSpace, Smashwords, or other vehicle, they will need to be notified. However, a death certificate and possibly a Power of Attorney or other legal document giving you authorization may be required to cancel or access accounts.

Your actual works- have you decided what is to become of them? Will they die with you? Even if you aren't published, that doesn't mean that they never can be. You could leave them to someone to publish after your death. I made my sister my 'artistic' beneficiary, with the expressed hopes that even if she went Indie just for the family, that certain manuscripts would be published (notably my Evolution Revolution series, but that's pubbed now, so I have to update my 'wish list.') Or, you could designate that they remain part of the estate and stay within the family to pass down. Just make a provision for your work like you would your jewelry. No matter what, put it in writing; it's best if it's part of a legal Will, with a copy of any provisions about your works, sent to whomever will handle  your artistic matters. You should consult a lawyer about specifics; this is only an advisory to seek proper legal protection.

Maybe someone shares your passion for literature. They might be the perfect person to handle your author affairs. Again, I designated my sister not only because she's one of my biggest fans, but because she understands the importance of my wishes for my works. Lawyers won't get involved in that unless there is a contract for a film, TV series, licensing, etc.

Finally, (and I shouldn't even have to mention it), but make sure there are copies of your work in secure places. What good is it if everything is on a flash drive, but it's in your desk drawer and your house burns down? What good if you have multiple copies on your laptop, but it's stolen? You could store it in the cloud (after the leaking of Hollywood celeb pics, I'm not too sold on cloud security), but there are other formats to save your work, rather than bulky, vulnerable paper copies. (One cheap way is to email it to at least 2 accounts. Make sure someone you trust has the password, or you leave it with your other important documents.) A list of where all your works are will ensure that they are protected.

As a former paralegal specializing in Estates and Trusts, I've seen too many examples (even in my own family) of messy estates where assets were fought over, stolen, or neglected because there were no binding legal guidelines. People felt uncomfortable talking about final disposition of their assets. If you don't decide what happens with your property, the state will (and each state is different, so don't depend on a verbal discussion you had with someone at some time, in another state, etc. See how confusing it can become?). Even if you make a simple list and make the direct people involved aware of your wishes, it can go a long way toward guaranteeing that your manuscript babies are provided for.

Photo courtesy of


Monday, December 4, 2017

To Mountain Tops and Paths Not Chosen...

I have climbed the mountain. And won.

I finished my middle grade novel, a sequel to a previous NaNoWriMo project. 50,066 words. In late afternoon on the 30th of November. Was it a smooth ride? Heck no. But here's what I took away:

1- I digressed from my outline. The characters refused to comply with my wishes and led me down a different path. Obviously they knew the story better than I did, so I followed their lead. Good thing!

2- Even though we ventured on the path not (originally) chosen, we finished up in the same place. The ending was almost exactly like my outline, just a little more twisty.

3- It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, even with holidays, family and church obligations, author events and traveling, and plain housework. Someone told me, "You could do NaNo every month." If I'm inspired by a book, I probably could. Not that I'd want to. I'm taking December a little easier.

4- It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'd planned on doubling up on the word count for several days so I could spend days prepping for Thanksgiving, enjoying Thanksgiving, and for days on the road at events. Somehow I ended up busting my butt on several days to catch up. After the first week, I was always behind. Nothing like a little motivation.

5- I'll continue to do NaNoWriMo. I may not finish (I actually didn't one year!), but I find it a good exercise in writing madly. When I get a deadline, I know how to handle the pressure, how to prioritize, and how to push forward through seemingly unpassable obstacles.

Now it's December and while I'm not writing as much, I'm still doing blog posts, marketing, and querying. I won't start revisions on this project until January, when I'm snowed in, the house is quiet and bare of decorations, and I can focus on all the ugly that lurks in the manuscript.

If you didn't finish by November 30th, that doesn't mean you can't finish it by the end of the year, so keep plugging along and we'll talk about revisions in January.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Staring Down the NaNoWriMo Deadline...

Well, NaNoWriMo is almost over. I have 4 days to write 14,622 words, or 3,656 words a day.

I probably won't make it.

But I'm not going to sweat it. I'm not giving up on my project, and I'll give it a shot. Here's why I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make my goal:

1- Who the heck picked November for NaNoWriMo? Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and other end-of-year holidays, it was insanity to pick this month. Sometimes I feel it's a bit of an unfair challenge, like only people who 'really' want to finish their novel will succeed. Why didn't they choose March? Nothing going on in March but snowstorms and nasty weather, and everyone hoping for an early spring. That makes much more sense. So, with all the other time requirements I have to fulfill, I can only squeeze in so much more.

2- I'm going to finish this project. Just because I don't finish it in 30 days doesn't mean a thing. I've written a number of novels in 30 days, so I know I can do it. I just don't have to.

3- When a novel is written, that's only half the story. There are plenty of novels sitting in drawers or closets (and I'm guilty of that), that need a complete overhaul. NaNoRevMo (revision month) is in June. JUNE???? When there are graduations, weddings, vacations, yard work? Seriously some people planning this whole thing are calendar-challenged. If NaNoWriMo was in March, the NaNoRevMo would be in October. Perfect. Am I the only person to think of this? Revising in December is also hard, but to finish off my NaNoWriMo novel? I can totally do that, I only have 14,522 words to go.

4- If I choose to finish this novel later, it's because I have several projects in the air and if one of them comes to fruition, it's going to take my time and attention. I'm querying agents, doing blog posts, doing book events. If my one big project comes through, all those listed above will go on a back burner, along with family dinners. So, it's a matter of priorities.

5- There's always next year, if I feel so inclined, but I usually don't wait until NaNoWriMo to write the next book, I'll write it after and before November. I do NaNoWriMo for fun, to challenge myself and cheer on others. I'm not going to let it give me heartburn or sleepless nights.

Next post, I'll let you know how I did. In the meantime, I'm encouraging you not to give up, as I won't. Some will succeed, some won't, but in the end, it all depends on finishing the novel, not how fast you got it done, and polishing the novel, not just sitting back after the writing.