Released Today – A Very Merry Superhero Wedding

A Very Merry Superhero Wedding book cover by Kitty BucholtzIt’s out! My new book, A Very Merry Superhero Wedding, released today! Woo-hoo!!

It has been a long, exhausting, exciting two months! My writing friends, Debra Holland and Brenna Aubrey, suggested I try to get a Christmas novella out by Christmas week, and I took up the challenge.

Of course, because I normally write longer books (350-400 pages), it was really hard to write a shorter story. Haha! A novella is generally thought to be about 20,000 to 40,000 words, about 80-160 pages. This one came in at 45,000 words! I decided to still call it a novella so you didn’t wonder why it was so short compared to Unexpected Superhero, book one in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series, and the other books that will follow. 😉

As of today, the book is available on Amazon for Kindle, and on Smashwords for all formats. It’s on the way to iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other online retailers, and will be available in print in the next couple of weeks.

Congratulations to the 5 winners of the paperback version in the Goodreads Giveaway – Nancy A, Sandra B, Jessica L, Rachella B, and Alena K!

Here is the book’s description. I hope you enjoy it! And Merry Christmas!

A novella in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke superhero series

WEDDING DREAMS…

Tori Lewis can hardly wait for her Christmas Eve wedding to handsome Joe Clarke. But her friends and family don’t think it’s prudent to marry someone you just met. There’s something about him, though. She’s never felt safer in her life. The only question is — does she have to tell him all her secrets before the wedding?

Joe Clarke expected to be a happy superhero bachelor for years to come. But after meeting Tori Lewis on Halloween, he can’t get her out of his head. Marrying a woman he barely knows is hands-down the craziest thing he’s ever done. So how does he explain himself to a woman who doesn’t believe in superheroes?

…AND CHRISTMAS FIENDS

Meanwhile, the city is going through a Christmastime crime spree. In addition to the usual madness and thievery, a gang of robbers is targeting mall shoppers. Joe must juggle his wedding duties with his alter ego Superhero X’s commitment to protect the citizens of Double Bay.

Will it all come together without ruining the perfect Christmas wedding?

Buy it now!

Three-Pass Editing System

My publisher, Entangled Publishing, uses the three-pass editing system. As I write this, I’m in the lull between first and second passes, and am busy taking care of my to-do list, so when the second pass arrives, I can dive right in.

The three-pass editing method is a great system for authors to add to their writing routines.

First Pass

THE BIG EDIT. This is the pass where the editor(s) take a look at the big-picture items. The plot, the character arcs, the plot holes, etc. This is the “dreaded editor letter” everyone talks about. It’s a developmental edit. This is the pass where you may have to get rid of an extra character or change the POV or cut/add whole chapters. Here is the video I made for my editors to show them how hard I worked on their notes:

 

Second Pass

The second editing pass shrinks down to line edits. For my book specifically, we’ll be looking at the speech patterns of my foreign speakers. I’ve got an elderly couple who fled Poland during WWII. When they first arrive in New York, their English is limited, but by the end of the novel (which covers several years) their speaking has significantly improved. Well, mostly, because one of them is suffering from dementia, and so I have to show her reverting back to Polish. We’ll also be looking at the other characters, making sure they stay consistent. And, of course, I’ll do a Margie Deep Edits pass to amp up the use of dynamic language.

Third Pass

Yikes. THIS. IS. IT. Unless I find a huge-can’t-believe-we-missed-this kind of plot hole, I won’t be making any changes. This is our final copy edit check for spelling, commas, proper grammar, etc. While I’ve done this kind of pass before sending work out on submission, I’ve never been at this stage FOR REAL. As in, I’m not revising this book any more. I think I will be both elated and incredibly sad at the end of this pass. I don’t know. I’ll have to come back and give an update.

So, there you have it. The three-pass edit. Add it to your routines!

Writing Influences: L.M. Montgomery

Blog Housekeeping:

Our format for this blog has generally been One Topic, Three Ways. We pick a theme and then we each write our POV on it. If you are finding us again after our hiatus, welcome back! We are still taking this same format, but are cutting back our frequency so that each of us takes a week to be responsible for the blog, with the last week of the month up for grabs to whoever has extra news to share.

Author Crush:

And while I’m reminiscing, let me remind you that February has traditionally been our Author Crush Month. To review past guest blogs of the month, check out the Author Crush archive tab above, or click here for the list. I’ve made a pin-able Author Crush graphic for you Pinterest folks out there.

Writing Influences:

Instead of guest blogs we are talking about writing influences this month. For me, this goes back to my childhood. I’ve had so many favorite authors over the years, but if I had to choose just one who influences how I view YA books today, I’d have to pick L.M. Montgomery who was published in the early 1900s.

Now, her writing style would be hard to carry off in today’s fast-paced, media-influenced world. I’m sure most agents and editors, even those who love the Anne books, would be reluctant to touch a book written in that style today. Too much purple prose, even if that’s what makes the main character so charming.

What carries over for me is the mood. The tone. The feeling I get when I read her work. Her books make me want to curl up on a big comfy couch with a quilt and a cup of tea and simply disappear for a few hours. They’re cozy books. Romantic books. Evergreen books.

Even her diaries are fun to read. You can find out how she was influenced by her everyday life when you read her diaries. My diaries? At some point I went back in and scribbled out all the interesting bits. Wish I hadn’t! I would love to read what I was really thinking back in the day.

Trying to capture the mood of the Anne books, I started an Anne of Green Gables Pinterest board here:
http://www.pinterest.com/shonnaslayton/anne-girl/


Why Write What You Know?

“Write what you know” may be one of the most common bits of advice given to writers over time. Once we’ve heard it enough and think we understand it, we spout the words ourselves.

When I thought about what I know, I started writing romances. Happily married for over a decade at the time I began, I figured what better for me to write about. I read hundreds of romance novels and started writing, aiming for the mainstream romance audience. I didn’t want to write about sex, so I switched to inspirational romances. When I read a bunch of those…well, let’s just say that the ones I read at the time didn’t interest me.

j0316779Nonetheless, I didn’t think I really “knew” much about anything interesting. I grew up in a small town. I went to an Ivy League University where I dropped out after a year to “change the world” in the Marine Corps. I got shipped home after three months when I hurt my knee. I met a young man, chased after him relentlessly, and got married.

And that’s pretty much it.

I kept writing romances because I wanted to write for a living, my own life had a lot of romance in it, and romance novels were 45% of the paperback market. I finally found a place for the voice I’d been trying to hide (you know, because you need to make your story voice fit into the category of romances you’re pitching to) when chick lit came into vogue. I wrote a chick lit book that got some very positive attention – right about the time chick lit collapsed.

After some internal struggles – I’m a Christian but I can’t seem to write inspirational novels that I like that publishers like, I’m madly in love with my college sweetheart but I get bored with stories that are only about the romance, I’d like to spend all my time writing but even if I signed with a Big Six publisher I’d have to spend a huge amount of time marketing and promoting – I finally made a decision.

I decided to take a step back and think about what I REALLY wanted to write, no matter what, and then I’d write it and publish it myself.

I’ve been walking that path for the last two and a half years. It’s been a slow road, but a really good one. And listening to a workshop by Donald Maass recently put the “write what you know” advice in clearer perspective. Don suggested questions like, what am I as the author passionate about? What do I as the author think is so important that my readers must get it? What about my story makes me as the author crazy angry?

That’s when it really came together for me. I’m unabashedly passionate about love that lasts forever. I get really upset about people who are unfair or mean. I think it’s super important that my readers understand they always have a choice – good or bad, right or wrong, easy or difficult.

These are the sorts of things I always knew I was writing about. I just didn’t realize until recently that this is what people meant when they said, “Write what you know.” Another way to say it might be, “Write what you know to be true.”

Now that I’ve got that clearly in mind, my writing is going to be stronger than ever.

What about your writing?

Book Signings and Free Books

Adventures in Vegas

Today I’m at the Romance Novel Convention in Las Vegas. It’s been an exciting adventure so far! But not necessarily all good. To start out, our poor little car died four miles from the hotel. FOUR MILES! See the picture on my Facebook Author Page.

By the time I realized that it didn’t just need to cool down, it needed professional help (no comments on that, please!), the local garages had all closed. I’ve been a AAA member since I got my driver’s license, and for the first time in 27 years, they couldn’t help me. I was shocked and starting to get a little panicky because I came to town alone.

But God, my awesome personal superhero, came to my rescue! A couple of friends helped me figure out a game plan and I got to my hotel with a change of clothes and my laptop, leaving the car and all my belongings where they were. The next morning, my brother called me out of the blue (anyone want to rent a Wyndham timeshare in Vegas for Labor Day weekend? He’s got one available that they can’t use) and suddenly my big brother was at my rescue again. I felt like I was 16! It was wonderful!

Rescued!

Several of my friends were praying hard for everything to turn out okay and it did! One sent money to take care of unexpected expenses. My brother told the auto repair facility that he wanted to pay for the car repairs. (I should get the fixed car back any moment! Woo-hoo!!) The AAA guys were super friendly and unloaded all my stuff into their courtesy shuttle and got me and all my boxes of books to my hotel.

And then when the convention started, I immediately met several people that I’m so glad I found! Another Christian woman who is also trying to entertain her readers while keeping her stories in her own world view; a sweet model with the nicest smile who I hope to work with on my next book cover; a really nice, smart woman who started up her own marketing firm for writers; and a woman who makes covers I adore! Plus I’m finally able to take time to get to know another friend a lot better. I’m so excited!

Saturday is the book signing, so if you’ll be in Vegas, stop by the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino on Fremont Street from 11am to 2pm. Then I’ll be at the Author/Reader Meet and Greet from 3 to 5.

Book Signing in Traverse City

I’m excited to announce that I’ve confirmed another book signing! This one will be Saturday, September 7th from 3 to 4pm at Horizon Books in Traverse City, Michigan. This signing will be particularly special because I grew up with my mom taking us to Horizon Books every time we went to town, whether we needed something or not. This is practically a childhood dream come true! (I’d never dared to dream as a child that I could grow up to be an author one day.)

Unexpected Superhero is Free

Remember – and tell all your friends – that Unexpected Superhero will be available for free for five days starting this Saturday, August 10! Woo-hooo!!!

It’s a Kindle exclusive now, so you need a Kindle or a Kindle app. (I found out the new Nook now has a Kindle app on it! And you can download one for your iPad or smart phone as well as your computer.) I hope to have the book loaded up on all the other ebook vendor sites (Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Sony, iTunes, Kobo, etc.) on Labor Day weekend. It may show up a few days (or weeks, for Apple) later, but keep an eye out for it.

Happy Reading!

Goodreads Giveaway Winners!

Hello Friends!

Shonna and Stephanie and I are looking into ways we can continue to be of service to you. We’ll be putting up occasional posts about things that may be helpful, so please continue to check in at Routines for Writers. Soon I’ll be announcing a new class that I’ll be teaching in the fall. It will be a video-based class on how to self-publish your book. Details will be posted on the Classes page on my own web site.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to announce the winners of the Goodreads Giveaway that ran from mid-June to mid-July. All ten winners received an autographed print copy of Unexpected Superhero. (Books should have already arrived at your homes by now, my friends!)

Thank you to the other 662 people who entered the giveaway! I’m so pleased that you were interested in reading the book. Thank you for adding Unexpected Superhero to your To Be Read queue.

Super_ip09_FINALCongratulations to –
Jessica from Brampton, Ontario
Trannae from San Dimas, California
Wendy from Abilene, Kansas
Emily from Yuba City, California
Winnie from Vancouver, British Columbia
Krystel from Sudbury, Ontario
Robyn from Stratford, Ontario
Kai from Los Angeles, California
Marie from Pomona, California
Julie from King George, Virginia

Happy Reading! 😀

Making Sense of Revisions

Since I’ve just run through an intensive two-week editing and revision sprint to get my superhero book off to Harper Voyager, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about revisions. Regardless of whether you are sending your work out to a publisher or preparing to self-publish your book, you need to have an editing system. You’ve probably learned a lot about story structure and how a good book reads by virtue of years of reading. You may have a natural feel for it. (I think I do.) But you can also learn a lot about solid story structure.

There are numerous books available telling you various ways to go about revising (my favorites are Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King), but the best way is the way that works for you. For me, the best way is a combination of using Scrivener and sticky notes.

The many-times-changed sticky note outline of UNEXPECTED HERO

This particular book, UNEXPECTED HERO, turned into what I hope to be the worst editing experience of my life. After working on this book in several drafts over seven years (ugh, that pains me even to say it), I hope I never ever EVER have such a difficult time editing again. It started easily enough with one draft and a clear vision. That vision wasn’t shared by my agent, and I did a page-one rewrite using her notes. In the end, she didn’t like that version either and the book was never sent to publishers. (I learned a lot from that experience alone, and I am grateful that she and I remained friends.)

Now I had two complete books (not drafts) with the same characters, similar plots, and a different time frame. That meant that I couldn’t use them both as the first two books in the series. I had to choose. Problem was, my agent made some good points about things that I improved in the second book, but other elements I liked better from the first book. I decided the best choice was to roll up my sleeves and completely rewrite the book again, taking the best elements and putting them together for the best possible story.

This was not easy.

In fact, it was so difficult, and I had so many other things going on in life – like grad school – that I didn’t finish the third draft. What I did “complete” (for lack of a better word) was creating a document I called “UH Prototype” in my “Hero” Scrivener file. I cut and pasted the scenes from the previous versions along with new scenes I’d written into a Frankenstein document. The final story would look something like this one in terms of story, but most of the scenes needed to be rewritten to some extent. (My heroine had been married for three years in the first version, was unmarried in the second version, and starts out as a newlywed in the final version.)

Then a month or so ago, I heard about Harper Voyager’s open submission window and thought this could be a great opportunity for UNEXPECTED HERO. So I printed out the UH Prototype file and found a printed copy of the last completed “draft” and read them through, making notes. I’d thought I was at least three-quarters of the way through the final draft, but as I read the printouts, I found I was closer to half done. And I only had two weeks to get the book in.

In grad school, I worked on a few of the scenes for school assignments, and even then the overwhelming number of words to get through was difficult to handle. At that point, I had the insight to number my revisions like software. The original book became Hero 1.1. The version based on my agent’s notes became version 1.2. The new version was Hero 1.3, but in the course of many confusing ideas on how to fix it, it also became 1.4 and 1.5. (The first two were original, complete “books” ready to go, and separate from each other. But after that everything else was a draft of the third version of book one.) I also started a file called Hero 2.1 with notes on the new villain taken from Hero 1.1; that will become book two in the series.

Three weeks ago, when I took time off to do nothing but finish this book, everything I needed was in the Scrivener file, and I was getting confused trying to edit such large (90,000 words) documents. So I needed more than what Scrivener was doing. (I now create each scene as a separate document in Scrivener so I can easily move them around if necessary, and compile them into one document when I’m done by pressing a button. Love it!) So I pulled out my box of sticky notes and wrote a one-sentence description of each scene in the order I currently had it, and lined them up (first on the glass of a framed picture at the timeshare – LOL!, then on my white board at home).

Between years of reading, learning story structure in my screenwriting program, and learning how to be an editor in one of my grad school classes, I had a feel for where the story was going wrong. But I needed to be able to visualize the whole thing in one glance. And I needed to move the scenes around and see if it worked better this way or that way. The one-sentence sticky notes allowed me to finalize the structure as I worked through the story. I’d get to a point in the actual writing/editing, and think, but wait… I’d go back to my sticky notes and realize a piece was missing – she had to tell him before they could argue about it. Or I’d be getting along toward the end when I realized she’d told the superhero but not his alter ego, so I had to write in a way that either the alter ego had to pretend he didn’t know or he had to make a mistake and let it slip that he did.

Sheesh!

In a strange, wonderfully sick writerly way, I actually had a lot of fun! 🙂

A reminder to track my timeline

Again, at about the three-quarters point, I was getting lost as to “when” I was. Was the story going too slow or too fast? Was I missing any major obvious events? So I pulled up a calendar that had the date the book started on the day of the week I wanted it to start, and I started writing on the bottom of my stickies – Monday the 18th, Tuesday the 19th, etc. Two scenes had to be reversed because one had to happen at lunch time and the other at dinner time. And somewhere around here I had the ah-ha moment for how I would end the book simply based on the date that the story ended.

It was a difficult process but for some reason it wasn’t as painful this time. Maybe because I’ve been rehashing this story in my mind for seven years. In fact, several times I spent an hour or more looking for a scene I was sure I wrote only to come to the conclusion that I must’ve just developed it with striking clarity in my head! One scene I did eventually find in my grad school homework. (Whew!) In any case, I know this is the best version of this book by far, and exactly what I meant to write. Some of the scenes even surprised me with how good they became. LOL! Definitely my best work to date.

So if you’re trying to figure out how to edit a monster, try some or all of the things I used:

  • printouts and a pen,
  • Scrivener or multiple open Word documents,
  • a calendar,
  • sticky notes,
  • and a white board or wall.

You can tame the monster, but it may take looking at your story in several different ways at the same time.

Good luck! You can do it!

Online Class: Conquering NaNoWriMo

Since Shonna is taking some time off, I thought I’d find other interesting things to share with you guys! 🙂 If you’re interested in participating in National Novel Writing Month, you might be interested in this cool class! I’ll find something else I think might be interesting to you next Friday. Happy Writing and happy weekend!

HURRY!   SIGN UP NOW.  CLASS STARTS MONDAY.

“Conquering National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)” with Alison Diem

October 15 – November 11, 2012

Enrollment Information at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclassOct12.html

COST: $20 for OCCRWA members, $30 for non-members

If you have specific questions, email occrwaonlineclass@yahoo.com

ABOUT THE CLASS:

Push your career forward.  Whether you are brand new to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or a veteran participant – this class will get you sitting down, writing and meeting those goals.

Alison Diem, your instructor and a 10-year NaNoWriMo veteran, will answer all of those burning questions (and doubts) about the challenge – how it works and how to get through the process.  NaNoWriMo can be a break-through opportunity.  Make it yours!

The first two weeks of class will prepare you for the entire month – from getting registered to tips on surviving Turkey Day with writing goals intact.  There’ll be a night before kick-off party, appropriately coinciding with Halloween.  Then, on November 1, the entire class dives into their NaNo novels.

As NaNoWriMo gets underway, there’ll be support systems and an arsenal of weapons for blasting through daily word counts and actually getting onto paper (or screen) 50,000 words in 30 days.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:

As a NaNoWriMo participant for the past decade, Alison Diem knows all of the ups and the downs of this challenge.  In “winning” four different times, she’s learned some important techniques that she’s going to share with her students.  These are tools to use, not just during November, but all year long.

Alison is a writer of intricate stories involving history, the paranormal, adventure, magic, mystery, murder, fantasy, steampunk, creatures that may (or may not) be real and any combination thereof. Also, dragons.  She recently moved back to Ann Arbor, MI with her husband, Bear, and her kitty Harvey.

She is also very, very tall. You know, for a girl.  You can find her at http://www.alisondiem.com

Enrollment Information

Enrollment Information at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclassOct12.html

COST: $20 for OCCRWA members, $30 for non-members

Coming in November 2012

Submission: Writing a Short Story for Anthology Call-Out with Louisa Bacio

This class deals with catering a short story specifically to a publisher’s request for submissions. Regularly, editors and publishers list upcoming anthologies and the types of stories they’re looking to include.

Check out our full list of workshop at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclasses.html

Want to be notified personally two weeks before each class? Be sure you’re signed up for our Online Class Notices Yahoo Group! Sign up at the bottom of http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclasses.html or send a blank email to OCCRWAOnlineClassNotices-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

October Oops

          This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised that it is Wednesday and I have no blog written. I think it might be the first time that I haven’t twisted my schedule into knots trying to write something at least a little interesting and helpful. This time, though, I really have no time. I have papers due, computer labs to finish, art projects and studying for mid-terms all vying for my attention. I’m taking 20 minutes to compose and upload this, then it’s back to doling out pieces to each of the screaming vultures devouring my time.

          In the course of writing a paper defining the term subplot for my English Composition class, I came across a website, Seven Story Plat Patterns, that might be useful. It’s written to those teaching children. Your first inclination may be to dismiss it or to be insulted. Don’t. When I homeschooled my children, I discover the best way to get a good overview of a topic was to get a children’s book on the topic. Although I did not use this site in my paper, it was a huge help in focusing the direction of my research and my writing. I hope it helps you, too.

         Off to feed those birds!

Ideas In, Creativity Out

Output is limited by input. Things don’t “come to you” so much as they “come out of you.” Ideas don’t appear from nowhere; they are the result of the combination and permutation of previously existing ideas.”  –Andrew Pudewa Thoughts on Creativity

Last night I had this crazy dream where I was trying to let the dog in through a sliding glass door (my house doesn’t have a sliding door) but these large, evil, peregrine falcons kept trying to get into the house at the same time. My poor arms were pecked at and bleeding.

Where did these random dream thoughts come from? 1. There was a story on the news that night about the actress who played the lead in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and they showed several scenes of attacking birds. 2. Before turning out my light I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and if you’ve read this novel, you’ll understand where I got the peregrine from. So, while I was sleeping my brain took images and ideas from my day and mashed them up into a new dream sequence.

I write my novels the same way.

One idea paired with another idea sparks a concept. Add some more thought and research and then I’ve got a basic plot. I’m at my most creative when my mind is spilling over with ideas. What happens when I’m stuck? I need to go out and find more ideas—either new information or something that jogs my memory and sets me off on my merry way again.

Speaking of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the question: Where does Creativity come from? I love the concept of this book. The author, Ransom Riggs, took a bunch of old crazy photos and wrote a book around them.

I’m still mid-read in the novel, but aargh! I wish I had thought of this idea. Of course, my story behind the pictures and would have been different, but still…what a great concept! I’m frequently flipping through old photographs looking for ideas/setting/mood for my historical fantasies. Not once have I thought of including them in the books! *writer envy*

And you may as well go check out Ransom Rigg’s website. He’s got a few items there to stir your creativity.