We’ve just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States and since that respective day is when we say “Thank You” to those who’ve touched our lives, I’d like to share my thoughts with you.
As a relatively new writer (my first novel was published mid-2012), it’s amazing how much I’ve experienced in such a short time.
I’ve seen my books skyrocket to the bestseller list on Amazon and stubbornly refuse to move for close to 18 months before slowly descending down in the ranks, I’ve done countless interviews with many different blog sites, and I’ve been able to realize my dream to entertain readers all over the world.
But perhaps the most poignant and influencing element of this career thus far has been the people I’ve met who, without hesitation, have supported me and my work.
Companies like Lachesis Publishing have found me among the ranks of writers hoping to being traditionally published, and never for a minute, do I take that for granted.
My agent, Mel and a tireless team are working endlessly to bring my reality show to fruition, while others focus on the Bloodmane Chronicles Pilot—writing and rewriting so that the pilot treatment is as good as it can possibly be.
There are others—lawyers, writers, friends, artists, editors—who never ask why. They never doubt me. They just continue to press forward in hopes that our dreams will be realized and the numerous projects we are involved in (new media, reality TV, fiction, etc.) will get that sought after green light deal.
Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder, “Will I let everyone down? Will this all work out?” and then my fiancé and best friend Benjamin Kane Ethridge (also a horror author– and a damned good one) rubs my shoulders and tells me to relax. It will all work out the way it should.
Perhaps, but the future won’t be bright if I don’t have help and support – so in this blog, I am thanking my closest personal team—Steve, Anthony, David, Judith, Adam, Mel and Tim. And my beloved Ben . . . thank you for all that you do. Thank you for betting on this horse.
The good news is you joined a critique group. The bad news is you joined a critique group. Critique groups can help make your publishing dreams come true, or they can become your worst nightmare.
Some critique groups have seen all their members published by the Big 5 NY publishers. Others have ended in cat fights. Even worse, some groups have harmed an aspiring author’s confidence and set their careers back.
No critique group is better than a bad critique group.
The Golden Rule is: Leave your ego home and take your manners with you.
The following are common sense suggestions for successful critique groups. The members must trust each other. Those critiquing must give honest reactions. Politely, of course. The writer must feel free to disregard those reactions.
Do not stay in a critique group that is not helping your writing improve. Do not stay in a critique group whose members are nasty and critical. If someone is not adhering to the agreed-upon rules, the person should be asked to leave the group.
The members must agree on practical items. How many times will they meet per month? Where will they meet? Will they bring pages or send electronically? How many pages will be critiqued?
Ideally, critique groups should have 4 or 5 members. The group needs a facilitator to keep the group on track. That means keeping the group working instead of socializing.
Do not expect all praise. The members should tell you what did and did not work for them. Members may offer suggestions and alternate views about something. That is their opinion.
There is no correct answer in writing. We only have what works and what doesn’t work. You take what you want and trash the rest.
This is a tough one. Only one person speaks at a time. No interruptions are allowed. When the member critiquing is finished, the next one speaks. Meanwhile, the writer is taking notes on what is said. That prevents the writer from debating or explaining.
Recently, I critiqued chapter one and a synopsis for Lachesis author Claire Gem. I’ve attached her blog on this experience. Every writer who puts her work out there for critiquing should have as good an experience as Claire Gem.
It’s really hard for writers to put our work out there, open it up to criticism from not only the public but also from fellow writers. .
Those criticisms you hear whizzing by your ears are not always projectiles of ill intent. Sometimes, they are sacred offerings. Nuggets of pure gold.
I had a 30-minute, private chat with best-selling historical romance author, Patricia Grasso, after our regional RWA meeting. This was a planned consultation following a sequence of emails. Basically, I asked for her help on my struggling work-in-progress. Pat was hesitant to share her “lots to say” about my synopsis and first chapter. She didn’t want me sad or angry. After assuring her I would be fine, she agreed to sit down with me after the meeting.
I went with some trepidation. As soon as we sat down, she said, “You can use all, some or none of my suggestions. The book is yours so you make the final call.”
Pat criticized my POV switches, highlighting the fact they were confusing to the reader. She suggested some major plot changes that I may or may not use. She pointed out chunks of backstory that need “to go.”
“You remember that fairy tale where the little kid drops bread crumbs to mark his trail in the forest?” she asked.
“Hansel and Gretel.” I said
“That’s how you add your backstory,” she said. “A few crumbs at a time.”
She questioned my heroe’s flaw. “Have you ever read a romance with a hero with this particular flaw?”
“Yes, I just finished a book by Lisa Kleypas and the hero had that flaw,” I replied.
Pat regarded me for a moment and then said, “You aren’t Lisa Kleypas”.
What I had anticipated as critical stones thrown on my work-in-progress began to sparkle like gems. I realized this wasn’t an annihilation of my work. It was a diagnosis, by an experienced veteran of the romance genre, with a suggested plan of treatment.
“Here I love these lines,” she said, pointing to two sentences on the page. “You have a flair for comedy. You need to play these up.”
“I write contemporary romance with ghosts,” I said. “Where is there room for comedy?”
“There are no rules that say you can’t have humor in contemporary, even if there are ghosts.” Pat sat back in her chair, tapping the pages. “This is your strength, the part of your voice you need to emphasize. Play up your strengths, down play your weaknesses.”
Pat’s comment couldn’t have come at a better time. I almost heard the tumblers click into place inside my head. Breakthrough. . .
Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon.
Della Street (Barbara Hale) was my favourite character from the television show Perry Mason (which ran from 1957 to 1966). From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something with the law, little did I know that my love of law and justice would turn into a passion for writing courtroom dramas.
At the young age of ten, I’d voraciously watch episodes of Perry Mason, an American TV show about a fictional lawyer. I’d sit down in front of our black and white television and devour every minute of the legal show.
I loved the character Della Street and I erroneously thought she was also a lawyer. Her classy style of speaking, combined with perfect outfits, made for a healthy obsession. I think I was her number one fan.
I was so obsessed with what I learned on Perry Mason that I would talk non-stop with my dad about the show. He humoured me as only a father can. I was so enthralled with the show that when I heard that a small provincial courthouse was within walking distance of my house, I wanted to sneak in and watch a real live trial!
In Ontario, Canada, where I lived in the 1970s, they brought courts to small towns because not a lot of people had cars. That’s why there was a courthouse that doubled as an arts and craft venue on other days. I never got up the nerve to enter the court, but I know I dreamt about it. My early fascination with courts and Perry Mason eventually led me to become an an author of crime and courtroom thrillers. It’s a fascination that will always inspire me, both in my work and in my writing.
I was at the RWA National Conference in Reno in 2005 and had just pitched one of my stories to an editor (I was unpublished at the time). My pitch made me a few minutes late getting to the ballroom for the luncheon, so I quietly slipped into the room, found a table with several empty chairs, and took a seat.
As I introduced myself to the few writers already seated, Nora, Jayne, and Christine walked in and sat down. Christine Feehan to my right, Jayne Ann Krentz next to her, and Nora Roberts next to her. My heart stopped for a second as I realized I would be eating lunch with these famous ladies.
Trying not to appear star-struck, I introduced myself and conversations began around the table. I chatted with Christine Feehan, learned why she started writing her dark tales, what inspired her work. She in turn asked me what I wrote and if I’d submitted any of my manuscripts?
I told her about a few of my stories and answered that, yes I had submitted and received many rejections.
Several minutes into the meal, Jayne Ann Krentz leaned forward and asked me if the rejections were form letters or if they contained specific comments?
I answered, “A few form letters, but most contained specific comments.”
She said, “You’re almost there. Keep knocking because they’ll either open the door or you’ll knock it down.”
After lunch, I ran back to my room and called my husband. “You’ll never guess who I just had lunch with…” Like a giddy schoolgirl, I told him what happened.
When I finished telling him the story, he laughed and said, “I wonder how many people in the room were sitting there asking themselves who that blonde was sitting with Nora, Jayne and Christine?”
Mmm, I hadn’t even thought about that. Smart man, my hubby!
Well, noticed or not, I carried Jayne’s words with me for many years as a reminder not to give up, and every year when I saw her at Nationals, she’d ask, “Well? Published yet?”
In 2013, the RWA National Conference was held in Atlanta. My son and daughter-in-law live there, so they met me for dinner the night of the Literacy Signing. They brought my then four-month-old granddaughter and after we ate, we strolled the room buying books and having them signed.
Jayne Ann Krentz waved me over to her table and again asked, “Well, are you published?”
I smiled broadly and held up three fingers. “Three published,” I said proudly. “I kept your encouraging words with me, never gave up, and signed with my agent in December of 2010.”
She jumped up and down, gave me a huge hug. “See, I told you it would happen, Christine.”
My daughter in law’s eyes widened and as we walked away, she whispered, “She knew your name. That is so cool!”
Meeting the ladies and the following yearly interactions with Jayne will remain magical moments in my memories.
Science fiction/suspense thriller writer Greg Ballan is our guest blogger today. Greg has a science fiction/suspense series with Lachesis Publishing called the Hybrid series. (HYBRID and HYBRID: Forced Vengeance). The series follows a private investigator with abilities that are decidedly super-human and “other-worldly”.
Speaking of “otherworldly” abilities, Greg has undertaken a challenge of sorts – how to become a YouTube star. Take it away Greg . . .
Just when I thought promoting my books couldn’t get any more complicated I decided to delve into another world; The “Vlogosphere” and the magic of YouTube . Like most people, I’ve watched video clips on YouTube and music videos but I wasn’t truly aware of the power behind this particular brand of social media.
I am fortunate, my son Tom has his own YouTube Channel, he creates, edits and produces his own videos and travels to comic and science fiction conventions discussing his VLOG contents and now will be giving presentations on how to promote using YouTube Channel, based on his own success. Not every writer is blessed to have that kind of expertise under his/her roof. I’ve observed my son making videos in his basement workspace and was often perplexed and a bit put off when we were forbidden to trespass into the basement for fear of disrupting a live, on line discussion or a recording in mid production. I remember the UPS man dropping off several parcels of electronics and I shook my head wondering what on Earth my son could possibly do will all this “junk?”
Over the last few weeks I’ve had my eyes opened to an incredible potential audience that I never believed I could reach. I’ve put aside my paradigms and opened myself up to the next level of promotion and self-marketing and learned a new appreciation for the sheer complexity and dedication required to make a successful YouTube Channel.
Day 1. The first attempt:
I sat with my son in his studio as he adjusted overhead lighting, checked and rechecked audio as well as lined up his video camera. Tom, my son, went into great detail about the importance of lighting, white contrast and the effects of “Yellow” light on digital images. Most of what he said went over my head but I smiled and nodded as he made his corrections and the video image magically improved. Truth be told we were both tired, it was late when we began our discussion but I was assured any verbal missteps could be edited out and he would be able to make, even me, sound intelligent. Tom pressed a few buttons, pointed at me and we began. All my careful mental planning and my questions vanished from my head and I sat there like a lump for about three seconds before mumbling incoherently. Tom jumped in and eased me through the awkwardness and after a few minutes I became more comfortable with being on camera and discussing building a VLOG and the back and forth commenced. Forty minutes later we finished up and I was really tired. It takes a great deal of mental energy to talk and keep a topic lively and interesting for such a long period. I garnered new respect for television talk hosts and for my son as he does this two or three times a week.
Day 2. “Dad, you really mumbled and we meandered off topic quite a bit. We need to reshoot.”
Tom had spent the better part of two days reviewing our digital product. He’d given me a copy of our video to watch on my laptop and I really thought it was good. Tom walked me through the problem areas that he felt needed to be cleaned up and informed me that we had talked too long and no one would spend 30 plus minutes of us bouncing around. We needed to be more concise and focused. After re-watching the video, post commentary, I was forced to agree. Tom said this was not something he’d host on his channel so I was guided by his expertise. I began to panic, Tom had other commitments and I was hip deep in work and my next book. There was only so much time we could allocate to this endeavor.
Day 3. Script and success:
Tom advised me to write the topics of discussion as a framework for our talk and to loosen up . . .“No one wants to watch somebody ‘All uptight and serious . . .that’s what the BBC is for.” I took a few hours of vacation time, arrived home early and we had our next shoot. I had more energy and Tom made a special point to make me laugh at the outset to lighten the mood. I had my ‘Strawman’ script and we had some lively, quality discussion on the topic of making and hosting a YouTube Channel. I learned a great deal and again marveled at how much knowledge and exposure Tom had in this new age medium. He’s a ‘Celebrity’ being flown to conventions to give talks and host discussion panels while and I am an unknown in this virtual marketplace of ideas.
Day 4. Editing and adding special effects:
I received more schooling on the art of video editing, splicing audio and inserting images and text. What we ended up with is in the link below. I am now the proud owner of my own YouTube Channel. Not everyone is blessed to have a tech wizard in this field living under their roof but I would be more than happy to forward any questions our authors may have after seeing our video.
Day 5. Lessons learned:
My son said it best, a successful YouTube channel is a business, it is my son’s livelihood and it pays his rent for his home space, his bills and his spending money. This is how he and many other on line entrepreneurs make a living. I’m not going to monetize my videos or scramble for advertisers but the same amount of work and effort applies to keeping any channel popular. Running a successful channel means you are a marketer, audio engineer, filmmaker, producer, editor and script writer all in one on top of being an author. The amount of work required to do this properly is staggering, and I freely admit daunting to a novice. Tom does two or three of these a week including the editing as well as being available for his fifty plus thousand subscribers, many who pay for special content and personal video time on Skype. A YouTube Channel is a great way to reach out and not market just a book but to market you and your publisher. That is what I fully intend to accomplish. I hope everyone will learn something and feel free to ask any questions. Tom is young and very opinionated with, sometimes, a unique way of expressing those opinions. I was happy and proud that he took the time to take me on this journey into his world and I am so pleased to be able to share that journey and knowledge with my dear friends here at Lachesis. The final lesson I learned is that I truly have a face for radio.