Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BOB and Me

The BOB (Beginning of Book) Awards at the ANWA Conference last week had an original submission deadline of December 31st. There were several different genres to enter the first 500 words of your story (Or possibly the whole thing in the children's book category), but I was so swamped, including one child with a tooth abscess and another with a double ear infection over Christmas day, and then leaving a day late for our family vacation, the deadline came and went and I went, "Oh. Maybe next year."

Then the deadline got extended (maybe everyone was as swamped as I was). And when I didn't get Fairy Godfather finished in time to pitch it, I decided to take the $20 dollars I'd paid to pitch and split it between two entries for the contest. I knew I had the beginnings done, at any rate. I felt confident about "Fairy Godfather", entered in the middle grade/YA category, and not so confident about "The King Killer" in speculative/sci-fi/fantasy, but they were the best ones I had at the time, so I sent them in. And forgot about it. I wasn't going to win. Not a contest where I was competing against others.

The ANWA conference was the highlight of my year so far. So many great classes, hobnobbing with other writers, sitting with Nikki at the Mormon Mommy Writers table selling our "Totally Cliche'" books: I loved every second of it. It went way too fast.

Saturday lunch came and I honestly had forgotten about the contest until I noticed the announcing of it in the schedule. I started to get a little excited (Maybe I'd win!), but I also knew the caliber of the writers I'd be up against. Many of them published already. So when they started the announcing, I kept my anticipation down. I felt genuine gladness for the other women as they went up to accept their awards. I'd even forgotten what categories I'd entered, exactly, since they covered more than one genre.

They announced speculative fiction 2nd or 3rd, and my good friend Jennifer Griffith won 2nd place. (Yay! Go Jen!) I didn't place at all with "King Killer", but I couldn't remember what category it was in, so I had to look at the critique sheets I got back to remember which one I'd chosen and lost in. ;)
They went through all the rest of the categories, and YA/middle grade was last. I HAD remembered that "Fairy Godfather" was in this category. The tension built as they announced 3rd place. "DeAnn Huff, for 'Master of Emotion'!" And we clapped and cheered as she received her award and posed for a picture.
Now 2nd place. "Tanya Parker Mills for 'The School of Guardians'!" And we clapped and cheered as she walked up and took her award and smiled for the camera.
It was now or never. Had the judges hated my book? I wouldn't be surprised. I knew I should have looked it over again. Tweaked something. Maybe chucked it all together. If I go screaming from the room, will anybody notice?
"First place goes to Megan Oliphant for 'Fairy Godfather'!"
I WON!!! I squealed like a six year old on Christmas seeing her Cabbage Patch doll under the tree as I rushed up to take my turn to smile at the camera.
Through out the remainder of the conference, I would randomly lean over to the person next to me and say, "I won!" I had to keep saying it out loud because I didn't believe it.  But here it is. I even have a picture of it to prove it.
This is the first time since maybe the sixth grade that I won anything on merit. Sure, I'd done a lot of other things since then, but I got tired of doing everything I could (or not doing everything I could and knowing I hadn't) and then place 2nd. Or not at all.

So yeah. I don't entirely suck. Maybe I do have something of worth to offer. I'm feeling very Sally Field-ish right now. (I wasn't quite this effusive, however.)


Well, now that my motivation has reached an all time high, I think I'll go write some more. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Talent Incognito

Admitting to others that I write has been a challenge for me.  When I first  got invited to write for Mormon Mommy Writers I remember telling Jenni and Nikki that I was just a baby in the writing field.  Blending into the background would be so much easier.

Yet I know that I have been blessed with a talent that I must not hide from the world.  Do not get me wrong.  I am not claiming to be brilliant and masterful.  I think that is what has been the hardest part of acceptance for me.  I do write, I can write, but I'm not brilliant.  There are SO many other authors who can writer circles around me. 

When I came across the article "If Your Talents come Incognito" by Anya Bateman I was very touched and enlightened.

I especially loved this paragraph:

Recognize that there are different levels of development. Too often we decide we don’t have a particular talent because that talent is not complete or perfect. We forget that a gift in its beginning stages is still a gift. I remember feeling disgusted at my early writing efforts after reading a well-crafted article. But a few years later, after I had developed my talent further, magazines began publishing my articles.
Much is said about success coming through determination, but I feel that patience with ourselves is just as important to our development. It is essential to realize that things take time and that few of us can perfect talents overnight. With Heavenly Father’s help, we can learn to rejoice in every step we make—even if it seems minuscule. As we continue to nurture ourselves and seek his help, we will be astounded at the progress we make over the long run.


 So if you too have struggled with your talents, please stop trying to blend into the background.  Get out there and develop your gifts, and put in the work it takes to excel.  
"Too often we decide we don’t have a particular talent because that talent is not complete or perfect. We forget that a gift in its beginning stages is still a gift."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Manuscript in Motion Mondays: Round 2!



Welcome back to our second Manuscript in Motion Monday!

First, a big shout-out to Rebecca Carlson, our solo link-up from last week. She linked up to her fabulous post Pre-Flight Safety Checklist in which she reminded us of some important last-minute checks we need to do before submitting our manuscript. Definitely a must-read for any author- I know I learned a great deal. Thanks so much for sharing that, Rebecca!

Clearly, we had a pretty sparse turnout last week- this blog party thing I threw at you (along with a Rapunzel-hair-length post) might have been confusing, so this week I'd like to familiarize you with the world of blog parties to see if I can entice you to give it a try.

What is a blog party?

A blog party is an event usually held on a regular basis, like weekly, where many different bloggers link up their blog to a central location. In our case, Mormon Mommy Writers Manuscript in Motion Mondays.

Why participate in a blog party?

1. Exposure- When you link up with us, not only will your blog readers see your post, but all 361 of our followers will also have the chance to see your post. You will also have the opportunity to be featured on our blog (like Rebecca!) for your contribution.

2. Motivation- If you know that every Monday there will be a chance for the world to see what you’ve been working on during the week, you will be more motivated to produce something worth sharing. That not only makes you a better writer and blogger, it helps motivate the rest of us to up our games as well!

3. It’s FUN! It’s a party! It’s just plain fun to be a part of something bigger than yourself. The more participation we have, the bigger it will grow and the more fun it will be.

To give you an example of how blog parties can benefit you and your blog, check out this post on my other blog. You'll see at the bottom of this post that I put a link (I Have Paper Issues button) to the Paper Issues blog party. Well, the following month they picked their favorite post from their last blog party and featured me in this post on Paper Issues. I was awarded with a button (My Issue Was Featured at Paper Issues!) which I now proudly display on the left side of my blog. Because I participated in that party, I had not only my little following reading my post, but the nearly 1000 followers from Paper Issues checking me out.

As a blogger, I look forward to visiting blogs that host blog parties so that I can click through the links and get inspiration. I also appreciate the motivation it gives me to get my link up the following week.

So, to get everyone comfortable with this whole blog party thing this week, I'm not giving you a prompt or a challenge- just post a link to your blog and invite us over for a peek. If you can, copy and paste the code for our Manuscript in Motion Mondays button into your post (just enter it on the Edit Html tab) so your readers know you're participating with us.

Mormon Mommy Writers

With that, I need your input! Leave a comment with your opinion on the following questions about Manuscript in Motion Mondays:

1. Would you prefer that I give you a challenge/prompt to help direct your post or should we leave it open-ended? My hope was that a challenge would help motivate you through writer's block, but since we're all in different places with our work, perhaps a free-write is the best option?

2. If I do issue a challenge, would you like to have it a week in advance to give you time to prepare a post? Some parties do that, and I wouldn't mind at all.

Thanks in advance for participating! Can't wait to stop by and visit this week!


Friday, February 24, 2012

What? It's Friday, Again?

I have to confess I sort of have a head in my hands, it's my turn to post already, sort of morning going on. But that's okay. It's what I signed up for. Life is definitely not boring.


First, some news to get out of the way. The Wild Queen, print version, is officially LIVE on Createspace! I now have two, tangible, full length novels out in the world. And I'm kind of surprised that I'm not freaking out. It's probably because TWQ has already been published as an ebook, and has been out since last May. I think I'll be singing a different tune in the next few months when The Tyrant King goes live in print and as an ebook.

Now on to other news.

Last Friday, for my anniversary, hubby and I went to dinner. But--because I'm an author--it wasn't just any romantic dinner date. We went to a restaurant specifically so I could do research for a book I'm writing. Forget flowers and jewelry. The best gift a girl can get after 16 yrs of marriage is a man so supportive of her dreams he'll do anything in his power to make it happen. Ya, he's a keeper.

And, because I'm a mommy, I also got to go see my daughter in her first play that night. Pretty dang awesome. I know she's just got a chorus part, and is only on stage when the whole cast is, but they put her in a bright yellow dress so she stands out--and I watched her over the main players the whole time. She. Did. Amazing. And to see her glowing face after that final curtain was priceless. Despite the work involved, she may definitely have the acting/performing bug.

Considering neither my husband nor I could remember the last time he's been off work on our actual anniversary, I'm going to say last Friday was the BEST anniversary EVER. Dinner (author style) and a play (starring--not really but you know what I mean--my daughter). Priceless.

Stay tuned for next Friday's post. I have a super-secret-writing-project I'm working on almost nonstop but I'm totally stumped on a title and I need HELP. Next week I will post my plea for help along with a synopsis to help your brains turn in the right direction.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Introducing Mandi! Our New Thursday Blogger!

Staring next Thursday, Mandi will join our blog!  I just wanted to give you a quick introduction to her.  Be sure to give her a nice warm MMW welcome!

My name is Mandi.

I have always been a writer.  There is no hobby I enjoy more than writing about characters and places and events with such detail that they become as real on paper to others as they already seem in your mind.  Likewise, there seems to be no greater thrill than reading the works of others, who characters you come to know so well you might chance to call them friends.  And that is why I have always been both a reader, and a writer.

I have always wanted to be an author.  I have two short stories published in a anthologies, and won several writing and essay competitions in my youth, but never felt that my education was sufficient enough to allow me the daring to make the leap from writer, to author.

Instead, I've invested several years into my self-education:  I've attended three LDStorymakers Conferences, taken writing courses and workshops, been an active member of two different writing groups over the past three years, and spent as much time as I could reading and writing.

This past fall, something changed.  If felt a deeper desire to take my writing to the next level.  Despite several hurdles which made it seem easy to pass up the challenge, I committed to enter NaNoWriMo 2011, with a burning desire to finish.  And I did.  At 8:45-ish pm on November 30, 2011, I crossed the finish line.
Here is a little about me: (From the introduction on my personal blog)

MAYBE I'M CRAZY...

In an ideal world, I would live in a cute little two story house with a large garden, greenhouse and a menagerie of pets (including a chameleon, tropical fish and plethora of assorted cats and dogs - oh, and don't forget the guinea pigs! Why? I have no idea). I would read and write and play with my kids all day, preferably in my pajamas.
In the real world, I live in a squishy main floor rental with my handsome husband, three angelic children, and a spunky very social little beta fish named Donkey Kong.
My husband is a student, I run a small dayhome, and we enjoy regular trips to the library where we max out the limit on our card every time.
I have an insatiable appetite for books, I have a difficult time doing the dishes without daydreaming about my latest writing project, and I wistfully sigh at the sight of my cement enclosed back yard, dreaming up schemes of how to make plants grow from concrete.
It may not be the dream life I mentioned earlier, but you know what? I'm still happy.
Mabye I'm crazy, or maybe I'm just Mandi.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time to Pay the Piper

A long time ago I heard some advice you may be familiar with. It basically says that whatever you really want, you need to send it out into the universe somehow, usually by writing it down, making it a concrete thing in both your mind and to the universe in general. We know that what we are really doing is sharing with our Heavenly Father what it is we really want.
What we also have to know is that those things don't come easily, or immediately. Sometimes they sneak in the back door and we don't realize that we have them until years later. Just recently, as we've slowly been going through boxes of stuff that have been boxed for years, my husband and I came across a list we'd made about 10 years ago, give or take. On this list were things that we needed or wanted. Things like a new washer and dryer. A home of our own. A new TV. Tangible things that we needed or wanted.
It surprised me to find that during those years, all of those "goals" had been achieved. None of them at the time I would have chosen, and none of them without sacrifice. But we had all those things. Even the new TV. :)
So I've learned the power of the positive, forward moving statement in writing in life. And so when I wrote THIS post, I knew that it would be a good thing for me to do, to yell out to the universe what my intentions were. And they were to get Fairy Godfather written so I could pitch it during the conference.

What I have to remember, however, is that these gifts from the heavens don't come free. There is a price for everyone of them. Especially when it's a personal goal, the Lord seems to say, "I can see that right now you really want this. It's important to you at this moment. But you need to be 100% sure it's what you really want, so I'm going to give you several trials. I'll help you know for sure that it's what you want before I give it to you."

So as soon as I said I wanted to have this book finished, all kinds of things happened. It's been challenging, trying to regain my equilibrium, but now that conference is around the corner, I have to share that I did not finish. But I have to be okay with that, and know that even though it was my timetable, it wasn't the Lord's timetable. It doesn't mean that I won't be finished eventually, but at a pace more conducive to reality.

So I withdrew from the pitch, but entered the Beginning Of Book contest (BOB) instead. I at least had a beginning I could share. :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inspiration Within

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile
the moment a single man contemplates it,
bearing within him the image of a cathedral."
 

Antoine De Saint-Exupery
French Author, Aviator

 Antoine de Saint-Exupery is the author of a simple yet phenomenal book called The Little Prince.  I read this book my junior year in high school in its original french.  Now I am certain my love is largely due to my French teacher who helped me see beyond just a simple story and into the subtext.  I have two well loved copies of the novel in my home.  

In the novel, a prince of an astroid, b-612, which is the size of a house, has three volcanoes (two active, and one dormant) and a rose, among various other objects.  

After some disenchantment with the rose, the prince leaves home.  His journey takes him to earth.  He wanders full of loneliness.  When he comes upon a rose garden, he gets depressed.  He realizes the Rose he loved on his home planet is common and not unique. Therefore, he is not a great prince. 

While in the state of weeping a fox approaches.  The prince wishes for companionship in the fox, but the fox says he must be tamed. The prince succeeds in taming the fox, and according to the fox; "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."  The wise fox also explains to the prince that his rose really is unique and special, because he loves her and has tamed her.

 There is other insightful messages the prince learns and shares along his journey.  But today I have been thinking about the rose loved by the prince. 

There are many stories out there.  The world is flooded by them.  This does not make them common or unneeded.  We are writers because we are taming our stories.  They are unique and they are loved.  You are responsible for the talent with which you have been blessed.  Use it wisely. Craft your stories and share them.  Where one may see a rock and walk by, you may craft a cathedral.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's a Party: Manuscript in Motion Mondays!



So, as you all know, I got my first rejection this month. That rejection inspired this post, which in turn inspired something I'm calling Manuscript in Motion Mondays. Read on and I'll explain.


I read this quotation the other day and I thought, “That’s a good question. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” The answer was obvious: I would be a published author.

Then I thought, “Well how do I know I will fail unless I try?” and “Why can’t I be a published author?” The answer?


Yep. That’s why.

Writing and getting published is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s not always fun. Sometimes it downright sucks. (Can I say ‘sucks’ on here? Well, I am ‘cause it does.)

Which is the reason this is so true:

I firmly believe that the biggest thing standing between me and my dream of becoming a published author is myself.

After contemplating these quotations this week, I decided I needed to do this:

What does that mean for me? It means I need to stop acting like a stay-at-home mom who has a pipe dream of someday becoming a published author and start living the life of a published author and doing the things published authors do.

What do published authors do? They write! Consistently. Not just think about writing, not just daydream about seeing their future bestsellers on bookshelves but they roll up their sleeves, put on those overalls and get to work. Turns out I can’t be a published author unless I write a book first. Duh, right?

Which brings me to Manuscript in Motion Mondays. If you're like most want-to-be-published writers, you have at least one manuscript, maybe the beginnings of more, and they're lurking on your computer. You know they're there, but maybe you've pushed them aside, convinced you don't have the time/talent/patience/etc. to finish them.

Recently, my WIP, a YA novel, had become something of a monster under my bed. I had pushed it aside, and the longer I stayed away from it, the scarier it became (I don’t look good in overalls). I had convinced myself that I couldn’t work on it anymore because it was too hard. Big, scary monster under there. Yikes. Well, this week I took a big deep breath and put on my brave face and crawled under the bed in search of that monster.

Turns out he wasn’t so scary. He was like a cute little furry guy. In fact, I took him out and gave him a little hug. I realized my WIP was just fine- the problem was ME! I jumped right back in and started clicking away and pounded out another 1000 words in less than an hour (during my son’s gymnastics class, actually).

It felt AMAZING! I felt like an author, overalls and all. I think it's time we all became friends with our little monster manuscripts, and so I am creating Manuscript in Motion Mondays!

Here's the deal: Each week we're going to have something of a writers group therapy session here at Mormon Mommy Writers.

- Each Monday I will post a topic of conversation or a writing challenge, and you, as readers and fellow authors and bloggers can write your own post about it on your own blog.

- Then, come back here and grab a button from the top of the right sidebar. Copy and paste the html code into the html for your post so your readers will know you're participating in Manuscript in Motion @ Mormon Mommy Writers.

- Come back here and add a link to your post using our Mr. Linky tool so that we and the others participating can check out your Manuscript in Motion Mondays post on your blog.

- Each week I will read through the links and choose one participant whose post was particularly inspiring, funny, insightful or interesting and share all or part of their post in my Manuscript in Motion Mondays post the following week.

Fun, right? I think so! This is also a great way to get your blog out there- all of our readers will see your link and you may get some new followers out of the deal (I know I always do when I participate in blog parties with my Beautiful Thrifty Life blog).

So, now that this post is in itself nearly the length of a manuscript, here's your challenge for this week:

Take out your little monster under the bed- that manuscript that you keep seeing on your computer whenever you're looking for other files and you keep thinking you should get back to but the very thought of it makes you cringe- and pull it out. Write a sentence. Edit a sentence. Do SOMETHING with it! Then write a post about it- how it felt to work on it again, share an excerpt, brag about your word count, whatever! Just drag that little monster out and tell us about it.

*Note: I used a link to my other blog as a test for this post and now I don't know how to get rid of it. Just ignore that. ;-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Editor Interview, Lisa Mangum of Deseret Book

Last month we had the pleasure of hearing from today's guest as an author. Today she's joining us as an editor. Some of the questions I posed to her are from you, our readers, and the rest came from the frightening recess of my mind. Despite the obvious selfishness in question choice (i.e. I picked questions I was dying to find the answers to) I hope all of you will find Lisa's answers and advice as helpful as I did.

Please join me in a HUGE welcome to Lisa Mangum, editor at Deseret Book!
Q—Stephanie Nelson asked:  What are the biggest faux pas you see from newbie authors?
I love new authors. I love their energy, their optimism, and their enthusiasm. But new authors can sometimes make the mistake of being too eager. Reviewing incoming manuscript submissions can be a slow and time-consuming process, and when an author calls two days after a manuscript has been submitted, asking if I’ve made a decision yet, it’s hard to break it to them that I might not be done with the review (let alone made a decision) for months yet. (Now, it’s okay to call and check on the status of a manuscript, just don’t call every day.)
Another faux pas I see from new authors is calling after receiving a rejection slip to find out specifically why the manuscript was turned down. Publishers simply have too many manuscripts to review and too many books to publish to provide detailed feedback to every single rejected manuscript. If a manuscript shows promise and the decision to accept or reject it was a close one, then often we will provide an invite to revise and resubmit—and often that comes with specific feedback.
I think what it comes down to is that the best thing a new author can do is be professional. Respect the time and judgment of the editor or publisher. Be polite. Be smart about when you contact an editor and what kinds of questions you ask. And most of all, the best thing a hopeful author can do is continue to write and continue to improve.
Q—Wendy Burr asked:  What types of things might attract you to ask more from an author even if you don’t accept their current manuscript?
Rejecting an author’s first manuscript, only to accept their second (or third or fourth) submission happens more than you might think. It happened with Brandon Mull. He brought Shadow Mountain a manuscript, which we read, and there were some things we liked about it, but ultimately we said no and then asked “What else do you have?” That something else ended up being Fablehaven. If the writing is strong and shows promise, but the idea is not great, we’ll often ask “What else do you have?” or invite an author to submit their next project. And sometimes the writing and the idea are great, but the timing is bad. If we have just published something similar or have filled up our slots for a particular genre, then we might pass on a manuscript but ask for more from an author.
Q—Wendy Burr asked:  What elements are most important in a query letter?
Your contact information is right up there. You’d be surprised how many people forget to put their e-mail address or their mailing address or their phone number on the query letter. (How can we let you know we love your book if you don’t give us any way to reach you?) For me, a good query letter has a strong hook that explains the heart of your book, a concise summary of the plot, and a short biographical paragraph letting me know your writing credentials. Query letters can strike fear into the heart of many a writer, but just remember, at the end of the day it’s a business letter. Be professional and you’ll be miles ahead of the pack.
Q—Kasey Tross asked:  What has been the most memorable submission you’ve ever had and why did it stand out (good or bad)?
Oh, there are too many to mention! (Both good and bad.) It’s one of my favorite things about publishing—no two books are alike, so no two books have the same story of their journey to publication. I can tell you that some of my best slush-pile finds were Ally Condie’s Yearbook, Jason F. Wright’s Christmas Jars, and Kay Lynn Mangum’s The Secret Journal of Brett Colton. 


Ally’s book stood out to me because the voices of her characters were strong and individual, and I immediately fell in love with her writing style. Jason’s book stood out because it so perfectly captured the spirit of Christmas in an original way; the fact that it had a built-in marketing hook (book + Christmas Jar=the perfect gift) was an added bonus. Kay Lynn’s book stood out because when she sent it in, the manuscript was 600 pages—and after I read all 600 pages I realized there was an amazing 300 page book inside it. She cut it in half, we said yes, and the book spent four months on the Deseret Book bestseller list.
Q—Marta Smith asked:  When’s your next book coming out?
My next book is called After Hello and it will be available September 2012.
Q—What are the top five query mistakes people make?
Query letters are a hot topic among writers, and (I hope you don’t hate me for saying this) but I’m not sure there is one magical query letter that will grant you universal access to all publishers. You may need to tailor your letter to each specific agent, editor, or publisher. Having said that, there are a few universal tips I can share of mistakes you might want to avoid.
1. Sending your manuscript to the wrong slush pile. Yes, you need to be in slush piles before you can be out of the slush pile, and yes, you need to submit submit submit, but you also need to be aware of who you are submitting to. If you write epic fantasy, you might not want to submit your book to a publisher that doesn’t publish epic fantasy. 
2. Writing a summary that doesn’t really tell me anything. When I have a stack two feet high of manuscripts on my desk, I don’t have much time to spend reading each one. A sketchy summary, rather than piquing my interest, often just gives me permission to move to the next submission. 
3. Writing a summary that tells me too much. Likewise, I have a hard time responding positively if your summary goes on for pages and pages. In the beginning, I don’t really want to know about the side characters and the subplots; I want to know the points of the main narrative. One trick to writing a strong summary for a query letter is to answer this question: How would you describe the book to your friend? Do that for me and chances are good that you’ll be on the right track.
4. Providing too much needless personal information. I want to know what makes you the best author ever—what you have written, what awards have you won, what writing conferences have you attended, what organizations you belong to—and not where you went to elementary school or that your cat’s name is Dave.
5. Forgetting to include complete contact information. At least provide an email address, please. (Preferably one that looks professional—I kind of cringe when I have to send an official message to HotGrrlWhoLuvsBks@gmail.com.)

Q—Do authors ever take query or story rejections so personally you get dirty looks or other ugly behavior at say...a writing conference?
I have had people call me and yell at me over the phone for rejecting their manuscript. Or send me hate mail—that’s happened too. Usually people are much nicer at writing conferences, though often many of my conversations start with, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. You rejected my manuscript.” While that can be awkward, it can also be a chance for me to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you working on anything new?” And that can lead into a much better conversation. 
Q—What is one thing you wish aspiring authors knew?
Writing is a personal expression. Book buying is an emotional choice. Publishing is a business. And when a publisher makes a business decision (i.e., whether or not to publish your book), it’s not personal. And the more an author knows about the business of being an author—which is more than just writing the book—the better off that author will be.
Q—What misconceptions have you encountered as an editor for an LDS Publisher?
Lots of people still seem to think that Deseret Book doesn’t publish fiction (we do) or that we only publish books by General Authorities (we do publish them, but we publish lots of other books too). I also sometimes encounter the attitude that LDS fiction is somehow less than “regular” fiction. Yet, I think the quality of LDS fiction (and the quantity) has been on the rise for years now.
Q—What is the role of an editor beyond accepting or rejecting queries and manuscripts?
Ultimately, an editor is the reader’s advocate. Our job is to aid in the communication between the author and the reader. We comb through manuscripts and not only correct the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but we also help clarify ideas (if it’s nonfiction) and help strengthen plot and character (if it’s fiction). We frequently help soothe an author’s fears and bolster his or her ego.  We work with designers to make sure the best cover is used on the book and with the marketing department to make sure everyone in the world knows that an amazing book is available.
Q—What process does a manuscript go through on its way to hopeful publication?
Once a manuscript is submitted to Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain, we log it in to our database and let the author know that we received the submission. Then we do an initial review to see if it is worth passing along to the next level of review. If not, then we let the author know that we will be passing on the manuscript and return it. If the material shows promise, then we have some people in the office read through it all the way through. If the reviews are positive, then we pass it along to one of three Product Directors who read it again and make the final decision of whether or not we’ll publish it. If the answer is yes, then we let the author know the good news and we schedule the book for an official release.
Q—We all know that a manuscript should be as sparkling and perfect as possible but mistakes are inevitable. What mistakes stand out the most and which ones are overlooked and why?
Whenever I review a manuscript that is being considered for publication and find a mistake, I always ask myself, “Is it fixable?” Easy stuff like typos and missing words are fixable; of course, if there are too many typos then that’s a red flag that is harder to ignore. Bigger problems like clunky writing or faulty logic or flat characters are the kind of problems that will prompt me to pass on a manuscript.
Q—What’s your favorite part about being an editor?
One of my favorite things is finding that elusive diamond-in-the-rough manuscript and helping the author shape the story and polish it until it is perfect. I love feeling like the authors I work with are friends and not just my clients.
Q—What’s your least favorite part about being an editor?
The unrelenting deadlines are not always fun. And it’s sad when a book we work on really hard doesn’t find the audience we’d hoped it would.
Q—What should people realize about publishing in a niche market?
Publishing in a niche market is a lot like publishing in a big market. There are the same opportunities for success. You have access to quality editors and solid marketing plans. If you are writing a book, publishing with a niche market is a good option to consider.
Q—What are some of the biggest surprises you find authors discover as they see their first book get published?  Like sudden fame being a myth.
One thing that I think comes as a shock to many first-time authors is how quickly they need to turn in their second manuscript. Often an writer can spend years working on their first book, and yet, if all goes well, they might only have months to finish their next one in order to get it into the publishing queue. 
And once that first book comes out, there is a lot of marketing that a publisher asks an author to do. Aspiring authors always say that they will do anything to help promote their book, but often that can mean spending every Saturday at a book signing or at a conference or, yes, even answering questions for a blog interview.  Juggling writing and marketing can be tricky for beginners.
Q—Do you feel like a celebrity at times in the LDS writing world? What kind of strange behavior have you encountered among the giddy writing masses? 
Sometimes, which always makes me feel a little strange. I mean, I’m just me. I’m just someone who had a good idea and wrote a book. I’m just someone who works with books because I love books. When I’m at writing conferences and such, I just try to be friendly and accessible so people who have questions about writing or editing feel comfortable approaching me.

Thanks Lisa! I find that I can now think the word "query" without the immediate onset of heart palpitations.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Post: Jaqueline Gardner

 Meet Jaqueline Gardner!  She writes YA and her first book is about to be published in March.  To find out more about her, check out her blog and read this wonderful guest post she shared with us.


Oh My Grandma!

Coming from a family of engineers and strictly logical thinkers, I used to wonder why my imagination refused to quit.  Why did I spend all my free time scribbling nonsense in the little notebook on my night stand?  Even as an adult I still find myself wandering the streets of Paris in an emerald green gown while staring at my computer screen.

This Christmas my question was finally answered.  It really is a family thing.

My husband and I spent our holiday in Salt Lake City.  With my first book coming out this year there has been a lot of family buzz, mostly from my grandma Ebby.  And after a long chat and too much caramel corn, grandma Ebby decided to let me in on a little secret of hers.

Grandma:  I’m so happy you’re being published! I used to write too you know, back in the day.
Me: Really? You wrote a book?
Grandma: Oh no honey. I wrote eight.
Me: Reaching for my glass of water and trying not to choke. Grandma!

My grandma has since ripped apart all her manuscripts, something I’ve thought about doing many times.  But the stories remain intact in her memory.  A light bulb went off and I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper.  She talked, I scribbled like crazy, and three hours later I had outlines for two historical romance novels. 

Timing is funny thing.  Forty years after throwing in the towel, I’m sure my grandma never imagined she’d have a second chance at writing.  But she has a very nosey granddaughter, one that asks way too many questions.  Historical romance isn’t really my genre, but I’m excited to take on this new project in her behalf.

So what did I get for Christmas this year?  I got the advice of a fellow family writer, new novel fodder, a new cupcake carrier (I had to throw that in), and the promise of an exciting new year.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: On Little Wings by Regina Sirois

I love the power books have to transport me into people and places. And as I read "On Little Wings", the words moved me to a place I've never been, but yet totally familiar to me. In this book, I dwelt in the hearts and minds of the people of Smithport, Maine, and the stranger among them, Jennifer. Only she's not a stranger: her mother has told the sixteen year old that she has no family, but when she by accident finds a old photo of a woman who looks like Jennifer, but is NOT Jennifer, her whole life as she knew it explodes.
This was a real book. And by real, I mean the characters lived and breathed, and now occupy a home in me. And Smithport is as much a character as the quirky but well rounded people who live there when Jennifer, against her mother's wishes, goes to visit.
I would tell you what happens when she gets there, but then that would ruin the beautiful pacing of this book. The book begins with the revealing of her mother's secret, and as Jennifer continues to spend time in Smithport, she discovers that everyone has secrets, even herself, that take time and trust to reveal as everyone learns to spread their wings and soar, if only for a moment.
This was a lovely book, one that will remain with me for a while. My only quibble, and it's a small one, is that I had wished that there had been more of her interactions with her mother before the discovery of the photo. It made the character of her mother less sympathetic, and I wanted to love her as much as everyone else apparently did.
"On Little Wings" is available at Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback. Go check it out...it's just an amazing journey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Not only am I a MMW (Mormon Mommy Writer), I am a MMMW (Married Mormon Mommy Writer.  Being all of these things means that at times I have my hands super full.  My full focus does not always get to be on the W because I have other VERY important  M's in my life.  Being a Mormon, speaks of my relationship with my God, which must always come first.  And logically the importance of the remaining letters should be Marriage, Mommy, and then Writer.  Don't get me wrong.  I realize that at times my children's needs will come first.  But the relationship between my valentine and I should always be paramount, save the relationship with my God.

"The relationship between husband and wife is the linchpin in the whole family relationship." - James E Faust

Therefore, on this Valentine's Day I have some words to my Valentine!

     As a young girl I often held my breath through tunnels, studied the skies for shooting stars, wished upon the birthday cake candles, and treated every fountain as my personal wishing well.  I loved these things, because each provided an opportunity to submit my wishes to the unseen wish granter.  
    Time has passed and instead of wishing I question:
     Who needs to hold their breath through tunnels?  Every time I see you smile it takes my breath away.
     Why study the skies for stars?   I can see them in your eyes.
     What good is a birthday candle?  It marks another year with you.
     Where can I find my wishing well?  In your arms.  
You are my every dream, my every hope.  You are my wish come true.

Happy Valentines' Day to all our readers!!! 
Go tell your Valentine how much you care!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Waiting Game is Over



For those of you who have never received a rejection letter before, this is what they look like.

*sigh*

I got this in the mail last week and as soon as I saw the return address on the envelope and saw how sadly anorexic it was, I knew the news wasn't going to be good.

I called my mom to let her know, and I could tell that she was desperate to offer some kind of comfort. I had to reassure her and let her know that I wasn't devastated- I mean, certainly there was a part of me that had really hoped this would be it, that Deseret Book would welcome me into the fold with open arms, an editor would contact me just gushing about how brilliant my work is (creative people have REALLY creative imaginations, you know) and that life would be lollipops and buttercups ever after.

Clearly, not so much. Fortunately, I had another, more rational part of me that was pretty sure I wasn't going sink a hole in one, and prepared me to not only accept the sting of rejection but to think of that sting as the feeling of my badge of "Real Writer" honor being pinned to me. It hurts, but scars make for good stories, right?

And so, I am on to Plan B (because if Plan A doesn't work out, there are still 25 more letters in the alphabet).

Why, hello there brick wall. Hang on just a minute and let me go grab my climbing gear.

"Sometimes God doesn't give you what you want, not because you don't deserve it, but because you deserve so much more."

Have you been rejected before? Have you climbed your brick wall or are you still clawing your way up? Anybody want to offer some encouragement? I could use all the climbing gear I can get...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Stories, Tamara Hart Heiner

Today's guest for Saturday Stories could probably put my on her list of people she can't trust because I did this interview MONTHS ago and then somehow thought I had posted it when I hadn't. So this is a little behind schedule. Sorry Tamara.

But she's a great sport and is still allowing me to post the interview today. Please join me in getting to know another great author...

Tamara Hart Heiner

Q—Tell us about yourself. Who are you?
I'm married to a wonderful man who tries so hard to be perfect that I feel like a total slacker. I've got three awesome children, though I've got a special bond with my little princess.
Q—Would you please tell us about any books you’ve published and the Perilous series?
Perilous is the only book I've got published so far. The sequel, Altercation, is scheduled for some time this year. We've already done final edits but we don't have a cover yet, so I don't really know when it will be out.


FYI...Perilous is FREE on Kindle for a limited time. Get your copy now because this great offer is only good until Monday!!!
Q—When/how did you realize you wanted to write stories for a living?
For a living?? in my dreams! :) I love writing. It's something I could do all day long if everyone would let me. It started as a hobby. Now it's an expensive hobby. I've got way too many projects going and I wish I could devote full-time to them. Someday!
Q—If you had to describe yourself as one kind of fruit, what kind would it be and why?
Starfruit. All pretty on the outside but kind of bland inside. Kidding, that was self-deprecating. I'm not bland. Maybe a tart starfruit?
Q—What is your favorite blog to follow and why?
Um...to be honest, I only follow my own. Sometimes I check up on my friends and writers and stuff. :)
Q—Would you tell us a little bit about your escapades at grocery store book signings?
Ha ha ha! You mean like the time I forgot to put on shoes when I left the house??? I borrowed my mom's that are two-sizes-too-small and had horrible blisters by the end! Or the time the newspaper lady was there and she kept stealing customers even after I'd already greeted them??? Yeah. Fun stuff.
Q—What is the strangest thing that has happened to you since you got published?

Hmmm...well...I've become less confident? LOL.
Q—When you saw your very first book, in print, in your hands, what did you think/feel/scream/cry?
I can't tell you. You wouldn't be able to publish it.
Q—Are you a plain or peanut M&Ms kinda gal?
Um, no. Reese's pieces.
Q—What is one thing you wish everyone believed about you?
That I'm someone who is always there when people need something.
Q—If you could be any character in any story you’ve ever read or written who would it be and why?
Definitely not anything I've written. I think I'd enjoy being Hermione. Great friends, really talented and really smart.
Q—Right now, how many stories do you have sitting in limbo in your computer or on a notebook?
Can you count them all? Okay. Limbo means not under contract, right? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Just six that I'm currently working on/ignoring. That doesn't include the ones I haven't started.


If you'd like to learn more about Tamara or her books check out her author website here or her blog here.


Thanks Tamara!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Next Chapter

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of the day I received the email from Cedar Fort saying they wanted to publish my novel, The Peasant Queen. It's also the day I received another email from Cedar Fort saying they will pass on publishing its sequel, The Tyrant King.

As hind sight is 20/20, I'll admit the "universe" had given me some clues this would happen. Since I've been mentally preparing my back up plan for months I really feel at peace with their decision. They are a company and, ultimately, in the business of making money. Decisions have to be made. Some have to be "yes" while others have to be "no."

There's rather a cruel review of The Peasant Queen on Goodreads where the person says my book is proof that Cedar Fort will publish anyone and everything.

Apparently not. :)

After receiving the email yesterday, I sort of had to breathe for a minute or two. I won't deny I was kinda hoping for a yes. But, as the day wore on and I started realizing what this really means, I got excited.

I'm self publishing The Tyrant King. It's still going to have a professional cover, professional edit, and a professional interior design. But *I* get the final say. On everything.

It's sort of freaking me out that I get so excited by rejection. I mean I was literally dancing in my house. Skipping. You're probably glad you missed it.

Of course, it didn't take long for the rest of the mantle to settle on my shoulders. Everything is up to me. Advertising, promotion, trying to get it into bookstores. Everything. Oh, carp. And, the same will go for the final book, The Lost Princess, which I plan to publish next year. So, ya, I panicked a little bit.

Ultimately, though, I'm incredibly at peace with this decision. Research and the experience of other authors has shown no publisher picks up a series in the middle. It won't do any good to try and push TTK around to other publishers. This is the best decision for this series. And it hardly means I'm now going to self publish all my works. I'm still looking for that balance.

And, right this minute, I'm more excited than scared. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

WINNER and Questions Answered

The winner of our paperback book, "Totally Cliche" is.....Kimberlee!!!!  Kimberlee, please send an email to mormonmommywritersATgmailDOTcom with your full name and address!  Congratulations!


Now, I am going to try to answer the questions about self publishing that were asked.

1. What are some of the major differences between e-book and printed book formatting?
There are a few differences. For e-books, the formatting has to be as basic as possible because each type of digital format your e-book gets distributed through will have differences. Plus in e-books, the reader can pick their own font so the font you use is just a basic one. For e-books, you have to take out every formatting thing except spaces. Plus, page numbers are fluid. You can read a e-book and say to yourself, this story starts on page 5, then when you come back to it the next day the story starts on page 10. So simple is the key with e-book formatting. Printed book formatting gives you a little more room to be creative, but it also comes with alot more choices. Everything you do for the print will be printed that way exactly! So you have to choose what font and size you want on the title page, do you want a picture on the title page? What font and sizes do you want on the copyright page? What about the table of contents? What page does each chapter start on?
When I first did the print version I ordered a proof copy and realized that the font I chose for the title page and the chapter headings looked good on the computer but lacked something in print. I made some changes then liked it much more.

2. How long does it take to publish a book? What is the process?
How long it takes depends on you for the most part. Let's say your book is finished and been edited by everybody you could nail down. You're ready to publish. I'm going use Createspace as the example because that is what I used. First you make an account on Createspace which is free to do. Then you give the title information, including a summary of the book. Next you pick which kind of ISBN number you want. I picked the free one. Then you load the text or interior of your book. they will run it through their process then you will get a document that you can open in your software, that will have everything set up the way it will look in the book. That is the document you get page numbers from and check chapter breaks, etc. Then after you've made all the changes you want, you upload it again. Next you upload your cover. I'm afraid I'm not much help with this portion. Jenni James did the front cover for us, and my hubby had to figure out how to do the rest for me. Next, you review your files and make sure they were approved through Createspace. (They will try to let you know of any potential problems they see.) That part usually takes 24 hrs if I remember right. After everything has been approved, you order your proof copy. It does cost a little but this is a very important step! Then you pick the channels in which you want to sell your book. Some channels require you join their pro plan for $39. It also enables you to make more profit on the other channels. I ordered two proof copies in all before I felt it was ready to get out there. The proof copies take about 1-2 weeks to get to you. So it depends on how many proof copies you feel you need to get it the way you want it. It took me over a month to make the print copy happen. But I've been very busy and didn't have a lot of time to spend on it like I would have liked.

There you have it! All the mysteries of the universe have now been revealed to you! Ok well maybe just my universe! I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. This was fun!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Am In Love!

I am in love. Again. Fallen head over heels...for a new work in progress.

I feel bad for my struggling marriages to my other Works in Progress. While this new love is still fresh, new, with no insurmountable flaws, my other marriages languish.
I have so many projects that have reached the murky part of marriage where the kids are young, I'm tired all the time, and just facing the day can seem beyond my capabilities. The house is messy, the meals are just barely nutritious, and yet my WIP wives call for me from their separate homes in my head. Sometimes in whispers, or whimpers, or screams.
I try to tend to them all, hoping that someday they'll somehow resolve themselves, their plots unwind, the corners of their psyches revealed in the sudden illumination of the miraculous words: THE END. And all without too much work on my part.
Finally I can't take their nagging any more and have to take a break. I take a walk. I find the club where all the sexy new ideas hang out. I think, "I'm just going to peek. Just a little. It won't hurt to see what else is out there."
And then it happens again. I see that little story idea, or a character peeps at me through her lashes and I fall hard. I am putty in their hands. And after a whirlwind courtship, I am married. Again. And before I know it, another corner of my brain has a house and a fence and a pregnant work in progress begging me to just FINISH the dang thing so she can have this baby. I won't tell you how long some of these WIP wives have been pregnant. It's indecent. And embarrassing.
I know that eventually all these WIPs will give birth. They may be barefoot and pregnant for a decade, but eventually, they will share our efforts with the world. Maybe. If I can stop letting myself be tempted by the  easy bride.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Mind looks like an episode of Hoaders


Writing Conferences are like a trip to Disney World for writers.  Magical, exciting, and they leave you hyped up and ready for more fun.  I have had the lucky privileged to attend LDS Storymaker's once before.  Unfortunately, I live way over in Virginia.  So I do not get to make it every year.  This does not mean there are not other options.

Just this Saturday while I hung around cyber space, I found myself stumbling upon  The Writer's Dojo.  They were hosting an Online Writer's conference.  If I had known about it beforehand I would have let all of you know.  I learned a lot and came away all riled up and ready to dive into my writing. 

Luckily, for those who were not as fortunate to stumble upon the Dojo before or during the conference, you can still benifit from all of the wonderful knowledge that was presented.

If you were one of the ladies looking for a query critique, from Elana Johnson in our January giveaways and you would still like some advice, go visit the session held with her.  She maps out her querying genius for everyone.

Or if you have always wanted to analyze JK Rowling's Harry Potter, for its writing merits, visit S.P. Spinal's session.

I was able to shove so much information in my brain that it really looked like an episode of hoarders inside my head.

Hop on over and shove as much info into your head too!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

What You Lookin' At?



My brother was recently visiting my house, and, as is his habit, he opened the door to my pantry to “graze.” He started laughing as he pulled out an Ensign magazine I had filed away between two cereal boxes and gave me a questioning look.

Well, it may seem odd, but I like to read the Ensign while I eat my breakfast- it gets my day off to a good start- so I keep it with my breakfast. It’s perfectly logical, if you ask me.

Anyway, last month I came across a great article in the Ensign that reminded me of myself, and by extension, all of you, dear Mormon Mommy Writers. The article was entitled, “Look Up” by Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy (not to be confused with a similar talk given in October’s General Conference).

In this article Elder Cook tells the story of the difficulty he faced on his mission. He struggled to learn the German language while those around him seemed to find fluency with ease. He prayed, and the Lord answered him by saying, “I never called you to master the German language. I just called you to serve with all of your heart, mind, and strength.” Elder Cook went on to talk about how he realized that rather than looking at those around him and comparing his successes with theirs, he needed to “look up, so to speak, to know what He thought of my efforts.”

When I read this, I thought of how, as writers and mothers, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. I could easily change the Lord’s answer to Elder Cook to fit each of us.

“I never called you to be Mother of the Year. I just called you to serve with all of your heart, mind, and strength.”

“I never called you to write the next national award-winning bestseller. I just called you to serve with all of your heart, mind, and strength.”

Elder Cook said, “Whenever I have been asked to do something where the expectations seem greater than what I have the capacity to do, I remember that experience and say to myself, ‘Wait. Who called you? Who are you serving? Who are you trying to please?’”

OH what a great question! When I read that I found myself thinking of my Institute class. We are currently studying the Old Testament, and there seems to be this running theme of the Lord needing to demonstrate his power. Time after time, an individual or group of people are commanded to do something impossible. They whine, say they can’t do it, and God basically says, “Uh, yeah, I know you can’t. That’s the point. You need ME dumbo!” (Well, I’m sure God doesn’t call anyone a dumbo, but you know what I mean)

We are mothers and we are writers. Both, in and of themselves, huge responsibilities. Unto whom much is given, much is required, right? If it were up to me, I’d tell God, “Yeah, thanks for this great writing talent and all that, but can we just wait till the kids are grown? Yeah, that’d be good. Thanks.”

God knows we can’t mother and write books. That’s just crazy. Who does that?

Answer: The people God asks to.

Answer: You and me.

How?

Answer: We need HIM, dumbos!

Because the point is not to be Mother of the Year or to write the next bestseller. That’s how certain other “influences” distract us (influences like the one that starts with an “S” ends with an “atan”)- by showing us the top of the mountain and telling us we suck ‘cause we can’t reach it. But sometimes God doesn’t need us at the top. He needs us to set up a base camp. There are other people to reach the top- that’s not our job. Our job is to look to God and ask what He needs from us. Our job is to give up trying to do all the climbing on our own and admit that He’s the one with the equipment we need to get us where He needs us to be.

God gives us challenges not to defeat us, but to show us that we need Him.

So when we’re constantly comparing ourselves with others, we’re holding ourselves back from what we could accomplish if we just turned to Him. His accomplishments may not include a bestseller, but they will make us far better people than we ever imagined we could be on our own. They will be a part of His plan for us, and if we’re smart, we’ll trust that His plan for us is probably better than whatever we’ve got planned for ourselves.

Elder Cook finished up with a few reminders:

  • Tap into Spiritual Power- read your scriptures, say your prayers. You don’t know what His plan for you is unless you’re communicating with Him.
  • Stay True to the Direction You Receive- ignore the naysayers. This is between you and God.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Act- You might make mistakes, but that’s okay. Find joy in the journey. Keep moving forward.
  • Stand by Your Post- Be patient and wait on the Lord. Keep true to what you know, and don’t abandon your post. Stand steadfast and the Lord will make all things work out for your good. (Translation for writers: Keep writing, and the world of publishing takes FOREVER. Don't give up.)
Writing Challenge: Sit down with your writing goals (if you haven’t written them down, now would be a good time). Pray. Ask Heavenly Father if your game plan is the same as His, and if not, how can you change it?

Time to look up.

For similar posts by me, stop by the Spiritual Sundays section of my blog, The Beautiful Thrifty Life. :-)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this- please leave a comment and share!


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