Category Archives: Writing

How Do You Define Book Launch Sucess?

It’s been quiet over here because I’ve been busy with my other blog, Writer…Interrupted, and my book launch. To keep up with all my writing and book news, plus learn the craft of writing make sure you subscribe there. I blog at Writer…Interrupted every Friday and share my journey. One of these days I’d love to learn how to balance two blogs, but for now, I’ll be posting periodically here about life, family and pursuing dreams! 

Last weekend I had the official book launch of Cherry Blossom Capers. Just like many women dream about and plan their wedding, many authors do the same for their book launch. I’m no exception. I’ve been waiting for this day and planning for years!

Even before the book sold I knew what I would do for my launch. A Mystery party! I first heard about the idea from author Christy Barritt and thought it was fabulous, so I stored it in the back of my mind . Then when my book sold and as the days to my launch approached, I started planning and writing the script which featured characters in my book.

A lot goes into planning a mystery party, so I won’t go into that here, but what I want to explore is what is the definition of book launch success? Is it the number of books sold? (If so than mine was a COMPLETE failure since I think I gave away more books to my book launch party helpers than people actually bought.) Is it the number of names and emails I got on my newsletter list? (I did okay there since most everyone signed up thanks to that extra entry for the basket drawing.) Or maybe it’s the number of people that attended? (There again I fell short of my goal!)

I went into my book launch with the lofty goal of 100 people or 100 books, and I did everything in my power to make that happen. I blitzed the media and my FREE event was posted on every local calendar in town as well as being featured on the local midday news talk show. My daughter even heard my event on the radio, but bottom line, the numbers weren’t there. Does that make my launch a failure? I don’t thinks so and here’s why.

While I spent more on my party and promotion than I actually sold in books, I had fun! Everyone who attended had a blast and left with a positive memory. Hopefully so positive that they’ll tell their friends about the party…and the book.

Even though my party is over, my name and book are still out there.  Who knows where the fruit of my promotion efforts will get me. Radio shows and local stations still have my information, and I might get another media interview. You just never know.

Just because the party is over doesn‘t mean it’s over! I’m already planning another mystery party with my church which features my book, and I plan on offering this mystery party to other organizations, book clubs, and churches. So while my initial book launch wasn’t profitable, I look at it as the seed to the bigger picture.


I’m sure there are many other ways my book launch party was a success, but I’m still recovering and processing it all. The bottom line is I don’t regret anything I did or the money I spent. Sure I would have liked to have sold 100 books or had 100 people attend, but for me, that doesn’t define book launch success. At least not this time! :)

How do you define book launch success? And what have YOU done to make your launch successfful?

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Who can forget that beloved Ms. Frizzle who inspired her class to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”All but play-it-safe Arnold loved Ms. Frizzle’s fieldtrips that took them to places they’d never been before, often leading them into scary and unfamiliar territory. But oh the adventures they had! Even Arnold would end up enjoying himself when he finally quit focusing on the danger.

Sometimes I feel like Arnold, wanting to remain in the comfort zone, showing my work only to safe people, people I know will love it. But to go places I’ve never been before (like publication) and to experience the excitement and wonder of taking chances (getting a contract,) I first need to get messy and not dwell on the mistakes I’ll make (writing my manuscript.)

The other day before I sent my proposal to my agent I reflected on Ms. Frizzles words again and felt a bit like Arnold. I’m still only learning to write a first draft without editing the whole thing as I go. It’s not easy to leave my mess on the page and move on. It’s not easy to see mistakes in my plot and know I must plow forward before I go back and fix things. And it’s not easy to take chances and hit send on my words before I believe they’re ready to be viewed by professional eyes.

But that’s what I did. I hit send on my proposal to my agent because ACFW conference is in few weeks, and I’d rather look like an idiot in front of him, then in front of an editor. It’s not easy to get feedback on our mess, but it’s necessary. In fact, it was my agent who once told me “you can’t fix nothing!” So I figured he, if anyone, would understand my mess!

The email response came today. Before I opened, I took a deep breath, then hesitated. Then dove into the email, taking a chance, again. To my relief he said, “my writing is really good.” Of course, he pointed out a mess I needed to clean up before I showed an editor, but I took a chance and I’m glad I did. Now I can move forward with a little more confidence than before.

Are you taking chances or are your messes and mistakes keeping you from your next adventure?


Writing Lessons from a Dream

I used to dream a lot! Vivid, storyline dreams that made complete sense…until I woke up. But lately those kind of dreams are rare. So when I had a dream about Donald Maass as my drama coach dancing with me ballroom style as I sang “Popular,” I had to laugh! Here’s why…

I’m an impressionable dreamer. I actually DREAM things that my consciousness experiences, usually the night before.

Last night as I ate Ben and Jerry’s as my last hurrah before I went no sugar this week, I watched Drop Dead Diva. There was an episode on where Jane is in one of her fun dream sequences where she’s dancing with a popular male vocal Chip and Daleish group and her old, frumpy boyfriend shows up for a dance. She wakes and tells her friend Stacey about it. Stacey, in her wonderful, ditzy blonde goodness, thinks it’s a sign that Jane needs to date her old boyfriend. Jane reluctantly agrees, but in the end Jane and Stacey learn that the dream really had no meaning, and sometimes a dream is just to dream.

So as I share with you my crazy dream, you decide. Just a dream or a prophetic sign? Whatever you decide, it sure was a fun one!

As far as dreams go, it started out pretty normal. Random craziness with an obscure goal as I traveled somewhere. Vague enough for you?

But when I finally arrived at my goal, I was surprised to find I was in a Donald Maass acting workshop. Yes, acting! While he talked and demonstrated some dance moves, I tried to imitate them, but I was barefoot and everyone else wore shoes. So I put mine on. A pair of black pumps I owned in real life used for my ballroom dance lessons that hurt my feet. So I took them off again.

Then we were asked to sit in chairs in a semi circle around the dance floor. As Don placed everyone in their seat, I tried on a few other pair of shoes I just happened to be carrying around with me and settled on a funky pair of red flat boots with lace up ties. When he got to me, I was the last one and instead of placing me in a chair he took my hand and spoke to me. Oh, how I wish I could remember that conversation, but in essence he told me I was going to dance a scene with him and that it might not be in my comfort zone, but he wanted me to be open minded and try it. At first, I was reluctant, but agreed. Then we started to dance, ballroom style, first cautiously as I timidly sang “Popular” from the Wicked musical. My steps were small and unsure at first, and my voice muffled as I sang with “cotton in my ears.” Then he whispered, “Follow me and take big steps.” And we glided across the dance floor as I belted out the song, “I’m gonna be Popular.”

Dancing felt effortless as I was carried by my partner and sang my guts out. While dancing, I didn’t worry about what I looked like or how I sounded (because I had no clue with the cotton in my ears,) I just trusted my partner and knew by the smile on his face that I was going to be popular.

And when the song ended and I poked a baby alligator peeking up from a drain in the floor (after all, this WAS a dream,) I heard the roar of the applause coming from my cottoned ears, and I knew I was popular. Then I took my seat, not in the semicircle, but in the audience.

Was this dream a sign from God that one day I’ll be ballroom dancing with Donald Maass? I highly doubt it! Was it the result of my crazy weekend carting my kids to their play, reading Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, working on my WIP after two weeks off, and watching Dancing with the Stars and Drop Dead Diva! Most definitely!

But maybe, just maybe it was also a sign.

If I analyzed each part of this dream it speaks to my conscious dreams, goals and fears!

When I started reading Fire in Fiction this weekend, I was inspired to work on my WIP again. It’s no secret my current WIP scares me on a couple of levels. It’s based on the real life story of my grandmother, and I’m writing it in a new genre, Women’s fiction. I want to do it justice, and honestly, I don’t want this story to be just another practice WIP on my way to publication. I want this to be THE ONE!

So I understand the setting of my dream  most likely resulted from my weekend experiences. Even poking the alligator makes sense to me, but why the song Popular? It’s one of my daughter’s favorites, and we did sing it in the car last week, but we also sang half of the songs on the Wicked cd.

No dream interpretation needed on this one.

Popular, I want to this WIP to be popular and maybe, just maybe I need to turn on the music, sing my heart out, and take giant, scary steps with Donald Maass.

What do you think?

Dare to Suck

This video kick in the butt pep talk is soooo what I need right now as I’m getting familiar with my 25,000 already written WIP and hearing the voices in my head say “this sucks!”

But sucking is good!

Without sucking I’d have a blank page! And in the words of my wise agent, “You can’t fix nothing!”

So here I go, purposefully sucking and getting over my have-to-edit-every-single-line-a-dozen-times writing OCD.

How about you? Do you suck???

Motivation to Keep Going

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

What gets you out of bed on a lazy, rainy morning to brave a day of errands? What keeps you going when nothing you’ve planned is working? When your kids are defiant and your husband just doesn’t ‘get you’ and you’re friends, well, are only online?

How about when your dreams are crushed, and you’ve received that last writing rejection and just want to quit?

If you’ve been reading my posts and following my writing journey, you know it’s been an up hill battle for me. I write and study and attend writer’s conferences and write some more and get rejections. Then I start the process all over again. But what keeps me writing even when I say for the millionth time I’m going to quit are the little encouragements along the way.

A kind word from a friend, whether in person or on fb, a bible reading that connects with your soul, or an encouraging rejection…yes, in rejection we can find that little push we need to keep going. We just need to look past our hurts and hear what an editor or contest judge is really saying.

And then be brave enough to accept the truth and stubborn enough not to let it crush our dreams.

A little bit of encouragement along the way helps us move forward, but sometimes you have to look hard. Look hard, keep pushing, and pay it forward. Your encouragement to others just might be the thing that keeps someone else from quitting!

What encouragement can you find today?


Editing wasn’t Supposed to be THIS Hard!

When I contracted my novella in January and had to cut 30,000 words off my WIP, I knew it was going to be hard. In fact, I almost bailed on submitting the anthology to Barbour because I knew that would mean cutting more than half of my story. The pain of deleting my brilliant prose aside, I knew it would be difficult to edit this mystery whose characters and clues were tightly woven together.

But I signed that contract, took a deep breath, and said a prayer. I could do this!

I did okay cutting the first 10,000 and realized there were a lot of unnecessary words that went fairly easily. Then I started messing with my characters’ voice to save words and that hurt. So I moved on to boring, not so important scenes. Found a few of those. Cut out a couple of fun, but unnecessary characters and started the whole process again!

This week I nearly had a nervous break down. After cutting yet another scene (and weaving the information in somewhere else) I wrote to my agent telling him I was having a hard time swallowing this elephant. I couldn’t see how I could cut the last 6,000 words. He very wisely told me that when the ark is sinking, I should throw the elephant out first. In other words, find big chunks I could cut.

Problem was, I did that. Over and over again. Or did I? Sure I got rid of the easy stuff, then the scenes I could live without, but now 6,000 – 8,000 words shy of my goal I  have to take a harder look at my story and go chapter by chapter trying to salvage the voice and heart of my story as well as cut the stuff my book can live without.

Notice I didn’t say “what I can live without!”

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard, but it is. So I’m back to editing. When most writers are trying to increase their word count, I’m trying to cut mine. Here are some things I learned in the process.

Contractions are Your Friend

Any where I could use a contraction, I did. Unless your character is “proper” or foreign, most people talk in contractions anyway.

Cut the Unnecessary Words

You know that word or phrase your character ALWAYS uses all the time JUST like my character DOES. JUST cut it out ALREADY! I read somewhere to do a search for those words and CAPITALIZE them, so when you go BACK through you WIP, they jump out at you. This has helped me cut several thousand words!

Don’t Show Everything

I know it’s been drilled into us to show don’t tell, but a wise author once said that refers primarily to emotions! I learned that I could “tell” how a person got from point A to point D and skip the details in between. Not only will it make your story move, but it will cut the word count.

Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE)

In an effort to make my character’s motivations clear, I often tried to explain their motivations through internal dialogue, external dialogue or both. Then I started asking myself “does the reader need to know this now?” If the answer was no, I cut it out and looked for a shorter way to weave in the motivation later. I learned, most times it was unnecessary. I had packed the scene enough that I believe the reader understood without me telling. I’m still mastering this one, but I know I’ll hold a degree in cutting out the RUE by the end of this WIP.

Cut the Double Talk

I admit I’m wordy! Editing this story made me realize I often say the same thing a couple of times in different ways. For example, I might have internal dialogue and external dialouge that says similar things or my character might ask himself a question when it was already expressed in another way in a previous chapter. Not only can it be annoying to the reader, but it slows down the action. Just cut it out, not matter how much you’re in love with all the creative ways you’ve said it!

Pick Your Adverbs, Adjectives, and Conjunctions Carefully

Most times if your writing is strong, you don’t need many adverbs and adjectives. Sometimes you do. I noticed my adjectives would sometimes come in pairs. That’s when I chose one over the other. When it comes to starting a sentence, I seem to favor AND and BUT. I’m not sure why, but now that I know, I can go back and keep the conjunctions that add to the story. And I’m not talking word count.

Cut the Scene Short

I like to wrap up a scene sometimes with a cliff hanger, often times with internal dialogue. But I found that if I cut the last sentence or two from the scene, it still works. Often times it was better.

Editing our babies is one of the hardest things we do as authors. What ways have you found to make it easier?

50 Ways to Edit Your WIP

When I signed my first contract and agreed to chop 30,000 plus words off my 55,000 word WIP, I knew what I was getting into.

Well, sort of.

I knew it would be painful to cut that many words. I knew scenes I loved would have to go and be condensed. I knew it would be hard. What I didn’t know is how many unnecessary words I used. How many times in a row I said the same thing. And how much internal dialogue could be cut.

As I try and cut the last 10,000 words, I’m also learning that cutting means changing the voice of my characters a little. I try and keep their voice strong in places that count, but in order to cut excess words without cutting out many more scenes, I have to trim their voices. Yes, it is painful. In fact, if you’ve been following my twitter feed, you know. But this is the price of publication. It’s a step in the path I want to go. Not the final destination, but part of the journey.

And to make it a little more bareable for me and you, and hopefully bring a smile to your face, please indulge me in an edit over load break…

Remember that old song “5o ways to Leave your Lover?”  Go ahead! Sing with me. You know you want to!

There’s gotta be 50 ways to edit your WIP

“The problem is all inside your WIP”, my editor told me
“The answer is easy if you want to write for me
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to edit your WIP.”

See, it’s really my editor’s habit to intrude
Furthermore, with dozens of pages of edits his meaning can’t be misconstrued
So I’ll repeat his words at the risk of being rude
“There must be fifty ways to edit your WIP
Fifty ways to edit your WIP.”

“Just hit the delete, Pete
Get a new plot, Scott
You don’t need the backstory
Just get your WIP free

“Shore up the mid, Sid
Clean up the end, Ken
You don’t need to rewrite much
Just kill off the man, Stan
And set your WIP free

“Ooo hit the delete, Pete
Get a new plot, Scott
You don’t need the backstory
Just listen to me

“Shore up the mid, Sid
Clean up the end, Ken
You don’t need to rewrite much
Just kill off the man, Stan
And set your WIP free”

He said, “it grieves me so to see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do, but your WIP is just lame.”
I said, “I appreciate that, but would you please explain
About the fifty ways to edit my WIP.”

He said, “why don’t we both just go our own way
I’ll just rip up your contract, and I won’t have to pay
And then he sent me to spam, and I cried all through the night
Remembering… fifty ways to edit my WIP
Fifty ways to edit my WIP

So I’ll hit the delete, Pete
Get a new plot, Scott
I’ll cut out the backstory
and set my WIP free…

Okay, I’m done! Back to editing!

Seasons of Writing and Waiting

In January, I was all set to dive into my WIP. I had just put my daughter in school full time, and I had my days mapped out by the hour. Then “I got the call.” The novella I submitted to Barbour for an anthology the week before was sold!

After the shock registered, I realized I had to abandon my current WIP in order to cut my 50,000 word story down to 20,000. Talk about a daunting task! But I dove in, obsessively cutting and laboring for weeks. Thanks to Snowmaggedon 2011, I managed to cut my story down to 35,000. I sent it off to my critique partners with the hope that they’d see a couple of threads and scenes I could cut.

That was almost a month ago. Or at least it seems like it. In the meantime, I got busy helping my 3-5th grade students write their stories. I haven’t worked on my own since!

Sometimes the hardest part of this writing journey is the waiting. Waiting for that season of life that allows you to write. Waiting for that time each day to write. Waiting on others whether it be critique partners, agents, or editors. Waiting on the call…

What you do in the waiting can have just as much significance on your writing than what you do when you’re busy. I used to be more anxious than I am now. But I’m learning to rest in Jesus and put my trust in him while finding other ways to keep myself busy toward achieving my goals.

What do you do while you’re waiting?

Ten Reasons Why You Didn’t Get Your Contest Entry in on Time

Since I was contracted in January, I’m ineligible to enter the Genesis contest, but I remember those days with fear and trepidation. Here’s to all of you who submitted on time or were planning on entering but…

10. You were too busy doing your taxes.

9. Your critique partners didn’t get your entry back to you in time.

8. You spent all your time looking up grammar rules on line, making sure your “ands” had the proper comma placement.

7. You realized at the last minute your really did use THEN and THAN correctly the first time and had to go back and change them all again.

6. Your kids kept interrupting you while doing your final read through, that you had to start all over again and ended up reading through it ten more times.

5. Your critique partners got so sick of you emailing and instant messaging them every five minutes with questions, that they blacklisted you from the contest.

4. So many people had already critiqued your entry that you figured there’d be no one left who could judge it.

3. You kept changing scenes around at the last minute and realized your mystery had turned into women’s fiction. Then you had to start from scratch because women’s fiction was full!

2. You printed out your copy and mailed it only realizing too late that it was suppose to be sent by email.

And the number 1 reason why you didn’t get your entry in on time…

Everytime you read through your entry you found ANOTHER mistake, like the dangling participle in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE, so you figured why enter at all.

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