I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.
Candy Cooper McDowall
This is a Facebook post from my daughter that I wish to share with you (with her permission). I am sure you will love it as much as I did. No author/writer lessons here today or Author Interview. But I think you will find some wisdom and humor.
posted August 22, 2014 at 4:51pm
When I was a teenager, my father told me I was not allowed to date until I was 16. Yes, you read that right. 16. That’s not to say I didn’t hit the occasional basketball game with a “friend” or double-date for the movies (that we walked to). But for a legitimate date, one that involved alone time between me and A BOY, I had to wait until that magical age of teen maturity. Sweet 16.
I remember pretty distinctly sitting at the dinner table telling my dad that I had been asked out for my first date, and having to ask his permission to go. He tried to be funny. He failed. I will leave the out the details.
However, this was 1982 or thereabouts. There were rules. Some of them were imposed by my dad. Some were just, you know, how it was done. But there were guidelines we pretty much all knew ahead of time. It never occurred to me they might be variable. They just… were. Which, I suppose, was fairly naïve considering dating in the 8Os was not very much like dating in the 50s, which is equally not like dating in the 20s. Still, these were the times I knew, along with the rest of my contemporaries. We were trying to act all grownup in our awkward bodies with our rampant hormones and having no idea what we were doing, guessing at societal norms in order to know how to proceed. Whether we followed them or not is not the point. They were there.
Fast forward 30 years…or so…
Stepping back out into the world of dating as a single woman in her 40s, with almost grown children watching, has been daunting. I’ve changed. The world has changed. But the one thing I did not expect is that DATING HAS CHANGED. Caught me totally off guard with that one.
I was scared enough as it is, with my previously unscarred heart now battered and slightly bruised. But at least, I thought, this time I had experience. This time, I knew what was coming. This time, I am all grown up in my not-too-shabby-for-my-age body, possibly with some raging hormones (which are likely menopausal), having some idea of what I am doing, because this time I KNOW the societal norms that tell me how to proceed. Whether I follow them or not is not the point. THIS TIME at least I know the rules.
Hah. Ahaha. Ahahahahahahaha! WRONG.
I give you…online dating.
If you had said the words “online dating” in the 80s we would have wondered what laundry had to do with your love life.
And so at this time, I would like to enumerate for you lucky souls who are NOT negotiating this newly-laid digital landmine, or maybe those of you who are jumping into those waters again, what is it like to be a teenager of the 80s dating in this new millenium. For those of you already doing it, high five for bravery.
80s Rule #1 – If a boy asks you out, he probably likes you.
I mean, he had to get up the nerve, look you in the eye (or write you a note), get made fun of by his friends, and then wait nervously for you to say yes. You don’t do all that for somebody you aren’t really interested in. It’s too nerve-wracking.
2014 Version – If you see a picture of someone you find interesting, and he sees yours, you might start a conversation. You will probably be emailing or texting for awhile. This might lead him to ask if you possibly want to get coffee or something. Maybe. He might just flirt. Or be cautiously distant so that you aren’t sure if he is interested or just bored from sitting home alone. And then right about the time YOU are ready to ask HIM if he wants to get coffee or something, because, you know, you are a modern confident woman and he already said he likes coffee, he will suddenly disappear and delete his profile. Likely in the middle of the conversation you were having and probably right after he just asked you out for that coffee.
80s Rule #2 – Your date must pick you up at the door.
There was no way in hell my father was going to miss out on the chance to terrorize any potential suitor of mine, even while being polite. I think it was the smile that threw them off. The anticipation of meeting The Father was likely much worse than the experience of meeting The Father himself.
2014 Version – Your date must not know where you live for a very long time.
It’s very possible you don’t have a good idea of what your date really looks like, since those pics he uploaded were from when he still had hair. (Side note: Beware the naked bathroom selfie. That would have gotten you arrested in 1982.) And since you are a single woman now, probably alone in the house in the primping hours prior to any first date, for safety’s sake, a new guy can’t get within 100 yards of you without a room full of caffeinated strangers, who may or may not be looking up when you walk in, but could at least call 911 if they heard screaming.
80s Rule #3 – Your date pays for dinner.
His dad probably slipped him a 20 on the way out the door, and reminded him to tip the waiter.
2014 Version – You get there early enough to buy your own coffee so there is no awkward reaching for your wallet as he reaches for his, not knowing if he really wants to buy your coffee or just feels socially obligated. Or he buys his own coffee and leaves you standing there feeling like a dolt for assuming those were together.
80s Rule #4 – If it is a nice date, he might ask you out again before the night is over.
I mean, you like each other. It was fun. Why not?
2014 Version – If it is a nice date, he will likely wait until he gets home, and then text or email you a day or two (or 5) later to see if you would like to go out again.
I had a guy say to me in all honesty, “I never ask a woman out for a second date while we are still on the first date, because then it avoids the whole awkward refusal thing.” Because truthfully, the chance of being turned down for the second date is much higher when you don’t know each other to begin with. I can’t exactly fault the guy. So you might be waiting for awhile for that second request. Or it might not be coming at all. Hard to say.
80s Rule #5 – If it is a nice date, there might be a goodnight kiss.
There might not, if one or both of you is shy. But there was little chance of more happening on that first date than a bit of awkward groping in the driveway. Not to say that more wouldn’t happen later, but much first date action was unlikely.
2014 Version – You have to state in writing on a public forum whether or not you are willing to have sex on a first date.
I wish I was joking.
80s Rule #6 – Once you are a couple, it is ok to slide across the bench seat and sit next to him while he is driving.
2014 Version – First, you probably aren’t even in his car for awhile. See Rule #2. But if you have made it that far, the bench seat is long gone. The best you can do is try to hold hands over the console between the bucket seats and hope you don’t lose feeling in your wrist.
80s Rule #7 – If your friends like him, he’s probably ok.
2014 Version – If he’s ok, your friends might like him. But not necessarily.
80s Rule #8 – If things don’t work out, there is probably an emotional breakup in person, but if he’s a real heel, it might be over the phone.
But if he did that.. COWARD! Couldn’t even look you in the eye. (spit) And then all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.
2014 Version – If things don’t work out, a text message is a convenient and efficient way to get out of a potential relationship without having to bear witness to the other person’s heart breaking right in front of you.
But then, all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.
Some things don’t change that much at all.
80s Rule #9 – If it all goes well, you gaze happily into each other’s eyes, put your picture in the newspaper, and start planning that over-the-top wedding with the giant cake and people from your dad’s office you’ve never met.
2014 Version – If all goes well, you slowly introduce each other to your respective children, quietly move in together one dresser drawer at a time, and maybe sneak off in a private little ceremony to tie the knot at some point. But not necessarily. Let’s not move too fast here.
Wish me luck. At least now I know the rules.
Candy Cooper McDowall ©2014
E.J. Runyon, author of the story collection, Claiming One, and the writing guide, Tell Me (How to Write) A Story also runs BridgetoStory.com a creative writing website. Her next book is a novel, A House Of Light And Stone due Oct 2014, and the upcoming writing guide, Revision for Beginners, is due out in 2015.
Welcome E.J. It is a pleasure to have you on Author Interview Friday. How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
About 10 years, I’d say, collecting it all together. My short story collection got picked up the first place I sent it to. But the 17 stories had been written, edited, and polished since about 2001. That work led to Claiming One, being published in 2012 – by the first and only place I tried. They like me well enough that, Tell Me (How to Write) A Story was released next, and a novel will be out soon. Sara Jayne Slack’s baby, Inspired Quill, is a UK Social Enterprise program and that interested me much more than the idea of publication.
Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
I may try Indy publishing one day, but so far things are via Inspired Quill. Online I have a few personae, none of which use E.J. Runyon as a screen name. So my first connection with Sara, my publisher, was through one of these forum nom de plumes. She mentioned her new press. I sent off my submission, agentless, without mentioning that we knew each other online. She had no idea what my actual name was anyway. Would I have submitted if Inspired Quill hadn’t been a Social Enterprise concern? I doubt it.
What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
(laughs) Read my latest book! No. I think you’ve got to put it all down first. Don’t spend all your energy polishing one scene or chapter. You’ll never get anywhere that way. No matter if you re-read and aren’t happy with it. Save the editing for when it all exists and you have an ending to consider. In Tell Me (How to Write) A Story I talk about highlighting what you want to edit, but holding off on the changes until you can look at a chapter or scene and see all those highlights. Knowing how often you do something– will help you stop doing it that way in the next scene you write. Editing means a writer is stepping back and seeing it all from a small distance; not cleaning up one step at a time.
Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
Luckily, no. I’ve got no problem with hearing various voices in my own mind. Maybe there’s a bit of actress inside, willing to take on new roles. And I’ve studied the basic storytelling methods so that’s allowed me to stretch and try lots of different voices in my works.
Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?
I deconstruct scenes from novels all the time. I’m famous for leading my coaching clients through doing that too. I’ve got whole classes on how to do a syntax deconstruction for bettering your own writing. There’s a section on that in my book too, you can follow how to do it step-by-step. Good strong syntax, when you recognize it, can be the road-signs to better writing. I try stealing as much as I can from writers whose way of saying things I admire.
Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
In 1996, it dawned on me that I’d made it to a place where my characters sounded like real people. The Narrator-voice I started with had receded to the background. I wasn’t using my words for telling, or explaining things to the reader. I think it was then that I realized ‘that way of writing’ was the storytelling ‘voice’ that people were talking about finding. Without that stilted sounding, overt describing, things began to sound right on the page for me. I knew I’d found it then.
Thank you for being with us today E.J. I am sure many people will want to log on to your creative writing website and look to your for some pointers. This writing business can be very frustrating and sometimes lonely. It helps to have someone like you in our “corner.”
Readers – here is how you find E. J. and her books
Tell Me (How to Write) A Story” Good, Basic Advice for Novices Ready To Write. By EJ Runyon
It is my pleasure to have Barbara Claypole White with me today on Author Interview Friday. Barbara writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. English born and educated, she’s married to an internationally-acclaimed academic. Their son, an award-winning poet / musician, attends college in the Midwest. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write love stories about damaged people. The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. Her second novel, The In-Between Hour, will be released on December 31.
You can connect with Barbara on her website www.barbaraclaypolewhite,
Signed copies of The Unfinished Garden are available from: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/book/9780778314127
Pre-order link for The In-Between Hour: http://www.amazon.com/In-Between-Hour-Barbara-Claypole-White/dp/0778314758/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379604945&sr=8-1&keywords=the+inbetween+hour
Barbara has offered a giveaway for a signed copy of The In-Between Hour and will ship it anywhere in the United States. All you have to do is leave a comment so we can draw a winner.
Joanne: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Barbara: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I penned stories and poems as a child, scribbled in diaries as a teenager, then churned out press releases and trade articles when I worked in P.R. (Writing’s still writing!) However, I didn’t realize my childhood dream of becoming a published author until I turned fifty. My motto is never give up.
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or did you take any courses along the way?
Barbara: I was a history major who worked in the London fashion industry. (I know, I never take the direct path.) I started messing around with my first—unpublished—novel twenty-five years ago, but I wasn’t terribly focused. After I became a stay-at-home mom and my son entered the school system, I began writing in the mornings and took an evening class at my local arts center. Gradually I developed a writing routine, became more serious about honing my skills, joined writing organizations, went to conferences, found critique partners, and entered competitions for unpublished manuscripts. And I read and read. All those steps helped prepare me to become an author.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publisher? How did you find your agent and editor?
Barbara: I’m thrilled to be a Harlequin MIRA author. MIRA is the imprint of Harlequin that handles literary commercial or book club fiction, and when they were considering The Unfinished Garden, my agent warned me the acquisitions team is tough. To be honest, I still can’t believe I’m a MIRA author, and I wouldn’t be without my agent, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.
I found Nalini on the Writer’s Digest new agent alert, researched the heck out of her, and spent two weeks creating a personalized query letter. (Yes, one letter, two weeks.) She offered representation a week after I queried her. From the beginning, Nalini made everything easy. She had a plan, I did nothing, and three months later I had a two-book deal. Did I mention that I love my agent? 🙂
Joanne: Authors and publishers talk about finding your voice. What does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
Barbara: If you’re on Twitter, read Marian Keyes’ posts. That woman has bucketloads of voice! Your voice is the way you express yourself—your use of language, humor, etc. I think it also reveals your inner core. To find your voice, you have to dig deep; you have to expose the most personal. I guess I found my voice when I stopped trying so hard and subconsciously reverted to my letter writing style. Throughout college I wrote long, unedited letters—filled with voice.
Joanne: What marketing techniques do you use to increase your sales?
Barbara: My marketing approach is slow and organic—like my writing. I see connections and follow instincts. For example, I persuaded a local gardening magazine to do a small piece on The Unfinished Garden, even though the editor told me—emphatically—she didn’t review fiction. My angle? The novel has local, rural settings and numerous references to indigenous plants her readers would enjoy.
Marketing is really a giant jigsaw puzzle with some very small pieces. You don’t have to think big, but you do have to connect with others. The half hour you spend answering an email from a reader is still part of your marketing campaign.
Obviously the first step is to write the best book you can, but 90% of everything that happens next revolves around networking. It takes a village to promote a book. Authors helping authors is a huge part of the equation. Be gracious to other authors—post reviews of their books, share their blog posts, and go to their readings. There is a wonderful pay-it-forward subculture amongst authors.
I do believe in blog tours, since most reviewers are online, but the cornerstones of my marketing efforts are always local: booksellers, book clubs, media. I organized readings for The Unfinished Garden at all my local bookstores, publicized them through the local events’ listings, and contacted editors of local papers, newsletters, and magazines for ‘local girl makes good’ stories.
Reaching book clubs has been key for TUG. (Over a year out, I still have book clubs on my calendar.) I started by emailing everyone I knew, and I accosted anyone who made the mistake of mentioning, “I’m in a book club.” Also, one local bookseller became my champion and recommended me to a number of book clubs and literary organizations. That’s a perfect example of the power of connections. (I made a point of introducing myself to her months before the novel came out.)
Marketing is a slow burn, but if you build a solid foundation, it does get easier. And you find yourself happily saying to anyone who asks, “My second novel, The In-Between Hour is the story of two broken families coming together to heal, and you can pre-order it NOW! on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.” Or, you can leave a comment below for a chance to win an advance reader copy. See? I just did a little bit of marketing….
Joanne: What great advise. Thank you Barbara. Now readers, here is a sneak peek into The In-Between Hour
The In-Between Hour (Harlequin MIRA, December 31, 2013):
Will imagined silence. The silence of snowfall in the forest. The silence at the top of a crag. But eighty floors below his roof garden, another siren screeched along Central Park West.
Nausea nibbled—a hungry goldfish gumming him to death. Maybe this week’s diet of Zantac and PBR beer was to blame. Or maybe grief was a degenerative disease, destroying him from the inside out. Dissolving his organs. One. By. One.
The screensaver on his MacBook Air, a rainbow of tentacles that had once reminded him to watch for shooting stars, mutated into a kraken: an ancient monster dragging his life beneath the waves. How long since he’d missed his deadline? His agent had been supportive, his editor generous, but patience—even for clients who churned out global bestsellers—expired.
Another day when he’d failed to resuscitate his crap work-in-progress; another day when Agent Dodds continued to dangle from the helicopter; another day without a strategy for his hero of ten years that wasn’t a fatal “Let go, dude. Just let go.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Marc Simon last February at Marco Island’s AuthorFest.I have read his story, The Leap Year Boy and highly recommend it. It is with great joy that I have him with us today. We’ll get right to the questions:
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Marc: I used to be in advertising as a copywriter in creative departments and as a freelancer. I used to write TV and radio commercials, print ads, brochures, web site copy, etc. Writing ad copy gives me a sense of how to be economical with words, as well as be colorful in descriptions of people and places. Also, I used to write and perform comedy. Doing comedy well requires a good sense of timing. I think there’s a carry over to fiction. But as far as having a degree in creative writing or journalism, no. I did take some workshops at a writing school in Boston called Grub Street. They were quite helpful, and I met a lot of fine writers along the way.
Joanne: Do you always write in the same genre?
Marc: Actually, no. I like to write plays, and last year, my one act play titled Sex After Death was a winner in Naples in the Sugden Reader’s Theater New Play Contest. Also, I don’t write only novels. I’ve written and had published several short stories. But I guess that’s still fiction.
Joanne: Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?
Marc: You would find my novel, The Leap Year Boy on the fiction shelf. It’s literary historical fiction with a touch of magical realism.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Marc: My situation is a combination of the two, so let me explain. I do have a literary agent, Joelle Delbourgo, president of Delbourgo Associates in New York. I met her at a writing conference in Miami in 2010. The conference offered attendees an opportunity to have a short story or a chapter of a novel reviewed by an agent, editor or a writer. I had modest expectations, but low and behold, she liked my chapter so much she asked to see the entire novel. I sent it to her and three months later she offered to represent me. After I received about 25 “glowing” rejections from the traditional publishers, she sent my novel to Untreed Reads, a publisher that does eBooks only. They “bought” the novel pretty quickly.
After my novel was published as an ebook, I found that many people wanted a traditional paperback. Since my publisher doesn’t do paperbacks, I decided to self-publish the print version. I had a graphic designer prepare the cover and the inside pages. I used a company called Lightning Source as my printer. They are a print on demand company that also distributes worldwide, so in my contract with them, they distribute my novel to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lightning Source is very professional and I think a step above many self-publishing companies in terms of quality.
Joanne: Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
Marc: I think every story calls for its own voice—unless you are writing a series, like a detective series or maybe a romance series. My novel is in 3rd person, past tense and takes the POV of several characters. My stories in many cases are first person, which makes switching POV in the story a no-no.
Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
Marc: For me, the hardest part is sitting my butt down in the chair, shutting off the internet and writing. I don’t do outlines. I let the characters and the setting build the story. I’m always surprised at what happens after I struggle for an hour or so.
Joanne: What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Marc: In my opinion, a new writer should just sit down and write and crank something out, whether it’s short story, a play or a novel and not look back until a first draft is done. There will be plenty of time to revise. And I recommend getting feedback from only a few people, and people who are not going to pat your on the back and tell you that you’re the next Faulkner, because quite frankly, you’re not. Only then should you go back and revise, revise, revise and rewrite.
Joanne: What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Marc: The Leap Year Boy is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It is the story of a working class family and an extraordinary boy named Alex Miller, born in the family’s home on February 29, 1908. What makes Alex so remarkable is that even though he’s full term, he weighs just two pounds, one ounce and is nine inches long.
Despite his size, Alex is perfectly healthy. However, his body grows at one-fourth the rate of a normal child—so that after one year, he’s the size of a three-month-old—but his mind grows much quicker. Eventually, so do certain parts of his body and his ability to do various and unusual things with them. As Alex’s special abilities become apparent, those around him see him as both a miracle child and a freak of nature—a freak to exploit.
How Alex saves himself from the designs of others—his religious fanatic grandmother, who sees him as the new Messiah; his money-grubbing immigrant doctor, who wants to put him on display; his unstable nanny, who believes Alex is her lost child; and his father and father’s mistress, who are eager to tap Alex’s commercial potential—is at the heart of the novel.
Ultimately, a family that has been fractured by ambition and circumstance rediscovers loyalty and love, thanks to Alex’s courage.
Joanne: This sounds so interesting. Where can readers get your book?
Marc: It is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Leap-Year-Marc-Simon/dp/0615802907/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375201891&sr=1-1
Joanne: Thank you Marc. If you may, please share with the readers a sneak peak into your book.
The Leap Year Boy
Alex Miller was born on February 29, 1908, at 12:01 a.m., precisely nine months and a day after he was conceived. He weighed a mere two pounds, one ounce and measured just nine inches long, yet despite his size, his breathing was relaxed, his heart beat like a metronome and his blue eyes were active and alert.
Alex entered the world headfirst in the home of Abe and Irene Miller at 707 Mellon Street, Pittsburgh, less than 20 minutes after Irene had gone into labor. Ida Murphy, Irene’s mother, was in attendance, not so much out of concern for her daughter or the welfare of her nascent grandchild, whom she hoped would be her first female grandchild; rather, Ida wanted to see firsthand why her daughter had engaged the services of a medical doctor, since she herself had delivered without an attending physician during the births of her own three children, the third stillborn, each more agonizing than the one before it.
Ida felt a pang of jealousy when her daughter delivered so quickly and relatively pain free. Not that she didn’t love her daughter, in her own guarded way, or wish her well, but still, she thought, suffering builds character. If she’d had to go through it, why should her daughter get off so easy?
When she saw the tiny baby, she remarked to the doctor, “That’s it?”
Irene’s physician, Dr. Malkin, shrugged and assured her that it was indeed “it.”
Malkin was a hairy, bear-like Russian/Jewish immigrant with filmy pince-nez glasses he wore on the tip of his pointy nose. The veracity of his medical credentials was somewhat suspect, had anyone cared to investigate, since his professional certificates were printed in Cyrillic type and framed in clouded glass on the walls of his so-called surgery, which happened to be on the second floor of a cold-water walkup. He served the Miller family as general practitioner, pediatrician and dentist.
“But it’s so small. Are you sure there aren’t more babies in there somewhere?” Irene admonished him to keep looking, that there had to be one or two more, look at the size of the thing, it was no bigger than the runt in a litter of pigs. It was all she could do to keep from looking herself. But when Malkin shook his head no, that’s it, Ida put her hands on her wide hips and said, “Well, in that case, doctor, there’s no use me dilly-dallying around here anymore, is there?” She washed her hands with rough soap in the basin on the dresser next to the bed, put on her gloves, quickly kissed her daughter on her damp forehead, harrumphed at the tiny baby boy and went downstairs. As she put on her coat, she told Abe Miller, who was waiting with a cigar in one hand and a beer in the other, that his wife had given him another boy, and that she was fine, and he should go on upstairs but be ready for a surprise—and no thank you, she didn’t care to spend the night at their house, she was perfectly capable of walking home by herself or catching a trolley.
Abe bent down to look at the baby. His cigar fell out of his mouth. The baby blanket quickly smoldered until he tamped it out.
Malkin came by the next morning, expecting to find the teensy baby dead in its crib, but there it was, alive and kicking, nursing and crying and eliminating like any other newborn, albeit in miniscule quantities. He asked after Irene as well, who happily reported that she felt so good, she was ready to go down to Rooney’s for a ham sandwich and a bottle of lager.
Today I have women’s fiction writer, Novelist Sharon Struth with me. She believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, received first place in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest and second place in the Golden Heart. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut, along with her husband, two daughters and canine companions. She’s a graduate of Marist College.
Her other writing credits include essays in several Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, the anthology A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers, Sasee Magazine and WritersWeekly.com. Her current work-in-progress Share the Moon received second place in the Unpublished Beacon Contest. She is represented by Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency (http://www.blueridgeagency.com/).
Prior to writing full-time, Sharon worked for thirteen years at the headquarters of Waldenbooks/Borders Books. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America and Treasurer of The Romance Writers of Southern Connecticut and Lower New York (CoLoNY).
Joanne: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
Sharon: When people think “writer” they think Hemmingway or John Grisham, but I always loved to write anything; papers for school, the minutes to a meeting, a fun birthday poem. In fact, I never thought about becoming a writer because I was always a practical kind of gal. But when I turned forty, I gave my lifelong career in accounting and financial systems some serious thought. Is this what I want to do for the rest of my days. The answer was a big fat NO! Eight years later, during an adult education writing class, I found my passion in writing. All the made up stories in my head while on the grocery store line suddenly made sense.
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Sharon: I didn’t start out writing a book. I enjoyed the process of learning how to write through personal essays, taking classes in adult education and on-line classes. Then, within a year, I landed in a national anthology with one of my essays. Then another. After a few publications I decided to tackle a novel.
My success came from three things; 1) learning every little thing I could about the craft and industry, whether in a class or Writer’s Digest or a book on craft and 2) writing every single day 3) having the patience to know writing success doesn’t happen overnight.
Joanne: How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
Sharon: My first manuscript sits in a drawer. I call it my practice book. But while writing that one, I came up with the idea for The Hourglass. When I finished my “test drive” novel, I began The Hourglass. The first draft took a year. I then fine-tuned it for close to another year until it felt perfect. As the saying goes, writing is rewriting. I submitted it to RWA contests along the way and learned a great deal about how to improve what I’d done. Many complain about contests, but if you learn to filter through the advice (because some of it IS wrong at times) you can learn a great deal as a new writer.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Sharon: I found an agent after about thirty rejections. My agent was listed in the Women’s Fiction RWA files. She had only started out about three years earlier, but she had signed quite a few contracts. Her authors loved her and she had success with many mid-sized and smaller publishers; none with NY. But I decided to go with her anyway, give her a chance like she was giving me one. I’m so glad I did. She now has signed more contracts than I can count with quiet a few big NY publishers. She’s also turned me into a better writer and helped make The Hourglass a book I’m proud to have my name on. She’s currently shopping my next book Share the Moon.
Joanne: I love the cover of your book. What is the premise of your novel, The Hourglass we are promoting today?
This book is mainly for my generation…middle-aged folks, baby boomers, those of believe 50 is the new 40. Yet my thirty-something year old neighbor loved the book and so did an eighteen-year-old daughter of my friend. My novelist tagline is “Stories about life and love…for the ageless at heart.” I write stories where life doesn’t always go according to plan, but the hope for a second chance always lingers.
Here’s a blurb from The Hourglass:
Can forgiveness survive lies and unspoken truths?
Until Brenda McAllister’s husband committed suicide, she appeared to have the ideal life: a thriving psychology practice, success as a self-help author, and a model family. But her guilt over her affair with Jack’s best friend prevents her from moving on. Did Jack learn of her infidelity? Was she the cause of his death?
The release of Brenda’s second book forces her into an unexpected assignment with arrogant celebrity author CJ Morrison, whose irritating and edgy exterior hides the torment of his own mistakes. But as she grows closer to CJ, Brenda learns she wasn’t the only one with secrets—Jack had secrets of his own, unsavory ones that may have led to his death. While CJ helps Brenda uncover the truth about her husband, she finds the path to forgiveness isn’t always on the map.
Joanne: Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite.
Sharon: Sure. Here’s an excerpt:
An unexpected gravitational pull swelled Brenda’s anger. Her cute quip ran into hiding. She no longer cared about winning this man’s favor. His rudeness left her feeling as if she’d been doused with hot coffee this time. Brenda clenched her fists. A year of internal browbeating over Jack’s suicide had left her easily irritated.
Brenda gripped the frail edges of her self-control. “I once again offer my apologies for the accident, by definition an unplanned event with lack of intent.” He looked down his sturdy, Grecian nose at her, so she stood and put her hands on her hips. “Shouldn’t you, as a writer, know that?”
Every line on his face tensed. “I could do without your sarcasm.” He leaned closer. “Thanks to you, I missed my meeting. Maybe tomorrow morning you could get room service.”
The brunette unleashed a tight smirk. CJ motioned for them to move on.
Brenda fumbled for a good retort. As he stepped away, the last word went with him. The same way Jack had the last word in their life together. A silent explosion went off inside Brenda’s head and propelled her anger forward.
“Mr. Morrison?” She raised her voice to be heard above the crowd.
He looked over his shoulder and arched a questioning eyebrow.
Brenda crossed her arms and fixed a phony smile as she nodded toward his companion. “It’s so nice of you to bring your daughter to the conference.”
Joanne: Where can readers go to buy your novel?
Books can also be purchased at these retail links:
All Romance Ebooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thehourglass-1173513-149.html
Joanne: Thank you so much for being with us today on Writing Under Fire. I know I am going to order my copy right away. I hope to see you around the block at Women Fiction Writing Association.
This is way too good not to share. Thanks Kristen Lamb. As always, excellent advise.
Posted by Juliet Madison
I found these tips on Juliet Madison’s website. Thank you Juliet. This is a great tip.
When I’m editing, and before I do a final read through and tweaking of my manuscript, I use Microsoft Word’s ‘find’ feature to search for the following ten words. These words can usually be deleted in order to tighten up the writing and focus on ‘showing vs telling’.
Sometimes ‘almost’ can work but often it’s not needed. Eg: With his sunken eyes and pallor he almost looked like a ghost. An example where it may work could be: She almost slammed the door in his face. Or instead of that, it could be changed to: She resisted the urge to slam the door in his face.
Usually there is a stronger word available to replace the need for ‘very’, or the phrase can be changed completely to something else. Eg: ‘very sad’ could become ‘despondent’. Eg: It was very sunny. Better: It was sunny. Even better: She squinted as the sun’s glare rebounded off the pavement and hit her eyes.
When this is used alongside ‘to’, as in ‘started to’, it’s probably not needed. Eg: She started to get dressed. Better: She got dressed. Even better: She zipped her jeans and put on a t-shirt.
This is similar to ‘started’. Eg: It began to rain. Better: Droplets of rain dampened her hair, or: He flicked on the windscreen wipers as rain blurred the road ahead.
5. stood up
Remove the word ‘up’. If someone stood, it’s obviously up.
6. sat down
Remove the word ‘down’. If someone is going from a standing position to a sitting position it is obviously ‘down’. Except if the person is lying down and then changes to a sitting position.
Removing ‘heard’ or ‘hear’ gives the reader a more vivid experience. Eg: She heard someone call her name. Better: A voice called her name. Eg: I could hear the rain pelting against the window. Better: rain pelted against the window.
Same as with ‘heard’. Eg: She saw his face through the window. Better: His eyes glared at her through the window. Eg: I could see him coming towards me. Better: He came towards me.
Telling a reader what a character felt is not as powerful as showing them. Eg: She felt relaxed and happy. Better: She leaned back in the chair and a smile eased onto her face.
Eg: If she could just find a way to get through to him, he might understand. Eg: “The shop is just around the corner.”
Reading is my favorite hobby. When life is stressed, I read a book. When life is relaxed, I read a book. Pulling just a few of my favorite quotes about reading, I will share them with my comments.
“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.” ~Author Unknown
So true. And it doesn’t get mad if I ignore it for a few years. I am a re-reader and eventually come to re-read my all-time favorites. They always welcome me back, no matter how long I have been gone.
“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” ~Edward P. Morgan
Without books, so many subjects would have gone unexplored. Things I didn’t even know I was interested in have expanded my horizons. All because of books.
The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce
Through books, everyone can learn a new skill, become a better person, learn to love.
“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” ~Author Unknown
This is my favorite quote. I am blessed with many friends, but books can take me to another life like no person can.
What is your all-time favorite book? Mine is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosna.
Research is devoured to make his story accurate.
First drafts pour through his fingertips as the plot thickens and the characters take on lives of their own.
The first, second, and third rewrites still hold his excitement as he tightens the story and polishes it to perfection.
Finally, with rounds of applause (most likely by one), he types “The End” and raises a glass in celebration.
Then he begins to quiver and shake in his boots. It is time for the query letter.
Nothing strikes more fear into an author than the sight of the cursor mocking the blank screen in front of him as he ponders how to condense one, two, five, maybe ten years of sweat and tears into a one-page plea to accept his work. It appears to be an insurmountable task.
So let’s break it apart and see if we can climb Mt. Everest.
Salutation: Always address your query to a specific agent, one you have researched. Be choosy and only send to agents that are currently accepting your genre. This requires checking their website to find out what they are looking for. You cannot assume that since they published one book in your genre that they are still looking for that now. Follow their guidelines to the letter. If they want a query only, do not send a chapter of your book. If they say query and synopsis, be prepared for that too. Pay very close attention to how they want things submitted, via email or postal? For email, most agents do not accept attachments and prefer everything in the body of the email. Trying to be different or “stand out” will only get you in the slush pile.
Paragraph One: The Introduction – Especially with new authors, a little butter can go a long way. A sentence of praise for one of the novels the agent recently published lets him know you have done your homework and are not sending out generic queries to every agent on the planet. Keep it brief. One to two sentences at the most.
Paragraph Two: – the Pitch – This is when you really begin to sweat. Start with a sentence that gives the title of your book, the genre and the approximate word count. Next is G.M.C. Goal, Motivation, Conflict. In twenty five words or less, include those three points to your story, basically your premise. Who needs to accomplish what in order to have blank or this terrible thing will happen. You do not have to give the resolution in the query. Save that for the synopsis (your second heart attack) This paragraph should be two to four sentences at the most. Resist the urge to expound on how you know this will be the next best seller and they would be insane not to take it.
Paragraph Three: – the Bio – If you are previously published, this is easy. Simply tell what you published, when and with whom. If you won any awards that are more noteworthy than your local writers group, say so. It won’t help to say your mother read it and thought it was great. Mom may be just a little prejudice. If you have never published before, use other points; college degrees, or specialty workshops you attended. Keep this brief; you are only trying to point out that you are actively working toward a career in writing. Do you have a large following on your website or blog? Mention the number of followers. Having a built in platform is always a plus. If you are published, this may be your longest paragraph. If not, this will probably be your shortest.
Paragraph Four: Thank the agent for their time. Include your complete contact information below your signature. That includes phone, address and email. Do not expect them to open any links to your website or blogs but it okay to include them at the bottom.
Have you struggled or been successful in your queries? If you have had success with a query letter, share it. We would all love to read it.