Guest Post: Author Lindsey J. Palmer Writes About Living In New York City And Major Life Milestones In Her New Novel

If We Lived HereToday, author Lindsey J. Palmer poses a foreboding question: how do we—and our characters—handle major life changes? How about those milestone birthdays? (You know the ones.)In Lindsey’s newest novel, IF WE LIVED HERE, the main character, Emma, is on the cusp of turning thirty. How does Emma cope? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I have to admit that what impressed me even more than the premise (and I love books set in NYC because I love NYC) was the fact that Lindsey was writing her second published novel before she turned thirty. 

My debut was published in 2013 when I was forty-nine. When I was thirty I had a two-year-old and lived in an early nineteen-twenties Cape Cod in New Jersey. I had the picket fence, both literally and figuratively. Times have changed. 

And I think that’s what IF WE LIVED HERE is about. Changing times. Adapting. Figuring things out along the way. Making it work. Living life. 

I can totally relate. Even if when I was thirty, there was no computer in my house, telephones were attached to walls, stamps cost twenty-nine cents—and people still used stamps.

Please welcome Lindsey J. Palmer back to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Susan Örnbratt Asks: “What is a lucky writer?”

Cover for websiteHere is a lovely reminder from author Susan Örnbratt that we should find inspiration in the everyday as well as in the extraordinary. And, that sometimes things happen just when they should. Even if it’s ten years later. Please welcome Susan to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

How a Grandmother’s Secret Words Became a Granddaughter’s Treasure 

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Author Interview: Author Holly Robinson Talks About Emotion, Mystery, and Names—Oh My!

Haven Lake_FCSometimes you just click with someone, and that’s how it was for me and my friend, author Holly Robinson. I’m not sure even how or when we first connected, likely due to her first novel with NAL, The Wishing Hill, which was published around the same time as The Glass Wives. TODAY, Holly is launching her third novel with NAL, HAVEN LAKE (and has another coming out in the Fall, OMG). The best part of interviewing an author-friend is learning new things about her, her writing, her stories. They’re not usually the kinds of things that come up in casual phone conversations, but they’re the things I want to know and the kinds of interviews I want to share here.

Actually, that’s the best part of interviewing anyone—quenching my own curiosity by getting the answers to MY questions and knowing what, how, and why those answers would be of interest to others. (Hello, Journalism Degree!!)

Holly’s novels are family dramas strewn with emotion and mystery. Family secrets are woven through each one, as well as vivid settings, and character voices that ring clear and true. You’ll see what I mean when you read the interview! 

Amy and Holly and lots of plates on a wall—September 2014

Amy and Holly and lots of plates on a wall—September 2014

Please welcome Holly Robinson back to WFW!

Amy xo

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Self-Editing for Authors—Getting Rid of the Aww and the Awe

I often question my writing, judge my prose, belittle my word choices, and doubt my plot points. Some days I love what I’ve written.

The “disbelieving me” is in awe of the time and effort it will take to get from first draft to final draft. The “believing me” might think, “Aww, this is so good it doesn’t need to be changed.

No! To both.

I must self-edit.

I also must strike a balance where I am confident in my work but know it needs work.

Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, self-editing can be daunting. At least it can be for me. I stare at the monitor and all this little black shapes stare back at me. Just looking at them is exhausting.

I know myself. I self-edit differently than I write. I’m a binge writer, but a bit-by-bit editor. Not that I can’t, or haven’t, edited for hours, but I can also edit a paragraph, then leave for an appointment or to do the dishes.

Oh, who am I kidding? I do not stop editing to do the dishes.

But I do stop if I’m overwhelmed.

The key here is not to get overwhelmed.

First Drafts

My first drafts are embarrassing. I write in sentence fragments and run-ons. But what I have when I’m finished, I hope, is the beginning, middle, and end of a chapter, the right idea to build upon. I write light in first drafts. That means I know I’m going to go in again to flesh out ideas. Many of my friends write 125, 000 word first drafts they edit down to 90,000 words. My finished first drafts are about 50,000 words. I edit up. No matter how you work, some of these tips might work for you to take the sting out of first draft editing.

  1. Do it quickly. Later I’ll advocate stepping away, but with a first draft I want to capitalize on my momentum. I’ll write a scene or chapter and go back and self-edit the same day. Sometimes, same hour.
  2. Don’t look back. For this draft I just go back in and change things with no mind to what was there before. I don’t want to remember the dreck, I want to revise it.
  3. Dump what doesn’t work. I elaborate on my sentence fragments and cull my run-ons. I specific “something like purple but not” and write lavender or periwinkle.
  4. Decide what does works. Or what doesn’t. This is usually the time I get a gut feeling at this time if the names I’m using really works for me. I also get a feeling about characters and if I need them. I want to move forward writing about what’s necessary.
  5. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. This is where I clean it up. No one’s cursing (well, maybe a little), but in a first draft I type so fast I don’t always use proper formatting. I want to GET IT OUT. So I go back and tidy up. Appearances are everything (you’ll see why later).
  6. Define the path. Is there a beginning, middle, and end of the chapter? If something’s missing I don’t write it, I make a note that it’s missing. Does the chapter ending leave a question or cliffhanger? If not, I consider how to make the chapter end so that the reader must turn the page. Have I buried anything in overwriting exuberance? (Who, me?)

My first draft isn’t really finished until it’s self-edited. Until I know someone else could read it and make sense of it, even with the weaknesses and holes. I call it my finished first draft. Before that, you don’t want to know what I call it.

Second Drafts (Or, to Infinity—And Beyond)

I have never counted drafts. Let’s say that with each of my novels (published, soon-to-be published, and under-the-bed) I’ve written more than two drafts and fewer than a hundred.

This, for me, is where fine-tuning begins and where I remember the best advice/joke I ever told my daughter.

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time.”

If I looked at a whole manuscript and imagined editing the whole thing on my own, I’d crawl under this bed I call an office and that would be that. But because I write, and edit, my novels a chapter at a time, at first, it’s more manageable to me. For the time being I pretend that’s all I need to worry about, which allows me to focus (ie: which eliminates panic).

  1. Print out pages. Whether I’ve written the whole book or not, I print out one chapter. If you’re not a paper person, this is where I’d use track changes.
  2. Get your hands dirty. Yes, I use multicolored markers. Yes, they end up on my hands. When I do Track Changes, I go into the options and make all the different kinds of changes different colors. Makes it fun.
  3. One Bite At A Time. I go paragraph by paragraph and polish so that what’s going on there makes sense to me, and is tightly written, but I don’t go overboard. This is where I’d rather have too much than too little. This is where I start my editing up.
  4. Read aloud. Especially dialogue. I tend to use characters’ names in dialogue until I edit it. I also use a lot of “Well.” Because, well, I just do.
  5. Lay it out. I look at chapters by laying the pages side by side on my dining room table. I look for visual cues. Do the paragraphs all start with the same word? (A no-no) Are the sentences and paragraphs the same lengths page after page? How long are your dialogue runs? These are things you can consider when revising, because variations make stories more interesting.

Final Drafts

Final drafts take many forms. I have final drafts for my critique partner, then for agent, and then final drafts for my editor. If you’re not hiring an editor (silent scream) and you’re self-publishing then your final draft is for your reader.

For me, this is the detail and danger zone. This is where I nit-pick and where I usually am convinced that all my time and effort and energy has resulted in a big pile of poo. Luckily, this is normal. And that’s why I start with the hardest thing of all.

  1. Step away. Unless I’m right up against a deadline, I leave the manuscript untouched for days or weeks if possible. This provides perspective. If I have an epiphany (in the shower or while driving, ‘natch) I write it down but don’t open the Word doc.
  2. Go slow. When it’s time to get back to work, I start again by tackling one chapter at a time. I read for content and clarity. I circle or highlight what I need to come back to.
  3. Be honest. I note overused words and clichés. No one is above using them. Now is the time to get rid of them. Then, I do a search for any crutch words. Every writer has them. I use “and” more times than should be legal. I also make note of lingo and colloquialisms that might not work if the publication of the book was delayed, or if someone reads the book in five years. With backlists readily available as ebooks for both traditionally and self-published authors, this is a real concern. Here’s a list of “banished words” from Lake Superior University. This is a list of overused words and phrases at Write Divas. I’m not affiliated with either site, but these lists are comprehensive and helpful (and fun to read).

The best thing about self-editing, is that it’s not the end – it’s just the beginning. This is how I get my writing ready for others to critique and edit it. Yes, at some point, it’s finished, but you shouldn’t be the only person editing your work if you want it read by others. If you want people to pay to read it.

Beta readers and critique partners, agents, and editors will not only help your story, but their feedback will bolster your ability to self-edit in the future. Self-editing is the gift that keeps on giving.

By that I mean giving us headaches, some heartache—as well as the opportunity to be the best writers we can be.

This article was first published in Write On, the magazine of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (not affiliated with my WFW blog, although I am a founding member of the WFWA organization.)  You’re not a member of WFWA? Check it out here

Have you read the early praise for THE GOOD NEIGHBOR? Click here!

All About That Book Cover

paintbrush-red

You might remember the cover story behind The Glass Wives. No? The cover started out with two pink cups. Then we did this. The final cover has one pink cup and one blue/lavender/periwinkle (I was way ahead of the blue/black/gold/white dress curve). It’s one of the favorite stories I tell book clubs and at reader events. It’s that peek behind the publishing curtain that readers (and writers) covet.

So now, I’ll clue you in to the secret behind the cover for The Good Neighbor.

It started out as a red door.

It looked orange to me on my computer monitor, but everyone told me it was red. And I was thrilled! I have always wanted a red front door. It was like the art department at St. Martin’s Press read my book and my mind. While the red door isn’t literal (no red door in The Good Neighbor), it signaled warmth and welcome. And THAT was literal.

But…

Soon someone notice that another book was being published with a very similar red door. And then another. And because the pub date was originally December, we then were concerned The Good Neighbor would scream HOLIDAY STORY, which it’s not.

Back to the coloring board.

I’ll be honest, I am more a blue gal, than a red gal, but I loved that red door. But I took a deep breath and rearranged my thoughts and climbed on board the teal door train.

And now I can’t imagine it any other way. I’m so grateful to the St. Martin’s team who scoped out those similar covers. They want the cover to stand out, not fade in with other covers on the bookshelves and online. I’m very lucky.

But I’ll be honest, I didn’t always feel that way.

When the change came for the cover of The Glass Wives, at first, I was startled and upset. I assured my editor that Evie Glass would NOT have two different cups (since then, I’m not so sure). I persisted. Evie’s cups would match. I was urged to not be so literal, but to think about what the cups represented—and then I understood. The meaning of the cover went beyond the color of the cups to indicate the two different, yet similar, women inside the story.

It was perfect.

The same thing goes for The Good Neighbor. I based the setting on the street I grew up on in Northeast Philadelphia. Our front door were covered by metal screen doors (with screens in the warm weather, glass in the cold). The front doors were somewhat plain. Some had windows, some did not. I remember white doors and wood doors. I might remember a black door. I definitely don’t remember a teal door on my street.

This publishing thing is a learning process, and when I saw the cover I pushed aside my instant reaction that the door was wrong.

No matter the color, the door was right. It matched the tone of the book, the welcoming nature of the characters, and the neighborly sense of story that makes you want to knock a few times, and then step inside.

At least I hope so.

Amy xo

If you haven’t read The Glass Wives, it’s available in every possible way you’d want to read it. Hardcover, paperback, ebook, large print, audio book on cd or download. Check it out here or here.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Dating

…in book publishing.

Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not THAT kind of blog. But if you are here looking for a match to keep you busy at night (or in the morning), why not look through some of the books I’ve featured on WFW since 2011—and take your pick?

GoodNeighbor_2B (2)

***THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED BECAUSE THESE ARE NOT GLADIOLAS (as I said they were) BUT GERANIUMS! THANK YOU BETH HAVEY. As evidenced below, I am NO gardener! 

As most of you know, I was able to share the cover of my second novel last week, just a day after my birthday.

The Good Neighbor boasts a beautiful teal door (no, it’s neither gold/white OR blue/black) with an endearing mail slot and blossoms of fuchsia geraniums poking in from the side. I can just imagine the rest of the scene (of course I can!) — but can’t you? And when you read The Good Neighbor I hope you’ll picture Izzy Lane and her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Feldman, when you see this cover.

I hope you’ll imagine stepping inside their homes and lives.

What you can’t imagine though, is that until a few days ago, the pub date for The Good Neighbor was not mid-October, but the end of December!

I’d gotten used to the idea of a holiday book launch, except for one thing.

How on earth was I going to have fuchsia geraniums at my book launch at the end of December? Yes, folks. This is what plagued me. So, not only am I thrilled that now I almost taste my launch date (8 months is NOTHING) I now only have to keep geraniums alive through the fall! If I can write two novels (and I’m working on the third) I can certainly do that. Right? If I can raise two kids into adulthood on my own, as well as four dogs, I can certainly keep plants alive, right?

Don’t count on it.

deadplant

 

But I’m going to be determined with the geraniumss. (I’ll keep you posted!) I’m also considering painting my front door teal. And if you know me at all, you know, I’m not kidding.

I guess what I really want to share here is that there is so much about publishing that is out of the author’s control. Like a publication date.

You think that one or two people wave their publishing wands and the decisions are made. It’s more like forty-seven people, their marketing teams, their financial gurus. And their mothers. Not to mention some folks who actually sell books and have opinions. (YAY for them!)

I lucked out with this switch-up. I’m thrilled. Giddy. But had the pub date remained in the midst of holiday season, I’d have made the most of that as well, alas, without gladiolas.

People ask when is the best time to publish a book? Is there a benefit to summer, spring, fall, or winter? Perhaps. Or maybe not. I think the best thing to remember is that we can only control our own writing and then, how we react to and capitalize on EVERYTHING ELSE THROWN OUR WAY.

Including that pub date.

I’m ridding my thoughts of holiday tie-ins (and there’s a big one) and coming up with all the long-lead time publications that might be interested in a story set in Philadelphia. Or about blogging. Or a single mom. Or about lies, as the consequences of secrets and lies are a big part of The Good Neighbor.

As is hope. And friendship. And love.

Seems to me those could possibly be things people would read about any ol’ time of year. Don’t you think?

But mid-October sounds especially good.

Unless it changes again! ;-)

As things move along with production and promotion for The Good Neighbor I’ll keep you updated.

And yes, it’s just as exciting the second time.

Amy xo

PS I’ve had fuchsia geraniumss on my FB author page for months. I saw the cover ages ago but wasn’t allowed to share. Now I have new FB cover photo. What? You’re not part of my author page? You can fix that by clicking here: OMG I’M GOING TO FIX THAT NOW! 

 

Guest Post: Author Kellie Coates Gilbert Shares Her Pulpwood Queen Weekend With Women’s Fiction Writers

Today we have a special treat! Step into the world of the Annual Pulpwood Queens’ Girlfriend Weekend with author Kellie Coates Gilbert! It’s an event filled with authors and readers. Have you been there as either? Share your experience in the comments. Look fun to you? Let us know what you think! 

And please welcome Kellie Coates Gilbert back to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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