Monday, October 31, 2016

And here's the pitch! ECWC Post #2

Pitching in baseball is where the catcher and the pitcher try to outsmart the batter and either make him swing when he's not supposed to or  fake him out so he doesn't swing at a perfectly good pitch.

That's not what we are talking about here. But it is similar. I am throwing a potential home run to a potential catcher...wait, I think the metaphor just fell apart. At any rate, I've got something, they might want to catch it. They call it pitching.

We're talking about Industry Professionals: Agent and Editor pitches. Face to face. Just the story.

Before going to the conference, I researched some pitch strategy because I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. The best one, I thought, said to build a relationship of trust first. We had five minutes to 1) introduce ourselves, 2) talk about our book 3) ask or answer questions 4) exchange information for further contact. There wasn't a lot of room for building trust.

But I tried.

So after my experience with the page 1 (see last post) and they all didn't hate it, I actually changed my mind as to who I wanted to pitch to. One of the agents, (we'll call her L) seemed to really "get" my character and what I was trying to do. Afterward in the hall, I just tapped her on the shoulder and said, "I like you, but I didn't sign up to pitch to you." And she asked why not and I simply said, "I don't know. I didn't think you'd like my story." But then the girl who was next to me wanted to ask a question, so I lobbed the attention that a-way.

Guess what I did? I switched around my pitching appointment to L--the very first one of the day. I felt pretty confident going in there because I knew she already liked my first page AND I'd already talked to her so she didn't seem so intimidating. So I went in and she asked me after my pitch if we had read the page 1 the day before (She remembered!) and asked for a full.

The second pitch, went well and we had extra time, so I asked her what she was reading.

Now we only got two pitches but I hovered around the front sign in table and asked if there was anything open. They had two minutes left in a "round" and they said someone canceled and I could jump in and pitch. Since my pitch was short and because I asked, I got an opportunity to pitch a third time. There's a life lesson in there somewhere...

 I read a startling statistic somewhere that most people who go to conferences and pitch don't ever turn in their work. That made me sad.

There are so many opportunities out there, if we are prepared, watching for them, asking for them, and follow through we might just be able to make our dreams come true. Now that sounds like batting.

Next week, I'm going to talk about the Passport to Romance and I've got a picture of me with a bunch of male models.

Monday, October 24, 2016

First Writer's Conference: ECWC Post #1

The whole story.

Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a writer. In fourth grade, I wrote mysteries and my friend illustrated them. They made no sense. The clues were contrived and there was always a cute boy. I wrote again in Middle school, in high school, took creative writing classes in college. About eight years ago, I decided to turn my dream into a reality by taking writing seriously and started writing about two thousand words every day. I read books, watched tutorials, and studied my craft. And I wrote. I wrote a lot of crap. But finally I felt like I had something worth sharing. Something I could put out there for the masses.

So, back in February Rob bought me a writer's retreat on the beach for Valentine's Day. Four days on the beach, writing, agent critique, yoga and no kids. I know, romantic right? But that's what I wanted so it was. Can we just give it a collective, awwwww? It even came with a box of chocolates.

However, in June, a month away from the retreat, we got an email saying they had to cancel. This was going to be my first time going and putting myself out there to agents and editors, have my work critiqued and take this really big step in investing in my writing career. The word "disappointment" doesn't say enough. At least I got a free box of chocolates. And they did critique my query and my first chapter for free to make up for the inconvenience. So I actually chalked it up as a blessing.

However, I still wanted to attend a conference this year. So we scrambled around to find another conference. The local RWA chapter had finished up their conference the day we got the email. THE DAY WE GOT THE EMAIL! So I couldn't go to the local conference. Plus we had plane tickets and a fat refund coming. So we starting looking around for a good fit.

We came across the Emerald City Writer's Conference, for romance writers in October. Their itinerary looked interesting, I liked the agents and editors that were coming and it was a romance writer's conference. PLUS.... They still had rooms at the event hotel for way cheaper than a hotel in Seattle should cost. SOLD! And Rob could come stay with me, too!

As the days drew near, I polished my manuscript and my pitch and watched the weather. GREAT! Seattle was supposed to have one of the biggest five storms ever to slam their coast come through the night we landed. I'll be danged if I was going to have to cancel this one too! So I prayed. And lo and behold, the storm blew over. We landed under the normal Seattle drizzle.

Friday--Ego fluff and Ego burn

I am a big believer that good things follow bad. And conversely bad things follow good. I think the world seeks equilibrium or maybe I'm pessimistic or optimistic.  But Friday afternoon, I had a triumph, followed by a totally tragic miss at the end of the day.

Triumph. The first morning, I got an email from the admin saying there was a workshop that afternoon that we could bring our page one to and have it be read aloud by industry professionals and critiqued. (I'd already made massive changes to my page one after feedback from the canceled conference above, so I was anxious to try out my new page one). But I didn't have a copy. In fact, I felt before we left that I should bring a copy of my first chapter, but ignored it. Thankfully, Rob was there for the rescue. He managed to find the correct copy of my page one and print it for me. So I went to the class and slipped my page one in.

Agents and Editors. Looks like a tough crowd, huh?

The game.  A moderator would read the page one until three agents or editors raised their hands, indicating they would've stopped reading. Super scary.The first couple of pages had some great feedback, but they hadn't finished a page all the way through yet. I was biting my nails, wondering if my previous edits would make the cut. The agent who critiqued my manuscript before said she hated the first couple of pages until it got to a certain part and then she liked it. When the moderator started reading it, I broke out into a cold sweat, tremors--the whole bit. But no one raised their hand. I think by the end maybe one did, but they got all the way through it! Wow! There was definitely things wrong with it: info dumping and one editor mentioned he liked my previous first line better, but they said they would overlook some editorial things because my voice was so strong! Yay! I managed to fix my totally sucky first page.

Failure. To be able to talk about my triumphs, I must also include my misses. Friday night, authors who were pitching to editors or agents could get feedback from previously published authors. I read my pitch to a table of eight. Some lady, who was also pitching asked me who I thought would buy my book, who did I think my target audience was. I could tell they were trying to be nice and they were exceedingly helpful, but they hated my pitch. I reworked it with their suggestions and I think it's a lot better. I'll write it in the next blog posts about my pitching session since this one is already too long.

So I faced a few of my fears. I think we need to do that every once in a while. Do something scary, but brave. Put yourself out there. What have you been dying to do? What is standing in your way? How are you going to overcome it?  Get out there and live!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Alton Brown: My first author-signed cook book

Alton Brown and I are like besties.

Sunday morning I saw it come across my Facebook feed that he was coming to town. And I knew I had to go. The kids and I came to know Alton Brown after binge watching FoodNetwork Star on the internet. (No cable here!) We thought him, funny, genuine and, I don’t know, unique. Authentic.

So one thing I’ve learned from going to a few of these book signings at our local Indy bookshop (see previous posts) is that the faster you buy the book, the earlier you get in line for the signing, hence out of the bookstore and the less likely I am to find something I want to spend my money on. You see, you get a letter code at the time of purchase. Since it was Sunday and the event was Tuesday, and Alton Brown was popular, I knew we were in trouble.

So I had a dilemma. Was buying something on the internet breaking the Sabbath? But if I didn’t buy it on Sunday, Monday would surely put me at an F or a G! I went round and round with my husband and guess what.

I broke the Sabbath and bought the book.

I’m not bragging about that. I actually regret it now, mostly because somehow I lost my husband’s credit card in the process. But also because it didn’t matter because we got out of there early, but that story is below. So lesson learned, don’t buy things on Sunday, even on the internet. Even if it is time-sensitive. Even if I want it real bad.

Tuesday night came and we had planned on leaving here early as with evening traffic, but there was a confusion about a parent-teacher conference and well, we arrived there at 6pm, an hour before the presentation and the seating was already full. Now, they have big events and lots of people come. But because of the Fire Marshall they have to tape off areas where people can sit or stand. This is in a book store remember? Not at a library or even an auditorium. So, luckily, an hour before, we managed to squeeze by a cash desk, grabbing baskets to sit upon. And we waited. And while we waited we read.

In the next hour, hundreds of people came. I overheard the employees talking that each letter group had sixty people in it and the groups went to H. About 400 people. The floor swelled with people. And, I tell you, not all of them were inside the blue lines. (If the Fire Marshall reads this, the employees did their best!)

Alton Brown drew an eclectic mix from home cooks, to culinary students. Conservative housewives to green-haired punks. 

Then, when the furor of the crowd grew, Alton Brown finally came bounding down the stairs. We all cheered. He took the mic.

He told us our book was a collector’s item because there was some mistakes and they are going to second printing. You’re welcome. Find the corrections at

He answered a few questions:

He listens to jazz while he cooks. California jazz. For some reason it made me think of the music from the Incredibles.

He won’t give people advice about food allergies because he doesn’t want to get sued.

He’s releasing Good Eats II as internet episodes (cut the cord!), so be looking for that. He said he was tired of the head honchos at production telling him what he could and couldn’t do on TV. So now he’s able to cook rabbit and deer.

All photos are shot with iPhone6.

The pics were shot in his house with own stuff. Even the briefcase that is holding chips.

He said all the people at FoodNetwork were lovely humanitarians.

They talked a lot about Cutthroat Kitchen but since I’ve never seen an episode, it didn’t mean anything to me. But if you have, no one has never not bid on something. And they wouldn’t always listen to him for the Challenges, or they called them something else. (Write me in the comments if you know what it is.)

And the weirdest thing he’s ever seen is Giada’s teeth.

Then the line up began. People began snaking around Teen Lit and Travel, up the stairs.

With four-hundred people, it was taking a long time and they kept getting on the mic saying thank you for your patience. We were waiting in a bookstore for crying out loud, how bored could we be? But it was getting late. Our letter (E) was about to be called when Alton Brown’s personal assistant asked us, after seeing my daughter on the floor with a book, if it was a school night. “It’s a school night,” I said, thinking she was making conversation when she said, “Come with me.” I showed her my ticket, which letter was about to be called up and she said, “Let’s get these kids home.” And I said, “I’m with you!” Actually, I was really touched at her thoughtfulness.

She took us to the front of the line. We cut in front at least a hundred people! (There is some school teacher shaking her head at this lack of protocol.) And finally, we get to see him.
Me asking questions.
Alton thinking
Him responding

They took a bazillion pictures. These are just three of those bazillion.

He seemed pretty cheery half-way through the signing, standing there. He even took time to indulge me in a personal question. I asked him when he knew that this was his life mission. He said he always cooked and wanted to be on TV and went to culinary school as his ticket to TV.  He put his arm around me. We took pictures. And we were done.

Conversation on the way home. I asked my daughter what she thought. After all that we saw and heard her only comment was, “I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted that his personal assistant thought I needed to go to bed.” I stared at her, shaking my head.  “You should be grateful!” I said.

And now you want to see the book, don't you? Okay.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October is Prep Month!

Calling all Writers!  Have you ever wanted to write a novel but never had an excuse to just do it? Now you do!

November is novel writing month, that means that October is making Halloween costumes for the cuties as well as plotting my novel as much as possible.

What is NaNoWriMo?  It’s where you write a novel or 50,000 words with a beginning middle and an end in one month. For me I write about 2k words a day and that gives me Sundays and Thanksgiving off. If you’ve done your homework, writing two thousand words won’t take you that long. See link to sign up and get more info!

Why do it? Because there may be an idea itching around the corners of your brain, wanting to come out. Here’s a time when you can actually do that.

Make it happen.

I write romances. But I take my NaNo as an opportunity to write in a different genre, to explore a new voice, to try out different skills, to push my boundaries. In the past, I have branched out to write a fantasy and a historical. This year I’m going to try a cozy mystery.

Your NaNo will not be perfect. That’s not the point. It’s not to create this work of perfected art. It’s to finally put to words ideas floating around your head and it’s going to be messy. I change names of characters mid-story, I change their background and make a note that I’ll go back and fix it if I ever decide if this story is worthy of the time it will take to revisit and revise.

To be successful I suggest a few things:

Give yourself permission to write crap.  There are a lot of perfect, partially written manuscripts out there. Let go of your inner critic and just write. Sometimes in my writing it will actually say, “THIS IS CRAP!” But that’s okay.

Bum glue is most essential. Keep going. If you’ve run out of words, ideas, have someone with a gun come in and then figure out why. Have someone drop a time bomb and they all have to scramble to find it and prevent it from blowing up.

Plot before you write. I don’t know if this is cheating, but lately I’ve been drafting out a rough sketch of my plot before I hit Oct. 31st. I have at least some idea where the book is going. It may change. Last year I also complied a list of complications that are brought on by the personalities and desires of my characters. I think I’ll try that again this year.  It was helpful for when I got stuck. I just had to make something difficult for my main character and I was back in the game.

Plan time to write. This is so important. Block it out on your calendar, put in headphones, ignore phone calls, skip some sleep, tell your friends you are busy, whatever it takes to carve out some time to write. When I first started writing, I wrote when my kids were in bed at about 8pm to until midnight or one or two am. It was wonderful and quiet. No one called during that time, and I had no other engagements. Of course, when the kids started school, that was no longer an option as I had to get up early and take them, but in those dark, quiet hours I really progressed as a writer.

Write everyday. If you are thinking about your novel everyday, writing everyday, thinking some more, writing it will be easier. Monday is my hardest day to get back into writing because I don’t write on Sundays. If you make a constant and consistent effort, it will be easier long term.

Write for as long as stretch as you can handle. The creative process often has to be coaxed out of the grey matter on the right side. Sometimes that takes time.

Music. I like to write with music as it helps me shift my left brain to my right.

Comfy spot. When I first starting writing, I sat on a woven rattan chair. It was horribly uncomfortable. Then I moved to my bed when my husband got me a laptop, but my bum fell asleep a lot. Now I sit in the bay window in my room on a comfy couch and spin tales. Where ever you chose, make it yours. Grab some water if you're going to be there for the marathon, snacks, chocolate, whatever keeps you there.

Decide now what your story will be about. What unique perspective do you have? What story do you want to tell? Write it down and then come and tell me about it.

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