Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Silver Lining

OK, so I didn't make it to the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I am disappointed, but I knew I wouldn't win. Not that my book, The Vampire's Daughter, isn't good (I think it's great), but going against so many other great books is really a long shot.

Two good things came out this:

1) I am able to start requerying it again and try to find a real publisher sooner. I say "requery" because I originally queried the book about 5 years ago when I first wrote it. I actually had many requests for partial and full manuscripts back then, but they all ended with rejections. What I learned from that experience is that my query was amazing, but the book was weak. After working with my friend Jennifer Clark on a line-by-line edit, I think the book is much stronger now. Also, the publishing industry has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. There are many more digital-first-print-second publishers out there with good reputations and strong sales records out there. I have already sent out about a dozen new queries and I have high hopes.

2) I got some amazing feedback from the Amazon expert reviewers. One said, "The best foreword pitch any author can write. I like that it hints so much more than is revealed. You just know this one will truly be just as historical as it is fiction." My forward pitch was basically my query letter. So just more evidence that my query is good. She also said, “I really like the idea of a traditional vampire romance, but blended with a wonderful historical perspective. This reminds me of the old Dracula movies. This one should appeal to a wide range of ages. I think my grandma should very much enjoy this one too." I think that the heat levels in later chapters might be too much for some grandmas, but I'm glad that the reviewer thought it would have wide appeal. Another reviewer said, “This excerpt is very atmospheric and presents its locale sensuously. The combination of gothic description and danger should prove irresistible to the right audience." Irresistible! I like that summary!

 So even though I didn't make it to the next round I'm not down and I am hardly out. It's just time to put myself out there more.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Off With Her Heart: By Amy Dale

Off With Her Heart isn't a book you can buy from Amazon, but is actually being offered through my favorite crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, by author Amy Dale. Two things caught my attention about this project. 1) The cover is gorgeous. It is simple but exactly fits the book. 2) The fact that you (almost) immediately receive the ebook if you donated at the $8 level. Usually you have to wait until a campaign ends and is successful to get a product, so it was cool to get the book whether project succeeded or not (though it has succeeded at almost 5 times it's goal). So I donated, got my book, and started reading it.

The book is about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and how she became the woman she was.  It's a fairly straightforward and increasingly common theme: the "villain" is actually a victim if you knew the character's back story. The book is a fast read; I read it in about 2 days. I believe this would classify as a YA (young adult) book due to the age of the Queen (just a teen for about 95% of the book) and the reading level. But it's entertaining enough to keep you going. I did enjoy it and seeing the history of all the characters in Wonderland develop, not just the Queen. And finding out how "a raven is like a writing desk" was a really nice inclusion.

The ending is much too rushed with getting through the arrival of Alice and the "what happened to the Queen after Alice left" taking only about 20 pages. In fact, much of the book could have been elaborated on quite a bit. I honestly don't read a lot of YA fiction, so maybe is it just the genre, but I think the book could have been much longer and much darker.

Overall, Off With Her Heart is a really good example of a YA fractured fairy tale. If you enjoy these types of stories, definitely consider supporting Amy's kickstarter project by clicking here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Amazon Contest - Round Two!

So the list of people who passed round one of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest and are going on to round two was announced yesterday, and I was on it! They will announce the names of the people going on to round three on March 12th.

I've also been toying with the idea of writing a cookbook for over 2 years. I have decided that I will start simple and do a book just about dumplings. I have already compiled a list of 20 dumpling recipes and have started test cooking and photographing. My goal is to compile 30 dumpling recipes, along with recipes for the dumpling wrapper and dipping sauces. Hopefully I will have this done and ready for sale in just a couple of months since I am planning only doing an e version at first. If it does well, I will consider doing a print run.

I didn't get any new newspapers sign up for my column (*sadface*), but I am still writing some pretty great column pieces and I've been posting more teasers for them on my LinkedIn profile where a lot of editors have added me as a contact. Hopefully that will get me some attention. If you are on LinkedIn, be sure to endorse my skills. I would really appreciate it.

I've also started working on a WWII novel and have been sketching out plans for my graphic novel series. I have lots of irons in the fire, just hope some of them start coming to life soon.

Looks delicious, right?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The People's E-book Kickstarter Project

I am a huge fan of Kickstarter. I've supported tons of projects over the last few months and donated far too much money for a writer who isn't actually making any money of her own right now. But I love it! The idea of total strangers donating millions of dollars on indie projects that otherwise would never come to life is the best of what we humans can do when we come together.

I just came across an interesting project that I thought other writers would like to look at. Greg Albers from Hol Art Books is creating an app that will make e-publishing fast, easy, and free. The project has already reached and almost doubled it's $10,000 goal, and there are still 20 days left to donate. While I am still a believer in traditional publishing, e-publishing is a force to be reckoned with and is here to stay. If you are interested in self-pubing something (even art projects or blogs), this is definitely a project to keep your eye on. You can check out The People's E-book here to learn all about it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop - Discussion of The Vampire's Daughter

I was tagged by a friend over at Absolute Write Water Cooler to participate in a blog hop, which is kind of like a blog chain. The theme is basically an interview about the book you have in progress. Thanks to Shayla for tagging me. You can go back and read her blog here.

What is the working title of your book?
My book is called The Vampire's Daughter.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
My first graduate school class was on Gothic literature. I fell in love with the genre and stuck with it for the next two years, even writing my Master's thesis on vampires in Gothic literature (spoiler - there are none). I had been toying with the idea for this book the previous semester for a creative writing class I took my last semester as an undergraduate but it really came to life after I decided to take the Gothic route.

What is the genre of the book?
It is a historical paranormal romance that contains the tropes of Gothic literature.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I have asking myself this for a long time. I honestly don't know who would play the main characters, Ethan and Victoria, but definitely Geoffrey Rush as Dom Augustine Calmet, the legendary vampire hunter. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young couple struggle to balance love and faith when they discover that she is The Vampire's Daughter. (One sentence is so hard! There is so much more going on in this book than that, but it is nearly impossible to put in one sentence!)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher?
I am still hopeful for seeing it traditionally published. The book is currently submitted to Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest. If it doesn't pass to the next round there, I will start a new round of querying publishers before considering self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 3 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't know that I have read any quite like mine. Of course, there are tons of paranormal romances out there, but very few that are also authentically Gothic. I hope that means my book is unique.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My creative writing teacher is the person I am dedicating this book to. He gave me the best advice: sit down and write. It's because of him that I finally got the book out on paper.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
When Ethan discovers that the love of his life, Victoria, is actually the child of a monstrous beast and must marry another man to save her family, he retreats to a monastery to live out the rest of his days alone.

But the Church has other ideas.

Ethan is asked to lead the famous vampire hunter Dom Calmet back to his home village to rid the town of the vampires that plague it. Ethan must then make a journey, emotionally and literally, back to the town of his youth and decide between love and faith when he once again meets The Vampire’s Daughter.

Containing many tropes of a classic Gothic novel (an obscure heroine, an indecisive hero, an exotic location, references to classical literature, dark castles, a foreboding sense of danger) combined with the sensuality of a modern romance, The Vampire’s Daughter will leave you gasping for more. 

Next in the series is Tracy. Be sure to hop over to her blog and see what her work in progress is about!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Pretty Good Week

Well, after my concerns last week that my emails weren't going out, I found out that they were because I got two replies the next day. One was a "no" but was very encouraging. She said that she loved my articles, but her newspaper is for local news/events only. The other one, though, was for my first paid column. It will only be running once a month, but the pay is a good start. This morning I sent queries out to all of New York state (that took a long time to compile) and I already received one positive response. He isn't sure if he will be able to pay for the articles, but he wants to run them for a couple of weeks to see how the response is. So my column will be running in three sources by March (you can see my limited but growing list here). When I send out queries on Mondays it is only actually Sunday night America time, so I don't usually hear anything until Tuesday. But I am slowly building a publishing list and an audience, so it is just a waiting game now.

I also submitted a poem to Cha that I have high hopes for being published. I also posted a children's book I am working on to my writers group and got some good feedback on that. I am going to show it to Zoe and her cousins this week and see what they think about it before I look for a Chinese publisher for it.

It was a good but slow week. I didn't get much actual writing done, but running the business side of writing is just as important as writing. I am really looking forward to this week, though. It is Chinese New Year on Sunday, so on Thursday Vash and I are going to go stay with Zoe and her family for 5 days. Zoe wants me to talk to her family and write their stories down. I am hoping being with family and being around all their traditions and being in the countryside will give me lots of writing inspiration to work from when I get back. Happy year of the water snake to all my readers and well-wishers!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Syndicated Column

So, my grand plan for making a living wage while working on my novels is to publish a syndicated newspaper column. Jill Pertler wrote a very helpful book called The Do-it-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication basically explaining the ins and outs of writing a column and getting it syndicated. I'm not going to to go into all the gory details, but since I have been writing about China for 3 years on my blog Two Americans in China, I figured that would be a great basis for a column.

I have spent the last couple of months writing articles that I think would appeal to a broader American audience. I didn't want to commit to doing this and run out of ideas after a couple of weeks. Last week I finally sat down and compiled a list of all the newspapers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida (all states I have lived in). It came to about 250 newspapers and I sent them all queries.

I got one response. It was a good one though. My home-town newspaper, The Daily Star Journal, will start running my column. But that was the only response I got. I didn't even get a few "no thanks, please take me off your list" emails. I am wondering if there is something wrong with my email and it all went into their spam folders. So, I'm not really sure what to do about that. I mean, if they are getting the column and just aren't interested, that's OK. It can be hard to make the broad topic of China appealing to a rural mid-western audience. But what if they just aren't getting them? Anyone know how to check and see if your emails are getting marked as spam?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rejecting a Publishing Offer - Am I Crazy?

It's been a crazy week. I had a super-high (a publisher accepted my Vampire novel!) and crashing low (the publisher isn't very good) and made some headway on my long-term writing goal. So let me explain what happened.

I wrote my romance novel The Vampire's Daughter about 5 years ago (the summer between finishing my Bacherlor's degree and starting my Master's program). I then queried it like crazy, sending it to dozens of places. Now, querying takes a long time. Long story short, after I moved to FL 3 years later I was still sending queries and getting rejections. One rejection I got was even after I moved to China! But it wasn't all bad. I was getting great requests based off my query. Even Kensington requested it at one point and kept it for about 6 months before I finally got a rejection. What I learned was that I had a great query, but something was lacking in the book. I put it on the shelf for about a year while I had a bout of depression and pretty much didn't write anything. I finally dragged it back out after talking to my amazingly wonderful friend Jennifer. Jennifer was an editor for our university poetry magazine back in the day and she offered to read my novel and give me feedback. That was almost a year ago. But not only did she beta-read it and give me feedback, she did a line by line (and word by word) edit that I didn't expect. Over the next 10 months I did rewrites based on her suggestions and I think we came out with a really great book.

By November I had a lot of plans in place to help me to take the plunge and focus on my writing more. But I was working full-time at a job I hated. It was taking way too much of my time and making everyone miserable. I wanted to requery the book, but I simply didn't have the time to canvas as much as I should have. A friend of mine had been published with Rainstorm Press. I looked them over and had a good feeling about them. I knew they were a newer publisher, but I figured that would work in my favor. I queried them and only 2 or 3 other places. With in 2 weeks, Rainstorm asked for the full manuscript. That was pretty exciting.

By this time my company and I decided that we would part ways. I also had a vacation to Thailand coming up, but still had to work full-time until the end of December. I didn't push the book any more and figured I would wait to see what happened when I got back from holiday. In the meantime I started hanging out at AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler where I made a lot of connections, got great feedback, and started learning more about the publishing industry.

Last week was my first full week back home and my first week as a full-time writer, so when I got the offer for publication on Tuesday, I was totally stoked! I thought maybe it was a sign that being a writer was my calling; this is what I was supposed to be doing. I kept my cool though and didn't accept the offer right away. I went to AbsoluteWrite and asked them what they thought of my offer. They were definitely less than encouraging, but I think for the right reasons. They were able to point out red flags and outright falsehoods in the email that were warnings against this publisher.

Now, that should have been the sign to walk away, but at the same time I had been trying to get the book published for 5 years. What if I never found another publisher? After lots of soul-searching and talking with Jennifer and my husband, I decided to reject the offer. The main reason is because I feel that I was selling my book short. I think my book is great and I think the work Jennifer and I did on it together means the book needs a real second chance.

Today I entered The Vampire's Daughter in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I'll find out on the Feb 14th if it is going on to the next round. That really isn't very long to wait. If it goes on to the next round, that's awesome! But if it doesn't, that gives me a little over 3 weeks to collect a new list of publishers and get a new query letter ready.

I think it will win though :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Steampunk Story Contest

You can win a free corset from one of the best corset shops on the web by writing a Steampunk Valentine story.

"We’re looking for Steampunk Valentine stories, because that seems apropos. But we’re also a little pressed for time, so we’d like them to be short shorts. There isn’t a specific definition for this length, but 500 words would be a good guideline. If you go over a little, so be it. If you hit 1000, it is safe to say you’ve got more story than our little contest can handle. So, that’s the short short part.

The short part is that you only have a week, well less than a week really. Stories need to be in by next Sunday (January 20th) by midnight Eastern Daylight Time. That’s not much time, but that’s what makes it a short short short competition."

So not much time, but a short entry, a quick turn-around, and a cool prize! Enter here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Expat Women in Asia: Call for Submissions - Deadline: 28 Feb

Here is an interesting writing contest I know I will be entering. 

"Editor Shannon Young is seeking contributions from expatriate women in East Asia for a new anthology fromSignal 8 Press in Hong Kong. This collection will feature the writing of women who are currently expatriates or who previously lived in an East Asian country. For the purposes of this anthology, we construe East Asia to include Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the ASEAN countries. All submissions should be creative non-fiction and/or travel memoir pieces that speak to the expat experience in modern East Asia. Potential topics include travel, work, relationships, gender roles, safety, family, and repatriation. We are looking for stories with a strong and personal narrative arc, not just travel guides or descriptions of the places you’ve lived. We hope to make this anthology as inclusive as possible, as well, and we welcome submissions from women from different parts of the world."

Go here to enter:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Good-bye, Content Mill

When I first started toying with the idea of writing full-time, I wasn't sure where to find paying markets. I have books written and planned and other ideas, but those won't happen if I can't pay the bills in the meantime.

One website I was reading for commercial writing ideas said to check out Craig's List. That sounded pretty crazy to me at first. I really despise Craig's List. I don't find the site user-friendly at all so I have generally avoided using it. But I decided to take a look at the jobs listing to see what I could find. I was pretty surprised to find listings for writing jobs. I applied for a few and sat back and waited.

I only heard back from a couple of the jobs I applied for, but they seemed legitimate. They had solid websites, paid through Paypal, and had specific writing outlines and goals.

They also paid 1 cent per word.

It seemed pretty low, but thought I would give it a shot. I actually started earning between fifty and a hundred dollars a week. But the problem was that these short articles (5-10, 250-word articles per day) were taking up a lot of my time. Between research, editing, formatting, and reediting I was spending 5+ hours per day only earning between $12 - $25. I also began reading more and more about the "evils" of content mills over at Make a Living Writing and other places. I realized I began writing for a content mill before I even knew what they were.

I began to ask myself what I should do. I need to make money, but these unscrupulous companies are underpaying writers for content to skew search results. I was feeling bad for playing into this rotten system. But I need the money. How am I supposed to make money in the mean time?

I just got back from holiday and had received another content mill assignment. I told the content mill that I needed them to reassign it because I knew I wouldn't get the work done on time since I had a lot of other things to get caught up on. I gave them several days notice so they could find someone else and the assignment wouldn't be late. Even though I thought I did the courteous thing by passing on work so that it wouldn't be late, I got a nasty email from the boss telling me that passing on work was "not an option" and that "most people are grateful for the work." I was actually kind of glad that she made my decision for me. I wrote back to her that I was disappointed that she didn't appreciate my courtesy or the fact that anyone was willing to work for her one-cent content mill. I told her that I enjoyed the writing practice, but that I couldn't allow my name to be associated with her company any more.

I know I did the right thing, but at the same time, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other staving writers out there willing to take my place. My choice to stand up for writer's fair pay won't end the business of writer exploitation, I just hope it pays off for me personally and I am able to redirect my writing efforts elsewhere.


Hi! Welcome to my writing blog. I have been living and writing in China for almost 3 years and I focused on writing in college. The time has come in my life when I can focus solely on my writing. This blog will chronicle my experiences in the writing and publishing game and also share news and events in the world of publishing. Thanks for joining me on this exciting journey!