Launching The Earl in Black Armor

A launch party on St. Patrick’s Day 2019 was perfect timing to formally release my latest Irish historical novel, The Earl in Black Armor. But just as the earl could not have put on his heavy armor without many helping hands, I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help.

I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help. Click To Tweet 

Launching The Earl in Black ArmorWhen I first started writing this book I expected it to be easy and quick, because I’d already studied much about the period and I was only covering a time span of seven years. But it turned out to be the most difficult and complex book I’ve written to date – and also the most rewarding accomplishment.

Even though I’m a former journalist and experienced writer, I knew this book needed many eyes on it to make sure it was right. After revising my manuscript numerous times, I used several beta readers, plus two editors, and two proofreaders who found the errors I could not see, and who pointed out the places where I needed more clarity. 

I was able to test drive parts of our Amelia Indie Authors network. I had help finding exactly the right people to assist me at each stage: they supported and encouraged me when I felt frustrated and celebrated with me when the final product was in hand.

But that is just the beginning. My Amelia Indie Authors co-founder,  author Andrea Patten “had an idea.” (If you get to know her, you’ll get used to hearing those words.)

A capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 Click To Tweet

Andrea’s vision and her natural capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 — exploring the sites traveled in my books and bring those scenes to life in real experiences for readers. What other authors have had such a tour? How about Maeve Binchy, and Frank McCourt? It is a tremendous honor to be able to join such renowned company. 

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Click To Tweet

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Because of the work I put into it, and the help I have received, I have no conflicts at all about promoting this book with confidence. I know it can compete successfully — not only with other indie books in its genre but also with those traditionally published. 

Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

I love indie authors and right now I’m annoyed. Aggravated. Disappointed and sad. I’m not sure what is worse — the feeling that I’ve wasted time and money on poor quality books or my current reluctance to pick up another book written by an indie author.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

When Nancy, D-M and I decided to start Amelia Indie Authors, we had two goals in mind: to protect indies from over-priced industry predators and to help raise the quality of what indie authors are publishing. The reading I’ve done over the past few weeks was disheartening. And, with any luck, motivating. Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors.

Like many other authors and publishers, we attend book festivals. We often trade titles with others in attendance. We no longer look at the festivals as a place to sell books, but, rather, an opportunity to connect with readers and other authors –and, of course, spend too much money on an armload of intriguing titles.

Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors. Click To Tweet

In the last ten days, I’ve read several of the books from two festivals just past. Two fiction, three non-fiction. Two for the little people in my life and three for the grown-ups. It was a nice cross-section but the quality made me very unhappy. Instead of writer’s block, these five works may have given me reader’s block.

I am not a snob. I make my share of mistakes. Besides, I love indie authors and, quite obviously, am invested in their success. But this is the sort of thing that makes the rest of the indie author community look bad. I could not finish the novel written entirely in the passive voice but got all the way through the two skinny non-fiction efforts that were half story and half filler. The major first-page typo in one of the next selections was almost enough to make me put it down. I’m glad I didn’t: while it’s got some spots that could benefit from an experienced editor, it’s a hella good story. And the last juvenile fiction is of a quality that could compete on any best seller list.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

So, then, why so grumpy?

Because they were all good ideas. Some were great ideas. Their authors put in their own measure of blood, sweat, and tears to bring them into being. Unfortunately, some of these titles are likely not going to do anything but sit in a box in the author’s closet — until he or she gets tired of the business and gives them all away.

That doesn’t need to be. But how does a writer get the kind of feedback they need to write in a way that gives excellent voice to their wonderful ideas? And what’s their responsibility to do so? Part of it is to keep the implied promise to readers: that the book they hold in their hands represents the writer’s best work.

Writing a book -- any book -- takes guts. Click To Tweet

Writing a book — any book — takes guts. Authors face rejection each and every time they ask someone to give it a read. Eventually, their names are emblazoned on the front cover and if the release is poor quality, readers may never give them another chance.

  • The first line of defense can be as simple as a grammar program — not just the spell check that comes with most basic writing software by something a bit more sophisticated like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
  • Second? How about using some beta readers who are not family and friends? People who don’t normally read your genre or are unfamiliar with your topic? They’re going to tell you where they’re lost and confused and these are signs that more work needed. After all, you want anyone who picks up your book to be able to understand it, right?

'you got this' chalked onto roadAn author willing to accept some hard feedback from strangers and take the time to work through multiple drafts can produce something anyone can be proud of — something of such high quality that could compete on a best seller list.

cover Carolyn - A Most Remarkable Lady by Buddy Clark

Molding the Memoir

With each project we undertake, Amelia Indie Authors’ goal is always to enhance things where we can; to apply our experience and collective skills, knowing that even the smallest changes can help create an improved end product. We try to give you exactly what you want, only better. 

To produce a memoir, we recently had the privilege of working with a fine writer, Buddy Clark of Beaufort, SC, and his editor, Emily Carmain of Fernandina Beach. Buddy had lost his wife Carolyn to Alzheimer’s disease two years before and wanted to share memories of her and her many talents with his family as well as a broader audience. 

Author Buddy Clark had lost his wife Carolyn to Alzheimer’s disease two years before and wanted to share memories of her and her many talents. Click To Tweet

Working with an Editor

Emily helped him to frame the narrative brilliantly, allowing the natural flow of memories from daily life events that triggered them. The memories are told in scenes of dialogue, action, and description. At the end of the book, when Buddy discovers Carolyn’s collection of mementos, drawings, short stories, and diaries, he shares them in the “Reflections” appendix with delightful color images.

From among those images, one stood out as irresistible: a classic black-and-white portrait of Carolyn looking over her shoulder, revealing her bright, engaging smile. We all knew this had to be the cover image for the book.

Interior Design 

My pleasurable task was to design that cover, as well as the interior of the book. This is always a team effort, with each of us reviewing several iterations to make sure any errors are corrected and no new ones introduced. At this point, the details are critical. I refined and retouched Carolyn’s image down to the tiniest fleck of dust, knowing she deserved nothing less. 

I refined and retouched Carolyn’s image down to the tiniest fleck of dust, knowing she deserved nothing less. Click To Tweet

During the process Buddy’s memories made me laugh and cry. In the end, I wished I had known Carolyn, for I’m sure we would have been friends. I think you’ll like her, too.

The book, Carolyn: A Most Remarkable Lady, is now available in hardcover, softcover and e-book on amazon.com, and is featured here on Our Books page.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

You’re the Voice

You know the feeling. You’re reading back through the start of a new project, admiring the first 10 pages of what might be your next novel. Yet, you recognize that something isn’t quite right. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there – daunting and taunting you. So, you read through your words again, determined to find the culprit. Often, the obvious is overlooked. The problem plaguing you could be this: you’ve written your story in the wrong narrative. Instead of telling your tale in first person, you’ve opted for third person, or vice versa. The struggle is real, as they say.

While there’s no golden rule that a specific genre should be written in a specific narrative, this choice is often determined by novels that have come before yours. Take a peek at the first paragraph of the top-selling novels in your genre. What narrative are they being told in? The same as yours? Maybe you’ve decided to break the rules and change things up by heading down a third person path when first person is the genre go-to. This is a risk worth taking, but only if its true to your story.

The question of which narrative to use can be answered by determining the most important elements in your work:

  • Whose story is this?
  • Who is your narrator?
  • Whose perspective does this story need to be told from?

This choice is ultimately yours, my fellow writer. Yet, it can be one of the most difficult to make. I recently suffered from this very issue while working on a new short story of mine. I was three paragraphs away from finishing the first draft when I came to terms with the fact that the manuscript was fighting back. It took a few read-throughs over a few days to identify the problem: this was not a story that needed to be told in first person —  it needed to be told in third. So, I rewrote the story with a third person narrator, and it worked.

I encourage you to to do the same, especially if the story and the voice aren’t working. Make the change. See what happens. You’re the voice.

More Than Ever

More Than Ever

“What author inspired you the most while growing up?” This question was posed to me by a critically-acclaimed writer and professor on my first day of graduate school. I was sitting in an old classroom in an old college in an old Southern town. The other students all responded to the question with very “literary” answers: William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen.

I answered with, “Judy Blume“.

In the world of literary fiction, writing for and about teenagers can often result in a steadfast stigma, labeling you forever as “the one who writes the teen stuff.” For some reason, our work is often not taken as seriously as our grown-up, elite counterparts. We get grouped in with other categories muttered with similar lowly disdain such as “chick lit”, “beach books”, and “anything written by that Nora Roberts woman”.

I’m often quick to point out 27 books by Nora Roberts are sold every minute. And Judy Blume’s books have been translated into 31 languages and over 80 million copies have been sold…and counting.

Not bad company to be in if you ask me.

Yet, selling a gazillion copies is not my driving force as a young adult author. I write for teenagers simply because I love to.

I write for teenagers because when I was 13 years old, a woman named Norma Fox Mazer changed my life.

Just weeks after experiencing my first kiss with a Latin boy named Pedro (after he slipped me a crumpled note that read, “Meet me after school because I like your stories”), my eighth grade world was lit on fire when it was announced Norma Fox Mazer – one of my favorite authors – would be making a guest appearance at our school.

After some serious campaigning to the junior high powers that be, I was one of the few students selected to have lunch with her in the library. I was beyond thrilled, having read every book she’d written. Although I was terribly star struck, I bravely showed her a section of a short story I was working on at the time and told her how much I wanted to be a writer.

Norma Fox Mazer scanned the first page and informed me, “You already are.”

Two years later, I published my first short story. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But I never would have become a young adult author without first being a young adult reader.

Norma Fox Mazer was my best friend, without even realizing it. Each step of the way, she was there for me, guiding me through the field of adolescent landmines. She helped me cope with my parent’s divorce with Taking Terri Mueller. She taught me about death and grieving in After the Rain. She let me know that it was okay to not live like the rich kids in Silver. And she answered the questions I was too embarrassed to ask in Up in Seth’s Room.

Similarly, I learned valuable life lessons in every Judy Blume book I could get my hands on (particularly Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). I devoured every volume in the Nancy Drew series. I hung on every suspenseful word written by Lois Duncan, and later, Christopher Pike.

Yet, as much as I read and loved each book by these authors, I could never find a true version of myself in them: a young gay boy growing up in the conservative 80s in northern California.

My first young adult novel, (set in 1986 in Sacramento), has just been published by Bold Strokes Books. While the novel explores a very timely and important topic (the life of a young girl is deeply affected by the murder of her gay older brother), the book is truly a literary tribute to the young adult authors who made me the writer I am today. Without them – and their beautiful words – I never would have sat down and taught myself to type at the age of 13.

I wouldn’t be able to recognize how much weight our words as writers carry, especially when read by young people.

Teenagers need us now, more than ever. They want us to be their best friend, their older brother or sister, their confidant. They want our experiences: the choices we made or didn’t, the decisions we’ve never second-guessed, the regrets we’ll always have. It is imperative that we share our lives with young people – not just through our words, but also by example.

After hearing Norma Fox Mazer had passed away last October, I reached out to her daughter, Anne, who is a successful writer. In a letter, I recalled my eighth-grade memory of her mother in my junior high library, and of the tremendous influence she’d had on my career since.

In her response, Anne shared with me, “I was touched to hear the story about how you met my mother. She would have been so happy to hear from you again and to learn about your novel.”

In my heart, I will always carry Anne’s words, right beside her mother’s. Right next to Judy Blume’s, and Lois Duncan’s and Christopher Pike’s. Next to the characters and the stories that helped to shape my youth.

In my lifetime, I only hope my own words will one day resonate with a 13-year-old who has yet to be told, “You already are.”

##

This article was originally published here.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Never Made the Oprah Show

She laughed at me

Several years back, at a publishing conference, I had an opportunity to speak with some industry veterans.  One was gracious enough to take a quick look at the marketing plan I was working on. I was encouraged… until she laughed. My inner critic went a little bit nuts. I wanted to crawl under some furniture or run from the room.

Fortunately, she noticed and said, “I like you. You may be the only author in America whose plan does not include the words ‘Get on Oprah’s show.'”

[Tweet “You may be the only author in America who’s not trying to get on an Oprah show.”]

I know why so many people wanted to do that: marketing an indie book can be h*ll on wheels. Granted, some of this is as a result of self-inflicted wounds caused by lack of feedback from beta readers, editing, and proofreading. But even excellent work has a hard time getting through the avalanche of media and promotional material readers see every single day.

My Inner Critic is up to no good

Personally? I need to take a closer look at the role of my inner critic in all of this. While I’m able to harness her powerful warnings to complete writing projects, she’s still pretty shrieky when it comes to self-promotion. (“Get your ego in check!” “It’s not polite to talk about yourself.”) She has gotten a little sneakier and has a New Age-y approach as well: “Stop bothering people. If they’re meant to find you, they will.”

Thank goodness for readers and other writers who help share about our books, our blogs, our events and our news. You are truly a gift.

[Tweet “Thank goodness for readers and other authors who share.”]

And, if you’d like to be part of that giant online support group but don’t know where to start? Here are two small actions that are a huge help.

Reviews. Especially on Amazon and GoodReads. They don’t have to be long to be meaningful. “The author presents helpful information with a light touch.” Or, “I found the story captivating.” Expert tip: If you are personally acquainted with the author please don’t mention that in your review. It’s a red flag for “fake review” and could cause problems for the author. BIG problems. Also, if you’re a relative… especially one with the same name? DON’T POST A REVIEW. (See previous example.)

Facebook page likes and engagement. Have you ever seen the “invite friends to like page” feature on the right-hand side of your computer screen? If you “like” an author (or any page) your friends are more likely to follow suit — if you ask them to. And once on a page? Participate. Comment on and share posts.

You rock. We love you

Genuine interaction helps get attention for our work, keeps authors motivated, and lets the inner critic of self-promotion know it’s OK to go somewhere and take a nap!

What’s your favorite way to help amplify an author’s message? (Please share in the comments section. Every little bit helps!)

###

Still struggling with your Inner Critic? Click to download 3 Reasons to Stop Fighting Your Inner Critic and find out what about something you can do instead.

SaveSave

Jacksonville Library Book Festival

Jacksonville Library Book Festival

Nancy and Andrea were fortunate to have been chosen to exhibit at the inaugural Jacksonville Library Book Festival in 2017.

On a beautiful Saturday in March, 150 local and national authors spread out in hallways and balconies in Jacksonville’s spectacular main library. The event was well-organized and the library staff was warm and efficient as they checked in authors, helped us find our spaces, and get the tables set up. They even checked on us from time-to-time during the day.

And, like almost any multi-author event, we met some wonderful people — both readers and other writers.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Love and.... the Inner Critic

Love and…. the Inner Critic

How’s your self-love level? If you’ve struggled to love and approve of yourself, chances are you’ve created a list of personal qualities you like, love or approve of.  They may be physical: eyes, smile, height, weight, physical conditioning. Or, perhaps they’re spiritual or emotional qualities that influence the way you move through the world. It’s easy to love your loyalty, your compassion, or your enthusiasm, but what about the rest of you? What about your talent? Your writing or other creative endeavors?

How's your self-love level? Click To Tweet

Sometimes making (or even reading) those lists can make us cringe, bringing up concerns about being “stuck up,” selfish, or self-centered. Those thoughts can make it difficult to stay enthusiastic about your list… especially the ones that tell us we’re imposters or talentless hacks. That’s when we really need to send some love to that inner editor.

What is healthy self-love? It requires a level of honesty and humility that allows us to see and accept our positive traits and the ones we don’t enjoy so much. We’ve learned that some of our yuckier traits can be an invitation to grow and change, an idea that works pretty well… until we bump into that critical voice inside. You know, the one that tells us we’re somehow less than others? The Inner Critic. The Inner Editor. The Bully in Your Brain. Yeah. That one.

What is healthy self-love? Click To Tweet

 

That’s when we start zooming around the web, reading up on the most popular Inner Critic management techniques: coach after coach, author after author offering tips and tactics to silence that inner voice. Get rid of it, kill it off, once and for all.

And, if you’ve followed that advice, you’ve probably had yet another interesting discovery: with most those strategies is, if they work at all, it’s not for long, is it? Efforts to silence the Inner Critic simply bring it back, stronger than it was before.

So what’s the answer? What does it take to get that voice to behave? Love. Unconditional love and radical self-acceptance. Excellent self-care. Support from trusted friends.

It’s true. As much as that naggy voice doesn’t feel good? It’s an important part of us, an inner warning system. To get to a comfortable level of self-love and self-acceptance means we’ve got to find a way to love that voice, too.

 

##

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Party for the Prince Launch Event

Book Launch Party for The Prince

It’s important to celebrate your new book and there are lots of ways to do that. From time-to-time we’ll share the planning and components of various launch events with our members. In the meanwhile, here’s a flier from the bookstore-hosted lanch party for Nancy Blanton’s award-winning novel, The Prince of Glencurragh.

SaveSave