Writers Resources

First Interview From The Daily Record

I’m providing my first newspaper interview since many of you who follow the blog aren’t connected with me on Facebook, or on Twitter where it was shared.  I thought you’d like to read it.


clip-Daily Record-FeatureAug2016-DIXIE DUPREE


A Pause…To Introduce Author Susan Schild!

A  pause from my regularly scheduled “programming” to introduce a new author to you!

Let me start this with a little bit of background.  When my first novel sold, I joined the Kensington Author’s portal, a secure site where authors under Kensington can “meet” each other, ask questions, and participate in a collective swoon over publishing success.  I saw Susan Schild’s intro and noticed she was writing a series based in a fictional town in North Carolina.  I figured she must live nearby and wondered how close.  Turns out – really close, like thirty minutes away.  I contacted her via email, and we set up a lunch date.

The day we met I felt an instant connection.  I swear I almost heard a “click!” as I walked into the restaurant called Mannings in the historic downtown area of Clayton, N.C.  I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say instant connection.  That sense of ease and none of the awkward, just getting to know someone do-si-do that can stifle conversation and make one feel as socially inept as a five year old asked to say the blessing at a family dinner.

At this first lunch together, (first of many to come, I hope!) we eased into conversation like we’d known one another for years.  We talked non-stop about our books, our writing, our past work, and before we knew it, ninety minutes was gone, and I believe we could have kept on until they shut the place down.

As writers will do, we share our work.  During her revision, she asked me once to read the first fifteen pages of her debut, LINNY’S SWEET DREAM LIST.  By the end of the first couple of pages, I thought, wow, I know this character already!  And, I loved her.  Plus, Susan tucked in these little narrative quips that had me smiling as I happily read along.  The thing is, Susan’s writing flows.  And it carries the same sense of wit, humor, and down to earthiness she wore like a soft shawl the day we met.  Her writing style is like a sunny day, full of descriptive morsels that set you into the scenes solidly.  The dialogue spills onto the page as easily as sweet tea down your throat on a hot summer afternoon.

If you like bright, colorful, interesting characters with Southern charm, who aren’t boring, who read and sound as natural as birdsong on a spring morning, then you’ll love Susan’s writing.  I promise!  I hope you’ll get a chance to check out her website, where you can find out all you need to know about Susan’s Willow Hill Series, and her debut book –  LINNY’S SWEET DREAM LIST – release date early January, 2016.  It’s available for pre-order as an e-book from Kensington Publishing Corporation. 

Revised cover Linny's Sweet Dream List



Every day my inbox fills with information I’ve requested.  Writing blogs I’ve subscribed to, online writing or publishing magazines, and a variety of other writing how to material.  I’ll stare at some of it for days, all good intentions of reading the material, only to get tired of seeing it stack up.  Eventually, I just hit delete, delete, delete.  Lately, I’ve started to classify much of it as clutter as in I’m beginning to feel a bit overloaded with the need to keep my inbox somewhat organized while “feeling” like I’m not wasting time by doing so

I realize there are some deliveries into my inbox very worthy of reading.  I ran across a post yesterday I felt was extremely helpful, but, mostly, staring at a full inbox just makes me feel like I’m always behind somehow.  I’m sure I’m going about it all wrong, as in I don’t have a defined process for how I work.  I don’t say I’m going to read the inbox from 8:00 – 9:00, then work on writing from 9:00 to 1:00, and then finish up with more reading to end the day.

Pffft!  If only I were THAT disciplined.

In addition to the email influx, I’m not counting the two magazines I get, Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest.  I’m a year behind in those – at least.  I have them chronologically stacked on my night stand along with the ever growing stack of books I’m reading, because I paid for them and I can’t bring myself to de-clutter by throwing them out.  What if I miss THE article that makes ALL the difference in my writing???

And then, there’s the notorious TBR pile.  What I can’t seem to stop doing is buying books.  Right now, I think I have 75+ books to read.  I just bought three MORE this week. But, let’s be real.  I won’t ever stop buying books.  I won’t ever stop reading them.  As I’ve said before, I only read at night and by the time I get to bed I’m usually so tired I only get a few pages in. One thing I do think I could do less with is the influx into my inbox, and that general feeling of guilt I have when I don’t read everything sent.  I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do.  And, in thinking about it, if I’m simply going to delete them, then why bother having them delivered?

Therefore, I’ve been thinking about reducing the load. I’ve been thinking about unsubscribing to some of the sites I’ve been receiving emails from for years.  I’ve been thinking about trying to follow that “sensible” daily plan for when I’ll read, and when I’ll write.  My hope would be to have a feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something – mainly towards my writing goals – and have enough time to sit down and read that ever growing stack of magazines and books in the afternoon.

Books in the middle - only part of that huge TBR pile.

Books in the middle – only part of that huge TBR pile.

Sure, I’ll miss seeing some of those articles, but I can always visit sites at will.  I’ll have them bookmarked, I just won’t get the daily automatic dump into my inbox.

Wow, I feel better already!

Self-Imposed Writing Challenge

Just for the fun of it, I recently took an online typing test to see just how fast I could get my fingers to work.  I’ve never done this before and I’ve never cared about the “official” number because it doesn’t really matter to anyone.  And by that I mean, the only typing I’m doing is on my latest project and no one’s screaming for it.

I found out I type about 65 words per minute and removing errors, that might be adjusted to 60 or 61.  I believe I can go faster – as if that matters – but, at the moment I’m using a rather old laptop with a space key that notoriously sticks.  I’d say in fairness to my brain and fingers, that’s what’s called a handicap like they might give out in bowling or golf.  Anyway, my curiosity regarding this was triggered by a blog I follow called Writers In The Storm.  They have a group of writers who regularly contribute, as well as guest bloggers.  A guest blogger recently put out a post about how to take advantage of writing fast and even came up with a formula for how many words one could do in an hour if you knew your wpm.

Huh.  Okay, so, if I settled for 60 wpm x 60 that would be 3,600 words in an HOUR.  Are they insane???  That’s WAY higher than my usual goal of 1,000 words per DAY.  That sounded completely unreasonable until she went on to say you could work in fifteen minute increments.  Oh.  Okay, maybe I can see doing it that way.  Hey, I’m all for trying something new for motivation.  And if I only stuck with it for fifteen minutes, that’s 900 words – better than what I’ve done most days lately.  She pointed out it’s also helpful to have notes and an understanding of what’s going to happen in the story before you begin.

In reality, this isn’t any different than NANOWRIMO which some of you might still be recovering from.  There are a couple of differences.  1) You are accountable to no one but yourself, and 2) the goal of NANOWRIMO is 55,000 by the end of the month.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve never participated in it, but that’s about 1800 words per day.  Not within a half hour.  I find this concept of fast writing intriguing because I know if I get into my story, sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain.

Plus, I’ve experienced a positive result once before by doing something similar.  This was back in 2012 when my first book was on submission, and I needed a distraction.  We always hear about beginning new projects to take our mind off of worry, and the submission process was all so new to me then, I was trying not to act like a psycho every time the phone rang, or an email dinged into my inbox.  For my own sake, I needed to write another book, partly to subdue crazy me, and partly to validate I could actually do it again.

I remember beginning in early April.  By August, I was done.  A completed story around 86,000 words in hand.  This included editing.  By my math, that’s not very fast – no where near this level of “fast writing,” in the WITS post, and not even close to NANOWRIMO, but in my mind, it was still a blistering pace because it took me 18 months to finish the last project.

My main point is, I wrote it  “fast,” i.e., a consistent 1,000 wpd, with more some days, and less on others, but some number of words on page – EVERY DAY.  Was it any good, you ask?  Well, I sent it off to Caroline Upcher, the editor I used at the time, and two weeks later I got an email back.  I opened the review letter enclosed and my eyes immediately caught the word “wonderful.”  And, it got even better.  (some of you have who’ve been reading my blog for a while have heard this story before)  Turns out she was reconnecting with contacts in the publishing world in the U.K., and sent the ms to an agency there to read with the hope of maybe working out a translatlantic sale if a U.S. publisher picked it up.  The agent, Amanda Preston, of LBA, read it, and contacted her and said, ” I absolutely love it.”

That sounds pretty exciting, right?  And it was – at the time.  Very.  However.  I decided not to go on submission for a variety of reasons that are really neither here nor there in this moment, although I do dwell on what might have happened if I’d done that.  What this post is about is I do love setting goals.  Yapping away about it here means I’m about to buckle down and get serious.  Back in 2004 and again in 2006 I ran a marathon.  One of the first things I did when I made up my mind to run in them was to state it as a fact, “I’m going to run a marathon this year.”   Stating goals for all to hear is more likely to make it happen than keeping it to yourself.

And your eyes reading this is stating my goal.  I will plant butt in chair and achieve 1,000 wpd for the next ninety days. 

One way or the other.

*cracks knuckles, glares at keyboard.*

Have you set a self-imposed writing challenge lately?

What The Heck Is This?

When I finished my last project I realized I was in a bit of a dilemma.  Based on what I’d read, it wasn’t an unusual spot to be in.  My dilemma was, what genre did my book fit in?  I hadn’t written a mystery because a reader would know certain things up front my MC didn’t.  My MC wasn’t trying to solve the crime, she was simply trying to find out what happened to her parents.  It wasn’t a thriller because although I did try to make things suspenseful for her, I didn’t have her hanging by a fingernail out of a plane door, nor did I have her standing on the ledge of some mountain about two thousand feet up with a knife wielding maniac taking swipes at her torso.  I didn’t have my bad guy constantly thwarting every attempt she made to figure things out.

I simply wrote it (ha! simply wrote = eighteen months of hair pulling and angst), tried to make it good, typed THE END and then I admit, I sat back and wondered, what the heck is this? 

Was it so out of line, so off the mark of anything marketable it was doomed from the get go?  I’ve tried not to worry about that.  Then, one day, without me trying to figure it out, I was practically handed my answer on a silver platter because I honestly can’t tell you how I land on the sites that answer my questions.  I traverse the internet the way a monkey traverses treetop canopies.  I cavort here and there without paying attention to what I’m linking to, flip flopping around like a spider on a web.  (no pun intended.  Well, okay, there is, because it’s a pretty good one if you’ve ever seen a spider spinning a web)   Hither thither I go, reading this and that.

I somehow found myself on the Algonquin Redux site and landed on a list that clearly stated the difference between a mystery and a thriller.  Here’s the short of it:

MYSTERY                                                                  THRILLER
A puzzle                                                                       A nightmare
Curiosity motivates                                                   Victim story (at top)
Protagonist has skills                                                Protagonist must learn skills
Thinking is paramount                                             Feeling is paramount
Action is offstage                                                        Action is onstage
Small circle of acquaintances                                  Thrust into larger world
Clues                                                                             Surprises/twists
Red herrings                                                                Cycles of mistrust
Information withheld from audience                     Information given to audience
Audience a step behind                                             Audience a step ahead
Mostly single Point of View                                      Up to four Points of View
Whodunnit?                                                                 What will happen?
Suspects                                                                        Betrayers
Ending intellectually satisfying                               Ending emotionally satisfying
Closure a requirement                                               Can end ambiguously
Series expected                                                            Often stand-alone
Usually 300 pages                                                       Can be longer

Here’s the link if you want to read the article in it’s entirety.  It’s actually pretty short.  This was all fine and good but it still didn’t quite nail the way I handled my story, or maybe I should say the way my characters handled the story.  Therefore, I still didn’t have a clue.  But, lucky me, I subscribe to various blogs and am never at a loss for something to read.  And just over a week ago I found my answer here.  Hallelujah, what I wrote actually fits nicely into this!  Crime fiction!  Whoop!

On what constitutes crime fiction:

“I would say that crime fiction is less about the whodunit than about the protagonist’s dilemma in a criminal milieu. The protagonist may not have all the information—so there is a mystery in that he is trying to find something out—but the story is really about how he solves his problems, which are often as much about his lifestyle as about the particular crime that spurs the plot. For instance, in Ray Bank’s brilliant Saturday’s Child, Cal Innes is forced by a local mob boss to find a former employee and the money he stole, but in many ways the story is about Cal trying to find a place for himself and form an adult life within a socioeconomic stratum that offers very few options.”

—Stacia Decker (Donald Maass Literary Agency)

This was such a relief because “crime fiction” isn’t listed very often.  If you do a search on it you can find some resources, but mostly you get thriller, suspense and mystery and often all of these are lumped together.  When I was trying to buy books so I could read “in the genre” I was writing, suspense was the one I searched under.  And oftentimes I ended up giving up because I just couldn’t seem to pinpoint a similar story.  (Saturday’s Child above would have been good to know about, for example)

Now I know.  A day late and a dollar short maybe, but my book fits somewhere!  Clearly!

Have you ever written a book, only to have no idea what the heck it is?

The Rejectionists

I really envy some writers.  Not for their talent with words.  Not for their knack at coming up with great, fresh ideas for a story.  Not for their ability to make me laugh, cry or think about something in a way I’ve never done before.  For all those things, whether published or not, it’s not about that, that I view them the way I do.

I envy their rejections.  I look at them like seasoned subject matter experts on dealing with big letdowns.  Time and time again.  The ones who know how hard it is to wait.  But, wait they do.  The ones whose hopes fly as high as if their fiftieth, or one hundredth query was their very first.  The ones who realize the odds and keep going.  The one’s who’ve been at it for years, whose feelings are sheathed with a bit of cynicism, but not so much as to make them act like jackasses.  They continue to live on hope, just like a brand new writer.

They cloak any insecurities with a new layer of creativity.  A fresh coat of paint can change the look of a room, over and over, can’t it?  Sure, they are still the same writer, only they’ve adapted.  They’ve learned that maybe that hot pink room would be more suited to a subtle shade of blue.  Or green.  Their experience has taught them how to perhaps even stick to their choice, except maybe they add an accent wall of a paler color.  Their buckets of paint seem bottomless.

Why would I envy this when it sounds like no matter what paint color one chooses, it’s always out of style?  When it would appear there is a secret pallet of colors only some get to see? Who wants to go through that?  Many of us it seems, but for those who’ve been at it for a while, they’ve somehow learned to try and keep finding the right blend, even if they’ve been told they’re color blind.

I call them The Rejectionists, although the actual definition in the Oxford dictionary doesn’t suit what I mean – not one iota.  It says, in part, “a person who rejects a proposed policy…,” but goes on to a further political view, which I will leave off here.  I think it’s clear what I mean by some of what I’ve said above.  A Rejectionist, to me, is someone who refuses to give up just because they’ve received polite refusals, with maybe a line of two of encouragement, or all those “no thanks, not for me,” or silence, time and time again.

I envy this because they’ve already been where I’ve yet to go.  Coped with it.  Dealt with it.  Built up stamina, honed a rock hard ability to stomach it.  It’s not to say I can’t do the same.  I know I’m stubborn (marathon training isn’t for the weak)  It’s more about that experience I think.  The mindset, and wherewithal to know it can get even rougher than where I’ve already been. Not counting the years of off and on writing, I’ve been working towards actual publication for about three years now.

Maybe that, in of itself, makes me one.  I don’t know.  I don’t think I’ve felt the burn of it long enough.  Not like others.  Not the ones I’m thinking of, have come to know, or the ones I’ve only read about.  They are the true examples of what it means to work for art, or as it goes in this writing world, “art harder.”  That they do.

Would you call yourself a Rejectionist?

An Interview With BookHive’s Jennifer Bowen

Back in late September I shared some good news and a bit of information about BookHive, an online service for authors which allows them to test their manuscript across a broad demographic of “Test Readers.”  The experience was so worthwhile, I thought it would be a good idea to share even more details via an interview with the “QueenBee” herself, Jennifer Bowen.  She generously agreed to provide answers to my questions.  First, a little bit about Jennifer’s background, which is also detailed on the BookHive website.

Jennifer Bowen has spent much of her professional career in advertising, but considers herself first and foremost a creative.  Her plays include the solo show Burning Down to Heaven about the poet Anne Sexton (The Marsh Theater and Venue 9 in San Francisco;  Women’s Center Stage/Culture Project in NYC),  full length plays Happiest Place on Earth (The Lark, Workshop/Reading In Violet Theater Company 2012, Trustus Playwrights Festival Finalist 2012) and in development The Little Prince$$ (Workshop Production InViolet Theater Company 2014) and Ruin (Kitchen Dog Theater Finalist 2014.) Her films include the independently produced full length Sad Sack Sally and the short films The Silent Treatment (48 Hour Philadelphia Film Festival 2012 winner), I (Eggs) You (Designer Vision/48 Hour Film Project Invitational) and the upcoming Lost and Found. Jennifer is a proud member of the InViolet Theater Company.
She is pitching her first YA novel in the trilogy The June Awakening Series about a young girl’s quest to find out the truth behind her parents deaths through her burgeoning psychic ability. Her greatest creative influences have been her home town of Half Moon Bay, CA, the television show Twin Peaks and the writing  of Jack Kerouac,  Jane Austen and Alice Munro. Jennifer graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Garrett who’s her faithful first reader.
  1. You’ve written a YA novel, and from that experience, it seems the concept of BookHive was born. Tell us more about that.

I’d been working on my first Young Adult novel. After a year of writing and getting feedback from my writers group in NYC, I was curious what a fifteen-year-old girl would think. While the people in my group dug it, they were all in their 30’s and 40’s, and I wondered if I had my finger on the pulse for my target audience. I strongly believe in the usefulness of writers groups, workshops, etc. in developing a book. But when people have read multiple drafts, they lose perspective. While my writers group continues to shape and strengthen my work, I got feedback from the teenagers that I just wasn’t getting from my writers group. I took that feedback and it truly informed my edits that next year. When I retested it a year later, it tested much stronger. That’s when I knew I might have something that could help other authors.

  1. How do you find Test Readers?

We recruit Test Readers through Book Fairs (we were at the 2014 Boston Book Fair), online ads, social media, Trade Shows, and word of mouth. Test Readers fill out a detailed form when they come to our website. Along with capturing basic demographics (gender, age, region), Test Readers give us detailed info on what kinds of books they read, how many they read a year, and a writing sample.

  1. What can an author expect when allowing BookHive to test their manuscript?

They can expect eight to ten targeted Test Readers to read the manuscript which will result in a 30+ page report full of quantitative and qualitative feedback. About 1/3rd of the survey is quantitative – questions on a 1 – 5 numerical scale (example – How hooked were you after the first ten pages?). The rest of the survey is qualitative where the Test Readers can really speak their minds (example – Who are your three favorite characters and why?; What parts were confusing?; What did you think of the ending?). We offer the author the opportunity to add three personalized questions as well.

  1. What is the process for analyzing a book’s “data” from Test Readers?

I pull out multiple mentions, both positive and critical, and look for trends in the 30+ pages of feedback. In my two to three page analysis, that I give along with the raw data, I point these things out as guideposts to the author. They can take these key points into consideration when editing, or when looking to position the book marketing wise.

  1. What have authors said about the report they receive?
  1. From Donna: One of the best parts of the BookHive report came from the summary analysis provided by Jennifer Bowen. Because the report I received was well over 25+ pages BookHive anticipates each author will receive, the summary allowed me to focus on the collective opinions of all the Test Readers, versus sifting through each individual Test Reader’s comments. (which was still a lot of fun because they did a great job at taking the time to discuss their likes/dislikes in a very professional, succinct manner) I appreciated how Jennifer keyed in on those common trends and offered helpful suggestions to make the book even better.
  2. Add any other comments you want here… J

That pretty much covers it!!!

  1. What sort of manuscripts is BookHive looking for?

Right now we are testing Adult Fiction, Middle Grade/YA and Memoir.

  1. What are your expectations for BookHive, overall?

My hope is that we are cost-effective check-in for Authors about whether their book is working or not. If they receive more of a critique, it can inform their edits. If they receive a lot of key points about what’s working, they can feel confidant to move to the next step – working with an editor, sending out to agents, or jumping to self-publishing.  

  1. What’s up next for BookHive?

We were just at the Self-Publishing Expo in NYC where I was a panelist. We will be at the 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference February 13th – 15th! https://sfwriters.org/

  1. Writer to writer, what is the best advice you’ve received in regards a writing career?

I like Stephen King’s basic MO: read and write if you want to become a better writer. It really is true! And that probably leads me to the value of getting rid of editor brain. Julia Cameron’s emphasis on morning pages I think is a way to overcome this. You wouldn’t just run a marathon without training, right? I think writing is the same way. You have to practice. Even if you’re writing personally in morning pages, it gets you in the flow. Also, Hemingway’s famous quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” That says to me that writing takes time. I always picture the early drafts as a symphony out of tune. With each draft I deepen, until hopefully, we’re creating a melody!

  1. If an author is hesitant about testing their book with BookHive, what would you say to encourage them?

As writers, I think we all want people to read our stories and be affected by them. In order to do that, and in such a competitive market, each writer has to do their part to write the best and most compelling story they can. The BookHive report helps with that process. Even with books that test fabulously (like yours, Donna!) – there were still some smaller things to consider. Whether it’s a major overhaul or minor tweaks, the BookHive report can help with the next step. Most of us have the fear – what if they don’t like my book? But better to be brave, hear the truth, and do what you can so the dream can come true – people truly being engrossed and riveted by the story you’re telling.

And there you have it.  One other bit of information I would add, and Jennifer would clarify this if you decided to test your manuscript; you can expect to have your report in about six weeks.

Jennifer also wanted me to pass this along.  If you think your work is ready to be tested (solid first drafts are accepted), go to their website, http://www.book-hive.com/ and click on the “Authors” link and follow the instructions to submit your work. They are currently offering a 50% discount to test manuscripts, cost $250.00, using the code “Beesknees.” (normally $499).

If you have other questions, share in the Comments below and I will pass them along to Jennifer and provide her answers back to you in the reply section.

Happy holidays! 


What I Don’t Know

I’m the sort of person who knows a little bit about a lot of things – except when it comes to authors.

Especially the author who suddenly appears, like fog, (hey!  that wasn’t there five minutes ago!) and they are quite successful to boot.  Actually, what if they’ve been around  more than fifty years? That’s when I can’t understand how I could have been reading as much as I have all this time, and not been aware of them or their work.  I feel like I’ve missed out somehow.  Missed out on following their career and getting to know them, like I have others.

Here’s a perfect example.  P. D. James.  She’s written a lot of mystery books, about nineteen, plus three non-fiction, as well as other works.  She’s received year after year of praise since her first publication back in 1962 for COVER HER FACE.  She kept publishing until 2009, acquiring numerous awards throughout the decades.  She died three days ago, and because of that, she’s suddenly on my radar.

Should I even admit that? 

I realize it’s impossible to know every single writer, yet I’m always flummoxed when someone of this literary stature with their decades old career – is/was unknown to me.  So, I’m left standing in front of my TV open mouthed and dumbfounded, finally hearing about them and/or their work post mortem.  Granted, she’s British, and maybe I could say that’s why, but come on, that’s weak, isn’t it?  It’s a doubtful excuse since many of her books were turned into either a TV series or a show here in the U.S.

Maybe I have heard of her and just forgot.  It was mentioned her style of writing could be called “cozy,” or as they spelled it, “cosy.”  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters most, at least at this point is, I also found out she wrote a book called Talking About Detective Fiction. (2009)

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Why the happy?  Because, anyone intent on writing mysteries – or even suspense, as I’m attempting, should buy this book and here’s why.  The synopsis on Amazon says:

“P. D. James, the undisputed queen of mystery, gives us an intriguing, inspiring and idiosyncratic look at the genre she has spent her life perfecting.
Examining mystery from top to bottom, beginning with such classics as Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, and then looking at such contemporary masters as Colin Dexter and Henning Mankell, P. D. James goes right to the heart of the genre. Along the way she traces the lives and writing styles of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and many more. Here is P.D. James discussing detective fiction as social history, explaining its stylistic components, revealing her own writing process, and commenting on the recent resurgence of detective fiction in modern culture. It is a must have for the mystery connoisseur and casual fan alike.”  (Amazon, 2014)

Much like Stephen King’s books ON WRITING and his other, “SECRET WINDOWS: ESSAYS AND FICTION ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING (which I’m currently waiting to arrive on my doorstep), I feel her book about “detective fiction” or the mystery genre, would be like peeking over her shoulder and getting an insider’s glimpse into how she produced her work.  What her techniques and/or secrets might have been. I’ve bolded areas I personally thought made it a must have, as well as the blurb…, “must have for the mystery connoisseur.”

Therefore.  Must have it.  Onto the Christmas wish list it goes.

Who have you discovered lately?

It’s That Time Again

Many writers are wrapped up in the frenzy of meeting their 50K word goal for this year’s challenge.  You know what I’m talking about.  I blogged about it last year too, and my thoughts on NaNoWriMo in this blog post somewhere towards the bottom.  The funny thing is this time seems like it would have been perfect.  Perfect as in I’ve finished another project and feel ready to start another.  What better kick in the pants than to commit oneself to slamming out 50K words in 30 days?

I don’t know why I just can’t bring myself to sign up.  Okay, yes I do.  Here’s why:

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, PANTSTER.  What has that got to do with anything?  It means that even though I’m ready to start another project, I’m clueless, make that clueless, about the story.  I’ve had some ideas and I’ve tossed them aside.  I do have one that is sort of a mish-mash of half baked ideas.  It came to me the other day when I saw that guy get arrested in the disappearance of the Virginia student, Hannah Graham.
  2. My characters aren’t in my head enough to write about them.  In the last project, this took months to come about.  Not days.  I’ve downloaded one of those questionnaires that’s supposed to help develop your character’s personality traits, etc, but all I can do is sit and stare at it like I used to do those quizzes in Geometry.
  3. And…this:


These stacks of paper are my three completed novels.  (I love looking at them)    The first one took the longest because it was done in bits and pieces.  I had eighty pages and only eighty pages for a long time.  I want to say about ten years.  I would pull it out and work on it, only to get bogged down by my real job and not touch it again for a while.  Sometimes it wasn’t the job, it was just me.  Me thinking it was a dumb idea, me thinking it would never get done, and me telling me that I had no idea where the story was going anyway, so what was the point?  You know the drill.  All that and more.  But, it did get done.  And it was the story that got my contract with my agent – so, there’s that.  The second one I think I wrote on sheer nervous energy and anxiety.  Five months – that was it.  Start to finish.  The last one took eighteen months, with one godawful false start thrown in just to ensure I wasn’t getting too cocky about this writing thing.  A complete do over.

The point is, I’ve got my way of doing this, and we all know about that old superstition with writers and their craft.  Don’t monkey around with what works.  Or something like that.

But, I’m tempted.

I’m tempted to try, even though I didn’t sign up.  Heck, I could make up for lost time and still make the goal.  Or, even if I didn’t – maybe I’d get at least 20K.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.  It’s more than today.   Under the “official NaNoWriMo” count, a writer needs almost 1,700 wpd.  What if I decided to go for broke and hit that for the next 25 days? 42500. (!!!)  Half way home.  Sure, it might be a hot mess, but I’ve heard the stories of finding the nuggets of gold, and we all have to start from something.  Even if it’s writing like a fiendish fool, don’t we do that most days anyway?  The difference here and a hard habit for me to break is to not go back and edit for days on end before adding new.

What about you?  Are you sitting on the sidelines, kinda, sorta wishing you were five days done with 7,500 words to the good? 

Tested By Book-Hive!

Several weeks ago I took hold of a unique opportunity – even though it made me as nervous as I’ve ever been. I allowed Book-Hive’s Focus Group Reader Service to take my latest WIP and test it.  Big GULP.

Below is a snippet where the creator of Book-Hive, Jennifer Bowen, explains how the process would work:

We conduct an online focus group of 10 to 12 test readers within an author’s chosen target market. These Test Readers are sent quantitative questions (example: on a scale from 1-5, how satisfied were you with the ending?), as well as qualitative questions (example: what did you like about the book and why?). The results are a 25+ page comprehensive report which can be a great editing tool and/or potential marketing tool.”

The concept was intriguing.  I loved the idea of my book being read by, what should I call them, “real” readers?  Yes, that works.  Because I don’t mean my beta’s, or critique partner.  I mean readers who might browse a book store one day and see my book, the ones who would, if they could, offer a writer their unbiased input, opinions, and suggestions for the story.  And, what do you know?  Here was a way to do just that – in a controlled environment.

This was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  I almost fainted right here on the floor the day I sent my manuscript – which was in late July.  Good or bad, it was better to know now rather than later just what real readers might think.

It took six weeks to get the test results, and meanwhile, I had walked away from the work, while quietly having a mini nervous breakdown.  I’ve never left a ms alone for more than a week.  Honestly?  I can’t tell you what I did for all those weeks.  Jennifer emailed me close to the end of that timeframe and said the results were almost in.  My mouth went dry.  Then, she shared some good news and I quote, “it received fantastic feedback for a first draft – I think you’ll be pleased!”

Mouth went drier – if that’s possible.

And she was right. I was really, really happy. When I got the report in early September, I saw that, in short, the book’s protagonist ranked a 4.4 out of 5 for likeability, the readers were hooked within the first ten pages, and that ranked a 4.2 out of 5,  and hooked by 50 pages, ranked a 4.3 out of 5.  The overall ranking for the book was 4.0 out of 5.

And then, Jennifer said:

“The manuscript ranked the highest for the month of August, and therefore, I would be featured as their “Author-Of-The-Month,” in their September newsletter.”

I was…speechless.  Okay, not speechless, babbling.  If one can babble through email.  (I seem to have found a way to do it.)  What did Author-Of-The-Month mean to me?  Good things.  For one, the newsletter that comes out once a month would feature the book, and Book-Hive also has a Facebook page and Twitter feed which would give a shout out as well.

The Book-Hive newsletter posted today:

I’m happy to announce that Donna Everhart is BookHive’s September 2014 Author-Of-The-Month. Her novel, A BLACK WATER SEASON, begins one hot summer evening when eighteen-year-old Ruby Kemp’s parents go missing. Set in the 1970’s, in rural Mississippi, and told in alternating points of view, it’s the story of  a young woman caught up in the Dixie Mafia, an illicit organization, and a ruthless killer’s obsession. It was selected by our Test Readers as the highest rated book this September for hooking them straight away in the first ten pages, for the in depth complexity of the unlikely anti-hero, the killer, and for its fast paced, tension filled story telling.

Donna grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and has lived close to her hometown for most of her life. She currently resides in the small town of Dunn, along with her husband, and a very demanding four pound Yorkshire Terrier named Mister, a.k.a. “The Bundle.”

A BLACK WATER SEASON, her third novel, will be placed on submission by her agent in the near future.

Donna works to write the sort of stories she’d love to read, and discusses her writing journey on her blog at www.donnaeverhart.com. You can also catch up to her on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @wordstogobuy, and she hopes the good karma of such a handle will one day make her dream come true.”

Wheeeee!  Right?

Since I received all this wonderful news, I’ve been able to take the report I received from Book-Hive and apply many of the suggested changes the readers would like to have seen.  Their input has been invaluable, and I have a lot of appreciation for their thoughtful comments, their wit and humor, and mostly, for taking the time to read my story.  If you, Test Reader are reading this, I just want to say THANK YOU!  The time you took to read and comment meant a lot to me!

And to Jennifer Bowen, who was a pleasure to work with and who made my experience with Book-Hive awesome!  A huge THANK YOU!

Now, I’m back to work on revisions – with confidence – and this experience with Book-Hive gave me that.  You can check them out here.  They are offering a special rate of $100 (regular $499) to test manuscripts through the end of October.  While there, you can also read the interview Jennifer did with the Publicity Manager of Simon and Schuster, Meg Cassidy, which I thought fascinating.  It provided an in-depth view of how publicity works –  particularly for debut authors.  It’s out on the “BuzzBlog.”


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