Saturday, March 31, 2012

Applying Feedback to Your Writing

So now you know how to give appropriate feedback. Now, let's switch gears and talk about what to do with feedback you receive. Yeah, yeah, you are probably not a writer. But what if you are? Or want to be? Consider this a "the more you know" instance.

How to give Feedback That is Helpful

I know you may not be a writer, but everyone must give feedback at one time or another. If you have had to call customer service for anything lately, "remain on the line for a short survey after your call" should be familiar. Or the cards left at the tables at restaurants. Whatever it is, everyone is asked to give some form of feedback for something in their lifetime.

But many people look at the chance to improve something in their life like a chore. Like the place? All 10's! Had a single bad experience after years of fantastic service? All 1's! For the love of all that is holy, don't do that. Just don't. It is lazy, dishonest, and stupid. If you aren't inclined to make the effort, then just decline the request. You hurt no one by doing that.

So what if you want to give constructive feedback, but aren't really sure how? Well, now I can help you out there! Here are some guidelines to follow.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five: 5 Questions with Steven

...about editing.

The next few weeks of Friday Fives are going to consist of mini-interviews with my friends and extended family of people within my industry. I am hoping for a variety of interview subjects. Since my group of friends/family is somewhat small, expect some people to reappear within the Friday Fives speaking about different subjects. This should be a quick interesting glimpse into the realm of all-things-writing.

My questions are in bold font to make it easier to see. Answers follow the bold A: and my comments follow in red brackets.

My friend and fantastic editor Steven Thompson agreed to be the first Friday Five subject.

Q: How do you approach a project?

A: First, I avoid approaching it at all for as long as possible. [lol] Then. once I make the decision to do so, I jump in wholeheartedly and just get right to work.

Q: What kind of enjoyment do you get out of editing?

A: Honestly, I'm not some great expert on the right way to do things and I know that. But I do tend to recognize the WRONG way when I see it and it makes me feel good being able to steer someone away from that at least.

Q: What advice do you have for your writers that would make your job easier?

A: It's not the writers' job to make my job easier. It's the writers' job to be creative and that's all I ask of them. My job is to take that rampant creativity and clean up after it.

Q: What is the most difficult thing to deal with as an editor?

A: The writer…present company excepted. [D'awww. Thank you!]

Q: In your opinion, do/should all writers make good editors?

A: Well, there's no need for it, I suppose…but I think it's inevitable in most cases. A writer is rarely the best editor for their own work but I think the simple process of writing itself makes one acutely sensitive to mistakes in grammar, spelling, continuity and other issues, in essence making them a good editor whether or not they realize it. [I think that goes along with a writer should always take the opportunity to read anything they can get their hands on, especially works outside of their genre. We learn just as much by observing the mistakes of others as we do by making the mistakes ourselves.]

Have any questions for Steven about editing? Post them in the comments section below and I'll try to badger him into answering them when he gets some free time to do so!

Stay tuned for next week's Friday Five when Steven talks about blogging. And yes, he is qualified to talk about blogging since he runs/writes a baker's dozen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Thought: I Need Sleep

As of the writing of this blog (hello from the past- Saturday, that is), I am dead tired. I've been working a lot lately and spinning my wheels trying to fit everything into my schedule. Obviously I have not quite been able to keep up with everything. So today's Thursday Thought is this: Sleep is the most important part of the day!

You hear the advice from doctors all the time. You need X hours of sleep nightly, X cups of water daily, and X amount of this food group and that vitamin and those minerals and these fats. Yeah, obviously I missed the exact numbers somewhere along the way. But I can honestly say that sleep makes my world go around.

When I miss just an hour of sleep at night, the next few days are in trouble. I just can't get it together. And those (normal) nights where I miss about 3 or 4 hours of sleep... yeah, I might as well turn off the alarm and keep on sleeping because my next week is screwed. And trying to catch up on the weekend is pointless. If I sleep more than 8 hours, I feel hung over because I'm dehydrated, my muscles are sore from laying for so long, and my brain is mush.

So today, try to remind yourself of the importance of sleep. Is that rerun of whatever sitcom that just popped up on the television so mesmerizing? Can't that last load of laundry sit in the dryer until you can spin it for a few minutes in the morning? Do you really need to play one more game of solitaire before bedtime? It is worth oversleeping tomorrow to read three more pages when you know its going to turn into thirty? I bet it isn't. Take your health (mental and physical!) in your hands tonight and see if you reap a bounty tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dream Writing Setup

I thought I made post about my ideal writing room back during my October NaNo posts but I can't find it. I don't know if I started it and never finished it or if it is just buried somewhere. Anyways, I'll start over.

If I had my way (c'mon Mega Million jackpot! haha), I would have my office at the back of my home, away from bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms, etc. It would have thick walls to muffle the sounds in the house even further. I'm easily distracted so any noise reduction is helpful. A private bathroom would be nice too.

The walls would be a mid-green shade (olive maybe?) with a warm brown trim. Maybe one wall brown. On the side opposite the door (and the side with the best view, naturally), I would have installed a bay window trimmed in brown. It would be upholstered in the green and stacked high with squishy brown pillows.
Around the room, I would have several bookshelves of course. In between those, I would have the illustrated prints of my book covers on canvas in poster size. Maybe a few of my own paintings. A large brown leather rolling chair and corner desk to match would set it up pretty nicely.

The desk would sit so that if someone came into my office, they would sit opposite me on the other side of the long end of the L shape, with the short end on my right (I'm a righty). A bouquet of red, pink, and purple flowers would sit on a stand just inside the door where I could see it pop against the green. I wouldn't use a metal filing cabinet. I would use the drawers/cabinets in my desk instead.

My office would be my sanctuary. What does your dream sanctuary (be that a man cave, a makeup room, a kitchen, etc.) look like?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Treat: Chocolate Pudding Cake

My editor Steven took on a project promoting an Italian cookbook and I got the chance to taste his cooking on Saturday. Simply put, he is a fantastic cook. We ate herbed chicken in a marinara-wine sauce. /drool Check out Booksteve Presents for his blog about his adventures in Italian slow cooking. While I was there, Steven told me about this amazing recipe in this book for chocolate pudding cake that is made in a slow cooker. Really. The book is Italian Slow Cooking by Ellen Brown.

If you want the recipe, you'll have to find one yourself... or buy the book! It is available in May 2012 and you can pre-order it here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Best Seller vs Loyal Following

So I have a question for you. Think of it as my version of "Would you rather..." and go with it.

Would you rather have a best seller that makes you a "name" or would you rather have a loyal fan base that follows your progress, cheers your successes (no matter how small) and consoles you in your losses?

I know you may not be a writer so apply this to your life. Think of it as a billion dollar company or a mom-and-pop shop perhaps. You could make a ton of money but you would be so out of touch with your consumers that you aren't part of their world anymore. Or you could just scrape by paycheck to paycheck with the knowledge that you are participating in your community economy. Maybe think of it as the chef of a huge restaurant that never sees the customers enjoy his creations but gets lauded by everyone, or the waitress that provides the service that really does the hardest work but is highly underrated.

I'm curious of your opinion. Since I am a writer, I'll go with the original best seller vs. loyal following.

I want to write something that is engaging. I want my reader to wonder what happens next, to clutch at her heart while swept up in the emotions of her favorite character, and to get him to talk about the story with me and others. I don't want to be the next Anne Rice, J. K. Rowling, or Stephanie Meyer. I want to be Dee Sutter, that writer that wrote those novels. I think that it would be difficult to engage with my reader if I were to reach a "name" status so my initial thought is that I would rather have a loyal following of readers that genuinely want to know more. But, I would take a best seller without complaints too. Just saying.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Have a Confession...

The past few weeks has been incredibly busy and I have slacked on my blogging. I know I promised that I would be updating this blog with a few posts per week and then didn't. I haven't forgotten about you and this blog. I have been swamped at work and literally come home with absolutely no energy to do anything. I have sat at my computer for a few hours a night and tried to look like I was being productive while in reality, I was just almost sleeping with my eyes open. Yes, I have been that tired.

With Journey of Shadows finally coming out, work deciding that everything must be done before Spring Break, and my stupidly weak immune system trying to recuperate from a week long battle with strep, the past three weeks has been a true FML moment. C'est la vie.

I have 3 blog posts coming this week that are 100% happening (because they are already written and scheduled) and another two that are possibly going to happen. We shall see about those possible ones.

Until then, please accept my apologies for my extended absence. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Empire History

I promised to keep this part short so I will try my best.

The Empire was once ruled by Kings and Queens and representatives of the magic races that lived throughout the lands. The Northlands and Mid-Forest were united under a child king chosen by the Gods to rule until the child reached adulthood. The Upper Wastes, when it was the forest Bog Nial, grew under the watchful eyes of fae troupes and their court. The Lower Wastes, once grazing lands for cattle, and Cofway Woods were less dark and more wonderful during these times under the rule of a peaceful King and Queen. The Southlands also paid homage to a King and Queen. The middle lands, the forest surrounding Nostal and the Wild Woods, were protected by a council of nymphs and humans equally responsible for the lands. The Lunal Isles were ruled by the Shadows, a race of shape shifters that largely kept to themselves. Caless Island, land and sky, were the property of the dragons. The mountain ranges were home to the dwarves to the west and human sorcerers to the east. The Immortalis, the only magic creatures able to also use magic, wandered the world telling stories, healing the injured, and blessing babies and sacred unions.

All this changed during the Great Battle.

Empire Geography

I was at work today when I thought I should share a little about Journey of Shadows since I'm so dang proud of it. I thought at first that I should post the prologue but it dawned on me that the first 15% of the book is available for a free download already so that would be almost like cheating. If you'd like to read that first 15% before making the jump to purchase, click here. Scroll to the bottom and select your preferred reading format.

So after several hours, I decided to give an introduction to the world and main characters.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I'm Sick!

I am home sick today. It started yesterday with a slightly sore throat before lunch and an aching back after lunch. Neither gave me much concern at first. I hadn't drank much water which I attributed to the sore throat. My work  requires some lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. so I figured that was why my back hurt. But it just kept on. By 2pm, my ears started hurting and feeling full (which was so weird to me... I've never had an ear infection or anything). By 3pm, I was chilling really bad and the back ache became a full body ache. When it was time to go home, my brain started feeling fuzzy... at least, that's what I call it. My reaction speed was slowed down, my vision was more blurred than usual, and I felt like if I closed my eyes, I'd sleep immediately. I had the nurse take my temperature before I left work. It was 99.6. Less than 30 minutes later when I got home, it was already at 101.2. At bedtime, it was 103.6. And that was after taking Motrin! I got up at 5am and took more Motrin. An hour later, we checked my temperature to see if I could go to work or if I needed to call in and it was 102.2. So I'm stuck home today. I'm going to try to get some sleep but I went to bed at freaking 7:30pm and slept through until 5am. I'm not that tired right now but I need to *try* at least.

Just an update, Journey of Shadows is selling a lot better than I expected. I've already sold 6 copies and have had 10 previews downloaded. That rocks! I opted in to Smashword's Read an Ebook Week promotion, so right now you can find my book in the REW catalogue for 25% off the listed price. Pretty cool!

I'll hopefully feel better soon. I'm going to try to call my doctor this afternoon to see if he will call me some antibiotics in without making me get out today. I really hope the fever goes away soon!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Journey of Shadows, Available Now!

My long awaited novel, Journey of Shadows, is finally available! Check the book page for more information or go here to view it directly from Smashwords. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Steven wrote a wonderful blog entry about Journey of Shadows and added some fantastic background on how we ended up teaming up for this project. Check his post here and then scroll to the bottom of the page to find his  Bookstore Plus for old books and collectibles! If you buy something from his store, email me and I'll send you a coupon for 50% off the purchase of my novel. How's that for a deal? This coupon will only be good until April 6, 2012 so act fast!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Immo1 Update

I am very happy to announce that my first novel, Journey of Shadows, the first book in The Immortalis Trilogy, is finished. At least, my transcription is finished. If you recall, I printed my last draft out (draft #8 I think) and edited it by hand. I retyped the entire file since I made so many changes. The paper was a sea of red ink. In the middle of my transcription... or well, probably 1/3 of the way through more likely, my computer crashed. It took several agonizingly long weeks for me to get my files back. Anyways, I finished the transcription and it is now in the very capable hands of my editor, Steven. He has a lot of work to do, as I am notoriously impatient and tend to miss a lot of suffixes and/or make up words.

We are all very excited about the upcoming release of my novel, affectionately called Immo1 if you have read any other posts about it. A little background on Immo1... Immo1 started as a single line of thought while I lounged in the bathtub in September, 2009. That single line became a very rough story beginning. It was headed to my unfinished story pile when I shared it with Steven later that month. With his encouragement, I developed it a little more and it became the first draft of my prologue. That November, I finally did what I had said for years I wanted to do: I wrote a novel for National Novel Writing Month using the prologue as a stepping stone.

Since November 2009, Immo1 has undergone an incredible transformation through the love and dedication of Steven, his wife Rene, and my beta readers Raven and Philip. I fit in there somewhere but seriously, I know I would never have finished it without any of them. They all hate when I try to give them credit for Immo1 but it really didn't come alive to me until they read the early drafts and encouraged me to keep working on it. The best part was none of them gushed about how amazing it was and how it would win a Hugo some day. Okay, well, maybe Steven did... but he is biased. They gave real feedback: constructive criticism, suggestions, research information, etc. So they really are a huge part of this.

Since then, I have been fortunate enough to find an amazing artist to do the cover for Journey of Shadows and I was astonished with this man's professionalism and artistic vision. Alberto Ramirez Jr. is an incredibly talented man with a fantastic ability to take a text description and make it come alive in art. Here is the finished cover:

To me, it reminds me of the original Nancy Drew covers. I freaking love it. It is 100% what I envisioned when I told him "a Wizard of Oz-type dog with a human shadow sitting by a fire in the woods" and then some. Alberto is a professional and he takes pride in his work. I can only hope my novel is good enough to be represented by such an amazing piece of art.

Stay tuned to find out the exact date of release for Journey of Shadows. It is coming very soon! Yay! for a March release... quite a birthday present for me indeed. What do you think of the cover?!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Five: Coming Movies

I'm not a big movie watcher but there are some great ones coming out soon. In no particular order, here are my 5 upcoming movies that I plan to check out.

A Thousands Words (March 9): Jack is a literary agent known for being able to make any deal, even if that means stepping on some toes. Jack's life is turned up side down when a Bohdi tree appears in his backyard and leaves fall with every word he says. Now he has to find some new ways to communicate or he is going to die with the tree.

The Decoy Bride (March 9): A movie star and a famous writer (David freaking Tennant) want to get married without the papparazzi interrupting their big day, so they go to a remote location. The location is discovered so they find a fake bride to try to keep the photogs busy. Only, the fake bride and the famous writer have chemistry. Could the movie star be left at the alter?

Detachment (March 16): Henry Barth is a talented educator but has chosen to keep that fact to himself. As a substitute, he is bounced from school to school, unable to form any bonds to anyone, and he likes it like that just fine. Until he gets to a school where the teachers are so awful that he becomes the role model teacher, takes in a kid from the street, and starts to connect to his students.

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1): I posted about this movie a while back here. It looks fantastic as a spin on the Snow White story. Snow White is trained by the Huntsman to triumph over the evil queen! Can't wait.

Brave (Summer): I've been waiting for this movie since the first teaser pictures came out. Pixar's first princess movie looks to be amazing. Merida does all the right things at all the right things. One problem: she's not a boy. So she sets out to change her destiny and inadvertently sets off a curse in the process. Interesting. :)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Thursday Thought: Creativity

Open your mind to what your imagination can create. ~Dee Sutter

Yea, that is one of my quotes. At least I think it is. It struck me as I drove home yesterday and I had to pull over to put it in my phone before I forgot it. I hope it means something to someone because it was certainly weighing heavily on my mind.