Writers Conference: A View From the Front

I have just returned from the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, KY. It was a blast! But it was also a tiring venture. Aren’t all conferences? You leave with a ton of business cards from your networking efforts, more friends, greater knowledge and understanding of aspects of the craft, and renewed inspiration. This year, however, I had another level to my exhaustion…I was a workshop facilitator.

And I realized how much I took for granted how nice it is to show up to the conference with naught but your pitch prepared and one sheets, synopsis, and business cards in hand. Not only did I have a couple of weeks of preparation under my belt, I had props, sign up sheets, books to sell, handouts, and a myriad of other things along for the ride (including chocolate).

So, I facilitated four workshops: “Preparing for Liftoff: Launching Your Book”, “Writing a Proposal/Querying” (with my husband), “Basic Characterology”, and “Marketing with Memes”.

It was great to share what knowledge I do possess and encourage other writers at different places in their journeys. There’s nothing like it. And I will look forward to doing so again at (hopefully) this conference next year and others.

I will be honest and say that the thing I enjoyed the LEAST was the panel. Whoa! It was not being put on the spot. It was not the questions…it was being up there with some of the authors I admire and respect the most (and my publisher, to say the least), and trusting my tongue to put forth good answers.

By and large, I encourage all authors and writers to go to conferences, as many as you can (make sure they are reputable, of course). And take that knowledge back to the writers that are newer in the craft than you. And, as the time comes and you have grown in your experience and technique, put yourself out there to teach.

Until next time, Happy Reading! Oh, and Happy Writing!

The Blog Tour has begun!

Here are the stops for “A Convenient Risk” Blog Tour.

*Note: The post for the tour will not be live until the date posted.

June 19: The Reading Addict
June 19: Romance Novel Giveaways
June 19: Reader’s Handbook
June 20: Christine Young
June 21: Buried Under Romance
June 21: Beyond Romance
June 22: Fabulous and Brunette
June 23: Hearts and Scribbles
June 23: Books, Dreams,Life
June 23: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart – review
June 26: Queen of All She Reads
June 27: Edgar’s Books
June 27: LibriAmoriMiei – review
June 28: Book Lover Promo
June 28: Kissing Bandits
June 29: EskieMama and Dragon Lady Reads
June 30: Journey of a Bookseller – review
July 10: A Writer’s Life
July 10: BooksChatter
July 11: Mixed Book Bag
July 12: Unabridged Andra
July 12: Tina Donahue Books – Heat with Heart
July 13: Booklove – review
July 13: charline’s blog and more…
July 14: Wendi Zwaduk ~ Romance To Make Your Heart Race
July 14: Independent Authors
July 17: Readeropolis
July 18: Simpliread – review
July 18: Lorana Hoopes
July 19: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
July 19: Nesie’s Place
July 19: Mello and June, It’s a Book Thang!
July 19: Two Ends of the Pen
July 20: Straight From the Library
July 21: Long and Short Reviews

There is a $50 Amazon/BN giftcard giveaway for participation in the tour. Details can be found on the tour stops.

“A Convenient Risk” Blog Tour

It is time. The blog tour for “A Convenient Risk” is upon us! And I couldn’t be more excited!

What is a blog tour?

For those of you who have never heard of a blog tour, let me explain. Remember when authors used to do book tours around the U.S.? (Some big name authors still do, but it’s not as prevalent.) Well, virtual book tours, or blog tours, have essentially taken the place of those. The goal is for my book to be featured on 20-40 blogs, opening me and my books to an audience that I would otherwise not have access to.

The blog tours consist of different kinds of “stops”:

  • the spotlight: this is basically the pertinent information about the book – cover, back cover copy, buy links, author bio, and my social media links, possibly and excerpt from the book as well
  • the interview: the blogger has sent me questions, which I filled out, those are posted along with the spotlight info and possibly and excerpt from the book
  • the guest blog: I have written a blog to be published on their website, posted along with the spotlight info, not usually combined with an excerpt
  • the review: the blogger has read the book and posts a review, along with the spotlight information, not usually an excerpt

When is the blog tour?

The blog tour will start on June 19th and is schedule through July 19th, but has the potential for a couple more spots on July 20th and 21st. Next Wednesday, I will post the schedule, so you can follow along. As well, I will post on my Facebook Author page and Twitter each day where I “am”, so you can keep up.

Facebook Author Page: AuthorSaraRTurnquist

Twitter: @sarat1701

Grand Prize

If you follow the tour, you will notice that there a GRAND PRIZE! A $50 Amazon gift card for those who do follow and participate in the tour (making comments and whatnot).

A Convenient Risk

In case you don’t remember this particular book, let me remind you…

He never imagined her heart would be so hard to reach.

Forced into a marriage of convenience after her husband dies, Amanda Haynes is determined she will never love again. Not that it bothers Brandon Miller. He needs her husband’s cattle. She needs financial stability and long-term support for her son and herself. But she never expected to care so much about the running of the ranch. Or the rancher.

Butting heads over the decisions of the ranch, adding to her frustration and grief at her loss. Her wellbeing is soon threatened as their lives become entangled with Billy the Kid and his gang. What has she gotten herself into? What kind of man has she married? Is there any way out?

And so, I wish you happy reading! I look forward to “seeing” you on the tour!

QUERIES: The Good, The Bad, The Necessary

 

In the life of a writer, we all must come to that point when we decide the world should have access to our art. We have babied it and honed it as much as we possibly can. It is at that point. We are as confident as we can be. The dreamer in us has overcome our insecurities.

Then, we find out that there is this, pardon me for being honest, beast of a thing called a QUERY letter. What an undertaking that is! For those of you who may just now be reaching that point, let me explain and (hopefully ease some anxiety for some of you who are, rightfully so, a bit overwhelmed it).

What is a Query?

Basically, a query is an opportunity to share your book in a concise way. To pitch it, in other words. Agents, acquisition editors, and publishers do not have time to read entire manuscripts as they comb through the many submissions in their inboxes each day. So the query letter is a valuable tool for both them and you. It is a snapshot of your book in about eight sentences. Your goal is to get them interested enough to request more information (or open the attachments you sent; note here: do not send anything not requested in the submission guidelines).

The query is NOT a tool that is intended to get them to sign on the dotted line. It is to intrigue them enough to take that next step.

The usefulness of the Query

Once you have the query, you will reuse it many places. It can be tweaked and included in these places:

  • the query letter
  • book proposal
  • your website
  • media kit
  • back blurb (back cover copy)
  • any information you send out about your book

So, as you can see, you want to put a lot of thought and effort into getting it just right, but it will pay off.

Before you Query

For a debut author, you need to make sure that your manuscript is completed and as polished as it can be. A professional edit is not a bad idea. Research comparable titles. These are books that are similar to your in theme, tone, story elements, etc. At the same time, note how your book stands out among the others.

You also want to research the agent/acquisition editor/publisher you are querying. Do they work in your genre? Learn their name and what kinds of books they typically represent. You want to personalize the query as much as you can.

How do you find someone to query? Going to conferences is the best way hands down. You can also look on past conference websites or research your favorite authors’ websites and books to determine their publishers/agents.

The Elements of a Query

SUBJECT LINE

Some submission guidelines will tell you what to put in the subject line. Others do not. If you have freedom to put what you would like. Insert something like “QUERY: historical romance with a marriage of convenience between a widow and a rancher in trouble”.

FIRST PARAGRAPH

You will want to introduce yourself and include why you are personally writing to this agent/editor/publisher, be that a mutual acquaintance that recommended you do so, or that your book is similar in tone to other books they represent, etc.

SECOND (& MAYBE THIRD) PARAGRAPH

You will need a HOOK. This is also your ELEVATOR PITCH. A 1-2 sentence overarching description that intrigues. Often these are rhetorical questions. “What if’s…”. For A Convenient Risk, a pitch may be: “What if a newly widowed young mother is drawn into a marriage of convenience only to find out that her new husband may have ties with one of America’s most infamous outlaws?”

Elevator pitches are a wonderful way to share your book’s main concept if you are riding, say, an elevator with someone in the industry and have only that long to pitch it (thus, why it is called an “elevator pitch”), or if someone asks you what your book is about when you are networking with other authors/readers.

Go on to include about six sentences about the book’s NEED/STORY. This is the essence of the book. We’re talking broad details here. This should be heavy on the front part of the book and, again, intrigue the person reading it. But be concise, don’t trip yourself up on trying to be fancy with the prose. The agent/editor/publisher is more interested in what you have and determining if they should read more. (That doesn’t mean you neglect your writing skills altogether.)

It is important to convey the conflict and stakes for your protagonist. What does your protagonist want and what’s in his/her way? Why is your book worthwhile? They will only care about your story if they care about your character.

FOURTH PARAGRAPH

This is for your writing credentials. Now, as a newbie writer, you may not have many or any. That’s okay. Talk about (briefly) why you wrote this book. What makes you an authority on this topic (more for nonfiction)? List any credits, endorsements, and awards (but not minor ones, and high school awards do not count except in very specific cases). Try to keep as much of your personal life out of the query unless it is related to the book or your platform. I cannot stress brevity enough.

FIFTH PARAGRAPH

Here is where you share the books pertinents. Word count, the fact that it is completed, target audience, comparable titles, and any marketing information. Your target audience is who you think will buy your book. DO NOT put “everyone aged 25-45”. You need to know your audience better than that. Is it women or men? Younger? Older? What kind of books do they like? TV shows?

CLOSING PARAGRAPH

Thank the person for their time/consideration. Mention any attachments and what they include, but again, only if they were requested by the agent/editor/publisher or in the submission guidelines. And, please include your contact information…at the very least, your e-mail address and phone number.

For more information:

If you want more information on Querying and Writing Proposals (proposals are something you may need to work with in this process), there is a great book on this subject: STEP BY STEP PITCHES AND PROPOSALS by Chip MacGregor (which was a great source for double checking my info for this blog post) and you can check out QueryShark’s Blog (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/). QueryShark is a literary agent who goes through queries and gives (sometimes harsh) feedback. But it will help you hone you query-writing skills.

Also, June 22nd-24th, I’ll be talking about Writing a Proposal/Querying at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference. It’s not too late to register! If you spot me, I’d love to chat.

BOOK REVIEW: Melody Delgado’s “Royally Entitled”

Perhaps your summer reading list is as long as mine. Maybe not. But I will be content to keep working my way through this mountain of books and share with you the ones I thought were worth my while. This next one I have for you was a great story with a lead character that was well-developed. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…let me introduce you to the book first:

Royally Entitled

When her family’s cider business is ruined and other local businesses are vandalized, Anika Pembrie wonders if the recent bout of unrest is merely a result of rivalry between local merchants and noblemen or if something more sinister is at the root of the recent crimes. Along her journey Anika befriends Prince Valdemar, future king of Brevalia but their relationship hits many twists and turns along the way. Lady Winifred Paxel Flemming pursues the prince relentlessly. His grandmother, Queen Marguerite, expects him to wed whoever she thinks is suitable, even if it means marrying a foreign princess he’s never met. Anika’s mother, Lady Sarah, wants Anika to help ease the family’s financial burdens by marrying Erland Riccats, National Chairman of the Merchants’ Guild. Lady Sarah also harbors secrets regarding Prince Valdemar’s mother, Princess Karin, who met an untimely death years before. In the end, will both Anika and Prince Valdemar be forced into loveless marriages, or will they be able to outwit their enemies?

My Thoughts

This was a wonderful novel. Great clean Historical Romance. The author got into the story quickly (which had me hooked quickly) and kept me turning the pages. Pacing was good, but there were places where the story felt a bit YA. That’s a hard line to walk between a Clean Read for adults and a YA book. The romance was refreshing and drove the story well. The main character, Anika, is well fleshed out and three dimensional. She was enjoyable to read and cheer for throughout the story.

Rating ~ 4 1/2 Stars

In case you are interested…

If you enjoy clean Historical Romance and like things a bit more on the YA side, this is a book for you!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

also available on iBooks

RESEARCH: Tips on incorporating what you find

Hey, all! Back into my long lost passion – research. Actually, it’s not so much a passion as a necessary evil. I do love history and love learning new things, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be writing Historical Fiction/Romance if I didn’t. But there comes a point when research is just tedious, I just want to write the scene.

The dance between fiction and fact

I’ve shared before how, with Historical Fiction/Romance writers, it’s so much a dance…or an exercise in weaving. We thread in fiction and historical fact, hopefully creating a seamless tapestry. If, when writing, the research hits a dead end, work in more fiction. If the fiction begins to dry up, add in more research.

Well, there is a little more to it than that, as you can imagine. What I want to share today is how to get the research from the book and/or reliable website to the manuscript. I was not always so good about this. I have become better as I needed to. The problem is that I have a very good memory. Like, scary good. My husband wishes it wasn’t so good most of the time. But it is.

So, when I would just read over research, make notes here and there, I would then go to the manuscript and find out later that it read pretty much like the primary source. Not because I attempted to copy, mind you. But because of my nearly eidetic (photographic) memory.

What is a girl to do?

Now, when I find that primary source, or that source I have deemed reliable, I make my initial notes. Then I will go back through a few days later and make notes of my notes (not the primary/reliable source). Several days after that, I will do that again–make notes of those notes. That puts the research as much into my own words as I can get it. I then utilize the last set of notes to write my manuscript.

I’ve found this to be, by far, the best way to go with a memory such as mine.

Do you have any tricks/tips that you find useful?

BOOK REVIEW: Kadee Carder’s “Insurrection”

Hello, all! I have had this author on my blog talking about this series at least once. It piqued my interest. Though I am solidly in the Historical Fiction/Romance genre now, my earliest reading love was mysteries and science fiction. So, this novel was not a departure for me, but a return to my roots, so to speak.

Before I get into my thoughts about the book, let me give you some idea what the book is about. First, I should tell you it is published through Clean Reads, which means it will not have any language, or gratuitous sex, or extreme violence or gore. I will tell you that there are intense scenes. I would rate the violence as mild to moderate, no language, and there is some amount of sensuality, but that, too, is mild and very well done.

Instead of me telling you about the book and risking spoilers, let me share the author’s back blurb:

Insurrection

Saylor had been told she was a stain on the cloth of mankind. When she and her sister orphans Micah, Denise, and Patricia are apprehended upon the high seas, they find themselves imprisoned on a Caribbean island filled with strange noises, dazzling beaches, and a secret military base. Wavering between terror and ecstasy, Saylor develops her inner warrior while facing an enemy exposing her indispensable abilities. In order to rescue her sisters, impress the hunky Australian, and protect innocent lives on a global scale, she must master techniques of fighting an army created to destroy with a single, scorching touch – or die trying.

My Thoughts

First, it is important to note that this is Carder’s debut novel. That alone leads me to applaud her for the following: her character and story development are very well done.

The characters are deep and three dimensional. They almost leap off the page. Saylor, the lead character, seems so real. (I should note the story is written in first person.) We come to know her journey and experience her emotions alongside her. But it doesn’t end there. We can see the other characters and their struggles as well.

And the story had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, but not so many that I was confused. A nice balance. The more I got into the book, the more I believed in this world created for me to enjoy.

I am eager to get into the second book in the series to find out what will happen to these characters that I have become attached to. That is key. People care about characters. You can have a great story, but if you don’t develop good characters in the story, your readers won’t be as invested. Character in the front seat, plot in the backseat.

I will note that there were some craft issues that were minor in the novel. Probably only notable to other writers. And, for a debut novel, they are not unexpected. We are all on this journey to grow and hone our skills with each novel. In the grand scheme, they do not detract from the story or the characters, so they will not keep me from recommending this book or giving it:

RATING ~ 5 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

In case you are interested…

If you like reading YA and/or books with a sci-fi flare, this is one to check out. So, I will include the buy links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

also available on iBook

My Inner Editor vs. My Ability to Review

 

I have recently decided to do more book reviewing. Now, I have reviewed books before. Even on this blog site. And I reviewed books for class assignments in school. But as I grow as a writer and as a self-editor, I have learned that it can affect my ability to review another author’s work.

The Inner Editor

I have honed these editing skills so very carefully over these last few years. And I treasure them. They aid me in my writing and they are invaluable to me.

BUT….

They have been crafted to suit my voice as a writer, my style. These things are not universal. Sure, there will be other writers that align somewhat with my style, but no one will write with my unique voice. And, yes, there are things that are universal about the craft of writing that are part of what sets off alarm bells for this inner editor, but more than you think is tied to voice and style.

The Reviewer

In order to give an appropriate review of another author’s work, I must be willing to set aside this inner editor, turn it off, if you will, and sit with an open mind. Especially if the author’s work is in a totally different genre than I write in. Then I can let myself become immersed in the story, follow the characters along the plot, and decide the merits of the book based on those things (character development, plot elements, etc.).

And, if I’m not careful, I might discover that I have become lost in a world not of my own making, but of a tale woven and spun by another authors words. If I can just flip that switch and shut down that editor.

There is a journey to be had.

“The Lady and The Hussites” COVER REVEAL!!!

It is that time. Later this year, The Lady Bornekova will receive it’s long overdue sequel, The Lady and The Hussites. I have thrown myself into this book, laboring over these precious characters, their continuing stories, and the research that creates the backdrop. And now it is time to let you see the cover.

The Cover. I worked with Cora Graphics once again. I do so enjoy working with her. She is both extremely talented and so easy to work with. I can not say enough good things about her. She has done most of my covers.

The Story. ***WARNING!!! This blurb may include spoilers for The Lady Bornekova****

Their story continues as the Hussite Wars rage on…

Karin and Pavel arrive safely at his parents’ home in southern Bohemia, but things are not as they seem. There are secrets between them. A wall goes up. And then Pavel is called into battle.

Radek and Zdenek are pulled into the conflict of the Hussite Wars despite their best efforts to remain neutral, while Stepan finds himself ready for bloodshed. With tensions mounting within their circle and throughout their country, what will become of Pavel and Karin? Can they find their way back to each other?

Can Karin and Pavel hold onto each other amidst the hardships of war?

The Collaboration. This novel is another venture with the Clean Reads company. It really is a blessing to belong to such a collection of authors. They are so supportive and encouraging. As well the staff (including owner, Stephanie) are everything you could want for them to be: helpful, knowledgeable, professional, yet still personable. I am so fortunate to be able to work such fine people.

Here it is…and so, I have rambled on about all these things. Now, I present to you the unveiling of this cover:

Anyone want a FREE Novella?

That’s right, Readers! The novella I have put together for my newsletter is finished and ready for delivery to your e-mail boxes! This little read is up for grabs today. My monthly newsletter has gone out to those who are currently signed up, bearing this precious package for download. And anyone who signs up for my newsletter in the future will be able to nab their own copy.

If you are a print person, it will become available in the near future on Amazon.

Here is a peek into the novella’s makings:

Disillusioned by war and prejudice, can this southern belle trust in love?

Claire Crawford is nothing she should be. Put off by the War between the States and her own experience with the slaves on her father’s plantation, she longs for something more. Under the control of her parents, there is not much room for anything but submission. Still, she dares to defy them and reach out to a sharecropper’s family on her father’s land.

The war changed Henry Garrett. And he has plans of going beyond his father’s humble farm. He will do whatever it takes to make those dreams come true. Nothing will stand in his way. Until he meets her. Drawn to the southern belle he would rather despise, he is soon caught up in a situation not of his own making. How much is too much for the one he loves? Dare he sacrifice his dream?

I wrote this as a gift to my readers. You are what keeps me going. Yes, I love writing and honing my craft. But you, my readers, are the reason I keep chugging through difficult scenes and the reason I dial up the tension, hoping to give you an experience that is unique, the experience you are seeking when you pick up a book–an exciting story with twists and turns, characters you can relate to, a plot that is interesting, and something different.

Here’s the link to sign up and get that novella: Sara’s Desk List

And, so, with that, I wish you happy reading.