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Blog Hopping . . .

Hello fellow writers! Well, this is my first “Blog Hop,” where you answer four questions on writing, then tag two other writers to continue on. Thank you, Vicki Pinder, for tagging me today. You can see her cool website at http://www.victoriapinder.com.
Ok, here goes…
As some of you know, I refer to myself as a “trans-genre” ;-) because after some 20 years as a professional nonfiction writer (I am author of three nonfiction books), I decided to make the leap into fiction. It’s been an interesting journey.
Here are my responses to the four questions:
What am I working on?
I’m currently working on the sequel to my debut novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant (released by Soul Mate Publishing in June 2013). It’s a “rock ’n’ romance” about what happens to a young girl in the late ’50s who finds herself pregnant (which was a huge deal back then!). The story takes readers through the next two decades of pop culture, history and two great love stories, as Peggy Sue tries to keep this family secret, and how it ultimately affects her, her daughter, Charlee, and many other lives. After that book was complete, I realized that many of the characters still had a story to tell. So I began Scoundrels & Dreamers, which focuses on Charlee’s life, and the kidnapping of her baby. That’s due out this September.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ve always been an “outside-the-box” kind of writer, and I like mixing things up a bit. Which, of course, is not a good plan in today’s market. But I feel we must write what we’re passionate about, not what must fit into whatever trend is out there at the time. (No vampires for this girl.) So genre-speaking, my book is definitely women’s fiction because it deals with women’s issues (especially those of the 1950s – ’70s era), but there’s also romance and suspense. And lots of rock references, too. So while it’s marketed as romantic suspense, it’s also a rock ’n’ roll novel. Thankfully, Soul Mate Publishing welcomes cross-genres, so it’s the perfect publisher for what I do.
Why do I write what I do?
I started out as a nonfiction writer who wrote mostly on pop culture and history, as well as personal essays. So naturally when I switched to fiction, I knew I should stick to what I know and what I’m known for. This was before “brand” became the big buzz word. But writing about rock and pop culture has definitely become my calling card. However, nonfiction and fiction are much different art forms. I had to retrain my brain, as well as my writing voice, and at first it was a challenge. But I enjoyed the challenge, and now I’m hooked on fiction!
How does my writing process work?
I’m an early bird, so I go straight to the keyboard around 6 a.m. and work on my book first, before I go into my other work of the day (I still freelance for one publication, am a speaker and instructor, and event coordinator/director of several writers’ conferences and retreats). I stay away from going online until at least 8:30 a.m. to keep my mind solely on my book, then force myself to leave my story, which is hard, but we all have to make a living – I have yet to get a big advance for my books!
Some days, I can get three or four pages written in that time ((approximately 1,000 words). Other days are not nearly as prolific—when I’m stuck on a scene or whatnot, and work and rework just to get one or two pages down pat. Still, I feel I’m getting work accomplished, and that’s always good. And while I know you’re supposed to “write every day,” I’m afraid weekends are generally out for me. That’s my time to catch up on everything else – including time with my family and my brand new granddaughter!

So now it’s back to work! Thank you, Vicki, for giving me this opportunity to speak on my favorite subject – writing!

If you’ve never planted a garden before, you’re going to need instructions. You’ll need to decide where it belongs, and know how to prepare the soil. Have the proper tools handy. Buy the materials. Then nurture it through the process by watering the seeds, and strengthening them with nutrients. It takes knowledge, patience, and dedication to see fruitful results, be it a flower or vegetable garden.

And by all means, don’t forget to weed out the bad stuff that works its way in.

 Of course, you wise writers all know where I’m going with this.

 Yep. If you are planning to write a book, you need to do the very same things.

The comparison is a good analogy because it’s pretty much the same process. You need to take the seeds of a manuscript and lovingly help it grow into a completed book.

 But you are probably looking for something more concrete here. . . . 

So here is a detailed list of what you will need to take that story living in your head and turn it into a bountiful garden, er, book.

 1)  Decide what kind of book you want to write (genre), and realize you’ll need to be familiar with similar titles – which means reading other books in your genre . . . Preferably the bestsellers because there is (usually) a reason why they are popular.

2)  Organize your thoughts, mark down your daily writing schedule (never, never say “I don’t have time, you must make the time. The book’s not going to write itself ;-). Get up an hour earlier, go to bed an hour later, for example. It can be done!

3)  Have basic tools on hand – even when you are not at the keyboard. Especially for taking notes. You’d be surprised the great ideas, and scenes, that come to you when you are not actively writing!

4)  Draft a rough outline (similar to a table of contents). It’s bound to change as you work, and that’s okay. You need reference points. After all, if you are planning a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before you refer to a map, GPS or a website, correct?

5)  Caring and Feeding: Attend workshops to learn how to write right, and research – for many reasons, beginning with the era and setting in which your book takes place. Remember: You must get your facts right, even in fiction. There is always, always, a reader out there who will call you on it after the book’s been published, when you can’t do a darn thing about it. And readers are like elephants, they never forget . . . and like gossips, they will spread the word.

6)  Now, write the damn book. :-)

7) No, you are not done yet! It’s weeding time! Yank out those unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and basically “terse it up.” Once all that is done, put the book away (yes, you should print it out) for at least a week. Then bring it out and read each page out loud to see what sounds right and what doesn’t. Remember, revision is your friend.

8) Next, hire a (good) editor. Really. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your book. 

9) Go out and celebrate the harvest. You’ve done good!  

10) Draft your marketing plan. (Something you need to think about right from the start.)  

**Next Blog: We’ll weigh in on publishing options.

 Happy February!

 

 

Happy New Year!

Every year, we ask ourselves, what do we want to accomplish this year? Don’t we?

Since this is a blog for writers, let me guess: You want to get that book written. Or you want to get your freelance career started. Or you simply want to boost this writing career of yours.   

Whatever your writing plans are for 2014, you have to put it on your everyday To-Do list, or it won’t happen. Guaranteed.

If I didn’t write down what I want to accomplish from day to day, I wouldn’t get any of it done. We all know people who talk and talk about all the things they want to do in life, but never seem to do anything to make it happen. When the subject comes up, they say they simply don’t have the time.

And they never will. Because you will never FIND the time. You must MAKE the time.

 Is Writing Important to You?

Many years ago, a friend told me about one of her mother’s favorite sayings: “You Do What’s Important To You.”

I’ve always thought that one sentence is pure genius when it comes to human nature. So simple—and so wise. That of course pertains to everything we do, or don’t do. But it’s especially something to keep in mind when it comes to your writing. If you keep finding excuses not to do it, maybe it’s not that important to you. (And that’s okay, you might have other passions.) Sometimes we dream about doing something, or being something, like a writer, but when it comes down to it, it’s not what we really want to do. The dream is much more enjoyable than the reality.

And the reality about being a writer is that it’s HARD. It takes work, and instruction, and yes, time. So if you really do want to be a working writer, the first thing you need to do is get organized. Put writing time into your daily schedule.

Be Organized and Specific

I have two personal calendars. One I keep in my purse. It’s a basic two-year calendar booklet, and I write down everything in this one. Business notes, social events, or even who I need to call on a specific day. I find this old-fashioned calendar is easier to use than anything electronic. Just flip it open, read or write! And it goes everywhere I go, so it’s a handy reminder whenever I need it. (I also save all the old ones. It’s like having a journal of my life and all the things I’ve done—and accomplished—in years past!)

The other calendar is my big desk calendar that I keep right in front of me as I work. I can make notes and refer to it as I write. On this calendar, I note down little ideas and also, things I want to complete by a certain day. Besides writing books, I still freelance a little, teach classes, and organize writers’ workshops, so that all gets documented on the sheet that stares at me every day!

And by the way, I have a recently retired husband at home, two dogs, two cats. And I work from home. Not easy at all. But I refuse to use them as an excuse for not producing. Sometimes I just have to get up earlier or stay up later. Whatever works!

Because my new year’s resolutions are not just dreams. They are goals.

That’s the difference between success, and waiting yet another year to make things happen.

And the best part? It’s never too late. So get going. And let me know what you find works for you!

Happy Writing in 2014!

Image

This summer, I attended a book fair and sat next to a very nice man, who, like all of us, had a stack of his books on the table in front of him. He began telling me how easy it was to self-publish, how he would “never go through what other authors go through” trying for a traditional publisher. He then added that he was becoming quite dismayed by the lack of attention he’d received from the press after sending out media releases announcing his book, and how surprised he’d been by the lack of the big sales he had expected. He then showed me his book, and all it took was one glance at the first page to know what the problem was.

It wasn’t that he self-published it. After all, there are authors who decide to become indie publishers, and do make a decent profit because they produce good books. But the book I was holding in my hands right then was, let’s just say, not good. I asked, as casually as I could, about his writing process, the fiction courses he took, what conferences he liked to attend. He seemed taken aback by the queries. “Oh, I didn’t do any of that. I just sat and wrote it.”

Wrong answer.

Of course, anyone can write. You just sit down, express your thoughts, and create new worlds by simply putting words together. But good, or rather great writing (something real writers strive for, or should), is hard. At times, excruciatingly hard. If it’s not, you’re not writing right. And you’re bound to end up like that nice man I met. Wondering what went wrong with his dream.

Writing takes work. And instruction. Just like anything else you want to do in life. Yes, even the fun stuff. Want to play golf? Learn to knit? Play guitar? Drive a boat? Even riding a bike takes learning, and lots of practice. And you can’t become the person you want to be, whether it’s a teacher, accountant, surgeon . . . or writer, unless you learn the trade. Writing is a business, too. Well, unless you want it to be just a hobby.

Then there’s this: Why take the time and effort to write a book only to have no one buy it, or even read it? (Okay, except your mother. But she’ll get a copy for free, won’t she?)

That’s why there are writers’ conferences. To help you on your way to your writing  goals. They are there, not just to learn how to become a good—or rather great—writer, but also to meet others like you. People who love books and want to be part of that world. People you can learn from, become friends with, and support you when that book of yours is finally published. After writing professionally for more than 25 years, I still attend several conferences or workshops every year. Because I want to keep up with what’s new in the business, and also to continue to improve my work. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what writer, Barbara McDowell, had to say recently in her popular blog, “Not Everyone’s Innocent”:

“You Are Worth the Investment – Yes, there is a cost to attend a conference. And yes, there are some great online writing sites that provide free craft advice or reasonably priced classes. Yet, the reward for attending in person is priceless. Since I started participating in larger scale writing workshops a few years ago, my craft has risen to another level. It is noticeable to me and others who read my work. The face-to-face contact can further grow friendships that started online, provide experience in networking, allow for discussions of current projects, and free you to see new perspectives.”

Well said, Barbara.

Consider signing up for the Western Reserve Writers Conference at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio – one of the longest running conferences in Ohio. Celebrate with us at the big 30th Anniversary event! For all details, see my website, www.deannaadams.com. Click on the “Conference” link at the top.

Hope to see you there. And Happy Writing.

And Learning. :-)

Several years ago, I attended a four-day summer workshop at the Chautauqua Institute. The facilitator started out each day asking us who our “literary heroes” are. She said that we all need to have them because those are the people who not only inspire us, but influence us, and through their own successes, encourage us.

At the time I mentioned the usual suspects: The old school guys: Hemingway, Irwin Shaw, John Jakes, and Ben Franklin (my favorite hero). Then the more contemporary writers: Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Lamott, Mary Karr, Walter Mosley, David Sedaris, Jeannette Walls. . . .    

 After my novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant, came out, and about 100 of my friends and family attended the book launch party, it reminded me of those right in my own hometown who influence and inspire me.  And because both writing and music are my greatest passions, I don’t have just literary heroes, I have musical ones, too.

And on the Lake Erie shore, there are boatloads of each. If you aren’t aware of the great talents on the North Coast, this blog is for you.

 Of course, it’s always risky when you start naming names because you’re bound to leave some deserving people out. However, these are merely the people who have touched me personally, and I feel a great need to acknowledge them, for a couple of reasons. First, their individual career successes always give me hope when evil doubt creeps in. And second, their work just makes me happy.

I also mention them because, if you’re an aspiring writer, or musician, you need to be a part of that community. After all, you read good books to learn from the author. And you play the music by those you desire to emulate. And how wonderful if they happen to be in your own backyard, so to speak. Then you can attend their booksignings or talks, or go to a club and hear the musicians play live and even chat with them between sets. These are the people who will not only inspire you, but be your greatest cheerleader. And oftentimes, be someone you can call (or email) when you’re so frustrated with your work, you’re thinking about becoming a WalMart greeter. . . .

So here are the ones that do it all for me. Remember, there are plenty more—these are just those who have personally inspired, encouraged, and leave me in awe of their talents. I share their names, and (most recent) works, so you can be aware of them and perhaps learn from them, as I have, and experience the creative joy that Cleveland brings.

 Authors:

Casey Daniels. The hardest working author I know, who can write a book faster than I can read it! Her latest: Supernatural Born Killers. She also writes books under the pseudonym, Kylie Logan. Kylie’s latest is: Mayhem at the Orient Express.

Erin O’Brien. An author who gave up a lucrative job for a not-so-lucrative living as a writer. But she’s doing it, and doing it well. Her latest book is The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts.

Les Roberts. A guy who loves Cleveland more than any other city in the world. My kind of guy. Now working on his umpteenth number book, his most recent is Win, Place, or Die.

Sarah Willis. Always read her to learn more. (A Good Distance, among others). Connie Shultz. Tells it like it is. ( . . . And His Lovely Wife)

Regina  Brett. When I’m not sure how I feel about something, Regina gives me ways of looking at things that helps me figure it out. (Be the Miracle)

Paula McLain. An international best-selling author who has managed to remain humble, hardworking, and always gracious when you meet her. (The Paris Wife)

Gail Ghetia Bellamy. A Ph.D in creative writing and former Cleveland Heights poet laureate, and always willing to share her knowledge. Written Cleveland’s Food Memories, Cleveland’s Christmas Memories, with more to come.

Marsha McGregor. An accomplished essayist, her work is included in YOU. An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person.

Carole Calladine.  A fellow writer’s group member, Carole is always working on something new, and interesting. Her latest book is, Second Story Woman: A Memoir of Second Chances.

Anne McFarland. Another fellow writers’ group member who’s always writing more than one book at a time. Her book, Next Friend: A Journal of a Foster Parent, is written under the name Anne Southworth.

Barbara McDowell. She doesn’t have a book out yet, but remember her name.  She’s the next Stephen King – female version.

Diane Taylor. Another soon-to-be author whose prolific imagination leaves me in awe.

Iris Llewellyn Angle. A woman who’s turned tragedy into personal triumph. (Tell Your Story Walking: One Mother’s Legacy)

Lisa and Laura Roecker. These are sisters who, in the midst of raising children, write very popular YA novels, in their “spare” time. Latest title, This is WAR.

Trudy Brandenburg. This enthusiastic author has taken her love of a sport and turned it into great stories. Her new book is Peacocks on Paint Creek: An Emma Haines Kayak Mystery.

And Aileen Gilmour  . . . who published her first novel at age 80, and a few years later, completed another one, and already working on her next. SHE is a true hero!

 Cleveland-area Groups and Musicians:

 The Alan Greene Band. One of the best in Cleveland – their newest CD is No Stranger to Blues. Like most bands that have lasted as long as this one has, there have been a few member changes, so I also want to acknowledge former members, John Daubenspeck, Mike Miheli, and Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller, each one amazing in their own right.

The Elm Street Blues Band. Another longtime group whose amazingly skilled guitarist, Danny McFadden, was once my very, very patient guitar teacher. Drummer Hank’s motto is “You can’t have too much fun.” And it’s true when you listen to this band. 

Michael Stanley. One would be remiss not to include him in any mention of local talent. He and his band, MSB, gave us Clevelanders great times that turned into great memories, but I admire him most for continually pumping out terrific music on his own. His latest CD is The Ride.

Carlos Jones. The best in reggae. If everyone listened to his music, there’d be peace throughout the world… The Stone Pony Band. This nine-piece (yes, you read right) band not only plays great Springsteen and Southside Johnny covers—among others—but lead singer, Kelly Derrick, clearly loves what he does (and so good at it) and a great example of always striving to perform your best, even if you may have had a rough day. And he’s done it for years while working a day job.

Then there are those who teach little kids to rock, and that inspires me too. They are all heroes in my book, but drummer, Tommy Rich, and guitarist, Snake Rock, are among my personal ones because their enthusiasm over music can inspire anyone, and that’s just what children need to keep working at it – while still having fun.  

 So there you have it. A long list, but an important one. So who are your creative heroes?

 

 

Just completed the final edits before my debut novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story (see last post), goes to press. And as a writer of nonfiction for more than 20 years, I want to say that creating imaginary worlds is not for sissies.

      As they say in Cleveland: To live in this town, you gotta be tough. And if you’re a fiction writer in whatever town, you gotta not only be tough, but diligent and creative. And produce interesting characters, and write great dialogue, and keep the plot moving, and structure it well, and make readers laugh, and cry, and get angry, and surprise them, and make them care about what happens next, and  . . . have it all make sense.

     You see, the truth about fiction is this: Just because you’re making things up doesn’t mean you can just . . . well, make things up.

      It must bear the element of truth. That means being true to the era of which you write, the historical events, and how people respond to various events in their lives. Which all comes down to one thing.

       Emotion.  You must get the reader emotionally involved.

      The reader wants to care about the characters and what happens to them. They want to be a part of the story. To take a break from reality.  Isn’t that why we all read? We want to be transported to another place, another time.

       I often tell my students that one of the coolest things about being a writer is that you can take your characters and scenes in your head—and if you do it right—transplant them into someone else’s brain.

      Cool? Yes. Easy? Not so much.

       And actually, the same goes for nonfiction writers as well.  Those writers, however, must create inside the box, sticking to facts. Yet even when you color outside the lines, it better be good art.

        Now that I’m a “trans-genre,” as I like to call myself, I will say that whether you write truth or fantasy, you still need to ask yourself when writing, “Who Cares?” If only you do, best hit the delete key. 

       And that folks, is the literary truth.

Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story is set for release on June 19, 2013.

Well, nothing like having a new book coming out to get you back to blogging. . . .

One of my New Years’ resolutions (yes, I realize it’s now May) was to resurrect this blog, and do some guest blogging as well. I love reading about what others are working on, and keeping current with all things writer focused.

So here’s a promise to you (which is better than a promise to me—too easy to break!). Beginning today, I’ll be blogging here the first Thursday of each month. And sometimes, when life isn’t too crazy, I’ll throw in a bonus one in between. I’ll share some good information on all topics for writers, as well as do some fun Q & A’s with authors about their books and the writing process. We’re in this together, folks, and it’s terrific when we share knowledge and experiences.

I begin with a Blog Chain. This is a great idea for those who want to be a part of the wide, wide world of authors—and also for readers, who want to know what writers are up to. I thank my friend, Barb McDowell (who has a great blog: http://barbaramcdowell.net/ ) for introducing me to it. Here are the details for those who want to participate:

*This is a blog chain that originates from She Writes. Each writer answers a series of interview questions and posts them on their blog or website while also linking to five other writers. Those writers then answer the questions, post and include links to five other writers and so on and so on. If you happen to fall short of five, just run with who you have.*

Except for the first question, the answers below apply to my debut novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story, to be released next month— Just in time to add to your Summer Reading List!

Okay, here we go.

What is the working title of your book?  Titles are always a major decision. And I think it’s important to have one at the start of a new book, even knowing it can change in the end. I’m currently working on the sequel to Peggy Sue (a novel that takes readers through the ’50s, ’60s & ’70s). I’ve settled, for now, Scoundrels and Dreamers, because we all know some of each.  Also, many times our dreams don’t always pan out.  And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  As a longtime pop culture/rock ’n’ roll writer who always wanted to write fiction, I knew to stay true to what I’m known for—and what I’m passionate about. I used the old “what if” questions pertaining to a young ’50s girl who gets pregnant by a boy set for stardom, and—as it was back then—gets “sent away.” From there, the book and many characters were off and running.

What genre does your book fall under? After googling “rock and roll novels” early on, I kind of knew I was in trouble. Not a huge genre. (Though I’ve always been an outside-the-box kinda girl.) Yet, although it has a lot of rock/pop references, it is definitely women’s fiction, which deals with many women’s issues. It is also romantic suspense because there is romance (Peggy Sue falls in love again after losing her first big love) and suspense (someone threatens to ruin her life, as well as her family’s, with knowledge of her secret).  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I saw one photo of Frances McDormand that looked fairly close to the Peggy Sue I imagine. However, for some reason I’m unable to include the image. (Aww, computers!) And Zooey Dechanel looks much like I envision her best friend, Libby.

Although the boy who gets her pregnant, Frankie London, is only in the book in the first few chapters, he certainly is integral to the story since he’s Peggy Sue’s first love. Since this takes place in the late ’50s, we’d need an actor who can look the part of a Eddie Cochran-type guy. I can see Ewan McGregor in that part. Just darken his hair a bit more, bring down a lock of hair on his forehead and strap a guitar on him. 

 As for Billy Mercury, the deejay Peggy Sue later falls for, we need a handsome guy who looks like he could be a cool disc jockey, as well as romantic hero. Who else but Jon Bon Jovi! And he does have acting experience. He also has that baby face, which always makes the ladies swoon. Perfect!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? The story of an ill-fated love affair between a Southern boy and Midwestern girl, and a long-held secret that threatens the legacy of a beloved music icon and his illegitimate child.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  This one will be published by an independent traditional publisher out of New York, Soul Mate Publishing. I like the fact that in addition to publishing all types of romance and women’s fiction, they’re open to books that merge genres, which fits this book perfectly, and great for authors who like to “write outside the box.”

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Because it was my first venture into fiction (I’ve been a nonfiction writer for more than 20 years), it took nearly two years. Then almost another year for revisions, which includes putting the manuscript in a drawer for 5 months to let it “rest,” so I can read it with a fresh perspective (try it, it works!).  After the complete revisions, I sent it to Soul Mate. They in turn, sent me a contract. Always a good day when that happens.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  My inspirations are wide and varied. After reading tons of nonfiction books on pop culture of the ’50s through the ’70s (and beyond), I thought it’d be fun to take those historic times, weave in fictional characters with real problems of that era. I was encouraged as I saw more and more media attention to that time period—demonstrated by popular movies like Forrest Gump, and The Help, and two terrific movies titled simply, The ’60s and The ’70s.  I also watched old movies, in particular, Susan Slade and A Summer Place, that took you right back to that era. Then, of course, the Mad Men TV series, which convinced me there’s a real interest in that era. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  The characters. The more I wrote, the more alive they became. These are not cookie-cutter characters. They are human, make dumb mistakes, and yet . . . . well, you’ll see.  All I’ll say at this point is, I liked them enough to take them on more journeys through the ’80s and ’90s and why I’m writing a sequel.

Next week, I should have the links to blogs of other writers who will be participating. (Working on that, but hey, it’s the first Thursday of the month and got to get this posted - because I promised you!).

Deanna Adams is a writer, conference coordinator, speaker, instructor, and author of three nonfiction books, including Rock ’n’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection, and Confessions of a Not-So-Good-Catholic Girl.”  Her debut novel is Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story.

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