Friday, May 31, 2013

No Golden Ticket

In a recent online discussion, a hopeful writer shared her discouragement because an agent told her that she didn't want to represent her well-written book because it couldn't be sold. It was a 'niche' book and unlikely to fit into any needs of the 'big' publishing houses. Those rejection letters are disheartening and most writers have received them at one time or another. Some of us have a nice collection of them.

Of course, many people joined the discussion and described similar experiences and offered lots or suggestions on what step to take next. The discouraged writer also posed the question about there being a secret to getting published, a magic ticket to the world of being a published author. Again, many of us have heard amazing stories about people being in the right place at the right time. But even if we save the life of a grateful agent or editor, no one is going to publish our work if it isn't a good story, well-written and structurally ready for publication. There is no golden ticket into the publishing world (unless you're a celebrity just getting out of rehab or prison).

Hard work and persistence will help you write your own ticket. You're probably tired of hearing about my book, The Marine's Queen, that is remaining in the top 100's, even the top 10, in three different categories on Kindle. I pitched that book years ago in a face to face with an editor for one of the big houses. She rejected it, never asked for the full manuscript even. I kept working and contracted numerous books with other indie publishers. Last summer I dusted the Marine manuscript off and did some rewrites and contracted it to New Concepts Publishing. Now it's the best selling
book I've ever had. And NCP pays me better per book than any big pub company would.

Smaller indie presses take chances on niche books, new writers and books off the mainstream. They can help you design your own golden ticket.

Have you ever had someone ask you what the secret was to getting published? If you're with a small press, do you still dream of one of the NY biggies calling you? Can you guess where publishing might be in five or ten years?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy Blogfest

Thanks to these great bloggers who are hosting this Get Healthy blogfest. I'm hoping to learn a lot and you can too. Visit any of the hosts and find full lists of participants there.

Alex Cavanaugh
Stephen Tremp
L. Diane Wolfe
Michael Di Gesu

To be a successful writer, you have to spend hours with your butt in a chair unless you're lucky enough to have one of those desks that set on your treadmill. I still want one of those. Especially when you're on a deadline, personal or set by someone else, you'll find yourself relatively immobile for long periods.

I like to jog for my main workout though I'm much slower than I used to be. When I was younger, jogging meant five miles in about forty minutes, but it takes me a lot longer now.  My jogging now is rather pathetic but I enjoy it. The problem with slower paces is the lower level of intensity. Orthopedically, I just can't run like I used to. Too many knee surgeries, so I have to find different ways to keep the intensity up. I do that outside by heading for the hills. Up hill is so much harder than level, whether jogging or walking. But at my pace, I still need to spend a lot of time out there to get the workout I used to get by going faster. Being a writer, I don't always have that hour or hour and a half I need to get a good workout.   The answer, intensity. I can't go faster, so I climb those dang hills.  On the treadmill in bad whether, I really crank up the height angle so I burn a lot of calories.

Time limits on your workout = increase your intensity. You can burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

Do you make changes in your workout when time is short? Do you have a helpful hint to stay healthy? Have you changed how you work out as you get older or do you still go as hard as you did years ago?

Friday, May 24, 2013

So Little Time

Am I the only person who feels like I never get caught up. I look ahead and think I'm going to have a day with no demands on me but when the day arrives a dozen different things either demand or want my attention.

This long weekend for those of us in the states would appear to be a good time for some relaxing activities. But a whole lot of things are quickly filling the schedule. My daughter's nineteenth birthday is on Saturday. We're shopping for the two meager gifts she requested, going to see Star Trek together and then meeting the rest of the family for wings at our favorite casual restaurant. That will pretty much take care of Saturday.

My husband and my oldest son are working a side job all weekend, leaving me with the duties of shopping for and planning the family cookout on Monday. The usual cleaning and laundry duties will also take their share of time. And this summer-like weather is urging me to get some work done outside.

There is a stack of six books from the library I really want to read and six other books I've purchased and half a dozen on my Kindle that I really want to read. But my current WIP is demanding I fight through the middle. I'm afraid of letting the action slow down. Suddenly a three day weekend seems way to short. But that countdown meter is keeping me sane.

I want to take the time to give a shout out to James Garcia Jr. The official release date for Seeing Ghost is June 3rd but it's available now. Check out his facebook page or his blog to learn more.

Do you have plans this weekend? Are a lot of different things demanding your time? Do you know James or his books?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Character Names

I'm very busy working on the second book in my Recon Marines science fiction series. The first book, The Marine's Queen, is still doing really well on Amazon. I hope I can create an even better novel with the second book.

When working on a new story, I have to come up with some new names for all those characters sticking their noses into the plot. When I read, I always cringe when I come across characters names that are really odd or unpronounceable. It won't make me put a book down, but it does make it more difficult to remember the character's names should I want to tell someone about the book. I tend to go with simple names though not necessarily common.

As a teacher, I encounter a lot of names and many strange spellings of said name. Or course, I don't want any of my students to think they're appearing in my books but how can I resist names like Vannie, Primo and Austyn?

On the other hand, my siblings may have noticed their names appearing in some of my books. They're always the good guys. I'm not crazy enough to make four sisters and two brothers angry at me.

Still I like keeping it simple. The main male character in The Marine's Queen is named Joe. Not as in GI Joe the toy but as in a genetically engineered soldier whose creators couldn't be bothered to even give him two names.

A brief shout out to my friend, Misty Simon, who has received a contract for another novel with TWRP. Her last novel, What's Life Without Sprinkles?, is now available and a really fun read.

So have you been using the names of friends or family in your novel? Anybody name a character after you? Would you be insulted if they did?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Best and Worse Movie Remake Blogfest

Today we have another great idea from a group of hosts to have some fun around the blogosphere. Today the participants in this blogfest will highlight the best and worse movie remakes. There are lots of them going on and many to chose from. For a full list and to meet our wonderful hosts, check out these famous bloggers.

Alex Cavanaugh
Stephen Tremp
Father Dragon Al
Livia Peterson

I'm dealing with my daughter's wisdom tooth surgery which didn't go as smoothly for her as it did for her five older brothers. No details but if you're a parent you've probably had that image of your child falling just out of your reach so you can't catch them. So I didn't catch her when she passed out right after we got home. Anyway, movies...

It's so easy to think of some good movies that have been remade lately and I'll have to go with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rising for the best remakes compared to those yawning earlier attempts which never had any emotional depth or psychological examination of the Batman.  I just watched The Dark Knight Rising again with my daughter today while I tried to push fluids past her numb lips.

Worst remakes are more difficult though I'm sure I'll read about lots of them around the fest. Though I didn't hate it was the most recent remake of Pride and Prejudice. Kiera Knightly is very talented but the previous version that stared Colin Firth stayed very true to the book and the stiffness of the social interactions of the day. I can't come up with anything really, really bad that I have actually seen.

Do you wonder sometimes if they'll remake some of the movies we love so much like Batman Begins and do it even better? I kind of hope not.  So go visit some more movie lovers and not so much loves. I didn't do the music bonus. Do you see any of those old Batman movies? Remember Arnie as the freeze guy? Do you think yanking out wisdom teeth is somewhat barbaric?

And thanks to everyone keeping The Marine's Queen at the top of the lists in three categories now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Liebster Award and Titles

I just came from updating my Goodreads list of books. I was adding Breaking Point by CJ Box to my TBR list since I have it sitting temptingly on the edge of my text. I'll probably start it later this week. When I searched for it on Goodreads, I just entered the title and was shocked to see around a dozen books with the same title pop up. Didn't anyone Google their book title before settling on it?

My romance publisher, New Concepts Publishing, changed the title of my last book during edits. The title I had selected was too close the title of another book. They asked me to come up with a few choices. I like The Queen's Marine. My publisher suggested The Marine's Queen instead. I won't go into their reasons but they must have been right. It's been my bestselling book ever and has spent the last two weeks in the top 100 for military romance and even had a short stint in science fiction military top 100 for a while. I guess the lesson here is to listen to your publisher if they suggest a title for your book. They know stuff.

I want to thank Barbara White Daille for giving me the Liebster Award. We met during the recent A to Z. As part of this, I'm supposed to answer the 11 questions she's provided. Instead of passing this award on, I'm going to just ask for you to share some of your own answers in the comments. That way I get to know a little about you.

1.  What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? It has to have peanut butter though I'm not a big ice cream fan.

2.  What type of book do you like best? Probably epic fantasy but I enjoy so many other things like scifi, romance, suspense, historical and just about anything except celebrity books.

3.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I really want to live a little closer to the equator. I love the heat and hate the cold. But if I have to be cold give me Ireland or Scotland.

4.  What would you do with the money if you’d won a million dollars? Mundane answer but I would make sure my children are taken care of and then I would fund some scholarships for deserving students because I know how expensive college is these days.

5.  Which actor would play you in the next blockbuster film? Sandra Bullock though she's younger and much more beautiful. I think she could capture my attitude.

6.  What’s your favorite book from childhood? The very first book I owned was the true story of Smokey the Bear. I still have it. The first books I read over and over again were The Black Stallion books by Walter Farley.

7.  Would you like to read about a cowboy or a CEO hero? Cowboys!!!

8.  What do you want your grandchildren (or friends, if you have no grandkids) to remember about you? That I lived up to the last and loved well.

9.  What’s your favorite quote? Kind of a joke in our family but...Plan your work and work your plan.

10.  What do you like best about yourself? I'm a good mother and an actually kind person.

11.  What’s the most important item in your bucket list Don't have a bucket list. Maybe I'll make one now that I'm retired.

Would you share some of your answers to the above questions. Has your publisher ever suggested you change the title for your book? Have you encountered books with the same title by different authors?

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Creative Procrastinating Techniques

At least once a year I think every blogger writes a post about procrastinating. Spending time on facebook, twitter and Pinterest seem too run of the mill. EVERYBODY does that. Checking out the latest stats on my books on Amazon is good for a few minutes here and there. Let me share some new, better ways to waste time when I should be working on that new WIP.

My most recent favorite is playing with the feather quill and ink set my daughter bought me last year. Usually I just let it sit on my desk and admire it now and then. But lately, I've been practicing writing with it when I get stuck on a particular scene. The pages in my planner has blotches and patches of ink all over. It has taught me a great appreciation for those early scribblers who had to write with such instruments. It must have taken a lot of practice in a time when ink and paper would have been very expensive. I can easily waste half an hour writing my signature over and over and then cleaning my pen. I'm going to have to buy more ink soon.

My daughter shared some of her favorite procrastination practices she's learned at college. Some are obvious like walking down the hall to visit her friends. I suspected this one, but she admits to texting me or calling me when she wants to put off starting her school work. What are moms for? But this one is a new one if you want to try it. I sent her an Easter package and included a tiny lego package that held on Dr. Who figure. She opened it to find an Ood. So her new favorite procrastination is to play with her Ood.

So any creative ways to procrastinate plaguing you? Ever write with a quill? Dr. Who fan? Do you wish you had an Ood too?

Friday, May 10, 2013


There are lots of quotes about making  plans and how God laughs at us. Life is uncertain and can surprise us in every facet of our world.

Few of us followed the exact career path we had planned on when we started out on our own. I'm sure some of the readers of this blog are still going to find a few zigzags along the way to a fulfilling job. Many of those twists and turns are not things we can see ahead of time.

Personal and family relationships can be very unpredictable. I have four sisters and two brothers and all my relationships with those siblings are a little different. I would never have thought when growing up that miles and miles would separate us. Now my own children are grown and starting to scatter. My youngest son moved to Colorado yesterday to begin a six month internship that will
hopefully lead to a good job placement ... anywhere.

Writing careers are like that. At times I've felt that my writing would develop into writing all epic fantasy, my first love for reading and writing. But I've been so pleased by the performance of some of my recent romances and have enjoyed writing them, that I now think my career will likely stay divided into my Susan Gourley, fantasy author and Susan Kelley, romance author. And I'm feeling very comfortable with that.

What unexpected turns has your life taken in your career, your home, and perhaps your writing life? Do you expect to have twists and turns along your path to fulfillment?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Recovery and Moving Forward

Sometimes the A to Z Challenge feels like such a big project that when you're done you feel like you need some time off. No one can blame you if you do. But I'm not taking any down time. I'm busy working on some of the things I talked about during the challenge to promote my writing and it's working. My sales have been pretty good, actually better than ever for Heir of Futhark and the other books in The Futhark Chronicles Series. Very happy with that.

I also dove right into the second book in my Intergalactic Recon Marines. This is the second book in the series following The Marine's Queen. That book is sitting at #70 in the Kindle Store in its category of romance. Best I've every done.  I'm at about 6K in the first week of writing and I know where it's going so hopefully this first draft will go pretty good. I also anticipate a little more writing time now that A to Z is over. 

All the things I mentioned in my A to Z posts and the wonderful comments I received have really fired me up to get my writing career rolling. As I wrote my posts and read the comments, I started thinking. Why am I waiting until June 7th to get started on so many of these ideas and plans when I could be doing some of them right now.

I'm busy updating a few things and this weekend I'm going to catch up on some reviews for some friends on Goodreads and Amazon. Thanks to all my friends who have given me reviews and the other readers who took the time to write and rate.

I'm trying to use my time wisely on facebook and Pinterest, the only two social sites I visit nearly every day. I don't spend hours on them, usually on a few minutes, but I'm aiming for more short visits. 

In May we do have a few more blog fests coming up. Are you signed up for more blog promotion events? What are you working on right now? Do you have a goal for the upcoming month? Have your spring yard work done yet?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A to Z Reflections Post 2013

Whew. I made it for the third year in a row. Once again I didn't get to visit everyone, but I found some new blogs I'll be a regular follower of and picked up some new followers myself. Today is the day to reflect back on what I learned, how I will do better next year and some general thoughts about the challenge. Read more reflection posts here.

This was the first time I used a theme for the challenge and I'm glad I did. I used each day to describe my plan for advancing my career as a writer when I retire in just a little over a month. Sometimes I had a firm plan in mind but others times I asked for advice and guidance. I have entire pages of notes I took on the terrific ideas people gave me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Some of the suggestions I'll be working on throughout May but a few have to wait until I have more time. As in good by day job.

At the start of April, I visited every blog in numerical order starting from the top one day and from the bottom the next. Two weeks in, I had to do a round of edits for my upcoming book and get them back to the editor within a week. I still managed to visit twenty or more blogs per day, but my plan to visit everyone went out the window. After that, I visited my regular blogs and those that had WR for writer after their blog name on the list. I think those little identifiers were a great idea. I plan to use one next year if we do that again.

This year I had my posts ready ahead of time which is a big load off my shoulders and allowed me more time to visit others. I will do that again. Now to some suggestions for others. Please don't use word verification. I usually try twice and after that I quit and leave your blog. Also make your blog easy to follow. Don't put your follow button way down the side of your blog so I have to scroll around to find it. And put a little about yourself in your profile so I don't have to click again to find out anything about you.

 I regret that I didn't visit everyone but I really appreciate those of you who stopped into to see me. And most of all, thank you to those self-less bloggers who took the time to host and organize this terrific event. I really admire them for giving so much time and effort to this cause.

Did you get to visit everyone? Coming back next year? Did the amount of fun out distance the stress and time?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group: Juggling

After the busy month of April with the A to Z blogging challenge, we jump right into May with Alex Cavanaugh's IWSG. Visit lots of supportive people on this list. Some will gift you with words of wisdom and others could use your voice of experience.

During April, a lot of writers used 'juggling' for their "J" word. Most writers I know work a day job and write in whatever other hours they can manage. And since only energetic people try to make it in the writing life, most of us have many other interests and demands on our time. Somehow we juggle family, day job, household chores, other hobbies, exercise and sleep around to make it work. The A to Z challenge adds one more demand to the load.

During the month of April, throughout the A to Z, I managed to complete a rough draft of the second book of The Morbunda Saga. I also completed the first round of edits for First Dragon, the lead off book in that series. I love my editor from Crescent Moon Press. She caught onto all my bad habits and found places where I could make my story stronger and my characters more consistent. I'm looking forward to the next round. I also kept up with the day job including signing those official retirement papers. I juggled everything and made it work. Two years ago, or even one year ago, I couldn't do that. Also over the past weekend, I finally published the final book in The Futhark Chronicles, Heir of Futhark. It's now available on Smashwords and Amazon.

So my support today is to encourage you not to get frustrated when you drop a few things in you own juggling act. You get better at it. You'll learn to prioritize and to use your time to the best productive advantage you can.

How are you at juggling? Which ball do you usually drop first?