Author Interview: Lauren Baratz Logsted- EXACTLY what I needed to read!

Welcome readers!

I hope everyone is well, and staying safe in this unprecedented time.  As a blogger, writer, and literary agent, I have the thrill of finding great books…and I love to talk about them!  Seven years ago, I discovered Lauren’s book, THE BRO MAGNET, which is an absolute gem.  As I recall, I had just received my very first e-reader, a Barnes and Noble Nook, and one of the first books I read on that device was The Bro Magnet.  My post about that can be found here: https://smnystoriak.com/2013/03/09/the-bromantic-comedy-of-lauren-baratz-logsted/ The Bro-Magnet (The Johnny Smith Novels Book 1)

And recently, upon recommendation, I read her book, THE OTHER BROTHER, which I review here:  https://wordpress.com/post/smnystoriak.com/3575

Once I finished reading it, I reached out to Lauren, and she was kind enough to do an interview with me here on this blog.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy this little chat with one of my favorite authors!

S.M. Nystoriak:  It’s been 7 years since I last interviewed you on this blog.  Welcome back, Lauren!  Tell us:  What was your inspiration for THE OTHER BROTHER? The Other Brother

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Several years ago, I was on an online forum for readers – remember forums? – and someone mentioned Chris Jagger. Now, I’d always known Mick Jagger had a younger brother, who was also a singer/musician, but I’d forgotten about it. Suddenly, my mind began wondering: ‘What would that be like?’ Those of us with siblings, I’m sure are familiar with the competition of family holiday dinners. No matter how much you love each other, there’s always a bit of measuring against each other, isn’t there? Now, imagine you’re a singer/songwriter, and you’re even making a living at it, but your brother happens to be the frontman for “The Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World”? And then, being me, I began wondering what it would be like to be married to the less-famous brother…and then I began to write. To be clear, the characters aren’t the Jaggers – none of the characters in the book are real people – but that was the inspiration.  

S.M. Nystoriak:  This was a really fun, yet surprisingly deep story.  I found myself connecting with Mona, big time. As a teen, I can remember feeling the same excitement she did with rock stars, and as an adult, and a mom, I found her to be incredibly real.  Is there a character in THE OTHER BROTHER which you most identify with?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Mona. I feel like she’s trying to do the right things, trying to make things right for other people. Yet she doesn’t always understand what her own motives are for doing certain things, and I think that’s true of a lot of us. One of the big themes in the history of literature involves the tragedy of the human condition: the inability to ever truly know another human being. But Mona ultimately raises the question, and I raise the question: Can we ever truly know ourselves? 

S.M. Nystoriak:  It is often said that writers should write what they know.  How closely tied are you to the happenings in THE OTHER BROTHER?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I am not one of those people who say “write what you know.” If I tried to put that into practice for myself, all my books would be about a woman alone in a basement, writing books. That’d hardly be gripping on the page for 50K-100K words, would it? OK, that’s an exaggeration of “write what you know,” but I still find that classic bit of advice to be too facile and too easily open to misinterpretation. So the advice I would give people is: Write what you *want* to know. Write about the things you’re dying to explore. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  That’s an excellent perspective!  Well said!  When I was growing up, my family listened to a lot of classic rock.  The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John.  I also admired and followed the music of several 80’s pop stars, mostly British.  Duran Duran was an absolute fave when I was in my teens, but there were many others.  Have you always been a fan of rock and roll music?  Did you have any music idols growing up?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  My brother is two years older and when I was fairly young, he got a monthly subscription to some record club. So the first albums I was exposed to were all rock bands, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I definitely enjoyed getting my pop fixes from the radio, but my brother’s taste set the template for my taste. Then, when I was 12, a close friend turned me on to the breadth of Rolling Stones music. In terms of idols, the usual ones for my era: Mick, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey – British men with great hair and distinctive voices. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  How about now?  What kind of music are you streaming these days?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  HA! You’re confusing me with someone who streams music – I still have a flip phone! I listen to CDs at home and in the car: lots of classic rock; music from earlier eras than that, lots of Sinatra and some Billie Holiday; and – don’t judge! – “The Music of Nashville,” i.e., the TV show.

S.M. Nystoriak:  You crack me up!  As a musician myself, I can attest that those are some fabulous artists and genre’s!  OK…I have noticed a recurring setting in your books:  Connecticut.  What is the significance of Connecticut?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I’ve lived my whole life in Connecticut, even went to college instate, so I guess that part of my writing really is, at least in part,  “write what you know.” But plenty of my books do take place in other states or countries, reflecting my own travels and interests.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Another connection:  In THE OTHER BROTHER, Mona and her family are from England, and they travel to Connecticut for a holiday.  I noticed you have another book which takes place in England, about a commoner marrying a British royal.  Have you ever lived in Britain, or traveled there?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  And I’ve written several other books that take place in England! In addition to the two you’ve mentioned, if my math is right, there are six others that take place in England. I’ve only been there once, for eight days in 1993, but after a lifetime of reading a ton of British books and watching an insane amount of Masterpiece Theatre”… What can I say? I’ve never stuck to any single genre or time period for my writing – I just write the stories I want to write and then set them in the time and place that the story dictates.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Nice!  Obviously, I have some more reading to do!  And, I also follow the mantra,”Write the book you want to read”.  I began writing seriously about ten years ago, after the stress caused by local and world events got the better of me.  My writing output increased dramatically during that time.  Do current events have an effect on your writing output?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Short answer: yes. Longer answer: I’ve been writing for over a quarter of a century and for the overwhelming majority of that time, I could write through anything, good or bad, that was going on in my life or in the world. These past few months, though, with this tsunami of things going on, I’ve had to set my expectations for myself a bit lower. I just can’t work straight through like I used to. I mean, Twitter alone – when I first started writing, there was no Twitter. But now? It’s too easy to leave that open and before you know it, you’re taking a quick break from writing that turns into: ‘Wait – what did he say now?’ – or “What did they do?’ and that quickly turns into ‘Well, I’ve got to say something about this, I can’t just keep silent.’ Before you know it, well, there’s another hour gone. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  So true.  Alright…Last item!  Tell us about any other projects you might be working on.  What can we expect to see?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Ooh, thank you for asking! This coming February 9, 2021, my 20-year-old daughter Jackie Logsted and I have a book coming out from Penguin Random House that we wrote together. It’s an adult comedic romance called JOINT CUSTODY. It does *not* take place in Connecticut but it is about – and written from the point of view of! – a border collie named Gatz. When Gatz’s beloved owners, The Man and The Woman, split up, Gatz resolves to do everything in his power to get them back together. But when New Man appears on the scene, well, complications to Gatz’s plans ensue. It’s a lighthearted book about happiness and what it really means to love. Here’s hoping readers have as much fun reading it as we had writing it. Thanks for having me!   

S.M. Nystoriak:  That sounds amazing!  It would be so wonderful to collaborate like that on a book!  You are fortunate, for sure!  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Lauren!  As always, it’s a pleasure to dive into your books!

For more information, Lauren can be found:

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

I cannot recommend Lauren Baratz Logsted’s books enough.  They are always, exactly what I need!

Let’s Connect!  Have you read any of Lauren’s books?  What authors do you read that always write “exactly what you need”?  I’d love to hear about it…Chime in below!

 

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired By Our Novels and Characters, Part 4

october-cutting-board

Welcome Back!  Today’s headlining picture makes me think of my favorite thing about autumn baking…apples and cinnamon.  Here in the North Country, Autumn is in full swing.  Cool, crips nights, and sun-shiny days illuminate the colorful trees here in the Adirondacks.  It’s the season for steamy drinks, comforting casseroles, warm breakfasts to get us started in the morning.

Which brings me to our featured author of the week.

For this fourth installment of my series, I present to you author Melody Winter, and her soon-to-be-released novel, INIQUITY.  Here is Melody, with a bit about her upcoming release.

melodywinter

Village life for my characters in Iniquity is hard. Food is limited, and meat scarce. But the one meal that’s made every morning is a hearty bowl of porridge. The men need a filling breakfast to see them through a day working at the fields, and the women usually eat their fair share as well. The weather is cold, miserable and it often rains, hence a stomach full of warm porridge is a good start to everyone’s day.

oliver-twist

Athena mentions having to soak the oats overnight. This was a traditional way of making porridge. For each serving, the equivalent of 50 grams of oats was added to a mix of 300ml water and goats milk if it was available. The following morning it was cooked in a large metal pot over hot coals, stirring constantly until it boiled, and then stirred again for a further ten minutes.

Unfortunately, in Iniquity there isn’t much else you can add to the porridge as fruit and other plant growth is severely hindered by the lack of sunlight. The villagers only grow the necessities.

INIQUITY is due for release on the 25th October, available through amazon, or a signed paperback direct from Melody. The ebook is currently available for pre-order at a special discounted price on amazon:

Amazon.com: Link to Iniquity on amazon US  

Amazon.co.uk: Link to Iniquity on amazon UK

Email Melody: melodywinterbooks@gmail.com

About the author:

Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in York, North Yorkshire, England with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures, and creating her own.

 

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Book Review: Hide The Elephant by Jonathan Dunne

EXTRA, EXTRA!!!  HIDE THE ELEPHANT RELEASES TOMORROW!!!

It’s not every day that this North Country Girl is afforded the opportunity to read an advance copy of one of her favorite author’s upcoming novels, so when Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, Living Dead Lovers and The Nobody Show, asked me if I would be willing, I jumped at the chance.  I have interviewed Mr. Dunne a number of times (just click on the book titles just above for more information about him), and our conversations always have surprises in store.

What follows is my review of HIDE THE ELEPHANT, the upcoming release from dark humorist Jonathan Dunne.  I hope you keep an eye out for it.  It’s a real gem!

HIDE THE ELEPHANT by Jonathan Dunne: Expect The Unexpected

Any fan of Jonathan Dunne will come to expect certain things when he releases a new novel.  They will expect to be entertained.  They will expect to be startled at its many oddities.  And they will expect a dark humor that only Jonathan Dunne can deliver.  But if his new book has proven anything to me, it is that with Jonathan Dunne, the reader has to expect the unexpected.

I am a fan of Mr. Dunne’s novel’s.  I have been from the first moment I read a single page of his first book.  From Balloon Animals, to Living Dead Lovers, to The Nobody Show, I have grown accustomed to his dark yet unbelievably funny scenarios that split my sides from the laughter.  But in his latest work, HIDE THE ELEPHANT, Mr. Dunne shows us a side to his writing that I believe will further cement him in my arsenal of writer’s whose works are not to be missed.

Like his previous novels, Jonathan Dunne artfully pulls the reader into the world of his main character.  He does this by addressing The Reader directly in the text from time to time, which may seem taboo, but I find it charming.  You become part of the story in this way.  Also, like his other works, the setting is often something from way out in left field, but always in Ireland.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT has something different, though, in that the plot was incredibly sweet, almost heart-wrenching at times.  Our hero, Mick Munroe, is a zoo keeper, spending the better part of forty years caring for an Indian Elephant at the zoo.  When Altzheimer’s Disease begins to take its toll on Mick’s memory, he is forced into early retirement.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT tells the story of Mick and his elephant, Sinbad, as they escape from captivity; Mick’s captivity, in the form of senility, and Sinbad’s, in the form of literal bars.  With nothing to lose, they take off on an adventure across Ireland to find freedom.  And this Reader found herself admiring the way that Mr. Dunne mirrored Mick’s life with that of Sinbad’s.  It was beautiful to see how the two captives leaned on each other for support, through all of the tough times, lucid or otherwise.

This is not to say that humor is lacking in HIDE THE ELEPHANT.  There are plenty of places where poor Mick struggles just to get through the crazy thing his life has become, oh, mercy!  And his Snicker’s-eating elephant is quite delightful at times.  To put it bluntly, this book has something for just about everyone.

Not to be overlooked is my other favorite thing about Jonathan Dunne’s novels, which are his references to the places and character’s from his previous novels.  I really like the cameo of Arthur Lawless from The Nobody Show, as well as the mentions of other citizens of Old Castle and Limerick City.  These references pull The Reader further into the world of Dunne’s mind.  Brilliant.

In my previous reviews for Mr. Dunne’s books, I encourage the readers of my reviews to check out his work.  But this time, I would also mention that Jonathan Dunne has now shown that he is a writer who is evolving, embracing more sensitive issues, and doing so with finesse.  I look forward to my next Jonathan Dunne read, although after this one, I really can’t imagine what to expect from him next!

Writerly Advice: Keeping Busy While In The Query Trenches

Hello Readers!

Thank you for stopping by my blog today 🙂

Today’s post finds me at a time where I am waiting to hear back on some important information.  So I thought I might share some of my diversions which are helping me deal with the wait.  Since you are most likely a writerly type, this will pertain to you, and you will most likely be able to relate.  But many of us wear multiple hats, and some of this might ring true to other areas of your lives as well.  I know it does for me.

Diversion #1:  New Manuscript.

once upon a time

As many of you are aware, I recently started a new manuscript.  I know, I know.  I broke my policy of finishing my fall NaNoWriMo project by the end of the summer (see my Summer Bucket List post for proof).  But this new manuscript couldn’t wait.  I swear.  So in the back of my head, I feel a little bit of guilt about shelving my 2015 NaNo, but it’s okay.  No Biggie.

I mention the new manuscript because working on it has kept me busy.  Really busy.  It’s not keeping me completely sidetracked while I wait, but seriously, it’s helping.  And I actually love the fact that I had to let my NaNo sit a little bit, because when my mind feels like the new manuscript has to gel some, I can switch gears back to it.  Which is good, but sometimes I feel a little bit like this:

stressed with post its

Except unlike this picture, my sticky notes have things written on them; things that occasionally help me keep ideas organized, but not always.

Diversion #2:  This Blog.

There is nothing more gratifying to me as a writer, than connecting with other writerly types.  This past couple of years, I have spent time with authors, poets, screenwriters, and industry professionals all right here on this blog.   Waiting to hear back as a writer can be tough.  When my mind starts to think the worst, I try to take the bull by the horns and learn something new or share something useful.

Blogs are great for that.  Through them, you can pose questions, share helpful information, interview other writers, etc.  All of these things aren’t going to make the time go any faster, but they might make the time more pleasurable, and divert your attention somewhat.

Diversion #3:  Read something new.  And review it.

This isn’t rocket science.  We like to read.  It’s what we do.  It’s what we hope to give our own readers.  By taking the time to read the works of others, we help to pay it forward.  By reviewing the books, perhaps on your blog, you can get a conversation started, thereby helping to pass the time as well.

Diversion #4:  Plan a trip.

journal coins, map

You don’t actually have to take the trip, mind you, but I sometimes got to a travel site and make plans, down to what excursions I’ll take once there.  On my “To-Visit” list is The Pacific Northwest, South Dakota, Iceland, Scandinavia, and Austria.  There are plenty of other places I’d love to see, but these are just what I have been thinking about as new stories and world’s swirl around in my head.

Hopefully this helps.   And as an added bonus, writing this post tonight has helped divert my attention from the waiting game for about an hour or so!  To that end, I’m going to get myself a couple of Oreo’s and get back to Diversion #1:  my new manuscript.

Happy writing and waiting, everyone!

Spring Cleaning: A Chance To Take Stock In What We Have

Spring Cleaning is an annual ritual my family undertakes, literally, once a year. As much as I dislike the enormous chore of deep cleaning the house, it feels good to clear things out, take stock in what we have and what we might repurpose or pass on to someone else who may need it.

This past week, as part of this Spring Cleaning process, I took a look at all of my blog posts. Every single one of them! I discovered some real gems in there once I dusted off the cobwebs and reminded myself what had inspired each post.

I can honestly say I have grown quite a bit as a writer since I first began this blog. One of the nagging thoughts I had during the earliest posts was, “What gives me the right to post anything for other writers?” Another was, “What makes me think I can post anything that another writer may find valuable?”

I have gotten over those feelings of self-doubt over the years, thankfully!

My first posts were basically throw-aways, as I tried to navigate the way WordPress worked for blogging. But then I found something of a focus, and I began to reach out to other authors after reading their books. New relationships were formed as I would interview each one.

And I must say I adore doing interviews. My interview style has developed through the years into something that I take a lot of pride in. I have a lot of confidence in my questioning techniques now, which translates into some very interesting discussions!

Another thing I discovered is that some of my posts now fit into blog series and mini-series. My Writerly Advice topics continue to be great to write about, as well as my NaNo Mini-Series interviews. I can’t wait for next year’s NaNo Mini-Series!

…Which brings me to the biggest discovery during my Blog Spring Cleaning: Flashback Time Machine!

Flashback Time Machine is a series I started, then forgot about. In the series, I write about some literature classics, and come up with questions I would have liked to ask the author if they were still alive today. I enjoyed writing those posts a great deal.

Well, it’s time to resurrect the Flashback Time Machine! In the coming weeks, I will be working on the next installment of that series. I won’t divulge the book or author yet, although I already have the plan in place.

For now, thank you to all of my blog readers and followers! It means the world to me that we can connect in this way. Spring Cleaning can be awesome! Not only did I take stock of the written content on this blog from its earliest posts, but I also took stock in the many views, comments and followers that grew out of it.

If you have a topic for this blog that you would like me to cover, please leave a comment below!

An Interview With My Readers!

On this very blog, I interview a lot of writers and people involved in the publishing process.  But today I’m going to try something different!  Hang onto your hats 🙂

As I work on writing a manuscript, I find that the characters and scenes play out like a movie in my mind.  I’m not sure that is particularly unique to me, but I do think it’s an interesting phenomenon.  As the scenes and conversations go by, not only do I have the visual in mind, but also the soundtrack and sometimes even the score.  Again, not sure if other people experience this, but I suspect they do.  You might think that my being a musician and having all of these ideas, musical and non-musical, in my head as I write, my prose would contain amazing detail and imagery.

It doesn’t.  In fact, I struggle with it sometimes (But I’ll save that for another post!).

For today, though, I’d like to interview you, my readers, about you novel’s soundtrack.  Your novel can be published or not, complete or not.  Those silly details don’t matter for this!   If you would like to take part, and I’d love it if you did, please write your responses to my questions in the comment section.  Include some links, if you want!  Here are the questions:

1.  Does the music you personally listen to influence the books/stories that you write?  If so, can you give us an example?

2.  When you think about your latest completed novel or work in progress, what music comes to mind?  Have you put together a playlist for it?

3.  Do you use specific music to help you “get in the zone” for a writing session?

 

I’ll go ahead and answer first.

1.  I do think that the music I listen to can influence what I write.  For instance, before writing my first novel, Muse’s song Citizen Erased was on constant repeat.  That novel has a definite “Musey” vibe.  A little dark, and introspective.  Here is the lyric video for that tune:

 

 

 

2.  My latest novel is quite different from my first.  I wouldn’t say that I have a full playlist for it, but Bruce Springsteen’s Fire would definitely be on it!

 

 

 

 

3.  I definitely use music for “getting in the zone”.  If I know I only have a certain amount of time to write, I may prep myself by listening to the music that I know can get me ready, mentally, so I can maximize my time.  And sometimes, like I mentioned about my first novel, a song can literally throw me into the zone!

 

So, now it’s your turn!  Tell us about your soundtrack!  I love connecting with my readers 🙂

Thanks for playing along!

 

Completing the Trifecta: A Publishing Chat with Summer Wier, Marketing Director with REUTS Publishing

Summer Wier

All this month, I have been fortunate enough to feature REUTs Publishing’s Behind-The-Scenes talent. Beginning with Editorial Director, Kisa Whipkey, and then with Cover Artist and REUT’s founder, Ashley Ruggirello, we all got an  inside look at the inner workings of a small publisher, following the process from acquisitions to print.

Kisa’s interview can be found here.

Ashley’s interview can be found here.

I highly recommend checking those out, whether you are looking for a publisher or if you’re just plain curious about the process of publishing, like I am.

 

But today is a big day, as I complete my mini-series trifecta interviewing

Summer Wier, Marketing Director for REUTS Publishing!

Susan: It’s so nice to have you with us on my Writer’s Block, Summer! Welcome! Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Do you have a degree in marketing? If not, how did your path lead you to where you are today, career-wise? How did you end up as the Marketing Director at REUTS Publishing?

Summer: Hi, Susan! Thanks for having me. Let’s see, where to start. I have a wide variety of experience under my belt and consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. My educational background includes an accounting degree and an MBA. So while I don’t have marketing degree specifically, it was a focus of both my undergrad and grad degrees. Over the years (I won’t tell you how longs it’s been since I graduated), I’ve had the opportunity to work in various capacities contributing to experience in marketing, graphic design, web development, SEO, sales, contract drafting…you name it. I’m one of those people who isn’t content doing just one thing or specializing in one trade, I want to know how every “part” works and contributes to an organization as a whole. As the Finance and Marketing Director for a chain of retail stores in the DFW area, I’ve had a chance to really understand how essential it is for departments to coordinate efforts in pursuit of success. It’s this perspective and experience that we incorporate at REUTS. We all wear many hats.

I started at REUTS as a Jr. Editor and acquisitions assistant in an effort to gain some experience in the publishing industry. When Founder Ashley Ruggirello put out a call for a Marketing Guru, I responded “I’m your gal!” And the rest is history.

 

Susan: During the acquisitions process at REUTS, I have learned that the four directors chime in on each manuscript. What are the things you look for in a manuscript? On the other hand, are there things that would be red flags to you as the Marketing Director?

Summer:I assess marketability based on things like genre, voice, originality, and complementary titles from our current library and outside sources. Of course a manuscript has to have “that special something” whether in spades or as a glimmer of potential; it really is all about the manuscript. We realize that very few authors have experience doing marketing, or knowing what that really entails, and that’s also where I come in.

As far as red flags go, unoriginal first pages top my list. You’ve probably seen the list of don’ts: waking up from a dream or starting off in a dream, getting ready for school, describing characters using a mirror. I am immediately turned off by those things (unless the execution has original elements or is spectacular). It also makes me wonder if the rest of the manuscript has anything new or unique to offer. Publishing is a tough industry; you have to create something that sets you apart from everyone else. Another red flag can come from the query or even a person’s behavior on social media. I think Ashley mentioned this in her interview, but we stalk people. (YES! We look you up.) It’s hard to visualize working with someone who is less than professional or down-right jerky, no matter how fabulous their work may be.

 

Susan: I asked a similar question to this next one to Ashley Ruggirello recently, but I am curious about your response. When reading a full submission, can you tell early on about its marketability? Are you able to begin formulating a plan for its release strategy from the get-go, or does the “master plan” reveal itself later on?

Summer: First off, I always have a master plan. It includes everything under the sun, but it usually tweaked and honed to each author based on their strengths, time, and budget. But in the early stages, when reading a submission, there are definitely times when I visualize a favorite quote as a teaser or think about how the story would translate into a trailer (more on this later). Bottom line, I definitely have a strategy from the get-go, but nothing is set in stone until I’ve had a heart-to-heart with the author.

 

Susan: That’s awesome about the teaser quotes! I am very interested in this next question. Can you tell us about the path a book takes from the time it is acquired by a publisher until it can be found on the virtual and physical bookstore shelves?

Summer: This is quite the loaded question as it could be answered from many different angles, but since I’m here to talk about marketing, that’s what I’ll focus on. Once we sign an author, each of the departments sends out an initial letter. I put together a “master plan” marketing document that outlines everything an author could do from the very first moments of their contract through release and beyond. From that list we target efforts that the author feels comfortable with and move forward from there. So while an author is simultaneously working with staff on cover design and editing, they’re also laying their part of the groundwork for marketing and promotion. Behind the scenes, I work on promotional materials and press releases, initiate social media strategy, with the help of the extremely talented Tiffany Rose who distributes ARCs, coordinates blog tours, helps with teasers and trailers etc. We start rolling everything out a few weeks before release, and when pub day hits, there’s no holds barred.

 

Susan: During the process of getting a book out into the world, what is the best part, from your perspective?

Summer: Release day is hands-down the most exciting day, and I love seeing an author’s words come to life via teasers and a trailer. It’s great to see all of our efforts come together, and the resulting support and praise for an author’s work on his or her big day is phenomenal!

 

Susan: When I think of marketing a book, I think about all of the things that an author would be doing from their end. What types of things can a Marketing Director do from the publisher’s side to help an author’s manuscript have a successful release?

Summer: Well in the case of many debut authors, I coach and guide author’s efforts from behind-the-scenes. As you can imagine, there’s a wide range of experience (or lack thereof) between authors. Some need a little coddling, others just run with it. But aside from that, and some of this was mentioned above (pushing press releases, distributing ARCs, coordinating blog tours), I coordinate post-release promos, social media content, swag design, potential event outreach, online and print advertisement, and Ashley and I work together fielding film inquiries and vetting other subsidiary rights opportunities. Multiply that by umpteen authors…yea, you get the picture.

 

Susan: What, in your estimation, are the three most important things an author can do to promote their brand and their books? How can an author best prepare for that, especially if the novel is a debut?

Summer: You know the saying, “What goes around, comes around”? That. I truly believe in karma. If you help others in a constructive way, without ulterior motives, without expecting anything in return, others will help you right back. But let’s see…you asked for three things and here are my professional answers: Be organized. Be consistent. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. (And I’m adding a fourth.) Be resilient. Whether debut or not, an author needs to be organized. Keep track of reviewers, fans who reach out to you, guest posts, etc., etc. Reach out as much as possible to those who are interested in being in touch with you. Maintain a routine schedule, whether it’s 30 min twice a week, or 15 min a day. Be willing to try new things. It’s no surprise that many authors are less than excited about doing in-person events, we’re introverts by nature (a lot of us are anyway), but there is no substitute for making personal connections. And lastly, you have to bounce back. Writers deal with negative reviews, poor turnout for an event, pirated materials, and the list goes on and on. It’s okay to be disappointed, sad, angry, but when the sting wears off, you have to get back out there and try again. Just keep swimming.

 

Susan: On the REUTS webpage, there is mention of something called a “street team”. If you could, please tell my readers what that is, and how it can help the author.

Summer: A street team consists of individuals who want to show support and help promote an author’s books, or in our case books from a publisher’s library! They can get behind-the-scenes info or a first peek at news, but really it’s just a group of people who are excited about a book (or books) and want to help get the word out!

 

Susan: You have touched on this a little bit earlier. I have seen some amazingly intriguing book trailers. Is that something that you would do as a Marketing Director? If not, do you feel that creating a book trailer is something that is necessary for a book’s success?

Summer: It makes me so happy to hear you say that! And yes this is something we provide our authors. They can, of course, choose to do something on their own, but we want to make sure that everyone at least has the choice to have a professional trailer for promotion. The fabulous Tiffany Rose and I collaborate and create each trailer, then send it to the author and Sr. Editor Kisa Whipkey and Ashley Ruggirello for feedback. If you haven’t noticed by now, REUTS’ success is highly attributed to teamwork. We’re a well-oiled machine, if I do say so myself. Now is a trailer required? Is it necessary for success? No. There are those who say they aren’t worth the time or expense to create, but from our perspective a good-looking trailer can’t hurt!

 

Susan: As expected, you have provided us with some amazing information. Thank you so much for being here today, Summer!   The answers to these questions are so helpful to aspiring authors, like me. I am grateful to the REUTS family of directors for being so candid with me and my readers! Is there anything else you think my readers would appreciate knowing about marketing their brand or book?

Summer: Thanks for having me! The biggest advice I can give authors is: Don’t think you have to do everything. There are many, many platforms, online and offline options, events, blogs, ad sites etc., etc. Figure out what you can do (without stressing or over-extending yourself) and make it work for you. Mix it up. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail. Every effort is an opportunity to learn something. And keep writing!

 

Summer Wier is an MBA toting accountant, undercover writer, and all around jack-of-all-trades. Link is her debut novel and the first in The Shadow of Light series. She has short stories appearing in Fairly Twisted Tales For A Horribly Ever After and co-authors the Splinter web serial. Summer is the Marketing Director and a member of the acquisitions team at REUTS Publications. When she’s not digging through spreadsheets or playing mom, you can find her reading/writing, cooking, or dreaming of the mountains in Montana.

Connect with Summer on Twitter @summerwier or visit her website at http://www.summerwier.com.

Artistically Speaking: With Cover Artist Ashley Ruggirello

ashley ruggerillo
Ashley Ruggirello is an author, designer and doting wife living in beer and cheese land, WI.
When not lost in the fictional world of Skyrim, she can be found exploring typography, manipulating responsive DIVS, or with pen & paper in hand (figuratively though, as she uses Google Docs much more often), writing her New Adult novels.
She considers herself a designer by nature and writing at heart, though she always wanted to make video game walk-throughs as a child.
Ashley’s favorite color is chartreuse, and she has an undeniable attraction to moss (not of the Kate variety).
For my blog today, I’m thrilled to introduce Ashley Ruggirello.  As founder of REUTS Publications as well as a freelance cover artist, Ashley has enthusiastically agreed to hang out on my Writer’s Block for a bit to talk about her roles in the publishing realm.  Welcome, Ashley!

Ashley Ruggirello: Thank you so much for having me, Susan! I’m excited to share an inside look at what I do, why I do it, and how REUTS differs from others, so thank you for the opportunity 🙂 I hope my ramblings make sense…

Susan: Tell us about your background, and what brought you to become a cover artist and founder of REUTS Publications.

Ashley Ruggirello: To be honest, my educational background is in web design and IT. After I completed my education I entered the advertising industry working for one of the top 25 largest independent advertising agencies, located in Wisconsin. All my design experience is self-taught, if you’d believe it! I’ve been going at it for over ten years now, learning and adapting to the changes in design and business as I go. Being a writer for even longer, starting REUTS in 2012 just seemed like the perfect coupling of my two passions: writing and design.

Susan: I read in another interview you did recently, that you started REUTS Publications out of a personal desire to build a publishing company that filled the gaps of what you felt was missing in the industry.   Have there been any surprises along the way, good, bad or otherwise?

Ashley Ruggirello: There have been a lot of positive surprises and learning lessons throughout the two years of REUTS’s existence, though I have a feeling the negative will be a little more insightful. I think what’s hardest to realize–and avoid–is becoming cynical and jaded toward the publishing industry and author expectations. That’s not to say I hate, or even strongly dislike either, being an author myself I could never, but it’s the conscious effort to–in light of negativity, delays, pestering, etc…–to stay positive. The whole point of REUTS was to be a beacon of light, an escape, if you will, from all the iron clad, locked-tight companies who make up the publishing industry. There’s a lot of talent out there, on both sides of the book, but sometimes it’s easy to forget where you started, and where you’ve come from. That’s something I hope I never lose, no matter how the industry changes. It’s an important part of REUTS, and an important part of who I am.

360: a few positives–the way the community has embraced such a unique, young boutique publishing company such as REUTS has been overwhelming. I still have to pinch myself (or request the pinching be done by our Editorial Director, and one of my best friends, Kisa) because all the love and support is incredible.

It’s also very cool to see a book from start-to-finish. When it’s your own book it’s exciting, but when it’s someone elses and the excitement just seems to jump off your computer screen, it’s nearly impossible to not be happy and excited.

Susan: As a cover artist for REUTS, what is your conceptual process? Do you automatically begin to visualize a cover concept as you read a manuscript for the first time, or do you wait until the end of the manuscript to make a plan?

Ashley Ruggirello: I can’t say I really have one. Each cover design project is unique in its own way, with unique challenges and creative opportunities. To put each book into a boxed process and try to make it work wouldn’t be fair to the author, my inspiration or the book itself. Although I approach each cover design the same way (which I’ll mention more in the next question), the process to follow is completely dependent on the creative direction we agree upon.

To answer your second question, yes! I gather ideas as soon as I start reading, sometimes from the title alone (which I know isn’t fair, but I just can’t help it!) There are many times when discussing a manuscript I’m quick to announce “I CAN’T WAIT TO DESIGN FOR THIS,” usually in all caps, too. That’s one of the factors I judge a manuscript based-upon, though I’ll get to that, later 😉

Susan: How involved can the author be in the cover design process?

Ashley Ruggirello: I’m sure it’s different for other pubs, big or small, but when it comes to REUTS’s cover design process the authors have a say from the get-go. When an author is working with me, each cover design process begins with one simple (albeit broad as all heck) question: What would your ideal cover look like? See; one sentence, only seven words, and it’s meant to encompass so much. How are you supposed to fit–let alone describe–a complete story in one image? That’s the most exciting and most terrifying challenge to cover art and, to be honest, I put that on the author, first. Before I share any of my own ideas I like to see what an author would like, and then further discussing what’s best both for the book and the intended marketing, I work directly with an author to tweak and perfect their brand. That’s what it really is–a brand. Given my background in advertising I’m able to treat it as such and create the author’s best first impression for both themselves and their story.

Susan: I’ve said this before, but REUTS covers are amazing, and in the world of books, the cover can be the most important aspect. For example, I am more likely to pick up a book in a store if the cover grabs me from the shelf. What do you do to keep your cover ideas fresh?

Ashley Ruggirello: Thank you so much 🙂 There’s a lot of self-doubt when creative a new cover, so the positive feedback is always appreciated and is absorbed to my core. I always feel like my designs look like they’ve been designed by me–as if they carry my “signature style” or something–so I’m not sure how fresh they might be considered in the grand scheme of things. I guess if you were to check out the REUTS book page, no two covers look identical, huh? So I must be doing something right 😉 I think it all comes down to spending all day, every day on the computer, and looking at pretty pictures. That’s sort of the broad way to put it, but it’s essentially true; I’m on the computer about fourteen hours of my day, and that leaves me with a lot of time to browse for inspiration. I frequent websites like DeviantArt.com (for all around artistic inspriation), WebCreme.com (for website-based inspration) and Goodreads.com (for book cover inspiration). There are so many different styles and options and directions, it’s easy to get lost in the world of pretty pictures (I know I do on a daily basis).

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to constantly evolve to something new–don’t do the same thing you did last time, but instead push outside of the box and just see what happens. I’ve found that some of the best experiences/designs/etc… come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. I try to do that as much as possible, even when it comes to cover art.

Susan: Kisa Whipkey, REUTS Editorial Director, commented in our recent interview that when a submission comes in, the editor, marketing specialist and cover artist, chime in to determine the manuscript’s fate. What makes a good submission, from the point of view of the cover artist?

Ashley Ruggirello: I started mentioning it above, and it’s if, while reading, I can visualize a book in my mind’s eye. There’s a level of intuition that comes with working in both acquisitions and the creative department. If I’m struggling to find a central image, or even the beginnings of what might be the cover art, it sets off my Spidey Senses and may not be the best fit in my perspective. In publishing a book there are so many pieces of the puzzle that need to come together–editorial, marketing, cover art, etc…–and if one piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit, you can’t force it.

Susan: You also work as a freelance cover artist. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Does that role differ from your role at REUTS?

Ashley Ruggirello: They don’t differ much, though what I’ve found to be the most challenging is designing for a book I’ve never read. Because I’m a part of the Acquisitions Team at REUTS I read every book we eventually sign. Most of the time I’m designing while I’m reading; picking out scenes, symbols, imagery I can eventually use when it comes to the cover art phase. That’s different as a freelance cover artist because I simply don’t have time to read another full manuscript, so I’m left to design off of a synopsis and the author’s interpretation. Sometimes it’s great! I can create exactly what the author requests. Other times it’s a bit more difficult because we can’t seem to line up the images in both our mind’s eye.

Susan: Do your cover designs have their genesis with pencil and paper, or mouse and screen?   Does it depend on the book?

Ashley Ruggirello: I know a lot of artists begin with a sketch. For web design (my educational background) it’s with a website wireframe. Of course I tend to go against the grain when it comes to design and I absolutely have to just jump right into the creation process. I’ve never been one to sketch, outline, etc… You could say I’m a panster opposed to a planner, in all aspects of life. So after I have even a loose idea of what a cover might look at, I have to just get started messing around in Photoshop. To channel a little bit of Bob Ross, a lot of my designs end up being “happy little accidents;” just me, tinkering in Photoshop to see if something will look good. Most of the time it doesn’t, as any guess-and-check process goes, but when the pieces do come together–it’s magic!

Susan: Is there anything else you would like my readers to know, either about the acquisitions process at REUTS, or about your experiences as a cover artist in general?

Ashley Ruggirello: We try to break free of the industry norm, but in all the good ways. Sure, it takes a lot of time, but dedicating time to each manuscript, to treat each author as a human being, not just the shell that created something, is really important to me, and to REUTS. And it does. It takes a lot of time responding to emails individually, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The moment you become a robot, which is essentially what a form response turns you into, you lose a little bit of your humanity, your compassion, and that’s very hard to gain back.

And then, I think if there’s one thing I could tell someone entering the cover art phase with their artist, it’s to not sweat the small stuff. Most of the time a piece will be rough for many, MANY rounds. If something looks off in round one, and it’s still there by round three, know that your artist is aware of it, and is waiting to put the final polishing touches on once they have your design approval. The reason designers don’t get the polishing done at the start is simple: things change. A lot. It’s more important to get the BIG idea down and then fine tune the details, than create a print-ready cover for each version. It just makes sense! So have no fear, your cover artist is looking out for your best interest. Always. 🙂

 

Thank you so much for having me, Susan! You may not think much of it, but you’re really awesome at interviews, and your questions are inspirational! I appreciate the space to let me go on and on and on about what I do, and I hope others found it useful 🙂

If anyone wants to keep the conversation flowing, I can be found on Twitter (@amRuggs) and like to tweet about memes, cats and booze, sometimes all at once!

Susan: This was a real pleasure, Ashley. I appreciate the time, and I’m sure my readers do, too!

 
Ashley Ruggirello can be found on:

As Ashley suggested, let’s keep the conversation going! Are there other aspects of the publishing world or writing in general that you would like to see here on S.M. Nystoriak’s Writer’s Block? Let me know in the comment section!

Acquisitions and Publishing: Demystified! An Interview with Editor Kisa Whipkey

KisaWhipkeyAccording to Kisa Whipkey’s Twitter blurb, she is a “Fantasy Author | Artist | Freelance Editor | Martial Arts Demo Team Expert | Editorial Director for REUTS Publications”.

As the editorial director for REUTS Publications, she has the opportunity to seek out new books and authors, as well as discover them in her slush pile inbox.

Today I have the pleasure to talk to her about the many hats she wears, and in the process, perhaps we can unravel some of the mystery surrounding what it is like on the “other” side of publishing, from the point of view of an editor.

 

Susan: Welcome, Kisa! First off, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to chat with me on my blog. Following you on Twitter, it is clear how busy you actually are! In my opening, I mentioned all of the hats you wear. It’s quite an interesting array!   Please tell us a little bit about those hats, and how wearing them during your life has led you to be the professional person you are today. Do you layer your hats simultaneously, or does each hat have a specific purpose in your professional life?

Kisa Whipkey: Thanks, Susan! And thank you so much for having me.

Hmm, hats. I suppose it does look like I wear a bunch, but really, I view it as only one, regardless of the medium I choose to work in—storytelling. In fact, when people ask me what I am (writer, artist, editor, etc.), I generally say I’m a storyteller. All of my passions, from art and animation, to writing, to martial arts demos (which are choreographed, costumed routines similar to dance) revolve around one simple mission: to tell a good story. So, on the surface, it may seem like I lead an eclectic and varied life, but really, only the creative forum changes. The foundational skill set stays the same.

How does that culminate into the person I am today? Well, if I’ve learned anything from my various pursuits, it’s that storytelling is definitely my calling. And I think that pursuing it through so many different formats has given me an advantage, an ability to see stories from many different angles, not just the presentation in front of me. I’m sure natural talent plays into it too (or so I’ve been told), but I think my background often helps me figure out the solutions to some of the toughest storytelling problems.

Susan: One of the reasons I began planning this interview stems from a Tweet you posted, about being nervous taking live pitches at a conference. Tell us a little bit about that. Was that conference the first time you had the opportunity to take live pitches? Did anything surprise you during the process? I’d love to know what that was like!

Kisa Whipkey: It was the first time I’ve done that, so it was incredibly nerve-racking. You described me as professional above, but honestly, I feel like the world’s biggest goober in person! (-5 professional points right there for using the word “goober,” haha.) I’m also not keen on crowds usually, so it was terrifying. I felt bad for the authors meeting me, because I think I was just as nervous as they were. But overall, the entire experience was pretty cool. I’m naturally enthusiastic about books and all things storytelling, so it made it easier for me to connect with people and put them at ease. I don’t pretend to be anything special; I’m just me.

I think that was the part that maybe surprised me the most—the way authors regard agents and editors. Like we’re these mystical beings up on our podiums passing judgment. The “us vs. them” mentality. I don’t see myself that way. I’m a person (and a book nerd), just like they are. Am I going to love every pitch that comes my way? No, probably not, but that doesn’t invalidate their work. It just means I’m not the right editor for it.

Susan: This next question reminds me of the old Schoolhouse Rock song about how a bill becomes a law! Many querying writers are mystified by “the slush pile”. What actually happens to queries once they arrive at REUTS Publications? Describe the process a query goes through en route to acceptance for publication. What happens to submissions that don’t automatically make the cut?

Kisa Whipkey: REUTS does things a little differently than other presses, I think. We do our acquisitions via a panel comprised of the four directors, rather than having dedicated (and solo) acquisitions editors. So when we receive a query, it actually goes to all four of us and is read by all. Each of us assesses it from our area of expertise—for example, I weigh in on behalf of the editorial department, outlining the editorial strategy and assessing the amount of work needed prior to publication, the Marketing Director assesses it for its viability in the market, the Creative Director assesses it from a design standpoint, etc. Each of us will cast our vote, and the final decision is based on a majority ruling. That’s why it takes us longer than some places to get through them all—that, and we actually make a point to read every query in its entirety.

Depending on the outcome of that panel decision, we’ll either request the full (and the process starts over again—all four of us read the full manuscripts as well), or we’ll send a rejection. We actually just did a blog post that outlines this process (as well as why it takes so long). You can find it here.

Susan: REUTS is beginning to have quite the collection of authors! Tell us about what kind of timeframe it took for those authors to get from query to publication.

Kisa Whipkey: It varies, honestly. There are so many factors that go into an acquisitions decision that there’s no cut and dry formula for how long it takes. I would love to say that it always takes X amount of weeks or months, but it’s much more fluid than that. Similarly, the time it takes from acceptance to release differs depending on the project and what it needs before publication. We try to keep that process under a year, but it really just depends.

Our stance is that we’d rather do the book justice and invest the time it takes to release a quality product than rush things out the door half-finished. The industry average for traditional publishing is about 2-3 years from the time you sign a contract to the day you see your book on a shelf. We’re faster than that, but it still takes anywhere from 6 months to a year and half.

Susan: Another mystery: What happens to a novel once it is accepted for publication? How does the road to publication continue? Is there another team that takes over? Do you, as editorial director, continue to work with the manuscript?

Kisa Whipkey: We’re still a fairly small staff, so the directors involved in the acquisitions decision are the people who will ultimately work on the books. Summer, our Marketing Director, is the one who works with the author on the marketing strategy, along with her amazing assistant, Tiffany. Ashley handles the cover design herself, and I do actually work on a select number of manuscripts, taking them through all the phases of editorial—structural editing, line editing, and final proofreading. We have four other talented editors as well, though, so I don’t handle all the projects. But I am in charge of making those assignments and overseeing them, so I suppose I’m involved at least a little.

Anyway, you asked what happens once a manuscript is accepted. Well, essentially, we divide and conquer. Editorial usually happens first, since it takes the longest, but while I work on that front, Ashley and Summer work on their sides of the project as well, so that, by the time the release rolls around, everything converges. The departments are autonomous, but we all work closely together to move a project toward release. It’s definitely a team effort.

Susan: REUTS’ books have beautiful covers! Do you personally have a hand in that, or does REUTS have a cover specialist? How does the design of the cover get decided?

Kisa Whipkey: Aren’t they amazing? I love our covers! The brilliant Ashley Ruggirello, REUTS founder and Creative Director, is responsible for all of them, so the credit goes entirely to her. I have very little to do with that process, other than to act as a sounding board if she needs one.

We pride ourselves on being author inclusive, so the cover designs are created with heavy input from the authors themselves. Ashley works closely with them to come up with the best vision for their book and then from there, she crafts the gorgeous gems you see on our digital shelves. You’d have to ask her for more ins and outs of the actual process, but that’s the simplified version. The author hands her a vision, and brilliance ensues.

Susan: Is there anything else you can think of that my readers might find interesting to know about what it’s like on the “other” side of publishing?

Kisa Whipkey: Oh, boy. Let’s see. It’s hard? And not nearly as glamorous as people think? Editors have one of the highest burn-out rates of any profession—if you survive longer than two years, you’re considered hard core. And I can see why. Publishing is hectic, and stressful, and you rarely ever feel like you’re on top of anything. Society tells us that editors sit around reading all day. They don’t; in fact, reading is at the bottom of the list most of the time. What we actually do all day is this: answer the incessant deluge of emails, juggle as many as 6-8 projects in various stages of completion (and yes, that’s simultaneously), answer more queries and questions and status update requests via social media, participate in writing events and give back to the writing community, edit some more, and then maybe, maybe read before we pass out from exhaustion.

So I suppose, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t believe the image society paints of what it’s like to be an editor. It’s not like that at all. And the best thing writers can do to engender better relationships with editors and publishers is to understand that, remember that we’re human too, and show us some consideration. Most of us do this because we love it. It’s not a job that pays exceedingly well, nor is it especially full of glory (most editors are lucky to even get a mention in an acknowledgements page). So why do we do it? Because we love books, we love the people who write books, and we genuinely want to help you bring those books into the world. It’s a job of passion. But even passion has its limits. Respect and appreciation go a long way on either side of the publishing fence. Which is a message you’ll hear from me a lot. Haha.

Susan: Before we end our interview today, I’d love it if you could tell us about some exciting things on the horizon for REUTS Publications.

Kisa Whipkey: It seems like there’s always something exciting in the works for REUTS. We’ve had some fantastic releases recently—Dare to Dream by Carys Jones and Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter—as well as some fabulous ones coming out this month too—Golden by Melinda Michaels and Gambit by C. L. Denault.

We also recently announced a three book deal with author J.M. Frey via Laurie McLean and Fuse Literary that we’re super excited about, along with a two book deal with bestselling author Katie Hamstead, and the sequel to everyone’s favorite uninteresting vampire, Fred (The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, for those who haven’t met him yet.)

We’re also being featured all month long on Katie Hamstead’s blog, so everyone should go check that out—there will be giveaways and lots of interesting tidbits about the staff and authors. And we’ll be hosting our annual Project REUTSway short story contest later in the year. So yeah, we’re always up to something. Our website is the best place to find out exactly what we’ve got up our sleeves, but we’re also on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to swing by and say hello. We love interacting with people, and I promise we don’t bite. 😉

 

Susan:  Thank you so much for stopping by my Writer’s Block!  Okay, readers, chime in with comments below!  I’d love to hear from you!

Kisa France 2009_2

Kisa Whipkey is a dark fantasy author, a martial arts demo team expert, and a complete sucker for Cadbury Mini-eggs. She’s also the Editorial Director for YA/NA publisher, REUTS Publications. She developed a passion for storytelling at a young age and has pursued that love through animation, writing, video game design and demo teams until finally finding her home in editing. She believes in good storytelling, regardless of medium, and applauds anything featuring a snarky lead character, a complicated narrative structure, and brilliant/uncommon analogies. Currently, she lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest with her husband and plethora of electronics.

Her personal blog–featuring sarcastic commentary on all things storytelling–is located at www.kisawhipkey.com. Or connect with her via Twitter: @kisawhipkey. And, of course, to learn more about REUTS Publications, please visit www.reuts.com.

2014 NaNoWriMo Mini-Series: Plowing Our Way to 50K–Final Round!

nanotoons_2013_dec_01a

Whew! What a busy and crazy month November was. I thrive on the self-imposed deadlines I create for myself, but it’s not always easy to keep things in perspective during NaNoWriMo. As of this moment, I am letting my completed words gel a bit. Maybe that will help bring perspective into focus a bit.

With NaNoWriMo over, this final post is here to serve as a wrap up to our busy writing month. It is my hope that you all might be inspired to try some of the techniques used to plan out or write your next work. So much can be learned from each other!

If you are checking out this mini-series for the first time, the Round One post can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-fr

And Round Two can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-fr

Thanks so much for checking in, and following our progress as we went along! And as usual, I’d love for you to chime in with your own NaNo14 experiences.


Susan Nystoriak: In 5 words or less, describe your

month of writing for NaNoWriMo 2014.

dianaDiana Pinguicha: 

I slacked it off.

Ali picAli Carey Billedeaux: 

Absolutely out of control.

Alessa Hinlo profile picAlessa Hinlo:

Waving the white flag.

Margarita polaroidMargarita Montimore:

Effective kick-start for rough draft.

Mary Ann NicholsonMary Ann Nicholson:

Unexpected All Zombie Rock Band.

Alexis Larkin PictureAlexis Larkin:

Sprints + Teething + Pantsing + Pie + Outlining = NaNoWriMo

Shawn PicShawn Thomas Anderson:

Frenetic. Furious. Ferocious. Fabulous. Fun.

Danielle DoolittleDanielle Doolittle:

INSANE. Stressful. Exciting. Fun. Exhilarating.


Susan Nystoriak: Regardless of if you made

the 50K word count goal, were you able to complete

a first draft during NaNo14?

Diana Pinguicha:

No. I didn’t even reach the 50k this year, because I was SO ADDICTED to Dragon Age: Inquisition. I still am. Because, achievements and dragon slaying and ALL THE ROMANCES.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

Nope, not even close. I started from scratch for this baby, and I didn’t make the goal. I’m not too worried though, it was my first shot at historical fiction and that turns out to require WAY more research than I have time for in one month. I’m already a little bit of a crazy-person when it comes to writing (AKA my characters do whatever they want), but the research made it crazier. It was like everything I read in my studies gave me another idea for a direction my story could go. Which was not congruent, as you might imagine, to the plot-finishing thing.

Alessa Hinlo:

I severely underestimated the effect Pitch Wars would have on me. Between finishing revisions, cheering for the participants, and starting to query that novel, I was mentally exhausted. Not the best frame of mind to start a new novel!

Margarita Montimore:

No, but I have 25K words and made good inroads.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

I finished my WIP early but since I started it at 32K, I needed 82K words to Nano. I took some time off of Nano and started to do revisions instead. My word count continued to grow with the revisions, despite monster deletions, and I found myself 10K away from winning Nano. I decided to go for the win by rewriting some scenes from scratch and adding an epilogue. When I found myself 1500 words away with absolutely nothing else to do, I killed my MFC in a massacre and sent her off to join a zombie rock band.

Alexis Larkin:

I made it to 50,000 words. Woot-woot! It is a very rough first draft, though.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

I didn’t finish, but it was a very productive month.  I had some other projects going on. I actually wrote five short stories and still managed to get a strong start on my NaNoWriMo manuscript. I also did some serious plotting and characterization for the manuscript that I started. I bet if I was to add up all the writing counts for the month, I would have hit that goal (or come darn close).

Danielle Doolittle:

Unfortunately, no.


Susan Nystoriak: What’s next for this manuscript?

Are you still finishing up the story? Are you jumping right into editing mode?

Will it be shelved for a bit?

Diana Pinguicha:

Well, since I’m now living in shame because I didn’t finish Nano this year (again, I got addicted to Dragon Age), and my other manuscript needs polishing, Sightless is getting shelved for a bit. Afterwards, I’ll write those last 30k and jump right into editing.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

I’m still writing! Trekking right along!

Alessa Hinlo:

Given how much of a bust this year’s NaNo was, I’m still in the beginning phases. Right now, I’m taking my time to set a strong foundation: doing some research, plotting more thoroughly, and the like.

Margarita Montimore:

I’m getting into the real meat of the story now and will take my time drafting the rest. Hoping to have a rough draft completed by the end of January.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

I’m shipping this MS off to a CP and won’t look at it again until she’s given me her honest opinion. I’ll go back to editing it in January.

Alexis Larkin:

This manuscript is in the drawer, marinating for at least two months. I absolutely plan on rewriting and editing this manuscript to a final, polished draft, but I expect that process to continue throughout the year.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

I’m going to put it in the cupboard for a bit. I love the concept, but I need to work on the characters more. My efforts this month also made me realize that I need to read more magical realism.

Danielle Doolittle:

I’ll be finishing it! I had A LOT of roadblocks this NaNo, mostly personal and mostly stressful so my writing time took a serious hit. But there will be no shelfing because I’m loving this story!


Susan Nystoriak: Now that NaNoWriMo is over,

tell us what you can about your manuscript.

Diana Pinguicha:

Not a lot more than I already have, but since I *have* written a synopsis, I can expand on it.

Sightless is about how the world changes according to the person seeing it. It’s “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” taken in a different direction, and because I wanted someone with a completely fresh perspective, the main character is a blind girl who discovers she can see through other people’s eyes when she inadvertently wakes a boy from a coma by using an unused part of the brain—the psyche.

Problem is, when Aisling brings Reid back, something else comes along with it: A being from the Otherworld, where the souls of the dead go, and wants the two worlds to coexist. It begins to stretch its influence and corrupting the world of the living, and by using her gift of second sight, Aisling and Reid work to find out how it can be stopped and what exactly is the psyche—and how far its power goes.

It doesn’t end well, naturally.

So, second person. Perspective changes. Throw in romance because I can’t live without it.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

It’s historical fiction, set in Venice at the end of its grand history. It spans about 8 years and has some political, cultural, and feminist issues all tied in there. It’s duel POV, framed narrative.

Alessa Hinlo:

A tale of two best friends gone awry.

Margarita Montimore:

It’s about two women who end up at a mysterious island resort where people go to disappear and try to untangle the hotel’s secrets while dealing with their own issues. There will probably be some light paranormal elements to it but I’m trying to avoid making it a straight-up haunted house story.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

It ended up being a romance about the need to feel wanted and loved for who you are. Both the MC and MFC have reasons to wonder throughout whether their attraction is real because of who he is and what she’s done. I’m still working out how to elevator pitch it though.

Alexis Larkin:

THROW OFF THE BOW LINES is a romantic comedy set in some of my favorite places – New York, Italy, and Tanzania.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

It’s ‘80s magical realism concept based on an event in my life. I wrote a little bit about the true-life event and then took it to a whole new fictional extreme. Sorry this is so vague and secretive, but it’s still such a work in progress. I will say that MTV plays a huge role in the story.

Danielle Doolittle:

Sure! Here’s the brief synopsis I came up with for the story:

Hannah Rowen has a problem: her big brother’s construction business is about to go under and the stubborn man is too proud to ask for help. When Hannah sees a casting call for a new reality game show she knows she’s found the solution to her brother’s problem. The only problem? She’s got to convince Gavin Mitchell, her brother’s best friend, to pretend to be her fiancé.

Gavin hasn’t lived by a lot of rules but one is pretty much etched in stone: Keep his hand’s off Hannah if he values a certain appendage. It was the first and last warning, Rick, his best friend had ever issued nearly fifteen years ago and one he wasn’t about to violate. So when Hannah approaches him about playing her fiancé for a television show he knows he’s found himself in a special kind of hell. Because he’s got a secret: he’s been in love with Hannah for as long as he can remember.

Six weeks and prize of half a million dollars is on the line but one thing’s for certain: there’s not guarantees in The Game of Love.


Susan Nystoriak: Finally, do you have any closing

thoughts about your NaNo 2014 experience,

or with taking part in this mini series?

Diana Pinguicha:

The mini-series was fun, although this year’s NaNo went down the drain. I do have a huge little problem with video games, which is, when I’m addicted to one, I can’t stop until I get it out of my system. It’d have been all fine and dandy if I didn’t work a full-time job, but alas, I needed to be at work from 10-19, and afterwards, I just wanted to play Inquisition and writing got forgotten. So, this years’s NaNo? Not that great. BUT YOU GUYS, NOBODY EXPECTS THE DRAGON AGE INQUISITION.

Also, Cullen was too hot and pretty and I needed to see that porking romance through. NO REGRETS.

And I may or may not be writing secret citrus-y fanfic on the background.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

I still recommend NaNo, even if you can’t finish it. I love the experience, but it’s more fun when you have a little more time. Reading the forums is a great way to waste time and it’s fun to meet more people. You should always, always, always at least give it a shot. You never know what will happen!

As for this mini series, it’s been fun! I don’t usually keep updates up about how my writing is going and I found that this helped keep me focused, especially at the beginning. Towards the end, of course, no amount of focus could rescue me!

Alessa Hinlo:

Even though my NaNo word count is dismal, I learned a couple important things in November. When I complete a novel, I can’t immediately jump into another. I need time to rest and recharge my batteries. Sure, I could have forced the story to get the words out, but would that have been a productive use of my time? This information is all good to know for future scheduling and deadlines!

Margarita Montimore:

NaNo 2014 was a good experience, but the timing wasn’t conducive for me to completing a draft. There was too much else to do with the novel I completed earlier in the year, from editing to querying to drafting pitches for it, which always took priority (and still are). I also think I do a bit better not having such a massive word count goal hanging over me and taking my time. I’m not one of those people who can churn out four novels a year; I need time for ideas to marinate. Still, I do have about 25% of a new novel drafted and some solid ideas on where I want it to go.

As for taking part in this mini series, it was a pleasure. I enjoyed reading about other writers’ experiences with Nano and could commiserate with some of the common struggles. Life will often try to get in the way, but we keep writing through it.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

The mini-series was a great way to read how other people approach Nano. Nano is an excellent event for allowing writers to build some steam and cheer one another on. I tend to draft fast, so it has helped me kick out two novels quickly. I’ve dragged some of my friends into it kicking and screaming, and though they didn’t make the 50K goal, they still got a lot out of the daily writing. I’m glad I happened to have an idea to work on at the right time.

Alexis Larkin:

I loved participating in the mini-series. Discussing my writing process really helped me frame my goals for NaNoWriMo and come up with new things to try in this project.

As for NaNo 2014, I tried pantsing for the first time on a large-scale project. It was so much fun at first. I flew through the first few chapters pounding out the scenes and enjoying how the characters revealed themselves to me in this process. Then everything fell apart for a few days. I knew generally where the book was going, but without having thought through the specific scenes, I found myself wandering through the story, hunting and pecking for scenes to write. I much prefer to take that free-wheeling approach in the outlining process, putting it all together, and then working off my outline. I ended up outlining on November 15, and am very happy I did. I will leave the pantsing to the pantsers and outline for NaNoWriMo 2015.

Thank you, Susan. The mini-series was a wonderful experience.

Shawn Anderson:

This has been a great forum to talk about the experience. I met some great writers in the process and words went flying every which way. Next year, it’s so on!

Danielle Doolittle:

This series has been so much fun! I know I missed a post due to all the crazy that’s been happening around here but I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on NaNo. As I said earlier, this NaNo season hasn’t been kind to me but I’m not going to let a few roadblocks get in the way of me finishing this novel.

Until next year!

XoXo


I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for following along!  What did you think of the NaNoWriMo mini-series?

Were you inspired to try some new techniques for your own writing projects?

Comment below 🙂