"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Masters in Love

A few months ago, I attempted a flash fiction piece for a woman's magazine. The requirements: modern day romantic fiction of 800 words. It was rejected by them. Since it's graduation season, I thought I'd share it with you. Feel free to offer an HONEST critique!

Masters in Love

Lexie contemplated her last project for class. Two more weeks and she would finally have her MA in English.
Eric walked past her table then. She tried not to let his appearance interrupt her. She couldn’t afford any distractions.

He worked for a local tax firm, and would graduate this semester as well, but with an MBA. Like her, he had returned to school after more than ten years in the work force.
Since the college was small, most of the graduate students knew each other. They often shared meals, and stories, in a mutual show of support and stress relief.

She liked Eric, and often wondered why he was single. “Workoholic,” he once answered when a friend inquired. Yet, at a recent gathering, he confessed he was once engaged.
“She changed her mind. That was two years ago,” he explained with a shrug before finishing his coffee.

Lexie often thought about his blues eyes, his easy going demeanor, and wondered what type of woman captured his attention. For her own sanity, she tried not to linger on those thoughts. Unfortunately, they frequently battled her concentration.
Three years ago she broke up with Steve, quit her job and returned to school the next semester. Lexie didn’t need the distraction of any further heartache. Or a repeat of the shame she had felt planning a wedding that never occurred.

“Steve and I were together for four years before we broke up.” She had volunteered to Eric. She supposed it was some selfish intent to believe she could ease any awkwardness he felt about his own failed relationship.
Even now she blushed, remembering the look he had given her after her admission. How silly to think he would need her sympathy, or understanding. Luckily, the arrival of another friend to the table had interrupted whatever he might have said.

Lexie balled her fists, and fought the urge to look across the library in search of him now. Her last glimpse showed him in the reference section, but then he moved to the next isle. It couldn’t hurt to glance in that direction.
She lifted her gaze from the book. He was gone. She quickly scanned the isles in front of her table, and tried to see between the shelves to the next rows… nothing.

Foolish distraction, she muttered to herself. Instead of returning to her work, she let out a long exasperated sigh before lowering her head to the table.
“Bad day?”

She jumped, her head whipping around to face navy eyes, and a lazy grin.
“Ummm,” she couldn’t confess her preoccupation with him. However, she could think of nothing else to say. It’s like I’m in junior high, instead of a grown adult.

After a moment of silence, his smile faded and he began to back away. “Sorry to bother you.”
“No,” her hand shot out to grasp his arm. When he glanced down at her fingers, she let go before continuing. “It’s just that you surprised me, and I’ve been distracted lately. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“It’s ok. I guess we are all under a little stress trying to finish the semester. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Oh?”

“Yeah, I thought maybe a celebratory dinner would be in order for the day before graduation.”
“The day before?”

“Well, yeah. We’ll be done with everything, ready to unwind, but friends and family won’t be expecting to celebrate with us until the next day.”
“Yeah, that sounds great,” her shoulders sank, and she forced a smile. After they graduated, there would be nothing in common. No occasion she might see him again.

“Great. Franco’s at eight?”
“Sure, I’ll be there.

The next two weeks passed quickly. Lexie completed her final project, and conducted a last successful meeting with her professors. She was completing enough requirements to receive both a MA and a MFA at graduation.
She arrived at Franco’s a little late, expecting the table to be full of the usual crowd celebrating the end of the semester. Instead, she saw only Eric.

Before she could ask about the others, he rose to greet her with a single red rose.
“Congratulations.” He leaned in to give her a hug. The gesture caught her off guard, and her knees nearly buckled when his lips touched her ear as he whispered, “I’m so proud of you. Two degrees at once - you put the rest of us to shame.”

“Thank you.”
He pulled back without letting go, and let his hands move down her arms to grasp both of hers.

“I was hoping you might be a little less distracted now, and have some time for me?”
“Didn’t you know?”

“What?”
“You were the distraction.” And maybe those weren’t so bad after all.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Proud Writing

In his Memorial Day message, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki quotes Civil War-era orator, Robert Green Ingersoll:

They died for liberty--they died for us. They are at rest. 

They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless ... Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace.

In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.

Have you ever written a message to or for a Veteran? Do you know someone to whom you could write a letter of thanks?

Interested in reading the work of veterans? Try one of the Proud to Be volumes listed in the right column. Or submit your own work to Volume 4. Details can be found:  http://www.mohumanities.org/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/

Hope you all enjoy a beautiful Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Structuring the Author Website

In a recent pitch session, an agent requested I create a webpage, and then send her my COMPLETE MS! (Obviously this is no guarantee of a contract, but I took it as a good sign).

Some friends and other authors have often asked me why I don’t already have a website, and I always replied that my blog WAS my website. In truth, I think I just felt only authors with published books needed a webpage. I mistakenly assumed that freelance writers could get by with just the blog.
This agent informed me that when she receives a query, pitch, or manuscript, the first thing she does is look to see if they have a website. “No matter what else they have to their credit,  if I can’t find a website with their name in the address, I push their work to the junk pile.”

OUCH!
Obviously, I don’t want to offer ANY agent, editor, or publisher a reason to pass up my work. So, now I am planning to design my first website. I’m doing this myself because of two very important reasons a) Hopefully, I can create quality on the inexpensive side and b) I’m a bit of a control freak!

And so, I’m hoping you don’t mind sharing your own thoughts and advice on the subject.

1)      HOSTS – I’ve been researching servers, and common website hosts. As far as I can tell, the top rated free ones appear to be these sites. This agent recommended WIX in particular, but I’d love to hear about your own experience.

2)       ABOUT ME – Every author needs a bio page that lets readers know who you are, and what you have to offer. I have one of these pages already on this blog (called “Meet Sylvia”), but it was designed more than four years ago so any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

3)      CONTACT – You don’t want to forget to tell people how to get in touch. Hopefully, your site is attracting business, but if they can’t figure out quickly how to contact you, you won’t generate much revenue. You want to be sure to include an email address on this page. Again, I have this page here on my blog, and I have also included a mailing address with my information. I keep a PO Box because I don’t want everyone sending mail to my personal residence. However, I just realized I don’t have a phone # listed. Not sure why I’ve never included this since it is available on my business cards. I use my cell # for business.

4)      PICTURES – Some people will tell you that a picture is not necessary. Yet, I know if I can’t see the person I’m dealing with, or the product I’m expected to purchase, I WILL walk away. I don’t want that to be a problem for me. On my blog, I have a picture my husband took of me on my “ABOUT” page, and a picture a friend took of me in a hat as my avatar. There is also a slideshow with a few other pics of me at various events. I may have my husband and my friend (who is a photographer) shoot a few more pictures of me so I have color, and pose choices as I design my website layout. Any thoughts on colors, or backgrounds?

5)      MEDIA – A press page can be particularly helpful for book authors, but remember ultimately you are selling yourself. While I don’t have a press page on this blog, I have helped others create their own. If you’d like to see my article on creating your own media kit, try this FREE download.

6)      SAMPLES – To pique reader interest, include some free reads (I have a few on my “Publications” page). This can be poems, short stories, sample chapters, blog posts, anything that will give readers a taste of your voice, and inspire them to learn, or buy, more.

7)      TESTIMONIALS – Testimonials and reviews can lend credibility. This is something I’ll have to work on for my website. So, how do I get them? ASK. Hopefully, some of the editors, publishers, and other individuals I work with will be willing to offer one.

8)      BUYING – Be sure to always have a link to how readers can purchase your work. My sidebar features covers of some of the places I’ve been published, and clicking on the graphics will take you directly to a site for purchase. I plan on having a separate page for this purpose on my website.

9)      EVENTS – This is one page the agent was adamant that I add. While this is usually a list of any upcoming speaking engagements, giveaways, and upcoming releases, the agent suggested I leave a list of all past events as well. She says this will show my experience.

10)  BLOG – This would provide links to any blogs your run, or on which you frequently appear as a guest.

11)  SERVICES – I’ve noticed many authors offer services for a fee. Some of them work as freelance editors, give frequent presentations or lessons, or offer their illustration services. This page will list those offerings, and either a price list, or encourage you to contact them with specifics for more detailed information tailored to specific needs.
Now that you know my goals for creating a website, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and advice on the subject.

Any elements I’ve missed? Do you have a website, or know of one, I need to visit?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Faust Sonnet Contest


The "Faust Sonnet Contest" is now accepting submissions.

There is no entry fee, and the sonnets may be written in Shakespearean, Petrarchan, Spenserian or non-traditional form. Only previously unpublished sonnets are eligible. Each entrant may submit one to three sonnets, maximum, with sonnets to be received no later than June 1, 2015. Cash prizes total $2,000. For more information, visit http://www.sonnetcontest.org/

Not sure how to write a sonnet? Try reviewing these guidelines, tips, and examples: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/sonnet-examples.html

Have you ever written a sonnet? Does this seem like something you might want to try?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: 8 Ways to Annoy Literary Agents

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page

In the spirit of fun, and a little facetiousness, here are eight tips on how to annoy a literary agent. Please remember NOT to do any of the following:

8) Clich├ęs work – they are over used for a reason. So, think outside the box and use them liberally.

7) Description and backstory – the more, the better. You’re going for length here. How else can you make the 100,000 word mark?

6) Expect details – Explain that you expect a detailed critique. After all, since you took the time to write it, the least they can do is provide detailed feedback.

5) One is enough – You’ve completed one manuscript, and that’s enough. You shouldn’t be expected to write anything else.

4) Deadline Defiant – They’ll get it when they get it. Your work is worth the wait.

3) Burn Bridges – If you’re not happy with an agent, be sure to bad-mouth them on all of your social media!

2) Continually check in – Agents love frequent check-ins. Be sure to phone, email, and fax them several times a day. Showing up at their office without an appointment is a definite plus!

1) Don’t do your research – It doesn’t matter what they say they represent. You can send them any genre. Surely a Christian agent will love reading your zombie romance!
 
Did I leave out any good tips? ;-)   I hope your own projects are going well, and meet with much success. HAPPY WRITING!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Screenplays, Books, and Press

My kids are already counting down the days until school is out for break because it's May and summer is on its way!

It's also a new month and the release of a new Southern Writer's magazine issue.

In this issue, I have two articles. In the first, I talk with Adriana Trigiani about her screenplays, books, and her new movie! In the second article I talk with Jerry Craven, Director of Lamar University Press, about why an author should publish their work through a University.

To learn more about this magazine or to order a copy, please visit: http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/

How are your manuscripts or other projects coming along? Are you reading any great books or magazines?