Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Introducing …. Affordable Editorial!

As a writer, reviewer (www.ChickLitCentral.com) and reader/editorial consultant for an NYC-based literary agent, I read several self-published and unpublished manuscripts a month. Almost all of them have problems, and many of them are fixable. (Scroll down my blog, as I address many of these issues in my posts and offer ways to fix them.) But by the time a book or manuscript gets to me, they should be problem-free. It’s frustrating to have to pass on a writer because of issues that should have been caught and fixed before publication or submission.

And as a self-published writer myself, I know that most writers have very little money to spare. What money there is goes into cover design and marketing. The thought of spending over a thousand dollars for editing – no matter how strong the editor’s credentials – is overwhelming.

For those two reasons, I’ve created Affordable Editorial. With a menu of cost-effective editorial options, I offer writers solutions they can afford:

Manuscript Evaluation: $350
Manuscript evaluation takes a broad, wide look at your overall story, structure, and characters. I’ll provide a report that details the novel’s issues, along with a list of suggestions on how to fix those problems. Generally, this report runs five to seven pages long. The manuscript will be read twice and marked up with notes on areas that need improvement. Turn-around on manuscript evaluation is generally two weeks.

Copy Editing: $0.50-$2.00 per page
Copy editing looks at the structure of each sentence and scene and suggests improvements. It does not opine on story or character issues. It will catch minor issues with point-of-view (also known as “head-hopping”), awkward writing, clunky dialogue, rough transitions, and other problems within a scene. I’ll evaluate the first fifty pages in order to determine how much editing needs to be done – a rougher manuscript will result in a higher per-page price. This is the most time-consuming level of editorial work, and as such may take a month or six weeks to deliver.

Proofreading -- $0.25 per page
Proofreading is solely concerned with typos, spelling, and grammatical issues. Proofreading should only be purchased after the writer has written many drafts, and has had many readers go over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb. A proofreader will not tell you that a character you killed on page 20 reappeared on page 200, and wasn’t even a zombie. The best proofreaders pay so close attention to individual words, they have no comprehension for the actual story. Again, I’ll evaluate the first fifty pages to determine whether the manuscript is really at the proofreading stage, or whether the story needs more work. Turn-around on proofreading services is generally two weeks.

If interested, please email me at JamiDeise@aol.com with a synopsis of your novel (it doesn’t have to be pretty), the services you’re interested in, and the first 50 pages as a Word attachment. In most cases, I’ll be able to get back to you within three business days with a proposal.

I look forward to reading your stories and helping you take them to the next level!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Character Blog Hop!

Meet Shannon Stevens from KEEPING SCORE!

Thanks so much to Deb Nam-Krane for tagging me in this character blog hop! My book, KEEPING SCORE, has been out for over a year now, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about Shannon. Some people have said she’s a pushover; others that she’s too much of a helicopter parent. I’m excited to let Shannon get a chance to speak for herself!

What is the name of your character? Is s/he fictional/historical? Shannon Stevens. She is fictional, but some of her experiences are loosely based on my experiences from the first and second summers that my son played travel baseball.

When and where is the story set? Persimmon, Maryland, which is a stand-in for Potomac, Maryland. It’s a well-to-do suburb of Washington, D.C. where my family and I lived for 12 years.

What should we know about your character? Shannon is very much a Generation X type parent. She got four copies of Dr. Sears “The Baby Book” at her baby shower. Even though she went back to work when Sam was eight weeks old, she slept with him, nursed on demand, and carried him in a sling. She still feels guilty about not being able to make her marriage work, making Sam the product of a broken home. She has bought in completely to the current parenting mentality, which stresses giving your child access to all kinds of experiences and opportunities. Sam has taken art classes, singing lessons, and even did a drama camp a few years ago. But he and his friends gravitated toward sports, so Shannon made sure he got a chance to play every sport he wanted to try.

The second thing that Gen X parents are taught is to make nice with the ex no matter what. This generation came of age in the 70s – Kramer vs. Kramer. They listened to their parents fight about them and over them, and told themselves they would never do that to their own kids. When Gen X parents get divorced, the well-being of their children comes first. Rule number one: Never badmouth the other parent to your child. So even while she’s gritting her teeth, Shannon believes that helping out David will help Sam.

What is your character's goal? A happy kid. Sam tells her right around page 10 that he wants to play travel baseball. He wants to be on a team where he’ll have his name on the back of a jersey. So his goal is her goal. When he gets on the team but things don’t go smoothly, Shannon does what she can to help Sam. But at the same time, she does realize that going through these ups and downs and sticking with it can help him build character.

What is screwing up your character's life (main conflict in writerly speak)? Baseball being a game of winners and losers, there are other people who don’t want Sam to succeed, because they see his success coming at their son’s failure. Specifically, Jennifer and Scott. Jennifer was once Shannon’s best friend, and Scott was Sam’s “rec” baseball coach. Because Sam was a better baseball player than their son Matthew, watching Sam play is painful for them. They do what they can to keep Sam off of Matthew’s new baseball team.

What is the title? KEEPING SCORE

Where is the book available? Paperback and Kindle:
Barnes & Noble
Apple iBooks

blurb for KEEPING SCORE….

When her 9-year-old son wanted to play summer travel baseball, Shannon had no idea the toughest competition was off the field….

When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it’ll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it’s the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon’s life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn’t fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon’s best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town’s best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there’s no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints.

And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints’ coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn’t think her son was good enough for his team … especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon’s ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself. In this world, it’s not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game… it’s all about KEEPING SCORE.

Thanks again to Deb for tagging me! Here’s her character blog post:

And next week Caroline and Monique are on...

It’s Just a Little Crush by Caroline Fardig:

The sleepy town of Liberty hasn’t seen murder in…well…ever. Residents are stunned when the body of a young woman is found strangled, and reporters at the Liberty Chronicle are thrilled, rather disturbingly, over the biggest news story to hit town this century.

Lizzie Hart has even bigger problems. Lately, she can’t seem to concentrate on her job as copy editor at the Chronicle with the new hunky investigative reporter, Blake Morgan, swaggering around the office. How can a girl work when she’s using all of her energy combating Blake-induced hot flashes and struggling to repress the giggly inner schoolgirl that’s constantly rearing her dorky head? It’s a good thing that Blake barely knows Lizzie exists.

After an odd string of events, however, Lizzie begins to wonder if Blake is really as fabulous as she has fantasized. When Lizzie and Blake find a co-worker dead, Blake’s personality changes completely—and not in a good way. Even though the police rule the death as an accident, Lizzie immediately suspects foul play and senses a connection to the recent murder. She is determined to bring the killer to justice, but is having some trouble getting her Nancy Drew on thanks to the pesky stalker she’s picked up—Blake Morgan. Wait, didn’t she want him to follow her around and pay attention to her? Not like this. Blake has turned from cool and smooth to cold and downright scary, making Lizzie wonder if he should be next on her suspect list.

About Caroline

CAROLINE FARDIG was born and raised in a small town in Indiana. Her working career has been rather eclectic thus far, with occupations including schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom. Finally realizing that she wants to be a writer when she grows up, Caroline has released her bestselling debut novel, IT'S JUST A LITTLE CRUSH. She is currently hard at work churning out more novels in the LIZZIE HART MYSTERIES series and in the JAVA JIVE MYSTERIES series. She still lives in that same small town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

Anyway You Slice It, An Upper Crust Novella
By Monique McDonell

Piper Adams has one month to find a husband, and get a green card, or be kicked out of the country just when her chain of Aussie Pie trucks is about to start making some serious money.

Aaron is an ambitious lawyer keen to make partner but his Boston law firm only promotes lawyers who are married.

A marriage of convenience could solve both their problems if they keep it strictly business but convincing everyone else that this is true love while trying to convince themselves that it isn’t is a sure recipe for trouble. All the kissing and touching to prove that this is a true love sets the heat rising faster than the pies in Piper’s kitchen.

While Aaron is happy to be friends with benefits, Piper knows better than to mix business with pleasure, despite the undeniable chemistry. Getting married to save her business is one thing, but falling in love would mean risking her heart. Any way you slice it she’s getting more than she bargained for.

A little bit like a cross between Grease and The Proposal, Any Way You Slice It is sure to captivate readers who love romantic comedy and chicklit.

This is the first book in The Upper Crust Series.

About the author – Monique McDonell

I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women's fiction including chick lit and romance. I live on Sydney's Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter, and despite my dog phobia, with a dog called Skip.

I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn't write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!) When I began to write again I noticed a trend - writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.

I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for eight years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia.

I have written five stand-alone romantic comedies. Any Way You Slice It, is the first book in my new Upper Crust series.

To learn more about Monique McDonell and her upcoming books please visit her web site:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Time Management for Writers

It’s the second week of September – the first full week of the month, since last Monday was a holiday – and most of us are still in “back to school” mode. It’s that feeling of new beginnings, that we’re going to get a bunch more things done, tackle and finish new projects, and probably lose weight and become better people in the process.

Sadly, most of us are merely human, and being merely human means we don’t accomplish the big things we want in life. And why not? Because they look too big. We all want to write a novel, or an entire series. We want to lose 20 pounds, or 50, or a 100. We want to run a marathon. But most of us don’t do any of that. For most of us, it’s a victory just to get to work five days a week, pay the bills, do the laundry and the grocery shopping, and try to raise a kid or two.

But when you think about it, what are big things anyway? Big things are just a whole bunch of small things. No one wrote a novel without writing the first solitary word. No one ran twenty six miles without first running fifty yards. No one lost twenty pounds without first pushing away that dish of ice cream.

The two keys to success in any big endeavor are breaking down big projects into small goals, and finding the time to do them. Since this is a blog for and about writing, time management for writers is the lens through which we’ll look at this.

The very first step in time management is writing stuff down. Ironically, it’s also the first step in weight management. The weight gurus say to write down everything that goes into your mouth, and you’ll subconsciously eat less to avoid having to write down what you ate. In much the same way, writing down everything you need to do – even items as minor as emails you need to send – makes it that much more likely that you’ll actually do it.

I know several people who love their to-do lists, and write out five-year plans and ten-year plans to go along with yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals. I’m not that detailed yet. I have a vague idea of what I’d like to have accomplished ten years out, but right now my biggest focus is on this week and next. Every Sunday night, I update the list for the week. The left column has all my meetings and appointments for the week. The right column is the to-do list. It includes my writing goals for the week, what I need to do to forward my real estate career, marketing my self-published book, and people I need to call or email. I check it every morning and update it as I go along, as items get added, or at the end of the day. I know it’s going to be a bad week when I spend more time adding items than crossing them out!

The writing part of my to-do list includes the weekly post, plans for next week’s blog, and specific writing goals for each day. If it’s a writing-heavy week, it will say: Monday write 1500 words, Tuesday write, Wednesday, etc. Usually my goals are smaller and my time not as free. Currently my goal is to write two chapters of my WIP, and that will probably go on the back burner once I start up the final rewrite of my previous book. (It’s still with beta readers now.)

The second step, after writing stuff down, is actually doing the stuff you’ve written down. That sounds pretty obvious and relatively simple, but it’s not. Not only are writers the world’s biggest procrastinators, but often we have very good reasons not to write. We have day jobs. We have screaming kids. We have a dog that just pooped on the living room carpet. The result is, at the end of the day the kids will be asleep, the carpet cleaned and the bills paid, but the writing didn’t get done. Have too many days like that, and pretty soon that novel will be just another great idea you had once, but were unable to follow through on.

The trick to this is very similar to the advice financial planners give about savings: Pay yourself first. In this case, do your writing first – although feel free to clean up the dog mess first. There will always be screaming kids and angry emails from your boss. Even if all you can squeeze out is 250 words a day, try to start your day off with those words. That way, whatever else comes along that day can’t keep you from writing.

Setting daily or weekly writing goals and breaking down your project into manageable word counts are pieces of advice that are specific to writers. I’ve also got a few tips that will help you be more productive in general:

Know how long it takes you to get something done, and budget extra time. Usually it’s the smaller things that trip us up here – the commute into work, the daily email, the vet appointment. If your dog has weekly shots, and you routinely budget in a half hour when it actually takes an hour when driving and Fido’s nervous breakdown are added in, pencil in 90 minutes for the entire project. It will keep you from running late before and after the appointment, and take into account everything that needs to be done around it. Why is this important? Use the information to keep yourself from making too many commitments. When you have an accurate picture of how you’re spending your time, you’re less likely to bite off more you can chew.

On a related note, stop biting off more than you can chew. Every day, we’re asked to volunteer for a great project, join a new class at the gym, contribute to a short story collection. No one can do everything they want. Practice saying no. Practice saying yes, with a limit – I’ll try this class four times. If it doesn’t work for me, for whatever reason, I’m giving it up. Practice stopping one activity to start a new one: I really want to join a weekly bike-riding club, so I’m going to give up drama class.

On another related note, now that you know how long it takes you to do regular activities, have a short list of action items that take about 20 minutes that you can accomplish while waiting for something else. Many writers fill up this time by reading a chapter of a book or writing a paragraph. There are many blocks of time like this throughout the day, whether we’re at the doctor’s office or we’ve finished a project slightly ahead of schedule and now have time before the board meeting. Getting this micro-projects done while waiting for something else to start is a great way to be productive and efficient.

Don’t do the same thing twice. For me, this specifically deals with non-urgent email. The problem with answering these is an hour later you’ve got another email from the same person. If it isn’t urgent, save it until the end of the day or until you’ve got that 20 minute block of time and you’ve answered everything else.

Try to do similar activities together. If you’re sending query letters to editors or conducting research for two separate books, try to slot them at the same time. The momentum from finishing one project will carry on to the next. Similarly, if you have to print out your entire manuscript this week, make sure to do it at a time when you’re sitting at your desk working on something manual. The constant stops and starts of the printer will be annoying if you’re trying to punch out the next chapter, but a harmless break if you’re writing out next week’s to-do list.

Plan the next day’s work after you’ve done today’s. For writing, that means writing a short summary of tomorrow’s chapter while the work is still fresh in my head. When I sit down to write the next day, I already know exactly what I’m going to do.

Budget time for unexpected tasks and appointments. Do this by making your to-do shorter than what you think you can accomplish this week. That way there’s room for the report that’s dropped on your desk or the sick child needing the doctor.

Ending your week feeling accomplished in work, writing and life is one of the keys to happiness. Time management is key to that accomplishment. Try doing just one new thing this week – maybe at 9am, write down what you want to get done by 5 – and see what a difference that makes.

Next week I’ll be doing the Character Blog Hop. Here’s an example:

Want to play? Leave me your name and email address in the comments, and I’ll tag you next week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to School for Writers

There’s something about the fall, and the back-to-school mindset, that motives people to dive back into work – even people long out of school who no longer have schoolchildren themselves. With National Novel Writing Month coming up in November, these next few weeks are a great time for writers to try something new in order to look at their current projects with new eyes. Here are a few quick suggestions to get those juices flowing:

Read something outside your genre. Most writers have one or two favorite genres that they read and write in. And then there are a few genres we don’t go near. Are you a women’s fiction fan? Try heavy-duty sci-fi. Do you love fantasy? Read something from the non-fiction shelf. You may find a new genre to love, or confirm that it’s not for you… but it’ll take you out of your comfort zone.

Up your daily word count. If you find yourself easily breezing through the 1000 words you’ve committed to writing each day, it’s time to up it to 1500. In that respect, writing is like weight-lifting – if it’s too easy, increase the load. If you don’t have a daily word count …. For pete’s sake, set yourself a daily word goal!

Break out of your routine. Do you usually write first thing in the morning? See what you can come up with writing before bed. Afternoon scribbler? Try to write with your morning cup of coffee. If you have a day job and ordinarily write after work, can you write during your lunch break instead? Different times of day put writers in different moods, and might help you have a breakthrough.

Get rid of your “pants.” Pantsers, force yourself to make an outline. See what happens. Can you follow it? Planners, what happens if you just sit down and write? The best writing is a combination of both. Structure is important, but you don’t want to be so structured that you can’t let the magic happen.

Re-read your favorite book. Can you remember the book that made you want to be a writer? Do you know which books are the very best in your genre? Read them again… not just for pleasure, but for knowledge. Pick apart the way the writer sets a scene. Look at description and dialogue. Watch for pacing. Subconsciously, you may have absorbed a few of these lessons anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to do it deliberately.

Finally, treat yourself. Get out to Office Depot or Target and revel in the smell of their new school supplies. Buy yourself some new notebooks, pens, post-it notes, a white board. Next to a book store or library, there’s no happier place for a writer than an office supply store!