My new novel FALLEN BEAUTY launched on Tuesday, and I have been overwhelmed with kind words and encouragement. It is a special thing to release a book, and I am blessed to have a network of family and friends who support me in my endeavors.
Inevitably, I get asked a question at launch time, at book clubs, on the sidelines of the hockey rink, and on social media: How Do You Do It All? Sometimes it is asked nicely, other times with suspicion, but it is always asked.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that question, and I want to qualify everything I’m about to say with the fact that I feel like I’m a mess–a Tazmanian-devil, swirling, hyper, scatterbrained mess. My house is often untidy. I’m forgetful. Sometimes I do things like throw my cell phone in the laundry basket to take downstairs, and instead of plugging it into the wall, I toss it in the washing machine and dryer with the clothes.
But that is not the answer people want to hear. They literally want to know how I balance writing and family life, with a husband and three children. As many of you know, there is no such thing as perfect balance. Sometimes I neglect my writing, other times, I neglect life. I try to alternate that time so that over time, something like balance is achieved. I also have learned how to save time, and my list below shows eight ways I save time and allot it for writing, so that I can stay on track with deadlines.
- I don’t go to the gym. I have a 10 minute nightly routine I do before I go to bed.
- I only watch TV I’ve DVRd while folding laundry. (Downton Abbey or Dancing with the Stars.)
- I don’t take on classroom parent/PTA positions. (This is an area that I struggle with and feel judged about at times.)
- I limit lunches out of the house.
- I write 1000-2000 words a day. (Or revise 1000-2000 words a day.) If an average novel is around 90,000 words, you can see how a book can be written fairly quickly if there is enough discipline to write in 1000 word intervals.
- I research the next book while writing the current.
- I combine book tour travels with research trips.
- I work at night. (Insomnia is a family curse. I have learned how to use it to my advantage.)
The bottom line is that this is a job. I happen to love my job, but it still requires discipline and a schedule. These tips might not be right for everyone, and I am certainly not saying they are how one should make time. Some of these sacrifices feel like sacrifices, but I have to make priorities that work for me.
Are any of these tips helpful to you? I would love to hear your suggestions for making time for writing.
**Photo Courtesy of BreakFreePhotography at DeviantArt.com
My new novel, CALL ME ZELDA, will be published on May 7th by NAL/Penguin. It begins in Baltimore in 1932 when Zelda Fitzgerald checks into the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins, and takes place during the aftermath of the Fitzgerald party years. Through Zelda’s relationship with a fictional psychiatric nurse, the book explores the meaning of friendship, love, and how we heal from emotional injury.
CALL ME ZELDA is a book that I’ve held close to my heart for a long time, inspired by my fascination with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and by the nurses I’ve known in my life (grandmother, mother-in-law, aunt, sister-in-law, friends…), who give so much of themselves to their patients. It also comes from my compassion for those who suffer mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder, the ways they are often misunderstood, and the pain of the family members caring for them.
It is the first novel I’ve written in the first person point of view, and as a writer, that takes one very deeply into the heart and mind of the characters, for better or worse. There is an intimacy, an immediacy to first person, and this novel marks my maiden voyage of many, I think, into this point of view.
There are links on my website to pre-order CALL ME ZELDA, if you are so inclined. If you read the book and enjoy it, I invite you to post a review at your favorite online book site. My website also has listings of my upcoming book tour and festival appearances. I hope to see you on the road!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.
You must be forewarned: this is going to be a gushing, exclamation point filled post, but that is what a moving experience it was for me in Key West last week, filming the book trailer for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL.
I must start by publicly acknowledging God and the huge blessings he pours over me on a daily basis, and my family for taking such good care of my boys while I was away. I also need to thank my publisher, NAL/Penguin, for producing this book trailer, and the incredible husband and wife team, David and Kathryn Seay, for their enthusiasm, kindness, and professionalism. They made me feel so comfortable from our first greeting, and put me entirely at ease.
When my husband and I arrived at The Pier House Resort in Key West–travel-weary and soaked from the rain–we were greeted by a surprise that left us speechless. The Pier House’s Catherine Smiley sent us to The Hemingway Suite overlooking the Gulf, and even had fruit and refreshments waiting for us! We were able to use the gorgeous balcony for sunset and water footage. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of The Pier House.
When we arrived at the Hemingway House on Thursday morning, Dave Gonzales, the events coordinator, graciously allowed us to film all throughout the house and grounds, but most importantly, in Hemingway’s Writing Studio.
I’ve only ever seen the studio from the other side of a locked gate. I don’t have to tell you what it meant to me to walk into the writing space where Hemingway typed the ending of A FAREWELL TO ARMS, GREEN HILLS OF AFRICA, and countless other stories. I was able to sit at his writing desk with his writing materials, and I am still trying to process the experience.
The trailer for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL will be ready later this summer, and I can’t wait to see it and share it with all of you. David and Kathryn were lovely to work with, and Dave Gonzales, the tour guides, and staff of the Hemingway House and bookstore were so welcoming. I can’t wait to see them when I return.
Last, but not least, I want to thank those of you who cheered me along the way. I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of my family and friends (online and off) who continuously support me throughout this process.
I’m glowing with gratitude.
Kristina McMorris is one of my favorite authors and is also one of the most generous writers I know. Her novels LETTERS FROM HOME and BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES have earned her much critical acclaim and thousands of loyal readers. Her advice and encouragement have helped me immeasurably through my forthcoming book launch, so I asked her to stop by and share her wisdom with others. Whether you are a new writer or a veteran, McMorris’ insights will inspire you.
Q: BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES was published in February with many excellent reviews. How has this release differed from the release of your first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME?
It’s definitely been a nice advantage, knowing more of what to expect this time around. I suppose you could say it’s much like preparing your very first Thanksgiving dinner. The first time can be overwhelming as you try to multi-task and experiment with recipes you’ve tasted but never cooked yourself, yet upon completion comes an incredible sense of accomplishment; then the next Thanksgiving, though the milestone isn’t at remarkable, you understand what works and what doesn’t, and where you should place your greatest focus. (Hmm…I’m suddenly craving candied yams and creamed corn casserole!)
Q: Now that you are a seasoned publishing veteran, is there anything you would have done differently with the launch of the first book?
Ack, that description makes me feel so old. Ha! Looking back, I think I would have spread out some of my promotional efforts, rather than cramming so much into the first few weeks of the release; and what I mean by that is determining which events and activities could have waited a week or a month or more. With LETTERS FROM HOME, both my US and UK launch happened simultaneously, so I should have taken this into consideration when I agreed to do three blog visits per day, for example, or to guest speak at a teacher friend’s high school English class—a great experience, mind you, but probably not so pressing that I needed to squeeze it into that first month, when sleep hours were nearly nonexistent.
Q: What is the single most important piece of advice you’d give to debut authors as they prepare to launch their novels?
You, alone, are your book’s best and strongest advocate. Start planning early, stay organized (an advantage for both current and future releases), get creative (so much today can be done online and on a limited budget), and don’t forget that the most important promotions you do are not as much for as to your own pub house. That’s where the buzz begins. If you’re not excited about the release, displaying clear potential for your book’s success, how can you expect anyone else to be?
Q: With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, many debut and midlist authors will have to be their own best advocates. If their publishers are unable to provide large marketing budgets, where do you recommend that authors make their biggest investments of resources?
Online promo is wonderful, particularly when it’s free—blog posts, interviews, reviews, Goodreads giveaways, etc. Speaking engagements can also be very effective in spreading word, including outreach to non-literary sites and organizations that share your target audience. For example, for LETTERS FROM HOME, I partnered with websites that promoted pen pals and the art of letter writing, and together we ran giveaways of fancy stationery baskets.
For BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, I connected with museums, universities, Asian cultural groups and historical societies. I also joined forces with other WWII authors and organized a contest in which the winning book club won a Skype party with us, plus a prize box filled with copies of our books and WWII goodies. And, of course, local media can be a great source of free promotion. Just do your best to think outside of the box, brainstorm how you can tap into an applicable already-established audience, and, most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst anyone can say is no.
Q: What do you enjoy most about book promotion? Least?
As a former event planner, I absolutely love organizing large launch events—from the media pitches to invitation outreach to creative itineraries. And I absolutely love the social aspect, especially befriending fellow authors and visiting book clubs.
What I enjoy the least is the travel. As a married mother of two young boys, I hate being away too long! (Granted, by the time our kids hit their teenage years, my view on that might change drastically.)
Q: I loved your two novels so much that I can’t wait to read more. What is your next project?
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed them, Erika. I can’t wait to share more stories with you!
As for my next projects… I’m happy to report that my novella, The Christmas Collector, will be published this coming November by Kensington Books in a holiday anthology headlined by New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels. (Very exciting!) After that, I have two more two women’s fiction novels under contract with my publisher, the first of which I’m working on right now, titled Through Memory’s Gate. I’m eager to share more details soon!
* * *
Here is the trailer for BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES:
“[Bridge of Scarlet Leaves] gracefully blossoms through swift prose and rich characters…this gripping story about two ‘brothers’ in arms and a young woman caught in between them hits all the right chords.”
– Publishers Weekly
“A sweeping yet intimate novel that will please both romantics and lovers of American history.”
– Kirkus Reviews
I’m slowly emerging from the writing cave. My eyes are adjusting to the light. I’m sweeping the cobwebs off the blog and making sure everything’s in working order. I’ll be ready to put the wheels back in motion this week with a book review for one of my favorite fall books, but for now, I just want you to know that I’ve missed you and can’t wait to reconnect.
Here’s the deal: I had an aggressive deadline for my edits for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL because in October, my foreign rights agent is going to Frankfurt where, hopefully, she’ll get some foreign publishers interested in the book. The agent needs the complete, approved manuscript by October 1st, so I had to get my edits back to my editor at NAL/Penguin ASAP to give her enough time to read.
Now, if I have to make more changes, which is entirely possible and maybe even probable, we’ll miss the deadline. If my editor can’t get through the million other projects she has before October, that’s the way it goes. All I could do was rely heavily on family and babysitters, neglect my house, and not sleep to get the work done–which I did–but now it’s out of my hands, and I am at peace with that.
I’ll keep you posted every step of the way, as promised, but for now I look forward to a return to semi-normalcy, blogging, reading other people’s books, and diving back into my new manuscript starring Zelda Fitzgerald.
For which the first three chapters and a full synopsis are due on Nov. 1st.
*Photo courtesy of traeton at DeviantArt.com
I have a short, negative post today, but I think it will help people get more out of Twitter and increase their follow-back potential. In no way am I a Twitter expert or a perfect Tweeter, but I see some people make glaring Twitter errors. I’m here to help.
I noticed that I have quite a few more Twitter followers than I follow back. This is not because I am a snob of any kind. I want to follow back everyone who follows me. However, when I get a follow notification I click over to the follower’s profile to “meet” him or her. If I find or do NOT find the following things, I often do not follow. Understand that while most of this is personal, I see large amounts of people on Twitter complain about these very items, so they might be worth a look. They also might be worth a look if you are following three times the amount of people who are following you.
Here is a list of reasons I do not follow based on the first impression:
- You don’t have a description or website.
- You don’t have a picture or graphic of some kind.
- Your picture suggests violence or pornography.
- You have nothing to do with writing.
If you pass the first impression, I scroll down and read your tweets. I will not follow you if:
- Every/every other tweet is a link to purchase one of your books/ebooks.
- You quote often from your own material.
- You only RT.
- You never RT.
- You list yourself as a writer but your feed is full of posts about, say, football.
- You have more political tweets than writer tweets.
If you pass the “feed” test it’s almost guaranteed I’ll follow you. I will immediately unfollow you, however, if you DM with a “Thanks for the follow. Check out my book/blog/website at www….“
I hope I don’t seem harsh, but I’m actually posting this to help Twitter newbies. Again, I am not the authority on Twitter and I’m absolutely certain I do things that annoy others and lead them to unfollow me. I just think that some writers think of Twitter as a marketing tool but it isn’t unless you don’t use it as a marketing tool. You know what I mean?
How about you? What makes you automatically follow/unfollow someone on Twitter?
Every now and then the stars align, and I was the happy recipient of that alignment last week. I was in NY City for about 36 hours and was able to have four meetings, take some research photos for my new WIP, and see MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.
My agent, Kevan Lyon, is on the west coast while I’m on the east coast, so we had not yet had the opportunity to meet in person. Since Kevan was in NY for the Romance Writers of America Conference we planned a meeting with each other. My editor at NAL, Ellen Edwards, was also able to meet with us, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner and conversation. I was also so pleased to get to meet my publicist at Penguin. We all seem to share a vision for the book and I feel very fortunate to have such a fantastic team.
It also happened that the Women’s Fiction writers of RWA (which includes many members of Writer Unboxed) had a speaker and cocktail reception that night. I was able to meet so many fantastic writers who I’ve “known” from Twitter and blogs for so long, and I can’t thank Therese Walsh enough for including me.
The next morning I had some time so I went to Woody Allen’s new movie, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Many friends have recommended this movie to me because of “cameos” by Ernest Hemingway and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and it did not disappoint. It was so charming, in fact, that I’m taking my husband to see it next week. After the movie, I took a picture of one of the fountains in which Zelda Fitzgerald took a dip, and the church where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were married.
I was able to have lunch with my friend, Lindsay Ribar, who just got a three book deal with Penguin for her young adult fantasy series about genies. (I know—doesn’t that sound awesome?) We share a love of writing and an obsession with the band Carbon Leaf, who originally brought us together.
Finally, the NAL/Berkley Cocktail Party at Sardi’s finished up my trip. I was able to meet my publisher and just about the entire NAL/Penguin team, in addition to scores of fantastic authors, agents, publicists, and reviewers. It was truly overwhelming in the best possible way.
I was deeply grateful for the opportunity I had to make the trip. To my family for holding down the fort, to my publishing friends for fitting me into their busy schedules, and to the weather for being very cooperative, I am grateful.
A question from blog commenter, Natalia Sylvester, inspired me to write this post about how I got a two book deal. I’ll share my story in hopes that any writers reading this do something very important:
Before I get to the specifics, I’ll take you back to some wise words from Donald Maass at his Breakout Novel Intensive Conference I attended in September. He said that the most common complaint of his authors was that they wish they had the time they’d had before publication to write stories. Many publishers expect a book each year once they sign you, and this can be quite a challenge.
When I finished HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and sent the book on submission to agents and eventually, to publishers, I was tempted to lean back, relax, and play more Jewelquest. After all, I’d just completed two and a half years of devotion to the book. I felt as if I deserved a break.
But something happened; I didn’t want a break. An obsession with a new historical figure had been brewing. While my agent submitted my novel to publishing house editors, I fed my new obsession and felt a story growing around it.
Then, an editor from Penguin wanted to speak to me on the phone. She loved HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and had many questions for me about the story and about my background. We had a great chat about the novel, but she was also very interested in what I was currently writing. My level of interest for my new subject was such that I was able to speak clearly on the new novel. It showed the editor that I was a serious writer interested in a career. I believe that question was the deal maker.
Writers, I know that saving the final revision on a novel is a moment of extreme triumph. Crafting a novel is an emotional journey–ask the spouse and family of anyone involved. When you complete a novel you do deserve to breathe for a bit, recharge your battery, and reset your mind for a new journey. If you need a significant amount of time, however, I’d recommend holding off on the query process until you are ready to jump into a new novel. There are several reasons for this:
First, it will give you something to focus on so you don’t obsess over agent/editor responses to your work. Nothing stifles creativity like a self-addressed stamped envelope carrying a form letter rejection. If you invest all of your energy and emotions into one project it places too much importance on it.
Second, when you do get an editor interested in your work, you will have an answer for, “What are you working on now?” I now know, firsthand, how important it is to have an answer to this question.
There is one final reason you should be working on your next novel: your readers. I self-published my first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, and was blessed to have had wonderful reader responses. The most common, however, sometimes made me feel wrung out. It was this:
“When can I read your next one?”
Don’t get me wrong, this is music to a writer’s ears. On the wrong kind of day, however, it actually sounds like this:
“When can you mine history for obscure facts, make dozens of time lines, uncover universal themes important enough to share, while packaging them neatly within three hundred pages splattered with your deepest fears, longings, and judgments for my consumption?”
Let me reemphasize, the former are words every writer longs to hear and provide the best possible compliment, but if you don’t have something ready to say in response, a dissatisfying experience in communication results for all involved.
Writers, if you are able, keep working on the next project. Life gives us both welcome and unwelcome breaks from writing that are beyond our control. If you’ve finished a story, recharged, and have the time and energy, start your next project. Your editor, the world, and your SELF will thank you for it.
*Photo courtesy of PszczolaM at DeviantArt.com