Faith, hope, & heartwarming

Living, loving, learning to trust God- and writing about it!


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New website- Faith, Hope, & Heartwarming

This will be the last post on this site, as I’m moving to my new self-hosted website Faith, Hope, & Heartwarming. Please visit me there!

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Please also sign up for my email newsletter, so you’ll be among the first to know about new releases, as well as getting access to exclusive subscriber-only “behind the book” content and contests!

Newsletters will be no more than one every couple of weeks at most, and I promise no spam, ever. I will never sell or pass on your email to anyone else.

New books- the Love In Store series!

I have plenty of exciting news to come, with four releases in my London set Love in Store contemporary inspirational romance series planned over the next six months!

Inspirational romance book cover- The Wedding List by Autumn Macarthur


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Finding God’s work

For all my intent to blog regularly, I haven’t done so well! No post for weeks, or is it months?

There’s been a lot happening.

Getting to Round 3 of Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense Killer Voices, but not to the final round (congratulations to the lovely newly fledged authors who have already sold from the contest, Dana Lynn, Tammy Johnson, and Michelle Karl!).

Getting a revision request on my beloved Love Inspired submission, His Father’s Son.

A seriously ill mother-in-law who needed attentive nursing care, now thankfully fully recovered.

A holiday in Bulgaria, in the lovely village we hope to move to one day, God willing.

Working on my self-publishing plans, designing covers for the Love In Store series, planning a prequel novella, arranging editing, reading all I can on author branding and marketing. Yep, back to front, I have the cover and the marketing plan before I’ve written one of the stories! Though it does make sense with the covers. So hard finding stock images to suit my idea of how the couple looks AFTER the story is written. Finding a cover image I love first means I can use that to help me visualise the couple as I write their story, instead of using images of actors and actresses then finding NO stock images look even vaguely like them!

But the branding. Oh my, the branding! It makes me feel something like a can of baked beans or soft drink. It’s the reason I haven’t blogged for a while, because I know I need to start a new self-hosted website, and I was getting myself in a tangle about what I was “supposed” to say.

Then in my quiet time today, I realised what I’m “supposed” to do is just be myself. My author brand is who I am. What my stories are about. Where my focus is. What the work is that God’s given me to do.

He made it very clear to me over a year ago, when I was about to publish a very secular story, that His will was that I write for him. I’ve worked so hard, been so focused. maybe too focused. At times, I’ve put writing ahead of my husband.

Obedience fail!

Today, what God showed me is that Love truly is His work. Love is the work He really has for me to do in this world, the stories are a by-product. I need to come from a heart full of love first.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, The Message)

 

Love is the work I need to do. The hard sometimes painful job of truly loving those closest to me.

But I have help.  If I let it, God’s love will fill me, flowing like a stream.

Love. Encouragement. Hope. That’s what I want my brand to be. That’s what I want my life to be. That’s what my blog needs to reflect. That’s what my stories need to reflect. This is who I want to be.

Image of ocean at sunrise, text Frist we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 1 John 4:19, The Message, autumnmacarthur


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On finding the joy, right where I am

So things haven’t run quite the way I hoped the last couple of weeks, and my faith has wavered. From caring for sick family members to plans that have come unstuck, it’s been one of those times when it’s easy to get tempted by doubt.

My problem is, when I get stressed, the first thing I do is close off to God. I even get angry, blame Him that things are going wrong. I can’t feel His presence of His love, because my doubt and fear and anger puts a wall between us.

But this morning, God gave me a lovely gift in my inbox, a devotional from Girlfriends in God on Strength For The Storm, based on this verse-

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. (Romans 5:3-5, NLT).

The truth is, God never promised an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t have trials.  What He did promise was He will be with us in the midst of it. He promised that whatever happens is for our greatest good. Thank You for that.

So I can trust that He will guide me and support me, and all I need to do is stay open to that.  If I ask, He’ll help me to keep my eyes and heart on Him no matter what is happening. He’ll help me to stay focused on what really matters, not what I think matters. He’ll help me to see all that’s right in my life, all the blessings that surround me, when all I can see is what’s gone wrong.

I know He’s teaching me patience and endurance, lessons I wouldn’t learn if He gave me the easy life I wish for. And I can find joy in that. I can find joy in all that is good in my life.

There’s a lot!

When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4, NLT)

Image of sunset over mountains with text "God is with us in the midst of every trial"


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Self-publishing Journal – Part 2

Woman reading Kindle, to illustrate inspirational romance writer Autumn Macarthur's self-publsihing journal

A rushed post today because I’ve been lucky enough to progress to round 3 in Harlequin’s Killer Voices contest for Love Inspired Suspense, which means I need to finish my partial by tonight for my wonderful writing mentor Laurie Sanders to read.

That probably should really be step one – learn how to write as well as I can. Use books. Use workshops. Use critique partners. Use any and all opportunities to become a better writer. And give back whenever I can.

My first steps to self-publishing

Other writers may choose a different order and skip some of these steps, but here’s what I’ve done so far:

Self-publishing for first-timers #1 – Decide to go for it!

First, make the decision.

I talked a lot about this in Part 1 of my self-publishing journal. Being clear about the process and what one hopes to get out of it is essential. Weighing up the pros and cons. Looking at expectations and being clear on what is and isn’t realistic. Sure, I might sell a gazillion copies and film rights and become rich and famous. Or sales might tank at 75 copies. Guess which of those is most likely? :)

That’s the main reason I want to do this on the tightest budget I can. If I sell no copies and am heartbroken, at least I won’t be also heartbroken about the shedload of money I spent! If the story does well, I can always use some of the money from the sales to get better covers and spiffy things up more.

Self-publishing for first-timers #2 – Don’t diss traditional publishing

Second, don’t burn any bridges behind you, especially if you still want to traditionally publish other stories.

Stay professional.

Letting the Heartsong editor know I wouldn’t be resubmitting Believe In Me was scary, but something I needed to do before anything else. I didn’t want my decision for this story and any linked stories to damage my chances of having other stories published by Harlequin.

I’m not deciding to self-publish because I don’t like the line. It’s lovely.

I’m not deciding to self-publish because I don’t like the editor. She’s wonderful.

I’m not choosing to self-publish because I am anti traditional publishing. I most definitely want see other stories traditionally published.

I’m choosing to self-publish because I don’t think this story fits anywhere else, without huge changes that turn it into a whole different story.

So hard though it was, I had to do the professional thing and email her to tell her what I’d decided and why.

The outcome had to be a God thing!

I’d been frightened that telling an editor I wouldn’t be resubmitting a story because I’d decided to self-publish would be shooting myself in the foot, wrecking any hope of submitting there again. I only did it because I knew NOT saying anything would do more damage.

Instead, I was blessed with a good email conversation, and was able to get some pointers about which of my other story ideas, more suitable for the line, she’d be interested in.

Self-publishing for first-timers #3 – How, when, where will I publish?

Three, decide where and when to publish.

Though I’d love the feel of a paperback book in my hands, I don’t have the time, expertise, or money to arrange that for Believe In Me at this stage, so it’s e-book only. I researched e-book options last year when I almost self-published a story I’m very glad now I didn’t! Kindle is the biggest market, and I can upload books to all the Amazon sites myself. The easiest way for me to access most of the other e-book markets is via Smashwords. They can distribute my books to smaller but growing markets like Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store, which can be tricky for non-US based writers to access directly.

When to release is affected by the fact it’s a seasonal story. Christmas books usually come out in October, certainly no later than early November. I still need to decide a definite release date, but I’m thinking mid-October.

Self-publishing for first-timers #4 – Polish the story

Fourth, get the story as good as it can be. I know some self-published writers skip getting an external editor, relying on beta readers, but despite my tight budget and having a couple of excellent beta readers, I want to do all I can to make the story shine. Joanna Penn lists not getting professional edits as one of the biggest self-publishing mistakes. Arranging freelance editing, both developmental and line edits had to be the next step.

Good editors need to be booked well in advance.  If I didn’t set up an editor now, I might not get the story edited in time.

Luckily, the editor I’ve been doing workshops with decided to open up some slots for freelance editing. Laurie doesn’t publish inspirational romance, in fact her publishing house mainly does erotic romance! But I know she has a great instinct for story, I’ve worked continuously with her across a series of workshops over the past nine months and seen how much my writing has developed. Most important, I trust her judgment.

It also helps to know she’ll give great value for the fee she charges!

So I’ve booked her to do developmental and line edits on Believe In Me in early August. That gives enough time to do more revisions and have my eagle eyed beta readers go over it again for me before release date.

 Self-publishing for first-timers #5 – Cover Design

Next thing I did this week was look at cover design. Readers really do judge books by their covers.

I had a strong idea about what I wanted. Back in December when I thought the story would be rejected, leaving me little choice but to self-publish, I thought about designs and looked for free or low cost stock images I could use. I even identified a graphic designer on one of the sites I wanted to ask to do the design. So first thing was to contact her via the stock photo site and ask if she’d consider doing commission work. Unfortunately, she replied that she only did it as a hobby and didn’t want to take a commission.

So I looked around at other cover designers. My issue here is keeping costs down. Good designers aren’t cheap, and most of the cheap cover designs I’ve seen don’t look much better than what I could do myself. I decided to commission someone whose samples looked good on a budget design site, Fiverr.

I’m so glad it was budget! My beta reading friend joked that for that price, I’d probably get something that looked like her twelve year old had cut and pasted it.

Unfortunately, it did. Cover design may be an area where you really do get what you pay for. As I really don’t want to part with too much cash, that means paying with time.

Back to DIY. I’ve been bookmarking covers I like and working out what makes them work. Checking Joel Friedlander’s monthly ebook Cover Design Awards.

I’m not a designer. I have NO skills with software like Photoshop, and wouldn’t pay for that anyway. I’m reluctant to take on the learning curve for free image editing tools like GIMP, unless I really have to.

But it should be possible to make reasonable covers using software most of us already have. This week, I read tutorials for DIY book covers, including this one using Word. I joined some stock photo sites, and discovered what a massive time suck they can be! I’ve found loads of lovely images, including some that triggered new story ideas, but none that feel right for this book. I downloaded some free fonts so I had more choices than what comes with Word.

I played around with what I had, some free images, a free font, and came up with a cover design that isn’t good, but isn’t quite terrible either. It’s not anywhere near what I want yet, but it’s better than the one I paid for!

Luckily, I have a few more months yet before I need to settle on the final design. I can see a lot more hours need to go into the cover, if I want to DIY it.

But I can’t leave it too long for the cover, because I need to consider promo. Which is a whole other big topic I really don’t want to have to think about yet, so I’m going back to writing my Killer Voices entry instead!

Advice please!

Does anyone who’s already done it or is learning to do this have any advice for covers? Or promotion that doesn’t annoy everyone with endless Twitter spam? These are the two things that scare me the most, and I know are most important to get right, after writing a good story!

 


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My writing process blog tour

The lovely Edith Ó Nualláin, whose blog is http://inaroomofmyown.wordpress.com/, nominated me to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. If you followed the link here from Edith’s blog, I’m sorry, you may be in for a disappointment. Edith juggles a busy family life, yet also writes beautiful, lyrical, and poetic women’s fiction, as well as wonderfully thoughtful interviews and book reviews.

I… well, I don’t!

I write inspirational romance. Inspirational because I love God. Be warned, I do drop the G-bomb a fair bit here! Romance because I believe love is fundamentally the most powerful force on the planet. I want to read and write fiction where love always wins.

 My Writing Process questions

So the rules are, I have to answer the 4 questions below about my writing process. I thought I’d do simple one sentence answers, but it’s turned out an epic post!

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on an inspirational romantic suspense called Nowhere to Run, for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense’s Killer Voices contest. But I’m not really. I’m puddling along writing about a page a day until the next round contest results are announced later today. It makes no sense as I want to write the story anyway, but I’m very much a procrastinator who works best in adrenaline-fuelled last minute rush mode, and I find it hard to motivate myself sooner. I seem to have developed a pattern of starting new stories very slowly, then the writing gets faster and faster and I give the story more time every day, until towards the end I’m pulling intense fourteen hour days. Nuts, but it’s how I do it.

Two weeks ago I submitted a requested full to Love Inspired Suspense (see fourteen hour work days, above- there were a LOT of them!), and maybe I’m just needing a little break, too.

I’ve also decided to self-publish a Christmas romance, Believe In Me, a semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest last year, with a planned release date in October. Yes, I need to pick a date, soon! That’s kinda distracting too, with all the things I need to think about that. I’ll be blogging a journal of the process of a newbie self-pubber, probably most Fridays.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s the toughest question of the four to answer! It’s so hard to quantify what makes my writing different.

I think we each bring something unique to our writing. We write the stories that only we could write. Every writer’s work should be different from others in the genre. If it’s not, then there’s something wrong!

Our relationships with each other and our relationships with God are central to my stories. I want readers to finish one of my stories feeling good, feeling uplifted, feeling that God loves them and that the power of love is a very real thing.

My stories tend to have touches of humour. They’re a bit on the quirky side. They’re a bit on the edgy side- my characters don’t step over the line, but they do have life below the neck. They’re deeply emotional, and sometimes touch on dark painful topics. A child with a life-limiting illness. Abandonment. The aftermath of suicide. Guilt over past failures.

But ultimately, love does win.  Characters learn and grow and choose life and love and God and each other.

My stories are like every other inspirational romance out there. A man and a woman are in conflict on the surface, but something in each of them calls to the other. Their emotional wounds get in the way, neither can have a full and committed romantic relationship. They push each other to grow and change and deepen their relationships with God.  They make the wrong choices, and nearly lose it all. But in the end, they choose to let go of the lie they’ve believed, and step into their Happy Ever After.

My stories are also different from every other inspirational romance out there, because they are the stories I wrote. God gave me a voice, and stories to tell. He made every snowflake similar but different. I’m willing to trust He’s also helping me make my stories different.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always loved to write. As a kid I made up stories and wrote little books. I dreamed of other people reading and enjoying the stories I wrote. Then real life got in the way, and I only wrote intermittently for many years. Six years ago, way too close to fifty for comfort, I realised it was time to stop putting that dream on hold. Time to do it.

I did a Jan No, and got my 50k! Okay, the story had plot holes you could drive a Hummer through, and the ending was abrupt, to say the least. I had no idea how to redeem the jerk of a hero, so the heroine simply decided she didn’t want him anyway, she’d learned, she’d grown, and maybe she’d think about dating that cute agency rep who kept coming into her bookstore. Well, in my defence, it WAS women’s fiction not romance.

Then I saw a Harlequin writing contest, and that was it, I knew I wanted to target Harlequin. I’d devoured these stories in my teens and twenties, loved the idea of writing for them. I’d just write one, enter, and win the contest, right? Uh, wrong. Turned out it was a little harder than that. The first rejection gutted me, but I didn’t stop trying for the next four years. I tried almost all the Harlequin lines. Every contest they had, I entered. Slush pile submissions, I sent them.

In reply, form rejections, rejections with a few personalised words of advice, but all rejections. I didn’t make it past the partial stage.

Once I turned fifty,  it was now or never. We had just enough money saved that if we lived very frugally, I could quit the Day Job and give myself two years off. I could approach my writing more professionally, make it a full time job. If I didn’t sell in that time or at least get some encouragement, well, I wouldn’t stop writing, but I’d have to get another Day Job, and I’d have to wonder if writing would ever be more than a hobby.

Within a month of stopping the stressful job with the killer commute, I’d written an odd little erotic novella I planned to self-publish. Odd, because though it was definitely erotica, it had such strong spiritual elements in it. The core of the story wasn’t the sex scene, it was  the heroine’s spiritual healing, her coming back to God after letting an old wound from her teens separate her from Him.

Obviously, I didn’t publish that, thank God! But it was part of a wake up call for me. God was guiding me back to Him, and into writing inspirational romance. Like the heroine of that story, I’d been angry with God for a long time too, and it was time I let that wound be healed and came back into the joy and peace of a relationship with Him. Then I saw that Harlequin were doing a pitch contest for their inspirational lines.

That was it. Not quite a blinding Damascus Road thunderbolt, but near enough! I knew inspirational romance is what I want to write, what God wants me to write, and hopefully what He’s give me the ability to write. A year later, I truly can’t imagine writing any other type of story. A man and a woman finding not just their love for each other, but a deeper experience of God’s love too. What could be better?

How does my writing process work?

My writing process is very much a voyage of discovery. I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all process. We all have a different process that suits us best, and we may all have different processes for every story too!

In the punster/ plotter debate, I think I’m a plantser or a plotster or whatever you want to call a hybrid.

I used to pants. I got an idea and I just sat down and wrote.  Interesting process, and the stories got written fast, but oh my, they were so all over the place and random they were unreadable and uneditable, without a total rewrite. Most never got finished, they fizzled out after a few chapters or as many as nine chapters. Maybe four or five I did draft all the way to The End. I’ve still kept all those stories, because maybe somewhere in the manure is the seed of a real story I can discover and grow. But there’s an awful lot of manure to sift through to find that seed. Luckily, I’m not short of story ideas, so I don’t need to start sifting yet!

Then I discovered there is actually such a thing as story structure! The story wasn’t just random events strung together like beads on a string. Everything related to everything else. It had purpose and meaning. I studied the Hero’s Journey and Save the Cat. Good, but they didn’t give me the solid framework for story that I needed. Finally understanding the three act structure made a huge difference. Larry Brooks was hugely helpful here. And Jami Gold has some great worksheets, including one specifically for romance.

This stuff shouldn’t be a straitjacket for our writing, it’s a guide. It’s like the lined sheets we wrote on when we very first learned to write lowercase letters. You remember the ones with three lines and the main part of the letter had to go between the middle lines then the others were how far to take f’s and t’s and h’s and l’s, or g’s and p’s and q’s? We needed those at first and had to write so carefully between the lines, but after a while we learned the approximate proportions and how to do it without the lines.

Once you can do it without the lines, you are on your way, but they sure are useful to begin with!

For now, I’ve made a Scrivener template that combines all Jami’s beatsheets, and it works for me. I can’t recommend Scrivener too highly. I love love LOVE it! But like Marmite, it’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. For me, it gives me just enough structure to make sure I don’t go wildly off the rails, but allows me to pants it from inciting incident to turning point 1 to pinch point 1 to midpoint… But I know writers who hate it. Loathe it, detest it, couldn’t wait to delete it off their laptops. :) Good news is they do a free trial of 30 days actual use.

I write slower now, because I take time to really get to know the characters first, and know at least the main turning points of the story. Then I pretty much pants between those points and edit as I go rather than rushing to finish a rough draft.

I’m very very character focused. My story always starts from the characters. The plot is whatever it takes to push the hero and heroine together and force them to grow enough to finally make the right choice at the end. Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence  is key for this.

The idea of having the whole thing plotted out scene by scene before starting to write gives me the shivers, though it works for many excellent writers. I love Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel, but after one miserable failure haven’t tried the scene level plan again. I found that despite loads of in depth character work, I don’t know my characters well enough at the start to do that.

The story I just finished, a full aimed at Love Inspired, I wrote out of order. I blame Scrivener! But doing it that way suited my grasshopper, non-linear mind. If I had a scene in mind, I wrote whatever it was. When I got stuck in the middle (oh, that dreaded middle!) I jumped ahead and wrote the black moment, so I knew where I had to get the characters to. Then when I went back to the middle, I could see the reason I was stuck was that one of my turning points was in the wrong place! And amazingly, ALL the fragments of scenes I wrote, even the ones I had no idea where they went, fitted in eventually, though some needed rewriting.

Of course, whether the story is any good or not I don’t know. It’s the best I’ve written so far, but that’s not necessarily saying much! It’s out for a beta read it before I do a last round of edits and sub. But it sure was a fun way to write, and killed writer’s block deader than dead!

It’s too early with the new story yet to know if I’ll do the same thing, but I do know I’m itching to write the climactic chapter. I may well jump ahead and write the end early this time too, so I know where the characters are going.

Who’s next

I’ve nominated three wonderful writers to follow on with the blog tour. Please visit their blogs on May 5 to see their take on writing process!

1. Marion Uckermann

I met Marion recently in my ACFW chapter. She guest blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers, and for Beauty for Ashes. Her personal blog is http://apebbleinmypocket.com. Her “My Writing Process” blog will appear at ICFW on May 3.

Marion Ueckermann ’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven. She has recently signed a publishing contract with Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing) for Helsinki Sunrise, Passport to Romance series. Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

2. Sheryl Lister

I recently celebrated Sheryl’s Call Party on eHarlequin, and can’t wait to read her debut release Just to Be With You, published by Harlequin Kimani in August!

Sheryl Lister has enjoyed reading and writing for as long as she can remember. After putting writing on the back burner for several years, she became serious about her craft in 2009. She writes contemporary and inspirational romance and romantic suspense. When she’s not reading, writing or playing chauffeur, Sheryl can be found on a date with her husband or in the kitchen creating appetizers and bite-sized desserts.

3. Abbi Wilder

I’ve been lucky enough to know  fellow nurse/ writer Abbi for years since we met over a Harlequin contest, and adore her for her honesty and wry humour. Her novella The Baby Whisperer is currently a bestseller in Medical Fiction on Amazon! Do check her website or Amazon author page for her other books.

Abbi Wilder is a nationally-published journalist who learned early that humor is the only way to make it through most situations and that a wicked plot twist brightens any story. When she’s not writing, she works as a nurse in telephonic case management and wrangles two smart and loving boys.

The small print – some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a small payment if you purchase the product after following the link. I have a strict policy of only recommending products and services I buy or use myself. If you prefer not to use the affiliate links, please do Google instead!


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Self publishing journal, a clueless newbie tells how she’s doing it – Part 1

Woman reading Kindle, to illustrate inspirational romance writer Autumn Macarthur's self-publsihing journal

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing

I made a huge decision last week, after much prayer and thought – I decided to self-publish Believe In Me, my inspirational romance that semi-finaled in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write  contest last year.

Yep, the story I was thinking would get rejected as it didn’t fit the line, but was overjoyed to get a revise and resubmit email from the Harlequin Heartsong editor about in January. I did the revise part, but decided against the resubmit.

I wrestled so hard with this decision. How could I know if it really was God’s will or just me wanting to try something different?

When I need to earn money from writing ASAP or go back to the Day Job, it seemed nuts to throw away a possible advance and traditional publication with the publisher I’ve dreamed of writing for since my teens.

But… but… telling myself it was nuts didn’t still that nagging little voice that told me this story didn’t belong there, that I needed to self-publish it because the story isn’t a good fit at Heartsong.

What about being a hybrid author?

Ever since I first heard the term, I wanted to be a hybrid author. I wanted to write for the Harlequin inspirational romance lines, and self-publish the stories that didn’t fit there. But the plan was always to get that validation and name recognition of being traditionally published first, getting a few books published, THEN self-publishing the stories that don’t work for Harlequin.

If I self-publish first, how will I know it I’m good enough or if putting that book out there was a mistake?

Many successful self-publishing authors like Dean Wesley Smith advise beginning writers to let the market decide – write, publish, repeat. Don’t edit, just get the story out there. The learn-as-you-go approach. I’m a little concerned about that one. I know how seriously cringeworthy my first few attempts at writing romances were. I really wouldn’t want those stories out there for everyone to see. Plus, at that time I wasn’t writing the sort of stories I’d want my name associated with now. At that time I was out of relationship with God, and I originally tried writing spicy not sweet. Cringe inducing writing that’s way hotter than I want my name associated with  now – eep!

Thank God I didn’t dive into the publish-it-and-readers-will-come model!

All those not-quite-ready self-published stories out there could also be the reason many agents and editors think that self-publishing could hinder a writer’s chances of being traditionally published. An author who knows I made this decision sent me this link from her agent today – Three Reasons Hybrid publishing Isn’t For Everyone.

Agent Janet Grant says:

I’ve also had conversations with traditional publishers who want to know the sales history for any self-published books. And those publishers have decided to look at the author’s work based on those sales numbers. That means the risks of self-publishing are even higher when your sales history follows you everywhere like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Oh my! That vivid metaphor is scary stuff, especially when I’ve already emailed the editor who’d been interested in the story to let her know I wouldn’t be resubmitting!

And she’s so right. Having bad self-published books out there can make a writer look unprofessional. The sort of writer they wouldn’t want to work with.

But when she says she cringed to hear unpublished writers say they wanted to be hybrid authors, it seems to me there’s a crucial distinction that she isn’t making. There’s a big difference between a brand new beginner writer, in the process of writing her first story, or maybe even only thinking about writing her first story; and an unpublished writer who’s been writing a while, has a few books written, and is getting signs she’s close to selling traditionally.

The two can’t be compared, really.

Yes, bad self-published stories could damage the author’s chance of traditional publication. Or it can also work the opposite way. Good self-published stories can attract publisher offers.

Successful self-published authors find the publishers are courting them. An author with an established fan base and proven sales is a great business proposition!

And a few hybrid authors, like cosy mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig,are considering abandoning their publishers to release ALL their work themselves. A turnaround from seeing self-published books as second best, from an author who’s done both.

Is the story good enough to self-publish?

Now, I firmly want to be a genuine hybrid author. I’d love to write for Harlequin, and I can’t see I’d want to stop that, even if my self-published stories sell well. I do intend only to self-publish my stories I don’t feel are the best fit at Harlequin, or that Harlequin reject for content, not writing quality.

So if I choose to self-publish Believe In Me, how do I know it’s good enough? How can I know it will sell, get good reviews, that readers will like it?

I don’t, is the honest answer.

There’s no way of knowing. I can guess, and I can hope. That’s about it.

Loving the story, which I do, even though I now feel it’s not a good fit for the line I was targeting, isn’t enough to know.

But I do have a few signs.

I have the validation of the first chapter semi-finaling in a competitive contest. I had a full request from Harlequin Love Inspired on a different story. I’ve had positive feedback on my writing from an editor for a small press I’ve been taking workshops with. I have the feedback from the lovely Harlequin editor who read the full, who expressed interest but needed revisions. I have the feedback from a trusted and very particular beta reader who read my revised version, and suggested some additional changes, but felt it was ready to publish.

Decision made

I love the story as it is. I don’t want to have to do further extensive revisions, which I’m almost certain the Heartsong editor would need to make it fit reader expectations for that line. I’ve been told it’s of publishable standard. I’m willing to take the gamble it might not sell well, though with our finances at they are, that’s a big *gulp*

So instead of resubmitting, I’m praying, crossing my fingers, and hoping this isn’t one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever made!

Now I’ve decided what to do with the story, I plan to blog the process as I go. I’ll be honest about my mistakes and learning experiences, in the hope it will help someone else. Look for part 2, coming soon!

If you’ve self-published, I’d love to hear your experiences! What do you know now you’d wished you’d known when you were at the stage I’m at, clueless newbie?


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On true love

Easter Friday.

I’ve had a stuck week, after immersing myself deeply in finishing a story and submitting it. That was a roller coaster ride, full of love and joy and adrenaline.

Now fear and resistance to start again with a new story kick in. Old beliefs that I’m not good enough, that I can’t do it, that I don’t have what it takes, that I’m breaking family rules by doing this and succeeding.

The way to stay safe is to stay small, not try, not risk success.

But it’s Easter Friday.

At this time, I remember what Jesus did for us. How He gave everything for us.

Oh my, that much love. I am small and humbled before that.

But the point of His loving sacrifice was to make us all we could be. Whole and complete before God. Able to be cleansed and forgiven and filled with His Spirit and His love. Not so we could make ourselves small and keep living in fear.

So if we keep acting small, we’re denying His sacrifice. We’re refusing the whole point. He didn’t die painfully and horribly on the cross so we could stay stuck believing old lies about ourselves. He died for us so we could be made new in Him. He took our pain, so we don’t have to, we can surrender it all to Him.

So my prayer today is:

Thank You for that. Thank You for a love so big it’s beyond my understanding. Thank You that You loved us that much. Thank You that You make me new, every single day. All I need to do is ask, and let go of the old me.
You fill me with Your love. You fill me with Your spirit. And when I let you do that, when I know your body was broken and wounded for me, how can I still stay small? I can’t.

Maybe, today, you can’t either.

cross and heart- true love

True love at Easter. Original image by ba1969 at rgbstock


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A Synopsis Checklist

Autumn Macarthur:

What I wish I’d read BEFORE I submitted my Killer Voices synopsis!

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:

by Shannon Donnelly

Years ago I was struggling to try and figure out how to write a synopsis. It took a lot of input from other writers, and some workshops, but I finally became comfortable with syopsis writing—and now it’s one of my favorite tools. I’m now doing my “Sexy Synopsis workshop again for Outreach International Romance Writers, but I wanted to offer up my synopsis checklist.

A synopsis is one of the most useful tools you can have. It keeps you from getting stuck. It starts you thinking about blurb and marketing copy. It can even show up flaws you might have in your plot, as in maybe the conflict really isn’t strong enough.

The checklist I developed came from looking at a bunch of synopses and from taking a lot of classes on synopsis writings. Feel free to take this list and customize for your own use…

View original 511 more words


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On being vulnerable

January has been an interesting month.

God took me seriously when I made my One Word for 2014 Renewal, and He’s challenging me with opportunities to allow him to make a new woman of me. Every day, He asks that I surrender something more to him and trust Him.

It’s exciting and joyful but scary too. I’m being laid open, all my defences stripped away one by one.

Today, I’m fragile, vulnerable, raw.

I want to write. In my journaling this morning I had a wonderful insight for how the trigger for the darkest moment in one of my current stories could be made far stronger than I first thought. But I don’t know that I can lay myself open to the power and depth of my characters’ emotions when I feel this way.

*grin* Okay, I wimped out.

God will call me on it. He gave me the idea, and He wants me to write it. And I will, even though it’s diving into deep water without a life-ring. He’s asking me to write what I most need to learn. So my characters have forgiveness issues, worthiness issues, trust issues, control issues, and they won’t get their HEAs until they let that go. I know someone else with those exact same issues, and she’s getting told the same things.

Me.

“You want to feel My joy? You want the freedom of true surrender to Me? You need to let go. You can make your life a slice of Heaven right now, but you can’t get in the gates carrying all that baggage. Let it go.”

My characters will, and I will.

But first, I’m procrastinating, reading some wonderful blogs and calling it research. The internet is full of stories, full of people sharing a slice of their lives as a gift for others to read.

I loved this story of vulnerability. She shares about meeting an olde friend, about letting the “I’m fine” from crack and being honest. And that honesty gave her friend permission to be honest too. In their shared honesty, she saw a mirror of redemption. When we hide who we are from each other, when we try to hide ourselves from God, we can’t be redeemed.

The truth of our brokeness is sometimes the greatest gift we can give others. I wrote this in my journal this morning -

Tell the truth. None of the prettying up the ugly parts of myself or my life. It doesn’t help others when we pretend our lives are different to how they really are.

In both the stories I’m working on now, characters are keeping secrets. Shameful secrets. Secrets they fear will lose them any hope of the love they want. But the truth is, only when they let the person they love see the person hiding behinmd the secrets can they be truly loved.

Today, I also read this thoughtful blog post – On why being vulnerable is a beautiful thing.

She says -

He meets us right there in our place of deepest emptiness.  He gives us His strength in place of our weakness. He gives us His love in place of our selfishness.  He gives us His joy in place of our despair.  He gives us His hope in place of our hopelessness.  It’s God’s nature to give, because He is love.  And so that’s why being vulnerable feels like the worst thing but is really the best.  We discover our complete reliance on God – and since God is love, we begin to rely on the best thing we could ask for or imagine.  When our hearts break, we find God’s love right there to mend us.  Broken hearts hurt.  But that very brokenness that we hate and dread, brings us to a place of such vulnerability that our hearts finally melt with compassion and love when we encounter other people.  We stop seeing people as competition to be feared, and instead see them as fellow servants of the Living God, who are just as needy, thirsty, hungry and afraid as we are.  We can embrace others in love, not needing anything from them, because our hearts are overflowing – our cups runneth over – with the love of God, a love that we find only when everything else in the world fails us.  This is abundant living.  And it’s the only way to find joy.  When circumstances and other people hurt us, and we start to live dependent and vulnerable to God out of our brokenness, we discover that our whole houses become filled with the most expensive perfume of all – the fragrance of God’s love.

My characters need to hit rock bottom before they surrender and risk vulnerability. I hope I can allow God to gently break my heart, and open myself up to Him in joy and trust. I want to come to Him, like a little child, and know that I am loved.

Image with text- Vulnerability, we pour ourselves out, trusting God to refill us

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