Son of a Pitch! Bonjour!

INCONCEIVABLE Cover.jpgBonjour, my lovelies! This is a special greeting for all those writers who are participating in the pitch contest, Son of a Pitch! I look forward to reading your pitches and sharing my feedback. Just a note about the theme: All the participating published authors are choosing a hero or villain from Disney to use on their blogs. I chose Belle because her ability to look beyond the surface and see what’s inside reminds me of Hatty, the main character in my novel, INCONCEIVABLE!

Just to help you get to know me a bit better, here are seven fun Tegan facts:

    1. I secured my own publishing deal for INCONCEIVABLE! with respected indie publisher Curiosity Quills. I had hoped to get an agent to represent me, but when CQ came calling with so much love for my story and a great vision for promoting it, I couldn’t say no.
    2. I’m a Francophile. I studied French for four years in high school and all through college. So, I can parler. I adore the French language and culture. I’ve traveled all over the world, but France is one of my favorite countries.
    3. belle meme1This is Foodie Central. (Sorry, Belle.) I adore food, but I’m not a snob. From Cheetos to ostrich steak, I appreciate a wide range of delicious foods. My favorite ethnic cuisines are Ethiopian and Mexican.
    4. I have one husband, two kitties, and three kids. It’s a hot mess up in here, ya’ll. Is it any wonder I have chronic “mom brain?”
    5. I love to read in many genres. I can appreciate and enjoy Stephen King as much as Nicholas Sparks. Some of my favorite books are The Alchemist, 11/22/63, the Chronicles of Narnia, Brave New World, and Accidental Saints. How’s that for variety?
    6. autumn meme1Fall is my favorite season. Yep, I’m kind of basic in that way. Bring on the pumpkins, lattes, falling leaves, and Halloween. One of my favorite lines from INCONCEIVABLE! is about autumn.
    7. I was in a community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. I wish I could tell you I played Belle, but I was much better as a dancing, singing plate in the enchanted castle. There were three of us plates and we were kind of fabulous. #Justsaying

I look forward to finding out more about you! Please connect with me on Twitter and Facebook. Because I’ve had so much love and support from other writers on my journey, I’m thrilled to pay it forward by helping you!

 

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Woman Versus Machines: Cover Reveal for MACHINATIONS

When we were going through infertility, I loved to watch big-budget movies about the unlikely hero or heroine overcoming the odds to beat the bad guys. There’s something about watching a dramatic struggle on the silver screen that gives you the message, even if subconsciously, that if these people can hold on to hope through their quest to save the planet, surely you can keep the faith through your journey to becoming parents. I think that may be one reason I love almost any book or movie that has hope as a central theme, whether it be women’s fiction, literary, romance, sci fi, speculative, or any other genre.

And I think that’s one of the many reasons I love MACHINATIONS, the debut novel from my critique partner, Hayley Stone. I was thrilled to read an early version of her manuscript. She’s such a talented writer! I loved getting to cheer for her as she revised it, pitched it, snagged an agent, and then secured a publishing deal with Hydra/Random House. (Cue the confetti!) Incidentally, Hayley did the same thing for me, reading and critiquing INCONCEIVABLE when it was in its early stages, and then being my cheerleader and sounding board as it moved through the process to publication.

So, it’s my absolute pleasure to unveil the cover of Hayley’s debut novel, MACHINATIONS.

Machinations Final CoverLet’s pause a moment and appreciate the fact that Hayley’s written a compelling sci fi novel that has a young woman at its center (and on its cover), a woman who takes on rogue computers like a boss. The first time I read this book, it reminded me of The Matrix Trilogy, one of my favorite series of sci fi films. But rest assured that MACHINATIONS is its own, fresh, enthralling story about humans battling machines. Finally, for readers like me who like a side of meaningful romance with their high stakes action sequences, this novel delivers on that point as well.

Here’s the official synopsis:

This action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Intrigued? I thought you might be. MACHINATIONS arrives June 14th, but you can pre-order the e-book now through Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads.

Hayley StoneHayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Top image via Flickr by Wonderlane

DROWN: Author Esther Dalseno’s Retelling of The Little Mermaid

drownI was a kid when Disney released its version of The Little Mermaid. My friends and I were warbling our own versions of “A Part of Your World” at the same level little girls today sing “Let It Go” from Frozen. So, when I saw Esther Dalseno‘s novel DROWN and discovered that it’s a new version of this classic tale, I was intrigued. More than that, I had greedy hands for her book. (I mean, just look at that amazing cover!)

You can pre-order DROWN now on Amazon, and it will arrive on your e-reader on October 31. To celebrate her release day, Esther agreed to talk with me about her book, her journey to publication, and why she’s eager to read INCONCEIVABLE!

Tegan: Esther, how did you get the idea to do a retelling of The Little Mermaid?

Esther2Esther: It’s always been my favorite fairy tale all of my life, it’s so gorgeous and sumptuous and bittersweet, and I kept waiting and waiting for someone else to do it.  I am a big traveler, having left my country Australia nearly ten years ago, and at the time of writing in 2009 I found myself in a very lonely situation in third-world Laos.  Having been in the South East Asian region for some time, I had become a very enthusiastic scuba diver, and my love for the underwater world led to DROWN.  Everything about the atmosphere in the depths influenced DROWN’s dream-like narrative voice and pacing, and I found myself inspired by every little thing – the way light fractured when it hit the water surface and fell on sand beds, the way octopus ink jets and stains the water in cloud formations just for a moment, the tiny popping noises in your ears during breeding season, when the water is filled with fish spawn.

Tegan: Who do you think will most enjoy your book and why?

Esther: Readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy a more literary approach to a story.

Tegan: Often, fairy tales leave readers with some kind of lesson. Do you have a particular idea or two you hope readers take away from your book?

Esther: The Little Mermaid has always been a character who gave up life as she knew it not just for a man, but for a chance at humanity.  The theme of DROWN is how precious humanity is, and how readily it is taken for granted.  I live in Europe and currently there are thousands of Syrian refugees seeking safety and a new home here.  They have crossed land and sea in perilous conditions – the old, the young, small children and newborn babies, just for a chance of belonging to a society that respects human life.  In a way, DROWN’s protagonist has motives similar to that of refugees, and she seeks safety and value in the human world.

Tegan: The cover of your book is gorgeous–eye-catching and it certain piques my interest. Who designed the cover for your book, at what levels were you involved in its design, and is there anything you want to tell readers about?

Esther: Thank you, Tegan!  It is gorgeous, and I feel very fortunate to have such a cover for my book!  Let me tell you, this design was not at all what I had in mind for DROWN, as I had very set ideas regarding all aspects of the novel!  In fact, that cover was the very last option I would consider.  However, it grew on me so rapidly, and the public’s reaction has been so positive that I’ve once again reached the conclusion that it’s best to leave such things to the professionals!  Here is a lesser-known fact that only advance readers know: the character on the cover is not at all who you think it is.

Tegan: Tell us about your journey to publication.

Esther1Esther: I sent out query emails immediately after finishing DROWN, and it was on a beach in Thailand that my little Nokia travel phone rang.  It was Holly Root of Waxman & Leavall, yes, THE powerhouse agent Holly Root, whose client list includes V. E Schwab and Rae Carson among many other bestselling authors, offering little old me representation.  I had just had another offer the day before, but after our conversation, I knew Holly was the right agent for DROWN.  Sounds easy, right?  Like a recipe for success?  Not entirely.  Then came the storm in the guise of the Big 6 publishing houses, who had difficulty placing the novel.  “The fairy tale aspect screams YA,” they said almost simultaneously, “but the writing feels so adult!”  I can confidently say that in the year 2010, there was not a Young Adult or Fantasy editor in any of the big publishing houses who had not read DROWN.  We held our breath, as we were so close to a significant book deal with a certain house we could practically smell it.

After that fell through, DROWN was rebranded from Young Adult to Adult Literary Fantasy.  We never found a publisher who wanted to take a risk on an indefinable genre and an unknown author at that point in time.  After five years of radio silence, DROWN is now being released by a baby indie press and I have never been happier.  I never, ever thought DROWN would see the light of day after what happened in New York. All I ever wanted was for people to read my writing, and now that dream is coming true.  My advice to aspiring authors is this: that the face of publishing has changed, and there is no guaranteed set path to success any more. There are many, many ways to get there. And no matter how long you have to wait, never, ever, ever give up.

Tegan: You and I connected when our books were featured together by a reader on Instagram. I think we were both instantly intrigued by the other person’s novel. I was drawn to Drown because The Little Mermaid is a longtime favorite story of mine. Also, that cover! What drew you to INCONCEIVABLE?

Esther: Tegan, I’d actually been interested in INCONCEIVABLE before that Instagram post!  Obviously that cover draws in any eye that beholds it!  But when you read the synopsis, you see there is far, far more beneath the surface than the promise of a gorgeous, frothy, whisk-me-away-from-my-real-life romance.  I think themes of woman’s reproduction and infertility being written about in mainstream fiction is the way forward.  There is a great deal of shame and an expectation for women to hold their tongues and not bring up their struggles with conception, or God forbid, miscarriage.  As someone who has experienced the latter, when I was thinking about how to respond to this question, the first thought that crossed my mind was: my friends and acquaintances will feel immediately uncomfortable reading this, seeing the word “miscarriage” and equating it with me.  And that’s what made me decide to include it.  I don’t think people truly understand the devastation of miscarriage unless they experience it themselves.  The hopes you have for that child, the bond you feel when their body flutters inside yours, and the day the flutters stop and everything becomes still.  Doctors blame you: something you ate?  Exercised too much?  Or in my case, they blamed my age.  And then everyone who knew you were pregnant begins to avoid eye contact for a little while.  It is this shame and aversion to the subject that requires more brilliant writers like you, Tegan, to include these themes into your work.  It’s so people like me can look others in the eye and say:  “That’s right, I lost my baby.  No, I am not okay.  Yes, I do want to talk about it.

Esther DalsenoEsther Dalseno was born in rural Australia, and has traveled the world writing and teaching. She lives in Berlin, Germany with her husband, daughter, and dog. She was previously published in the acclaimed short story collection, We All Need a Witness, by Pan Macmillan. Her second novel, Gabriel and the Swallows, is due for release in 2016.

All images provided by Esther Dalseno

Knights, Dragons, Turncoats: A Conversation with Author Keith Willis

traitor knight coverMeet Keith Willis. He’s into dragons, knights…you know, normal stuff like that. Keith and I first connected on Twitter last year when we were both looking to get our debut novels published. Keith’s book, TRAITOR KNIGHT, is available for purchase from Amazon as an e-book. It begins with Morgan, the main character, saving a woman from a dragon, which does not earn her gratitude. From there, Morgan goes undercover to discover the traitor who’s threatening the kingdom. It sounds like a fun take on knight tales. I’m looking forward to reading this because it’s quite different from many of the books on my to-be-read list. And if I’m anything, I’m an omnivorous reader.

Tegan: Keith, thanks for taking the time to celebrate your book’s release earlier this fall by answering a few questions.

Keith: Hi Tegen, and thanks so much for having me on your blog. Congrats on your upcoming release! For the record, I’ve already preordered my copy of INCONCEIVABLE! It comes out on November 16, which is my anniversary, and I can’t wait to read it.

Tegan: That’s so cool, and thank you for pre-ordering my book. I bought yours and look forward to reading it! You write about knights…so, are you a knight or do you play one on the weekends?

Keith: No, I’m afraid I’ve never been knighted, although I have been benighted on occasion. And, I’m sorry to report, I don’t play one on the weekends either. My weekends are generally taken up with camping and canoeing in the summer and lots of reading, writing, and Scrabble during the long NY winters.  I’ve just always been fascinated with the romantic chivalric legends—one of my early favorite books was TH White’s The Once and Future King—so I guess it was foreordained that my first novel would be about a knight.

Tegan: How did you get the idea for this book?

A Knight's HelmetKeith: The idea for the book that would eventually become Traitor Knight actually started out as just a humorous take on the traditional knight vs dragon fantasy trope. I wanted to do something a bit different, and I kept getting scene playing in my head where my knight only managed to defeat the rampaging dragon because the beast came down with a case of hiccups (l loved the notion of a hiccupping dragon, I think perhaps from too much Looney Toons in my formative years). Then I realized that the damsel in distress he managed to save was fiercely suspicious of her rescuer, although I didn’t know why at the time—just that she would have rather have been rescued by anyone else. And things snowballed from there, as my characters told me what happened. I had no notion of where things were going, or even of my characters’ backgrounds, goals or motivations when I started the story. In case you can’t guess, I don’t outline or plot things out. Definitely a pantser, all the way.

Tegan: Many of us fell in love with creative writing as children. When did you begin writing fiction?

Keith: I’ve always done a bit of writing, but the most part it was always just throw-away pieces done for the entertainment of my friends, or poems for my wife. I honestly didn’t start writing seriously until I turned 50. At that point I had the opening scene for Traitor Knight in my head, and decided ‘it’s now or never’. That if I was going to achieve my goal of having a book published, I’d best get moving and actually write the darned thing. And it really wasn’t until this point that I really felt I had the time and energy to devote to writing. And my wife was very supportive of the idea, which definitely helps. Although I try not to take too much of ‘us-time’ for writing. I tend to do my writing either early in the morning  or during my lunch breaks at work. I actually seem to get some of my best work done during that time, oddly enough.

Tegan: Do you have a professional life outside of writing? If you don’t mind, tell us about that. (I think readers are sometimes surprised to find out what some writers do for their “day job!”)

Keith: I do indeed have a professional life, also known as The Day Job. While I’d love to spend my days writing or doing something much more fun than working, those pesky bills aren’t going to pay themselves. And I don’t think my writing career is going to be at the level where it’s paying those bills, so for the time being I’ll keep working. As far as what that job entails:  I manage an eclectic group of database content editors for a global information technology firm. So after spending ten years in the banking industry and fifteen years in retail management, for the last eleven years I’ve finally been able to utilize my English degree, at least to some extent.

Tegan: Tell us about your journey to publication and what you learned along the way.

Keith: My journey to publication was a pretty long one. It took almost exactly seven  years from the time I first wrote the opening scene of Traitor Knight until the day it was released by Champagne Books this past September. It took just over a year to write the first draft (which actually was so long it ended up being two books, with Vol. 2 in revisions at the moment). Then came five years of rejection, revision, rinse, repeat.

fingers typingOver the course of my time in the Querying Trenches, I received a total of 86 rejections. The early ‘no’s’ certainly were justified—both the plot and my writing were pretty awful. My initial efforts were plagued by lots of ‘telling, not showing’, and by a lack of conflict within the story—I got my hero up a tree, but then instead of throwing rocks at him, I handed him a ladder. If everything goes the hero’s way, there’s no real conflict, no journey, and no real stakes to engage a reader.

As I gained experience and got feedback from various sources, those endless rewrites turned the story into something that began to garner more frequent requests for pages or full manuscripts. And while I still was getting rejections, now there were fewer form rejects, and more “Wow, I really like this, and wish I thought I could place it”, or “I’ve take this, but I’ve just signed someone with a very similar book.”

And then came Twitter.

When I initially engaged with Twitter, I viewed it as just another rather time-wasting social medial platform. But then I caught wind of a contest called #NewAgent. I was intrigued, and figured ‘what have I got to lose?’. I entered, and was hooked. I found a community. The writers on Twitter are amazing—supporting, sharing, encouraging, commiserating one another. I’ve met so many great friends through these contests—like yourself—who have helped me to polish my pitches and queries and pages to the point where when I entered #AdPit in September, 2014, I ended up with a publisher.

I got a favorite in that contest from Cassie Knight, who was at the time Senior Editor for Champagne Books. She requested the full manuscript on Sept. 9. While I was excited about the request, I had a number of other fulls and partials out with various agents/editors, so it was really just one more in the mix.

Then on September 30 I got a request for a promotional plan from Champagne. This sounded like it might be the real deal. I sent it in that day, and the next day I received an offer of contract. To say there was dancing in the streets would be an understatement. However, I didn’t just sign on the dotted line. I had agents reading material, and to be fair, I needed to alert them. I also wanted to have my attorney review the terms of the contract, to make sure I wasn’t giving the shop away. And finally, as this was an offer from a small press I’d never heard of, I wanted to research it.

After I signed the contract, it wasn’t all just beer and skittles. I had a lot of work to do. A clean, revised ‘final’ draft. Marketing and cover art data. In May I got my cover art (which I think is amazing), and in July I received editorial notes from Nikki Andrews, my fearless editor.

I got the ARC, with 10 days to review it for any errors. I went through it once more with my wonderful wife and proofreader, Patty, who I owe peacocks, apes, ivory and chocolate—along with all my royalties—for how hard she worked through this entire process. She was the eagled-eyed one who found things like quotation marks going in the wrong direction. Amazing.

And finally, on 9/7/15, the book was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Although if they’d been paying attention, they would have suspected.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tegan: Wow! What a journey you’ve had. Who is your target reader for this book?

Keith: I think anyone who loves The Princess Bride will enjoy my book. Actually anyone who enjoys fast-paced adventure and intrigue tinged with a dash of romance and a dollop of wit will enjoy it. And while the target market is adults, it is definitely suitable for the YA audience. In fact my wife works in a high-school library, and one of the librarians is mentioning the book in all of her orientation sessions, so in essence about 800 kids have heard about my book so far, and hopefully a few of them will read it.

paparazziTegan: How has your life changed since your book was published?

Keith: Well, I can’t say that paparazzi are stalking me or anything like that. But it is a great feeling to be able to tell people “I’ve published my first novel.” And it’s made my life a lot busier. Most authors, especially indie/small press published ones, are their own marketing department. I certainly am, and I’m constantly trying to promote it (while not being obnoxious about it). I’m donating copies, along with lots of swag, to charity auctions. I’m slated to do several book fairs in November, and I have a spot in a village Winter Market/Victorian Stroll in December. And once I actually come out in print I’ll be on tour going to libraries and bookstores in the upstate NY and New England area to do readings/signings. It’s a never ending process, it seems, and my wife has been even better about telling people about the book than I have. I couldn’t have done this whole process without her awesome support and encouragement (and proofreading).

Tegan: Any new projects in the works?

Keith: I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I just wish I had time to write ‘em all. Right now my main focus is book two of the Knights of Kilbourne series, tentatively titled DESPERATE KNIGHTS. It was essentially done, until I ended up changing TRAITOR KNIGHT so much that much of what I’d written for book two was out of sync. So now my goal is to figure how to reconcile those changes and get DESPERATE KNIGHTS finished and ready to submit to my publisher. I also have a number of short stories set in the same universe that I’m collection for a companion volume, and I have ideas and a bit of writing done on book three, working title BEWITCHED KNIGHT.  And there are other projects that I’m in process on as well, like a series of cozy mysteries. As I said, way too much going on for a guy who works full time and has a family.

Keith WillisKeith Willis, is a graduate of Berry College in Rome, Georgia, having earned his bachelor’s degree in English Literature and French. He’s a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, the Latham/Albany/Schenectady/Troy Science Fiction Association, and the Mythopoeic Society. He primarily writes fantasy/romance fiction with a side of cozy mystery.Keith’s home base is the Saratoga Springs, New York area.

Top image via Flickr by aperture_lag

Knight helmet image via Flickr by Bryn_S

Fingers typing image via Flickr by Key Foster

Paparazzi image via Flickr by Todd Huffman

Author photo provided by Keith Willis courtesy of The Daily Gazette

PitchSlam: An Important Part of My Journey to Publication

PitchSlam, the contest hosted by L.L. McKinney. It was an important moment for me and for INCONCEIVABLE. Last October, I had a stack of rejections from cold querying agents. The rejections were warranted. I’d queried too early. But with PitchSlam approaching, I made some major changes (read: improvements) to my manuscript. It was ready. I was ready.

I sent in my pitch and first 250 words. The feedback was incredibly helpful, and I worked away on my revisions, prepping for the final submission window. At the time, I was at a beach on vacation. I forgot about the gorgeous weather and the beckoning waves long enough to hammer out a pitch and first 250 words that made me proud. I submitted and waited.

Team Mutant Charm!

When the team leaders announced their picks, I was thrilled to be on Team Mutant Charm led by the talented and lovely Michelle Hauck. It was a huge break and a much-needed confidence boost. Then, the wait for agent picks began.

When Agents Like Your Pitch

cartwheelIt’s quite a head trip when you get a notification on Twitter that an agent you admire is following you. That happened twice the day the agents made their picks in last year’s PitchSlam. When all of it was said and done, I had requests for my full from three stellar agents. I also had two partial requests. It’s possible I turned a cartwheel in the front yard. It was that kind of day.

And Then You Wait

After the excitement and cartwheels, I had to wait. I wondered when the agents would read my fulls. Were they so excited about my pitch and first 250 words that they’d push my MS to the front of their stack? Well, no.

The first agent got back to me within a month and a half, a very reasonable time frame. She asked me to revise the beginning, but overall, her feedback was very positive. After two weeks of feverish re-writes involving critique partner feedback, help from a professional editor, and lots of coffee, I sent her my revised manuscript. I felt better about it. The story was much stronger. But, it wasn’t enough to convince this agent to represent me. In the kindest possible way and with the most encouraging words, she said the story still wasn’t right for her.

I kept waiting to hear from the other agents, and even sent them my revised manuscript based on the first agent’s feedback. I heard nothing. Then, I saw that the Pitchmas contest was happening in December. I read several success stories. This was enough to intrigue me. So, another writer and I said, “Why not?”

Pitchmas Success

Even though it felt like a long shot–there were SO MANY entrants!–I’m glad I entered Pitchmas with my revised manuscript. My pitch and new 250 words received multiple requests. One came from the head of an indie publisher, Curiosity Quills Press. In the end, an acquisitions editor requested my full and then offered me a publishing deal. With an offer on the table from a very reputable publisher, I asked the agents who still had my manuscript if they would like to represent me. All declined, but I signed with CQ and have never looked back.

The Moral of This PitchSlam Story

If I had not connected with the agent who offered the excellent suggestions as part of the revise and resubmit request, I doubt INCONCEIVABLE! would be on the brink of being published. What that agent asked me to do was a complete game-changer for this manuscript. Even though it still wasn’t the right manuscript for her, it was the right fit for Curiosity Quills. I hope that no matter what happens for you during PitchSlam, you find a way to use this experience to put you one step closer to improving your manuscript and making it ready for publication.

INCONCEIVABLE Cover.jpgAnd one final note. All the work I did on the PitchSlam pitch paid off. I used that as the start of my marketing materials for INCONCEIVABLE! Because now, I’m pitching my book to people who are, arguably, more important than agents: readers who will decide whether to invest their time and money in my book!

Cartwheel image via Flickr by Bitterjug

Handling Criticism: Advice for Life

There have been a couple of very important people in my professional life who taught me the importance of not giving two craps about negativity that doesn’t offer any kind of insight into how you can improve. Here are the lessons I’ve learned. I hope they help you, too.

moving truckThe “Move On” Perspective

When I worked for a media outlet, I received all kinds of email messages and phone calls critiquing everything from the pitch of my voice to the way I pronounced certain words to the way I wrote my news stories. (My favorite phone call came from a guy who swore I was saying the word “inclement” incorrectly. He insisted I needed to put the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first. Say it out loud that way. It sounds weird. For the record, both ways are correct.)

The fearless leader of our station advised me to listen to all the feedback I received, evaluate it, take anything that’s potentially helpful, and forget about the rest. What I like about this approach is that you give the other person the basic courtesy of listening to them. But the best part is possibly gleaning something useful from their critique, no matter how tactlessly it’s delivered. Taking this attitude instantly removes defensiveness. This approach allows you to view feedback as an opportunity to get better, discard anything that isn’t helpful, and move on.

shrugThe “You Can’t Please Everyone” Attitude

One time, a woman called our station. She complained to our fearless leader that we repeated some of our programming. Our leader’s response? Turn off the radio! I absolutely love this because it shows that one person’s gripe didn’t undermine our long-standing commitment to a broadcast schedule that aimed to serve our audience well and get the most bang for our programming buck. This one person’s habit of listening to the radio for hours at a time was unusual. We know from research that most people tune in and out of programs as they go through their day. So, we didn’t let this one person’s gripe cause us to change course. And I love how devoid of defensiveness the response is: don’t like what we’re doing? Go someplace else.

keytarThe “It’s Not a Commentary on You as a Person” Mentality

If someone doesn’t like your writing, your keytar playing in a field of horses, or anything else you do, remember that the critique is about that isolated thing, not you as a person. If their negative feedback is framed as a personal attack, then the problem is theirs, not yours. I’ve found the people who squawk the loudest in degrading others often have the lowest self-esteem.

Remember, you’ve accomplished something extraordinary: you’ve written a novel, composed a song, performed a role, or achieved some other feat that few others have. That, in and of itself, is enough to make you proud, regardless of what mud someone might sling at you. So, go ahead. Play the heck out of that keytar.

Top image via Flickr by xlordashx

Animated gifs via Giphy

7 Twitter Tips for Writers

Twitter is an amazing place where writers can “meet” each other, find out what’s on agents’ wishlists, and discover useful tools to improve their manuscript. Here are seven tips for writers who want to get the most out of their Twitter experience.

1. Establish and build your brand.
Whether you realize it or not, how you interact with people on Twitter, the content you share, and your profile and header images create a brand that’s attached to your name. You can create a brand that will help you sell books. So, think about your target audience. Do you expect moms to buy your book? Cultivate a following among mom bloggers by writing and sharing content that interests them. Releasing a steampunk novel? Develop a brand that attracts readers of steampunk books. Tweet about steampunk events, topics, and books.

2. Share the love.

suds heartYou don’t have to follow every person who follows you. (However, if you want to grow your followers list, you should consider following writers who follow you.) But, do be gracious in retweeting information from other writers that may interest your followers. If you write romance, occasionally share information about a romance you just finished and loved. Do the occasional retweet of a promo if you have an interesting commentary on it. Which leads to the next tip…

3. Don’t over-promote other writers.
There’s nothing worse than following someone who does a rolling retweet of other authors’ self-promos. In these instances, there’s no thoughtful reason for sharing the information. It’s like a mechanical thing of going through a list of promos and retweeting. (And yes, there are services that “contribute” tweets for you. I recommend avoiding those.) If you’re somewhat selective in what you share, your retweets will mean more. Otherwise, your followers learn to ignore you.

4. Don’t engage in too much self promotion.
Some people have likened repeated tweets about your own project to standing on a street corner and yelling into a megaphone. People walking by hear you (kind of), but there’s a really low chance they’re listening to what you have to say. Again, if you limit self promotion to two or three tweets per week at the very most, you’re less likely to alienate followers. And make sure you have something new to say. Don’t just tweet the same self promo every time.

Want to maximize exposure other writers are willing to give to your promotional tweets? Pin your best promo tweet to the top of your Twitter page. By doing that, you’re letting new followers know what’s most important to you. Many writers pin a tweet announcing they signed with an agent, got a book deal, or the link where people can buy their book. During pitch contests, pin your favorite pitch so others who want to retweet your pitch can find it easily.

5.Shorten links.

Free up characters by using a link shortening website. My favorites are bitly.com and tinyurl.com. Use the extra space to include relevant hashtags that will get your tweet in front of a targeted audience (i.e. people who are looking for tweets with a particular hashtag). I’m paranoid so I always test my tinyurl or bitly before sharing it on social media to make sure it takes me to the correct website.

6. Interact with other writers in contests.

writingI found my amazing critique partner, Hayley Stone, and two other CPs through PitchWars. I tried to engage with other writers using the hashtag a few times a day. You don’t even have to engage that often to connect with writers. Warning: once you begin tweeting on a writing contest hashtag, it’s addictive because you’ll find out how fun it is. Another warning: agents and contest judges are watching tweets on the hashtag. Don’t be a d-bag.

7. Be careful with direct messages.
That means no automatic DMs. They’re just bad form. Even a non-automatic direct message can seem annoying to another writer who just started following you. Unless you feel you simply have to send them a DM, consider tweeting at them and asking the best way to contact them. Then they can initiate a DM to share their email address.

What tips do you have for writers using Twitter?