Monday, August 29, 2016

Writers: Should You Keep Your Day Job? By Jacqueline Seewald

Should you write part-time or should you leave your day job so that you can concentrate on writing full-time? That is the question. For most people, money is a serious consideration. Fact: The average full-time writer earns very little. So keeping your day job is a no-brainer. However, you can always go into a field that requires writing skills like journalism, technical writing, business writing or advertising.
I’m officially retired. One of the benefits of retirement is that I can now indulge myself. I have time to write professionally which I was denied when I was working full-time as an English teacher and later on as an academic librarian and then an educational media specialist.
It was my husband who actually convinced me to take an early retirement so that I could start writing full-time and also spend more time with him, since he was already retired. It took me several years to decide. It was hard leaving a tenured relatively well-paying position, but I have no regrets.
     Still, writing has hardly proven to be lucrative. My very first acceptance as a “paid” novelist occurred when I initially took time off from my teaching job to be a full-time mother. The contract offer came from a publisher in New York City. I was so thrilled I actually burst into tears of joy.
My husband was even more thrilled than I was if that’s possible. He went out and told the neighbors. Then he phoned our friends and relatives.
     I had stopped working as an English teacher and was spending my time as a full-time house frau, mother of two toddlers, and part-time writer. My dream had always been to write a great novel that would be a spectacular bestseller. I started writing way back in elementary school when I won several essay contests. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to become a writer. And I thought this was the start of making that dream become a reality.
     I was delighted to learn that the novel was printed in paperback. Unfortunately, my "advance" of $500 as promised in the contract was never paid. Worse still, I soon discovered that the publisher had gone into bankruptcy. 
        My husband felt just as badly as I did. We visited the publisher's office in Manhattan. The editor-in-chief met with us.
“We’re officially out of business,” the editor explained much to my disappointment. “We have a lawsuit against the distributor, and although the books were printed, they won’t be distributed. I can offer you 50 copies of your novel though.”
My husband and I didn’t know what to say. While we waited, the editor went and got a copy of my novel and then showed us the book. It had an attractive, tasteful cover.
“I love the artwork,” I said.
“How about if I send you the original painting and include that as payment as well?”
I readily agreed. “I’d like to frame it and hang the cover art in my house.”
I did receive the copies of the novel, but not the painting of the cover as promised. By then, the publisher was gone. No point trying to contact the company again. The experience turned out to be a disappointing one overall. But I never lost my enthusiasm for communicating the written word, never gave up on writing, or trying to get my work published. There is great satisfaction in seeing one's words and ideas in print. It's a unique and special experience.
Over the years, I've enjoyed experimenting with many forms of written communications: essays, articles, novels, plays, short stories and poetry. The creation of each work is much like giving birth to a child. There is pain and also pleasure not to mention pride.
     It is not possible to get everything one writes published—nor should writers consider all their work worthy of publication. I for one am not on that kind of ego trip. I often comment that rejections keep me humble. I'm still trying to write something outstanding, still attempting to produce that best-selling novel, still hoping to be "discovered".  Truthfully, it will probably be my last thought on my deathbed.  But I could no more stop writing than I could stop breathing. I write because I can't not write. It's simply what I do and who I am.
I've had a great deal of work published since that first experience. Every time something is accepted, published and paid for, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and elation.
My retirement has given me the opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, namely become a dedicated, professional freelance writer.  
My first hard cover novel for Five Star/Gale was published June 2007. The Inferno Collection, a mystery novel, is in libraries all over the English-speaking world. It sold well enough that the publisher decided to bring the novel out in a large print edition in September 2008. I was able to use my work experience to help me write the novel.  
I had the pleasure of signing a contract with Harlequin Worldwide Mystery to publish The Inferno Collection as a paperback reprint. It is the first novel in the Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth mystery series and the fourth novel I contracted for reprint rights with Harlequin. I’ve now penned four mysteries altogether in this particular series and a number of other novels as well. THE BAD WIFE is the 4th novel in this series and is available in print and e-book form on Amazon from Perfect Crime Press.

My latest book of fiction, which is my 17th, is a new romantic mystery entitled THE INHERITANCE, now available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N Online and many other booksellers. It will be published November 1st by Intrigue Publishing.
Have I succeeded in making my dream come true? Well, I remain basically an unknown writer, and so it’s still a dream in progress, but I continue to work on it each day. I guess you could say it gives my life a sense of purpose.

As a writer, what will work best for you? I suggest holding on to your day job as it can provide you with both material for your writing as well as financial security. You might just be the one to write the next bestseller in your spare time. Who can tell? And if you are retired or simply have time to invest, think of writing that special story that is unique to you. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Interview With Author Helen Henderson by Jacqueline Seewald

I have the pleasure of interviewing Helen Henderson. She is a professional writer whose work I have read and enjoyed.

Question: What is the title and genre of your new novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer:  Hatchling’s Vengeance, my latest release, is the fourth volume in the romantic fantasy series, the Dragshi Chronicles. Naming it prevented a challenge. The first book in the series, Dragon Destiny, was never intended to be the start of a series. But the characters refused to leave. The next book was titled Hatching’s Curse, with the text chosen to reflect the goal of the dragon shifters to break the curse of childnessness. Which led to Hatchling’s Mate. Although I wanted the last book to be Dragon Something, I couldn’t find a combination of words available that I liked. Especially ones that began with the letter “d” to keep the symmetry with Dragon Destiny. I went back and reviewed the book and discovered that although it was not the original intent of the storyline, vengeance had become a prominent emotion. So the title became Hatchling’s Vengeance.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: When “the end” was typed for Hatchling’s Mate, there were several characters whose ultimate fates remained to be determined. Their paths could be sealed by vengeance or redeemed by love. It was a new approach I wanted to explore. In my other works, the bad guys, or gals, might have the upper hand for a while, but the penalty for their actions was always fatal. The dragshi must have wanted to see whether vengeance or love triumphed so they hung around for one more volume providing me with Hatchling’s Vengeance.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  It was hard for me to decide whether to talk about Talann or Glynnes. Hatchling’s Vengeance records both their journeys. Talann’s appearance reflects his heritage. His broad shoulders hold a physical strength apparent even in loose travel clothes. Like his father, he is so skilled and strong, neither dragon shifter nor true human willingly challenge him in either unarmed or armed combat. His hair is wavy and dark with amber highlights; short on the sides but kissing the collar in the back. One lock perpetually falls over his face when he's excited. Duty, honor, and protecting the innocents are the code he lives by.

Glynnes is bodyguard to Lady Lexii , one of the two children born to the dragon shifters. Unlike the custom of the land, Glynnes wears her hair short and dresses in leather rather than silk. To all but a few, she hides her true sex and is known to the world as a man, She lives by the same code as Talann and the dragshi with the additional oath to protect Lexii up to and including her own death. While Talann wins a few more of the sparring matches with the long sword, Glynnes is a better marksman than any man with a bow.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I’ve already talked about the fantasy series, the Dragshi Chronicles. Books We Love, Ltd.  released Windmaster, the first book of the Windmaster Novels, in July (2016.) Ellspeth, captain of the Sea Falcon, is determined to make her own destiny, but fate decrees she has to decide between the sea, magic... or love.

Imprisoned in Stone is a stand-alone story that marked a divergence into the darker aspects of fantasy. For the crime of healing without payment, the Brethren imprisoned Dylan’s soul in stone. Every full moon, they awakened him and renewed the bonds. When the blood dried on the stone, his awareness faded, but during those few brief moments between awakening and sleep, he had one thought--revenge. He embraced the pain of an awakening to reach out into the world beyond his stone prison. A mind touched his and hope for escape from his eternal prison soars. However, his possible savior is unaware of her latent magic, the power needed to free him.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m finalizing Windmaster Legacy, the second book in the Windmaster Novels, and First Change: Legends From the Eyrie, a companion book to the Dragshi Chronicles.First Change is a collection of novellas and short stories of duty and honor, love and loss, happiness and despair from the world of the dragshi. Unlike the Dragshi Chronicles which journal the paths of the trader girl Anastasia, Lord Branin, and his dragon soul-twin Llewlyn, the tales in First Change come from history and legend. One last iron in the fire, when the book stops fighting me, the Windmaster Novels are to continue with Windmaster Legends.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  Although it is only in recent years that my pen turned toward fiction, I have been a professional writer in one form or another for almost 30 years. My original forays into writing allowed the young me to adventure with the characters of the books I read or the television shows I watched.

My first professional writing was software code, technical documentation and user "how-to" manuals. After riding the tip of the needle that burst the bubble, I combined the technical and the general to write marketing literature for high-tech and insurance companies until those firms also disappeared.

Many, many years after the initial excursions into publication, I fell through the back door into a different kind of writing—journalism. My husband, who was the volunteer registrar for a local history museum needed an article on their stoneware collection. Photos were taken, words written, and a new career born. I wrote regularly for that publication and a dozen more for many years.

Walking a circle brings one back to the beginnings. Because I crossed from technical writing to marketing, then marketing to journalism, I refused to believe, despite being told repeatedly, that if you write non-fiction, you can't write fiction. So I picked up the pen and many years after I stopped writing adventures that took me to other lands and eras, I returned to worlds of imagination. Only this time, the fan fiction and heroic adventures would be replaced by a more professional eye and an expanded area of interest.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Be open to constructive criticism, but remember it is your vision, not a committee’s. And I encourage everyone with a story in them to write it and don’t be afraid to take the plunge towards publication.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Hatchling’s Vengeance is available now at Amazon and elsewhere. A list of all sales sites can be found at Books2Read. Excerpts for all my books can be found on my blog by clicking on the covers.
About Helen:

A former feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a coal-miner's daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of romantic fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster novels.

She enjoys exploring ancient worlds, military history, and unexplained mysteries. Work with a historic house museum and battlefield archaeology provide her with a unique insight she brings to her worlds of fantasy.

Questions and comments for Helen welcome here!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tips on Writing and Selling Short Fiction by Jacqueline Seewald

I’ve written well over a hundred short stories, most of which have sold to paying markets and some of which have also been published as reprints.

My latest short story is a dark fiction piece featured in the current issue of HYPNOS MAGAZINE, (Volume 5, Issue 1), a print anthology.

I’ve learned some things that I believe help sell fiction and which I’ll share with you.

Tip One:

There are two ways to go about this. You can write for a specific market following their guidelines and requirements or you can write the story you want to write and then look for a market that is appropriate. I suggest the latter choice--unless you are specifically invited to submit your work by an editor for a themed anthology or magazine issue.

Tip Two:

You are unlikely to sell short stories unless you’ve read a great many of them. This will give you an instinctive grasp of the genre. If you don’t enjoy reading short stories, you shouldn’t bother writing them. It will show.

Tip Three:

 Don’t assume that because short stories are brief in length that they are easy to write. In reality, it takes discipline to write a good short story and sheer brilliance to write a great one. Short stories are focused works of fiction, just as Poe explained.

Tip Four:

You need to decide the type of short fiction you intend to write. Do you love literary short stories? Try then to write one of your own. Are you into speculative fiction? Do you enjoy science fiction, horror, or fantasy? Are you a mystery writer? Read some of the best both past and present before you attempt your own.  However, be aware that each genre has its own type of content and style. Mashups are acceptable, but first know the rules of each genre before you attempt to mix them. Do the research before you start to write.

Tip Five:

Whether writing short fiction or a novel, you need to consider the basics: plot, setting, characters, and theme. Analyze how they fit together in your story. One hint: limit the number of characters to just a few so you can develop each properly.

Tip Six:

Also consider point of view. For instance, who is telling the story? Will this story work best in first or third person? Why? Is the narrator sophisticated, jaded, innocent, naïve? The style and choice of language need to reflect these considerations.

Tip Seven:

When you finish writing your story, put it away for a while and go on to another project. Wait at least one month, then reread and revise as needed. You are now the editor. You will see the need for changes and improvements.

Tip Eight:

When you are ready to submit your story for publication, carefully read the submission guidelines. You have to follow them exactly. Each market has its own unique requirements.

Tip Nine:

Avoid writing only for “exposure” if possible. There are paying markets that encourage beginners who are without publishing credits.

Tip Ten:

Don’t be afraid to try writing in more than one genre or style. The great thing about short story writing is that you can be experimental. It’s not as constrained as novel writing.

On my next blog, I’ll list detailed up-to-date information on where to find markets for short fiction.

Your thoughts and comments welcome here!