Putting yourself out there by Candi Wall

September 26, 2011



OH! Super cool update! Laura Bradford confirmed she’ll be here for our November Agent Shop since

gremlins messed with our last run of e-mails and this Agent Shop was cancelled. She’s a stellar lady peeps!

“This is wonderful. I could feel everything your character was experiencing!”

“You’ve got a strong voice and the writing was sublime…”

Oh, yeah. You all know what I’m talking about. The big grin, the heart thumping that goes along with opening your e-mail, contest scores, comment section, twitter, or whatever venue you use to put your writing out there, and reading something like that!

It’s like CRACK!

More, more! Gimme more!

‘Course, the negative comments can be just as intense .

“You really should pick an author you like and try to emulate them.”

“Your characters felt cardboard to me, and your villain was nothing more than a cliché device to throw in some failed tension.”

Kill me now!


Okay, so it’s not that bad. As with everything, we have to take any and all comments with a grain or bucket of salt.

As writers, we’re going to come across every personality, like, dislike, good day, bad day, that our readers have. We’re going to be held high by a reader that just adored everything we put into words, and we’re going to be knocked so low, getting back up will be a Herculean task.

Color me a glutton…

But I’ll probably keep putting my work out there, through contests, groups, sharing sites and of course my Beta readers and Crit partners.

Wanna know why?

Simple. Feedback, friendship and the chance at winning!

And believe it or not, that’s the order of importance I take when I enter any contest. Feedback is gold.

As most of us do, I started this journey alone. Through contests, writing groups, and networking, I’ve found the most amazing people and am lucky to have them. I don’t believe for a moment that without them, I would be as far as I am today. And that in itself is enough reason for me to feel justified in encouraging any writer, at any stage of their craft, to get out there, take a chance, let others see what you write and learn what you can from what you get for feedback.

Soak it up like a sponge, retain what you need, and let the rest evaporate.

I took my first tentative steps into networking waters by joining Charlotte Dillon’s Romance Writers Community. Best choice I ever made. That’s where I met Jenn, Marie-Claude and John. I took a chance, they took a chance, and we found a solid foundation of friends to share our journey with. That friendship and professional connection remains today!

Marie-Claude stepped WAY out of her comfort zone and entered Dorchester’s American Title V contest and WON! But if you ask her, she met and remains friends with numerous other writers to this day, and that’s something even winning can’t compare with.

My first public contest was Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. It was hell. Pure and simple. Vote tarting sucks, that’s all there is to it. There was some back biting, some down voting, oh – it was tough, but again, out of the great, not-so-great, and sometimes questionable comments, I gained a group of ladies as my friends, all of whom will give it to me straight when I’m doing well, or writing crap.

‘Kinda makes you feel all mushy inside, don’t it?

Yeah, me too.

So I’m on to my next contest.

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest

I’ve met one stellar writer already, and I know she’ll be a friend way past this contest. I’ve read some great entries, left what I hope are seen as constructive comments and gained some as well. I’ve been down voted too, and it’s still early in the competition. but I’m looking forward to it just the same, because regardless of the outcome, I’m coming out of it a winner. Either with feedback, friends or (fingers crossed) a win.

New Voices is open to any writer who hasn’t been published. the deadline is Oct. 10th, so swing in and enter!

So, have any contest experiences you can share, good or bad? I’d love to hear about them.


Bon Voyage, Kemosabe

June 22, 2011

Song of the Day: Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish

And so it is upon us. I’ll be flying out to New York this weekend for the RWA conference.

The final touches are being applied. I’ve done my OCD thing making lists of what I will wear each day and night, including jewelry and shoes. My agenda for the week has been printed. My iPod is charged. The camera has been cleared for the gazillion pictures I’ll take. A new notebook for those novellas I plan to write in my down time (hahaha) is ready to be packed. And I’ve dug out all my pins to wear on my name badge.

Just a few days ago, I finally found a pair of sparkly, sexy high heels to wear with my cocktail dress for the awards ceremony. Since I’ve lost some weight, I’ll be rockin’ this outfit. Hubby seems to think I’m going to pick up men. Never mind that 95% of the attendees will be female.

Yep. Other than the carefully stuffing the suitcases for minimal wrinkle-age, I’m ready to go. So I’m thinking, what will my goal for this conference be?

Network, leadership seminar, retreats, workshops, sightsee, dinner with my Ruby-Slippered Sisters, attend parties, these are the given activities. Yet, this year will be different in other ways.

My ear will be to the ground listening, like Tonto, for the stirrings of the industry. Over the rise, there cometh a change. Self-publishing is whipping in the wind and causing quite a ruckus. Is it a manifest destiny of sorts? I don’t know, but the publishing industry and related organizations will need to assimilate and grow with the digital shift sooner or later.

I’ll also be interested in the value, means, and insight on marketing a self-published book with other conference attendees.

I can’t wait to share with you what I will learn.

Melissa Ohnoutka- Self Published And Lived To Tell About It

May 5, 2011

By: Stacey Purcell

And by the way, everything in life is writable about, if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

I enjoyed Jennifer’s article last week on what it took to prepare for jumping in the waters of self publishing. It made me curious about the actual jumping and what happens after the first splash. What is it really like to try and pull together your manuscript, your baby, and put it out there on the internet? Did you truly edit as much as you could? Did you choose the right font? Can you survive formatting hell? Will you have the fortitude to weather bad reviews? The questions go on and on. So many, my head starts to spin.

My very good friend, Melissa Ohnoutka, has just published her first novel. After much deliberation, she decided to retain all of the control and launch it herself. Faithful Deceptions hit the internet mid February and soon became a top seller on Amazon. I decided to pick her brain about the nitty gritty of this monumental decision and a two part post was born!

Melissa Ohnoutka

Thanks so much for having me today!  This has been one wild and crazy ride, but the support and encouragement from family, friends and the writing community has been unbelievable. 

When did you decide to self-publish? 

Melissa:  I’ve been thinking about going Indie for a long time. After reading Joe Konrath’s blog and his take on traditional vs self publishing, I decided to quit stalling and give it a shot. The “what if’s” were just too loud to ignore.


Did you query agents and editors before taking this route?


Melissa:  Yes. I feel like I paid my dues and did my time on the query-go-around.  I entered contests for feedback, revised and polished until I couldn’t see straight anymore, attended conferences, had several requests for partial and full manuscripts and it was always the same outcome.  Some loved my stories and writing and others just didn’t get it. The self-publishing route seemed like the next step for me.  I’m a bit of a control freak anyway.  Having so much say over important decisions like my cover, the page count, the release date, promotion and the direction I want my writing career to take really sweetened the deal for me.

Would you ever consider going with a traditional publisher now?


Melissa:  It would depend on the contract.  I would never give up e-book rights now that I know I can do a lot of this on my own and what a huge opportunity it is.  A wise friend (wink, wink) made an excellent point the other day.  The traditional publishing route would be an excellent marking tool. J


Is there something you learned along the way that you would do different now? 

Melissa:  That’s a big Yes. I would have started making my presence known a lot sooner and researched in great detail the marketing options available.  I’m finding the marketing to be a huge learning curve. But it’s one of the most important aspects of the publishing industry and can’t be ignored.  People can’t buy what they can’t find.


I also plan to give myself more time for the formatting and designing book covers.  This part is very time consuming and you must know what you’re doing.  There is no learn-as- you go option.

Looking back now, are you pleased with your decision? 


Melissa:  Oh, yes. It’s working out better than I ever imagined. I have only two regrets.  That I  didn’t do it sooner.  And that I didn’t have more than one of my manuscripts ready for distribution.  I’ve read the magic number for this publishing game is 6 months and 3 books.  That’s where I am now.  Working my tail off to polish up the next two books and get them out there.

What would you like your readers to know about you? Any advice you’d like to offer?

Melissa:  I love my family and friends with all my heart. That one was easy. J Hmmm…what else?  My favorite color is red. I love a great belly-laugh, you know the ones that make you cry. Oh, and I enjoy shooting my Px4 Storm 9mm way too much. LOL


For advice:  Take those risks and “Never” be afraid to Dream!


This was so much fun! I’m going to give away one free e-book copy of “Faithful Deceptions” along with a $10.00 Amazon Gift card, so one lucky commenter can buy more books! It’s a “thank you” for stopping in to say hello.

For more information About Melissa and her books, please visit:



Direct Links to buy her books:

Amazon – Kindle  http://www.amazon.com/Faithful-Deceptions-ebook/dp/B004OL2JAK

Barnes & Noble – Nook   http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Faithful-Deceptions/Melissa-Ohnoutka/e/2940012197153/?itm=1&USRI=melissa+ohnoutka

Tracking Word Counts Made Easy

February 2, 2011

Song of the Day: Firework by Katy Perry

Writers know that there is great satisfaction in meeting and exceeding word count goals. It’s an accomplishment, no matter how big or small, that makes us feel good about our progress. Every word is one more word than the last and brings us closer to the manuscript’s final words ‘the end’.

When participating in challenges such as the madness of NaNoWriMo or The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival, word count benchmarks are essential. An author can waste time figuring up how far they’ve come or how far they’ve got to go.

That’s one reason I enjoy using tools that help me keep track of my progress visually. My choice of tracking device is called Write Track, created by fellow writing daredevil, David Gale. The Write Track is a tracking system custom fit to any author’s need. The writer creates a pre-planned schedule based on their current goals, even as those goals fluctuate. This super easy program has a bar graph to show progress and a calendar which breaks up word counts for each day of the schedule.

Jenn - I would love nothing more than for you to accompany me to my next movie premier. 🙂

Let’s use the Rubies’ Winter Writing Festival as an example. I proposed that I would write 500 words everyday of the challenge. That’s 17,500 words total. Each calendar day will show my goal to be set at 500 words. If I write 1000 words instead of the target 500 words, the calendar adjusts my minimum word count goals lower for the remaining days left in the challenge and I watch my graph grow.

But wait! What if I don’t meet my word count goal? Life happens. The washing machine breaks and a whole day is wasted cleaning up and waiting on the plumber. Or a child gets the flu. Or the MIL makes a surprise visit. Or you have a blog (wink, wink) Poof! The day is gone. The word count is ka-put. No worries, my time-impaired friend. The Write Track calendar will readjust the minimum word count, spreading it out over the rest of the challenge to meet your targeted goal. How cool is that?

Plus, you can give each day a weight. Say Gerard Butler has asked me to be his date for a fancy-smancy movie premier in Cannes next Saturday. (Shh – Let’s not tell DH about this fantasy.) I’ll not be meeting my word count that day. (A girl can dream, right?) Instead of writing 100% of my word count for Saturday, I can give that day a weight of 0%. If I know in advance certain days will not receive my full attention, I can assign those days a weight of 25%, 50%, 75%, or whatever. The tracker will adjust the word count totals for the rest of the calendar accordingly. This makes managing goals guilt-free when daily objectives are not met.

The bottom line? The Write Track can be tailor made for any author. Whether for compulsive writing challenges or maintaining a steady pace on a WIP, a tool that tallies your word count progress can make reaching goals easier and more gratifying.

Hop on over, explore the sight, and give it a shot.

Writer Resolutions – This is Your Year!

January 5, 2011

Song of the day: Are you Ready? by Creed

Happy New Year!

Here it is, 2011.

And I bet you have made resolutions. You will change your life, for the better, I assume. I doubt most people resolve to max out their credit cards or get 20 to life in the state penitentiary. I say most because I know some people might see risky living as a challenge. I’ve come across a few throughout the years.

But I digress.

It’s a time we clean out the clutter and enjoy quality time with family and friends. We will exercise more, eat less. Spend less, save more. Break a bad habit, or two, or three. Yessiree, that’s the plan. And this time we will stick to our promises. No, really.

Have you made resolutions for the author in you? Your goals for your writing life are important, too, and should be interwoven into your healthy, shiny new lifestyle. The following are some 2011 writer pledges to consider.

  • Create a balance between your demands and responsibilities as a spouse/parent/student/employee with your writer life. Carve out time to be the author that you are.
  • Finish that book. Make this a priority. No more fooling around! Yes – I’m looking at you!
  • Those voices won’t go away until you start that new manuscript.
  • Query an agent/editor. Easier said than done, I know, but a goal worth reaching for.
  • Pull on your big girl, or boy, panties and grow a thick hide. How? Join a critique group.
  • Dip your toes in the World Wide Web. Create a website. Let yourself be known!
  • Network, network, network.  Social media like Facebook, blogs and Yahoo groups make it easier than ever.
  • Buy a new [insert electronic need/want]. Bonus. Write it off on your taxes.
  • Spread your wings, my friend! Try your hand at a different genre.
  • Enter a contest. You can’t win and get in front of that editor/agent if you don’t enter.
  • You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn by judging a contest. Plus you’ll feel warm and fuzzy for helping your peers.
  • Go to a writer’s conference. Just think of all you’ll learn and the new friends you’ll make!
  • And because we never stop learning, take a class.
  • Whether expected by an editor/agent or self-imposed, make those deadlines. No excuses.
  • Clean your writing space. Good grief! Just where is your desk?
  • Pimp your fellow writers and write a book review.
  • Volunteer! The old saying ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ holds a lot of merit.
  • Participate in writing challenges. Try the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival. Yes – I am plugging my fellow Rubies and our up-coming challenge to help you with your writing productivity. You set your own goals to meet your writing style and needs. Check it out. The Winter Writing Festival starts January 10th and the new website goes live in a couple of days.

I’m sure some of these suggestions will be just as hard if not harder than losing those pesky 20 lbs. Heck, you may even kick that smoking/drinking/gambling habit of yours first. I dare you to write down your resolutions and STICK TO THEM! Come on. We’ll do it together.

My resolutions, besides the losing weight, saving money, yadda, yadda, yadda, include finishing my third novel, querying more agents/editors, and update my website. I have many other writer-ly goals in mind, too. But these are my focus for the beginning of 2011.

Do you have any writer resolutions you’d like to share? How do you see your success for this year? I’d love to hear from you.

Even Grandma’s perfect sauce needs to simmer!

April 11, 2010


You have the recipe.

You have all the ingredients.

You have the skills to put together a brilliant, palatable concoction that is sure to delight the masses.

You blend, sift, stir, and shape until each ingredient mixes together perfectly and your senses are alive with what you’ve created.

Surely it can’t get any better…


Ever watched your Grandmother work over a stew or spaghetti sauce ALL DAY LONG. Jeez, it’d be sooooo much easier just to pop open a jar of Ragu. Instant dinner!

But compare the two.

Grandma’s sauce melts your taste buds. The perfect balance of tang and spice. The perfect consistency, with just enough texture to make it fulfilling. There’s a mixture of herbs and that delight and tease the senses both in aroma and the beautiful contrast of the sauce over noodles.


Ragu looks thin, limp, and bland over the noodles and the taste, well, let’s just say in a pinch it’ll do, but nothing we’d choose at a restaurant were we laying out our hard-earned cash for a promise of delight.

*Guess what?*

We could all learn a lesson from Grandma’s sauce, or rather from Grandma’s knowledge, that a masterpiece does not happen by recipe alone.

It has to simmer.

In the writing world, where we’re constantly driving one another to meet goals, write everyday, try new genres, try prompts, and workshops and critique groups… well, you get the point. In that world of write, write, write, edit, edit, edit, there’s a place to take a break as well.


As soon as you thump out THE END. Okay, so that might not be the exact time. But you’ll know it. Usually around the end of the first edit, as much as you love your baby, you need to take a break from it. You’ve written it, edited (in your own formula) and now it’s time to set it aside.

Don’t stop writing, certainly not. But set THAT manuscript aside and get back to writing. Time to do one of the numerous things we as writers do to keep the pen/keys moving.

While you play with new ideas, and go to conferences and meetings, while you crit someones work, or start a new WIP, whatever it is you find to fill the empty time, leave that manuscript alone. Two weeks – great. Three weeks – even better. Don’t let it simmer until it burns, just long enough to take a taste and see what spice needs to be added.

You’ll be amazed at what you created when you go back to it. Probably as much forehead slapping moments as sighs of satisfaction, but that’s the idea. Ever let a book sit in a folder/box for three months? It catches your eye, and you can’t resist taking a peek. You open it and start to read. Five, ten, thirty pages in, you’re either saying “wow, I forgot this was so good”, or “goodness what was I thinking”.

Same thing will apply to that manuscript you set aside. When you go back, you’ll be able to see it and all its issues/miracles with new eyes. Of course, you should leave the miracles you penned and clean up the stuff you knew better than to write in the first place.

Like Grandma’s sauce, your senses are on overload from the creation of the sauce.

Once it simmers, you can easily see what’s missing.

Okay, now I’m hungry!

Do you let your work simmer between edits?


April 13, 2009

I went to my high school reunion in Charlotte, N.C. this weekend. (None of us graduated in N.C. however. We were overseas for highschool, so N.C. was just a convenient meeting place, since going back to Germany wasn’t possible. LOL.) What a blast to see people I haven’t seen in eighteen plus years. So much, and yet so little, had changed. Being army brats overseas forged a huge connection for us all, and even if  a lot of time has passed in between reconnecting, we all sat down together and talked as though it were only yesterday when we last spoke. To my friends – my MAHS pals – can’t wait to see you all again!

Nothing ever goes as planned does it? You know that saying, ” Bad things come in threes.” ? Well, is it possible that if you have one really bad thing happen – it’ll wipe out the other two coming???? Here’s to hoping!

Life Happens…

I’ll get to it later… I have to do this first… The kids need… The spouse needs… Charity needs…
My writing group needs… The car broke down… Kids are sick… Friend in trouble…

I’m certain any one of us could continue on with this list of reasons we don’t meet our writing goals from time to time. Sometimes, there isn’t even a reason other than your muse has gone on vacation without you. These are the disruptions we all face in the daily grind, whether we’re writing, revising, trying to meet deadlines or plotting our next story. And we weather the bumps in the road, face the days and move on until we can get back into the flow of things.

But what about those major issues that come up?

How in the world are we supposed to keep writing or find the time to let our mind be creative when something in our lives is taking all our focus, all our attention? And how are we supposed to maintain our ‘special voice’ when we’re so angry/sad/shocked/tired?

It’s inevitable that something BIG will happen in a writer’s career.

The big question is how to handle it.

1. Allow yourself to go without writing – guilt free. It may feel like you are letting yourself and others down by closing the laptop or the notebook, but trying to write while your heart and mind are uneasy is as difficult as it gets. Sometimes taking that day or two NOT to focus on writing makes it easier to get back to it when you are ready.

2. Allow yourself to write – guilt free. No I don’t have some sort of contradictory disorder. I just mean that sometimes, writing can be an escape from the troubles surrounding us. If your mind wanders to a story, an idea, a place and time other than the one you’re in – take the time to write it down, even if it’s on a napkin. It will make you feel better to lose yourself even briefly and give that much needed boost you’ll need to keep trudging through the tribulations at hand.

3. Write when you can and if you can. Doesn’t have to be on your WIP. It can be as simple as a poem, a funny little thought, a tribute to someone in your life, even a story you and your child make up. It’ll keep your mind sharp and ready for when you want to sit to work.

4. Get into the minds of those around you. Looking at your situation or the problem at hand – from others perspective not only helps you understand the situation better and everyone else’s views, it’s a wonderful learning tool for future character action/reaction/motivation. And let’s face it, during any stressful situation, we can all use a distraction no matter how minute it may be.

5. Keep yourself healthy. Eat, sleep, and do something physical. But not just your body needs to be healthy. Your mind as well. Find peace inside yourself a couple times a day – no matter how brief. Sadness, anger, resentment – any negative emotion – is toxic. It’s a bit like poison and it can keep you down. Letting the stress go and focusing on something positive each day can help you cope in hard times.

6. Share. Share your burden. Let others be the strong one. Let others help. There’s nothing noble in taking the weight of the world on your shoulders when it’s just too much to hold. Let others be there for you. There’s no doubt at some point, you’ll be able to return the favor.

And remember – if you do write during a period when you are dealing with major problems – make sure you go back and check what you wrote. Our minds are funny things and the feelings we have inside of us can show up on the paper/screen. Your story can take on a darker tone or a sad tone – any tone – without you even realizing it because your mind is venting as well and you want to make sure one of chars doesn’t do something out of character – just because you were out of character at the time.

Any other suggestions? Let us know your thoughts.