Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Looking for Fame in All the Wrong Places

by Anne Schroeder

Wow. I’m so happy to be writing this. The event I have been working toward for the past five years is finally happening. I signed a contract with Oak Tree Press for my first historical Western novel. It has a name—Cholama Moon.

 Lucky me, right? Actually, the trail has been long and convoluted. One, I suspect, not unlike a lot of other writers.

Several years ago, I started writing and submitting short stories. I entered a few contests. Won a number of firsts, seconds and honorable mentions. Plastered my office with these atta-boys to inspire me in the dark hours.

One of the contests I entered was a San Joaquin Valley Sisters in Crime competition. I don’t write mystery, but the judge liked my story so much that she awarded it an honorary Coveted Dead Bird award.

I continued to write memoir. First, Branches on the Conejo, then Ordinary Aphrodite, about the Baby Boomer experience sans the drug, sex and rock and roll. Through it all, I wrote novels.

 If asked to define what I wrote, I would say, “I write mainstream women’s inspirational novels with
elements of romance, set in the West.” Agents' eyes would glaze over, but I had a vision.

One year I pitched a manuscript at the Mount Herman Christian Writers conference. The agent asked a fair question: Did I read Christian genre? Um, not really. Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Mary Connealy—but, then, who doesn’t? A couple of Amish romances. He was not impressed and I had to face the truth that I was never in the game.

 So, ummm, what do you write? (asked the next agent at another conference.) Well, I write women’s fiction. Ahh…(with an encouraging nod,) Romance.

Well, not exactly. That is to say, true love triumphs in the end, but my books are more than two people running towards each other, gauzy shirts flying. I write mainstream women’s inspirational fiction with elements of romance, set in the American West.

Old habits die hard. But I was starting to wonder, what is so hard about this concept?

 Because I love to read them (hmmm, where had I heard that before?) I began writing plain, old-fashioned western stories with strong female protagonists. Bingo! Historical westerns. Nothing more. Implied in the term are the things I didn’t need to say—inspiration, old-fashioned values, a ton of research, a compelling story. A boy and a girl.

Long story short, the mother of the judge who awarded me the Coveted Dead Bird award was now working for Oak Tree Press, who was (happily for me,) bringing out a line of historical westerns. I queried. She remembered my name (and the story.) She fast-tracked me through the submission process. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 But since good luck runs in threes, there’s even more!

I am a member of Women Writing the West. At one of their conferences I won an audio book contract from Books in Motion. At another conference, I entered a short story in the LAURA Short Fiction competition. A few months ago a screenwriter read it and asked for a script. We worked on it together—emailed it back and forth until it shone. Now my little short story, Last Dance, is the script that two mock production companies are developing at a film school in Santa Fe.

Suddenly all the unconnected moves I have made in the past several years turn out to be the right moves. Pretty lucky, you think? But every fiction writer has a mantra posted on their computer: “Publication is a Process, not an event.” 

Please share how your process has evolved. If only as a cautionary tale, like mine.

Read more about Anne and her writing journey on her website and her author blog.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February Member News

We have some good, prolific writers in our circle! Congratulations to all!

New Releases

Sheila MacAvoy Block recently published a short memoir, Three Years, in Stickman Review, an e-zine. It's about her experiences together as her husband Robert approached his death.

C.M. Mayo, Metaphysical Odyysey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual (Dancing Chiva, 2014) In a blend of personal essay and a rendition of deeply researched metaphysical and Mexican history that reads like a novel, award-winning writer and noted literary translator C.M. Mayo provides a rich introduction and the first translation of the secret book by Francisco I. Madero, leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico 1911-1913.


Shanna Hatfield Love at the 20-Yard Line (contemporary romance): Brody Jackson lives and breathes football as a wide receiver for an arena team. Focused on his aspirations to make the NFL, he’s blindsided by the love that intercepts his plans during the first game of the season. Possessing all the skills and talent to be the best at his game, Brody isn’t properly equipped for the playing field of romance. It’s going to take all he’s got to score a touchdown with love instead of fumbling his chance at winning one sweet girl’s heart. Successful in business but woefully inept when it comes to men, Haven Haggarty has much to learn. Coached by her outgoing cousin how to pass and receive in the game of love, Haven keeps coming up short of the goal line. Falling for the local arena football team’s handsome wide receiver, Haven realizes she needs to tackle her fears or lose a future with the man of her dreams.

Shanna Hatfield Fifty Dates with Captain Cavedweller (non-fiction relationship) Waking up one day to discover they’d gone from perpetual honeymooners to a boring, predictable couple, author Shanna Hatfield and her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller, set out on a yearlong adventure to add a little zing to their relationship. This G-rated journey through fifty of their dates provides an insightful, humorous look at the effort they made to infuse their marriage with laughter, love, and gratitude while reconnecting on a new, heartfelt level.

Susan Wittig Albert announces the Kindle publication of her book Starting Points, a collection of writing prompts for women. She created the book for Story Circle Network, the women’s writing organization she founded in 1997.


Sheila MacAvoy Block’s short story, “Blackbird”, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. That story is up on the e-zine Midway Review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Key to Indexing

by Amron Gravett

Are you a nonfiction author tasked with creating an index for your soon-to-be published book? These five FAQs will help you understand what an index is, why you need one, and help you with your next steps in the process.

1. What is an index?
“An index is a structured sequence—resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of text—of synthesized access points to all the information contained in the text. The structured arrangement of the index enables users to locate information efficiently.” (Mulvany, Indexing Books, 8). In traditional publishing, an index is found in the back of a nonfiction book. A good index is accurate, concise and provides complete coverage of the book’s information. The structure of the index is created by a coherent web of synonyms, main and subheadings, double postings, and cross-references.

2. Do I really need an index?
Absolutely. If you are publishing a nonfiction book (such as a biography, history, memoir or reference book) without an index, then your book lacks one of the most important reference and sales tools available. A nonfiction reader is looking for information. It is true that a majority of nonfiction readers will browse the index before deciding whether they want to buy the book. They will look for key ideas, persons, topics, etc., that interest them and if there is no index, they will not be able to do this and thus will reconsider buying the book.

3. Do authors index their their own books?
Ideally, no. Although the author is the expert on their topic, the indexer reads the manuscript with reader’s eyes understanding information architecture, retrieval techniques and indexing standards. An index is created using a marriage of the author’s and the reader’s language.

4. Does an indexer read the whole book?
Absolutely. A quality index cannot be created without a thorough reading. I usually do a word by word reading the first pass while I create the initial draft of the index. Then, I speed read the manuscript once or twice, during the editing phase to create the final index. This ensures that I have not missed any of the important information or connections that are made throughout the manuscript.

5. How do I find a professional indexer?
One of the best and easiest tools for locating a professional indexer is to search the American Society for Indexing, Indexer Locator. 
Other professional organizations that profile indexers include:
Editorial Freelancers Association Find a Freelancer,  
Rocky Mountain Publishing Professionals Guild Directory, Society for Technical Communication Job Bank.

Fun fact: The plural form of index is indexes, not indices. For more information, go to: 

Amron Gravett is a professional indexer, librarian, member of Women Writing the West and this year’s WILLA Coordinator for Scholarly Nonfiction. She can be found at Wild Clover Book Services or her website. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Why Book Covers are So Important

by Shanna Hatfield 

Many scoff at that adage of not judging a book by its cover, but the harsh truth is that people judge books by their covers every minute of every day.

That’s why it is so, so important for book covers to stand out from the crowd – in a good way.

First, let me state that I am not an expert on book covers. Not at all.

However, I have learned a few things in the last two years of self-publishing about book covers and thought I’d share them with you today.

Your book cover should provide, at a glance, some hint about your story. People should be able to look at your cover and see a tiny preview into the book.

If you’re writing a flowery romance that’s all sunshine and roses, you wouldn’t slap a photo of death and destruction on the cover. Likewise, if your book is a dark, suspense thriller, you wouldn’t make the cover all happy and cheery. Your cover should set the tone for the book. Similarly, it’s helpful if your cover image reflects the content of your book.

If your book is set in the mid-1800s in a western town, you wouldn’t put a photo of a skyscraper on the cover. The image should allude to the story.

The next step is one I think many people forget to take into consideration when they are choosing a book cover. Picture your cover the size of a postage stamp. That is close to the size your book appears in on-line retailers. Can readers clearly see the image? The title? Your name?

While a cover may look great filling your computer screen at full resolution, when you get it down to that tiny little size, it may lose all the important detail.

It is tempting for authors just getting started to cut costs by slapping together something for a cover. Resist that urge with every fiber of your being. If you don’t have graphic design skills or resources, hire someone who does to design your cover. You want your book cover to look professional and polished.

Avoid purchasing a popular pre-made book cover. I’ve noticed, especially during the holiday season,
you can easily find the same cover on a dozen different books in a quick look through online offerings. When a reader is browsing through sea of identical covers, there’s a strong chance they won’t choose any of the books. Stand out from the crowd with something unique. There are many talented graphic artists working for reasonable fees.

You absolutely want your book cover to be an original. Invest time, funds, or effort into making it the very best cover possible.

Your book deserves it and so do you.

Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with Captain Cavedweller, she writes clean romantic fiction with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Find Shanna’s books and follow her online: ShannaHatfield