Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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Adjusting To The Paradigm Shift
Writers in the Storm would like to thank Linda O. Johnston for her gift of HOWL DEADLY, her latest release in her Pet-Sitter Mystery series.  Our lucky reader and commenter on Linda's blog on Networking and Writing Organizations is (drum roll here) Jamila Jamison.  Congratulations, Jamila.  Happy reading! And don't forget to tune in on Friday when we'll announce the winner of Michelle Diener's debut release of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT.  It's not too late to read and comment on Michelle's blog about Using Real People and Events in Fiction. And here's today's offering, Adjusting to the Paradigm Shift. By Laura Drake Writers with an ear to the ground have heard the rumble for some time -- the thunder of change, barreling toward the publishing industry like a huge herd of bulls down Wall Street. We all know it by now, but I’m constantly surprised by the speed at which it is coming. I’m a CFO, which is a glorified numbers geek. So I did a bit of informal research recently, digging through my old RWR magazines. I looked at the ‘First Sales’ listing for the past two and a half years. I arbitrarily chose the July and November issues, noted the number of titles sold, and how many were to traditional NY publishers. I thought I’d see a decrease in the percentage of sales to NY. The results stunned me. MONTH                      NY SALE/TOTAL SALES                 % OF NY SALES Nov 08                                     5/12                                                     42% Jul 09                                       5/12                                                     42% Nov 09                                     3/10                                                     30% Jul 10                                       5/13                                                     38% Nov 10                                     2/17                                                     12% Jul 11                                       2/21                                                     10% Now, we can split hair about Carina, or Dorchester, but bottom line is -- NY publisher first sales went from 42% to 10% in TWO years! I don’t know about you, but for 13 years my goal has been to hold in my hand a paperback book with my name on it. I now have to accept that this may not happen. I’ve been told by my agent (God, how I love writing that!) that the majority of debut books are coming out in ebook format. These numbers sure seem to support that. I was bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I want to sell a book. In any format. But old dreams die the hardest. I want that touchable in-my-hand book. Then I looked at the numbers again and noticed something else.  More debut books are being sold in a given month than they used to. 43% more. In TWO years! Is this shift a boon or a bane to aspiring authors? It seems to me to be two sides of the same coin. Heads or tails? I think it depends on your dreams, and how open you are to changing them. What is your dream? Are you setting your sights on a "Big Six" publisher, an indie press or self-publising? Do you feel energized or let down by the paradigm shift I'm describing? We'd love to hear all your thoughts on this! REMINDER: Writers In The Storm is on Facebook. Please stop by our Facebook Page and give us a quick "Like" if you have time. We appreciate it. :-)
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Crafting Handmade Cards
by Fae Rowen Before I get started, I want to remind you that on Wednesday we'll be announcing the winner of Linda O. Johnston's latest book in her Pet-Sitter Mystery series, HOWL DEADLY.  Good luck to all those who commented on her Networking and Writing Organizations  blog last week. On Friday we'll announce the winner of Michelle Diener's debut book, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, from the readers who commented on her blog Using Real People and Events in Fiction.  It's not too late to read her blog if you missed it and make a comment.  Good luck! I don't consider myself artistic in any way, but I started making greeting cards years (okay, decades) ago.  My friend, Dee Gruenig, gave me my first rubber stamp and taught me how to use it.  Well, her career in the rubber stamping industry rocketed, and I acquired more stamps and techniques. Now I have one bedroom devoted to nothing but my card making supplies.  And it's filled to overflowing.  My cards have evolved from simple, rubber stamped images to embossed, glittered, feathered, ribboned creations that are a joy to make. But my real joy comes from giving my cards away--as birthday, get well, and special occasion messages to my friends--and as gift packs.  I often donate a pack of cards to organizations I belong to as a door prize or raffle item. One time a pack of ten of my cards earned $100 for Hurricane Katrina relief.  That made me quite happy.  Another time I visited a professor to whom I had given a card three years before.  That card was displayed on his credenza.  More warm fuzzies. These days everyone who receives a card tells me I should sell them.  I certainly make more cards than I can use or give away and still appear sane.  But I worry that selling them would make card-making seem like a job. You crafters out there know that you never get paid for the time you spend making your art.  Then there is the trouble of actually selling them--to a boutique, at a table at a farmer's market or swap meet, or online.  That's the daunting part for me.  And it would take time away from my writing. However, I could use that money to buy even more feathers, Swarovski crystals, interesting cardstock and envelopes.  And more people would be able to enjoy them.  I feel like those commercials with a person on each shoulder, whispering into my ear. I guess it's a little like putting your writing out there and hoping someone--or many someones--will pay the money to buy what you've carefully, lovingly  crafted.  Yep, I'm the one that Laura, Jen and Sharla tease and say, "What?  Are you waiting for someone to come to your door and ask to buy your book?" Maybe it's time to put my cards and my writing out there and see what happens. What do you think?  Spread the joy and deal with the hassles of selling and distribution, or continue as I have been?  (Change can be scary.)  Would you pay $5 for a handmade card with no catchy poem inside?  (Heck, you're writers, you can make up great lines to personalize a card!) Next week--Part 2 of Crafting Handmade Cards:  The Process
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Using Real People and Events in Fiction - Michelle Diener
Our Sensational Summer Friday guest today is a true world traveler – she was born in London, was raised in KwaZula Natal, South Africa, and she now lives in Australia.  Laura Drake knows Michelle Diener through her RWA-WF (Women's Fiction) chapter, where Michelle is the VP of Communications. The title sounds vague, but in an online chapter, this is a huge job! You can learn more about Michelle at her group blog, Magical Musings. Her debut book comes out on Tuesday of next week, and no one is more excited about her debut release than we are! Michelle has generously offered to give one lucky commenter a copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT. We'll announce the winner on Monday's post. Be sure to leave Michelle a comment!

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Firstly, thank you so much to Laura for inviting me to visit and guest blog today at Writers in the Storm! I can hear you now. You are shouting, "No! Don't do it!" Fortunately, the people I'm talking about have been dead for nearly 500 years and won't be calling me to account any time soon. Nevertheless, there are still issues with using historical figures in your work or weaving your story around events that happened. This week the first book in my Tudor-set series, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, is being launched into the world, and it contains mostly real people and a number of real events, so I know a bit about the issues involved. When I first came across a reference to my main character, Susanna Horenbout, in a work of historical non-fiction, I was fascinated by her. She was trained as an artist by her father, one of the most eminent illuminators and painters of his day, and praised by numerous Renaissance master painters as exceptionally talented. Susanna was sent to the court of Henry VIII when she was around 22 years old, presumably to work for Henry as a court painter, but very little is known of what she did for him. The plot of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT came to me very clearly as I delved deeper into the facts known about Susanna and the events of the time in which she would have been sent to the Tudor court. But I was nervous. How much leeway could I take with a character who is based on a real person? What I had to get my mind around was that as a work of fiction, I didn't actually have any restraints, other than the ones I chose to put on myself. And so I decided to use every fact I could find, and every event of that time, and make my story fit around them. For me, that made the story more satisfying.  While it may have been harder to do than if I decided to 'loosely interpret' both the character and the historical period, it was worth the trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I love novels that play fast and loose with history just as much, but I wanted a gritter, more realistic feel. The thing is, when you take the 'faithful to history' tack, you have to be sure you have been faithful to history. That means research. And more research. I'm almost paranoid about my facts, and I quadruple check them. I've probably still missed things, but I like to think I've done as much as possible to make sure I haven't. One good thing about my two main characters is that while there is some information on them, there isn't a lot. I had some broad strokes to work with, but I had an incredible amount of leeway, too. With a more famous character, like Henry VIII, it is a lot harder to play around with him as a character.  An even bigger burden is reader expectations. If your readers know a historical figure or event, either from common knowledge or study, they will have a perception of it that is not necessarily your perception. Writing Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette or Napoleon, for example, you will come up with a great deal of resistance if you break from the norm as far as character or motivation goes, whereas I'm the first fiction writer to have a book with Susanna Horenbout in it in any form, let alone as a main character, as far as I'm aware (there are obviously non-fiction references to her). That gives me the chance to create her as I want, without the weight of public knowledge exerting any force on my creation. I found using real characters and events satisfying, challenging and the hardest work I'd done up until then when I wrote IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, and I've done it again with a sequel, KEEPER OF THE KING'S SECRETS, which is out in February 2012 ( I've just seen the cover, which is gorgeous!). I have a copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT to give away to one lucky commenter (US residents only, unfortunately!), and I'd love to know if you've written a book which covers a real event, either contemporary or historical, or uses a real person, and how you found the process. ~Michelle Diener Michelle lives in Australia with her husband and two children. She's worked as an editor, a publisher, managed a small IT business, and now writes full time. Her debut historical novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, is due out with Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books on August 9th, and the second book in the series, KEEPER OF THE KING'S SECRETS, is due for an early 2012 release. You can find out more about her at her website and her group blog, Magical Musings. Or follow her on Twitter and Facebook. About IN A TREACHEROUS COURT: Henry VIII’s most lethal courtier and his newly appointed artist become the only thing keeping him on the throne – and if they survive, neither will ever be the same. John Parker is one of Henry VIII most useful courtiers — utterly merciless and completely loyal. But one small favour for his King will pull Parker into a deadly plot against the throne, one that will test his courage, his resolve, and most especially, his heart. A commission from Henry VIII should have been the crowning achievement of Susanna Horenbout’s career, but before the beautiful and talented artist even sets foot in England, she finds herself in possession of a secret that could change its history. With Parker as her only protection against killers who will stop at nothing to silence her, Susanna has to trust the dangerous, enigmatic courtier. She’s used to fighting in a man’s world, but she never expected to be fighting for her life. What people are saying about IN A TREACHEROUS COURT? •  "IN A TREACHEROUS COURT is an action-adventure-mystery-historical that grabs the reader on page one and doesn't let go. It reminds me of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in the way it captures the 'feel' of Tudor England, moving with equal aplomb from royal palace to refuse-clogged London street to leaky rowboat on the Thames."  Kate Emerson www.kateemersonhistoricals.com, author of BY ROYAL DECREE: Secrets of the Tudor Court. •  "Awesome! History woven flawlessly into riveting fiction." Tammy J. Schneider, Special Features Editor and book reviewer at "Affaire de Coeur" magazine •  "Just when readers think there is nothing new to be learned about Henry VIII, debut author Diener delivers a taut suspense . . . that will keep you turning the pages." Kathe Robin, 4 star review in RT Magazine August 2011 issue.
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