Thursday, August 15, 2013

New novel explores Scottish--NC connection!!

I've very excited to announce that my new novel Rest and Be Thankful has just been released on Amazon by Pilrig Press!! The new press is based in Edinburgh, my hometown, and is quickly becoming a major player in the U.K. publishing industry!   

I started working on the novel around 2006, after a trip to Scotland with my mother. We'd rented a car with my aunt (nothing like the aunt in the novel, by the way!!) and had driven from Edinburgh to Ullapool, along the way getting a flat tyre and having to detour to Inverness airport where the rental company refused to pay for us to get a new tire, even though we had insurance! But it was still a great trip, especially since I had never been that far north before -- we drove past  Bridge of Orchy, and Loch Ness and all the places mentioned in the novel (except the fictional village where they meet a Norman Bates-type character!). I took notes on some scraps of paper I'd found in my backpack, and when we got back to NC, I kind of just let it all sink in.

My friend Catherine introduced me to the novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard, and I got wrapped up in the diary-type style of The Light Years. I began writing a rough draft of a novel set in Scotland, using a similar style -- the diary entries of Katy, an American 13-year-old girl who travels from North Carolina to Scotland to try to reconnect with her estranged Scottish mother. Then I added the point of view of a wacky aunt with man trouble! Over the years, I added the mother's point of view, but eventually I took it all out, except for Katy's voice, and made the story hers alone. After all, that's where it started, with Katy, and her wish to be closer to her mother. Along the way, some very nasty stuff happens... But you'll have to read the novel to find out more!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Can you afford NOT to self publish?

About two years ago, I decided to get "serious" about writing! Well, I already had my M.F.A. in creative writing, had already been in writing groups, sent out short stories to competitions, and was writing on my own time, while working and looking after my daughter. But "getting serious" meant quitting my freelance job and actually trying to get an agent for my first completed novel. I spent more than a year revising my novel, researching agents and the publishing industry, tweeting to other writers, and sending out queries. And where did it get me? ONE follow-up email from an agent, asking for a copy of my novel. That didn't lead to anything. Not to say that my novel was perfect -- I realized later I needed to change the point of view. I'm not blaming agents or publishers -- my book just wasn't ready.

But my point is, I spent a year and a half NOT working on any other writing projects because I was so busy researching and trying to get an agent. With each batch of new rejections, I would dive back into my novel, trying to figure out what was wrong. I researched genres. Was my book a mystery or a literary novel? Then, I'd send out more queries, trying out different approaches, different "hooks."  Six weeks later (or never), I'd get back more rejections. Back to the drawing board. Yes, I needed to revise my novel, but did I also need to spend countless ours searching out an agent??

Finally, my friend Lisa Logan published a collection of her short stories on Smashwords from her master's thesis. I had a master's thesis sitting on my computer, too. Along with tons of other short stories. I decided to follow her lead and publish a mini collection on Smashwords. Two years later, I've completed a draft of my second novel, published another collection of short stories on Amazon, and have just released a how-to guide with Lisa called Publishing and Selling Your Ebook on Kindle.

If you are a writer who, like me, won't feel satisfied until your books are out there to be read -- whether by 10 people or 10,000 people -- can you afford NOT to self publish? Sure, if you already have contacts in publishing and/or have the time (and money) to travel to writing conferences, networking and meeting literary agents, then traditional publishing might be the best route for you. But many of us can't do that. We have kids or a full-time job, or we can't afford to spend $300+ on a conference or take a weekend trip to New York City to hobnob with literary agents and visit publishing houses. For the typical, every-day person, self publishing might be the only viable option.

Yes, you have to spend tons of time marketing your own books, but from what I've learned, traditionally published writers are having to do that anyway. They tour, they blog, they tweet... If you only have one year to spend "getting serious" about writing -- do you spend that time trying to find an agent, or do you write? For me, now, the answer is clear -- I write.