Guest Post: Seumas Gallacher

…if yeez can HEAR yer writing, yer on the right (sound) track…

…a true story I heard a few years ago concerned a six-year-old girl appearing as a key witness for the defence in a court case in the USA… the prosecuting lawyer sought to demonstrate to the jury that the child was incapable of recognizing fact from fantasy… he asked if the girl had a pet dog, to which she answered ‘yes’… he asked the dog’s name… she said ‘Pongo’… he continued, ‘do you speak to Pongo?’… she replied, ‘yes’… then he said , ‘…and does Pongo talk to you?’… she responded, ‘yes, of course Pongo talks to me’… the lawyer smirked, pleased to have shown the young lady as living in fantasy land… he asked the follow-up question, ‘…and just what does Pongo talk to you about?…’ she floored him and brought the court to a standstill in mirth with her response… ‘well, I don’t know, silly, he talks doggy talk!’…  the defence prospered… y’see it’s all about what yeez hear when yeez write, and more importantly, what yer readers hear when they read yer masterpieces… dialogue is universally accepted as a multi-purpose element of any quill-scraper’s craft… it imparts information… it breaks up narrative passage when required… the choice of WURDS in the character dialogue, used properly, tells the reader about mood, attitude, sometimes even intelligence levels of the cast… a sometimes welcome ploy is to use dialogue to break grammatical rules… and what author doesn’t relish that?… anything written within quotation marks is fair play… vernacular, double negatives, ‘plants’ in the plot for later denouement… oh, dialogue ye make the WURLD the scribbler’s oyster… speech also helps to differentiate players in yer plots… even without the ascription of ‘said’ WURDS… readers can pick up immediately who’s talking, and to whom… so, next time sumb’dy asks yeez, ‘…do yer characters talk?’  yeez can say, ‘…of course they do, they talk character talk, silly…’ … no more need be said… a-hem…

Books by Seumas Gallacher
Books by Seumas Gallacher

 

Blog                : seumasgallacher.com

Twitter                        : @seumasgallacher

Facebook         : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher

Email               : seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

Cover Reveal! “Secret Agent of God”

Available soon on Amazon.com and in a bookstore near you!

Secret Agent of God
Secret Agent of God
Secret Agent of God
Secret Agent of God

http://www.eileenslovak.com

https://www.facebook.com/authoreileenslovak

https://twitter.com/EileenSlovak

New Release! “Secret Agent of God”

Hello All!

To my followers…Thank You! Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I’ve busy, busy working on publishing my first novel…”Secret Agent of God”, which will be available on Amazon very soon! Here is a brief description compliments of http://www.createspace.com:

Janice Morrison has a special gift, even if it sometimes feels more like a punishment. She has prophetic visions, an ability that makes her very valuable to certain people.

Just how valuable becomes clear when a terrorist cell kidnaps Janice on her way to her daughter’s daycare. The leader of the cell─a suave, dangerous man Janice nicknames English─believes he can use Janice’s ability to time successful terrorist attacks. To coerce the frightened but defiant woman, English threatens to harm Janice’s friends and family.

What follows is a tense game of wits between captive and captor, as Janice attempts to avoid contributing to a terrorist attack on US soil while keeping friends and family safe.

The dangerous world of terrorism and the paranormal blend in a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller. Janice’s visions will have horrific consequences unless she learns to be a Secret Agent of God.

More to follow! Thanks for your interest.

Twitter: @EileenSlovak

Facebook: https://t.co/Ln3h2IGQaO

Smashwords: http://t.co/EuNqFdvzUz

Resolvedly Unresolved

Take 0,1,2,3 rearrange = 2013

Ah, a crisp, unwrinkled New Year…so what’s the plan?  All over the globe people are pledging their resolutions for 2013, well, not me.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to fix, it’s just that I cannot see the point in making a bunch of empty promises to myself and to others.

Instead, I’ll do what I do every year and focus on unlocking the key to all of my unresolved issues, like starting new projects before completing the old ones.  Sound familiar?  At the same, I’ll try to give myself some credit for the issues I did manage to resolve in 2012.

For the sake of this exercise, I’ll explore my writing life as it parallels all other aspects of my personal life.

Unresolved:

I begin new Novels before completing the old ones.

  • Novel #1 in a perpetual state of semi completion and ‘limbo status’ because I think it needs another rewrite but am so sick of looking at it that it now rests in a cozy “cyber draw”.
  • Novel #2, definitely better than #1 and considerably less narcissistic and entertaining; 80% done for several months now; blaming rest of life for this fact.
  • Novel #3, an excellent first chapter and outline complete.
  • Novel #4, a few characters studies done and plot all in my head.
  • Novel #5, the best idea I have ever had, just thought of it this morning and cannot wait to get started!

Hmmm…okay, what did I do right?

Resolved Issues: 

In order to resolve my writing fears and issues, I came out of the writing closet and:

  • Joined a writers group and religiously attended until the rest of my life got in the way.
  • Attended a writer’s conference and followed some of the advice I gleaned during attendance until the rest of my life got in the way.
  • Started a weekly blog, actually wrote every week, until the rest of my life got in the way. My blog site
  • Created an Author Website and updated it regularly before the rest of my life got in the way. My Author Webpage
  • Started a twitter account and consistently kept up with it, but realized it gets in the way of my writing life. My twitter site

Still unresolved for 2013:  Figure out what’s going wrong in the rest of my life so I can get my writing life back on track, oh and vow to finish something–anything that I’ve started in all prior years combined.

Unresolvedly yours, (& yes I know it’s a made up word.)

Until next time, wishing you all a happy, prosperous and successful New Year!

Boost your writing enthusiasm; attend a Writers Conference.

Who should attend?

Because I thought I needed a finished novel to attend a writer’s conference, I waited until I had what I thought was a complete manuscript before attending one.  In actuality, that may have been a mistake.  The knowledge I gained from attending the conference helped me to redirect my writing efforts, to start promoting my work before publishing and to overcome fears, objections and writers blocks.

Last April I attended the Unicorn Writers Conference in Connecticut:  http://unicornwritersconference.com

I was nervous but quickly found my confidence.  As a result, I had an incredible experience, further solidifying my wish to become part of the writing community.

Dashing preconceived notions:

I was not the only one who still had work to do on my novels.  I met both published and unpublished writers wanting representation for cookbooks, single novels at various stages or multiple novels.  There were also self-published novelists looking for representation and publication for new work.  A further surprise was how many unpublished Authors were writing blogs and already had Author websites.

Just mixing with other writers was a bonus for me.  Writing is such a solitary activity and if you do not already have writing friends, you may not have anyone in your life who truly comprehends your passion for writing and the struggles you face, like the fear that kept me from attending a conference sooner.

Fear is a major obstacle for writers, whether it is fear of failure or fear of success.  Both are roadblocks to power through.  A conference offers an opportunity to attend seminars that will help allay your fears and concerns by offering facts, success stories and pertinent information.

Attendance also gives you a leg up on writers who rely solely on the internet, due to face time with Agents and Editors.  It is a professional but relaxed setting that pulls down the barriers between Writer and Agent or Editor.  They are just people after all, people with the power to make or break us, true, but people in a business seeking good writers.

The self-publishing threat:

Self-publishing was a hot topic, with Agents warning against writers jumping in without proper editing or serious effort made to seek traditional publishing.  Were they nervous about losing clients to self-publishing?  I’m not sure, since so many, take on so few clients.  Some said they only take one or two per year, not great odds for us.  Nevertheless, there clearly was an opportunity for self-published authors to use their online sales to option a publishing contract for new book sales.

I left less fearful, with some new contacts, the names of some great potential Agents and a better understanding of the publishing business.  I received some strong encouragement for my novels, but have since decided to rework them.

If you attend a conference, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of submitting your work ahead of time for the nominal fees charged, versus traditional costs of $3 or $4 per page charged by many online agencies.  I paid $45 for a review of my first fifty pages.  I also found the query letter review well worth the time.  Every author in my query letter group was given the opportunity to send his or her first fifty pages to the Agent running our workshop, following the conference.

If budget is an issue and you have never attended a conference, you may want to start with a small, local conference.  The next Unicorn Conference will be held on March 9 2013, prehaps I will see you there.  Writer’s Digest lists upcoming conferences monthly in the Conference Scene column by Linda Formichelli.

Finally the most common theme:

In a panel discussion at Unicorn, the Agents and Editors mentioned repeatedly, that they are seeking that next great story idea, but none seemed able to explain exactly what that meant, just that when they saw it, they would know.  It makes sense, if you think about it, they handle the bulk of the business end of writing and they need us, writers, to come up with fresh, saleable and entertaining ideas.

So, here’s hoping one of us is working on that next great story right now! 

Query Letters: Quantity or Quality?

I met a writer at a conference who said he sent 300 query letters before self-publishing.  I read some of his work, he is a good writer; but is writing 300 query letters a good strategy?  Based on my research over the past several years, I would say that quality is always better than quantity.

This may even be the motto of my life.

I am not an expert on writing query letters, but I have found some:

http://www.facebook.com/agent.rachelle

True confessions time!

After researching Agencies, http://www.agentquery.com/  I sent three letters for my first novel Seeing Scarlet before beginning yet another round of rewrites.  The rewrites are my decision, because I know I can better.   Of the three letters sent, I received one request for a full manuscript.  Not bad odds.

For my second, not quite completed novel, I sent one letter and received a very nice rejection.  By that, I mean, several paragraphs, which were both encouraging and offered an explanation about why she could not take on the novel.

What is the consensus?  What do they want?

Send it to the right agent, someone who represents your genre and is actively seeking new authors.

No typos or grammatical errors.

  • If your letter is boring, the assumption is that your novel will be as well.
  • Brevity: agents are busy.
  • No gimmicks, but a good hook doe not hurt.
  • Answer the question:  what is your story and why are you qualified to write it?

If you think have ever been in involved in a job search and who hasn’t, it’s not unlike writing a cover letter, if yours stinks, no one will read your résumé or your novel in this case, no matter how great it is.

Oh, and most importantly, double-check the spelling of the name of the Agency and Agent.  They say this actually happens, but it won’t get you very far.

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Getting to know your ABC’s: Author Websites, Blogging and Contests

Thought for the week:  If you do everything you’re told, will you win a prize in the end? 

Reading the writers magazines and listening to industry guru’s the word is you need to build a platform to succeed as a writer in today’s marketplace.  This is a terrifying prospect to those of us who are technologically challenged.  And what if you prefer a little anonymity and are not driven by ego or insecurity and refuse to measure your worth by your number of Facebook friends?  Is self-publishing the only alternative?

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the age of technology, having written my college papers on one of those giant word processors using word-perfect.  If you are under the age of 30, now you are wrinkling up your nose and thinking, huh?

The papers disappeared into that blasted machine, often lost by my incompetence and haste in writing assignments the night before their due date, still, I cursed the computer for eating my work.

It took me years to get an ATM card, trusting my a passbook savings, something I had control over.  Again-huh?  Was anyone else convinced the machine would give their money to the next customer or that the funds would disappear altogether?

Am I alone in a preference to receive letters and cards in the mail, you know, tangible paper objects that you hold in your hand?  Does anyone still get butterflies finding odd-shaped envelopes among the bills and solicitations in the mailbox, the kind that give paper cuts, as a remembrance or enjoy examining handwriting and noting what it reveals about the writer?

The modern wonder E-mail, doubled my workload;  I hand wrote messages before typing them on the computer screen, then, deleted and re-wrote them, repeatedly, just because it was possible to do so.

A few years ago, an acquaintance publicly mocked me for not having a Facebook account, as if I were some Dinosaur who slipped out of the muck and landed accidentally in the modern age.

Joining Facebook happened out of sheer laziness; living in Europe, it was too difficult to keep up with everyone back in the States via e-mail and nearly impossible to share pictures of places visited.  It took awhile to get the concept of whole thing.  Why would anyone care what I am doing?  Once, I deleted half of my “friends” because they were not writing to me regularly.  Until I realized, I wasn’t writing to them either.

So hearing that success means you need to build a platform, I know I wrinkled my nose and went, huh?  To what end?  To jump off? 

Surely, some of us could get around this somehow.  What of those of us longing for the old style of publishing, sifting through the one thousand-page, onion-skin, “Writers Market” handbook in search of publishing houses,  Sending full manuscripts in the mail along with a SASE.  Go ahead, say it-huh?

Born too late, I could have been a Pilgrim or at least a Settler’s wife, writing about my hardship with a quill pen.  Using a wooden churn to make butter.  Incidentally, I made butter with my class once in elementary school following a field trip to Plymouth Rock.  Please do not say huh?

Author Websites:

Launching an Author Website, I literally held my breath while pushing the publish button.  It felt just like diving off a large cliff into the open mouth of the sea.  The choice of background photo clearly was not accidental.  Funny how the unconscious mind is so much smarter than the conscious one.

Can you call yourself an Author if you have yet to publish any Novels?  Will anyone know you exist if you don’t?

Amazingly, friends rallied around and it feels safe having an intimate audience of 39 fans.  I have to marvel at people with over one million.  How do they keep up with everyone?  Does having that many fans make them feel comforted or naked and exposed?

Blogging:

Writing a blog is supposedly part of platform building.  Again, I wondered why anyone should care.  What do you say?  How do you come up with something interesting to write about week after week or unimaginably, day after day?

Posting once a week, about the behind the scenes struggle of writing and the effort involved in mounting the hurdles of the changing Publishing world seemed a good way to start.  It might help make someone else’s journey a little easier somehow.  It is also a sort of social experiment, to see if following all of this sage advice will work out or not.

It’s easy writing to an intimate group of nine blogger followers and silent readers, without risking too much.  I’m blessed garnering any interest at all.  It’s interesting reading followers blogs to see what they have to say.  There are some great writers in cyberspace, blogging, because they like writing and will do it gratis, even for a small audience.  It makes sense now, this alternate form of social network for support and sharing of ideas.

Contests:

Of contests, let me preface this by stating my intent in this blog is to help not hinder and I have mixed feelings on this subject.  Coming to terms with who wins and why frustrates me.  Not hearing feedback annoys me.  Am I spending too much time trying to win and need to step back and ask myself why?  To what end?  Is it just a competitive thing?

People have launched writing careers by doing these things, but doesn’t that mean its time for the next great thing? 

Does winning a contest validate a writer?  Or does it mean selling out as a writer to appease the masses or a panel of judges?  Is this winning or losing?  Is it possible contests only benefit the magazines or sites that run them?  After all, if they cared about good writing they could drop entry fees. Struggling writers are poor; do they consider this?  Or am I just “Bitter Pants, party of one,” as my friend L would say, because I have yet to win?

Well, if you read this entire, long-winded post, then I am already winning!  

Thanks for reading and keep writing!    

Yet to come:  The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell; Are You an Artist or a Craftsman?; Where’s The Reality Show For Writers?; Thinking on a Different Plane; What Compels Me To Write? & Why Trying Too Hard Fails

Echoes of the Silent Response

Thought for the week:  When seeking support, accept surprises, avoid obstacles and don’t always discount strangers.

Aside from other writers, I seek support and opinions on my writing from family, friends and acquaintances.  Interestingly, some of the most reliable feedback comes from acquaintances, not from my nearest and dearest.  Why?   I suspect the people who care about me, sugar coat their responses out of kindness.  I understand.  It’s hard to negatively criticize someone you like.

When analyzing feedback, I try to focus on common threads, tossing aside any commentary that falls too far to the extremes.  Good news always comes first.

“Great character, send more!”

“I can’t wait for the next chapter.”

Finally, the rare and valued, detailed critique:

“I was confused by this part.  I didn’t get where you were going with this or that.  My favorite part was such and such.”

From the rest, silence, leaving me to interpret its meaning.

You thought it stunk and don’t know how to say that without hurting my feelings.  Or you lost interest after the first sentence.

Silence leads to doubt and doubt has a way of coiling its slimy self in a dark corner of my brain, periodically raising its scaly head to hiss, spit or rattle its tail, lest I forget about it.  The longer this goes on the more agonizing it becomes.  

Do I really want to know that someone hated what I wrote?  Absolutely!  What I find out after probing is:

“I couldn’t find the file.”

“I couldn’t open the file.”

“I loved it, didn’t I tell you?”

“I was too busy to get to it.”

“I didn’t care for the story, but liked the other one you sent.”

So what does this mean?  Positive feedback is great, but just as important, is the other kind, it reveals something about your future audience.  You need a variety of test readers, including some lacking a keen interest in protecting your feelings, because assuming you publish your novel, readers who know very little or nothing about you will read your work, if you are lucky.

Readers of your published work will approach your story from a different perspective, bringing their own likeness into play, viewing it through their the lens of their history.  They will not concern themselves with what you think or how you feel; they expect you to fulfill their wants, needs and desires.  If you fail, will they be kind?

In the end, I gratefully take in to account all comments and then rely on my inner Editor and Critic, but sometimes, even she, tries to placate me.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come:  The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell! & The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!

Maintaining Momentum

Thought for the week: We all spend time in the writing ditch; how you get out of it is up to you.

In the midst of writing and re-writing my first novel, “Seeing Scarlet”, a second novel materialized. Initially, I denied it time and energy due to WOCD, writer’s obsessive compulsion disorder, refusing to write novel number two, because novel number one was not yet complete.

However, this new character, Janice Morrison, would not go away. Every time I stalled out writing Scarlet’s story, Janice would tap on the back door of my brain.

“Hay, it’s me again, Janice. Got a second?”

“No, I’m busy. Come back later,” I grumbled.

“You still working on that book? Come, on! I’ve been waitin’ long enough here to tell you something. You won’t believe this one.”

Janice would just not hear me and I refused to listen because I was busy being stuck in the ‘writing ditch’, a place where you cannot move forward or backward, without digging yourself a deeper hole.

Frustrated anyway, I finally took a woefully needed break from Scarlet and tuned in to Janice. Before long, I had written twenty-five thousand words of her story. Now that number is nearly double. My second novel, “Secret Agent of…God?” is character driven, focused, true to the tale that I set out to write and is a narrative that technically told itself. The best part…it was fun to write again.

I learned something valuable from Janice. The protagonist sets the tone of the story and decides where it will ultimately go. In Scarlet’s case, I had tried to mold her into someone she had no interest in becoming. I became confused, thinking I was writing my story at times, but Scarlet is definitely not me.

I let Scarlet’s issues stew on the back burner for a bit and worked on Janice’s predicament and other projects, short stories and flash fiction for contests until one day, an answer to Scarlet’s problem presented itself.

While watching my eight-year-old outrunning ten and eleven-year-olds at her running camp, being fiercely competitive at all things, easily able to outsmart me with minimal effort, she was already so confident and different from me, at her age. I realized something, I gave her life and shared a few genes, but I can never take credit for how amazing she is, all on her own.

This triggered my ascent. I needed to accept Scarlet’s individuality as I have my daughters. As Scarlet’s creator, I owed her this much. When I began blending in this new perspective, a bright and more vivid character emerged.

Ask yourself if you have another tale to tell, at least temporarily. Write poetry, even badly, create a children’s book, draft a short story, pen an article about anthills. Meanwhile, let your character quandary simmer until a solution comes bubbling to the surface; when it does, simply stir in the spice you found before your ideas burn out or evaporate. At the very least, a fresh story will keep you company and give you something to chew on while you wait for a figurative tow truck to conjure a productive way out of the ‘writing ditch’.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come: Seeking Support: Surprises and Stumbling Blocks; The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell!; The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!