Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saying Good-Bye to a Good Year

Well, here we are again, another year behind us.  I don't want this to be another one of those typical 'year-end' blogs, but, let's face it...the end of anything causes us to contemplate what was.  It's a death of sorts.  Whether it's one we celebrate or mourn is entirely up to us.

Most notably for me this year, was publishing my book, Finding My Escape.  In fact, just finishing the book seemed like quite a milestone.  I wrote a book!  I'm amazed to just see the words in print.  On the down side, I can't seem to get going on the sequel.  Oh, well...something to push for in 2012.

I didn't keep off the weight I lost for my class reunion, or keep up my daily journaling and Bible study, or stick to my cleaning regimen.  Actually, I'm not overly upset about the third one. 

I missed my dad terribly (he died in June 2010).  He never got to read my book, and he was actually my biggest cheerleader.  I also said good-bye to one of the dearest old friends of my youth, and shared in the grief of several friends who lost loved ones.

On the plus side, I reconnected and kept in touch with a slew of old friends and even managed to make some new ones.  I undertook a challenge by an actor friend of mine to write a monologue and dreamed of writing bigger things.

So yes, I guess I'm feeling reflective, which isn't exactly an imaginitive way to spend the last hours of an old year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A New Direction

I started this blog about a year ago to chronicle my journey of writing.  Well, let's be honest, what I really wanted was to use the blog to promote my writing.  I was very careful about what I wrote, trying not to step on any toes, but the fact of the matter is, that's no way to live, and it's certainly no way to write.

I do love to write, and I call myself an author, but ultimately, who I want to be...who I strive to be... is a follower of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I haven't mentioned that in any of my blogs heretofore, and that's why I feel like I sold out.  Sold Him out.  How can I be honest about myself if I don't acknowledge what is the very core of my existence.

I want to share Truth with my readers.  I want to share Who Jesus is to me.  I recently ran across the book, Radical, by David Platt.  This book has challenged me to examine what it means to be a Christ follower.  I'm sure many of you have run across people who claim to come in Christ's name who have been rude, inconsiderate, or just plain obtuse.  I confess, I've probably been one of them, and I'm ashamed to admit that too many times, I've put myself first instead of Him.  I've called on Christ's name, but spat (metaphorically) on those He died for.  That's abominable.

This Jesus, who came to this earth to bring God down to us, deserves better.  Those He died for deserve better.  It's not about "turning over a new leaf".  It's about turning away from who I am to who He is. 

Please join me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taking the Mystery Out of Formatting

When I began entertaining the idea of self-publishing my novel Finding My Escape, the one aspect out of the whole process that daunted me the most was the idea of formatting for the various e-reading devices.  Writing I could do.  It's my passion.  I wasn't overly concerned about editing or proofreading.  My mother was a high school English teacher with a strong understanding of the elements of style.  I wasn't even overly worried about marketing the book.  But formatting?  Major dread.

So there my book sat, completed, edited, re-edited, proofread, re-proofread.  I even paid an artist, to do an awesome cover.  (Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.)

I'd run out of excuses.  There was nothing left to do (unless I wanted to try to publish traditionally, but that's an entirely different topic).  So I set myself a deadline.  August 15.  My late father's birthday.  *sigh*  That was two weeks ago.  In that two weeks, I talked about formatting, I posted about formatting, I complained about formatting, but did absolutely nothing toward getting the book ready to e-publish.

Friday the 12th rolls around, and I drag out every paper and e-book I have that has anything on the subject of self-publishing.  I picked up Zoe Winter's Becoming An Indie Author (on my Nook, of course), and zipped to the section on Smashwords and read it.  Twice.

Okay, I thought, you can do this.  I went to the Smashwords site, and followed every single instruction about unformatting and reformatting my book (which BTW are very detailed and written in easy-for-a-non-techy-to-understand English).  I read with trepidation, the list of formatting problems that could cause your book to be rejected.  After about three hours of cleaning up bad tabs, straight quotation marks, and page breaks, the manuscript was ready.  I took a deep breath and pressed send.  About ten minutes later the results came back.  Rejected.

What?  Rejected?  After I scraped myself from the ceiling, I scrolled down the list of possible problems and found:  Font size exceeds 18.  The only font that could have possibly exceeded the suggested 18 point was the title.  I changed that to 18 and pushed send again.  Accepted!

So here's the point.  I'd spent weeks months postponing publishing my book because I was terrified by the thought of formatting it.  When I actually sat down to do it, it turned out to be no big deal.

So what's holding you back from completing your goal?  Is it fear?  Why not dig in, face the situation, and take the mystery out of it.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another Attempt at Procrastination

Well, folks, I know that I've been MIA for the entire summer, but what can I say...things have been a bit crazy around here.  Summer is always a busy time for me, but I honestly can't tell you where the past two months have gone!  I can tell you what I've done, though.  Let's see, I went to my class reunion (never mind which year), picked up extra work from a client, added a new client, saw about 10 drive-in movies with my daughter and her friends (I really need to blog about that), and hired a cover artist.

That's right folks, I did it.  I hired a cover artist for my YA novel, Finding My Escape.  You can check out the cover here (once I remember how to add the graphic).  The book has actually been finished for several months, the editing (except for final proof-reading) done, but for some reason, I haven't been able to bring myself to take the final steps to get the book published.  So I hired a cover artist, hoping that the act of forking over some cash would push me to get in there and do the final polishing necessary to get the book ready for Kindle, Nook, and all the other e-readers out there.

I've had the cover for several weeks now, but for some crazy reason, I've been dragging my feet about the final steps.  The truth is, I like to write, and I'd like to leave the rest of this stuff, the technical stuff, the marketing, and the publishing to someone else.  I mean, I don't even know HTML really.  (Funny because as I write this, I'm looking at a little tab that says "Edit HTML", and I'm thinking maybe HTML should edit itself.)  *sigh*

In fact, writing this blog today is yet another one of my procrastination attempts.  There, I said it.  I'm procrastinating.  But I really can't do that any longer.  I told myself I wanted to get the book out before my late father's birthday, which is August 15.  So I guess I'd better get off here and get to work.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Support the Tornado Victims Through World Vision

Today is a historic day in the course of our nation.  Osama Bin Laden has been officially declared dead by our government.  I applaud our troops, especially those who are daily risking their lives in this war on terror. 

I don't want to minimize the importance of what is going on in the Middle East, but the fact is that a pretty important, life changing event occurred on our own soil just last week.  Over 340 people are dead or missing from the April 27 tornado that ripped through Alabama.  No other tornado in recorded history has caused so much death and devastation, and the people in the affected areas are still reeling in the after effects.

Here is a link that gives seven ways to help the victims of those devastating tornadoes and their families.  If you want to give, one of the organizations I personally trust is World Vision.  With World Vision, approximately 87% of donations go to the programs it supports, which is a high percentage for any nonprofit organization.

The folks down there need our help.  Are you ready to step up to the plate?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finding My Escape - Prologue

I'm so excited about Finding My Escape, getting it finished.  So close. 
Here's an excerpt:

He looked down at the knife in his left hand, dripping in blood. Pausing from his task, he listened to the sound of labored breathing coming from the other room. The gasping became slower and heavier, then stopped. Charles Jordan was dead. The killer laughed.

Back to work.

He turned his handsome blond head toward the woman splayed on the kitchen floor in front of him. He’d hit her pretty hard, but this gal was tough. Grabbing her tangled hair, he jerked her into a sitting position and placed the bloody knife under her throat.

"Tell me where you hid the chip."

"No!" she gasped. The man watched as Liz Jordan’s dark eyes darted wildly at the clock.

"Where’s your daughter Liz?" he hissed in her ear, pulling the knife ever so slightly into her throat.

The woman’s eyes grew wide for a second, but quickly veiled again.

"She’s spending the night with a friend."

"You’re lying!" He dug the knife deeper. A drop of blood trickled down her neck and dripped on the white tile floor.

"Tell me where that chip is, or I’ll kill her, too."

"Okay, I’ll tell you, but pl..please," she sputtered, "I’m begging, don’t hurt her. Th..there's a key to a safety deposit box taped under the table. First Bank of Marietta. Main branch. Please," she gasped, "Hannah has nothing to do with this."

The man reached under the table with his free hand and found a key. Smirking, he slipped it into his pocket. He looked down at the woman. Her eyes were pleading.

"Thanks, Mrs. Jordan. Now, I just have one piece of unfinished business."

He paused, savoring the thought of slashing Liz Jordan’s beautiful white throat.

"Mom?" came a girl’s voice from the front door.

The broken woman below him stirred as she struggled now to raise her head. He could read the desperation in her eyes. The man tightened his grip and put his finger to his mouth to indicate silence, but the woman was already screaming.

"Don’t come in here honey, RUN!"

He covered the woman’s mouth to stifle one last cry before slashing her throat. Then he headed toward the sound of the girl's voice. Hannah Jordan was going to wish she'd missed her curfew.

I'm still polishing, so this part will probably get another shine, too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Finding My Escape is Almost Finished

Wow!  I pulled up my blog today and was shocked to see that it had been almost a month since I've written anything.  (Tsk, tsk, Fran, that is no way to build a following.)  Anyway, here I am for the 20 or so of you who check my blog out from time to time.

Biggest news:  I think I'm pretty close to having Finding My Escape ready to epublish *takes a bow*.  I've been on a wild editing rampage (in between doing taxes) and I'm getting ready to send it out to Beta readers.  I have to say that I really have to thank my critique partner, Shannon Hill, for helping me to see the rough spots and getting everything all polished and shiny.  *hugs to Shannon*

I'll keep you posted on a release date.  Gotta go edit now!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's Going On

I've been getting some interesting feedback from Beta and Critique Partners for my WIP, Finding My Escape.  The reactions seem to be pretty mixed.  So far, about 90% of those who have read it really like it with about 10% who don't care for it.  Everyone, even the 10% that didn't like the story have offered wonderful feedback which I am using to reshape and improve the book.

Right now, I'm still in draft editing phase.  I know I told my FaceBook buds a few weeks ago that I'd finished editing and planned to epublish it soon, but after reading/hearing the critiques, I realized I had two choices:
  1. Publish the book (which most enjoyed and thought a good read) as is
  2. Polish the book some more and make it a great read
I opted for the latter for a couple of reasons.   Ebooks are booming now, and there's a sense of urgency with many in the industry.  You might even call it a frenzy to get your book out.  Unfortunately, some have chosen to do that with very little editing (or in some cases even proofreading).  This is giving self-pubbed ebooks a bad rap and I don't want to contribute to that reputation.

The main reason, though, is that I only want to produce quality work.  I want to put work out there that makes people say, "see, indie writers can be just as good as NYT best selling authors".  I want people to read my books and recommend them to their friends.  I want people to write five star reviews.  I want my work to be good.

Time is the one commodity we can't replicate, make more of, or find a substitute for.  If I'm going to spend the time to write a book, you can be sure I'm going to spend the time to make it great!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Publishing Trends

I've been so wrapped up in doing taxes (for everyone else), that I haven't been as focused on my blog as I need to be.  Tax season is nuts for a day-time accountant, night time writer with a novel she's trying to edit! *sigh*

In light of my recent time crunch, I wanted to bring you some interesting reading choices from other writers about the current trends in the publishing industry.  Check out these great posts:

Slow Down, the Tortoise Won is Zoe Winters' blog about the current "get rich quick" mentality of many entering the e-books market. 

Thirsting For Blood, written by Sue Dent, has been focusing on the decline of the big bookstores.  There are several posts in this series.  Sue also has many posts on the history of the publishing industry and why things are the way they are.

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, the title of Joe Konrath's blog seems self explanatory.  Recently however, he's been focusing on epublishing.  Recently, he's been featuring guest authors, all self-published via ebooks.

Let's talk.  What's your opinion of the boom in indie e-book publishing?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Blog on Blood

My friend Sue Dent calls her blog Thirsting For Blood...Satiate Your Thirst, well I did just that today.  I "satiated" someone's thirst.  I gave blood.  Twice a year my church has the American Red Cross Blood Mobile come and park outside during services.  It's hard to walk by that red bus and not give.

A couple of weeks ago, the Red Cross put out a plea for blood.  It seems that for the first time since 2003 there is a real shortage of blood.  They've also had to cancel several blood drives due to the winter storms.  And to add to the situation, the need hospitals have for blood is increasing.

I just want to encourage everyone reading this to get out and give.  Someone out there is "thirsty".

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Not Me? (Or You Either For That Matter)

I've been thinking quite a bit about what it takes to be successful, and I've decided it depends on how you define success.  Do you define success by fame?  I think that may be how a lot of us define it.  And I think that may be exactly what stymies us, too.  How can we ever become famous for our (fill in the blank) talent, if no one ever knows who we are?

I've done some musing (was actually up most of the night), and I got to thinking, why not me?  I grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a bedroom community for music stars.  In my first part time jobs I waited on Leon Russell, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Barbara Mandrell and others.  Taylor Swift graduated from my high school (some years after me).  My mama grew up with Buddy Holly, and I'm two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon  None of this name-dropping has anything to do with my writing, but bear with me.  I promise I'm making a point here.

On a more personal note, an old friend of mine, Johnny Talbot is a successful fashion designer (Talbot Runhof).  My friend Chambers Stevens (formerly Steve Chambers) is an actor, married to a producer, and my new friend, Sue Dent, is a writer.  So what does any of this have to do with my success?  Not one dang thing. 

Except for this.  If you look at each of these people, they have a couple of things in common.  First, there is no denying that they are talented at whatever they chose to do.  Second, and probably most important:  they had a dream, and they did not give up on it.  They kept on until they reached their goals.

I was reflecting on the two I grew up with, Johnny and Steve.  Neither of them were voted "Most Likely to Succeed", and if I remember correctly, there was nothing about them that screamed "Future Success".  Talented, yes, but lots of people are talented.  What separated them from the crowd was the fact that they believed in themselves enough to keep going.

It took me a long time to pick up the pen and write.  I spent years looking at all the successful writers thinking that there was no way I'd ever write as good a book as Stephen King or Nora Roberts or John Grisham.  But you know what?  I'll never know unless I try.  My definition of success is not to be a best-selling author.  My definition of success is to write the best book I can, put it out there, and have people read it.

After all, why not me?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Got A Mention in Sue Dent's Blog

Okay, I'm so excited, I can't stand it.  Sue Dent, author of Never Ceese, and I have been emailing back and forth to for the past few days.  I've had so many questions about writing and publishing, and she has much wisdom to offer. 

But I got a mention on her blog today.  Me.  My name.  Fran Veal.

Click here to see: #links

Thanks Sue!  And thanks for spending so much time with me this morning.  You are a treasure!

By the way, if you are an aspiring writer and want some good free advice, check out the other posts in Sue's blog Thirsting For Blood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gushing Over My New CP

Okay, guys, I've got to tell you:  I have found the absolutely best critique partner in a wonderful young woman, Shannon Hill.  (Props to you girl!)  I had been struggling for the past few weeks trying to self-edit my YA work, Finding My Escape when Shannon sent me an email on Absolute Write, asking if I would consider trading work.  Boy, would I.

A few days ago, I opened the email from Shannon containing her critique of my first twenty pages.  She had to love it, it was great, brilliant writing...or so I thought.  When I opened the email, I was floored!  She'd found some problems with my work.  But that couldn't be.  After all my family loved it. 

Fighting back the tears (if you're reading this Shannon, just keep going), I downloaded the file and began to read the critique.  It turned out that she really thought I had the bones of a good story, I was just leaving out something very important:  description.  (That and I had a little problem of using italics and elipses... every other paragrah.)  My tears dried, and I became excited.  Yes!  Someone was finally being honest with me about my work.

Inspired, I began to make changes.  Then I made a few more, and a few more, until finally, I'd finished re-editing the first 20 pages, which was, by now actually 25.  Excited, and, with a little trepidation, I sent the pages back to her.  About 24 hours later, I got a very animated email back from Shannon.  She'd loved the changes and said so very enthusiastically.  I was relieved to know that I didn't need to give up on writing (whew!), and now feel I have the amunition I need to finish my edit.

So what's the point of all this?  I want to encourage all my fellow writers to please find a few critique partners that aren't connected with you in any way. 

It's just like those early auditions of American Idol where the young hopeful is belting out a hideously off-key version of Proud Mary.  The next scene is the family huddled outside the door.  They think young hopeful is great, positive that inside the room is the next American Idol.  The thing is, family and friends hear and see what they want to from us.  Sometimes they can't even be honest with themselves about our shortcomings, much less with us.  That's why it's vital to find objective critiquers.

Since finding Shannon, not only am I able to look more objectively at my work when I'm editing, my new work reads better, too.  So Shannon, if you're reading this, I just want to publicly say "Thank You!" 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things Left Unsaid

Mark Manasco was an old friend of mine.  We went to high school together, were both in band, and even had a strictly-platonic "date" or two.  We were part of a close circle of friends that hung out together, had classes together, dreamed together.  What would we be when we grew up?

I lost track of Mark not long after high school.  The last time I saw him was at my friend, Missy's wedding over 25 years ago.  He didn't come to any of the reunions, and for years, there was a rumor circulating that he was dead.  Finally, a couple of years ago, I found him on Facebook and we were able to reconnect again.  Our 30th class reunion is coming up this year and several of us have been emailing back and forth, trying to pull together a reprisal of our senior championship band performance, Mark included.

I was shocked on January 13 to get an email from a mutual friend informing me that Mark had died the day before.  Shocked is probably too mild to describe the sick, kicked-in-the-gut feeling that overwhelmed me for several days.  He'd been in the hospital since before Christmas and not one of my friends knew.  His last post on Facebook was around Thanksgiving.

I'm still having a hard time dealing with the fact that he's gone.  I went to the funeral, met up with some old friends, had the whole "Big Chill" experience with them afterward, but the whole experience was very surreal.  There were things I'd never said to him, but hoped to at the reunion.  Things that will never be said now.

Why do we let people who were at one time, very important to us, just drift out of our lives?  I don't have the answer.