saying hello!

Hello strangers!

I cannot believe it’s been four months since my last blog post. Much has changed and just as much has stayed the same.

There’s not much to report on the book front. I just turned my third round of revisions in to my agent—yes, my third! Melissa (agent) really wants the book to be as strong as it can be before we go out on submission because the market is so competitive and we only get one shot with these big editors! Melissa is really skilled at picking up what isn’t working (or could just be better). Even though I wasn’t always objective enough to see the issues until she pointed them out, I’ve agreed with everything she’s said so far 100%. She’s really pushing me to work harder and dig deeper than I ever have before and it shows in the results. She’s also teaching me to trust my gut. There were things in the previous rounds I wasn’t quite sure about. I didn’t change them hoping I was wrong or she wouldn’t notice. Wouldn’t you know, those were the same issues Melissa raised. In the third round, if anything felt like maybe it wasn’t working, I fixed it—trusted my gut even if it meant lots of rejigging. I’m crossing everything the next time I hear from her it’s to say the book is ready to be pitched to editors aside from maybe a tweak and a shine. If not, I’m sure it will be for a good reason. I always thought once I got an agent, things would be easier. They aren’t…at all…but I’m so happy to have Melissa in my corner.

Between my second and third round of revisions, I decided to take the “waiting” time to focus on my stomach issues. Unfortunately, the antibiotic I mentioned in my last update didn’t help. I decided to try more holistic measures. I couldn’t bear restricting my diet even more than I already was. After looking into possibilities, my first stop was acupuncture. I’m happy to say it really helps in a noticeable way. I started going twice a week and am now down to once a week. From the very first session, I noticed I didn’t get as full as I used to after every meal or for as long a period time, and the bloat has been reduced. My stomach doesn’t feel amazing, and I have to stick to the restricted diet for the most part, but I feel a good 10% better than I used to. Hooray!! I wish I had tried it a year ago.

My day job has been super stressful over the last couple of months, but I have several vacations planned. The first is to Dallas for the Bouchercon Conference in November. It is aimed at mystery and thriller writers, but my closest writer friend is debuting her thriller later this year and traveling from Toronto. I’d go just about anywhere to see Sammy more than once a year at our annual California retreat. Also, I missed the RWA conference this year and wanted to sneak in at least one writer’s conference in 2019. Although I’ll go to a few sessions—because even a romance writer can learn something at a mystery conference—I’ll mostly mingle and fangirl over all the big name authors who will be there. And spend as much time with my bestie as possible!

Next up is a beach vacation to St. Lucia in December with another friend. I haven’t been on a “real” vacation, i.e. sunbathing and swim-up-bar in more than two years. I can’t wait to totally relax! It might be the most expensive trip I’ve ever booked, but I’ve earned it, I need it, and I’m worth it!

Finally, I’ve already booked airfare for my annual “Beach babes” trip to California in January.

Three vacations in three months? Yes, please!

This weekend is the Jewish New Year—Rosh Hashana. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family. The older I get, the more excited I am for family time. I’ve turned into a real sentimental Sally in my middle age!

That’s it for me. Until next time (which hopefully won’t be another four months…)

I’m still here!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. I’m sorry about that, but things have been crazy. Today I’ll update you on what I’ve been doing and what’s next for me.

The last time I wrote, in mid-February, I announced that I’d signed with a literary agent. Shortly after I posted that blog, I received my agent’s editorial notes on my manuscript. Then we had a phone call to discuss my revisions. The edits took me about two months. Initially, I was nervous about making the changes, but I also recognized that the book would be so much stronger when I was finished. I’m currently awaiting her comments on the revised version. I’m guessing there will be at least one more round of edits, but hopefully, I did a really great job and the next set will be smaller changes and not take as long. My biggest worry is that I made the book worse, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case. I was so confident when I sent the revisions back. Fear is making me second-guess everything. I told my agent I was willing to do whatever it took to get the book in the best possible condition to go out on submission to editors and I meant it. While I wait, I’m trying to work on my next book—“trying” being the operative word. Authors are always encouraged to keep writing throughout the “waiting” process, whether that means while in the query trenches waiting to hear back from agents, when they are out on submission with editors, and in my case, waiting to receive my agent’s comments on my edits. It is so hard to work on one book when the fate of another book you’ve poured your soul into rests in someone else’s hands, but the advice is good. Once I’m writing my new book, I momentarily forget about my other one, but getting myself to the computer is the hard part.

On another note, my restricted diet is not doing enough to sooth my stomach discomfort. I’d resigned myself to feeling 80% of how I used to feel (on a good day) and then decided it was foolish to assume there was nothing else that could be done to increase my comfort level/decrease my discomfort level. I shouldn’t have to settle, so I went back to my GI doctor hoping she’d be able to recommend something else I could do in combination with the diet to increase my comfort, for example, medicine. After a second examination, she thinks I have something called SIBO—Small intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It sounds gross, but there is a treatment that seems to work on a lot of people in the nature of an antibiotic called Xifaxan. It’s supposed to reset my flora to where it was before the suffering began. I’m not sure I understand the scientific lingo, but if it makes me feel better, I don’t really care. I’ve been in chronic pain for almost two years now and it’s negatively impacted so many aspects of my life. I will do just about anything to feel healthy again. I’ll most likely have to stay on a restricted diet, but I might feel 90-95% instead of 80%. The diet is not so bad. What’s bad is depriving myself of so many foods I previously enjoyed and still feeling crappy. I’m starting the antibiotic next week because my doctor stressed eating very carefully while on it and for two weeks after. I wanted to fully enjoy Memorial Day Weekend and author friends coming into town next week for the Book Expo America conference (“BEA”) and that means having some cocktails and eating in places where completely controlling my diet is not possible. After next week, I will fully commit to putting myself in the best possible condition for the antibiotic to work. Wish me luck!

Memorial Day Weekend is coming to a close. I had a great one. I spent time at my rooftop pool reading, I got a full-body massage at Bliss, I went for drinks with one of my dearest friends, and I relaxed. I go back to work tomorrow for two days and then I’m off again on Thursday and Friday. I have so much to look forward to in the coming week thanks to BEA and BookCon that two days in the office seems completely bearable. Famous last words!

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Me and my friend Dee!

That’s all for me. I’ll try not to wait three months before posting another blog. In the meantime, I hope you’re all having a wonderful long weekend!

news from my editing cave

I’ve once again been lazy with my blogging, but I assure you I haven’t been lazy in general. I’ve been editing like a mad woman. I told an author friend how exhausted I was after revising three books in a row and she said that editing is so draining, it’s like being hit by a truck. Make it three trucks in my case. I’m not complaining though. Well, I’m grumbling about the exhaustion, but not what caused it.

So far, I’ve completed edits of Blogger Girl, Novelista Girl, and A State of Jane. I started How Do You Know? yesterday and Just Friends With Benefits with be last. If my books were days of the work week, it would be Thursday. Thursday morning, but Thursday all the same. I’m over the hump :).

For those of you who have read the books already, Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl are still the same novels post-edit as they were pre-edit but with more drama and development. Much of the drama revolves around antagonist Daneen and much of the development centers around Kim’s relationship with Nicholas. If you were fans of the series before, I’m positive you’ll still love it now. I consider the edits more enhancements than changes.

The modifications to A State of Jane are more significant. I changed A LOT while keeping the general story the same. I won’t spoil anything, but I can tell you that I removed the epilogue, added several new scenes, deleted a few that we didn’t feel moved the story forward, and tweaked almost all of the others. Jane is still “Jane” but a somewhat softer version of the original. I am so proud of the new and improved version and I adore my editor for knowing exactly what my second novel needed to truly make it shine.

As I head back into my editing cave, I keep my eyes focused on the end goal: a full-body massage, a bottle of champagne, a fattening steak dinner, and an expensive hair smoothing treatment, not necessarily in that order (the champagne will be first). Joking aside, I’ve always put my best effort into all steps of writing and marketing my books, but I’ve never been pushed this hard and I’m so grateful for Henery Press for inviting me into the Hen House and helping me turn stories that were very well received in their original conditions into even better versions of themselves. That, my friends, is the real end goal.

Editing (again)

In my last post, I announced that my five chick lit novels were picked up for republication by Henery Press, along with two future ones. I didn’t go into details about what would happen next, specifically editing. Several people were surprised that my new publisher wanted to edit five books that had previously sold well and received predominantly positive reviews, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. In fact, I would be wary of a publisher who re-released the books without first doing more quality control and making their mark—in my opinion editing is part of a good publisher’s job and a major way they earn their share of the royalties. While I love the stories I’ve created, including the characters, the troubles they get into, and their happy-ever-afters, there is always room for improvement at the hands of another skilled editor. I’ve also honed my own writing ability significantly since penning my first novels, and welcome the unexpected opportunity to make tweaks.

In truth, I’m both anxious and intimidated by the volume of revisions in my future. One of my concerns in signing with a new publisher was being asked to alter the original story lines or character’s personalities in a major way, but I was assured this was not the case and that all changes would involve developing and strengthening the novels. I’ve already received the revisions for Blogger Girl and spent most of the weekend and this afternoon working on them. My new editor, Erin, is fantastic. Existing fans of Blogger Girl might want to read the new version for some bonus scenes, including additional development of Kim and Nicholas’s relationship and more ammunition for Kim’s hatred of condescending Daneen. I had fun writing this new material and reacquainting myself with the characters.

Once I finish Blogger Girl, I’ll take a week off to work on my new book—editing is exhausting and I need a break in between books if time allows. After that, I’ll begin the edits of Novelista Girl, take another short break to make progress on my work-in-progress (again, if I have time), edit one of the standalones, work on the new book, and the cycle will continue until I’ve completed all five. The edits themselves will be hard, but equally challenging will be fitting them into my already busy life. I’m trying to focus on the end result: an even better product that will hopefully get into the hands of many more readers.

Are you tired yet? I am!

If you’ve read my books, how do you feel about these impending changes? Are you excited? Worried? If you’re an author, how would you feel about revising a previously published book for a new publisher? Would you embrace edits, like me, or would you prefer to leave well enough alone?

Why I love constructive criticism?

Can you -show- not -tell- her

 

Criticism is most often thought of as a negative. Who wants to hear that their outfit is unflattering, their singing voice is out of tune, they lack rhythm when they dance, are a horrible kisser—that in sum, they suck? As a person, I much prefer compliments to insults, and I really don’t like when people provide unsolicited opinions, especially when they are unfavorable. But there is a difference between flat-out insulting someone and offering them constructive criticism—insulting someone most often serves no purpose but to make the person who delivers the jab feel good, but constructive criticism is usually delivered with the hope and intention of helping someone get better at whatever it is they are doing.

I don’t like insults, but as a writer, I have learned to LOVE constructive criticism, so much so that I seek it out from people I know won’t hold back. It stings to receive negative reviews of my published novels, but I have learned to embrace negative feedback for my drafts. I didn’t always have such a lovefest with constructive criticism. I took it in stride and learned from it, but I credit loving it to one of my author friends who, when she asks me (or anyone) to provide feedback, she asks us to rip it apart and she means it. She never gets offended or hurt by it and, to the contrary, is excited about the hours or days of revising ahead of her because it means her finished product is going to be even better for it. At the end of the day, we all want to write a top-notch book and sometimes it takes (more than) a few tries to achieve it.

When I hand a manuscript off to my beta readers  and later my developmental editor, there is a small part of me that hopes they’ll come back and say, “This is perfect. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. Don’t change a thing.” But the fact that I choose extremely critical beta readers and ask them to be completely honest with me belies that desire. I know these readers will spot things in the manuscript that, as the author, I can’t see anymore because I’ve lost objectiveness or I’m too close to it, and they will bring all of them to my attention. They won’t stroke my ego for fear I won’t like them anymore. They point out pages where the story might drag. They might tell me that I’ve lost my characters voice on Page 43. They remind me that my character’s friends and families have lives too. They tell me when my character is being too bitchy even for her or when she’s uncharacteristically behaving like a doormat. My beta readers show me the places in the manuscript where I need to flesh out how a character is feeling or what is going on in the background. They remind me to use my five senses. What does it smell like on the school bus? Are they eating anything at the restaurant or just talking? They say, “Your characters blush too much” and “Stop using the word ‘beam’ so much!” “This character is supposed to be mean, she hasn’t really done anything to evidence that yet.” “This character seems kind of crazy. Is that your intention?”

I seek out these comments before the book is published because I’d so much rather hear it when it can still be fixed than after the book is up on various platforms, and readers are writing reviews that say “The characters blush too much,” “The story dragged in the middle,” “The main character never thought about anyone except herself.” I don’t always agree with my beta reader’s comments and I trust my instincts, but I’ve learned to see the difference between not wanting to make a change because I’m lazy and tired and not wanting to make a change because I truly believe the novel is better off without it. But either way, I would rather know how readers might react and be given the opportunity to fix things rather than be blindsided by a bunch of reviews that say the things my beta readers and editor were too bashful or afraid to bring to my attention.

In the same vain, I have a side business of conducting manuscript critiques for other authors and I am extremely critical in my work. I tell my potential clients this up front. I would never attack their work or provide feedback in a cruel manner, but they are paying me to help them write the best book they can and I can’t take their money without pointing out every potential weakness I find. What they do with it is up to them, but I like to assume other authors will want to hear everything negative a reader might say while they still have time to fix it.

One reason my later books have been stronger than my earlier books is because I have honed my writing skills and become a better writer, but another reason is that I have embraced negative feedback on my unfinished product and purposely relied on tough critics to tell it like it is.

And that, my friends, is why I love constructive criticism.

Calgon anyone?

I really shouldn’t be writing a blog right now because I’m feeling incredibly stressed out and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, one of the (many) things that is causing me stress is the fact that I haven’t posted a blog in a while and so here I am.

Besides my mother, I doubt anyone has been stalking my website awaiting a fresh post, but I feel it is part of my job as a writer to maintain a current blog. And for the most part, I enjoy blogging! What I don’t enjoy is when my day job as a trademark paralegal gets so busy that it becomes necessary to work overtime to keep on top of it and that’s where I am right now.

Please do not get me wrong, I feel incredibly blessed to have a solid career and a stable job as a paralegal. I live in a very expensive city and while I work hard, I also play hard and my paycheck needs to stretch beyond my rent and monthly expenses to allow me to a maintain my lifestyle. I certainly do not make enough money writing to quit. (I also enjoy my day job, although not nearly as much as I enjoy writing.) But right now, when my second novel is in the last stages of pre-publication and there is so much preparation involved, is not the time for my work responsibilities to soar. Right now, all I can focus on are the following steps that either need or should be taken before Planet of the Flakes is published, for instance, meeting my editing deadline (of Friday); working with a designer on my cover (the cover artist I initially wanted is not taking on new assignments); writing my acknowledgments (first draft completed, thank God for small favors); reaching out to other authors/bloggers to read the manuscript and provide pre-publication reviews and blurbs; updating some of the contents on my website. I tip my hat to all of you self-published authors who opt to do this all on your own as I looked at the outline of tasks created for the publication of Planet of the Flakes and know that there is so much more involved that, thank goodness, falls into the hands of someone else.

On top of pre-publication stress, I agreed to judge a writing contest for the Chick Lit chapter of Romance Writers of America of which I am a member and, of course, I conveniently received all four entries last night and have only until early August to read and critique them. I really enjoyed judging the entries last year and the year before which is why I volunteered again, but the timing isn’t great. And to make matters worse, I am being trained on a new database for the next two days at work which means I won’t have time to actually do any of the work that is in my to-do pile until Thursday at the earliest and by Thursday, I am sure new work will be added to the pile.

The next few weekends are already completely booked between a friend’s upcoming wedding festivities, my oldest sister coming into town with my youngest niece and my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding in Michigan. All of these things are fun and I’m not complaining but OMG, my head is spinning and all I want to do is crawl under my covers and cry.

I confess that there are things I could probably do to make more time in my day. For instance, I could go to sleep later and work on my writing stuff late into the night, however, I get up early every morning to either go running or to the gym and that would not be possible with five hours of sleep. Some might say I should sacrifice the gym, but those who know me the best are aware that I am a much more productive person (not to mention nicer) when my exercise routine is not jeopardized. I suppose I could decline all social invitations after work to write, but it’s not as if I go out every night of the week anyway and giving up all time with my friends would put my sanity and cheery disposition in danger. Finally, it probably wouldn’t kill me to miss The Bachelorette but I am just too afraid to take that risk 🙂

Interesting, when I started writing this blog, I was feeling quite sorry for myself and out of control. In reading back my last paragraph however, I realize that I do have some control. No, I cannot control how demanding my clients or the attorneys for whom I work will be on a given day and I cannot snap my fingers and accomplish all of the things I need to do, but how I spend what free time I have is a result of choices that I make and if I really needed to get something done, I could make the time to do it.

This doesn’t mean I am through complaining but for now, I am leaving my pity party and finishing my work so I can go home and watch The Bachelorette.

Cheers 🙂

 

Blurb for Planet of the Flakes

Further to my last post, things are moving along for the publication of Planet of the Flakes. I am still working with my editor who is in the process of reviewing my revisions, but has already let me know that she really likes the new scenes I added to the book to flesh out the secondary characters and develop my main character’s relationships with her friends and family. Additionally, I am scheduled to have a phone call with my Book Manager this afternoon. The Book Manager will be assisting me with the promotion and marketing of the book and I am very excited to hear her ideas. I didn’t have any assistance with marketing for my first book and am delighted to have someone on my team this time around. All that remains is the assignment of my cover artist. I have been brainstorming ideas for cover art and am looking forward to that stage of the process.

Finally, my editor sent me the blurb for the book and I wanted to share it with all of you!

Here it is!

“Jane Frank is ready to fall in love. It’s been a year since her long term relationship ended and far too long since the last time she was kissed. With the LSAT coming up she needs to find a long term boyfriend (or husband) before acing law school and becoming a partner at her father’s law firm. There’s just one problem: all the guys in New York are flakes. They seemingly drop off the face of the earth with no warning and no explanation. Should she join her best friend Marissa in singlehood, making cupcakes and watching True Blood? Or should she follow her co-worker Andrew’s advice and turn the game back on those who scorned her? As Jane attempts to juggle her own responsibilities and put up with the problems of everyone around her, she starts to realize that the dating life isn’t as easy as she originally thought.”

Hopefully, the blurb has tweaked your interest. If you have ever dated in NYC (or any large city for that matter) and been on the giving or receiving end of the disappearing act, you will probably relate to this book. And even if you have been happily married for 20+ years, I guarantee it will make you laugh and possibly make you cry!

a time to write; a time to edit

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I am in the process of editing my soon-to-be-published chick-lit novel, Planet of the Flakes, a story about a type-A young woman whose life plan is veering way off track thanks to the flake-invested pool of singletons she finds herself swimming in after ending a nine-year relationship with her high school sweetheart.

Let me tell you something about editing, for those of you who are not writers – it’s not an easy thing to do and I don’t just mean the physical act of editing. I mean, from a emotional standpoint, it can be difficult. When I finished my first draft of Planet of the Flakes, I did about three rounds of revisions on my own – without an editor. I do not consider description a strength of mine and so my first round of edits involved fleshing out scenery, what my characters look like and are wearing, their bodily gestures and so forth. The second round of edits involved me reading the book out loud and changing any sentences or phrases that sounded awkward. When I was comfortable that the book was as good as it could be without the help of a professional editor, I enlisted the help of a “book doctor” (fellow author Diana Spechler) to give the manuscript a thorough critique. Based on Diana’s comments, I began yet another one or two rounds of edits. These included developing secondary characters, upping the tension where necessary, clearing up ambiguity etc. and I even changed the ending. It wasn’t until I was satisfied with the changes that I even began the submission process to publishers. Enter: publishing contract. Yay!!

You would think after so much hard work and a well-deserved publishing contract, the novel would be in turn-key condition, right? Wrong. It was time to work with yet another editor who would provide her own set of comments, both substantive and “cosmetic” (grammar, punctuation). I braced myself for her feedback and willed myself not to let my ego get in the way, knowing that my editor and I would have a common goal: to make Planet of the Flakes as good as possible. It also comforted me to know that as author of the book, I was free to accept or reject the changes as I saw fit. With one published novel already under my belt, I was confident that my instincts were good and that I’d be able to let go of my pride enough to recognize which of the suggested changes would truly strengthen the novel and which would not.

Let’s not get carried away though – I was still terrified!

When I received my editor’s initial email, I was extremely excited as we appeared to be on the same page. She had no desire for me to do any major rewrites and, in fact, truly loved the book, but she had some suggestions for strengthening the novel which is exactly what I hoped to do in the editing process. I was especially pleased because she loved the ending of the book (she called it “golden”) and I had been concerned that she would want me to change it.

For the past few weeks, I have been busy working on the edits. I did a lot during my lunch hours but I knew if I continued at that rate, it would delay publication and so I locked myself in my apartment this past Saturday, determined to finish the first round before I went to bed that night. The plan was to get up early, go for a quick run and get started by about 2pm. Instead, I slept until 11 (much needed after a full, long week at my day job), ran 9 miles and spent 1.5 hours at the pool on the roof of my apartment building. I didn’t get started until 4:30pm! When I finally finished, it was almost midnight and I celebrated with a cold beer – Blue Moon. It was delicious!

I wound up agreeing to most of my editor’s suggestions and in total, added about ten pages to the manuscript as a result of a few added scenes and some more dialogue in certain areas. There were a couple of things on which we disagreed and I stood my ground – respectfully of course. And I provided a reason why I was unwilling to make those changes. I sent the revised manuscript to my editor on Sunday and now await her comments. I’m hoping there are not too many rounds back and forth because I REALLY look forward to the publication of Planet of the Flakes. I absolutely love this book and hope you will too!