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Feature Friday Welcomes Sarah M. Anderson

Where did the story idea come from/process

“How do you come up with your ideas?” That’s a question I get a lot, and it’s a fair one. I do, in fact, have a lot of ideas.

Boy, for my first book, A Man of His Word, I had a great answer to that question. I’d been raking leaves and had this vision of a cowboy who gets his hat shot off by an Indian princess who rides out of the woods wearing a buckskin dress. True, it took another seven months before a plot that could fit that opener materialized, but still—it made a great story. An idea comes to the unsuspecting author, unbidden, magical—just waiting to be told.

It’s all very mystical, isn’t it?

So here we are, back again, this time with my second book, A Man of Privilege. And man, I wish I had a great, author-communing-with-the-Muse story to tell you.

But I don’t.

This time, I can safely say that I hadn’t even considered James Carlson as a hero. Yes, he was handsome and yes, he was authoritative, but to me, he was a resolution to a problem. It wasn’t until my editor, the awesome Stacy Boyd, read the whole book and emailed me notes. The very last thing she said was, “Loved the ending! Would love to see books for Carlson and Yellow Bird.”

(An aside: Thomas Yellow Bird, the Lakota FBI agent who lurks throughout two books? Yeah, I’d written him specifically to be a future romance hero. So far, his story has proven to be slightly elusive. Damned sneaky FBI agents. So freaking hard to read!)

She’d like to see a story for Carlson. And I had absolutely no story for him.

But this is where the weird part of being an author kicks in. I swear, it wasn’t more than an hour of caffeine-fueled brainstorming (so named because it feels like my brain is storming) that I knew Carlson would meet a former hooker who had cleaned up her act and that she would turn his whole world upside down. I already had the basics of his personality and history laid out. I just needed to shake him up.

So I did. The result, A Man of Privilege, was a wild ride to write, and I think it’s an even wilder ride to read.

So what do you think? Is it best to wait for inspiration to strike, or is it best to get an assignment? I’m giving away a copy of A Man of Privilege to one lucky person who answers that question! Plus—bonus—every week I’m giving away one of these handcrafted (by me!) book necklaces from everyone who commented throughout the week! Check the Authorial Moms blog every Sunday to see if you were the winner!

A Man of Privilege by Sarah Anderson

She isn’t what he expected.

Blue-blood lawyer James Carlson is working on the case of his life.  After winning this trial, his career will be set.  He won’t let anything…or anyone… alter his course.  Then he meets his witness.

Maggie Eagle Heart makes him question everything–his family, his goals, his future. Because she’s the one woman he wants, and she’s the one woman who is completely off limits. Yet even as he struggles to keep their relationship all about business, he can’t deny the attraction is mutual–and irresistible.

James has always done what is expected of him…until now.

About Sarah:

Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux.  She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.

When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son.

This post is brought to you as part of the A Man of Privilege/Distinction Blog Tour.  For a complete tour schedule and rules, visit www.sarahmanderson.com. Comments on this blog will be entered to win a signed copy of A Man of Privilege.

Next tour stop is July 14: Wild & Wicked Cowboys

<http://wildandwickedcowboys.wordpress.com/>

A Man of Privilege is available! Visit your favorite bookseller, at Amazon, or for the Nook.

 

Learn to Love Rejection

No. Of course I don’t *want* to be rejected. I want to get a foot in the door at a publishing house where I can grow roots and hopefully a career…BUT I’ve come to understand this business is 90% “No.” Okay, probably that’s a low estimate. It’s more like 96% “No.” So, I try not to let it bother me when an editor says, “Pass,” on my work. I’ve learned to look forward to all responses, even the rejections.

Here’s the thing about “No.”

You can learn a lot from a rejection. Usually, if an editor has spent his or her time reading your manuscript, they’ll tell you why they ultimately passed on it. This may come in the form of a few short sentences, but every word counts. It’s one way we can learn and grow as writers. We may learn that our work simply isn’t for that imprint or house. We don’t match up. Or, we might find the editor liked our writing, but not the story. They might like the story but feel the writing needed work. Anything, really.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of reasons to be rejected, but normally it falls on your story (not strong enough – in voice, pacing, plot, character development etc), your writing (not strong enough) or if your story is awesome and your writing superb, they may still pass for a reason related to their publishing house ie: they already bought something too similar or don’t see your work as a good fit for their lineup, etc.

Whatever the reason for the rejection, it’s pure gold to have the feedback. You need to know why they passed, where you can improve, why you fell short…any information you can glean is priceless. If you want to see your manuscript hit shelves, then you have to be open to criticism. Take what you can and use it to improve your story. Pitch the rest. Remember, this is a subjective business. Same reason I love a book my bestie hates and vice versa. I hate to be so cliche, but it only takes one yes. LOL Corny? Yeah, but true nonetheless.

So, whether you’re seeking an agent or an editor, remember to query small strategic sets and channel every ounce of feedback you get into improving your writing, your story or both. Weigh it and use it. You don’t have to agree with everything, but you should seriously consider it. Feedback from the professionals in the industry shouldn’t be tossed aside. Revise and use your new improved work to query the next select group.

Don’t let rejection get you down. Use it. I have a few things I’m waiting on today, and I can’t wait to hear back on any one of them. I don’t even mind if it’s a rejection. Sure, it won’t be awesome, but it might make me a better writer. I covet any and all feedback and I’m chewing my nails off over here hoping to hear something on one of my projects soon. Waiting is the hard part. Waiting is a killer! LOL

Writer Wednesday Welcomes: Sandra Gurvis

Today I’d like to welcome fellow Ohio author, Sandra Gurvis. I’ve had the pleasure of bumping into this spunky, sassy lady all around the state this year. She’s a  lot of fun and here to share her thoughts on something we can all relate to. She tells it better, so I’m going to let her do it!

Welcome Sandra!

50 SHADES OF LITERARY PENIS ENVY

Last March, when I first heard about 50 SHADES OF GREY, my immediate and visceral reaction was, “Yuck.  You’ve got to be kidding me! This is the next BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, only worse because it cheapens sexuality and demeans women.”

Why didn’t my recently published ebook-turned-paperback COUNTRY CLUB WIVES meet with the same enthusiastic reception by readers, gazillion-dollar sales and movie rights wars?   What did the author, E.L. James have that I didn’t? (Short answer:  A real flair for writing scenes involving BDSM)

OK, so COUNTRY CLUB WIVES is a total fail in the bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism category.  In fact there’s hardly any graphic sex in my novel at all, although much is implied and the riches-to-rags saga of women, money and homeless animals in “New Albany, oops, New Wellington, Ohio” has garnered it share of positive reviews.   But it still doesn’t take away the fact that I spent eight years pouring my heart and soul into it, much as I have with my 13 other nonfiction books and one other novel over the course of a 30-year writing career.

So I decided to investigate the phenomenon. Not by reading 50 SHADES itself –  I was able to dodge that bullet, thanks to dozens of reviewers, reporters and Amazon reviews.  As a divorced woman past menopause with two grown children (and one grandchild on the way), “mommy porn” is about as interesting to me as say, HIGHLIGHTS IN THE HISTORY OF CONCRETE (http://www.amazon.com/Highlights-History-Concrete-Christopher-Stanley/dp/072101156X).  Rather, I decided to lift up the curtain and try to get a glimpse of the actual wizard.  And what I found surprised me.

For one thing, rather than being a professional pornographer or product of some publisher’s ingenuity, E.L. James is actually a real person, one Erika Leonard, a middle-aged, married now-former London TV executive with two teenagers.  For another, 50 SHADES started out as “fan fiction” of TWILIGHT, yet another series of books, I’ve managed to avoid (I’m more of a zombie enthusiast). In fan fiction, people use the characters and settings from another writer’s work to create their own plot.  Sort of like SCARLETT, the sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND but without actual publication, money and copyright issues.

After allegedly being drummed out of the TWILIGHT corps for being “too pornographic” (well, duh), James published her manuscript– which she told the Chicago Tribune took her only a few months to write –   on FiftyShades.com, which now cleverly redirects you to her promotional Web site (http://www.eljamesauthor.com). James renamed her main characters Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and split the book into three parts, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, published in May 2011 as print-on-demand/ebook by the Australia-based Writers’ Coffee Shop, FIFTY SHADES DARKER (the following September) and FIFTY SHADES FREED (Jan. 2012), the latter of which conjures up even smuttier mental images.  As anyone who’s ever worked with small/indie publishers knows, most publicity comes from blogs, reader reviews, and word-of-mouth.

So basically that pretty much levels the playing field – E.L./Erika started with the same tools that most authors have today.  Through timing, a sense of what people wanted to read –  what she herself told numerous publications she enjoyed reading/writing — and just plain luck, she won the literary equivalent of the lottery.  She basically wrote 50 SHADES for the same reasons most of us write our books.

She just has a much dirtier mind. Meanwhile, I’m going back to reading ON THE ISLAND.

Thank you Sandra :) 50 Shades is definitely a phenomenon. I love the attention it’s brought to fan fiction, which is a secret love of mine. You just never know what you’ll find your favorite characters doing in those stories….I guess this book is a prime example!

Here are a couple titles Sanrda has written:

Country Club Wives by Sandra Gurvis

Sex. Money. Murder. Drama. Housewives…And homeless animals! All run amok in the affluent suburb of New Wellington! Tish McLean has been left high and dry, both financially and emotionally, by Brian, her husband of over 20 years. To make matters worse, Brian is about to marry the social chameleon Susan, Tish’s one close unattached friend. As Tish struggles to realize her dream of opening a shelter for homeless animals—and her love with a very married veterinarian who has big problems of his own—she strips away the cubic zirconium studded underbelly of country club society. What she finds may shock you—and make you laugh!

 

The Pipe Dreamers by Sandra Gurvis

Like Kent State in the late 1960′s, Hayes University was in a sleepy Ohio college town. Julia Brandon, an innocent sorority girl, was in for an awakening, both emotionally and physically. Trouble begins when she tries to bail her radical roommate out of jail and escalates as she becomes increasingly involved with the protest movement, which erupts in violence, death, and destruction. She falls irrevocably in love with handsome, carefree, soon-to-be drafted Win, who steals her heart, entombing her emotionally.

Fifteen years later, trapped in an arid life, Julia catches a glimpse of a man whom she believes to be Win while on a cruise. She embarks upon a journey which leads her to the brink of devastation. Can she accept the truth about what happened so long ago without destroying herself and those she loves?

For those who lived through it, The Pipe Dreamers recaptures the turmoil surrounding Vietnam, the sexual revolution, and the rejection of parental values. For those who did not, it’s an eye-opening revelation of what Mom and Dad were really up to back then.

About Sandra:

Sandra Gurvis (www.sgurvis.com, www.booksaboutthe60s.com) is the author of 15 books, including Country Club Wives (Loconeal, 2012) (http://loconeal.com/store/country-club-wives) and just re-released on Kindle, The Pipe Dreamers (Olmstead, 2001) (http://www.amazon.com/The-Pipe-Dreamers-ebook/dp/B007PYHD5E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1341945718&sr=8-2&keywords=the+pipe+dreamers).  Unlike 50 SHADES OF GREY, her ebooks are $4.99 and $1.99, respectively and a portion of the proceeds are donated to animal shelters.  However, if you’re looking for cheap ($2.99) thrills, there’s I B Naughty’s 50 SHADES OF BLACK AND BLUE (http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Shades-Black-Blue-ebook/dp/B007X5T4M0/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341945025&sr=1-7&keywords=50+shades+of+gray), although, er, satisfaction may not be guaranteed.

Other recent titles by Sandra include Ohio Curiosities 2nd ed. (Globe Pequot, 2011); Paris Hilton: A Biography (Greenwood, 2011); and Day Trips from Columbus,3rd ed.(Globe Pequot, 2009). Her books have been featured in newspapers, television, and radio stations across the country; and have been excerpted in magazines.   Sandra has also written extensively on business and medical topics and lectures frequently on writing, the ’60s, and her books. She has been selected for residencies and fellowships and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA).  She lives in Columbus, Ohio.

My Love Affair with the Bookmobile

I am one lucky girl. The Ohio public library system is phenomenal. We have numerous amazing programs for readers and writers. I’ve had the honor of speaking at several this year and have basked in the awesome of many other visiting authors over the years. My children grew up on preschool story hour and my mother in law and I attend ladies night out quite frequently too. All wonderful Ohio library programs. I am a library fangirl. I love my local librarians, know a few from each of several locations by name, but my favorite is the librarian who meets me every Tuesday night on the Bookmobile.

The Bookmobile (for those who aren’t familiar) is a tiny library on wheels. It visits schools during the day (and school year) and random locations throughout the community in the evenings. Once a week, my family and I drive to the local strip mall and climb aboard. The librarians there don’t even ask for our library cards anymore. I’m like a fixture. I love it. I try to show them I love them by bringing iced coffees or ice cream in the summer, sometimes hot chocolate in the winter. They make me oh-so-very-very happy.

All week long, I spot books online I must-must-must read, then I log in to the library and make my request. Voila! A few days later, they are waiting for me :) Best deal ever.

I grew up on the Bookmobile and I plan to continue visiting until I am too old to drive and can’t find someone to take me. At which point, I will make a request they add my old age home to their list of stops. The Bookmobile is a staple in our community. Ohioans are lucky to have this wonderful opportunity. I wish it was available to everyone.

One day, if I ever have the money, I vow to rent a big tour bus, fill it with books and travel the country doling out free books to anyone who will stop and see me and my very own bookmobile.  This is a dream of mine. Corny? Maybe. But who doesn’t love a road trip? And one where I get to giveaway books? WINNING.

Mark my words, folks, if every I have the cash. This I will do.

How about your neighborhood? Do you have a local Bookmobile?

Write –> Polish –> Paralysis.

My writer-life is very cyclical. Once I get an idea in my head I can’t ignore, I start the process. It always ends the same way.

STEP ONE: I write. I outline for a few days, thinking of different scenarios, twists and outcomes. When I’m satisfied I’ve covered everything well, I begin a full-on writing frenzy. I write between 1-3 chapters a day. As I finish each new chapter, I send it to a writing partner or two for feedback. As those come back in, I stop writing to refine what I have and then press on sending and receiving for weeks.

STEP TWO: I shine it up some more. Once it’s finished and all the 1st round suggestions are made, I read it from the beginning and polish as I go, tightening, cleaning, cutting and adding. I send the opening chapters to random beta readers I don’t know for feedback. I make more changes. Perhaps their suggestions lead to bigger revisions, I take all applicable advise and use it fully. The mean, bossy, superior stuff, I pitch. Can’t let the nay-sayers get me down. I’m a writer LOL.

At the end of Step Two, I’m completely satisfied with my work. In my mind, it’s the best project I can produce at that moment in my life. I’ve used all my available resources, experience and knowledge to follow rules, push boundaries and touch readers. In other words, I’ve given all I have to that work. As a result, I’m depleted. Hence Step Three.

STEP THREE: Paralysis. During Step Three, I’m in a funk. My energy is zapped. My mind alternates between dread associated with waiting and rejection and freak-out mode for the same reasons. During this part of the cycle, I’m unable to write anything. I can barely entertain a new idea. I deal with self-doubt. My mind rolls back to my latest project, wondering if there was something more I could’ve done.

Waiting is tough. I have two big projects on submissions now. It’s really early in the game, so I know I won’t hear anything for a while, probably months. This is the reason I wrote the latest manuscript. To keep me busy. But now I’ve finished. My agent has it on her calendar to read next month. Gah! That leaves me on a month long reading binge just to see what her response is. She loved the concept, my outline and opening chapter, but what will she think of my full execution on this? *sweat beads on brow*

I’m not ready to start a fourth project this year. I’m wiped out. I had a busy spring getting the two manuscripts ready for submissions and a few months of promotion that kept me running. Then this project, and now I’ m nearly catatonic.

But I’ve written enough to know this will pass. It’s my downtime. These are the days I binge read and fill up on the amazing words of authors who get me, inspire me and keep me reaching for my goals. The side effect of all the reading is I’m learning more about my craft, what’s selling, getting new ideas, turns of phrase and making notes for the future….for when this cycle ends and I find myself back in Step One again. It will come. It always does. And while I’m deflated and frettting at this moment, I know the elated manic frenzy of a new work will come soon. And that makes Step Three worth while. The next manuscript will be stronger because I spend time here in between.

How about you? Do you have a pattern in your writer-life? Are we all the same in this? I think writers can be classified into a group on the DSM-IV. We are so different and yet share the same writerly behaviors. I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those.

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