Thursday, June 10, 2010
Working Ahead of the Curve
What a difference a year makes!
Last year at this time I was eating sushi on the island, picking sand from my toes and wondering if the boat marked “MAINLAND” would ever have a seat with my name on it.
And then I got “The Call”.
Is life different?
Is it good?
Oh. My. Stars. : YES
Waiting Out the Storm is about to be released in stores and is already available for purchase at e-harlequin.com. I’m giving away a copy of it today to two lucky winners, so be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment! Is it a fun book? Yes.
Is it a totally great addition to the North Country series???
Oh Mylanta, if a totally adorable, to-die for hero with the title ‘doctor’ in front of his name and an in-the-barn, muck-speckled, boot-wearing heroine who happens to end up being his neighbor despite their Capulet-Montague family history (without the eloquent but somewhat tedious Shakespearean-speak, headache-causing old English)… I love this book. I love that Craig is such a good guy but still flawed. I love that Sarah is so focused, but can manage to miss the forest for the trees…
And the kids? The dogs? The sheep???? Right there is reason enough to grab this book and see what all the fuss is about. Because it’s stinkin’ sweet, and that’s all I’m going to say right now.
I’ve been blessed to receive a 4 ½ star rating by Romantic Times Magazine on Winter’s End AND Waiting Out the Storm, which means one of two things: I’m doing something right OR… RT hired my sister. Thanks, SIS!!!!
Winter’s End was chosen as one of the “BEST BEACH READS” by Woman’s World magazine (upcoming July 5th issue).
I’ve spoken to a lovely readers’ club here in upstate, I’ve been “author in residence” at a local school, I was honored to be the guest author at Harlequin’s recent “Staff Appreciation Day” in Buffalo at their amazing Distribution Center and this week I have the honor of addressing the Greater NY Salvation Army Association of Women Pastors on Long Island.
Yup. What a difference a year makes.
We talk a lot about how to be ready, how to prepare, how to market, how to sell yourself. First things first: WRITE. Write yourself silly. Write ahead of the game. Write for the market and for yourself. Work daily. Do not make excuses for why you can’t work because hard work is a habit like anything else. Be “Nike”: JUST DO IT.
Here’s a prime example of why I work ‘ahead of the game’, always striving to have the next books in the works while I’m writing one. I never work a project singly. Ever. It’s way too easy to drop the ball if you’re not ahead of the curve. This was my projected schedule for the first two weeks of June. Remember, I’m a full-time worker so everything is done around the day job:
June 3rd: Speaker and luncheon at Harlequin Distribution Center Staff Appreciation Day in Buffalo, NY.
June 4th: Toronto overnight with Dave (tickets to Yankees game from Finance Boy in Boston, Christmas present)
June 5th: Afternoon game in Toronto, return to upstate that evening (about 3 hour drive if traffic’s good)
June 9th: Drive to Long Island after work (about 8 hours)
June 10th: Long Island for speaking and book-signing at GNY Salvation Army Women’s Retreat
June 10th: Blog: Seekerville!!!!!! (Yup, I’m on a slightly different ISLAND today, LOL!)
June 11th: Manhattan, meet Commander of Salvation Army, hang out with Lawyer Boy
June 12th: Head back upstate
June 12th: Clarkson Rodeo, evening (research for book… my kind of research!!!! ;) )
June 13th: Church, rain date for rodeo if necessary, Cowboy church
I had a book due July 1st. I made sure it was done and mailed by June 3rd, and here’s why: Life happens.
When I looked at my projected June schedule, I knew that writing blocks would be choppy at best and that my habitual 4:00 AM wake-up call would get messed up by late nights. So I worked ahead of the curve and finished a three-book proposal for Steeple Hill and the current book, sent both in…
And as often happens:
Life intervened in the form of a “Mack-Attack”. “Mack-Attack” is our brand new baby
granddaughter who decided 35 weeks was plenty long enough to be inside and decided a birthday in June was way better than July. MacKenzie Marie made her appearance around 2:20 AM on June 4th and that means a few things:
Grammy and Grandpa needed to grab time to drive the 30 minutes and visit Mom, Dad and baby and ascertain that 5 lb., 6 oz. “Kenzie” was doing great. She’s a scrapper, it’s evident already, but with a mellow edge that’s a gift from her sweet Mama.
Baby needed tiny newborn clothes, an exception in our house of 8 lb. + babies who never really fit into newborn clothes… Quick on-the-way shopping trip to Kohl’s for NB outfits and onesies picked out by Grandpa…
Big brother Logan needed watching because Mom and Dad were at the hospital with Kenzie… Aunt Beth and Uncle Jon stepped in to take care of 17 month-old Logan and dogs since Dave and I were overnight in Toronto, then Grandma Prophet took Logan from Saturday night ‘til Sunday evening before bringing him back here.
This pic is the equivalent of "Buddy Breathing" for babies... Logan's nabbed on to Elijah's binky for a comforting moment or two, but 'Lijah seems a bit shocked by Logan's audacity...
And since Kenzie will be in the hospital for a few more days with some bilirubin and temperature issues, big brother Logan is having waaaaay fun sleepovers with Grammy for the duration.
Imagine if I had to fit this new scenario into the above two weeks, AND be on deadline with an unfinished book.
People say I handle stress well. I do, but that’s because I avoid it. I work proactively because I’ve been on the planet long enough to know that Murphy’s Law reigns: If anything can go wrong it will, and at the worst possible time.
I work to avoid craziness because I like that sense of inner control, that I’m on my own “clock”, that as life tumbles and stumbles, I’ve been smart enough to don my knee pads and shin guards and lessen the blows. In sales (I was a Tupperware Sales Manager in the 70’s and spent 1998-2005 as a bridal consultant, selling wedding gowns and bridal ensembles to wedding parties)
I was taught to plan your work and work your plan, to project ahead and remove possible impediments from your path. Circumstance can always be counted on to send NEW impediments… Do your best to chuck the already visible ones, clear your path in advance. Be your own Zamboni (that’s in honor of the Stanley Cup Finals this week…. Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Philadelphia Flyers… Two American teams vying for the hockey title… Who’da thunk it????), clear the way, smooth the ice.
Simply put: Work. Work hard. Set aside time every day for writing. Prioritize. I tell people that I write fast, but I think it’s more that I write steady, blocking out time every single day, then using scraps of time to research other projects or getting my art copy ready for an upcoming book so when it’s contracted all I have to do to make the cover art team happy is push some buttons. Working ahead of the game makes each book’s transition from manuscript to bound edition SO MUCH EASIER for me, and that keeps me calm. I like calm. A lot.
Your ability to handle stress and time constraints will help convince an editor that you are the real deal, the real McCoy, a bona-fide, in-your-face, I-can-do-this writer. The first thing that editor wants to know when they make that call is: Do You Have More?
Saying ‘yes’ tells him/her two things:
1. You’re motivated to work and not hung up on getting one book r-i-g-h-t.
2. Getting you into rotation and production will be way easier. Readerships build with quick turnaround. A reader that has to wait for a year between books will most likely FORGET YOUR NAME… Sad, but true. Until you’re so well established that people won’t forget you, getting books out in a timely fashion is clutch for most editors.
Editors have a multi-fold responsibility to their publishing houses of picking great books AND good authors. A great book does not a great author make. A great book that’s weighted with slow turnover times, slow production times, uncooperative or sulky attitudes (have I mentioned today how much I HATE DRAMA???? People who prepare ahead tend to have much less D-R-A-M-A in their lives. I’m just sayin’…) a drama-filled life that messes with print and production deadlines, art deadlines, etc…
Who needs THAT when there are a host of talented authors waiting at the door, chomping at the bit?
Work ahead of the curve. Plan your work, work your plan. Be tough on yourself. Really tough. Raise the bar, heighten the expectations. A strong, daily work ethic is the very best gift you can give yourself as a new author.
Hey, leave me your e-mail in your comment, pretty please with sugar on it!!!! And feel free (published or not, you KNOW I don’t care) to add your own ideas to working ahead of the curve, for strategizing on "gettin’ her done…"
Since I’m downstate today, I’m sending Manhattan bagels, lox, cream cheese, fresh, sweet onion, a selection of muffins to die for, and a full breakfast buffet including eggs, ham, sausage, home fries (I’m ignoring the NYC trans-fat laws… Oh Mylanta, the things they legislate here….) white or wheat toast and homemade strawberry jam or sour cherry preserves.
Dig in. Tell me your plan, what works for you. Let’s put on our farm boots in honor of Sarah “White Fawn” Slocum (Waiting Out the Storm) and share ideas to thrust us into forward-motion success mode.