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Spring Forward and Plot Your Next Story

Spring has arrived and the sun is finally shining in Portland. While some might feel compelled to clean their house and organize their life, I felt the need to gather with friends and organize my next story.
 
So I spent this past Sunday conducting my own personal think tank with 5 wonderful friends: Susan Lute (host), Nancy Brophy, Linda Mercury, Wendy Warren and Carolyn Zane. We gathered to exchange story ideas and figure out plot points. There is power in collective creativity with people from your “tribe”. It doesn’t matter if you write the same genre. Our stories ranged from heartwarming, cozy mystery, witches, and vampires, oh my! What matters is that there is a level of trust and support among the group.
 
For the past few months, my story has been stuck in the Winter Blues. I have an idea for a paranormal young adult story and love my main characters but I couldn’t figure out the villains. This is why you need your writing buddies. When you are hesitant to give drama to your beloved characters, other writers can help you create their worst case scenarios, almost too easily and with non-concealed glee.
 
After 6 hours of exchanging ideas, the room was buzzing. I felt exhausted and excited with equal measure. Sharing your story is like sharing a secret. For the first time I had to truly explain the ins and outs of a complex story that keeps me awake at night. I spent over an hour drawing pictures and lines to connect the dots. Then I waited for the rejection. I felt like Carrie looking up to see if I was standing underneath a bucket. Instead I just felt support and suggestions from talented writers who want me to succeed. They could see a sparkle to my story and they helped me look at it from other angles.
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My only regret is that I didn’t bring a tape recorder. Not just for the notes I don’t remember but to listen to the cadence of our voices. Writers love talking about their stories and you can hear it when they speak. In fact, many writers talk about their characters like they are real people. I’m glad we were in Susan’s home because a public location would have drawn many raised eyebrows with our conversations on how best to redeem a murderous villain or why certain children needed to be orphans for everything to work out in the end.
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I left the gathering feeling three things. First, I am extremely motivated to write this story by my self-imposed October 15th deadline. Second, I also can’t wait to read their stories when completed and I will help keep them motivated. Lastly, I am lucky to have found such great writing friends.
 
If you feel energized by collective collaboration, I encourage you to find your own writing tribe and get started on organizing your own potluck plotting sessions. If you don’t know where to start and you write Happily Ever Afters, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) has local writing chapters all over the country. Writing is a solitary task but you don’t have to do it alone.
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The coffee table books of a true writer!

Everyone Has A Story—Even If It’s Just Their Own

[Note from Jessa: In continuation of our new-release theme, I’m excited to share a new project from author and inspiring lady Susan Lute. Years ago, she convinced me to try vision boarding when brainstorming a book. I was sooo reluctant because it seemed like “wasted” time. To my surprise, I loved it! And I hope you’ll love this new book from her. Although I will fight her on her ranking of Firefly…]

Hello, See Jane Publish. Thanks for letting me take over your blog 🙂

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I have a new obsession. Not chocolate, though on any given day, that easily hits the top of the list. A good cup of coffee? My new favorite is Don Francisco’s Kona blend, but that’s not what has my fingers doing a crazy dance across the keyboard.

It’s a given I’m a huge geek over Star Wars, Firefly, Star Trek (probably in that order), but it turns out I’m also a little obsessed with how-to webinars on anything related to publishing books. And because everyone has a story, that obsession has flung me on a new adventure outside of writing my usual contemporary romances.

Life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey.

As a kid raised in a military family, it’s no surprise all my novels are about the journey home.

Drum roll, please… My newest release… Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Yourself (A Summer Journal) is the first of four journals. Your story starts here in these keepsake books.

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Amazon | BN | SusanLute.com

 

About Susan: You can take a girl away from her home, but you can’t erase the search for home from that girl’s heart. Like all children of military families, Susan Lute spent her childhood moving from one duty station to the next. Today she works as a Registered Nurse and writes whenever she can. When not writing, her favorite Zen moments are spending time with family, gardening, traveling, and remodeling the house she now calls home.

 

For The Love Of…True Love

 

I’m going to start at the beginning because, well, that’s where love starts, right? I met Mr. L before I was even out of high school. My family and I were new to town. My mom wanted us to make new friends so she took us to this gathering called, The Jesus Movement, which later became Maranatha, then much later settled into traditional churches. A young man stepped out of this huge red barn, and oh boy, laying eyes on him was like coming home. No fireworks like you’d expect or we read about in novels, but simply a warmth that settled permanently in my chest. A year later we were married.

Fast forward, oh about thirty-something years. Being in love isn’t always easy. And it’s really not about the presents you get on Valentines. Love’s best parts are the moments you share. But, it’s Valentine’s Day, a rare, beautiful February day in the Northwest. Mr. L and I are taking a ride (one of my favorite things to do). We’re meeting a guy about a truck – not an unusual activity for Mr. L. I’d been driving a rental F150 while my car was in the shop and had mentioned how much I loved it, but wanted something smaller (I have a reputation in the family for being a bit of a hazard in a larger vehicle I can’t see around). So Mr. L was shopping around. I’d seen a picture…was skeptical. A white Ford Sport Trac drives into the parking lot where we’re waiting, and I knew. Immediately. Mr. L had found the perfect Valentine’s gift. This was the truck for me. I named her Annabelle.

My Valentine’s gift that year wasn’t just Annabelle. It was knowing the heart of a man, all those years later, even when our engine sometimes needed work, that his heart understood mine. The man couldn’t move mountains, but he was still the one who’d settled so gently into my life and stayed there.

Susan Lute – one of the original Janes – is an award-winning traditional and Indie published author of Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, and Paranormal Romance. An ardent student of human nature, who loves ancient history, myth, and dragons, she doesn’t remember thinking … someday I’ll grow up to be a writer. You can find her at www.susanlute.com, Pinterest, Facebook, and Goodreads. She is giving away three copies of The Return Of Benjamin Quincy. Leave a comment and sign up for her newsletter to be put into a drawing to win. Watch for her next release, coming in February 2015, A Fool For Love.

Convention Tips from Founding Janes

As fate would have it, I was sitting with all three founding Janes at a mini-writing retreat when I realized that this month’s blog topic would be the perfect opportunity to get convention tips from a wealth of knowledge and to see where Susan, Cassiel, and Nancy are on their publishing journey.

My Best Tip For Going to Conference by  Susan Lute

Hi everyoDragon's Thiefne! It’s good to be back. Thanks Jessie, for the invitation, and for the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics. But first, what have I been doing since I last visited See Jane Publish? Well…sometimes it doesn’t seem like a lot. Life takes over, you know? In the bigger scheme of things, I’ve written a few words here and there (har har). I have a contemporary romance out to a Harlequin editor, a fun story that takes me back to my writing roots and my first published novel, Oops…We’re Married? I’m working on a new contemporary romance series with my bestie, Darla Luke, novelettes (for the busy woman) set in Sellwood. There was the booksigning for The Dragon’s Thief (which is in print now, btw) at Jan’s Paperbacks. That was enormous fun. I’m working on the second book in the Dragonkind Chronicles, Dragon’s Fire, and the second book in my Falling For A Hero series, tentatively titled Bear’s Full House. I hope to put The London Affair and The Broken Road into print novels by the end of summer. AND I still have The Day Job. Whew!

So my best tip for going to conference? Go with a plan. An agenda. That could be, you want to attend workshops on a specific subject like craft, publishing, or organizing your writer’s life. You might want to learn more about traditional publishing houses, so would attend the spotlights and talk to editors. Maybe you want to talk to as many agents as you can to discover what kind of agent you might want. Just be sure to know what you want an agent to do for you. The publishing world has turned on its ear. There are new players in the game, and some of the old players have had to scramble to redefine their roles. Agents are one of them. Perhaps you want to learn more about navigating Indie publishing. Whatever it is, have a plan. My second tip…yes I always have more advice than you want to hear…when you get to conference with your plan, go with the flow. Be flexible. If a door opens, go right when you think left is the way to get to what you want. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes the best things happen when we’ve put a plan in motion and then the Universe decides to give us a hand. My final advice? Have fun.

Where in the World is Cassiel Knight?

thedeathskullDuring the year, from about April to October, writing conferences fill the calendar. One of the huge upcoming ones is Romance Writers of America’s annual conference, held this year in San Antonio. Over 2,000 authors and aspiring authors are deciding what to pack–just how important are those writing books anyway and how much room do I need to leave for all the books I’ll bring back?–and asking if they’ll be able to find their way among so many attendees.

When Jessie asked me to share my own important tip for attending conferences, it was a no brainer but frankly, not an easy thing for many writers to do: Be courageous.

What do I mean by this? Go up and chat up that agent or editor? Say hi to Nora Roberts, Cherry Adair, Sherrilyn Kenyon or any number of big name authors. Instead of sitting at a table with friends you see all the time, go find a table and make new friends. Participate in workshops by engaging the presenter. See someone off in the corner looking terrified? Go say hi.

All of those things require courage for many of us. However, if you can push past the fear, you’ll find a whole new world open to you–a new world of friendships, connections and some fan-girl squealing. Open yourself to the full experience and grab it with both hands. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Cassie Knight is one of the founding members of See Jane Publish. She writes paranormal romance with kick-assitude and is published with Samhain Publishing, Kensington/Lyrical Press and Champagne Book Group. Her latest release is  THE DEATH SKULL, Relic Defender, Book 2 at Amazon.com – Kindle, Barnes & Noble – NOOKBook or Samhain Publishing

Catching up with Nancy Brophy

Nancy2Here it is July and like many of you I am going to the RWA national convention.

I’m going because I am President of my local chapter. I’m going because I haven’t been since about 2008. And I’m going because my writing career needs a boot in the ass.

And I am excited – kind of. While all the above is true, I hate crowds and have to force myself to behave well around strangers, which includes smiling and actually speaking. That’s right stringing several words together to form a complete thought (worthy of being heard) and not forgetting to include both a subject and a verb.

Many, many times I’ve lectured myself using an abundance of cheery, get-your-butt-moving affirmations including, “They’re more insecure than you are.” “You will never sell another book if you don’t take some action – any action.” “Breathe. In. Out. Again.” And sometimes when I am hopeless, I give into – “I am good enough. I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!”

When I wrote that last sentence in my first draft, I ended it with a question mark rather than an exclamation point – and, no, I didn’t see it as Freudian at all.

So what are my tips for going?

Pack scotch, it’s cheaper than the mini-bar.

Try to lose that crazed look when you realize in the middle of a conversation you know exactly what the next scene of your WIP should be. And really the person sitting across from you is sometimes offended if you put the words she just uttered into your villain’s mouth. (Even if they are perfect.)

Get your nails done.

Pluck your eyebrows or chin hairs, shave your legs and elsewhere before you go.

Make it to the airport before your plane leaves without you.

And know – this one is the important one – that you are where you are supposed to be at that moment in time. Make the most of it.

You might surprise yourself.

Why Indie Publishing Matters, Or Shaken, Not Stirred …by Susan Lute

While the new Janes are getting organized, I thought I’d slip in the back door, and tell you all the exciting news since my last 82022664-C11-002post. The one thing we know about publishing today is that nothing stays the same, and since I’ve had some time to surf the net, and blogs. There is one question that pops into my brain over and over again. Why does Indie publishing matter?

There are lots of reasons to indie publish a book, most of them discussed at one time or another on this blog. But we’ve never answered the question of why it matters? I don’t want you to think I’m casting stones. That is not my intent, only that I want to make an observation.

I was reading a post this morning, by Jaimie Brazil at Windtree Press, The Rejection Collection – Set Yourself Free. Jamie answered in part why indie books matter. For many years the New York publishing machine has owned the industry. They decided who’s voice readers would want to buy and read. And perhaps they did have the inside tract on that phenomena, but they weren’t right one-hundred percent, or even eighty or ninety percent of the time.

There are so many talented storytellers writing in their solitary offices, or local coffee shops that never make ‘the cut’. That’s why indie publishing and books matter. Besides the fact that it teaches an author about the practical aspects of publishing a novel, it gives voice to all those exceptional writers who wouldn’t otherwise see their stories in print.

V16 Falling For A Hero 800x1200For a long time indie published books have been considered the bastard stepchild to traditional publishing, and it was said, only the most unpublishable authors resorted to publishing their novels in that venue. That was never true, but today it’s the furthest thing from the truth, and I predict it won’t be much longer until indie and traditionally published books hold hands as full-blooded sisters and brothers in an industry that will respect an author not only for the story he or she tells, but also for the venue in which it’s published. Logo

So my journey continues with a new release and a new venture. New at Amazon and BN, and coming soon to Windtree Press and Kobo, is Falling For A Hero, The Anthology; A Girl Named Jane and Jane’s Long March Home under one new, but familiar cover. And this week Crazy Hair Publishing, an online indie book site for my novels, went live. As always, it has been a labor of love.

Thanks for staying with me on this journey. Until next time, I’ll have mine shaken, not stirred, thank you very much.

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