Posts Tagged ‘Authonomy’

In honor of the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence on April 14, I’m uploading the middle chapters of my book Steadfast, which cover Chris’s return to Spokane and his ordeal with AIDS.

I was originally inspired to write this when I learned that while AIDS is no longer a death sentence, it is still an unpleasant disease.  And the fastest-growing segment of new patients are young gay men.  These young men missed the whole AIDS awareness campaign (remember the red ribbons?) and don’t perceive the disease as dangerous.  They haven’t heard–as we oldsters did–the call for safe sex.  (Or they learned about it in Health class, where teachers share all sorts of ideas about smoking, nutrition, adequate sleep, avoiding drugs, and other things kids tend to tune out.)

I was somewhat frightened about writing this.  My knowledge of gay men is limited to the sweet boyfriends who broke up with me for no apparent reason.  That’s why the story is told in first-person from the perspective of the girl who loves him.

So I’m concerned I’ve gotten any number of details wrong.  Details about young gay men, details about the Catholic Church, details about death and dying.  My research included reading And the Band Played On, one reporter’s chronology of the crisis, the memoir Borrowed Time, and endless amounts of Googling.  Obviously, that’s not scholarly research.   I know that many of you will give me feedback about how to fix my errors.

To end this on a positive note, I was astonished and pleased a few weeks ago by a remark our pastor made in church.  In the years since we’ve attended this church, he’s made very few remarks about homosexuality, and the few he made were anti-gay.  But on this night, he said–quite energetically–that we Christians were wrong in the Eighties.  We were wrong for not immediately stepping in to care for AIDS patients.  I think he’s right about that.

You can learn more about the Day of Silence at http://www.dayofsilence.org/


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At some point in the writing of a novel, one becomes unable to edit one’s work.  The only cure is to find another set of eyes to help with the editing.

The people most likely to be at hand, however, are one’s friends and family, and although they may be wonderful encouragers, they make terrible editors.  (Side note:  Friends and family and people reading this post make excellent backers.  If they can be bothered to create an account at Authonomy.com and back one’s book.  If.)

This is why I like Authonomy.  It’s a society of strangers who know how to construct a sentence.  A club for people who can say whether or not the plot works.

I’d reached the point where reading Steadfast was like wearing my favorite sweatpants.  Comforting.  Warm.  Familiar.  But not quite ready for public view.

The first few critiques identified the issues most in need of correction, and suddenly, reading the manuscript felt more like trying on skinny jeans.  Embarrassing.  Shameful.  I should have known better.

This weekend, I’m revising a particularly problematic chapter.  It’s not difficult or demanding.  It’s actually kind of fun.  The chapter included far too much narrative, too many details, too much telling.  Re-crafting it into a chapter that offers only the details the reader needs with more dialog and less telling…well, it’s an exercise in What I Studied in College.  It’s a challenge I enjoy.

I’m glad some of my favorite Authonomy friends told me what was wrong with the manuscript.  Because hidden behind the telling and the excessive narration in Chapter 3 is an amazing book!!

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Steadfast is up!

Time to visit Authonomy.com and show your support for my second book, Steadfast.  This one is about what happens when one of the Monahan boys returns from college suffering with AIDS.

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I joined Authonomy in August of 2011 because I wanted to get some feedback on my writing from other authors.  I understood that the top 5 books received reviews from a Harper Collins editor each month, but never really thought I’d reach those lofty heights.  I’m not being modest here.  I just didn’t think that a book about two Christian kids who don’t have sex would appeal to my fellow writers.

So I set to work reviewing the work of other writers and analyzing the feedback other writers left for me.  Every so often, I’d post an updated version of my book.  And you know what happened?  It kept rising in the ranks.  Oh, other books came along and blew right by me, well-written books by talented authors who had the sense to write in a genre that sells well.  Sometimes it discouraged me, this ability others seemed to have to skate right to the top, but whenever it did I’d remind myself that I just wanted to improve my book.

Well, at the start of January my book hit #5.  A few days later, it skipped up to #4.  Now that we are twenty days into January, I know I’ll be giving a copy of my manuscript to an editor in the next eleven days.

My plan is to incorporate their feedback (which varies tremendously in quality and usefulness–I sincerely hope I get one of the useful ones!), make a decision about hiring an editor (do I or don’t I?), and then publish Forgiveness Fits on Kindle.  I’ll also post my next book, Steadfast, on Authonomy to see how it does.  And there’s a third book…lather, rinse, repeat.

So the big question now is…will my book sell?  Will it sell enough to pay the cable bill or the mortgage, or just enough to cover the tiny amount of dark chocolate I consume each month?  I don’t know.  But if it sells at all, I think I’ll be pretty happy.

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Blog Hop!!

Hello everyone!

A fellow Authonomy author, Patty Apostolides, has invited me to join in The Next Big Thing blog tour! The idea is to hop from blog to blog to discover exciting authors and their books we might not have heard about or that are still Works in Progress (WIP).  This is Week  22.

The hop rules require me to answer predetermined questions, and then at the bottom of my post, to list links to authors who will answer the same questions on their blogs next week. Here we go!

1) What is the working title of your book?

Forgiveness Fits

2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

I first wrote a book called Steadfast which tells the story of one of the Monahan boys.  After I finished it, I wanted to explore the story of their nanny, Caroline.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a YA book with lots of references to Christianity.

4) Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

It’s always bad when women in their 50’s write YA literature.  The actors I’m picturing are far too old for the parts, because I remember them as younger actors.  Caroline could be played by a much younger Natalie Portman.  Paul is the size and shape of Channing Tatum, but with a less attractive face.  It’s a tall order because Hollywood takes these average looking guys and transforms them into pretty-boys.  Paul isn’t pretty.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Paul and Caroline face two terrible attacks by relying on their Christian faith and their love for each other.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll submit a few queries but am probably going to e-publish.  I think the audience for Christian Teen Fiction will find it if I blog about it enough.  Right now, Christian publishers lean toward squeaky clean stories.  Mainstream publishers, I’m told, won’t allow “the J-word” or Jesus, except as an oath.  My book may not interest any existing publishers.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to?

I can’t think of a similar book.  It’s essentially a boy-meets-girl story but with some scary bullies who want to keep the couple apart.

9) Who or what inspired you to write the book?

Caroline’s experiences at her new high school are based on my own experiences, but heavily exaggerated.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I tried to write a book about characters who rely on their faith but don’t preach it.  As a teacher, I meet students from all over the world, and they know little to nothing about Christianity.  I challenged myself to write a book that would explain some aspects of Christianity without supporting it or promoting it.  A teenager who reads this book might think, “Oh, so that’s why a Christian would take those actions,” rather than, “This book makes me want to become a Christian.”  Though if my story plants some curiosity about Jesus, that’s okay with me.

Next Wednesday, you can visit the blogs of friends listed below to read the answers on their “Next Big Thing.”

Diane M. Dixon

Susan Finlay

Lesa Clarke

M. A. McRae

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It’s been my turn to be reviewed on the Authonomy Young Adult Forum, so a number of other YA writers have been sending detailed and thoughtful crits my way.  They’ve been enormously helpful in helping me correct some ongoing issues–people just weren’t all that fond of me Caroline.  These recent reviewers have pointed out specific passages that made her seem whiny or judgmental, and I’ve taken what I hope are the right actions to fix it.

I’ve uploaded fresh versions of Chapters 1–22.

This would be the perfect time to have a look.  I’m ranked at #26 and could use your support.

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All my writer-type friends are talking about this article from the New York Times.  (I’ve always wanted to say that.)  It seems that a man in Oklahoma made a good deal of money by writing, or hiring others to write, positive reviews for books on Amazon.com.

It’s not all that surprising.  I’m so gullible that my former co-workers used to call me Polly Anna, and even I could tell many reviews were fake.

At the same time on Authonomy, a writer whose book just dropped out of the top five, and who followed a fairly aggressive strategy for making the desk, suddenly reports having been ‘away’ for a week because her son is dying.

There are many reasons to dislike this author.  She used a stock photo from the internet for her avi.  She never participated in forum conversations, choosing instead to read as many books as she could and leave fairly generic, useless comments.  She backed nearly every book she read for a brief time.  It’s a strategy that has gotten many writers to the desk.  This writer added another level:  she sent messages to the authors of the books she’d reviewed and ask for a reciprocal backing.

On the other hand, her book is pretty good.  It’s well written and interesting.  It’s a book that I think would have made the desk no matter which strategy she chose to use.  And there’s also concern that someone who would claim to have a sick child in order to get a review from Harper Collins may be suffering and making a cry for help.

All this speaks to the question of tactics.  Is paying for reviews a moral or immoral practice?  Are generic comments and 2-day backings sincere?  Is it smart promotion to check in with the people you’ve backed to ask for a backing?  I don’t really know the answers to these questions.  I just know which tactics feel comfortable to me.  Others may feel differently.

But if I decide to self-publish, I won’t be paying anyone to write reviews for my work.  In case you were wondering.

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