Sunday, February 17, 2013

Double Feature: Kathleen Shoop and Alex Akira

Guest Post
How to Avoid the Rejection Blues

by Kathleen Shoop 

How to Avoid the Rejection Blues—well, once you decide to go indie, you find the type of rejection shifts from agent/editor rejection to reader rejection. It’s hard when readers don’t like your work—actually that’s not as hard as the blanket, “I hate this, it’s the worst, most depressing thing I’ve ever read...” It’s so important to recognize everyone will not like or love or even tolerate your work. That’s what makes all this work. There’s something out there for every reader and dealing with the negatives is just part of the job. Again, I can’t say how glad I am to be able to participate. That’s what matters to me.

Why Book Covers are So Important—A book cover draws readers in, gives them a feel for what the book is about even if the image isn’t a literal representation of the content. A good cover is everything!

Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction (or other genre) Writers—Just write. Don’t worry about it being fantastic. It won’t be—the first draft won’t be. But you have to have a draft in order to mold and shape it. The first draft is akin to an artist formulating her own special clay to shape. Your first draft is your clay—the recipe is complete—after you have your clay you need to actually sculpt, shape, mold...for me that’s the hard part. Just start.

Five Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Publishers

Booksigning Tips to Sell That Book—Pull a theme from your book and create an event around that theme. Yes, you’ll be signing books and that’s great, but make the day enjoyable for readers. With my first book The Last Letter, the tagline was “for every daughter who thought she knew her mother’s story...” And we had a pre-mother’s day signing complete with sets of books, stationery, letter boxes, mother/daughter stuff, relaxation baskets both for sale and for raffle. Find a theme and exploit it!

How I Made My First Sale—I put an ad in Mary Jane’s Magazine, and I got an email from a woman who couldn’t wait to read it. She did and she loved it, and she became my northeast territory sales person! She gave my book away, asked indie book stores to carry it and was just incredible to me. It was like something straight out of a movie. I will never forget that.

What Inspired Me to Write My Book—

My Publishing Journey or How I Became a Published Author
Why Blogging is Important—I’m not sure blogging itself is important. There are fabulous, wonderful, powerful bloggers who land book deals. But there are many more fabulous writers who stink or are unable to focus energy on blogging. There was a time I thought having a strong blog was important (and it can be for many, many people) but with Facebook and Twitter, I don’t feel the need to spend a lot of time blogging. I LOVE twitter because it’s not a mini-article that I have to proof and suffer over. It’s just fun. I’m probably wrong about this though, because I am not a marketing pro at all, in the least!!!

What Makes the Perfect Book Blog—one that is funny and reveals the true personality of the author...some authors have fantastic reader blogs and they converse with readers about all manner of topics and issues as well as their books. Others have sites more oriented toward writing and they draw an powerful following as well. For me, my blog is used to offer news, invite other writers for interviews, and to be a landing pad for everything related to my work. I don’t use my blog the way awesome bloggers do, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having other writers and bloggers to my blog to talk.

How to be a Good Guest Blogger—Guest blogging is fun. You are exposed to new readers and often can entice them to pick up your work or follow you on Twitter, etc. Be sure to be gracious and have the owner of the blog guide you in what she wants to see in your post. However, if she invited you to her blog she probably understands your perspective, writing style and topics of interest for you.

Why Mentors Are Important I have too many mentors to count—writing mentors, marketing, pr, networking mentors. Even people in other fields who have started their own businesses are my mentors. Just like there’s never a shortage of material to inspire my writing, there’s never a shortage of people I can learn from. And, I return the favor. If someone needs help with any component of publishing I do my best to help them or find the person who can if I can’t. Mentors and mentoring is vital to being successful, I think.

Inside the Mind of the Author—it’s crowded, noisy, crazy...I hate the inside of my head and wish I was more organized and methodical in my writing. The only thing I can say is that I am exceptionally methodical in my dedication to the craft—I just wish the work came out in a packaged, neat form instead of the mess it does!!!

About the author:

Thank you for reading about me here and for purchasing my novel! I'm married with two children. I've been seriously writing for almost a decade although I dabbled much earlier than that! I've had short stories published in four Chicken Soup for the Soul books, am a regular contributor to a local magazine, Pittsburgh Parent, and have had essays in local newspapers as well.

I have a PhD in Reading Education and have worked in schools for over twenty years. I work with teachers and their students in grades k-8 and am lucky to learn something new from them every time I walk through their doors. This experience was a huge help in writing LOVE AND OTHER SUBJECTS--a quirky, post-college coming of age story.

My first novel, The Last Letter (2011 IPPY Gold Medal--Regional Fiction, Midwest, 2011 Indie Excellence Finalist Award for Historical Fiction and Regional Fiction, 2011 International Book Awards Finalist for Historical Fiction and Best New Fiction), was a fascinating trip through history, punctuated with fictional characters and events. The idea for the story grew from my great-great grandmother's letters (see My Dear Frank for the complete set of letters!) written during the year of her engagement to Frank Arthur. The beautiful letters are the inspiration for the novel, the seed from which The Last Letter's characters and their voices grew.

I've also written women's fiction--Love And Other Subjects--and have written another historical fiction novel, After The Fog, set in 1948 in a town not far from Oakmont, Pennsylvania. After The Fog is also an award winning book--silver IPPY and WINNER in the literary category of the National Indie Excellence Awards.

Right now, I'm finishing up a 20,000-word short love story for an anthology and am also using my characters and setting from The Last Letter as per reader request to show what happened between the two timelines in the original book! I hope readers will enjoy the fact I write about varied eras and places and that they will love each book for its unique setting and time.

About the book:

For every woman who wonders if she chose the right career...
In Love and Other Subjects Carolyn Jenkins strives for two things—to be the greatest teacher ever and to find true love. She’s as skilled at both as an infant trying to eat with a fork. Carolyn’s suburban upbringing and genuine compassion for people who don’t fit effortlessly into society are no match for weapon-wielding, struggling students, drug-using colleagues, and a wicked principal.

Meanwhile, her budding relationship with a mystery man is thwarted by his gaggle of eccentric sisters. Carolyn depends on her friends to get her through the hard times, but with poverty-stricken children at her feet and a wealthy man at her side, she must define who she is. The reality of life after college can be daunting, the road to full-fledged adulthood long and unscripted. Can Carolyn take control and craft the life she’s always wanted?

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Guest Post

A Day In The Life of Alex Akira

by Alex A. Akira

Well, I’m  a creature of habit, so at least four days of my week go like this:
I rise at four o’clock in the AM (yes you read that correctly) throw on some workout clothes and either run on my treadmill for thirty minutes or do warm-up calisthenics, followed by some light free weight work. I then go out to the dojo and do some bag work, generally punches. Then I kick the  heavy bag around some. If my partner is up (about three days out of seven) we do a little sparring, sometimes he drills me on a new or a particular skill. For those of you who don’t know this, my partner is my Sensei.

By six o’clock I’m in the shower wondering if the stuff I wrote the previous evening is any good. By six-thirty, I’m dressed, grab the bowl of oatmeal that my guy microwaved for me and seat myself before my iMac and check said stuff, out. Generally I’m surprised, it’s not as bad as I thought, but the errors are glaringly obvious.

After I munch down the oatmeal I start to make the changes as my partner tells me information relative (not) to my day...the weather, world disasters, what Obama catch the drift. By now I’ve got my Thesaurus up and I’m probably on Wiki researching some information that I want to use in my story. Shortly after, I’m checking my email, answering it and if possible sending out a Tweet or checking FB.

During this process I am also rigging my iPod to my person. I have to be at my real life job between seven-thirty and eight o’clock. Okay I’m supposed to be in at seven-thirty, but I’m head of the design team, so they don’t really care if I’m late. Generally by seven-fifteen I’m saving whatever changes I made in my writing, shrugging into my scarf, grabbing my supplements and a protein bar to hold me over until I return home. After kissing my partner, I jump in the Jetta, crank up my music and drive the short four miles to the design studio.

Once I enter the studio, I turn on my iPod, make myself a hot drink, (coffee or tea) suck down my supplements and check out what design work I’ve got lined up. I design giftware, accessories, jewelry and other stuff for a long-standing firm that sells in the UK and America. It’s not rocket science, so generally I’m on automatic and am working out some feature in the story I am writing. The music coming though the iPod helps me isolate. Although no one is supposed to wear earbuds at the studio, when I was hired I made it a point in my iPod, no Alex. Plus everyone knows to “leave Alex alone.” They get better designs if they don’t interrupt me.

By two o’clock the protein bar I ate at noon is waning and I’m readying myself to go home. Two thirty is my official quitting time, but if I’m done, I’m done. I get in my Jetta, switch off the earbuds, switch on the cd player and return home.

Once home, I strip, throw on something more comfortable and if I didn’t have a coffee, I make  a cup. If not then it’s tea and some kind of snack like banana chips, both of which I take over to my iMac. I’m home alone in one of two ways, either my lover is sleeping because he’s working the night shift or he’s already left and I’ll see him after eleven.
So, this two-thirty and on time, is when I get most of my writing done. After bringing up iTunes or Pandora, I put my other headset on. Then I grab all the little Post-it notes I’ve scribbled on all day, sort them and add the prevalent information to my outline, timeline or appropriate place. I’ll generally take a quick look at what I worked on in the AM, maybe make some additional changes and then I’m checking my outline to see what passage(s) I think I can work on. I select the appropriate music for which character or scene I’ll be working on and lose myself in the story.

I’ll work until about five thirty, then take a break and fix something to eat. Generally steamed veggies or yogurt and fruit and sometimes soup. While I eat this I check my email, Twitter, and maybe send in that book review that is due. Afterwards I’ll wash the dishes and then bundle up, pod up and go out for a walk-about or sometimes jog-about. This clears my head and since I live in a college neighborhood, I re-energize as I walk/run among the students on campus.

By seven or seven-thirty I’m back at my keyboard, either writing or researching.  Sometimes I go into Photoshop and work on a cover illustration or a book trailer image. If I’m researching, I’ll put up another window and watch some MMA fights while I research for a couple of hours. If I get inspired, I’ll take a break, try some moves, do sit ups or some type of movement for a half hour, before sitting back down to resume writing/researching/drawing.

At about ten-thirty or eleven, I hit the shower, grab my Kindle and retire to the bedroom, where I’ll read to review whatever books are on my list. I keep my notebook nearby, because I am still fine-tuning my WIP, if anything comes to me, I make a note. I generally fall off  between twelve-thirty and one-thirty, depending on if my partner comes home and we make happy.

So that’s pretty much it, a winter day in the life of Alex A. Akira.

About the author:

Alex A. Akira spend a number of years traveling internationally as a jack of all trades dabbling in wide array of creative fields, theatre, martial arts, metaphysics, yoga, weightlifting, and accessories, jewelry and giftware design to name a few, before deciding to put pen to paper and later finger to keyboard, to craft various tales of young males struggling with emotional turmoil and internal conflict as they try to navigate their way through love and life in general. Why, yaoi, boy's love and m/m romance tales, you ask? ... well you do what you know. Alex is the author of Dojo Boys: The Italian Connection.

About the book:

This swiftly-paced two-volume romantic Yaoi love story tells the tale of the multi-talented thief/dancer Philippe Michael Ponty. First introduced in Dojo Boys: Dragon & Crow Volume II, the now twenty-two-year-old platinum haired petite Adonis struggles to make a home for himself in America.

Volume I finds Philip settling in Connecticut in disguise, as he doesn’t want to draw too much attention to his true line of work. Despite his caution, he meets and befriends a local rock musician, Tommy Sear, who despairs of ever having his band make it.
Quickly smitten by the dark-haired, shy Asian male that is Philip, Tommy seeks to make the young man his, but Philip doesn’t believe in love; besides, he has a very real problem. He can’t seem to get the victim of his last burglary, a green-eyed, virile Italian male...out of his mind.
With Philip’s encouragement, Tommy renews his efforts to get his band, Sear, a record deal. He makes a demo and shortly after a scout contacts him, from Italy no less. The Italian scout is coming to America hear them play in the hopes of signing Sear to the much sought-after label, Romano Studios.
But Tommy has a secret and he’s afraid that without Philip’s help, they may not get the deal.

Publisher’s Note: This book contains sexual content, explicit language and situations that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.