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Writing

I Wrote a Book…Now What?

Have you written a novel that you’re just letting collect virtual dust on your computer? Or maybe you have an idea for a book that you haven’t started on because you have no clue how you would ever get your book published once it’s complete.
 
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, then the next See Jane Write panel discussion is one you don’t want to miss.

I Wrote a Book…Now What? is a panel discussion on the publishing world and is set for Tuesday, May 7 at 5:30 p.m. This free event will be held in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Branch of the Birmingham Public Library. To register visit: http://sjwpublishingpanel.eventbrite.com


Whether you have questions about landing a deal with a major publishing house, working with a small press, finding a literary agent or self-publishing, our panelists can help.

Irene Latham
Birmingham poet and novelist Irene Latham is the author of  Leaving Gee’s Bend, published by Putnam/Penguin in 2010. That book is set in Alabama during the Great Depression and was awarded Alabama Library Association’s 2011 Children’s Book Award. Her latest novel Don’t Feed the Boy (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012) is about a boy who wants to escape his life at the zoo. Irene is also poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has authored two award-winning poetry collections, What Came Before (Negative Capability Press, 2007) and , The Color of Lost Rooms (Blue Rooster Press, 2010).


 
Kathryn Lang



Self-published author Kathryn C. Lang was presented with the Nation’s first Tourism Fiction Awardfor her short story, “Digging Up Bones.” The short story will be featured in the third novel of her Big Springs novels. Kathryn’s books are published in paperback through CreateSpace (Amazon’s publishing wing) and online through Smashwords and Kindle. 

TK Thorne
Teresa (T.K.) Thorne is the executive director of CAP (City Action Partnership) and a retired captain from the Birmingham Police Department. Active in the community, she also moonlights as an author, and her debut novel, Noah’s Wife won ForeWord Reviews“Book of the Year” award for 2009. Her short stories and screenplays have garnered awards as well. A film from her screenplay, Six Blocks Wide, was based on her experiences in the Birmingham Police Department and has shown at juried film festivals in Alabama and Europe. Her next book, Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers is being published by Chicago Press Review and will be out September 1, 2013.




Our panel discussion will be moderated by Stephanie NamanStephanie is an advertising and editorial writer with fifteen years experience. Her first book, BarCode: Your Personal Pocket Decoder to the Modern Dating Scene, was turned into segments for a syndicated dating show called “The Single Life.” In addition to writing for advertising clients like Little Debbie and AT&T, she is working on the Chloe Carstairs mystery novel series written under the pseudonym Billie Thomas. The first novel in the series, Murder on the First Day of Christmas was released in December 2012. Stephanie is also the marketing director for Indie Visible, a collective of writers working to use social media and other resources to promote quality independent work. 


Leave your questions for our panelists in the comments section of this post and don’t forget to spread the word about this event to all your writer pals! 






What If Carrie Bradshaw Wrote a Murder Mystery?

I’m not usually a fan of murder mystery novels. And I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a book snob. I’m certainly not one. You can find The Carrie Diaries series on my bookshelf right now.

But I like reading fluffy fiction about Carrie Bradshaw for the same reason I enjoy heavy classics like Toni Morison’s The Bluest Eye and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: I am a sucker for well-developed and relatable characters.  And these are hard to find in most mystery novels.

Nevertheless, over the Christmas holidays I read Billie Thomas’ Murder on the First Day of Christmas and I’m sure glad I did.

Set in Birmingham, Alabama, the novel follows Chloe Carstairs and her mother Amanda, two decorators who find themselves in the middle of a homicide investigation after two of their clients are killed. Chloe and her mom soon become amateur sleuths determined to crack the case and complete hilarity ensues.

You may remember that I interviewed Thomas in December shortly after the book was made available on Kindle. I’m happy to announce that Murder on the First Day of Christmas is now available in paperback.

Whether you like murder mysteries or not, you should give this novel a try largely because of the charismatic main characters.  

You will immediately love Chloe Carstairs because she’ll remind you of your best friend, or yourself, or both. Like many of us, she’s a 30-something gal struggling to navigate her personal and professional lives and having many hilarious and humbling encounters along the way.

But it’s Chloe’s relationship with her mom that really got me hooked. Their mother-daughter banter will have you laughing out loud, while the obvious love they have for each other will have you picking up the phone to call your parents just to say “hi.”

Thomas does a great job of unraveling the mystery as well and soon you will have put on your detective hat too, trying to figure out who done it along with Chloe and Amanda.

Of course, I enjoyed all the references to Birmingham and I hope non-natives will read it and realize there’s more to Birmingham than they once believed.

Overall, I just love how cleverly this story is put together. Even the funny little anecdotes told throughout narrative come to serve a purpose in the end, showing you just how talented Thomas really is.
Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Local Authors Expo set for Feb. 2


Birmingham writers, mark your calendars for Sat., Feb. 2. Next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the annual Local Authors Expo will be held at the Central branch of the Birmingham Public Library. Up to 100 authors, many from the Birmingham area, will be on site to not only sell and autograph their books, but to discuss their writing process as well.
“One of the main missions of the library is to connect authors and readers and this event does exactly that,” said Jared Millet, the Authors Expo organizer and library department head of acquisitions. “It gives authors an opportunity to promote themselves to the public. If you are a self-published author, it’s hard to get into brick and mortar stores. You have to use events like this to get your name out there.” 
Whether you’re interested in cooking, sports, or fishing, or you’re looking for an inspirational book or just a great novel, the 2013 Authors Expo will have something for you.
As the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of Birmingham’s civil rights movement this year, there will also be a special section of civil rights authors. At 1 p.m. Carolyn Maull McKinstry, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing survivor and author of the book While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement, will talk about Birmingham’s civil rights movement, the bombing and her life.
This event isn’t just for people who like to read a good book, but also for those looking to write one.
“If you are thinking of writing a book, you need to be at the Birmingham Public Library on Feb. 2,” said Chanda Temple, director of public relations for the Birmingham Public Library.
At 10:30 a.m. Millet, who is also a published author, will hold a workshop on how to breathe life into your writing. Furthermore, writers will have the opportunity to network with other authors and potential fans.
“A lot of times, writers or beginner writers wonder how an author got his or her book published or how they make their story flow in a certain manner. This expo will give writers a chance to talk to authors, many of them self-published, to find out how they did it,” Temple said. “It’s all about making connections, gaining inspiration and building support. We hope this expo will spark networking opportunities for everyone and continue to build the literary community.”
For more information about this event visit http://www.bplonline.org/programs/LocalAuthors/.

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Humor, Homicide and the Holidays: A Chat with the Author of Murder on the First Day of Christmas

You may think that a novel about homicide isn’t exactly something that could get you in the holiday spirit. And you probably think that there’s no way a story about a Christmastime murder could also be funny. Stephanie Naman is here to prove you wrong. 

Naman’s new book, Murder on the First Day of Christmas by Billie Thomas, cleverly mixes humor, homicide and the holidays to make for the perfect murder mystery and a great vacation read. 

Set in Birmingham, Alabama, the novel follows Chloe Carstairs and her mother Amanda, two decorators who find themselves in the middle of a homicide investigation after two of their clients are killed. Chloe and her mom soon become amateur sleuths determined to crack the case. The first of a series of Chloe Carstairs mysteries, this book is filled with laugh-out-loud humor, romance, irresistible mother-daughter banter, and a bit of Southern hospitality for good measure. 

I recently had a chat with Naman, a Birmingham resident who published her book under the pen name Billie Thomas, about the series, her writing, the Magic City. 


Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for this story.
My mom and I always traded mysteries back and forth and one day, out of the blue, I asked her to collaborate on writing one with me. I think I surprised us both, since I’d been struggling to write another book and hadn’t planned on putting that aside, much less starting a project with my mom. We had something of a rollercoaster relationship, but the idea of a fun, funny mystery with a mother-daughter relationship much like our own, appealed to both of us.
Why did you decide on a Christmas murder mystery and how did you get the idea for Chloe and her mom to be interior designers?

My mother wasn’t a professional decorator, but she could’ve been. She had great taste. And several years ago, I wrote a monthly column for Birmingham Magazine about some of the most beautiful homes in town. I got to interview a lot of interior designers, including one who did Christmas decorating like the kind Chloe and Amanda do in the book. Since this is going to be an on-going series, being decorators will get my main characters into a lot of houses, where they can find lots of skeletons in the closets.
I love reading all the Magic City references! What do you think makes this city a great setting for a story like yours? 

I love Birmingham and want everyone to know what a great city it is. It’s a character itself – often underestimated, full of surprises. Another Birmingham author, the late Anne George, was a master at using Birmingham as a backdrop for her stories. She was a definite inspiration.
Even though this book is a murder mystery, it’s also hilarious and I’ve always envied humor writers. Any tips on how to be funny on the page? 

The better you know your characters, the easier it is to find the humor in your story. The way they relate to a situation or to other characters are great sources of humor. Chloe, for instance, is self-deprecating and a little ditzy. Amanda is more sophisticated and has a dryer sense of humor. Their differences make their banter funny, but their affection for each other keeps it light.
Let’s talk about your writing process. How long did it take you to write this book? Did you have a writing routine that helped you complete the project? 

The first draft just flowed out in a couple of months. It was a joy to write. I’d work on a chapter, send it to my mom, she’d make suggestions and I’d rewrite. Easy. I workshopped it with my writing group and looked for an agent, getting some lovely, mystery-series-are-a-hard-sell-right-now rejections. We put the book aside for a few years and I worked on other things. Since then, I’ve become a lot more disciplined with my writing – writing every day unless work is out of control. A thousand words a day is my goal but I often do more if the story is taking off. And it never takes off if I’m not writing consistently. I keep a journal and scribble ideas all the time, so I have a stockpile to refer to if I get stuck.
Why did you decide to go with e-publishing with an independent press instead of self-publishing or going after a larger publishing company? 

At the last few writers’ conferences I’ve been to, indie publishing has been the hot topic. It’s no longer waving the white flag and admitting you can’t find a traditional publisher. It’s a way to take the reigns of your own career – something that’s right up my alley. Because my book is the first in a series, I thought it would be perfect to start with. When my mom died unexpectedly of an aneurism at the end of 2011, I became more determined than ever to see it published. My friends were using an independent press and it felt like a head-start on the process. I could get my manuscript professionally edited and not have to learn all the formatting that goes into self-publishing. Plus, we could cross promote – always a good thing.
What advice would you give to those out there who are looking to get published? 

Connect with other writers. I love writing but it’s not the solitary experience everyone thinks it is. You need to workshop your early drafts and network at conferences. You need people to commiserate with when rejections start rolling in. And you’ll need connections to help you market your book – which you’ll have to do yourself whether you go the indie or the traditional publishing route. I’ve met some of the best, most creative and generous people through writing – my See Jane Write girls included.
Why did you decide to publish under a pen name? 

My mom’s name is Billie and my Dad’s name is Thomas.  They both have been so encouraging of my writing, it seemed like a nice way to honor them. I’m so thankful I have this series because working on it makes me feel close to my mom. If I ever hear that a daughter loved it and passed it along to her mom, or vice versa, saying “this is so us”, I will be thrilled. I’ll bawl my eyes out, probably, but sometimes I do that when I’m thrilled.

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project 

See Jane Co-Write

When Texas socialite Joanne King Herring, the woman portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, wanted help writing her memoir she didn’t choose a big shot author from the New York Times best seller list. No, it was Birmingham’s own Nancy Dorman-Hickson who was selected for the job, thanks to her Southern roots and her ability to find common ground with people.

The importance of being able to relate well to others was just one of the many tips Dorman-Hickson offered Tuesday evening during her presentation “A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer.”
At this event, hosted by See Jane Write Birmingham, Dorman-Hickson discussed ghostwriting and collaborative writing, freelance writing, and personal branding to a crowd of 30 local writers.



Is co-writing for you?

The primary difference between ghostwriting and co-writing is with ghostwriting you won’t receive any credit for helping with the book. Your name won’t appear on the cover and you’ll even have to sign a contract stating that you won’t reveal your connection to the project. With co-writing, you will receive credit, but it’s still important to check your ego at the door. As Dorman-Hickson explained when recounting her experience with Herring, the person you’re working with gets the final word when making creative decisions.

With co-writing, you may be paid a flat or hourly rate. Dorman-Hickson said that on average the hourly rate is about $73 per hour. Flat rates run the gamut and can range from $6,000 to $150,000, but typically average at about $22,000.

To be a successful co-writer you need much more than good writing skills. This is a job that will call for you to be an editor and to manage people.

If you think co-writing is for you, one of the best ways to land co-writing gigs is by networking with other co-writers. You should also place a profile on PublishersMarketplace.com, Dorman-Hickson recommended. And don’t be afraid to approach prominent people and offer to help them tell their story.

The Truth About Freelancing


During her talk, Dorman-Hickson was very honest about the realities of freelancing. It is nearly impossible to survive as a full-time freelancer these days because most publications pay writers such meager fees. But don’t be discouraged. Learn to maximize each assignment you get and also think outside the box. Market your writing services to companies that haven’t been hit as hard by the economic downturn.

 

Buidling Your Brand
Dorman-Hickson also discussed personal branding because whether you want to admit it or not, to be a successful writer, you have to build a successful brand for yourself. This may sound like a daunting task, but it can be easier than you think. A few things you’ll need: business cards, a website and/or blog, and an e-newsletter.
You can even use your email signature and your voicemail greeting as promotion tools.
Give presentations to writing groups and book clubs.
And work on your elevator speech. Be sure that you can give a short, yet captivating description of what you do at a moment’s notice.
One of the things from Dorman-Hickson’s talk that stood out to me most is the idea that one of the best ways to help your writing career is to help other writers with their careers. That’s exactly what I strive to do with See Jane Write. It’s nice to know I’m on the right track.
 

Scenes from the See Jane Write August Event



 
Cross-posted at WriteousBabe.com.


See Jane Write presents A Ghost Story

Are you looking for new ways to earn money as a writer? 
If so, you need to mark your calendar for the next See Jane Write event, set for Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at Matthew’s Bar & Grill

Author and freelance writer Nancy Dorman-Hickson will present “A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer.”  She’ll include fun experiences she’s had as a writer such as the strangest places she’s taken her laptop or conducted an interview; techniques for capturing a personality; and the ego-boosting (and ego-crushing) acts of creating personal bios and author photos and participating in book signings. 
Before freelancing, Dorman-Hickson was an editor for Southern Living and Progressive Farmer magazines during which time she received praise for her writing from Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Naomi Judd, Fannie Flagg and many more. She is the ghostwriter of a book on family violence and the co-author of Diplomacy and Diamonds, the best-selling memoir of Texas socialite Joanne King Herring, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War. You can learn more about  at Dorman-Hickson at http://www.NancyDormanHickson.com.
Ghostwriting may be something you’ve never considered because there’s no fame or glory in this line of work. “In fact,” Dorman-Hickson said, “ghostwriters sign contracts agreeing not to tell anyone that they worked on the book at all, thus the term ‘ghost.'”

So why would anyone want to be a ghostwriter? For the money, honey! 

It can be a lucrative field,” Dorman-Hickson said. “The figures are all over the board. I’ve heard everything from $2,500 to $100,000, but those high-figures come about only after a writer has deep experience and a lot of luck.”
Still, if ghostwriting is completely out of the question for you, there’s always collaborative writing, such as Dorman-Hickson’s project with Joanne King Herring. On the cover of that memoir you’ll also find Dorman-Hickson’s name. 

“It can mean good money in a time when writers are having a hard time getting assignments and being paid adequately for their work,” Dorman-Hickson said. “Also it is fulfilling to complete a book, especially when it bears your name.”
For those wondering if ghostwriting or collaborative writing is for you, Dorman-Hickson said, “If you are a writer who enjoys knowing what you’re going to be writing and what you’re going to be working on for a long period of time, book-length projects are ideal. They provide security in the topsyturvy world of freelancing. You use the same skills you use with other types of writing. You just use them for a longer period of time focusing on the same subject.”
Dorman-Hickson will have copies of Diplomacy and Diamonds for sale (cash or check only) for $25 at the event. 
In addition to information on ghostwriting and collaborative writing, Dorman-Hickson will also discuss how to freelance for magazines, websites and other publications and how to build your brand as a writer.

See Jane Write August Event 
What: Nancy Dorman Hickson presents A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer
When: Tuesday, August 28 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Matthew’s Bar & Grill, 2208 Morris Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35203

This event is free, but registration is required. Register by visiting aghoststory.eventbrite.com

Special thanks to our venue sponsor Matthew’s Bar & Grill. Please support Matthew’s by purchasing food and/or drinks at this event. 

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