Author Advice: Special Guest Star Veronica Scott!

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I picked this one because I think the guy’s especially cute. It’s hell having a type. This is one of her many books!

Within the LA Writers Critique Group, we members are always learning from each other, but sometimes we like to get expert advice from experienced authors, who are also known as our ‘special guest stars.’ This May, we asked author Veronica Scott to speak with us, and a good time was had by all.

Veronica Scott is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance author by trade. She retired early from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2015 (when she and I happened to meet; I was there as a contractor, whereas she had a ‘real job’) and transitioned into being a full-time author. Her talk revolved mostly on her journey to publishing her books.

As a child, she started writing because she couldn’t find the kinds of books she wanted to read. She felt that she had stories inside her that needed to come out, but answered the call of the Real World and got a day job. Years went by, and by 2010 she had an empty nest, which meant she finally had the time to investigate self-publishing.

With the help of an editor friend, she soon figured out her strengths (telling a good story) and weaknesses (craft issues that needed to be addressed). After much learning, revising, and rewriting, she submitted a story in 2011 and ‘got the call’ with an offer to publish it. This story was published in 2012.

At that point, Veronica had written a book that paralleled the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, but since the traditional publishing route would have caused a delay in getting the final product to market (therefore missing the Titanic centennial), she decided to publish it herself.  She found that she likes the control, freedom, and flexibility that self-publishing allows her, and she’s self-published her work since then—24 books and counting!—and hasn’t looked back.

Veronica resides in Romancelandia, but says there is the same playing field for all genres. When it comes to writing and telling stories, “there’s no one way to do it.” As writers, we need to remember that what worked for other writers may not work for us.

Her advice to our room full of writers is provided below. We appreciate Ms. Scott’s willingness to help us along on the journey to publishing our books and memoirs!

1: Define your goal

There is no right or wrong answer, but be honest with yourself. What do you want out of the writing experience? It may be one or more of the following:

  • To interact with readers
  • To entertain friends and family
  • To work as a part-time or full-time author
  • To hold a book that you wrote in your hands

2: Don’t go it alone

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” she reminded us. Find your tribe… through Meetup.com, on Twitter or other social media sites, through libraries and coffee shops, through conferences, writers groups, and other places where writers meet. If you seek out a new group, whether it’s in person or online, be sure to notice how people interact. Only join groups that you are comfortable being a part of.

Authors and aspiring authors can also bond by genre, such as through Science Fiction Writers of America or Romance Writers of America.

Experienced writers are likely to help you on your journey, and once you know more about the process, you can pay it forward to up-and-coming writers.

Veronica noted that she supports her fellow romance writers by reading their work, interviewing other authors, and writing a column in USA Today each month that tells readers about the best new Sci-Fi Romance books.

3: Remember: it’s a business

This means that people need to know what you do and how to find your books. Go where the readers are to communicate about the book(s) that you’ve written.

Every author needs some sort of platform. She emphasized that it should be “your own blog” instead of an Amazon or Book Bub author page so that it can be under your control. Sites like WordPress.com offer free and low-cost websites that anyone can use.

As for social media in general, she advised us to, “only do what you’re comfortable with.” Choose the sites that interest you, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; then, be yourself, or perhaps a polite version of yourself. Talk about what you want to talk about. Share some pictures of photogenic cats if you wish!

4: Get savvy about the production side of creating a book

There’s far more to writing a book than writing a book, although she did say, “Just finishing a book is a huge accomplishment.” But wait! There’s more. Such as:

  • Editing: All writers can benefit from an editor. Maybe you need to foreshadow something or take some aspect of the story in another direction. A good editor can help you craft the best story you can tell. Copy editors can also be hugely helpful in making your prose flow.
  • Cover design: Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can rate how appealing it looks! The cover will show up as a tiny thumbnail on websites where books are sold, so you want it to look professional and pique readers’ interest. And this got a laugh: “The worst covers try to tell the whole story in one picture.” Yep.
  • Blurb: Your book description should tell us about the lead characters, the challenges they face, and the stakes. You don’t want to tell too much in the blurb.
  • Amazon’s Look Inside feature: This allows readers to read the first chapter of your book. Make sure what you write will hook readers so that they will want to read more.

5: Stay motivated

Veronica shared her personal rules for herself, which are:

  1. Get words on the page every day.
  2. Don’t edit as you go. The first draft gets to be ugly.
  3. Keep going forward. Write the next book! Readers of many genres, romance in particular, want to read a series and not just one book. Besides, it pays to keep going, because, “the next book is the best promo for the first book.”

She also shared these bits of wisdom:

  1. Do self-care: make your writing space ergonomic and take care of your health.
  2. It’s not a zero-sum game. You are not in competition with other writers. Indie publishing has changed the rules.
  3. Stay true to your voice, and put out books that you are proud to stand behind.
  4. Stay in the same genre whenever possible.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s your journey, not theirs.
  6. Don’t get sucked into internet drama, and try to avoid rabbit holes.
  7. Don’t interact with reviewers online.

After she fielded some post-presentation questions, we wildly applauded Ms. Scott. Next, we got down to the usual business of giving and receiving critiques while letting all of her advice simmer, so that we will be better prepared as our writing projects develop. Thanks, Veronica!

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L.A. Festival of Books Recap

Book festivals: where introverted writers become extroverted spokespeople for their work; where authors meet other authors, fans, and potential fans; and where hordes of people converge at what’s nowadays called “Nerdchella.”

It’s usually warm by the time of year when book festivals abound. Inspired somewhat by the birthdays of Shakespeare and Cervantes on April 23, many book festivals take place in mid to late April. Here in California, it’s already warm, but not ridiculously so; thank goodness Shakespeare wasn’t born in September! There was a slight chill in the air both mornings that quickly dissipated as we set up the booth and met our first visitors and customers.

LAFOB-bookpyramid

We started off with our joint venture, a fiction anthology, center stage and in pyramid formation. Many people who asked for stories about L.A. last year came back to our booth to check out our anthology, which includes stories inspired by and set in Los Angeles. The authors of the anthology live up to the Made in L.A. name, too, as most of us live here currently.

Friends and family members, either fellow writers or not, stopped by the booth often throughout the weekend and added to the fun atmosphere. It was a reminder of how blessed we are to have the support of loved ones.

Eventually the pyramid grew smaller and smaller… by day two, we had less than thirty to sell, having exceeded our own expectations about demand at the festival. When we sold out, we referred curious potential readers to Amazon, where the ebook and print book are available for order.

Of course, my book is available on Amazon, too. I sold copies to a few friends and more to people I didn’t know, which was a thrill for me as I haven’t done that before! I took pictures with nearly everyone who bought my book. I also found out that one of my books is going on vacation with one reader, Jennifer, to Cancun!

Sometime on Sunday afternoon, a reporter named Julie Moree stopped by our booth and interviewed me! You can see a blurb of it below. I did my best to put out a cohesive message about my book and the anthology. Upon watching the playback, I didn’t hear myself say any ummms or ahhs, so it seems that my participation in Toastmasters has paid off!

You can see more of this interview at my youtube station, missus.glori.tea (in addition to some impressive musical stylings on the ukulele).

By that point, I was getting a tad giggly, a bit punchy, and pretty tired. The festival life is fun but exhausting. My cohorts Cody Sisco and Allison Rose were there to laugh with me and plan next year’s festival adventure. I’m getting excited about the 2019 festival already.

 

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Taking a Haunted Hike to “Research the Book”

It isn’t every day that I get to bond with a fellow writer and take in an epic hike, so when Dario Ciriello told me he was going to explore the Cobb Estate and Mt. Lowe Campgrounds in the foothills beyond Altadena, I quickly invited myself along. Dario was happy to have company, and we set off for this dusty and picturesque destination in between my head colds and L.A.’s cold snaps in early March.

He was going to re-check all the details that he’d included in his story, Dry Bones, which is included in the anthology called Made In L.A.: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels.  It is being released in time for the L.A. Festival of Books; print books are already available, and ebooks—which can be pre-ordered—will be delivered on April 21, the first day of the festival. Set in Altadena, the story follows a fictional couple through trying circumstances and time-bending interactions with mysterious figures.

Upon meeting at the Cobb Estates trail head, Dario pointed to a rocky wash and said, “That’s where Roberto broke his ankle.” Upon assessing the steep angle of the land, I immediately informed Dario that I would not be hiking up that grade, but he laughed and pointed to a more reasonable path beyond the Cobb Estate sign that we would take. And thankfully, Roberto was one-half of the fictional couple in his story, not a real person.

Cobb Estate started off as a sprawling estate that had its own water and electricity produced and managed on-site. Well-to-do people from Los Angeles could catch a train ride up to the estate, admire the sprawling view of Los Angeles, enjoy social interactions at a swanky tavern, and take in the clean mountain air.

After its heyday, and after it had changed ownership a few times, the estate was purchased by the Marx Brothers in 1956 and not maintained. Its location presented a large risk, as the buildings were built out of wood and the area is affected by forest fires. Once it fell into disrepair, remnants of the buildings were removed from the area in 1959.

Cobb Estates was acquired as a public space in 1971. Nowadays, it is part of Angeles National Forest and, aside from a few picnic tables, is left in its natural state.

Given its long history, the Cobb Estate and Mt. Lowe Campgrounds are revered by some as Pasadena’s Haunted Forest. This is a theme Dario siezed upon when writing his story for the anthology. Here is an excerpt to show what I mean:

“It was night again. But instead of the flat, gravel- and pine needle-strewn campground, what loomed ahead was a stone and timber structure. Yellow light streamed from within. Tables and chairs stood outside in the cool shade of the pines. Above the steps to the main entrance, a quaint inn sign with the name “Ye Alpine Tavern” swung in the light breeze. Scattered groups of men, mostly, stood on the narrow terrace in front of the building, talking and smoking. A burst of laughter came from inside, where some kind of celebration was taking place, the whole underscored with the tinkle of ragtime piano.”

Hiking in the daytime didn’t lead me to any ideas about the place being haunted. In fact, it was quite peaceful to be above the hustle and bustle of the big city. If we listened, we could hear… nothing. It was incredibly quiet up there—a break for our ears, since we both live in town.

Much like hiking nearby areas like Griffith Park, it’s reasonable to expect a layer of silt on your legs (or pantlegs, if it’s cold) when exploring the trail. We climbed to the top, taking in sights along the way and then stopping for lunch. Then, we headed back down (and the trip back is always faster), philosophizing about modern news media, health, fitness, and writing. Along the way, I observed this environment: a surprising patch of moss here and there; the wild temperature swings in and out of the shade; and, as we got lower and lower in altitude, the sounds of the city surrounding us once again.

Then it was time for goodbyes and getting back to the usual grind, but with a refreshed feeling and perspective. I have no doubt that Dario captured the spirit and the scenery around this interesting and perhaps haunted setting.

 

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Prepping for the Book Fest

It’s been a long road, but I’m getting there. The L.A. Festival of Books is eleven days away and I have:

  1. Boxes of books, which just arrived a few days ago. I did it! A Magical Time Called Later is a thing now!
  2. The anthology, too! My five copies of Made In L.A.: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels (which I received for being a contributor) has dwindled to three, as I gave one to a friend and another to my sister. It makes me happy to know that they’re out there and being read already.
  3. Internet pictures and posts: Some are still in progress, so stay tuned.
  4. Headshots. Yeah, I owe my photographer friend a case of Guinness for his work, and will ‘pay’ him soon (hopefully this weekend). Here is my headshot, which is now gracing Amazon.com.
  5. DSC_6105-2-700k GabiLorino-headshotA press release written for the folks (rather, the newspapers) back home. It’s not clear if a former bandmate of my brother-in-law, who happens to be editor of a hip weekly magazine in Tampa/ St. Pete called Creative Loafing, will get excited about my email coming his way later this week, but one can certainly hope!
  6. Giveaways: bookmarks (as well as markers and colored pencils for the ones people can color) and postcards are ready to be passed out. We’ll need to stock up on some candy too, as that tends to be a great draw for people!
  7. Display stuff that will bring people to our booth and allow us to engage with local readers. This is the reason that we made our anthology, after all. People kept asking for L.A.-based stories!
  8. A baseball shirt that reads “Gen X and proud of it.” I made it on cafepress.com and love, love, love it. I find that I love using T-shirts to show people what I’m about. It’s easier than talking all the time. And for those who remember last year, you might see a reprise of last year’s tropical blue shirt that reads: strong female lead, hilarity ensuing, tropical setting, and social awkwardness. What’s not to love? (Note: O’Shea’s Irish Pub shirts are coming up next, for me and the Uku-Ladies, when I throw the official release party and we perform together.)

    LAFOB-MapIreland

    Ireland is of course my dream destination!

So there you have it! T-minus eleven days to go until it’s time to blast off. As the author of A Magical Time Called Later, a story that celebrates procrastination, I have a complicated relationship with time… but no matter what, I’ll be ready when the magical time is now!

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Attack of the Killer Memes

 

My computer is a meme factory these days, where I churn out witty quotes from both A Magical Time Called Later and an anthology called Made In L.A.: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels. I plan to ‘launch’ most of them in the week preceding the L.A. Festival of Books, to stir up some excitement and bring people to our booth. This allows us writers to talk to readers in person and find out what they’re interested in reading… in fact, the anthology was created to satisfy the question, “Do you have stories about L.A.?” Given that my book is set in Tampa Bay, last year I had to say no… but since I’ve written an L.A.-based story for the anthology, now the answer is yes!

The online world can reach overwhelming proportions rather quickly, so my aim in making these is to give a quick glance into the story to those who are open to it. Therefore, the word ‘killer’ in this blog’s title hopefully refers to the quality of the memes themselves, rather than me sending a million messages out into the world and overloading the internet! (That’s definitely not on my agenda.)

In addition to my cave drawings, my cohort Allison Rose, who is a talented graphic designer, whipped up these for me. I’ve already shared them on Instagram.

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Word Nerd Media is here!

Word Nerd Media became my official doing business as name last month, and now I’m updating my Kindle book and creating a hard copy book through Amazon’s CreateSpace. Converting text from an ebook to a regular book is eye-twitching work… I’ve gotten to Chapter Nine (entitled: Girl, I’ve got eyes!) today and hope to get the rest of the document ship-shape by the end of this week so it can be uploaded.

Thanks for tuning in!

Update 3/21/2018

Things always take longer than you think they will, but some things are worth the wait. And conveniently my co-author Allison Rose made me a pretty logo, as seen below:

Word Nerd Media Logo

I’m now finished with putting everything into template for CreateSpace, and just need to make sure that the inside layout looks good for the book. It’s been a day of trying and trying again, but I hope, being that it’s the first day of Spring, that I can get the hard cover book completed, ordered, and in my hot little hands by early April.

 

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Another Meme!

Birds4-meme-heardthisbefore

Oh yeah, and my ebook ends with a Christmas wedding! Sharing the latest meme in case you need to know more about the book and want something to read while you’re snuggled up on the couch this holiday season!

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Gabi

From AMAZON – $3.99 ebook 

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The Parade of Memes Begins!

MLB-waves1-meme

The quote above came from a man I dated and dumped… and in the spirit of turning lemons into lemonade, it appears in Chapter 1 of A Magical Time Called Later, when my dear protagonist, Holly, realizes that she’s run out of time. She will end up married to a–(I hate to use the words my reviewers have used to describe Jason)–unless she takes action. Though she puts most things off until the magical time called later, sometimes fate forces her hand and dumps her into unfamiliar territory which, naturally, is peppered with glories and difficulties as well as a sprinkling of hilarity.

AmazonQRCode-GLorinoUse this handy QR Code to find the book for sale on Amazon.com.  You can read the first chapter and see if it’s something you’d enjoy. It’s an affordable $3.99 and currently part of Kindle Unlimited. I’ve filled it with musings on 20 years of dating (as an adult!) as well as Florida life, work life (though I didn’t choose to work in a pub but rather frequented several), the indignity of unkind judgments at high school reunions, the clash of old-fashioned family expectations against modern reality, and so on.

More memes will appear as inspiration strikes! Now to share this to Twitter and Facebook!

 

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Cover Sneak Preview!!!

AdjustedBookCover

Isn’t is a relief when a real graphic designer takes your idea and makes it look way better than you can??? Here is a mockup of my cover.

As our author events begin, oh, this Saturday, I’ve used this design on a postcard that I’ll hand out to potential readers. The bookmarks are still in progress but I’ll have them by my next author event later this month.

It’s so exciting! I’m in the later stages of formatting my manuscript and jumping through the necessary hoops for Kindle Direct Publishing. More updates as events warrant!

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I will get this book done, with a little help from my friends

It’s been a few months full of writing, revising, traveling, and enjoying heat waves here at home, but now I have 2 major ‘author-type event’ deadlines coming up in October, so it would be really convenient if I could get my book done before then!

I met up with my author friend Cody Sisco yesterday, who gave me some great tips on how to get started. First, he asked, do you have a website? 

Why yes! You’re looking at it!

A book cover? It’s in the works. Also some bookmarks would be great! In talking with Cody yesterday, I got a new fun idea for them. I sent my cave-drawing type file over to a professional last week that happens to be a close blood relative with at least 25 years of graphic design experience. And thank goodness. The file I made is too ugly for words but has lots of notes on it on how I want it to look!

What about a newsletter? I’m lukewarm on that. I don’t generally read emails, so I don’t want to create emails for others to read (unless I’m at work- ha ha ha). So I came up with a compromise: I’ll make an occasional newsletter and post it on this site! And that way people can take it or leave it. (People at work love my weekly gazette, The InfoTech Times, which updates them on current projects within the department!) Perhaps I can use some of that flair in my author newsletter!

What about a picture? Cody asked. And apparently I should like it because it will be used over and over and over… Oh my. Maybe I shouldn’t have let my Creative Cloud membership lapse last month, but with all this book prep, I really don’t have time to learn more about PhotoShop. When I did have it, though, I made these pictures of myself for social media, and the one on the right was used on our first Made in LA marketing material. (Photo by Hubbs; taken while we were waiting for a table at a restaurant this spring. Backgrounds courtesy of googling ‘batik fabric.’) Perhaps I will use them for book stuff too. (I like the one with the swirly background best, though the plain background works best if there’s a pretty border.)

A copy editor? Check. Someone to help me figure out formatting for Kindle? I’ll look at my notes and pick brains as needed, after I get to the final version.

A plan for a paperback? Blurbs and bio online? Amazon page? Fan base? Please! I’ll figure that out in the magical time called later. Right now, I need to revise A Magical Time Called Later.

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