Kathryn Lively, Writer

6 Days Since Last Accident

Category: writing (page 1 of 2)

Going Dark

Somebody asked me if I planned to participate in NaNoWriMo again. I’ve signed up on their site before, but in recent years I try to go along with the plan but I don’t officially register. Fall is usually the time I seriously settle in to write another book, unless I see a call with a deadline. This year it pains me to admit that my heart just isn’t into NaNo, or writing in general.

I’m supposed to have a novella out in early 2015 with a publisher. It’s my hope the book will see the light of day, but rumors run rampant about the company and many predict their implosion by the end of the year. I don’t know. They could surprise us and rally, and to be honest I don’t want to see any publishers fold, especially this one. Even if I didn’t have a dog in the fight, I’d want them to recover because I know many of the authors and I’ve read their books for years.
It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, but a closure could mean one of the following for me:
  • I get my rights back to the story, leaving me to figure out what to do with it. It’s a sweet romance and short, so I’d probably have to lengthen it to attract the interest of a reputable house. I could also self-publish and hope for the best.
  • Should the company file for bankruptcy, my work becomes an asset to liquidate. I may get it back or my contract may go to somebody else and I’ll have to wait and see what that party wants to do. Could be the same result, only I wait longer for it.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected to set the world on fire with this book but I had hoped to use this experience as a ladder rung and move up to better things in my writing. As it is, I’ve been spinning my wheels for twenty years. I write, people say I write well, but that’s about it. This self-publishing boom has swelled online retailers – everybody has a book out, and everybody’s voice joins in a huge cacophony. Who can hear me? Once upon a time we viewed agents and publishers as gatekeepers who determined what went to press. Now we via for attention from daily bargain newsletters, and many of them won’t touch you unless your book already has dozens of five-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
How do I get those reviews unless I advertise? If you won’t take my money because I don’t already have public approval, what’s the point? I could tweet and Facebook all day, but those sites are gatekeepers now. If I want the reach I have to pay for it. Ged, it makes my head spin.
Some days I want to quit I can taste it. Maybe I can write Quantum Leap fan fiction going forward and interest somebody in funding a reboot of the show. Maybe I can take up crochet and sell plush Daleks at comic cons. I wouldn’t be happy, though. I’m happy when I’m telling a story. 
Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to write the third book in the Lerxst Johnston series. Sales are not good, and I’m wondering if a third book is a losing proposition. Do I invest time in it for one last at bat, or do I risk it on something new? Is mystery even a viable genre for me anymore? Should I try another romance, which has a bigger audience, or horror which – while not large – has a solid following?
I honestly don’t know what to do. Radio silence at all corners hasn’t helped. Would be nice for an angel to fly down in a flaming pie and set me straight.

Guest Post: Toby Neal

Please welcome guest author Toby Neal to the blog! Her book, Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything: a Social Media Minibook, is free from Amazon.com for a limited time.

One Woman’s Potholed Journey to Bestseller

I started blogging about 7 years ago on Livejournal under a pen name. I’d always written, but this was a fun online diary and observations. Acerbic, touching and otherwise, the blog was about my counseling work in a high school, my kids and their friends and a host of minor and supporting characters such as Ms McBride of the colorful outfits and Dragon Lady, the principal. In the comfort and anonymity of my guise I even wrote about my therapy work.

This was where Blood Orchids was born—a short story that took on life, inspired by the actual tragic drowning of two young girls. I added chapters and followers and it became a novel.

I discovered Brigit’s Flame, an online writing community on Livejournal hosted by the gracious, talented and supportive LaCombe. Through their American Idol style weekly writing/voting contests, I honed my skills in writing to a prompt and responding to reader feedback. A talented writer friend I “met” on Livejournal referred me to Authonomy, an interactive novel site that competes for a review by HarperCollins UK.

I launched Orchids on Authonomy and discovered the sheer awesomeness of having my budding book read! What heady stuff! With a virtual cover, my posted chapters looked like a real book and I began to not only believe I could finish my novel but I could get published. In a flurry of creative writing energy I finished Orchids and cranked out Torch Ginger.

The first novel had taken 18 months to write, the second took 6 months (first draft). I realized I had the necessary obsessiveness, drive, and sheer egotism to be a novelist as I drove my family crazy with daily updates and revelations—not to mention interest in firearms, dismemberment and police procedure. This was also fueled by the dread Empty Nest – my youngest child was leaving for college. Writing about Glocks, takedowns and romance filled the huge void she left.

I developed a network of friends all over the world whose work I’d reviewed and who’d read mine on Authonomy. It was a heady, addicting time as I worked Orchids higher and higher in the rankings, eventually plateauing at 25. So after a year, and making a ton of useful connections (including my first editor, the talented Cheri LaSota) I pulled my books off Authonomy and switched to Facebook to keep up with my author and other online friends. By then I Cheri and I had overhauled Orchids to the point I was ready to query, and all the feedback, good bad indifferent and ugly, had prepared me for the gauntlet of querying agents.

I went about it systematically, using AgentQuery to research, a spreadsheet to track, and a daily goal of five query submissions. After 173 queries and 5 months, I had 6 requests for partials and 6 requests for the full MS. I rode the rollercoaster of emotion from hope to despair as the rejections came along. God, they suck and folks, it never gets easier—though you tell yourself it does.

Finally one day, a brief note after reading the full MS: “Please call me to discuss” from Irene Webb of Irene Webb Literary.

Then the rollercoaster began in earnest as this coveted agent said she liked the concept and the characters but the novel needed a rewrite.

She had suggestions. A lot of them.

I took copious notes and cranked out the rewrite in a month. I am nothing if not focused when I have a goal. I sent if off, high on hubris.

She didn’t like it. I hadn’t fixed whatever it was, and I now I was unable to see what was wrong and getting panicky. Fortunately, she didn’t drop me, but referred me to a new editor with extensive background in the mystery/suspense genre, Kristen Weber.

Kristen reviewed the MS and sent me a huge report with overall suggestions, articles to read, and line-by-line corrections. Whew, this girl knew the genre, the market, and what was wrong. I fell in love that day, with an editor half my age and both of us already married. (Joke! This would freak her out)

I buckled down and did a “scene map” — a scene-by scene outline of the MS, a tool that helps an author see redundancies and sags. While doing it I spotted problems, added in Kristen’s feedback, and saw elements to cut, combine, slice and dice. I read my articles, wrote extensive bios on all the main characters, and plunged back in to my tired and overworked manuscript: suddenly seeing it in a new way.

Irene and I sent Blood Orchids out “on sub”—until we both got discouraged and she left the agenting business. (These are tough times for agents too!)

At that point I was left to a) find another agent b) self mutilate/self medicate c) self publish.

I chose to self publish. And Blood Orchids has become a hit. Through all these setbacks, social media, relationship building and connectedness have been a unifying thread and the way my writing improved and evolved. So I wrote a minibook about it, How to Build an Author Platform that can Launch Anything. (Which is FREE this weekend, April 7, 8, and 9!)

There you have it—for this author, the lurching, potholed journey along the road to publication wouldn’t have been possible without the tools of blogging and social networking. The spur of being read and encouraged has increased my output like nothing else could, and doing that for others is a golden loop of connecting possibility.

Aw. Now I’ve gone and waxed poetical. What has your journey been like?


Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, she credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.

Book Description: Blood Orchids

Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei’s intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she’s being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first.

One of over 51 five star reviews on Amazon:

Hawaiian Background for a Fast Paced Mystery

“In this fast-paced mystery set in Hawaii, we follow police officer Lei Texeira as she and her partner stumble upon a grisly find–two murdered teenagers. Lei knew one of the girls and is determined to find her killer though her help is not wanted by the lead detective on the case, Stevens.

As the multi-layered story unfolds, Lei’s past history becomes apparent, casing a psychological shadow which colors everything she does from dealing with a disturbing stalker to the unwanted attention of a neighbor. More murder victims turn up, and Lei becomes the target of a serial killer.

Blood Orchids is one of those books that once you start you won’t be able to put it down. Author Toby Neal, a native of Hawaii, adds plenty of island atmosphere to this fast moving tale of murder and suspense and a healthy sprinkling of romance.”
-Marilyn Meredith


Available on Amazon as ebook and print: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Orchids-Crime-Series-ebook/dp/B006FBDHG2/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Available on Barnes and Noble, print only: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-orchids-toby-neal/1107759000

Toby Neal’s Blog: http://www.tobyneal.net/

Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything: a Social Media Minibook

Effective steps to building an author platform that can take advantage of free programs and launch any book into visibility and better sales.

Self published or not, today’s authors have to develop their own “platform” for reaching book buyers. This power-packed 20 pagebooklet contains tips based on author Toby Neal’s sales and psychology background and experience with her bestselling crime novel, Blood Orchids. These secrets maximize social media to build an author platform that can bring fast, wide-ranging visibility and increased sales to any book.

New Book: Writing, Publishing, Marketing

I am pleased to announce I have released my second work of non-fiction, Writing, Publishing, Marketing: a Different Guide to Navigating the World of Publishing in This Age of eBooks, Independence, and Social Media Promotions. Just so you know, the book is significantly longer than the title, and more informative. Here’s the blurb:

For the writer new to publishing and the many options now available, author/editor Kathryn Lively offers an eclectic collection of articles designed to help you tighten manuscripts for submission, discern whether to seek an agent/publisher or do it yourself, and promote your work cheaply.

Writing, Publishing, Marketing is divided into four parts:

Writing – tips to improve minor tics in manuscripts that editors may mark.

Publishing – tips to attract the interest of an agent or editor.

Self-Publishing – an examination of alternative publishing options available to you.

Marketing – utilizing free and inexpensive tools to promote and sell books.


I decided to put this book together after a friend suggested I share my experiences in publishing. Over the years I have attended conferences and seminars, talking about various aspects of writing and publishing. The notes and articles I’ve written over time accumulated to the point that I had a book-length work, so I figured why not share what I’ve learned? The book is out for $2.99 via Kindle. After it’s period in the Select program, I’ll distribute the work through other channels.

If you are new to the world of publishing, and submission to agents and editor, you may find something valuable in this book. Hope you enjoy it.

Should You Sign That Book Contract? Part One

The first time I was offered a book contract, I left footprints on the ceiling after my happy dance. After years of writing and polishing my novel, and another year of rejections and situations where I came close but left disappointed, I finally had papers in my hand certifying that somebody wanted to publish my book. Considering this momentous occasion, I took more than a day studying each paragraph and wrapping my head around the legalese before making my decision. In the years following, after I took on the position of acquiring books for a small press, I realized some writers are so excited by the prospect of a contract that they may not read it completely before signing. This, naturally has led to problems.

To receive an offer to contract your book is definitely reason for celebration. However, if the contract turns out to benefit a publisher more than you, you should definitely think before you agree to handing over your work. This is not to say that all publishers are out to take advantage of you, especially if you are a debut author. It is important to know exactly what is laid out in the contract and what rights you have…and what you give up.

You can search the Internet for writers’ advocate sites that spell out the finer points and red flags you need to watch for in an agreement. Let’s take a closer look at some of them here.

Rights – When you sign a contract to a publisher, you give the house exclusive rights to produce your work in the formats noted in the agreement. This is an important clause to read, because it lets you know which rights the house wants (typically hardcover, softcover or mass market, and digital), and the wording may indicate that the rights extend to include written formats that haven’t been devised yet. Publishers may contract anywhere from one year to seven for a work, meaning you cannot petition to revert the book back to you until the time has lapsed. Of course, you will need to read the rest of your contract for exceptions that allow you to dissolve the contract if you believe the publisher has breached the agreement in some way.

You also want to look for a clause regarding the right of first refusal, which refers to your next book. Some publishers ask for this right if you complete a sequel, prequel, or related work. This means that before you query other publishers about your next book, you are contractually obligated to let the current publisher decide if they want it first. Some publishers, too, draw up this clause to refer to your next book regardless of its relationship to your first book. Some authors are wary of this clause as it can bind them to a publisher with which they no longer wish to work. You may not anticipate trouble in the beginning, but you want to be careful about clauses that can potentially hold you hostage.

Distribution – A contract may include verbiage regarding the distribution of your work. Now that digital formats have come into play, publishers have more options when it comes to selling books. It should be known, too, that third-party retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have their own provisions by which they want publishers to abide. Pay attention to this clause, as it will tell you how the publisher plans to sell your work.

In later installments, we will look at other clauses in a publishing contract that the beginning author should know.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on book publishers and social media writing. She is also an award-winning mystery author.

How to Handle a Negative Review of Your Book

It happens to every author eventually. You may have your name or book titles set up in Google Alerts to monitor publicity, and a link appears to a review of your work. Nervous and excited to know somebody actually took the time to buy, read, and review your book, you click through to read but your spirit soon plummets. Somebody has indeed read your book, and not only didn’t like it but decided to let the world know why.

Seeing a less than glowing review of your book can prove frustrating. What author wants to associate a one or two-star rating with a work he/she has spent months, even years, crafting to perfection? One has to admit, too, that such a review looks like a blemish on a sales page, and if you have been the recipient of a bad review you might wonder how you should respond. Here follows two of the best methods of handling this situation:

1) Respond in the comments of blog or sales page: “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my work.” Then move on with working on your next book.

2) Do nothing. Move on with the next book.

That’s it. Oh, you may be tempted to fire off a scathing rebuttal, or vent via Twitter about how the reader obviously didn’t “get” the book, or recruit friends and family to vote down a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble so other readers won’t see it, but let me give you this one piece of advice – don’t.

As an author, you need to think before you act. How you carry yourself off and online could affect how well your books sell, perhaps more than a mediocre review. When you fly off the handle and berate somebody for their difference in opinion and/or taste, you risk not only the loss of that reader (who may actually buy your next book to give you a second chance), but the loss of more sales now and in the future. It is important to remember the following:

1) Reviews are for readers. Yes, you can use the most glowing praise for promotional purposes, but readers write reviews to let other readers know what they think. When you see reviews as a written favor to you, you may be more inclined to explode at a bad one, and that is unwise.

2) Reviews are not to be taken personally. It is important not to view a bad review as a personal insult. A reader who gives low points on your book isn’t necessarily judging your ability to write. Negative reviews may not be linked to quality of writing, either – a reader may not have found the story compelling, despite your knack for good dialogue. If you can take anything from a negative review, it is that you provoked somebody to write about your book.

3) Even bad reviews can help. You must always remember that reviews are subjective – one person’s opinion. Consider a book or movie you recently enjoyed: did a friend not like it? Chances are a reader will see something in a negative review that will inspired him/her to read your book anyway.

4) Nobody escapes criticism. Stephen King, JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, and even Shakespeare have had their share of thumbs down.

For an author, the worst type of review is the one that is not written. The next time you find low marks on your book, just shake it off and take something constructive from the experience. Keep writing!

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with several fiction publishers. She also specializes in articles on social media writing.

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