Monday Mayhem – The Gift of Giving Up

This time of year, I’m always focused on what I want to accomplish next year. The list is always fairly lengthy. I won’t get to everything, but I will complete some things. As I get older, I find that accomplishing some things is more than enough. The things I don’t get done will shift to the following year’s list, and life will go on.

Opened personal organizer with a to do list.

Patience is one of life’s great lessons. I haven’t mastered it, but I am learning to embrace it. I’m also learning how to let things go. This year, I plan to carry over my list of anti-resolutions. Remember these?

Stop showing and telling everything to everyone.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Stop worrying about what others think of you.

Stop waiting.

Stop doubting.

Stop being a stranger.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Stop standing in your own way.

Stop feeling guilty.

Stop thinking money creates value.

Stop feeling obligated.

Stop saying yes all the time

Stop thinking everything is a competition.

Stop trying to be like everyone else.

Stop thinking you have to get it right on the first try.

I’ve discovered that the list of things I plan to stop doing is the very definition of a work in progress. Some days I’m better at them than others.

In 2018, I’m giving myself a different kind of gift: permission to give up.

Not writing, or my day job, or anything important. But the time has come for me to put some conscious effort into quitting things that do not make me feel good.

Almost seven years ago, I quit smoking. Now, just because I list that here, don’t think for one minute I didn’t love smoking. I did. I just didn’t like the way smoking made me feel. So, I screwed up my determination and quit.

This year, I plan to give up some other things that don’t make me feel good. The first I plan to attack will be my social media habit.

No, I won’t be disappearing entirely, but I will be limiting the time I spend absorbing other people’s thoughts and opinions.

I will be around to post pictures and chat about life in general, but I’m going to start sticking to topics of polite conversation: the weather, health, and…books.

How about you? Do you plan to be a quitter in 2018? What baggage will you be ditching?

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Monday Mayhem – Attitude of Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude. I hope you all know how very grateful I am for your support and encouragement. Lord knows, I probably don’t say it often enough, but I am. Writers write the stories they want to tell, but when we connect with at least one other person…that’s golden.

So, in case I haven’t said it lately, THANK YOU.

I appreciate you more than words can say. And I have a lot of words at my disposal. 🙂

This holiday season, I am taking part in the Attitude of Gratitude giveaway sponsored by my beloved Brinda Berry.

Brinda has gathered nearly fifty authors and we are GIVING AWAY books as a way of showing our gratitude for our readers. This is a great way to discover new-to-you authors, so don’t miss out!

<3 Mags

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Monday Mayhem – If this writing thing doesn’t work out

It’s my birthday week! Yay!

Okay, it doesn’t really mean much other than I get to use it as an excuse to eat stuff and say, “Hey, it’s my birthday week!” but I plan to use it.

In case you were looking for an update on our trip to New York City, Julie Evelyn Joyce covered it here. It’s pretty comprehensive and I really don’t have much to add, since she ganked most of my pictures for it. So much fun.

Fodder got me a special present for my birthday. Apparently, I’m hard to shop for when it comes to anything beyond and Amazon gift card (and I really don’t understand why he feels compelled to go beyond them, but anyhoo…), but he came across something on eBay and knew I had to have it.

He was right.

Meet my 1976 Smith Corona Super G, Ghia

She’s a super sporty portable manual brought to life by Karmann Ghia designers Alejandro do Tomaso and Tom Tjaarda. Not only is she in great working condition, but she is still sleek and beautiful. Even the carrying case is racy!

So, yeah, if this novelist bit doesn’t pan out, I can always fall back on writing poetry in parks, like we saw last weekend.

I just need to brush up on my poetry skills…and stop rhyming things with Nantucket…

Have a great week, everyone. Eat cake and blame it on me!

Oh! And I’m participating in a multi-author contest this week! Join me, Brinda Berry, Juno Rushdan, and Aliza Mann for a chance to win prizes from each author and be entered to win a $50 amazon gift card!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Procrastination at its best

This past week, I did the 7 days of black and white photos challenge on Facebook. The last picture I posted was of my desk. I realized that I keep a lot of crap on my desk. And by crap I mean very necessary stuff.

I thought it might be fun to give you a guided tour, so I converted the picture back to color and added a few guideposts. This is my writing view most every day:

Allow me to show you around:

A) Hand lotion. The rarified air of authordom is dry. Very, very dry.

B) Cup of rarely used writing utensils. Apparently, before the QWERTY keyboard became all the rage, people used things called pens and pencils. I keep some here for nostalgic purposes, but find I have mostly forgotten how to use them. For the record, I never run with those scissors. Heck, I never run at all, so no worries there. I love the mug, though. Fodder bought it for me. It says, “True Love and Romance – In this issue: Being A Bad Cook Is the Smartest Move A Girl Could Ever Make” True. So True.

C) Bunny stickers and index cards. Both very necessary to the the plotting process.

D) Sassy pants sticky notes. Because I wear sassy pants most every day. Used only for special occasions.

E) The sparkly rainbow alligator and flamingo paper clip guard the last of my pretty postage stamps. These are particularly valuable, because they are Forever Stamps, so their street value keeps increasing.

F) Fu*king reading glasses because I am old. But it you look behind the glasses, you see I have an ENTIRE PACK OF ROLOS. So, I may be old, but I am an old broad with Rolos.

G) Mechanical caterpillar. Because.

H) All electronics are propped to ergonomically correct heights courtesy of World Book Encyclopedia (M, (j)K, and 1968 here).

I) More sticky notes. And flags. Because I lurrrrve them.

J) Library card. Kept on hand for at-home book emergencies. I also keep one on my keychain.

K) 28″ television used as monitor because I am old (see F). Also allows me to switch from author to chair potato at the press of a button.

L) Stack of boxed note cards used for book mailings. Includes Jane Austen quote cards, classic Harlequin cover postcards, cute typewriter cards, and an assortment of foil embossed cards with things like, “First of all, you’re really pretty” and “You’re so cool, and I’m not even mad about it.”

M) Dongle. *giggles*

N) Macbook: the brains of the operation. Also supported by World Book Encyclopedias spelling W(xyz), (q)R, I, T, E.

O) I am told the out of doors lies beyond these dusty blinds. I’m going there shortly. Wish me luck.

And there you have it. Welcome to my world.

How have things been in your world this week?

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Monday Mayhem – Ooh and Om Edition

First, I want to thank you all for making the release of PLAY DATES so great. I have the best readers in the world!

Second, I want to wish all my Canadian friends a very happy Thanksgiving! I am so very thankful for you. And, I’d totally make you a plate of buttered toast, pretzels, jelly beans, and popcorn…basically my dream Thanksgiving dinner. Peppermint Patty was crazy to complain!

Third, I have a milestone to share. This week, I will celebrate a year of daily meditation. Despite my use of the Om (It Is, Will Be, or To Become) in this post’s title, I don’t chant when I meditate – at least not verbally. But, I have found that a quick 10 minute time out has made a huge difference in my life.

And believe me, I was a skeptic.

Though I always enjoyed the quiet time at the end of the yoga class, I’ve always viewed meditation as something too mystical – or worse, granola-y – for me to take seriously. But this time last year, I was stuck in a job I despised, feeling anxious about my writing, and generally tense and miserable. In other words, I was desperate.

I read an article that mentioned Calm.com and their free phone app. The article mentioned how grounded the program was in using meditation as a means to improve everyday life, not some far-fetched spiritual journey. I decided to give it a shot, and here’s what I discovered:

One breath, in and out. I could handle that. And all I had to do was concentrate on taking each breath as it came. By learning to do that, I learned to tackle my worries and stressors one at a time.

  • I left that miserable job for one that pays far less, and I don’t regret it one bit.
  • I spent time examining the motivation behind my writing and exploring the core themes of the stories I want to tell.
  • I discovered that no matter how busy I am, a 10-15 minute post-dinner puppy snuggle makes even the worst day a thousand times better.
  • And, I realized that there is absolutely nothing selfish or wrong about taking a few minutes out of the day to focus on myself and my state of mind.

I think the best we can do is to try to tune out the noise around us for a few minutes and focus inward. And when I do, I ask myself these questions:

  • Have I done everything I can do to make a difference?
  • Was I kind to someone today? Helpful? Accepting?
  • Did I make someone smile?
  • Did I ask for any help I might need?

Now, you may think the last one doesn’t fit, but I’d argue it absolutely does. I believe that we all want to contribute, even if it’s in the completion of a simple task. By asking for help, you are giving someone the opportunity to answer those first three questions affirmatively. So ultimately, by asking you are giving.

So, go into the world, give of yourselves and accept help from others. And, at the end of the day, remember to give yourself a break. We’re all going about this the same way – one breath in, one breath out.

Disclaimer: This may not work for everyone. Meditation makes Sally anxious.

 

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Sara Megibow knows I am beyond blushing

This week, I have a guest star on my blog…literary agent Sara Megibow!

*cheers*

*applause

*lets loose with one of those those piercing whistles that make people cringe*

Sara did a fabulous interview with another one of her clients, Emmie Mears, about what happens once an author signs with an agent. Not long after that, we got to talking about how the experience of working with an agent can be different for those of us who are beyond the first blush of publication. Those emails evolved into this thesis we like to call a blog post.

This is Maggie and Sara’s story, and we’re sticking to it:

Sara: In April 2015 Maggie Wells sent me a query letter for LOVE GAME – a sexy contemporary battle-of-the-sexes romance starring two mature, confident, hot protagonists. LOVE GAME releases Feb 1, 2018 from Sourcebooks Casablanca and we’re so excited! Maggie is a slush pile query success story with a bit of a twist.

The twist is that Maggie’s query letter included a bio outlining her experience as a previously published author with novels from Turquoise Morning Press, Carina Press, Cleis Press, Harlequin, and Kensington. Working with an established author brings a different strategy to the table so Maggie and I wanted to share that experience.

Maggie: Back in 2014, I made a conscious decision to try to take my writing career to the ‘next level’. We all know that we have different paths and everyone’s mileage varies, but for me, the next level meant cracking the print market and wider distribution. I had already been published on digital-first platforms by publishers ranging from small press to Big 5, but the digital revolution in publishing has been a roller coaster ride. More established authors were going indie. Small press publishing rose and fell. Many authors were opting out of traditional publishing altogether, but I wasn’t ready to take it all on myself. I decided I wanted a partner to work with me as I moved into the next phase of my career. I needed an agent.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, the success stories, and the nightmare scenarios, but this seemed like the right decision for me. I researched the agents I wanted to work with carefully. Not only do I look at how they handle books similar to those I write, but I studied their interaction with the publishing world at large via social media and blog posts.

In other words, I stalked them, but in the most professional way.

I knew that searching for an agent, then shopping the manuscript for a publishing contract is a lengthy process. I had a project I’d earmarked for querying—the book now known as LOVE GAME—knowing it might not see the light of day for years. Then, I made a list of my top choices of agent, and began the process. Less than a month after sending the first queries, I had an offer of representation from Sara – who happened to be number one on my list. Needless to say, I was somewhere beyond giddy.

Sara: Thanks Maggie! You’re so sweet –I was giddy too!

In the query slush pile I see submissions from debut authors to New York Times bestselling authors – platform is neither a deal-maker nor a deal-breaker for me. Regardless of platform, I have to love a book in order to offer representation. In the case of LOVE GAME – wow! It’s SO good and funny and sexy – I can’t wait for readers to love it as much as I do!

Maggie: Thanks, Sara! I’m excited for them to read it too!

Sara and I have had some pretty frank discussions on where my career was/is, how we can maintain momentum, and how we might push forward. I think this has been one of the most beneficial aspects of working with Sara.

We are a team. She knows when to step up, when to rein me in a little, and when to just let me do my thing. That may be where working with an author who has some publishing industry experience differs from working with a new author.

Sara:  We do make a good team, don’t we? 😉

As Maggie’s agent my job is to make her more money than she would have been able to make on her own. An author’s money comes from advance, royalties and subsidiary rights deals so we talked a lot about these things on that original phone call.

First, like you said above Maggie, you asked how to “maintain momentum.”

To that end, we made a list of the books/series Maggie wanted to write and made a plan to write and sell them. It worked! In addition to LOVE GAME, we have Maggie’s PLAY DATES series launching in October 2017 from Kensington Lyrical. PLAY DATES is a trilogy of contemporary romance novels starring hot single dads. The release of these digital-first titles was strategically planned to keep momentum going while waiting for our print release of LOVE GAME.

Second, Maggie, you asked me about “pushing forward” and how to “take your career to the next level.”

Maggie’s previous books are amazing! They are ebook-only or ebook + POD so for us “pushing forward” meant increasing her market penetration by landing a print deal with a major publisher (done! The LOVE GAME series will have its exciting print release from Sourcebooks with extensive bookstore and library distribution). Taking Maggie’s career to the “next level” also meant inking those profitable subsidiary rights deals (done! The entire LOVE GAME series was sold to audiobook for simultaneous release).

Now let’s flip the tables. What does a previously published author bring to the table for an agent?

To start with, Maggie already had an understanding of publishing processes. Like she said above, LOVE GAME was earmarked for querying knowing that it would be a while before release. This demonstrated to me that Maggie understood the traditional publishing production timeline. Understanding publishing processes up front meant she could focus right away on writing those delicious books. Debut authors experience a steep learning curve (rightfully so!) when going through their first production cycle and Maggie didn’t have that hurdle.

In addition to her understanding of the traditional publishing process, Maggie had an established brand (sexy, contemporary romance starring mature protagonists) and a robust social media presence.

Maggie: But even with my previous experiences, Sara has provided a wealth of in-depth knowledge about aspects of the business.

Sara: When we originally talked about LOVE GAME I was able to discuss format, distribution and subsidiary rights with an eye toward profit. But, you’ve been a major player on this team too, Maggie  – we are stronger together because your experience adds to mine.

Look at what you’ve done in terms of networking with other authors and your brilliant Margaritas Facebook Page and social media plan. Do you want to talk about that? These are great examples of YOU bringing value-add to the relationship.

Maggie: By the time I started working with Sara, I had stopped chasing the social media trends and settled into what works for me. I use my Facebook reader group for interacting with readers, and Twitter to chat with other authors. I maintain my own website, blog weekly, and have a steadily growing newsletter list. All of these things can be a boon to an author, but also take time away from the writing. Sara is great about providing marketing support and brainstorming, but mainly she helps keep me focused on the most important part of marketing my work—writing the next book.

Sara: YES! Writing the next book is a huge piece of the profit strategy. Our goal is to make money on books… then write more books and make money on those books too!

Maggie: It all comes down to time, knowledge, and access. I think those are some of the most important assets an agent can bring to an author.

Sara:  “Time, knowledge and access.” These are three big reasons why authors DO choose to sign with agents.

Time: An author pays their agent 15% of monies received (from advances, royalties, subrights). My time investment as an agent includes tasks like editing, submissions, strategy, tracking payments and royalties, answering questions, being a liaison between author and publisher, organizing marketing, negotiating contracts and selling rights to audio publishers, foreign publishers and Hollywood, etc. I want to be worth that 15% an author gives up so I keep me client list small and focus on being “value-add.”

Knowledge: An agent’s knowledge of the publishing business is a tool for making money for their clients.

Access: Many publishers still only accept submissions from agents. Also, opportunities for subrights deals (audio, translation, Hollywood) heavily favor agented authors.

Maggie: What are some of the traits (aside from that ‘gotcha!’ manuscript) that you appreciate most in a client?

Sara: 90% of my clients came to me the same way you did, Maggie – through the query slush pile. You’re right – I’m looking for that “gotcha manuscript.”

Once we get past the amazing-manuscript-offering-representation phase I appreciate a client who is professional (example: turns in books on time) and kind (example: says thank you to our hardworking teammates).  Professional and kind go a long way in this business! I hope a client has a social media presence, although it’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t. I do, however, expect them to keep an updated website once we ink a book deal. Finally, all my clients are passionate and I appreciate that trait because it inspires me.

Maggie: In short, the author + agent relationship has been a revelation for me, even though I came into it as an experienced author. Having a partner like Sara by my side has expanded my career horizons—not just because I made it past a ‘gatekeeper’, but because she helps me view each project through a wide-angle lens. While I am focused on writing the next book, Sara and I are planning next steps beyond typing ‘The End’ in a manuscript.

Thanks so much for joining me here, Sara. I love being on Team Megibow and having you on Team Awesome!

Follow Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow

Learn more about what Sara is looking for here: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Old Dogs and Happy Goats

This weekend was the annual Diamond State Romance Authors writing retreat! We rented a lovely house on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Here was my writing view from the deck:

This time, I didn’t have a deadline pressing on me, but I had a couple things I wanted to work on. Like many of my writer friends, I’ve found myself struggling with the words over the summer, so I was also looking for some new tricks to jumpstart the old motivation.

Most writers will classify themselves in one of two ways: plotter or pantser. Plotter is pretty self-exlanitory. Those writers plot each bit of a book before they even begin. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants.

I started out as — and still naturally identify as — a pantser. But my career has moved at such a pace that I find I am selling books to publishers based on a synopsis of what I think future book will be. If I leave it up to my pantsing tendencies, I tend to veer off course from that synopsis, so I’ve evolved into sort of a plotser.

Adding dictation to my bag of tricks has also changed my writing style. I found I needed to have a pretty good sense of what I was trying to accomplish in that scene before I could speak it. Which meant, I had to do some *gasp* plotting.

This weekend, I took my first steps toward becoming a full-fledged plotter. The fabulous Brinda Berry showed me an awesome template she’d started using. I bought the book (FOOL PROOF OUTLINE) and downloaded that template.

In one afternoon, I’d done over 3,000 words of story outline, character worksheets, and scene plotting for a new project. Here’s hoping this new trick will work for this old dog.

In other news, Kelli Reep and I saw a goat riding in the back of a truck on the way home.

 

Welcome to Arkansas.

How about you? Did you learn any new tricks this week?

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Monday Mayhem – A blog about blogs

As I type this (on Sunday), the state of Florida is under siege. Please know I’m praying for all those impacted by Hurricane Irma and those still coping with the aftermath of Harvey. And then, we have the anniversary of 9-11…

It’s hard to think/talk about romance when it seems the world is splintering around us. Then again, what better time for a little escapism? If you’re in one of the areas impacted by the hurricanes (and can access your computer or electronic reading device) and need a little something to take your mind off your troubles, please email me at maggiewells1@gmail.com and I’d be happy to do what I can to provide some escape.

Release day is coming for PLAY DATES, and that means I am prepping my promotion efforts. That means I will be writing at least three other blog posts on varying topics as well as making some graphics to go along with them. Like this:

Wanna know where to find me when I am not here?

Well, on September 23rd, I’ll be sharing my experiences with loving a single parent AND the cover reveal for Play Dates #2, EASY BAKE LOVIN’ on the Kensington Books blog.

On the 25th, I’ll be sharing a chat I had with literary agent extraordinaire, Sara Megibow, here on my blog. Sara will be sharing the same chat on the kt literary blog as well.

On October 3rd (release day!), I’ll be at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University talking about National Novel Writing Month and preparing to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

On the 4th and 5th, I’ll be at Just Contemporary Romance talking about how I scored two kids and a house in just fifteen minutes in front of a preacher.

Whew!

I’m sure there will be or two more in there in addition to my regular Monday Mayhem posts. One thing I can tell you for certain, by the time Colm and Monica’s story is launched, I’ll be more than ready to retreat into the world of fiction again. Just in time for NaNoWriMo. Coincidence?

In the meantime, stay safe, friends. Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – The High Life

Happy Labo(u)r Day, you working stiffs (I added the U for the Canadians)! I have spent most of my long weekend not laboring, and I have to tell you, I’m pretty good at it.

Fodder and I ran away to Hot Springs for a night. This is the closest you will ever see me come to touching an actual bird. As always, the can Miller High Life is a homage to my grandmother, for whom I am named.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma a lot this weekend. She’s been gone since I was in college, but occasionally, flashes of memory pop up. This weekend, I found myself thinking about her hands.

My grandparents were already in their seventies when I was born, so in my mind, Grandma’s hands were already a map of blue veins under paper-thin skin. Her knuckles were swollen with arthritis, and she always wore a dark blue star sapphire ring that spun on her pinkie finger.

When you walked into their living room, there was a good chance you’d find Lawrence Welk on the TV, a can of Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) on the side table, and an embroidery hoop on her lap.

This was Margaret Carbery, in her natural habitat.

My grandmother had both cataracts and glaucoma. The bit in Sixteen Candles where Molly Ringwald’s character complains about being felt up by her grandmother?

Yeah…All the time. Our conversations usually started like this:

“Margaret Mary? Is that you?” *grope-grope-grope* “Well, it’s not Jimmy, Grandma.”

By the end of her life, she had little vision left, but more often then not, you would still find her sitting in her chair under the light with the tiffany-esque shade, embroidering pillowcases. She gave them to people as gifts. In our house, they weren’t kept as heirlooms. We used them every day. I don’t think I rested my head on a pillow that wasn’t enrobed in a case hand-stiched by my grandmother until I was in my twenties. I have a couple of sets stashed away:

 

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother. Even fewer have been scanned into the computer, but she is still fresh in my mind. If you need a visual, here’s a photo of her (the lady in white with the big old star sapphire on her pinkie) dancing a hula with Don Ho at the Polynesian Palace:

That’s what we Margarets do. We live the high life.

Rest well today, my friends, for tomorrow we are back to laboring!

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Monday Mayhem – Mayhem

I can’t ramble about writing romance novels. It’s hard to think about happily ever afters when it seems everything I believe in is being challenged.

I’ll try again next week.

In the meantime, think peaceful thoughts and turn your face to the sunlight.

 

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