Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eating Life with Beth Burnett

I'm kicking-off August by featuring author Beth Burnett.
Last year I met Beth at the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Conference in D.C. I then became a student at the GCLS Writing Academy where she's the director. Today, she humbly agreed to be interviewed for this blog. I hope that you find her to be as witty and entertaining as I do.

Tell us a little about yourself?
I've written twenty thousand bios in my life and this question still makes me go all wild-eyed and yell, "I like turtles!" Seriously, I think I'm pretty out there on social media so most people probably already know the standard stuff. If there's something most people don't know it's that I'm actually rather serious and introverted, despite my boisterousness in crowds. 
Beth's Blog
Beth on Amazon
Beth on Goodreads

How did you get to be so witty, funny, and good looking?
I was born this way. It's my blessing and my curse. I'm actually quite humble, but it's hard to stay humble when you're this awesome.  

Tell us about your upcoming book and where can we buy it? 
Eating Life is my current book. It's available for purchase August 15th. Order from a local woman owned bookstore! (My two favorites are People Called Women in Toledo, Ohio and Laurel Bookstore in Oakland, California. Both will order it if they don't have it. And they ship. And of course, you can buy it in the regular big online retailer places. And from Sapphire Books website.)

Fill in the blank:
This book will make you want to stop working shitty jobs and start living with wild abandon.

(I need to read this book!)

What is your favorite scene?
I love a scene between Casey (my main character) and Ben Stagg when she finds him hitchhiking and gets his backstory. The two of them have a natural, platonic chemistry that made all of the scenes with the two of them incredibly easy to write. 

What was your inspiration for this book?
I spent so many years on the road, travelling from one place to another, never really living anywhere. It was liberating and wild and I knew some day, after I settled down, I would write a character who was homeless by choice.

Million dollar question, what are you working on next? 
I hope it becomes a million dollar project. I have one completed manuscript that is with a beta reader as we speak about two soulmates who fall in love but can't be together. I'm working on a hetero romance about two women who are betrayed by their boyfriends and decide to write bad porn books about them to get even. I'm about halfway through a self-help book based on the online women's empowerment classes I teach. And I just started outlining a book in which the antagonist from Eating Life becomes the protagonist. And my alter-ego, Olivia Craft, tries to put out an erotica short story on Amazon every other month or so. (Olivia's work keeps me supplied with hummus and Birkenstocks, so I have to schedule time for her.)

If you were sitting at a stop light next to a new writer, what writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before the light turned green?
I'd scream, "Just sit down and write" and then drive off, leaving them speechless and terrified.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
I'm kind of a luddite - I still like paper books. I have Stephen King's On Writing, and the Natalie Goldberg books. Chuck Wendig's Kick-ass Writer is excellent, too. The biggest boost to my writing skills comes from running the writing academy. Even when I'm not teaching, I sit in on the classes, and they are incredible. I feel my writing has improved so much since starting with the academy.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Long ago, I was talking to the incredibly talented Linda Kay Silva and she said, "Stop saying you want to be a writer. You obviously don't want to be a writer or you'd be writing." It was hard but she was so right. I sat down that day and started writing. My first novel, Man Enough, came directly from that conversation. 

What has been the best compliment?
I love when people acknowledge my work (and I'm a Scorpio), so all compliments are welcome! One of my favorites was when Catherine Wilson, author of the When Women were Warriors series, listened to my reading, and then ran to the vendor table shouting, "I need to get that book!" 

Anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Lesbian fiction is still relevant - perhaps even more so in today's political climate. Keep reading and I'll keep writing. 

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
That it isn't just writing. I knew nothing about marketing (still don't know much) and the amount of marketing an author has to do is overwhelming. I somehow thought that as long as I wrote good books, people would just miraculously know about them and buy them. 

Anything else you'd like to share?
I'm not wearing pants.

Any questions you'd like to pose to me?
What are you wearing?
    Shirt & Tie AND Pants

    And when is your next book coming out?
    Love Coupons --Sept 1st (fingers-crossed)

On August 15th RUN don't walk to get Beth Burnett's next book Eating Life.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When Picturing 'Em Naked Fails: Crushing an Author's Reading

Public speaking is the number one fear of Americans. I grew-up hearing people say "Picture them Naked." Hey- it seemed to work for characters on television. It's not so much working for me, it just seems too distracting. If you throw in the mix, reading a lesbian romance things get heated fast. Picturing them naked or in their underwear, would cause me to worry that an orgy would break-out.

So, if this de-clothing tactic does not work for you, what would? Marketing & publishing experts agree that author readings are an integral part of a book's success. How do we help bashful, fearful authors succeed at author readings?

1. Getting Over the Fear of Speaking in Public: This is much easier said (pun intended) than done. Some writers by nature are introverts. He/she wants the story or novel to speak for itself. If your fear is more like a phobia, seek counseling. You might want to seek counseling or a coach even if you don't think it's a fear. Once that hard work is done, practice, practice, practice. Start off small: speak more in a staff meeting, give a toast at a dinner party with friends, start a podcast, find other speech engagements.

2. Prepare Your Own Work:

  • Write Something Worthy to Read.
  • Pick an exciting passage that doesn't give the whole story away.
  • Go through the passage and trim out the unnecessary information.
3. Practice Reading Out Loud:
  • Time yourself to stay within the time frame.
  • Record yourself.
  • Read to a pet.
  • Read to a friend, family member or partner.
4. Prepare an introduction to your reading.
  • Setting.
  • Characters.
  • What's happening in this scene.
  • A short, short bio of yourself and where they can buy the book. If you're doing signings after, make sure to mention that.
5. Prepare yourself for questions if that's part of the reading.
6. Become familiar with the atmosphere.
  • Who comes to the readings?
  • Is there a moderator?
  • Place you will be reading?
7. Day of the Reading Preparation.
  • Plan what to wear. Wear something comfortable.
  • Practice some mindfulness, positive thinking and other grounding techniques.
  • Mind what you drink or eat. Don't want to be too full or too starving or having to go to the restroom in the middle of your reading.
  • Stretch or move around before reading to get your blood flowing.
  • Sing to your favorite song to get your vocal chords going.
8. Have someone take a picture of you while you're reading and sitting with other authors about to read. Put in on your blog, website, or other social media site. (Use the picture to send to your ex-girlfriend with the text, I just read a passage about how awful a person you are to a room full of people.)

9. Reward Yourself!
  • Go to a movie, dinner, plan small party with friends.
  • Get a massage, buy yourself a new toy/equipment.
  • Go on a small trip.
10. Do it Again!! (Plan your next reading.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Short Story Success

A few weeks ago, I had a short story accepted for an anthology. Hurray! It's the first time that an entity like a publisher has chosen to display my writing. This is on top of being thrilled every time I have a reader contact me about liking my book. My favorite is when the reader says that they couldn't stop reading and stayed up all night. Okay, I went on a tangent. Like I said, my short story was accepted.

I'm excited about this because of these reasons:
1. My first formal acceptance.
2. Short Stories are extremely hard to write. It requires constructing a memorable story and great characters in a small space.
3. It's an anthology that's going to get released at the GCLS Con in Chicago!!

One of my favorite writers is Kurt Vonnegut. He was amazing at short stories. He used to make a living purely on short stories and consumed a multitude of them in his childhood and adolescence. Check-out his short stories. The audio books with his narration is incredible.  I'll never be as great as him and respect the art of short story writing.

Once my debut short story is published, I'll share the link on my blog!

Update: Another one of my short stories just got picked up by Sapphire Books!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Get to the Con: It Might Charge You

The title is a bit misleading. I'm not going to teach you how to con people. There are plenty of movies and books out there if you wanted to learn this. Instead, I'm encouraging you to go to a writer's con (conference). I recently returned from one and it’s a writer’s life altering experience.

Going to a writer's conference was at the top of my list wish for the last ten years. Something always seemed to come up; I didn't have the money, the time or distracted with falling in love. In July 2015 I decided I was going to go to one. I picked a conference, paid to register and booked my hotel room.

I picked the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) in Washington DC. I learned about the GCLS through a fellow author's blog. GCLS is a 501(c)3 non-profit, volunteer organization whose mission is education and the promotion and recognition of lesbian literature.

I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew was there'd be other LBGT writer's, it ran from a Wednesday to Saturday night and consisted of workshops, panels and author readings. I arrived to the hotel where the conference was being held and witnessed other conference goers greeting each other with hugs, screeches and laughter.

I thought, "Okay, I'm going to be an outsider here, keep to myself, learn and hop back on the plane."

That was further from the truth. The Board and conference goers were very welcoming. (I mean stumbling over each other to ask you to eat lunch with them, inquiring daily how things were going, etc) The workshops and panels were full of useful information and quaint and family atmosphere, despite the 350 participants.

The second day of the conference I woke excited to face the day. I can't remember the last time I woke up that energized for a day that wasn’t a weekend or vacation day. That's when I knew that I was doing something consequential for myself.

It wasn't only the teachings and witty banter of the presenters. It was amazing being in an LGBT friendly environment and being surrounded by fellow writers and authors.These two factors together made the whole experience surreal.

The people there were living in a world similar to me, a writers world. I found myself nodding along and smiling at them talk about where they write, how they find inspiration in the smallest detail and how they deal with family members, friends and spouses who don't seem to understand their writing process.

List of Some Things I Gained from the Conference:
1. Sense of Belonging.
2. Validation.
3. Meeting two author/ idols of mine- Rita Mae Brown and Katherine V. Forrest.
4. Networking.
5. Learning writing, marketing, editing, and research skills.
6. Ideas for new books.
7. Energy and motivation to write more.
8. Courage to write what I don't know. (Using research to expand my writing.)
9. The knowledge that writing lesbian literature is important LGBT youth and adults.
10. Stronger appreciation for my fiancée's support in my writing journey.

Being at the conference to me was like Harry Potter going to Hogwarts... okay not as dramatic as that but pretty darn close.
Look for more posts from me about conferences. Have you thought about going to a conference? What's your favorite writer's conference? What did  you get out of it?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I'm absolutely in love with the cover of my latest book "Her Feet on Fire." The book's in the polishing stages and should be published late summer or early fall.
It's about a woman trail runner Maisie whose job is to run outside the boundaries of town in order to protect the town from outsiders. She runs miles and days away from the town with her trustee dog Mali at her side. One trail running trip, Maisie runs into a problem putting herself and perhaps the town at risk. She meets a mysterious woman named Edison who helps Maisie and seems to change Maisie's perspective in life. Still, living in a post-apocalypse has it's trouble that nobody is immune. Maisie finds herself in center stage of her town's latest danger.
I've written romance, general fiction, Young Adult and now this is my first attempt at a post-apocalyptic novel. In this novel, I try to stay away from focusing on the apocalypse and more on the lives now of the townspeople.
In "Her Feet on Fire" the townspeople struggle to find some normalcy yet are reminded every day that they need to focus on issues of basic survival. Food is scarce, strangers are a real danger and protecting the town is a number one priority.
Maisie is a small town girl with amazing running and navigating ability who unlike her neighbors, enjoys leaving town. She's the product of a post-apocalypse tragedy. She's surrounded by elders, peers and friends who look up to her. The town leader Jeffery watches her every step for a chance to reprimand her. Somewhere in this busy, dangerous world, Maisie stumbles upon a budding romance.
This book has a lot to offer my readers. It has adventure, action, strong lead characters, romance and a dog.

When People Ask: "How do you write all that?"

I've often been asked by families, friends, fans and people sharing my jail cell, "how do you write so much?" Then the person goes into how they struggle to write a paragraph, a letter, a note in a card or their papers in high school and college. They don't 'get me' and I don't 'get them' because we view writing in a different way. They see it as difficult or chore; it give me freedom, enjoyment and it comes natural to me. If a non-reader has to find just the right book, I wonder if someone who doesn't enjoy writing has to find the right muse.
I've always written. I filled my unlined journals with stories until my aunt gave me more, I wrote long letters to a pen pal in California for over a decade, I wrote long love notes to my best friend in junior high (until an evil music teacher snatched, read it all the while shaking her head). I've written 40 page research papers, although it wasn't as fun as fiction or social writing.
So far, I've managed to tell you that I love writing but haven't explained how I write so many words, pages and books. I guess loving what I do explains a lot. Once I sit down to write, my fingers move across the keyboard as my thoughts come to me. Rarely, I use an outline. Although having an outline has helped me to stay organized in my writing.
I just write. I'm transported to that setting, in the characters' heads and I just write. Most of the time, I don't know what's going to happen next. That keeps me hooked to keep writing until I don't know what my characters are going to do next or until someone or something in my world stops me from writing. (Usually my dog wants attention or my boss would like me to show up for work.)
I love writing without having to worry about a number of pages or words. It's when I'm limited in the amount of words I can use that slows me down. I get hung up on giving brief descriptions of my book to be put on Amazon or a few paragraphs for the dedication page of my book.
It's the difference between hiking with plenty of food and water with no time constraints versus hiking with little provisions with a place to be at a certain time.
Some people like that kind of writing. One of my kids had the hardest time writing an essay about "What he did this weekend". If you told him to write about his winning goal in soccer,  or about how his dog almost caught a rabbit, that was specific enough that he could be successful.
Now that you and I have come to the end of this post, I'm not sure we have learned anything. I JUST write, I just do it. I have a lot of technique to learn but it comes natural and I'm absolutely in love with it. It's the one thing in my life that has stayed constant.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

In Sickness, Health & Superpowers

Yes, I've taken that scary step into the supernatural. I don't think it's half-bad. Readers/fans have reviewed it as "supernatural writing that keeps the characters realistic." I'll take that as a compliment. Fun trivia fact for when I'm more famous. . . the working title of the book was Liv & Dalton. This now means nothing to you because I changed the character's names too. Although I've veered from my contemporary lesbian fictions, at the heart of this book is a lesbian love story. It also has sequel potential, depending how well it sells and its reviews.
Please check-it out and email me your thoughts.