Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Advice for First-Time Authors by Liza O'Connor and Giveaway!

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Saving Casey
Liza O'Connor
Having been diagnosed with cancer, Cass Goldman decides to opt out of any futile medical care and end her life. While she has some thoughts on afterlife, she never expects to reincarnate into the body of a seventeen-year-old girl named Casey Davidson.

When she awakens in a hospital, Cass discovers two disturbing facts: One, she is now inside the body of a troubled teenager, and two, the former owner of this body committed suicide, but only Cass knows that. Everyone else believes Casey has survived, but suffered a complete memory loss. Cass has two choices: to take on Casey’s life and turn it around, or to confess the truth about her reincarnation and end up in a mental asylum. Given this second chance at life, Cass decides to take on the future life of Casey—the frightening ghoul-faced teen with short, black, spiky hair.

Every person around Cass has an ulterior motive and discovering the truth of Old Casey’s life is more complicated than the “new math” she is forced to learn in school. In addition, Cass has to contend with raging teenage hormones and the prior crimes of Old Casey, which she might not remember, but everyone else certainly does. However, her biggest frustration concerns her feelings for her father’s rugged security specialist who sees her only as a teenager and doesn’t want to explore the mutual attraction between them.

Will her second chance at life prove to be worth the struggles she has to overcome?

My Best Advice for First-Time Authors

My best advice to inspiring authors is not to rush into publishing. First, focus on honing your writing skills. Otherwise, you may have a wonderful story, but you'll make so many beginner mistakes, that no publishing house will take you on. Thus, a potentially fabulous story will come home rejected, over and over, causing you to lose faith in yourself.

For me, negative emotions are detrimental to the writing process, so I strongly recommend honing your skills for years before trying to publish. That way, your beloved book will quickly return with a "we’d love to publish your story" email.

During the "honing your craft" process, I would advise writing a novel entirely before letting anyone read it. Otherwise, a well-intended piece of advice can kill your muse midway through the book. The first draft should be a joyous event. Don’t let anyone steal that joy from you. It’s the best part of writing.

Now, many of my author friends don’t adhere to that policy; their muses are made of tougher stuff than mine. So they write a chapter and send it out. The advantage is that if their plot is headed off in an unpublishable direction, their critters can pull them back.

However, I would like to point out that had I done that, my novel, Saving Casey, would not exist. One critter actually did declare my plot unpublishable based solely on my blurb and the first chapter. Which brings me to another insight: It’s not what you write about, but how you write about it. For example, my novel, Saving Casey, touches upon some highly disturbing and sensitive topics that most publishers shy away from.

Now I did traumatize one critter in the honing process, which prompted me to soften a few areas in the book. As to the critter who suggested I toss Saving Casey and write something else, I just ignored her and focused on my constructive critters who thought it fabulous and should be published. You need critters who will tell you the good and the bad, but both can be said in ways that won’t crush your muse.

If someone is depressing your muse, tell them their crit methodology doesn’t work for you and find better critters.

Which brings me to more advice: Join several critique groups. Why so many? So you can determine which ones work best for you and dump those that do not. Critique groups acquire a personality from those who comprise it. And believe me, they are not all the same. Some believe in hard love, ripping your book to pieces, and declaring you hopeless as a writer and your book unpublishable. If you think you can bear tough love and it will fast track your skill improvement, go for them. I would just like to note that any issue can be stated either kindly or meanly. I find the kind version more informative.

I look for positive critters who can see the good and bad in my work, and when they highlight my problems, they’ll do so in a constructive manner, and when addressing their opinions, they will present them as such. I treasure those critters.

You’ll find some critters very knowledgeable about grammar and punctuation, while others aren’t. That isn’t a problem unless the sloppy critters don’t realize they are wrong and lead you astray. My advice is not to depend on others to fix your grammar and punctuation problems. Learn this vital skill for yourself.

I’ll admit punctuation is mind-numbingly boring, but as a basic tool of your craft, you need to conquer it. To avoid going into a coma, I advise settling on one source. If you hop about the web, you will get varying rules that will make your head spin. The rules are not entirely black and white—theyvary between the US and the rest of the English-speaking world—so pick a single source and stick to it. I personally use the Chicago Manual of Style. And don’t try to learn everything in a day; it’s not possible and you may be in violation of the Geneva Convention for inhuman torture upon yourself. (I can only be serious for five minutes, then my silliness bursts out.)

You’ll soon learn a great deal of rules against which you are expected to write. Learn the rules, but more importantly, understand the reasons for the rules; try to see it as a game challenge rather than rule that is destroying your voice. However, never forget: Writing rules can be and should be broken. So if you’ve written a fabulous sentence that breaks a rule, keep it with pride.

While you’re learning the rules of writing, don’t forget to keep writing. I’ve been told you should write three very good books before you attempt to publish. I agree entirely, and here’s why: When you first publish, you will be so overwhelmed with the editing, promoting, and marketing you won’t have a great deal of time to write and what you do write may be subpar to your prior works. (My muse objects to fatigue and stress.) However, given the long time it takes to publish a book, you need to get another book into the hands of a publisher right away. Otherwise, you might not publish again for another year and any momentum you gained at being a known author will fade away, meaning instead of building off the success of your first book, you have to start all over again. Blogging and keeping yourself out there will help that, but you need books out there. Having three books will give you a reasonable buffer while you accustom yourself to your new life.

Finally, don’t shortchange marketing. In fact, experts say you should spend two hours marketing for every hour you spend writing. Every single day. There are a million unknown authors out here selling books. Getting yourself noticed is not easy. So the first thing I recommend is to take a marketing seminar while matters are quiet. That is a skill you cannot go without.

Now about your current job that you’d like to dump to write full-time: Keep it. Don’t expect publishing to support you for very a long time, if ever. I read that the average author sells between 500-1000 of a single title in its lifetime. Assuming you make $2 a book, a book is only going to bring you $1000-$2000. And the average books sales could be less if ‘free’ sales are included in their calculation. Thus, just to reach a $30,000 annual income (aka that of a no-frills poor person) you would need to publish 15 books a year, which in my opinion, is not physically possible to do.

Thus, we come back to why marketing is so critical.

Bestselling authors aren’t Best Sellers because they write great novels. They are Best Sellers because they successfully market their great novels.

On that note, here's my shameless self-promotion: Check out my novel, Saving Casey... expect to laugh, cry, and yell at the characters. (Which means you probably shouldn’t read this at work.)

About the Author

Liza lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small cessnas in NJ, hang glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer and dabbler in watercolors. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels. She loves to create interesting characters, set them loose, and scribe what happens.


Liza has been kind enough to show readers what it'd be like to have Casey's tattoo! One commenter will win a photo edit (with a provided .jpg image) for a tattoo just like Casey's. To enter, tell me: What would you do if you died and woke up in another person's body? I would actually find it really cool (I may be glamorizing it a bit after reading Saving Casey's synopsis) and would use it as a chance to recreate myself, to become the person I never got to be in my first life. The opportunity to restart my life WITH the wisdom of a previous life before me, would be amazing.

In addition, one commenter tour-wide will be selected to win a $25 Amazon gift card, so check out the full tour schedule and be sure to leave comments on other stops!

Please leave your email address in your comments so we know who to contact when you win!

Rules and Disclosure:
Both giveaways end April 5th at 11.59 EST (your time).
Open internationally! Woohoo!
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prizes will be forfeited.
As I am not selecting winners for this tour, I am in no way responsible for the winners, prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ 
Good luck!