A Slice of Orange


SANDY NOVY-CHVOSTAL: August 2006 President’s Message

July 24, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

“No Good Book Lacks Lovers”

Every writer I know is a bibliophile. Not to be confused with a bibliomania, an indiscriminate book hoarder (I know a few); or a bibliophagic, which is a book-eater (let’s not even go there), a bibliophile is someone with a healthy love of books.
And, being bibliophiles, all the writers I know also have “Keeper Shelves.” These shelves are stocked with books we especially love and that we really don’t (despite what we may say) want to lend out.

But we do like to talk about favorite books and recommend them to our friends. To this end, our fabulous blog editor Jennifer Apodaca (riding high on the success of our recent blog contest, Going to the Chapel… Thank you, New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber for judging for us!) has created a new blog category, called “The Keeper Shelf.”

No, this one isn’t a contest. Jen is simply inviting our members to blog on an ongoing basis about books that they love, and think other OCC members shouldn’t miss.

Now my Keeper Shelf is chock full of books, some old and out-of-print, and others brand-spanking new. The amazing thing to me about all these books is that since joining OCC over 15 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to actually meet the authors of many of the books I read and reread. While meeting my favorite fiction writers is a personal thrill, meeting the nonfiction writers is always a professional boon for increasing my understanding of craft. Hearing the author discuss his work in person (agent Donald Maass, executive editor Leslie Wainger), never fails to provide insights I’d missed on the printed page.

With this in mind, here are a few books from my nonfiction collection pertinent to upcoming events I don’t want you to miss:

Lessons from A Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell.

Long before our renowned Programs Director Bobbie Cimo snagged Morrell for our August meeting, this book has been on the shelf of many of my friends. Learning that Morrell would be speaking at OCC – and knowing his background not only as the creator of Rambo but also as a writing teacher – and I rushed to get it, too. I was not disappointed. Not only are Morrell’s lessons on craft great, in my opinion his opening discussion of “why do you want to write?” is worth the price of the book alone. Read it before Morrell speaks, and if you are an OCC volunteer, make sure you don’t miss the reception afterward (invites are a volunteer perk) so you can discuss it with Morrell in person.

To the Point–Samples of Successful Synopses by OCC/RWA

More than 25 authors donated the synopses they wrote – synopses that sold – so other writers can learn from them. This collection (originally published by OCC more than 10 years ago), has been newly revised and updated by Ways and Means Director Sandy Brown. Order it in book or CD form on our website, and after you read these synopses, don’t miss the opportunity to talk to the authors about them.

The Hero’s Journey by Chris Vogler.

Before I was published, I studied Vogler’s application of Joseph Campbell’s work to plotting simply because all the published writers I knew had studied it, and because George Lucas had used it to create “Star Wars.” Well, everyone still knows about Vogler’s work, especially Hollywood writers who now pay Vogler big bucks to evaluate their screenplays.

Am I looking forward to hearing Vogler (when he returns from presenting his workshop in Italy) lecture in person at our Autumn Affaire in September? You betcha.

And I’m hoping you’ll be there, too.

Sandra Paul aka Sandra Novy-Chvostal has written ten books for Silhouette and also serves as OCC Co-President with Mindy Neff.

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MARY CASTILLO: The Anti-Conference by Mary Castillo

July 16, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

Not going to conference this year? Me, too! Actually, this will be my second year of absence and I don’t feel guilty or left out at all.

But let me explain. Last year, I was eight months pregnant and of course, the weekend of conference my doctor informed me that I was dilating! (Also, everyone including my editor and agent promised to send me home if I so much as peeked into the Reno Hilton!)

This year I have a book to finish and well, it boiled down to the choice of spending our extra money to leave my boys behind for Atlanta; or go on our first family vacation. My boys and my book won hands down.

So I wanted to share some tips for those of you who aren’t going because you lost the battle of the budget, or you don’t feel ready.

1. Get together with some writer friends and talk about writing over coffee or cocktails. This might be the start of a critique group or even better, new friendships. The best things about conference are the people you meet and the ideas exchanged. Don’t get me wrong, the OCC suite, seminars and networking are priceless. But when I left the conferences in New York and Dallas, I went home invigorated and ready to write. You can only get that charge from fellow writers, so if you can’t be in Atlanta, round up some buddies!

2. Join a Book in a Week program. I can’t think of any better time to buckle down and make some progress on your WIP. Make yourself a promise that if you finish that WIP by fall, you’ll sign up for RWA National in 2007.

3. Write your writer’s business plan. If you plan to finish your WIP by next year’s conference, why not take some time out and dream? Your business plan doesn’t have to be super fancy or formal. It can be a place where you start thinking about how you want to be published. Or, you could make it fancy and formal with charts of your top ten agents, etc.

4. Clean your office, desk or PC files. I don’t know about you, but when I finish a draft, my office looks like a bomb went off and then the firefighters left a huge mess from their efforts to put out the fire. So I take a moment to clean up and when I’m done, I can take a nice big breath of relief. Also, I have this fear that the ghost of the previous draft will haunt me if I don’t clean.

5. Or, just take a break from writing. This worked for me last year … then again, pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep might have had some hand in it. Anyway when I came back to my writing (er, two and a half months later!), I was raring to go and oddly, getting back into the story seemed much easier.

Feel free to use any of these suggestions or ignore them. Either way, make the most of the week while the mice are playing. Sometimes us cats just need a break!

Mary Castillo
Author of IN BETWEEN MEN, Avon Trade
and HOT TAMARA, Cosmo’s Red Hot Read April 05
Please visit http://www.marycastillo.com/
or http://www.marycastillo.blogspot.com/

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Announcing the Runners Up and Winner of the Going to the Chapel Contest!

July 12, 2006 by in category Going to The Chapel tagged as

First we’d like to thank our judge:

Debbie Macomber, with over 60 Million books in print and the author of new Mira hardcover Susannah’s Garden. Debbie is as gracious and giving as she is talented! Thank you, Debbie!

And now our Second Runner Up is…

VEGAS BABY by Dana Diamond

The First Runner Up is…


And The Winner!

THE WEDDING UN-DRESS by Maria Dolatkha

Congratulations! THE WEDDING UN-DRESS will be recorded into a podcast by our very own Jina Bacarr. There will be links to the podcast posted on this blog and at the OCC Website

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MICHELLE THORNE: Atlanta , I Don’t Know Nothing About Birthing No Babies

July 10, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

I know I said last time I was going to talk about how to use a Reader’s Group to grow your market but I have been reading The WRITERS VIBE BLOG about our “Young Ones” National Conference stories from last year and I thought I’d tell you about my first conference. You all know I love National Conferences. I have more fun and it’s probably because I don’t get all caught up in the agent /editor thing or the workshop thing or the fear thing. I LOVE TO WRITE, REALLY, I do, but I don’t have a lot of ego invested in it. You do, but here’s the secret, you have to relax and let your work speak for itself. Go to your interviews, schmooze with whoever you can, but SHOW NO FEAR OR DESPERATION. Publishing peeps can smell it. Have some fun, and here’s my story to prove my advice.

My first conference was in Orlando, FL an it just happened to be the year the Nora/Janet deal exploded and you couldn’t get near a women’s loo because that’s where all the great dish was going on. Well, I really had to pee, so I grabbed an elevator to go to my room and who happened to be on it but the “Male Troika of Agents…Ethan Ellenberg, Evan Fogelman and Steven Axlerod. They tried not to make eye contact and went into a defensive huddle. But it was a long ride and they were consummate gentlemen, so they asked what I wrote and I said “Checks.” I said I was a bookseller and then they became very interested in me: Did I have time to take a meeting? Yeah, right! What was selling in my store? What genres were big this year? The thing was I didn’t want anything from them and they relaxed. We spoke for a few minutes and I touted some of my OCC friends, and then, thank god, we arrived at my floor and I could escape to my room. I really did have to pee.

Every year I see one of those guys and they say “Hey it’s the check lady”. So relax, make a good impression, and have some fun. All these “important people” are just that, people. Follow up on any contacts and connections you make in Atlanta , but if you expect to “close the deal” there, you’ll probably disappointed. Be in the moment! Soak up the atmosphere. Set goals and agendas, but don’t be crushed if they aren’t fully realized. Since we’ll be in Atlanta, as Scarlett says “TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY”, Come hang in the OCC suite (It’s going to be awesome with a few surprise and lots of fun and special guests) I’ll be there and I have lots of stories. I’ve been in books since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Go to The Writers Vibe blog and read Louise, Dana and Michele’s blogs. They’re great. They’re authors on the verge of getting that first publishing contract. They’re smart, funny and very well informed about the publishing business. Good to know. For added inspiration, OCC’s own Mary Castillo, author of IN BETWEEN MEN, met her editor at conference!

Next time Reading Groups to Grow Your Numbers, for sure.

As god as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again! (I know, it’s a sickness)

Michelle Thorne
Bearly Used Books…123
Home of A Great Read
OCC Media Director
123 So. First Street
Historic Old Puente, CA 91744
(626) 968-3700

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SANDRA PAUL: Making the most of Conference

July 7, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

How do you make the most of your conference experience? Well, I’ve attended five conferences in my stellar career (and even paid for at least two of them). And although the recent article in the July Orange Blossom and the editors blog on the subject covered a few of the basics, I also regret to say they missed a few. Stuff only “insiders” and “big wheelers and dealers” like me would know.

But since I love OCC, I’m willing to share. So here’s my own, personal “Seven Secrets to Making The Most of Your Conference Experience.”

1. Meet Editors

Whenever you go to conference, you should hang out with editors and only editors. (Okay, agents, too, if you’re really hard up.)

Now some people will urge you to try to meet your fellow writers, as well. Even (can you believe it?) unpublished writers. They claim by doing so you’ll have the chance to connect with others who understand what you are going through, and perhaps develop friendships that will support and last you throughout your writing career and beyond.

Well, who needs that?

What you need is to stay focused on yourself and make sure everyone else does, too. And hanging out with editors ensures people notice you. Believe me, whenever I’m with my editor Mary-Theresa Hussey of Silhouette (an executive editor, I’ll have you know!) and I wave and call out “Yoo-hoo! Hi, there!” to people passing, everyone notices me.

Now, I admit, finding editors to hang out with before you are published isn’t always easy. If you are a member of OCC, you might meet a few in the OCC suite during the Book Buyers Best Champagne and Chocolate party Wednesday night, or during the scheduled interviews with our OB editors and podcast producer. Unfortunately, during these events, members are discouraged from interrupting or promoting their own books simply because (can you believe it?) it’s rude.

So, a much better solution than going to the OCC suite or attending editor workshops is to latch on to editors in the hallways. Again, this is not always easy. They’ve obviously been taught not to make eye contact, and can become distressingly deaf when you shout out, “Hey, you! Editor! Slow down. Cuz I have the book of my heart here and–Wait! Please don’t run!”

That’s right. Editors can run really fast–and they don’t give up easily. I once had to chase my own editor down two halls and up three flights of stairs before I finally found her cowering in a crowded elevator. (Thank goodness her desperate jabs at the button stalled the thing!)

Which brings me to my second piece of expert advice:

2. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Specifically, running clothes. Forget the professional suits and dresses everyone else will be wearing. Pack sweat pants and baggy T-shirts. High-heels? Give me a break–literally. Nikes are the answer when you’re chasing an editor. Don’t argue. Just do it.

And when you catch one:

3. Be Polite

Tell her you’re sorry as you help her to her feet. Keep hold of her sleeve so she doesn’t try to run again, but let her catch her breath. After all, while she is gasping is the perfect time to tell her–line by line, detail by detail–about your 18,000 page, single-spaced manuscript. Don’t quit repeating how this book is “different, special, unlike any other” with everything marketing could want–the best “suspense, mystery, Western, Regency, inspirationally erotic, sports story with a touch of romance thrown in” she’ll ever see until she agrees to read it. While she’s at conference.

4. Be Persistent

Now, once you’ve thrust the manuscript in her arms, you might be tempted to release her. Don’t do it. Try to hang on until she offers you a meal.

You see, all editors have HUGE expense accounts they use to feed their writers. Even unpublished writers have benefited now and again. Some writers get taken out to expensive restaurants for dinner, others are invited to lunch, some to brunch, some to breakfast. My editor and I traditionally meet at a candy bar machine in the lobby on the last day right before she leaves for her plane.

And while I’m munching on my Reese’s Pieces I practice my next piece of advice:

5. Listen

Okay, editors talk a lot. We all know this. And just because they deal with hundreds of manuscripts a day, study editing and marketing for years–yada, yada, yada–they sometimes pick up a few tips about the publishing business. When they share these tidbits, you should listen–because if you don’t you won’t know when to jump in to talk about your book again.

And also, surprisingly, sometimes you might learn something. At the last conference, Mary-Theresa hosted several writers to lunch in the hotel. When I grabbed a chair to join them, I discovered Mary-Theresa was sharing with the group the questions she asks her editors to consider before they decide to buy a project.

Well, the other writers (showoffs!) were taking notes, so I decided to do so, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pen, and the writer next to me (thanks a lot, Angie Ray!) was disinclined to let go when I tried to wrestle hers out of her hand. Which brings me to my next piece of advice:

6. Take a pen and paper.

Yep, this is the answer. Because napkins rip apart when written on, and lipstick blurs. In fact, when I got home and two months later decided to unpack, I could barely read what I had written.

So also don’t forget to:

7. Immediately write down after conference information you might want to use later.

Like, for example, Mary-Theresa’s number. Does anybody have that? (Angie, do you?) Because I’d kinda like to get those questions . . . . .

Sandra Paul aka Sandra Novy-Chvostal has written ten books for Silhouette and also serves as OCC Co-President with Mindy Neff. She promises to bring copies of Mary-Theresa’s lost list to the July meeting; anyone interested in receiving a copy can get one from Sandy or Mindy.

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